At last the winter break was over and the 2024 season for the 750 Motor Club HITEK Electronic Materials Alfa Romeo Championship got under way on 20th/21st April at the Croft circuit near Darlington but just over the River Tees in North Yorkshire.

Most of our drivers are based in the south of England so it’s certainly a long trek north for them and the prospect of more cold spring weather of rain, rain and more rain was not enticing either. Nevertheless an entry list of 12 cars was disappointing and led to our being paired with a group of ‘allcomers’ to make a viable grid of 21.

Those who weren’t able to attend, however, missed a great weekend in perfect conditions for racing. It was sunny when the meeting began on Saturday morning and it was still sunny when we departed at around 4 PM on Sunday, so our time there mirrored the well known corner on the circuit itself – Sunny In and Sunny Out.

Our entry list read as follows:

Modified class: Jamie Thwaites (TCR Giulietta), Scott Austin (156), Jamie Porter (4C), Mark Skeggs (GTV), and Andy Page (Giulietta 116 Turbo).

Power Trophy class: Paul Plant (Giulietta), Richard Ford (GT) and Stacey Dennis (Giulietta).

Twin Spark Cup: James Ford, Toby Broome, Edward Robinson and debutant Steve Anderson (all in 156s).

We were joined by a Spire RB7, a Lotus Elise S2, 2 BMW Compacts, 2 BMW E36s, a Toyota MR2, a Peugeot 205 GTi and a Ginetta G40.


With no Tom Hill to lead the cars out of the assembly area Toby Broome assumed his mantle as the session commenced at 11.55 on Saturday. It was quickly apparent who our pole sitter was likely to be – after one ‘sighter’ lap. Jamie Thwaites’s rapid TCR Giulietta was into 1m30s territory and already within touching distance of Barry McMahon’s outright lap record, and on his fifth lap surpassed it by a couple of seconds with a lap time of 1:27.521, suggesting that a new race lap record was in the offing later in the day. Scott Austin was second quickest with a time of 1:32.466. Scott had had a torrid time last season with engine maladies and enjoyed a trouble free run as he took care not to put too much pressure too soon on the rebuilt motor.

Third quickest overall – and impressively rapid as ever – was Paul Plant in the Power Trophy Giulietta 1.4 turbo with a best time of 1:36.501 on his final lap, Bianco reckoning that they had finally found the best ECU for the car. Richard Ford’s ex-Gabs Iaccarino Power Trophy GT was close behind with a best time of 1:37.896, although Richard was quietly sceptical of his chances of giving Paul a run for his money in the races.

Fifth overall was Jamie Porter’s absolutely beautiful blue 4C 2.0 and I was surprised to learn that this would be Jamie’s first ever race notwithstanding his long career as an Alfa specialist and builder of impressive cars. The speed of the car on the straights was truly awesome, with Jamie nursing it through the corners and a best time of 1:39.980 was the result. He repeatedly insisted that this was a one-off,  that other drivers would race the car thereafter and that he was petrified at the prospect of the race start. ‘I’m a mechanic, not a driver’ became his mantra for the day as others tried to assure him that it would all be fine…

Jamie was a second quicker than James Ford’s leading Twin Spark 156 (1:40.916), setting the standard for the class as he so often does, with Mark Skeggs’ GTV (1:40.991) and a determined Toby Broome’s 156 (1:41.089) hot on his heels. Stacey Dennis was having a challenging day, destroying a tyre and frustrated by an engine that was down on power but a time of 1:41.119 was very respectable in the circumstances and she was a 1/10th clear of Andy Page’s venerable Giulietta (1:41.132).

The penultimate runner was Edward Robinson’s 156 Twin Spark (1:43.407), like Toby Broome now racing under Roger Evans’s Revs Italia banner, and continuing his steady improvement in his second season of racing. Newcomer Steve Anderson rounded out the field in the Jackson/Ford prepared ex-Luther Blissett 156 raced more recently by Jon Tortolani. Steve was having his first ever race meeting cheered on by his family and was really looking forward to his races after his 1:52.019 lap in qualifying.


Jamie Thwaites had actually been outqualified by a couple of seconds by allcomer John Cudmore’s Spire RB7. (The Spire is a Lotus 7-ish thing weighing next to nothing with bags of power and costing considerably more than their standard GT-3 offering.) Before the start the commentators were chatting about how they expected the little Spire to just drive away from the rest of the field as if it were a foregone conclusion. Well, how wrong can you be….

There was confusion at the start when the starter pressed the wrong button and amber lights came on instead of the red ones but everyone got going one way or another and it probably didn’t affect the result. When I reported the mistake to the race officials I felt it was rather brushed aside despite the potential for an incident, which was fortunately avoided by the drivers.

Croft 2024 – Race 1

The Spire did get a flying start and had built up a 3 second lead after 3 laps but then the gap started to come down and the lap chart doesn’t really tell the whole story because Jamie set overall fastest lap on his 4th tour and actually caught and passed the Spire on the final lap. However, he was delayed by a slight error in the complex which enabled the Spire to retake the lead. Nevertheless Jamie had broken Barry McMahon’s outright Alfa lap record by a stunning 3.5 seconds, setting a new mark of 1:26.101 in taking the race win.

Behind Jamie, Scott Austin was running strongly in second place while trying not to overstretch the newly rebuilt engine. The motor behaved itself and he took a fine second place well clear of the rest of the field – some 4 seconds a lap off Jamie’s pace but encouraged by achieving his target of getting a good clear run.

Paul Plant finished 3rd overall – exceptionally quick as usual – the Power Trophy class Giulietta going extremely well and clear of the battles behind. The Power Trophy lap record had not been set previously so Paul set the record at 1:36.021 mid race as he enjoyed a relatively rare race outing in our Championship. 4th and 5th overall respectively were Jamie Porter’s 4C and Richard Ford’s GT. Despite not using the launch control facility on the 4C Jamie got a flying start passing several cars before deciding to back off to keep out of trouble on the outside of the field through the first series of corners and was 9th at the end of the first lap behind Richard and Mark Skeggs. His approach was the same as in qualifying – blast down the straights and take the corners carefully. Richard more than had his measure in the twisty bits but quickly realised that there was little point in attempting a bold overtaking move because the 4C would just blast past him again down the next straight. They finished a second apart at the end, Jamie taking 3rd place in the Modified class and Richard 2nd in the Power Trophy.

Further back a tasty battle had unfolded between Andy Page’s Giulietta and Mark Skeggs’ GTV. Mark had the edge in the first half of the race, keeping the gap to Andy to around a second as both drivers circulated in the 1:41s, but Andy got through on lap 7 as both drivers turned up the wick to try and retain or retake the place respectively; Andy just hung on to finish a couple tenths ahead as Mark closed in again to no avail at the chequered flag. Stacey Dennis meanwhile had been enduring a difficult race among the Twin Spark cars with tyre problems before finally a tyre delaminated completely and pitched her off the circuit on what would have been her final lap. Disconcerted and uncertain at the cause of the problem inside the car she elected not to rejoin and recorded a frustrating DNF.

The Twin Spark Cup battle to take class honours was closely fought between James Ford and Tony Broome. James got ahead from his class pole position at the start with Toby stuck behind an erratically driven MR2 on the first lap but

once clear of the Toyota he kept the gap to James to around a second and set a new class lap record of 1:40.920 in his pursuit. It was closely fought but Toby lost a couple of seconds on lap 7 at Sunny and was never able to mount a challenge thereafter, James taking an excellent class win. A determined Edward Robinson was next, not quite able to consistently sustain his qualifying pace and not helped by the aforementioned MR2’s antics on and off the circuit as he took a solid 3rd place in class. Steve Anderson unfortunately was unable to complete his maiden race – a spin on his 3rd lap saw him in the barriers and he was unable to rejoin, though happily the damage to his front wing would be patched up by Gary Jackson so he could take the start the following day.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable race to watch in perfect racing conditions and there was much to look forward to the following day as the drivers enjoyed their complimentary wood-fired pizzas that evening.

Race 1 Results

ModifiedJamie Thwaites
V6No starters
Power TrophyPaul Plant
Twin Spark CupJames Ford

With our race not due to get under way until 2.45 PM there was quite a long wait and plenty of time to chat and catch up with events over the winter break. I was doing just that with Richard Ford and Gary Jackson when I became aware of a haze of smoke in the area. I asked where it was coming from and he said ‘It’s Scott’. Stupidly I asked, ‘Is he barbecuing something?’ before going to investigate. The engine of the disobedient 156 was ticking over with oily smoke pouring out of the exhaust and the engine compartment. Scott could not work out what was causing it but it was obviously serious so he switched it off and would have to withdraw from Race 2. It was baffling: there had been no hint of a problem the previous day. If he didn’t have bad luck he would have no luck at all – very disappointing and we can only hope it can be sorted out before too long.

The weather had stayed sunny and it was warmer than the previous day as well, again excellent race conditions. As well as Scott’s withdrawal 3 allcomers would not take the start, including the Spire driver who had apparently broken some ribs in another race. To liven things up Jamie Thwaites sought – and got – permission from the Clerk of the Course to start from the pit lane.

At the start, BMW Compact driver – and double Birkett winner with the 3 Amigos team – Paul Hinson took the lead, a very good driver and a thoroughly nice bloke in fact. In second place was… Jamie Porter in the dazzling blue 4C. He had been careful at the start but more confident than in Race 1 and put the straight line speed at his disposal to effective use. Paul Plant was 3rd ahead of Richard Ford, an orange BMW, Andy Page, James Ford, Toby Broome, Jamie Thwaites (having passed 5 cars already), Stacey Dennis, Mark Skeggs, Edward Robinson and Steve Anderson in that order.

Jamie Thwaites was not lapping at yesterday’s pace but was still up to second by lap 3 and he then turned up the wick a bit to catch the BMW which was some 12 seconds ahead. He passed it on lap 6 but then dropped behind it again for a couple of laps before deciding to put his foot down again, pulling away to win by some 25 seconds at the chequered flag.

Croft 2024 – Race 2

Meanwhile Paul Plant and Jamie Porter were having fun (or at least Paul was) dicing for second place, the Giulietta about a millimetre behind the 4C’s bumper much to Jamie’s alarm. Paul passed Jamie on lap 3 and Jamie retook the place on lap 4, Paul re-passed him on lap 6, Jamie returned the compliment on lap 8 and thereafter Paul gradually dropped back and Jamie took second place by a couple of seconds. Racing is such fun isn’t it Jamie?

Richard Ford had been close behind Paul at the end of lap 1 but as he exited Clervaux on lap 2 he was hit from behind by a BMW, pushed into a spin and, as he rotated, was hit again as the BMW went past. The commentators clearly saw it, I saw it, others saw it equally clearly but unbelievably the Clerk of the Course held Richard responsible. The less I say about that the better…

Richard did manage to restart the car and rejoin the race but it had cost him over half a minute in lost time, dropping him back from 4th to 13th and eventually 11th at the chequered flag. This altercation moved Andy Page into 4th place, 2 seconds ahead of Toby Broome who had also passed James Ford to take the lead in the Twin Spark Cup. Was Toby’s luck about to change? Not that luck had anything to do with it, but it was going to be a battle to stay there for sure. The gap ebbed and flowed a bit but stayed at around a second for the next 6 laps; then Stacey Dennis passed James putting herself between the two of them, inadvertently handing a slight advantage to Toby – if he could keep ahead of Stacey it would be doubly difficult for James to catch and pass him. However, Stacey was on a roll and passed Toby on lap 10 and on lap 11 James was a second quicker than Toby, the gap visibly closing. On lap 12 the pressure told; Toby had a quick trip in and out of the gravel entering Clervaux. His pace seemed hardly affected but the slight delay was enough for James to nip through to take the class lead which he held to the flag to take the win by 0.7s. It had been a great battle and in the process James broke the lap record Toby had set the previous day with a best time of 1:40.424.

Stacey meanwhile had continued her upwards trajectory and caught and passed Andy Page on the final lap to take 4th place, ending her trying weekend on a high note. Early on she had been successfully keeping Mark Skeggs’s GTV at bay till on lap 6 Mark’s engine blew out all its coolant sadly forcing him into immediate retirement. Andy took 5th ahead of the Twin Spark lead battle, his car’s reliable finish a testament to his mechanical ingenuity and commitment to the Championship. Edward Robinson again took 3rd place in the Twin Spark Cup; he had been consistently quicker than it Race 1 and was rightly pleased to have got into the 1:42s on his 8th lap. Richard Ford was next ahead of Steve

Anderson who was delighted to record his first race finish and had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

We look forward to what we hope will be a bumper grid at Silverstone on Sunday 19th May!

Andy Robinson

Race 2 Results

ModifiedJamie Thwaites
V6No starters
Power TrophyPaul Plant
Twin Spark CupJames Ford
Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024Alfa Romeo Championship - Croft 2024