The weather forecast for our final race meeting of the season at Oulton Park varied during the week but in the event it was dry initially with heavy cloud cover and the temperature was mild for the time of year.
Later in the day the percentage chance of rain increased and this was a concern as our second race was the final one of the day, scheduled to start at 17.55. The level of ambient light might also be a concern – we would see. It had been a long wait of 8 weeks since the Festival Italia meeting and a respectable grid of 20 cars, evenly spread across the classes, assembled for the day.
With Barry McMahon confirmed as our 2021 Champion and Modified class winner, and George Osborne and Richard Ford confirmed as the season’s Power Trophy and Twin Spark Cup class winners respectively, attention was focused on the other podium places where a number of drivers were very much in contention.
The qualifying session started in typical fashion with Tom Hill early to the Assembly area to claim the first spot in the queue, and again in typical fashion Tom was right on it straight away completing his out lap 16 seconds quicker than anyone else. After that all his laps were well under the race lap record and he set the overall pole on his 5th lap with a time of 1:55.87. The Power Trophy lap record looked well within his grasp for the race. George Osborne’s session was a complete contrast, taking it steady and getting his tyres gradually up to temperature. He didn’t break the 2 minute barrier until his final lap when he broke it convincingly – a time of 1:57.93 put him next to Tom on the outside of the front row and he was also well under the race lap record.
Roger Evans was still working out the best settings for his sensational Invitation class Giulietta V8 and was also – having raced front wheel drive cars for his entire racing career – accustoming himself to its rear wheel drive set up. He was 3rd quickest overall with a best time of 1:59.42 but found the rear suspension much too hard as the car was bouncing in places on the straights, so he would need to make changes for the race. The fourth and final driver to break the 2-minute mark was Graham Seager’s 147 GTA in a time of 1:59.75 and he would line up on the outside of row 2.
Gareth Haywood was 5th quickest but was frustrated by a lack of power, the engine feeling very flat and producing nothing like the pace the supercharged 3.2 V6 should be capable of, his best lap time being 2:02.85. A fine effort by Gabs Iaccarino put him 6th overall; he had never been to Oulton Park before and the circuit presented him and his GT V6 with its usual variety of challenges. He was frustrated with the mistakes he said he was making but nevertheless he could be pleased with a best time of 2:04.47, just ahead of the 156 GTAs of Dave Messenger and Andy Inman. Dave’s car had undergone extensive body and mechanical work since the last meeting in August and most of all he was hoping for a change of fortune after something of a season of tears. He and Andy were both in the 2:05s – Dave a fraction quicker – but Andy ended the session with a worrying fuel leak which the Revs Italia team would need to rectify.
Sadly Andy Page’s 116 Turbo was a casualty, back in the paddock after only 4 laps with a crown gear tooth missing; Andy was philosophical about it but disappointingly it ended his participation the meeting. Scott Austin had acquired Vincent Dubois’ 156 Turbo a few days before the meeting and had been working on its preparation every available hour of every day since then, as the car hadn’t turned a wheel in over a year. He too was back in the paddock after only 4 laps and he and his team were working frantically on the car to try and rectify some problems before the first race. The Integrale-engined beast is hugely powerful and clearly a lap time of 2:13.77 was not representative of its (and Scott’s) capabilities.
Father and son Keith and Tom Waite were the final runners in the Modified/Power Trophy group. Keith hadn’t been to the circuit in many years in his trusty 75, and Tom – still with the 8 valve engine in his 33 rather than the new 16 valve I had wrongly predicted in the race preview (sorry Keith) – was troubled by a slipping clutch and would elect to start the races from the pit lane.
In the Twin Spark Cup, Andrew Bourke set the quickest time of 2:06.00 in the all-156 field in what was a very unusual qualifying session for him. Normally he pounds away setting consistent lap times throughout the session; here his times were all over the place but it didn’t matter because his pole lap was outstanding. James Ford is always very competitive at Oulton Park and he was second quickest in 2:06.84, a very strong performance particularly as his engine hadn’t been rebuilt since 2013 and was using a fair amount of oil. Third was the remarkable Colin Cunniffe in only his third ever (non virtual) race, his best time of 2:06.94 only 1/10th shy of James and ahead of class champion elect Richard Ford in 2:07.73.
Tom Williams and Connor Davies were 5th and 6th quickest and closely matched in the 2:08s in that order, both having only their second race meeting in the Championship. Behind them and rounding out the grid were Jon Tortolani and Andy Winterton. Jon’s car ground to a halt on his opening lap but resourcefully he got out of the car and reconnected the fuel line that had come adrift and rejoined the session, while Andy, helped by his son on the day, was trying to get to the bottom of a problem with his engine that didn’t seem to be always running on its full complement of four cylinders.
With qualifying finishing at 10.40 and our first race starting at 12.10, drivers with car issues to sort out were up against it time-wise. Scott Austin, Gareth Haywood and Andy Inman made it by the skin of their teeth but Roger Evans, who was working on Andy’s car right up to the last, had no time left to make the necessary adjustments to his own car and so didn’t make the start.
As the lights went out for the start of the front half of the grid, Tom Hill, George Osborne and Graham Seager were extremely close together approaching Old Hall, with George just getting through around the outside into the lead. It was short lived however, as Tom repassed him, but at the end of the lap there was only 0.3 seconds between the 3 of them. Behind them Scott Austin had passed 4 cars, closed to within 2 seconds of the leading 3 and was showing clear signs of getting much more out of his ‘new’ car than had been possible in qualifying. Gareth Haywood was 5th, then came Dave Messenger, Andy Inman, Gabs Iaccarino and Keith Waite followed by son Tom who had started from the pit lane after the Twin Sparks had gone by.
When the flag dropped for the Twin Spark start one or two drivers didn’t see it, notably Colin Cunniffe who was expecting something more obvious than the start line marshall managed to produce! Andrew Bourke made an excellent getaway to establish a clear lead from James Ford and Richard Ford and that order was unchanged at the end of lap 1, with Connor Davies 4th, followed by Colin Cunniffe, Andy Winterton, Tom Williams and Jon Tortolani. On lap 2, Jon Tortolani braked a little too late for the Shell hairpin and as he had begun to turn into the corner his 156 swapped ends and buried itself in the sand trap. After it gradually became clear that Jon wasn’t going to be able to get it out of the sand under its own steam the Safety Car was deployed on lap 3 to allow it to be recovered. By this time Scott Austin had passed George Osborne to take second place but the order was otherwise the same as it had been at the end of lap 1 throughout the rest of the field. At the end of lap 5 the Safety Car pulled off into the pit lane and racing recommenced.
On lap 6 Scott Austin posted a very quick time 0f 1:53.77 and took the lead in his Modified class 156 – a pace that even the ultra rapid Tom Hill couldn’t match in his Power Trophy class GT. Thereafter he managed the pace of the race from the front, doing enough to stay 2 or 3 seconds ahead of Tom, who was in turn able to extend his lead over the close and exciting battle for 3rd between George Osborne and Graham Seager. So Scott took a very fine race win ahead of Tom in second, Tom breaking the Power Trophy lap record by a staggering 5 seconds in the process! For the last 3 laps George and Graham circulated never more than a couple of 10ths apart; it was an incredibly close and totally clean battle and George just held on to claim 3rd place with Graham 4th.
Gareth Haywood was still down on power and finished in 5th place ahead of Andy Inman in 6th, delighted at improving his best lap time by some 3 seconds, with Gabs Iaccarino close behind in 7th in his GT, also 3 seconds quicker than in qualifying. So where was Dave Messenger who had been hoping for an end to his recent run of bad luck? Oh dear, it was not to be. On lap 6 the auxiliary belt on his 156 GTA began to disintegrate in the course of which some of it wrapped around and jammed the cambelt resulting in engine failure, causing yet another retirement. That must surely be the last bit of misfortune – reliability beckons henceforward!
In the Twin Spark Cup Andrew Bourke maintained a 2-second lead over James Ford and increased it to 4 seconds on the final lap to take an excellent win that demonstrated impressive racecraft, not to mention outright pace – Paul Plant’s Twin Spark lap record had stood for many years but Andrew broke it by 2/100ths of a second on lap 6 to set a new record of 2:05.63. In the closing stages James had to work hard to keep Richard Ford behind him; Richard was clearly the quicker of the two and was being held up but try as he might he could not find a way through. He got partially alongside James a couple of times on the last lap but when he had to brake a little harder to avoid running into the back of him at Druids the slight loss of momentum gave James just enough breathing space to take second place in class at the chequered flag. Colin Cunniffe had been 3 seconds behind Richard in 4th at the start of the lap but with Richard being held up and Colin putting in a stupendous final lap time of 2:05.67 they were less than a second apart at the flag.
Connor Davies had been ahead of Colin until the penultimate lap and was showing clear signs of getting progressively to grips with front wheel drive technique (his previous experience having been in karts) in his second Championship meeting and took 5th place in class a few seconds ahead of a tight battle between Andy Winterton and Tom Williams which Andy just won by 2/10ths of a second at the end. Father and son drivers Keith and Tom Waite rounded out the finishers with all the drivers completing 8 laps. With close battles throughout the field it had been an excellent race notwithstanding the need for the intervention of the safety car.
The result meant that Scott Austin extended his lead over Keith Waite in the Modified class to 7 points going into the final race and, with Andy Page’s unfortunate retirement, would just need to finish to claim second position in that class.
Tom Hill’s victory in the Power Trophy secured his second place finish in the class championship, whilst Andy Inman was almost but not quite mathematically assured of third, needing just 2 points to claim the remaining podium position even if 4th placed Graham Seager scored maximum points in race 2!
Andrew Bourke and James Ford were level on points at the start of the day and assured of podium finishes in the Twin Spark cup and Andrew’s performance in qualifying and race 1 had eased out a gap of 4 points over James to put him in second place and holding the advantage going into race 2 where it would need a gap of 5 points to reverse the position.
Race 1 Results
|Power Trophy||Tom Hill|
|Twin Spark Cup||Andrew Bourke|
As the afternoon wore on there was a gradual deterioration in the weather and a very light but persistent drizzle set in. It was so fine that it didn’t visibly wet the tarmac, so wet tyres for the Modified and Power Trophy cars never developed into a realistic option but the track conditions would be more greasy than they had been earlier and there would be no more lap records. The preceding Formula Vee race did not restart after the second of its two red flags enabling our race to start on time. The winner of this race would be awarded the Kevin Griffiths trophy in due course.
In the front group Tom Hill got the quickest start and took the lead through Old Hall but it was short lived as the more powerful car of Scott Austin passed him and led Tom by 2 seconds at the end of lap 1, followed by George Osborne, Gareth Haywood, Gabs Iaccarino, Roger Evans (able to take the start this time in the mighty Giulietta but starting from the back), Andy Inman and Graham Seager who had lost places after making a poor start. Keith Waite seemed to be in difficulties having dropped back to the tail of the Twin Spark field and sadly his race ended on lap 2 when he pulled off the circuit at Hilltop with driveshaft failure. A DNF was most unusual for Keith and brought his season to a disappointing end but there would be some consolation when the season’s points totals were finalised…
The Twin Spark Cup drivers were given a much more visible flourish of the Union Jack by the starter this time and got away cleanly and completed lap 1 in grid order. At the end of lap 2 Andrew had a 1-second lead over James Ford with the rest spaced out at 1 or 2 second intervals, the only close battle at this stage being a repeat of Race 1 for 6th place between Andy Winterton and Tom Williams, Andy just having the advantage, with Jon Tortolani further back ahead of Tom Waite who had started from the pit lane after the Twin Spark cars had gone past. Tom Williams got past Andy Winterton on lap 4 and Andy started to fall away behind him, something seemingly not quite right with his car.
Something was also seemingly not quite right with Scott Austin’s car. He was still ahead of Tom Hill but only by a second or so and he was clearly struggling through the slower corners when Tom would close up right behind him only to fall back again when Scott got on the power again at the exit. Whatever the problem was it seemed to be getting worse and Tom got through into the lead as they exited Knickerbrook on lap 7. (It turned out that Scott had lost all gears from his sequential gearbox apart from 4th and 5th, which perfectly explained his problem in the slow corners.) Tom was unable to pull away though and Scott looked in with a slight chance of retaking the lead until a new threat appeared from further back. Roger Evans had been going quicker and quicker as the race progressed, lap times tumbling till they steadied out in the 1:56/1:57s. He had passed Gareth Haywood on lap 4 and George Osborne on lap 5 at which point the gap to Tom ahead was 6 seconds. On the next lap it was 4 seconds and on lap 7 he was right behind Scott before passing him and Tom on lap 8 before drawing away and winning by some 8 seconds at the end.
George Osborne had been running third early on before Roger passed him and he had Gareth Haywood and a recovering Graham Seager close behind him, with Gabs Iaccarino and Andy Inman further back. Graham squeezed past Gareth on lap 5 and set about renewing the close battle with George that had been a feature of Race 1. This time Graham did manage to get through ahead of George on lap 8 to finish 4th overall with George 5th and Gareth 6th. Gabs Iaccarino had been running 7th throughout with Andy Inman behind him until Andy spun into the gravel at Druids. He managed to extricate it but elected to call it a day and returned to the paddock. Gabs’s lap times fell away a little at the end but he finished a solid 7th to conclude his first season as an alfaracer very respectably.
Scott Austin’s finish secured his second place for the season in the Modified class from Keith Waite, whilst Andy Inman claimed the third spot in the Power Trophy behind Tom Hill who had already secured second after race 1.
The top four Twin Spark Cup runners had formed an orderly queue early on, spaced out at 1-second intervals for the first few laps with Connor Davies a couple of seconds further back in 5th before a gap to Tom Williams, Andy Winterton and Jon Tortolani who were each having a lonely race several seconds apart ahead of Tom Waite’s 33. On lap 6, however, James Ford closed the gap to Andrew Bourke to half a second with Richard Ford and Colin Cunniffe equally close a second or so behind. On lap 7 James got alongside Andrew and there was slight contact as they lapped Tom Waite side by side but then James got through on the inside at Lodge after Andrew had lost momentum slightly working out which way to pass Tom. Andrew fought back and tried to go down the inside of James on the start/finish straight but James covered the move and Andrew now had his hands full defending from Richard Ford who drew alongside him. They banged doors and Richard got his nose in front on the approach to Cascades before Andrew slammed the door on the exit, Richard wisely deciding to concede the place.
All the while Colin Cunniffe was right behind Richard and this continued along the straight towards the Shell hairpin when Richard chose to stay right on Andrew’s bumper at the left hand kink before the corner leaving a gap on the outside which Colin drove straight through to claim 3rd place. They continued nose to tail behind James Ford for another lap. On the final lap, with Colin close behind him and looking quicker, Andrew was clearly now feeling the pressure – he braked far too late approaching Knickerbrook and straight lined the chicane emerging side by side with Colin on the exit. They continued side by side up Clay Hill, through Druids, along the straight towards Lodge, on through the corner, through Deer Leap and down the start/finish straight. At Old Hall it looked momentarily that Colin had claimed second place but Andrew fought back and they continued side by side approaching Cascades.
What happened next was most unfortunate and not something we would want ever to happen again. There was significant side-on contact as they went down the hill and Colin found himself on the damp grass on the outside of the corner; with no traction the car spun and speared back across the track. He was heading for what could have been a very big accident into the barrier but Richard Ford’s car was in the way and he hit it hard on the front offside corner. Both cars suffered considerable damage, particularly Colin’s, but Richard went through into second place. Colin got going again, his damaged bonnet at a crazy angle, and passed Andrew who had stopped on the exit to the corner.
In the meantime, Connor Davies – who had been a couple of seconds behind them – sailed past both of them to take 3rd place at the flag behind James and Richard and ahead of Colin and Andrew. Tom Williams came home 6th ahead of the lapped Andy Winterton and Tom Waite. It had been an exciting Twin Spark Cup battle and James Ford claimed a well earned class win ahead of champion elect Richard, also securing second spot in the championship, but the incident at Cascades was most regrettable – though not disappointing for Connor Davies who came through to claim his first class podium finish.
Race 2 Results
|Power Trophy||Tom Hill|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Ford|
Thus ended our final race meeting of the season and we look forward to our Awards evening on 27th November when Barry McMahon will be crowned our 2021 Champion and Modified class winner, with George Osborne and Richard Ford taking the Power Trophy and Twin Spark Cup class wins respectively for the season.