Rockingham – you either hate it or you love it.

There doesn’t seem to be much in between. However, we have to accept that if we are to enjoy a variety of circuits each year, it is one that we are going to visit on a regular basis. This year, it was just unfortunate that it brought our season to an end and so early. In the past few years we have had the final rounds at either Silverstone or Donington in October, and this seems to work better as does Rockingham as a venue earlier in the calendar when everyone is trying to establish their position in the Championship standings. As for all our recent visits, we were located in the Outer Paddock and this gives us much more room – even for some impromptu “testing”! The BRSCC were kind enough to arrange signing on in the Welcome Centre situated below one of the big grandstands and scrutineering in-situ which avoids having to traipse over to the scrutineering bay through the tunnel. From my own point of view this also means we are closer to the Media Centre, Race Control and Commentary Box where I was invited to join Tony Coales on both days.

The entry for Rockingham was headed by the two Modified cars of Barry McMahon (156 1750 Turbo) and Graham Seager (3.2 V6 supercharged GTV).We hadn’t seen Barry’s beautifully turned out green and white Advanced Motorsport prepared 156 since it raced with us at Silverstone in May when it contested the class with the 3.8 litre and 2.0 Turbo versions of Andy Robinson and Vincent Dubois. Since then it had raced in a Britcar Production and GT event at Donington, Barry’s brother Roger sharing the driving on this occasion. Barry says that the power output is now around 330 bhp. Graham Seager was the double winner last time out at Donington and it was a relief when we saw his name on the entry list as our other Modified competitors were all absent. Likewise those who had been running in the Power Trophy, so it was good to see Dave Lambourn at Rockingham with the 33 16v that he had been prevented from racing at Donington after his seat belts had been found to be out of date. New belts were proudly on display. With neither Ray Foley or Ron Davidson entered, the Power Trophy championship went by default to Ron’s 164 while the Modified class had already been wrapped up by Andy Robinson.

This year’s Championship had, unusually for us, been settled at the penultimate round and the 156 no. 78 arrived with “Tom Hill 2016 Champion” on the bonnet. However, Tom was clear that this wasn’t going to lessen his desire to race as hard as ever and to add to his tally of 9 Twin Spark class wins in the season so far. Simon Cresswell had emerged from Donington with his runner-up position intact, although the Dave Messenger was now only 19 points behind and Simon couldn’t afford not to finish either of the Rockingham races, particularly seeing Dave’s current form which had seen him leap up the table with consistent podiums and the two wins at Brands to help him along. A “curved ball” was going to be thrown into all this by the entry of Tom Herbert in brother Paul Plant’s 156. Tom hasn’t raced for a couple of years, so would he take time to settle in again? What we did know was that the car is a winner, having taken victory in Paul’s hands last time out. Andy Inman was hoping to continue his run of form in his now Peak Alfa prepared 156 (although still in its readily identifiable purple colour scheme with yellow lightning flashes). Jeremy Chilton and Paul Webster (his ex Avon 156 prepared by Jonathan Wright) completed the 156 entries. Joshua Lambert was driving the only 147 entered this time but we had two 145s as Richard Stevens was making a return to join Roger Evans. Richard had fitted a 150,000 mile (!) engine after the previous unit failed clankily at Oulton while Roger was hoping that he had solved the fuel flow/electrical and brake binding problems that had bedevilled him at Donington. Last but not least among the Twin Spark Cup entries was a beautifully prepared yellow 916 Spider for Nick Anderson which included a roll cage which was something of a work of art that was undoubtedly going to make Nick feel pretty secure. There had been some input by Bianco while Louise West, Charlotte Smith and Matt Abell were on hand to help out at the circuit. Nick had booked in for a brief test at Snetterton earlier in the week but had suffered a power steering pump failure before he could really learn much. A new pump had been fitted for the weekend. Interestingly, this is the first time that a 916 Spider has been run in the Championship as it seemed to suffer from the same bad vibes as a race car that the GTV had suffered in 2 litre form. However, Andrew Bourke had proved that the GTV version could be made competitive, so why not the Spider?

The BRSCC had organised a 30 minute extra practice session on Saturday morning and Joshua Lambert and Simon Cresswell decided to take advantage. Josh probably wished he hadn’t as he made contact with a high kerb and cracked his sump. Although Bianco had a spare, there wasn’t time to replace it before qualifying got underway. Another casualty before qualifying was Dave Lambourn who fell foul of the noise test on his way to the assembly area and was told to go away and fix it if he wanted to race later in the day.

Quali

Qualifying got underway at 11.15 and Barry McMahon wasted no time in showing that the Alfa lap record (1’39.910”) was going to be trashed, his third lap being a 1’37.912”. After a quick pit stop to check that all was well, he then lowered his time to 1’36.127” which settled pole. By contrast, Graham Seager took until his ninth lap to go sub 1’40” but you felt that as soon as he was ready, there was time in hand. His final 1’39.314” on his last lap was also within Roger Evans’ record with the same car which brought a smile to his face afterwards. Among the Twin Sparks, a 1’46.978” that appeared in the “Lap Analysis” for Tom Hill was clearly incorrect and he was also docked the time for his fifth lap for a track limits infringement. However, he later bettered this with a best of 1’48.361 that looked as though it was going to be good enough for class pole until, on his very last lap, Tom Herbert knocked enough off his own previous best to not only beat Tom Hill but grab pole with 1’48.315”. Dave Messenger had enjoyed a trouble free session with a string of four laps in the 48’s and a best of 1’48.704” to leave him on the inside of the third row (with a lack of modified and power trophy cars everyone would start together when the red lights were extinguished with no three row gap or delayed flag start). Andy Inman ended up fourth quickest of the Twin Sparks, just failing to go sub 1’50”, but he was pleased to be 0.170” quicker than Simon Cresswell. Richard Stevens was the faster of the two 145s but had a power steering belt break while Roger Evans headed Jeremy Chilton, Paul Webster and Nick Anderson. Nick also had a repeat of his own power steering problem and would decide to race without it, hoping that the resultant lack of an alternator would still leave him enough battery power.

During the morning, Clive Hodgkin was able to visit us for a short while with Christine and son James and we are sure that the welcome he received was a boost to his morale at a time which is very difficult for him and the family. Another visitor was Andrew Bourke, seemingly none the worse for wear after his dramatic Brands Hatch accident and telling us that he has bought Steve Potts’ 156 which Bianco will run for him in the Twin Spark Cup next year. It was also good to see Matt Daly, plus camera, but a little sad to be handing over the Kevin Griffiths Trophy for its next recipient.

Race 1

Joshua Lambert’s 147 now had a new sump but he would have to start from the back of the grid, the green flag lap getting the field underway at 1.45. As the lights went out, the two Modified cars made reasonable starts and just avoided becoming involved with the quicker starting Twin Sparks. Tom Herbert failed to take advantage of his class pole and it was Tom Hill who shot across to the left to take a lead that was short lived as Dave Messenger went “down low” in true Indy Oval style to move to the front – as he was clearly over the white lines, track limits were obviously not being enforced here. Into the Dene Hairpin, Dave kept his Solo Italia/BSS 156 ahead of Tom Hill and despite a tricky moment at Chapmans Curve was still ahead as they returned through the Brook Chicane to the Oval. Tom Herbert had dropped back slightly by the end of the lap while Andy Inman was running an excellent fourth in class ahead of the battling Simon Cresswell and Richard Stevens. Josh Lambert had overtaken three cars and was closing on Roger Evans while Jeremy Chilton was comfortably ahead of Paul Webster and Nick Anderson.

By the end of the second lap, Barry McMahon had established a 4” lead over Graham Seager and had already set a new lap record. Dave Messenger had run wide at Rockingham Bend which let Tom Hill retake the TSC lead. Tom Herbert had picked up speed and had been slightly closer to Tom Hill before he passed Dave while Andy Inman continued to keep Simon Cresswell and Richard Stevens at bay. Further back, Josh Lambert was now ahead of Roger Evans and having what he described later as a “boring” race. By the end of lap 3, Barry McMahon had opened the gap to Graham Seager to 7” with another new lap record in the bag. Leading Twin Spark Tom Hill was now 35” back as he and Dave Messenger crossed the line. Tom Herbert was lapping quicker than either of them and must have fancied his chances but Tom Hill and Dave Messenger upped the pace and by the end of lap 4 Tom was suddenly 2.7” in arrears. On lap 5, Dave saw an opportunity at Dene as Tom Hill ran wide and he was back in front. Andy Inman, Simon Cresswell and Richard Stevens continued to gives us plenty of entertainment, particularly going into the Tarzan Hairpin. Further back, Jeremy Chilton had had an off track moment and dropped to the back of the field, some 11” behind Paul Webster.

With 6 laps completed (almost half distance) Barry McMahon had eased off a little but with a 12” lead only a mechanical problem was going to rob him of the race. Amongst the Twin Sparks, Tom Hill never gives up, and he saw an opportunity to re-take the lead, diving down the inside at the Dene Hairpin. After this he started to pull away a little as Dave seemed to settle for a comfortable 2nd over the last three laps as Tom Herbert sensed his tyres going off and dropped further back. On lap 10 there was an incident Tarzan between Richard Stevens and Simon Creswell, the resulting jolt removing a fuel line on the 145 which saw Richard pull off into the pits and retirement. This left Simon to battle with Andy Inman. Roger Evans had already retired with a repeat of his fuel flow problem. As the race drew to a conclusion, there was much interest in the progress of Jeremy Chilton who was rapidly catching Paul Webster and Nick Anderson, eventually passing them both with a lap to go.

Barry McMahon finally crossed the line to win with a lead of 18.729” over Graham Seager, having left the lap record at 1’36.206”. Tom Hill would join them on the overall podium, having won the Twin Spark class from Dave Messenger with a 4.484” advantage. Tom Herbert felt that he should have done better but wasn’t helped by a 5” track limits penalty. Still, third in class was nothing to ashamed of. Very happy was Andy Inman who led Simon Cresswell home with Joshua Lambert, Jeremy Chilton, Nick Anderson and Paul Webster the final finishers. As a bonus, Tom Hill set a new Twin Spark lap record in 1’48.269”. During the race Simon Cresswell had thought he might be running out of fuel while some strange noises in the transmission would need to be investigated by Bianco and a broken clutch was diagnosed – another chance for Harry White to spend some time under a car!! There was good news for Dave Lambourn who had been able to locate a replacement exhaust, was able to pass the noise test with ease and to qualify behind the safety car. He would start from the back of the grid in Sunday morning’s race with Roger Evans and Richard Stevens, both of whom were hopeful that their respective 145s were up and running.

Race 1 Results

Winners
Modified Barry McMahon
Power Trophy No starters
Twin Spark Cup Tom Hill

View full results

Race 2

The weather on Saturday had been quite cool but it was definitely warmer, under a blue sky, as everyone prepared for another 20 minute race on Sunday morning. As the cars lined up on the grid, Tom Hill already had a flickering alternator light and he was keeping his fingers crossed that there was enough charge in the battery to last the race. Red lights out and the two Modified cars moved smoothly away, this time with Graham Seager taking an immediate lead. Barry McMahon had ideas about passing him at Dene but arrived there too fast with a partially stuck throttle, took to the grass and found himself in amongst the Twin Sparks, led by Dave Messenger, as he re-joined.

At Tarzan, Tom Hill goes down the inside of Dave who is able to pull alongside going past the School before having to give way at Brook because he was on the outside. The recovering Barry McMahon had already passed several cars by the time he crossed the line but was now 8” behind Graham although the GTV seemed a little slow getting into its stride and by the time the two cars crossed the line with 5 laps completed they were side-by –side. Tom Hill had maintained his Twin Spark lead over Dave Messenger, setting another new lap record in the process (1’48.080”). Tom Herbert was running 3rd some 3” back while Simon Cresswell had been able to shake off Andy Inman and Richard Stevens. Roger Evans retired for the second time during the weekend on lap 5.

Barry McMahon got his 156 into the lead on lap 5 but there was clearly something not quite right as he didn’t pull away and was then re-passed by the GTV. The two cars circulated within 1.5” of each other until, on lap 9, Barry ran wide into the gravel at Tarzan into retirement after another 50% stuck open throttle.

By this time, the Twin Spark result looked fairly settled with Tom Hill 1.6” ahead of Dave Messenger who had an advantage over Tom Herbert of 3.7”. Simon Cresswell was 4th in class while Andy Inman and Richard Stevens continued their battle in 5th and 6th. With no 156 to fight with, Graham Seager eased right off, taking his fourth win of the year, having completed 12 laps. However, all was not over for the Twin Sparks as Tom Hill’s battery finally faded away with 2 laps to go and he had to pull off, leaving a delighted and gesticulating Dave Messenger to cross the line not only 2nd overall but 1st in class and winner of the prestigious Kevin Griffiths Trophy. Tom Herbert would mount the podium, third overall and second in class, and was followed home by Simon Cresswell (ensuring his runner-up spot in the Championship), Richard Stevens who passed Andy Inman mid race. Other finishers were Joshua Lambert, Jeremy Chilton, Paul Webster and a delighted Dave Lambourn – last yes but he had finally managed to start and complete a race this year “winning” the Power Trophy in the process. Nick Anderson was another to suffer battery failure but was still happy to have been able to give the Spider its debut and was looking forward to developing the car over the winter.

Race 2 Results

Winners
Modified Graham Seager
Power Trophy David Lambourn
Twin Spark Cup Dave Messenger

View full results

The trophies were presented afterwards by Steff Arnold, the “Grove & Dean Driver of the Weekend” award going to Andy Inman and, of course, the Kevin Griffiths Trophy to Dave Messenger who joined a whole raft of well known Alfa Championship names. Our thanks to the BRSCC for running another efficient meeting and to Judith Hibbins who, on this occasion, was Secretary of the Meeting. Also to our very helpful Championship Eligibility Scrutineer, Kevin Lewis, who we hope will be with us again in 2017.
Once again I appreciated Dave Messenger’s in-car videos with forward and backward looking cameras this time in both races. As neither Paul Stone or Katy Read could be there we are grateful for excellent coverage by Matt Daly, Katy’s father Nigel and Emma Karwacki.

Please don’t forget the date for the annual Awards Evening – Saturday, November 12th. Full details can be found elsewhere on the website. We look forward to seeing you there and hope that we shall have strong support for the event every year brings our season to a suitable climax.

Michael Lindsay

Points

View the final standings

Points