Saturday at Croft was dry and sunny/cloudy with a strong cool breeze taking the edge off the warmth – excellent conditions for racing.
Scrutineering was unusually eventful. Successive versions of the final instructions for the meeting had us not being scrutineered initially but then we were added to the scrutineering schedule. However, the version on the 750 Motor Club website still showed our cars not being scutineered. The Bianco team – having checked the website version – had to be summoned by a phone call but thankfully arrived at the circuit in time to help their drivers through.
All was not well initially at Revs Italia either as the kill switch on Tom Hill’s GT was not working. Time was ticking on but the team worked hard and successfully to sort it out. Gabs Iaccarino was not so lucky – his brake lights were not working and the problem was stubbornly resisting solution. He missed the qualifying session as a result but eventually the problem was solved with help from Roger Evans and he was able to qualify out of session in the lunch break.
Both Modified class cars got through the qualifying session successfully but not without difficulty. On the out lap from the assembly area Scott Austin’s 156 immediately slowed. He pulled off the circuit but then started off again and during the session a huge cloud of steam emanating from under the bonnet caused considerable alarm. It was not repeated but Scott spent the whole 15-minute session anxiously watching his gauges and felt his times had suffered as a result. A new header tank cap had somehow loosened and that had been the cause of the steam but the car was fine and he still set the overall pole time of 1:33.30 on his 5th lap. Andy Page was also concerned at the excessive pressure in the cooling system of his Giulietta 116 Turbo. He got through the session OK and set 3rd fastest time (1:37.64) but was uneasy about the race and elected to fit a spare radiator (what a man! How many drivers bring a spare radiator along?!) to see if that fended off the problem.
In the V6 class Tom Hill was at 10/10ths straight away as usual, hurling the car through the first corner complex (and everywhere else) with no doubts or inhibitions. He was inside George Osborne’s race lap record on his first flying lap and most of the subsequent laps, setting a best time of 1:33.49 to line up alongside Scott on the outside of the front row. None of the other V6 class cars could get near his pace. Graham Seager had been on a par with Tom at Silverstone but couldn’t get within 4 seconds of him here. A time of 1:37.74 put him alongside Andy Page on row 2. Andy Inman’s 156 GTA was 2 seconds further back with a best time of 1:39.76 and Gabs Iaccarino would line up at the back of the front section of the split grid after his scrutineering woes had prevented him from taking part in the session.
In the Twin Spark Cup there was strong competition for the class pole between Jon Billingsley and Andrew Bourke. Jon was inside his own race lap record on only his second flying lap and on his next lap set what proved to be the class pole in 1:41.31. Andrew Bourke tried hard to beat it and got very close with a time of 1:41.46 on his final lap but it was not quite enough and he would line up alongside Jon on the front row of the second section of the split grid.
The next three drivers were all in the 1:42s. James Ford was the quickest with a best time of 1:42.16, feeling that his engine was still not matching the pace of the unit it replaced over the winter. He was less than 1/10th ahead of Toby Broome who is showing great pace in the Bianco rental car considering the length of time he has not been racing. A time of 1:42.24 would put him alongside James on the second row. 2021 class winner Richard Ford was next with a time of 1:42.97, somewhat out of sorts with his car, worried about it overheating, and not able to match his pace of last season as yet this year. Robin Hall took the final grid spot with a time of 1:45.28. He is an experienced racer and has always been competitive in various forms of motorsport over the years but is still getting to grips with the techniques of driving the first front wheel drive car he has ever raced. It is surely only a matter of time before he is up with the rest.
As our first race time slot approached it was still sunny although the fresh wind had noticeably strengthened. Our start time was delayed as a result of a number of incidents in previous races but we eventually got under way at 4.15. The cars in the front section of the grid all made good starts but Andy Page had dropped to the back by the time they exited Hawthorn, not wishing to push too hard too soon as he monitored the car’s gauges. Sadly the car threw all its water out on lap 2 and he pulled off the circuit on the exit to Tower and this would end his participation in the meeting. (He opined that a cracked cylinder lining was the culprit and planned to rebuild the engine before the next meeting.)
Tom Hill got a fast start but Scott Austin was able to use the power of the mighty 156 to beat him into Clervaux and take the lead, establishing a 1.15s gap by the end of lap 1. Graham Seager was 3rd, 2 seconds adrift of Tom, Andy Inman was 4 seconds behind Graham, a second ahead of Gabs Iaccarino, with the fading Andy Page a further 2 seconds back.
In the Twin Sparks Andrew Bourke took the lead from polesitter Jon Billingsley, with James Ford third followed closely by Toby Broome and Richard Ford, and then Robin Hall. On lap 2 Jon outbraked Andrew in a clean and effective move down the inside at Tower to take the lead. Andrew was unable to fight back and Jon slowly but surely began to pull clear and was over 4 seconds clear by the end of lap 7, breaking his own lap record by nearly a full second in the process. Sadly it all then unravelled as Jon’s gear linkage broke on lap 8 and he pulled off the circuit after Tower near the stricken Andy Page, ending the prospect of what might well have been an excellent result. That left Andrew with a comfortable 5-second lead over a close battle for second between James Ford, Toby Broome and Richard Ford. Robin Hall was next but all seemed not well with his car; he was lapping consistently in the 1:47s but that was some 4 seconds off the pace.
In the front group, Scott Austin was still leading overall but clearly struggling in the slower corners and the commentators were speculating that he might have a suspension problem of some kind. However, the actual reason was that he had lost 2nd gear – he was able to engage it off the start line but thereafter it wouldn’t go in so he was having to make do without it. This meant exiting the hairpin at the end of the lap was particularly problematic as he had to do it in 3rd gear and there was therefore a delay till the revs picked up sufficiently for the turbo to cut in. Initially he had established a 6-second lead over Tom Hill in second but on lap 5 he put a couple of wheels off the circuit and Tom closed the gap to 2 seconds. However, thereafter Scott was able to hold the gap to 2 – 3 seconds and took the chequered flag to record a fine overall win. Tom Hill’s pace in second was unremitting, lapping consistently in 1:33 and 1:34 and at the chequered flag was over a minute clear of Graham Seager in 3rd. His quickest lap of 1:33.69 beat George Osborne’s lap record by 9/10ths of a second.
Graham Seager ran a lonely 3rd overall throughout. At the end his tyres were virtually scrap with chunks out of the rubber and having worn right through the top layer in places which had clearly affected his performance. He had several seconds in hand over an entertaining and hard fought dice for 4th between Andy Inman and Gabs Iaccarino. Andy was ahead initially but got on the grass at the exit to Tower on lap 4 and Gabs nipped through to take the place. On lap 10 Gabs in turn got on the grass exiting the hairpin and Andy retook the place but then on the final lap Gabs was again able to repass Andy at Tower and took the chequered flag half a second ahead. It was an exciting battle and Gabs was over the moon at achieving his first V6 class podium.
In the Twin Spark Cup Andrew Bourke was able to hold the gap to the rest by around 6 seconds to take the class win at the flag, helped partially by the others holding each other up in a fierce battle for second in class. James Ford held the place throughout but with some difficulty as the car was visibly pogo-ing under acceleration and he was clearly on the ragged edge at times, missing apexes and battling to keep the constant threat from Toby Broome behind him. The pressure was only relieved when they were being lapped by Scott Austin and Tom Hill when Tom got between them for a couple of corners and Toby fell back a second or so, so they took second and third respectively in class after a close battle. Richard Ford was always in touch in 4th but not close enough to challenge Toby for 3rd – always a second or two adrift and dropped further back on the last lap, frustrated at feeling the new engine (a replacement unit after blowing a head gasket at Silverstone) was not yet matching the pace of his old unit. He and Robin Hall completed the finishers.
Race 1 Results
|Twin Spark Cup||Andrew Bourke|
The weather was not so kind to us on Sunday. There had been showers on and off all night and these continued through the morning with the forecast being that the rain would stop by midday. However it didn’t. It was after 2 PM by the time the rain stopped and though our scheduled 2.20 start was delayed by 15 minutes the track was still wet enough for all the V6 class drivers to opt for wet tyres while Scott Austin went for slicks on the front and wets on the rear, a decision that proved to be a good one as the race developed.
When the red lights went out the front group got away well with Scott Austin again just pipping Tom Hill to the first corner and staying just ahead for the rest of lap 1, with Gabs Iaccarino grabbing 3rd ahead of Graham Seager and Andy Inman. At the front Scott and Tom crossed the start/finish line in a dead heat on lap 2 but Scott then began to pull away as his tyres came in and stretched his lead to 9 seconds by the end of lap 6 and to 17 seconds on lap 10 before easing off a little on the last lap to win by 13 seconds from Tom with the rest over a minute behind.
Graham passed Gabs on lap 3 before to take 3rd place but Gabs then returned the favour on lap 6 taking the place back, Graham seeming very out of sorts compared to his usual race pace. Gabs held the place till lap 9 but under intense pressure from Graham behind put a wheel on the grass at Sunny In and from that point was a passenger as his GT skated across the wet surface and hit the tyre wall at Sunny Out, bringing his race to an unfortunate end. The resulting front end damage looked bad but was nowhere near as bad as it looked and the repair should be straightforward. One of Graham’s bonnet catches popped open late in the race but fortunately the other one held, and he and Andy took 3rd and 4th overall just ahead of the Twin Spark field.
The Twin Spark Cup battle was an epic one. Andrew Bourke led initially from the start but Jon Billingsley passed him to take the lead on lap 2. This was shortlived however as when Jon was held up behind Andy Inman on lap 3 he lost momentum and both Andrew and Richard Ford nipped through at Sunny and the hairpin respectively to take first and second in class respectively. James Ford was also right on Jon’s rear bumper and these four cars passed the start/finish line virtually nose to tail. At this point Toby Broome was a few seconds adrift of James, perhaps feeling his way with a car he had not driven in the wet before, but he soon got into his stride and joined the back of the group which, by lap 7, was virtually an 8-car battle for 3rd place overall with the Twin Spark cars right on the tail of the three V6 cars ahead of them! Only Scott Austin and Tom Hill – who were well ahead of the group – and Robin Hall – who had dropped back off the pace – were not involved.
Richard Ford went down the inside of Andrew Bourke at Sunny In to take the Twin Spark lead but it was short lived as Andrew repassed him around the outside at Sunny Out to take it back. A tight battle for 2nd then ensued between Richard and Jon Billingsley from lap 4 to lap 9 which gave Andrew a little breathing space at the front. Jon got alongside Richard on the start/finish straight and tried a move down the inside at Clervaux but Richard shut the door. Behind them Toby Broome got down the inside of James Ford at Tower but then, pressuring Jon on the start/finish straight, misjudged the distance between them and clobbered the rear of Jon’s car launching it in the air momentarily and causing some damage to his own in the process enabling James to get past him again. This was getting a little too hectic!
Richard Ford had looked much more competitive than in the first race and was holding onto second place in class when he went off the track in the Complex on the penultimate lap and so – disappointingly for him – dropped from second to fifth. This delayed those around him and spread the field out a little. Jon closed in again on Andrew on the final lap but Andrew was able to hold him off and take the class win with James third, followed home by Toby, Richard and then Robin Hall a lap down. It was gripping viewing on the live feed for sure!
Race 2 Results
|Twin Spark Cup||Andrew Bourke|
The Driver of the Weekend award went to Tom Hill for two scintillating drives in a class of his own in the V6 class and establishing a new class lap record in the first race. Scott Austin took another clean sweep of overall wins and Andrew Bourke had both luck and great skill on his side in taking a brace of Twin Spark Cup wins.
We now move on to Anglesey on 23rd/24th July as guests of the Ferrari Owners’ Club so there is plenty of time for all our drivers to get ready for a great weekend’s racing at the challenging and scenic Anglesey circuit.