“Anyone who watched the BRSCC Youtube feed from Donington will have found themselves glued to the screen throughout the two 20 minute races…”
There is nothing likely to turn you off watching motor racing on TV quicker than single car domination or a procession down the field. Well, anyone who watched the BRSCC Youtube feed from Donington will have found themselves glued to the screen throughout the two 20 minute races – much the same as those who were at the circuit spectating and supporting the final rounds of what has been an excellent 2015 Championship. This was genuinely exciting racing, the battles that raged in the Twin Spark Cup particularly close with plenty of heart-stopping moments and some excellent and well judged driving. After two years of having our season finale on the Silverstone International circuit we were happy to return to Donington (National) which suits our cars so well.
We arrived for what would be rounds 13 and 14 with the final destination of this year’s title race still to be settled. Favourite, undoubtedly, was Graham Seager with his Modified class GTV but he still needed to have an untroubled weekend to seal victory over his only rival, 2014 Champion James Bishop. In his turn, James could still be challenged for the runner-up spot by young Tom Hill if he suffered a complete disaster but, in reality, it seemed unlikely. As seems usual now, the end of season races produced our best entry of the year, fluctuating around the 30 mark before settling at 28 if we ignore the “phantom” Paul Plant who managed to appear on the printed and TV grids without ever turning a wheel. In fact his car wasn’t even there!
Despite the late withdrawal of Roger Evans, who had sold his 147 GTA (converted to Power Trophy spec) to Ray Foley, the Modified entry still gave us something to look forward to. Graham Seager’s main opposition was likely to come from the known contenders entered by Vincent Dubois and James Nicholls, both using the Integrale based 155 Q4 Turbo engine in their 156 and 147 respectively. Vincent had done more work on his suspension and fitted bigger (360mm) front brakes while James was hoping that there would not be a recurrence of the gearchange problems that he had suffered at Croft. Andy Robinson was feeling more optimistic about his 156 3.8 despite a broken rose-joint while Roger Evans had been testing it the previous Tuesday. Very much an unknown quantity was the 1750 Giulietta engined 156 Turbo if Barry McMahon. It is a car that should be very quick but has yet to see its potential realised. This was to be its first appearance since Cadwell where it was a non starter after an alternator failure in qualifying. A 156 that we sadly didn’t have in the entry was that of 2014 Kevin Griffiths Trophy winner, Anthony George. He has just been too busy with his business, Stonehouse Manor, which exports some 20,000 UK products to Belgium and has just opened a second supermarket on the outskirts of Brussels. I went up to Diss just before Donington to collect the Trophy and was intrigued to see his collection of other trophies and also a coffee table beautifully made from a redundant boxer engine.
But back to the racing ! Bryan Shrubb was hoping to be able to repeat his Croft win in the BLS 33 16v prepared as usual by his father Tom at BLS Automotive. During the weekend we heard that Tom had decided to retire and that BLS Automotive had been sold. Following on from the retirement of John Sismey in the summer, this was another break with the very early days of the championship, although in Tom’s case it would not be 100% as he would continue to prepare Bryan’s 33 and cars of old racing customers such as Ted Pearson’s Alfasud Ti. With no 33 to race, Chris Snowdon had decided that it was about time to bring out his 75 V6 24v again. The last time we saw it was in 2011 when his daughter Bryony raced the car at Silverstone but since then it has undergone a certain amount of development although Chris is still proud that it is “MOT legal”. Also racing with the Snowdon team was George Osborne with his beautifully prepared 75. We had first seen this car at Silverstone at the end of 2013 but since then it has gained a 3.2 litre 24 valve engine and other improvements which left George confident that it would perform well and would only be held back by his own lack of experience.
The Power Trophy had 4 entries for Donington. As already mentioned, Ray Foley had bought Roger Evans’ 147 GTA, fitting the engine that had been in his 156 and adding some 50 kilos of ballast to meet the Power Trophy regulations. Keith Waite was back with his 75 3 litre, already a winner this year while Ron Davidson was making a return with his 164 3 litre that took victory at Brands. The fourth car was David Lambourn’s yellow 33 16v, making its first appearance for a couple of years.
This year, after discussions with Simon Griffiths, we had agreed that the coveted Kevin Griffiths Trophy would be awarded to the winner of the Twin Spark Cup in the second Donington race. This seemed to be very well received by TS competitors and we were sure that they would give us some great racing to seal the Trophy’s destination for another 12 months. With 16 cars destined to take part in qualifying, this was the class’s best entry of the year led, of course, by championship contender James Bishop with his Bianco prepared 156. However, going by recent races, James was going to face some very strong opposition – not least from other Bianco drivers James Ford and Tom Hill plus Dave Messenger in their 156s, only Dave still waiting for a win in 2015.
Having driven two of his best races of the year at Croft, Steve Potts was hoping for more success while the wheel problem that has blighted a couple of Andy Hancock’s races seemed to have been resolved. Andy Inman was entered in the Avon Racing 156, the team also supporting Paul Webster’s similar car while Jeremy Chilton, having shown consistent improvement during the season had, as his first target, breaking the 1’30” barrier. Michael Donaghue was again in the Bianco 156 renta’. James Browning had had a good points haul at Croft in his 147 and he would be joined by the similar cars of Joshua Lambert, having his second outing, and Stacey Dennis who was happy to have passed the final upgrade of her motor vehicle damage assessment exams. Richard Stevens had rebuilt the engine in his 145 rather than use his spare and was pleased to see another 145 in the entry with which he could compare his car, no less than Matt Daly having his only outing of the year in the yellow ex Martin Jones car. It was tended, as ever, by Ian Brookfield with a new clutch among items that had been sorted since it last appeared at Anglesey in 2014. We didn’t really know where Matt would sit in the pecking order but you had to remember that he is a past winner race winner and the kind of talent that we have missed on a regular basis. The final entry was the GTV 916 of Andrew Bourke. Sadly we were missing Jon Billingsley whose 147 was not quite ready and also Paul Plant, Bianco having run out of transport options.
With the two races scheduled for Sunday, it was possible to have scrutineering and qualifying on Saturday afternoon, thus avoiding potentially frustrating M6 or M25 journeys on Friday evening. Early arrivals were also able to watch the highly entertaining HRDC races with some unlikely cars taking part – Triumph Herald, Jowett Javelin, Borgward Isabella and Standard 10 amongst them plus some Alfas that included Roz Shaw in her Sprint GT. Although the sky was cloudy, it was at least dry when our 26 cars came onto the track. Missing were George Osborne and David Lambourn, neither of whose cars would start! George’s eventually came to life just as the session as ending but both drivers were able to arrange to qualifying with the Honda V-Tecs if their cars could be fixed. Meanwhile, Graham Seager didn’t waste much time in getting down to a decent time with a 1’20.906” on his 5th lap. His next five laps brought no improvement but with about four minutes to go he really put his head down, consolidating pole with a best of 1’19.713”. The track was obviously at its best as the session drew to a close and the positions on the timing monitor were continually changing throughout the field. A big surprise was Barry McMahon’s 156 turbo which pushed James Nicholls’ 147 back to the second row with a 1’22.551” although some 2.8” off Graham’s time. Also improving towards the end were Chris Snowdon, Andy Robinson and Vincent Dubois, finishing in that order, all in the 1’23s. Chris had quickly acclimatised himself to driving the 75 again and looked very comfortable with it while Andy used the session well, improving lap by lap with the powerful 156 before setting his best time right at the end. Vincent’s session was more patchy but he didn’t complain about anything in particular afterwards. Bryan Shrubb, on the other hand, only managed 2 laps before a gearbox problem ended his session necessitating a return to Lincoln to try and find a fix overnight.
Keith Waite headed the Power Trophy trio but Ray Foley had settled into his 147 very quickly ending up within 0.32” of Keith’s 75, the pair of them 7th and 9th fastest overall. However, they were split overall by James Ford who put in a dramatic Twin Spark leading time of 1’26.681” half way through the session, nearly three quarters of a second below the old lap record held by Chris Finch. This was even more impressive when we looked at the next best time (also below the lap record ) set by Andy Hancock in 1’27.187”. Andy’s session had not gone smoothly but his last lap effort left him relatively happy. Third quickest was an outstanding performance by Matt Daly with 1’27.343” although he wasn’t particularly consistent as he worked his way back into the swing of things but to be ahead of Tom Hill and Dave Messenger who have both been racing all year made him (and his nervously watching family) smile. James Browning and Joshua Lambert traded times in their 147s to end 6th and 7th, just ahead of Ron Davidson’s Power Trophy 164. Next was Richard Stevens but his session ended in the pits with flames licking under the bonnet from an oil leak. Steve Potts had two of his laps disallowed for track limits infringements including his quickest but was still off the pace in 9th. And what of James Bishop you might well ask? A cutting out problem ruined his session which brought him into the pits three times to see if a cure could be found, leaving him languishing 10th quickest and with a mountain to climb if he was to maintain any kind of championship challenge. The Twin Spark grid was completed by Andy Inman, Stacey Dennis, Jeremy Chilton (who did break into the 1’29s), Andrew Bourke (getting into the swing of things and talking about next year), Michael Donaghue and Paul Webster.
George Osborne and David Lambourn had arranged to qualify on Sunday morning although David was still trying to get his 33 started as the light faded. However, a call to Louise West brought the usual helpful response and she duly arrived with various parts, including an ECU which turned out to be the culprit. Anyway thanks Louise for getting another car back on the grid. The BLS team would also arrive back in the morning having worked until 3 a.m. to replace a snapped gear selector rod. With the current grid arrangements he would at least start at the back of the front group, having set a time whereas George and David would be right at the back behind the Twin Sparks. Ron Davidson decided to start the 164 from the pit lane.
Red lights out and it was Chris Snowdon who appeared to make the best start from row 2, getting alongside Barry McMahon and Graham Seager on the initial rush towards Red Gate with James Nicholls trying to make it four abreast. However, Barry’s extra power quickly moved him in front of Chris while Graham was able to take a car’s length lead into the corner with James Nicholls just behind him. James then had the 147 snap sideways and although it quickly came back into line there were some moves to avoid potential disaster behind him including exit left Barry McMahon into the gravel although he rapidly returned to the track in 5th place while Andy Robinson took a tight line to slot into 2nd. Chris Snowdon found himself shuffled back into the Twin Spark pack after running level with a fast starting Keith Waite. The Twin Spark leaders had all crowded over to the inside at the start with James Ford and Matt Daly both ahead of Andy Hancock, Dave Messenger, Tom Hill and James Bishop (already up three places). Taking advantage of the traffic jam, James Browning and Richard Stevens had both got away well although Richard, on the outside at Red Gate, nearly lost control of the 145 mid pack. It was all a bit wild but everyone appeared to survive!
Race 1 Live YouTube Broadcast
All this had allowed Graham Seager to open a genuine gap on the way to the Old Hairpin with Andy Robinson and James Nichols close together and then another small gap to Bryan Shrubb with the rest of the field in pursuit. Matt Daly emerged leading the Twin Sparks chased by James Ford and Dave Messenger with Chris Snowdon and Keith Waite side-by-side before Starkeys. At Coppice (before the Exhibition Straight) Matt Daly was in front of Barry McMahon who was helping to keep James Ford and Dave Messenger at bay with Andy Hancock, James Bishop, Tom Hill and Steve Potts disputing fourth ahead of Chris Snowdon’s Modified 75 that had dropped back. At the end of the lap Graham Seager had a 4” gap over Andy Robinson with Bryan Shrubb now third ahead of James Nicholls and it looked as though the black GTV had the race in the bag. At Red Gate, the 33 and 147 demoted Andy to fourth. Barry McMahon had been trying to keep out of the way of the Twin Spark cars but then ran wide into the chicane, bounced hard over the kerbs, clipping the gravel. However, he had cracked his sump and a trail of oil smoke began to appear as he rushed past the Twin Sparks again. Matt Daly was running a fine 6th overall as Vincent Dubois had had the first of two spins and Chris Snowdon was still catching up.
By the end of lap 2, James Nicholls was mounting a real challenge to Bryan Shrubb with Andy Robinson running ahead of the smoking Barry McMahon and Chris Snowdon. Matt Daly and the Twin Sparks were wary of oil on the track but continued their fierce battle unabated. Andy Hancock had been running a strong fourth but ran wide into the gravel dropping behind James Bishop and Tom Hill. Tom, Andy, Steve Potts and James Browning were now in a tight quartet as, up front, James Ford attacked Matt Daly for the class lead. Side by side out of Coppice, James had the inside line towards the chicane and managed to scramble ahead pursued by a darting queue of TS cars behind. Dave Messenger thought he saw a gap to pass Matt Daly at Red Gate but it was never really there as James Bishop looked on just behind although he was about to lose a place to Tom Hill. Barry McMahon had pulled into the pits to retire from 5th place.
Lap 5 saw James Nicholls picking up the pace, getting past Bryan Shrubb. This, combined with a slow lap by Graham Seager closed the gap at the front to 2.047”. Andy Robinson was holding on to fourth but Chris Snowdon was closing in by almost a second a lap while Vincent Dubois was also recovering well and finished the lap between James Ford and Matt Daly. Dave Messenger was holding on to his hard earned 3rd in TS while Tom Hill kept James Bishop and Andy Hancock at bay as Keith Waite became involved as he made his way past Steve Potts and James Browning. 4” further back, George Osborne was beginning to find time with his 75 just ahead of a private scrap between Andy Inman, Joshua Lambert and Stacey Dennis.
During lap 6 Vincent Dubois managed to get himself clear of the leading Twin Spark battle although they now had Keith Waite’s Power Trophy 75 to contend with. James Nicholls had closed to within a second of Graham Seager and we began to wonder if the 147 could take its first race win. By the end of lap 7, James Ford had established a 2.4” advantage over Matt Daly who was still being pushed hard by Dave Messenger and only 3.7” covered the Twin Sparks lying in second to eighth places with Keith Waite still embroiled in the battle as well. Lap 8 saw Dave Messenger being overtaken by both Tom Hill and James Bishop but still able to stay ahead of Andy Hancock while Steve Potts slid wide at Macleans being passed by James Browning.
During laps 9 and 10, James Nicholls was able to maintain the gap to Graham Seager to under a second. Bryan Shrubb was a comfortable third with Chris Snowdon now ahead of Andy Robinson after setting his best lap of the race. Entering the second third of the race, Keith Waite managed to get clear of both Matt Daly and James Ford, leaving Matt able to concentrate on closing the gap to James so much so that by the end of lap 12 he was only just over a second behind with Tom Hill and James Bishop still together a couple of seconds back. At the front James Nicholls challenge for the lead came to nought as Graham Seager speeded up and James began to have a recurrence of his gear change problems. Graham was also better getting through the traffic and he would end the race with an 8” advantage. Bryan Shrubb was a further 5” back in third with Chris Snowdon, Vincent Dubois and Andy Robinson next home, the latter crawling home but still ahead of Power Trophy winner Keith Waite. Andy had been struggling with gears from quite early on. “Having got through to 2nd place at Red Gate on lap 1 I was determined to keep the position. However, arriving at the Old Hairpin on lap 2 I went to change down on entry and…no gears. I eventually got it into third on exit but by then James and Bryan had got through. The same thing happened on on several other occasions, so I was trying to nurse to the finish whilst keeping up a reasonable pace. Exiting the hairpin on the final lap there was a loud clunk nfrom the lefthand front suspension and steering became difficult. He finished crawling in the pit lane having lost all gears.
The final laps saw no lessening of the Twin Spark battle but at the flag, by dint of making his fastest lap of the race on lap 14, James Ford had edged maintained a 1.5” lead over Matt Daly who had a similar advantage over Tom Hill, despite Tom setting as new class lap record (1’26.540”) on his last lap as he fought to keep James Bishop behind. Dave Messenger and Andy Hancock stayed in dispute for 5th in class, Dave taking the place by a mere 0.230” while Steve Potts got back ahead of James Browning for 7th. Andy Inman and Stacey Dennis were the final TS points scorers. Behind Keith Waite, Ray Foley and Ron Davidson completed the Power Trophy podium in which David Lambourn had spin his 33 at the exit of the chicane on the final lap. George Osborne was happy to have completed the race in his 75, climbing to 17th out of 26 finishers, as were the final finishers Michael Donaghue, Andrew Bourke, Jeremy Chilton and Paul Webster. Apart from Barry McMahon, the only other retirement had been Richard Stevens’ 145. Yet again Alfa competitors had provided a huge amount of entertainment and we all looked forward to watching the race on live Youtube!
Graham Seager looked as though he could celebrate his first Alfa Championship title but there was still a second race to run at around 4.15 which would also include the battle between the Twin Spark cars for the Kevin Griffiths Trophy, Kevin’s brother-in-law Dino being at Donington to make the presentation. Roger and Kevin Evans had replaced the broken components on Andy Robinson’s car and he was hoping that he could find some gears.
Race 1 Results
|Power Trophy||Keith Waite|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Ford|
Race 2 Live YouTube Broadcast
At the start, it was another busy run down to Red Gate with Bryan Shrubb looking for a gap between Graham Seager and James Nicholls while Vincent chopped across in front of Chris Snowdon to take a wide line into the corner. Matt Daly emerged ahead of the Twin Sparks as James Ford was blocked by the slower starting Ray Foley. It was James Nicholls now in the race lead and as they went through the Craners he had already opened a gap to Vincent who was holding off Bryan. Chris Snowdon, Graham Seager, Andy Robinson, George Osborne and Keith Waite followed in that order. Tom Hill was third in TS but was being pushed very hard by James Bishop who had two wheels on the grass down the Exhibition Straight.
Steve Potts was hanging on well ahead of Andy Hancock and Dave Messenger. Into the chicane, Tom left enough room for James to slip by in the braking area. Into lap 2, and James Ford was challenging Matt Daly into Red Gate but to no avail while Ray Foley was leading Keith Waite in the Power Trophy. By the end of the lap, Graham Seager had moved himself into 2nd place overall, 1.71” behind James Nicholls but behind there was a great tussle going on between Snowdon now third, Dubois, Shrubb and Robinson. Andy still had no 1st gear and couldn’t change down from 3rd to 2nd but, happily, 3rd.4th and 5th were OK, so having got off the line in 2nd, things were now working well. James Ford had managed to get himself ahead of Matt Daly at the chicane but no-way was Matt about to give up, trying the inside line at Red Gate but then had to wait until Coppice to make the move stick.
By the time the leaders reached Coppice, Graham Seager had taken over the race lead and Chris Snowdon was on closing in on James Nicholls and 3” clear of Vincent Dubois and Bryan Shrubb. Into Red Gate at the start of lap 4, James Bishop and James Ford were side by side, JF then losing a little momentum with a grassy moment on the exit of the Old Hairpin while JB closed in on Matt Daly. On the run down to Red Gate, James Ford tried to take back second place but just couldn’t do it while Matt had a slide through the Craners – losing important fractions of a second in the process. You could see James Ford winding up to try a pass on James Bishop, throwing the car through Macleans and it is almost three cars abreast as they come down the Exhibition Straight. The JB and JF seemed to touch but there is no order change at the chicane.
The order at the front of the race had changed as Bryan Shrubb was now third and Chris Snowdon had dropped to 6th after locking his brakes as James Nicholls did the same at the chicane, the 75 spinning and going across the kerbs. He was now behind Andy Robinson and Vincent Dubois, only just ahead of George Osborne, and into catch-up mode. Bryan would retire his 33 on lap 7, the car “not feeling quite right” and James Nicholls would also pull into the pits. Ray Foley was still leading the Power Trophy but had Keith Waite just 0.4” behind. Andy Hancock had been in the gravel and had dropped back into a group led by Andy Inman. Into lap 9 and James Ford had got back ahead of James Bishop but at Coppice James Ford hit the right rear quarter of Matt Daly’s 145 causing Matt a wheel twirling moment but back on the Exhibition Straight it was once again all to play for. James Ford led, Matt Daly saw a gap left by James Bishop and went for it but JB thought the corner was his and they made contact, the silver 156 streaking across the grass and the gravel and emerging in the lead! The trio went into Red Gate (or should it be Red Mist?!) with Daly on the inside, James B in the middle and James F wide on the outside now being attacked by Tom Hill.
James Bishop just stayed ahead of Matt Daly at the Old Hairpin and Hill was in front of James Ford. It was two by two into Coppice. Who could outwit who into the chicane? Matt Daly emerged in front with James Bishop, James Ford and Tom Hill in line astern and they were now being joined by the lights ablaze Power Trophy cars of Ray Foley and Keith Waite. Once again, into Coppice, it was bumper to bumper between Matt Daly and James Bishop with James Ford just a few feet behind, back in third. Matt Daly took a defensive line and stayed in the Twin Spark lead at the chicane. Andrew Bourke had spun his GTV before the Old Hairpin and there was some confusion at the top of the hill as yellow flags were shown. James Ford nipped past James Bishop towards the exit of the corner and it was a question as to whether or not this was a legitimate move. Graham Seager lapping the field disturbed the flow and this was good news for Matt Daly and Tom Hill as a somewhat aggrieved Jamesa Bishop dropped to 4th.
Graham Seager crossed the line to win his eighth race of the year, confirming his 2015 title. Chris Snowdon had got himself up to second by lap 9 and held on in a battle with Vincent Dubois until the 156 “rocket ship” rushed past with a lap to go, setting fastest lap in the process (1’ 20.107”). Chris followed him home 0.815” adrift with Andy Robinson a satisfied 4th ahead of George Osborne. And then it was the Twin Sparks with Matt Daly holding on to take a hugely popular win from James Ford, Tom Hill and James Bishop. Just behind, Ray Foley didn’t have to get involved with the TS fight to win the Power Trophy by 0.3” from Keith Waite. And that only took us to 11th overall – behind we had a lonely Dave Messenger 5th in the TS class with James Browning, Steve Potts and Joshua Lambert closely matched in that order while Andy Inman and Andy Hancock completed the class points finishers. 23 cars eventually made it to the flag.
Race 2 Results
|Power Trophy||Ray Foley|
|Twin Spark Cup||Matt Daly|
What a day we had had! Linda Hill presented the main trophies afterwards including the Grove and Dean Driver of the weekend award which went, not unexpectedly, to Matt Daly who had made a clean sweep with the Kevin Griffiths Trophy – 3rd in qualifying, 2nd in Race 1 and a winner in Race 2.
Congratulations to James Bishop on winning the Twin Spark Cup from Tom Hill, who also finished the season 3rd overall, and James Ford who made a late surge to end up fourth. Ray Foley took the Power Trophy from Keith Waite and Ron Davidson. Behind Graham Seager in the Modified class of the Championship we had Bryan Shrubb as runner up with Andy Robinson third. Peak Alfa scooped two of this year’s classes – Modified and Power Trophy so well done to them. Also the multi-car Bianco squad which were 1-2-3 in the Twin Spark Cup, the first “independent” being the hard trying Dave Messenger. Full points tables can be found elsewhere on the website.
It was good to see so many old friends during the day in particular Gethin Llewellyn who is now recovering from the horrible leg damage he suffered in a paddock accident at Brands. Others there included Graham Heels, Andy Page, past Alfa racer and now Donington CEO Chris Tate, John Sismey, trophy provider Micky Bolton, the Healey family, our ex Treasurer Rachel Page, Steve Scott, the temporarily retired (we hope) Tom Herbert and Paul Legge (helping Keith Waite as usual). BRSCC Competition Director Dominic Ostrowski also came to see us during the weekend and we should like to thank Secretary of the Meeting, Lucy Ashman, and the BRSCC Midlands Centre team for running a really smooth end of season meeting. So now its back to Youtube!!
PS: Don’t forget the ARCA Dinner and Prize Giving which takes place on Saturday, November 14th. See this page for full details. I look forward to seeing you all there.