Rockingham Race Report
Our concerns about the relatively small number of entrants for Round 7 and 8 of the Championship deepened when Vincent Dubois and Ron Davidson were late withdrawals but entries from Ray Foley and Keith Waite compensated and we retained a 10-car entry for Rockingham. In fact, Vincent and Keith Waite had performed miracles to rebuild Vincent’s engine after its major blow-up at Cadwell and only a last-minute glitch meant he had to withdraw.
The Championship Panel is committed to do anything it reasonably can to increase grid numbers, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have completed questionnaires. We would also welcome more questionnaires back from anyone who hasn’t yet completed and returned one. We have already had over 30 returned from current and recent drivers and we are going through the many constructive suggestions we’ve received to try and come up with effective solutions. The BRSCC has indicated that it is prepared to consider any proposals we come up with.
We were allocated 5 pit garages for our 10-car entry which made preparations for the meeting much easier for us and the only space problem we had was finding somewhere for Dave Messenger’s trailer as the paddock behind the pits at our end had become congested by Saturday morning. The weather prediction for Saturday and Sunday was for the hottest days of the year and so it proved. The barbecue cooking sausages and burgers in the adjacent Ford pit garages late Saturday morning was superfluous – they could have just put them in a pan out in the sun.
Bianco drivers Tom Hill, Andrew Bourke, Mike Tydeman and Simon Cresswell had taken advantage of the Friday test session and felt it had gone well, with only minor things to sort out on their respective 156s at the end of the day. Gary having gone fishing for the weekend, Paul and Harry et al were looking after the Bianco cars. There were 3 Peak Alfa-prepared cars: Graham Seager’s formidable supercharged black GTV, Andy Inman’s colourful 156 twin spark, and Ray Foley in his Power Trophy 147 GTA. After its overheating maladies in previous races Roger Evans and Ray were confident that the problem had been identified and sorted as the car had been running faultlessly. Keith Waite made a welcome return to the Championship in his distinctive 75, and the entry was completed by Dave Messenger and Paul Webster in their respective 156 twin sparks.
We had a number of welcome visitors to our pit garages over the weekend, and in particular we were delighted to see Christine Hodgkin feeling positive and looking very well.
At the Drivers’ briefing, it was confirmed that as there were fewer than 4 Modified/Power Trophy cars there would be a unified grid with grid positions determined solely by qualifying times, i.e. Modified and Power Trophy cars would not automatically fill the first 3 places, and all the cars would start together on the lights. A question was also asked about the ‘apron’, the inner section of the track beyond the white lines on the banked section of the circuit. The Clerk of the Course indicated that a relaxed view would be taken if drivers found themselves unable to avoid using it on the opening lap, a statement that was to have interesting consequences later…
Qualifying got under way a little earlier than scheduled at around 10.45. In the assembly area, Dave Messenger’s car had suddenly developed a misfire – it was too late to fix it before the session began so Brian sent him out to complete the necessary minimum of 3 laps as best he could. Tom Hill was first out as is his custom and was quickly into his stride, pulling out a gap to those behind as he endeavoured to post a quick time early on. As expected, Graham Seager was significantly quicker than the rest of the field, posting 1m 41.061 on only his second lap, and setting his quickest time of 1m 39.090 on lap 5. He broke the 1m 40s barrier twice more but couldn’t get into the 1.38s where he felt he should have been. Nevertheless he was 9 seconds clear of the rest of the field and there was a spectacular backfire on each lap as he changed from 4th to 5th just after the Start/Finish line. Tom Hill set his quickest time of 1m 49.370 on lap 3 but was eclipsed on the same lap by Simon Cresswell who recorded a time of 1m 49.223 to set 2nd fastest time overall at that stage. However, on the very next lap, Andrew Bourke turned in a time of 1m 48.922 and lowered that still further on his 7th lap with a 1m 48.728 to take second place overall from Simon and Tom.
Ray Foley had set off with his sunglasses on to reduce the glare of the sun but had to pit after only 2 laps to take them off as there was so much moisture he couldn’t see where he was going! After that he never got quite fully into his stride but set a best time of 1m 49.547 to qualify 5th. However, the car was running at the right temperature throughout so he was optimistic for the race. After proceeding cautiously in his opening laps, Keith Waite began to reduce his lap times steadily and posted a 1m 49.824 on his 7th lap to take 6th place on the grid. Andy Inman posted a consistent series of laps in the 1m51s, with a best of 1m 51.188 on his 6th lap, just pipping Mike Tydeman’s 1m 51.259 to take 7th place, with Mike 8th, 1.5 seconds clear of Paul Webster’s best of 1m 52.717. Dave Messenger completed 3 laps with a misfire with a best of 1m56.002 to take the final grid slot before pitting to diagnose the problem. Fortunately it was only a coil pack that had failed – this was quickly replaced and he felt the car would be fine for the race.
The summer heat had intensified as the cars assembled for the first race – some 30+ degrees and obviously much hotter in the cars. As the lights went out, it was a pretty even start but Andrew Bourke, on the outside of the front row, was a little slow away and Tom Hill dived to the inside to avoid him, making contact with Simon Cresswell, though both continued without serious consequences. The hairpin at the end of the banked section was then the scene of a remarkable sequence of events: Dave Messenger ‘found himself’ on the inner apron and, as a gap opened up in front of him, went right down the inside of the whole field other than Graham Seager (who already had a healthy lead) and emerged from the corner in 2nd place, having started 10th on the grid! Although Mike Tydeman was forced onto the grass at the exit of the corner everyone got through unscathed. However, Dave was passed later that lap by Tom Hill going into Tarzan after the back end stepped out through the previous fast left hander at Gracelands.
At the end of Lap 1 Graham Seager was some 9 seconds clear of Tom, who was followed through by Dave Messenger, Andrew Bourke, Ray Foley, Simon Cresswell and the rest. On lap 2 Andrew passed Dave after the hairpin and set off after Tom, Ray Foley passed Dave Messenger and further down the field Keith Waite – after a cautious start – passed Andy Inman. At the beginning of lap 4 the order was Graham Seager, now 20 seconds clear but lapping relatively conservatively in the 1m 43s, Tom Hill, Ray Foley moving into 3rd on the start finish straight, Andrew Bourke, Dave Messenger, Simon Cresswell, then a gap to Keith Waite, Mike Tydeman, Andy Inman and Paul Webster. Ray briefly locked up going into the Deene hairpin on lap 4 allowing Andrew back up to 3rd, whilst Dave Messenger had another minor moment through Gracelands allowing Simon Cresswell to move into 5th position at Tarzan.
By Lap 5 Ray Foley had passed Andrew Bourke once again, while Keith Waite had passed Mike Tydeman and was drawing ever closer to a dice between Simon Cresswell and Dave Messenger. Dave got alongside Simon on the next lap after a good exit from Tarzan on to School Straight, moving back up to 5th before Brook chicane.
At the beginning of lap 7 Ray Foley passed Tom Hill for 2nd place but did not pull away, Andrew Bourke was getting gradually closer to Tom but not close enough to mount a challenge, and on lap 8 Simon Cresswell once again moved ahead of Dave Messenger into the Deene hairpin. A momentary off from Dave at Deene on the next lap allowed Keith Waite to move up to 6th and on lap 10 Keith passed Simon Cresswell to move up to 5th. However, on the next lap it was all change behind the leader – Ray Foley slowed and shortly afterwards pulled off with a repeat of the puzzling overheating problem he has suffered from; at this point Andrew Bourke was very close behind Tom Hill, albeit briefly, as he then dropped back again. Graham Seager was lapping conservatively at around 1m 45s, well clear of the rest of the field. At the line, Graham was just over a minute ahead of Tom, who was less than a second clear of Andrew. The 3-way battle for 4th between Simon, Dave and Keith was eventually settled in that order, followed by Mike T., Andy Inman, and Paul Webster.
After the race, there was much metaphorical scratching of heads around Ray Foley’s engine, with various parties encouraging it to mend itself and/or using their X-Ray vision to diagnose the problem – without avail, as Ray decided that his weekend was over, and the GTA was lovingly (or not so lovingly) put to bed on its trailer.
Race 1 Results
|Power Trophy||Keith Waite|
|Twin Spark Cup||Tom Hill|
Team Darnells Race Car – from last on the grid to 2nd place @alfaracer @RockinghamUK #greatstart pic.twitter.com/ZpatWiwisi
— Darnells Ltd. (@DarnellsLtd) June 19, 2017
The forecast for Sunday was even hotter than Saturday, and so it proved. Tom Hill, after lengthy deliberations with the stewards, was given an 8-place grid penalty for Race 2 for his misdemeanour at the start of Race 1, and so started from the back of the 9-car grid. A last minute driver briefing was also necessary as the start lights had failed in the previous Mini event, and the race would therefore be started using the union flag. As the flag descended, Graham Seager was a little slow away and briefly found himself engulfed by Keith Waite and assorted Twin Sparks before reasserting himself and drawing clear of the field. Andrew Bourke was second ahead of a fast-starting Dave Messenger, followed by Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman. Tom Hill quickly made up places on the opening lap by passing Keith Waite, Mike Tydeman, Andy Inman and Paul Webster. There then developed a pattern whereby Keith Waite would pass cars early on the straight but would then slow and be re-passed as they approached the hairpin. By lap 4, Simon and Tom were right behind Dave Messenger, who was nevertheless driving extremely well and managed to draw clear again.
From lap 4 onwards the running order was almost unchanged. Graham Seager was again well ahead of the rest of the field albeit lapping conservatively in the 1m 45s, followed by Andrew Bourke who was gradually extending his lead over Dave Messenger in 3rd place to 6.5 seconds at the finish. A close battle behind Dave between Simon Cresswell and Tom Hill, with Keith Waite’s Power Trophy car also in the mix, led to them slowing each other up, helping Dave to maintain a 3-second gap ahead of them. Try as he might, Tom could not find a way past Simon and had to settle for 5th. Keith Waite had got past him briefly at the end of lap 10 but Tom was able to reassert himself and take the position back into the Deene hairpin, eventually finishing half a second clear of the veteran racer, followed by Mike Tydeman, Andy Inman and Paul Webster to the flag.
Race 2 Results
|Power Trophy||Keith Waite|
|Twin Spark Cup||Andrew Bourke|
Photos by Keith Ford
It was a close call to decide the Driver of the Weekend as everyone acquitted themselves so well, but it was awarded to Simon Cresswell for a strong qualifying performance and two very consistent and competitive drives.
A big thank you to Keith Ford for the photos and for helping to compile this report, and to Brian Messenger for presenting the trophies.
Notwithstanding the intense heat it was a very good weekend’s racing conducted in a very positive atmosphere, with the recent ARCA questionnaire proving to be a common talking point. Onwards to Snetterton, hopefully with significantly more entries!
View the standings after Rockingham