Going back to Silverstone always evokes memories, some good, some that people may wish to forget!
However, I thought I would look back to the Championship’s first visit in June 1984, digging out what I wrote in the AROC magazine. This reminded me of a strange set of circumstances which shows what competitors put up with then in order to get their “fix” – all 8 minutes of it when it came to the single race.
“A certain amount of controversy and criticism had been aroused beforehand by the decision of the organisers to cut several of the races from their original 10 laps to a meagre 7. Not at all popular! It seemed that the BRSCC had found themselves in the embarrassing position of having too many races and too many entries, and Silverstone management were adamant that they could have no additional time, practice not starting until 12 o’clock and racing at 3 p.m.” Despite all this, we had 26 starters, the race being an Alfasud 1- 2-3 ( in the order Nick Sismey, John Liddle and Phil Rowley). These days, at least activity can get underway at 9 and we can be racing before lunch.
The opening rounds of this year’s Championship at Snetterton had got the season off to an entertaining start and we were keen to see whether or not Tom Hill would manage to consolidate his position at the top of the points table at Silverstone, or whether there would be any challenge from the chasing pack. The Twin Spark Cup had lost Steve Potts, Stacey Dennis, Richard Ford, Gethin Llewelleyn and Mark Hope for this meeting but had gained instead Joshua Lambert, Andrew Fulcher and Dave Messenger. This would be Andrew’s first outing and should have been in his 147, newly built by WDE Motorsport. Unfortunately, the engine blew in pre-race testing, but he was able to revert to the known quantity of Bianco’s renta’ 156 having decided that despite not being able to try the car beforehand, he was entered and he was going to race!
Apart from Tom Hill, there were the usual Bianco 156s of Andy Hancock, who had tested promisingly, Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman plus the associated 147 of James Browning who had deservedly received the “Driver of the Weekend” award at Snetterton. Avon Racing were looking after the 156s of Andy Inman and Paul Webster as usual – and it was good to see Clive Hodgkin overseeing preparation and try not to get too frustrated at not being more hands-on! Final TSC entries were the 156 of Jeremy Chilton and Andrew Bourke’s GTV which surprised us so much at Snetterton.
The Modified class looked a little more healthy this time. Andy Robinson (156 3.8), Chris Oxborough (75 supercharged 3 litre) and Roger McMahon (147 GTA Cup) were joined by the 156 Turbos of Vincent Dubois and Barry McMahon. Vincent’s car now sports a Bacci sequential gearbox but it still has the same silver paintwork, whereas Barry’s example has been transformed with a very smart metallic green and white colour scheme. Testing of this car had revealed several, not insurmountable, problems but despite its relative lack of power from the underdeveloped Giulietta engine, Barry was still optimistic of getting some good results. In the Power Trophy, Nick Anderson’s 33 8v was back to give Ray Foley’s 147 GTA some competition. The 33’s engine, which had suffered a bottom-end problem at Snetterton before it had even reached the scrutineering bay, had been rebuilt by Brunswick Motorsport and fingers were hard crossed in the Anderson camp. Nick and Ray had company this time in the shape of the lovely orange 164 of Ron Davidson, complete with engine newly rebuilt by Bianco.
This year, we were back to the National circuit for the first time since April 2013 after three visits to the International layout and its less than popular Wing paddock complex. We had also been allocated pit garages – and at the Race Control end which is always a bonus. This was also to be an “all in one day” meeting which meant that if something went wrong, the pressure was on to fix the problem before either of the races. Qualifying on a lovely sunny morning got underway around 9.30 and I found myself over at Becketts looking for a good place for photography – a problem at Silverstone with so much debris fencing blocking the view. I ended up standing on a picnic table! However, the entry to the corner gives one a good idea of how hard people are trying and it was clear that Barry McMahon and Vincent Dubois were quickly on a reasonable, sub 1’10” pace, soon being joined by Andy Robinson. Barry and Andy appeared to be the most consistent of the three, and this was born out by looking at the time sheets after the session. Vincent, though quick, was much more up and down. The end result was that Barry McMahon grabbed pole with a best lap in 1’06.684” with Vincent Dubois alongside with 1’07.039”, Andy Robinson failing by a mere 0.236” to edge him off the front row on his final lap. Fourth quickest was Roger McMahon, the 147 GTA Cup still down on power and failing to break the 1’10” barrier while Chris Oxborough only completed 1 lap before pulling into the pits with a misfire. It would have been interesting to see what Graham Seager could have achieved with his championship winning GTV but that will have to wait for another time. Of the Power Trophy cars only Ron Davidson’s 164 set a representative time – 1’12.749”. Ray Foley had a return of his fuel feed problem while Nick Anderson, despite trying to run in his rebuilt engine carefully found that it was soon starting to tighten up and stopped after just 4 laps.
The “star” in the Twin Spark Cup was undoubtedy Andy Hancock, who turned the tables on Tom Hill, initially by setting 1’12.865” as against Tom’s early 1’13.008”. Andy then chopped a full 0.3” off his previous best to cement pole on his final lap with a 1’12.565”. James Browning showed that his Snetterton performance was no “flash in the pan” by setting 3rd quickest time with 1 ’13.194”, 0.4” ahead of the returning Dave Messenger. On very good form was Andy Inman who, with Joshua Lambert and Simon Cresswell, was sub 1’14”. Jeremy Chilton (1’14.347”) was delighted to be away from the back of the grid and ahead of Andrew Fulcher, Andrew Bourke, Mike Tydeman and Paul Webster. Andrew Fulcher was particularly pleased with his efforts, though, as this was the first time he had sat in the 156 or been in an official qualifying session.
That Chris Oxborough’s 75 engine should have developed a reluctance to function on all 6 cylinders was something of a mystery after it had run so well at Snetterton and there was not much optimism as time came around for Race 1 that it could be sorted out. By contrast, there was more hope in the Peak Alfa camp that Ray Foley’s 147 would return to the head of the Power Trophy class where Nick Anderson would definitely be a non starter. Once again, we were using the split grid/delayed start that had worked well for the opening races.
There was drama before the race had even started when Vincent Dubois arrived at the grid and then promptly pulled off onto the grass with a broken driveshaft to be followed by Andy Hancock who TCS pole sitting 156 had suffered clutch failure, much to his frustration and disappointment.
When the lights for the Modified/Power Trophy group went out it was Barry McMahon who took an immediate lead into Copse for what would be a 19 lap race with Andy Robinson taking his time to get into a rhythm and not pushing to keep up with Barry in the early stages, to the point where we though that the green and white 156 would not be caught. Ray Foley was lying 3rd ahead of Ron Davidson. Missing was Roger McMahon but he reappeared before the leaders were due at the end of lap 1. Our attention quickly switched to the Twin Spark Cup where, with Andy Hancock out of the way, Tom Hill had reasserted himself at the front, chased by Dave Messenger, James Browning, Simon Cresswell, Joshua Lambert and Andy Inman. Jeremy Chilton had made his best start to date and was only 1” behind Andy and ahead of Andrew Bourke. The racing throughout the TSC was close and on lap 3 James Browning became the man on the move, passing Dave Messenger and setting his sights on Tom Hill who was by then 1.3” clear. Simon Cresswell, Joshua Lambert and Andy Inman had nothing between them, nor had Andrew Bourke and Jeremy Chilton and Mike Tydeman and Andrew Fulcher. A lap later James Browning had edged .3” closer to Tom Hill and by the end of lap 5 had shown his intention quite clearly be cutting the gap to just 0.31” as they passed the start finish line, James looking as though he might mount a challenge into Copse.
Up at the front of the race, Barry McMahon had opened the gap to Andy Robinson to 6.41” by the end of lap 6 although 3” of that came after a poor third lap by Andy. It looked as though there was little that Andy could do but he was beginning to settle into a rhythm and the 3.8 156 was clearly quicker on the straights as commentator Marcus Pye was soon pointing out from his position on the exit of Becketts. Ray Foley remained in a comfortable 3rd place, heading the Power Trophy and 6.5” clear of Ron Davidson, the 164 sounding glorious. However, the situation between the first two was about to change as Andy Robinson started lapping faster than Barry, not by much but by enough to start eating into the green 156’s lead. By the end of lap 10, the gap was down to just 2.56” and Andy’s fastest lap of the race on lap 11, followed by another equally fast saw him right on Barry’s tail as they came to lap the duelling Twin Spark leaders, Tom Hill and James Browning through Woodcote. The battle between Tom and James had been intense but Tom had been defending well and James could not find a way past. Dave Messenger had held third in class until he felt a major vibration on lap 9 and pulled off. Simon Cresswell and Andy Inman had earlier made contact at Copse, Andy ending in the gravel which was a pity as he was having one of his most competitive races for some time. This left Simon Cresswell fending off an eager Joshua Lambert. Behind them were two other entertaining battles – the first between Jeremy Chilton (having his best ever race) and Andrew Bourke, the second featuring Mike Tydeman, Andrew Fulcher and Paul Webster.
Ray Foley’s Power Trophy leading 147 dropped out of 3rd place on lap 11, elevating Ron Davidson to a podium position while Andy Robinson showed that he had the power to pass Barry McMahon on the straights but was losing out elsewhere but by the end of lap 12 he had got the gap down to a mere 0.268” as they crossed the line. By the time they next appeared, Andy was ahead and edging away. A lap later, clearly all was not well with Barry’s 156, fuel surge telling the on-board computer to say “no way”, shutting everything down. This left the amazed Ron Davidson in 2nd place (not that he knew this until afterwards!) with Tom Hill up to 3rd (and an overall podium for the second meeting running) but still having to fend off James Browning who badly wanted that first win. Andy Robinson crossed the line a full lap ahead of Ron while Tom Hill just – by 0.3” – held on to take his third class win of the year only 8” behind the orange 164. A delighted Joshua Lambert emerged on the final lap ahead of Simon Cresswell to finish 3rd in the TS Cup. Jeremy Chilton dropped back from Andrew Bourke at the end of the race avoiding the clutches of Mike Tydeman, Andrew Fulcher and Paul Webster, taking his best result since he started racing. Final finisher was Roger McMahon who kept his 147 GTA going to the end to take valuable championship points. For Andy Robinson, though, this was a real breakthrough – his first overall race win in 6 years of trying and no pushover as Barry McMahon had made him work hard before his retirement. A bonus for Andy was fastest lap – 1’06.653”.
Race 1 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
There was plenty of activity in the garages as soon as broken cars were retrieved from the circuit – firstly diagnosis, then action to rectify if possible. Vincent Dubois, helped by Keith and Tom Waite, was soon taking everything apart to remove his 156 ‘s snapped front nearside driveshaft, the Darnells team doing the same on Dave Messenger’s TSC car.
Bianco were wasting no time in replacing Andy Hancock’s clutch so that he would be able to start race 2, albeit from the back. Peak Alfa were trying to sort out Ray Foley’s problems and Roger McMahon was not confident of being able to undertake the afternoon race. Happily, brother Barry’s team thought that they could sort out his fuel surge. Multiple plug changes didn’t seem to be doing much to help Chris Oxborough’s V6 engine run cleanly. So by the time race 2 approached we had Vincent Dubois (wrong driveshaft as spare), Chris, and Ray Foley not taking any further part while Andy Hancock and Dave Messenger would be on the grid. Several drivers who thought they could improve their performances in race 2, notably James Browning (a win maybe?) and a happy Andrew Fulcher were looking forward to having another try, while Andy and Dave were both wondering how quickly they could work their way through the traffic.
It didn’t take long for Andy Robinson and Barry McMahon to resume their race 1 contest in earnest, and for 13 laps the gap between them was always under a second – Andy would pull away on the straights and Barry would close up under braking and in the corners, making for an enthralling race at the front. Ron Davidson slotted into a lonely third place, keeping himself clear of the Twin Spark horde behind which, like the battle at the front, saw a resumption of Tom Hill versus James Browning. This time, it was Andrew Bourke and Joshua Lambert were in pursuit ahead of Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman who already had Dave Messenger and Andy Hancock on their tail. Joshua Lambert wasted no time in passing Andrew Bourke who now had his mirrors full of Mike Tydeman, Dave Messenger and Andy Hancock. By the end of lap 2, this trio were ahead of Simon Cresswell and a lap later Andy Hancock had got himself up to 5th in class with the quick GTV of Andrew Bourke in his sights, Andrew proving the 2 litre GTV to be a much underrated race car.
At the front of TSC, James Browning was trying everything he could think of to take away Tom Hill’s lead – at the end of lap 5 the gap was just 0.48” while just 3” behind, Andy Hancock had latched onto the tail of Joshua Lambert. 4.4” covered the next seven cars but Dave Messenger managed to move ahead of Simon Cresswell and Andrew Bourke on lap 6 before some horrible vibrations three laps later indicated that all was not well in the transmission and he had no option but the retire the car. The commentators at Becketts and Woodcote had plenty to keep them on their toes before the during the second half of the race.. Could Andy Hancock close down Tom Hill and James Browning? Who would emerge ahead in the mid field – Andrew Fulcher was looking strong but Jeremy Chilton had spun, as would Andrew Bourke before the end of the race.
With 14 laps completed it was suddenly clear that all was not well with Barry McMahon’s 156. The gap to Andy Robinson had opened up to 1.6” very suddenly and Barry pulled off onto the grass leaving Andy to take his second win of the day with another fastest lap to his credit much to the delight of Roger and Kevin Evans and Joy Fairy. Diana’s lap chart (taken at Copse) had gone frenetic on lap 14 as James Browning tried to usurp Tom Hill’s TSC first place but then, on lap 16, the 147’s engine started to sound less happy and James slowed, so it was now Andy Hancock who took up pursuit of the leader. Joshua Lambert could also see the possibility of another class podium but, like Andy, just didn’t have enough laps. Tom Hill took his second win of the meeting with Andy, after a tenacious drive, just 1.5” in arrears. James Browning held on to his 3rd place 7” back with Joshua Lambert within 1.2”. 5th in TSC was Simon Cresswell, 2” clear of Andrew Fulcher, learning all the time, followed home by Mike Tydeman and Andy Inman who fought out a close battle to the end. James Ford’s Twin Spark Cup lap record (set on R888s) remained intact.
Race 2 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
The standard of racing had again been high and Andy Robinson and Barry McMahon made the point once again that you could have a really good motor race with only two cars. However, the Twin Sparks had shown that it is better with a few more! Tom Hill emerged with an extended Championship points lead. James Browning had leapt up from fifth to second with Andy Hancock having salvaged enough points to share third spot with Roger McMahon. Martin Bishop (good to see him and James) presented the trophies at the end of the afternoon, and the Grove & Dean Driver of the Day Award went to Andy Hancock. Our thanks to Rita Ashman and her team from the BRSCC Midland Centre for looking after us so well and to “our” Clerk of the Course for the day, Andy Green. As usual, the prize giving photographs were taken by Keith Ford.
At the beginning of June we make our first visit abroad since May 2002 (Croix-en-Ternois) when we visit the 2.6 mile Zolder circuit, near Hasselt in Belgium. Three weeks later, we are at Oulton Park (Saturday June 25th).