The start of the 2017 season must have seemed all too much of a good thing for the BRSCC.

After Oulton and Snetterton at the end of March, helping with the Creventic 24 Hours at Silverstone a week later and then three meetings over the weekend of April 8th/9th at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Snetterton, the hard pressed personnel at the BRSCC had probably earned themselves a break. As it was, the last three meetings had attracted over 650 entries. We had been pitched with the VW Fun Cup,  Britcar Endurance, the BMW Compact Cup and Sports 2000 at Silverstone, returning to the 1.86 mile International version of the circuit that we last visited at the start of 2015. The weather was even more glorious than it had been at Oulton and so we were looking forward to another keenly contested couple of day’s racing, particularly amongst the so evenly matched Twin Spark entries. Once again we were in the garages at the Abbey end of the Wing pits complex, thus avoiding some of the likely Saturday evening changeover problems caused by Fun Cup competitors leaving and Britcar endurance trucks arriving. For this weekend, Andy Robinson had taken on the role of one-the-day co-ordinator.

Heading the Twin Spark entry, after his very successful first appearance with the ex Steve Potts 156 at Oulton, was Andrew Bourke, current championship leader. His battle with Tom Hill in race 1 there had kept us all on tenterhooks and Tom was eager to repeat his win and make up for the retirement in race 2 with what Gary Walker described as a “very big hole” in the gearbox casing after an off track moment. Simon Cresswell had enjoyed two podiums at Oulton with his usual orange 156 and was joined in the Bianco stable by two other 156s – those of Mike Tydeman and James Ford – and the 147 of Stacey Dennis. Both James and Stacey were looking forward to their first races of the season, as was Gethin Llewellyn with his Horley Services car, now rebuilt after its heavy accident at Brands last year. We were also glad to see James Browning starting his 2017 season, his 147 sporting decals from his new sponsor BP Rolls. Dave Messenger had suffered an engine failure at Oulton but was back with a spare unit while Paul Webster’s 156 was unchanged as was Andy Inman’s purple Peak Alfa run car. Another returnee was John Griffiths who we hadn’t seen in the Championship since Castle Combe last July.  Final TSC entry – and a very welcome one – was Matt Abell with the 145 that Roger Evans had raced a couple of times at the end of 2016. Matt has been trying to get his 33 16v ready to run in the Power Trophy but delays with parts had left him frustrated at the lack of an opportunity to race, so the 145 was in principle a good solution.

Sadly there was no improvement in numbers in the Modified and Power Trophy classes although two of the cars that had been at Oulton (Roger McMahon’s 156 and Graham Seager’s GTV) were not at Silverstone, being replaced by the 33 2 litre 16v of Anthony George and the 155 V6 of Ian Brookfield. Anthony’s car of course won the championship overall back in 2002 and 2005, also taking a class victory in 2012 while his 156 was still being developed. Ian had acquired his 155 “very cheap” on Ebay, replacing the ex Tony Soper 164 which now for sale. A lot of work had been required to get it in a fit state for Silverstone but Ian was hopeful that it would run reliably, if nothing else. Ray Foley’s 147 GTA was pronounced fit to race after disappointingly losing all its water on its last appearance. The “fast group” was once again completed by the two McFie Fiat Puntos that had made championship history at Oulton – Chris’s Abarth that had won there and Simon’s HGT that had made up the front row for race 2.

After bulletins had been circulated regarding wheelstud fixings after Oulton, there were no problems with scrutineering this time although there was comment about bodywork damage on some of the cars that the scrutineers would like to see fixed before the next meeting at Cadwell, a view echoed by Gary Walker who wished to see Bianco drivers ensuring the appropriate action. Qualifying on Saturday morning got underway at 9.30 and once again Tom Hill was first out of the blocks and with a clear track ahead of him set his best time on his first flying lap – a 1’23.082” which he undoubtedly thought was going to be good enough for the TSC class pole. However, he obviously reckoned without James Browning, who showed that six months out of a race car had done him no harm at all. Having settled himself in, James really got down to business over his last three laps and just before the chequered flag pulled out a 1’22.565” causing a few “where did that come from?” exclamations as the cars came back afterwards.

James Ford would end third fastest in the class with 1’23.328”, a fraction ahead of Andrew Bourke and Simon Cresswell, both in the 23s. Mike Tydeman and Stacey Dennis were closely matched just behind but on this occasion Andy Inman was a little off the pace. Paul Webster was happy to finish the session only 1.167” slower than Andy but ahead of John Griffiths who was bemoaning a lack of power while Matt Abell was suffering from a recurrence of the fuelling problems that had hampered Roger Evans’efforts with the 145 at Donington and Rockingham. Gethin Llewellyn was only able to complete 2 laps before a brake hose split but would have it repaired for the race in which he would start alongside Andy Inman.

Top of the time sheets, though, was Anthony George who, after an up and down session, finally set a best of 1’20.006” to take the front group pole. Ray Foley would line up alongside him on the front row with the Invitation Puntos of Chris and Simon McFie on row two. Chris was just able to lap quicker than the quickest TSC car which meant that with the 10” delayed start, he would not be caught by the battling group behind. The same could not perhaps be said for Simon McFie whose 1’24.398” meant that in a 15 lap race he would almost certainly be in the Twin Sparks’ sights. The second Power Trophy car – Ian Brookfield’s 155 – obviously had problems as he kept it out of everyone’s way, suffering from a lack of cylinders and a defective air flow meter. The 155 also had an oil leak and there was much investigation afterwards by Ian helped by Roger Evans and Matt Daly.

It was a mid morning start for the first race and  happily, after borrowing a van from Bianco and being ferried to the car park by Kurt in the golf buggy, I was able to join Jake Sanson in the commentary box which is on the outside of Abbey and requires a lengthy trip round the perimeter roads to the get there. As the red lights were extinguished it was Chris McFie who darted ahead pursued by Ray Foley as Anthony George got away slowly and took his time to work up to speed.

Simon McFie was already dropping back as the Twin Spark Cup cars took off after their 10” delay with James Browning jumping to the front ahead of the squabbling Tom Hill, James Ford and Andrew Bourke. Equally well matched were Dave Messenger, Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman and this was the order as the cars came through Club at the end of the first lap. Stacey Dennis was next, holding on well ahead of Andy Inman while Ian Brookfield had dropped near to the back of the field as his problems got worse. Matt Abell was already heading for the pits, bringing out yellow flags and this was to cause a problem for Tom Hill as he was adjudged to have passed James Browning under yellows at Village but both drivers claimed not to have seen the flags. At the end of lap 2 it was Ray Foley who crossed the timing in line leading the race with Chris McFie temporarily ahead of Anthony George who was taking his time warming his tyres. Throughout lap 3 Ray was still there 1.5” clear of the now second placed 33 with Chris McFie a further 1.5” back while Simon McFie was still 6” up on Tom Hill who had finally taken the Twin Spark lead from James Browning. James Ford, Andrew Bourke and Simon Cresswell had eased their way past Dave Messenger. Another early retirement was Gethin Llewellyn whose 156 suffered a driveshaft problem.

Could Ray Foley possibly stay ahead of Anthony George? He was certainly enjoying one of his best ever drives but Anthony was making inroads, albeit small ones, into his lead so that under second separated them at the end of lap 4. A lap later he was close enough to power by on the pit straight and thereafter was able to ease away, with Chris McFie now 8” back in 3rd and Simon McFie holding onto 4th although Tom Hill was closing. Tom had somehow managed to escape from his pursuers by the start of lap 4  and  establish a 2” plus gap to James Browning who had temporarily been passed by James Ford. Simon Cresswell and Andrew Bourke were chasing hard ahead of Mike Tydeman and Dave Messenger, and going through Abbey there was a train of cars that became a tussling group by the time they reached Club once again. It was certainly giving everyone some great entertainment! As they entered lap 7 it still looked as though Tom Hill had established enough of a lead but he was coming up behind Simon McFie and in the process of getting past he lost time to James Browning, so that by the end of the lap the gap was under a second again. If James could get by Simon quickly, he thought a challenge to the black 156 was possible. As it was, Simon was not giving up his place without a fight. He thought that the Hangar Straight might offer him an opportunity but the Hill 156 just had that extra speed into the braking area at Stowe and it was eventually alongside the pit wall towards Abbey that the Fiat edged ahead again at the start of lap 10. It would have been interesting if the Fiat had had a backwards facing camera as the battle a few yards back was intense, James Browning edging past Tom Hill and then trying every whichway to get past McFie and put the Fiat between himself and Tom. Using all the track and more, James found that Simon was no pushover but eventually with two laps to go, the Punto ran wide over the kerbs at Vale, lost momentum and agonisingly saw all his hard work undone as Tom Hill, Simon Cresswell, James Ford, Mike Tydeman and Andrew Bourke all went past into Club in the blink of an eye. On the following lap he also lost out to Dave Messenger but there was contact that damaged the Fiat’s door and the 156’s nearside front wheelarch.

At the front of the race, Anthony George had pulled out a 3.1” gap over Ray Foley with Chris McFie a further 10” back but all was not well with Ray’s 147 and as he exited Club at the end of lap 13 he spun on a mixture of his own water and antifreeze that was leaking from his engine onto his rear tyres. A quick recovery meant that he held on to his second place but it was only temporary as with the water temperature again getting too high he had to ease off and let Chris McFie by. Anthony eventually finished 23” clear to take a satisfying win from the Fiat while Ray managed to hold on to the final podium position as the Twin Spark horde rapidly closed the gap.

With a lap to go, James Browning seemed to have the race settled in his favour but Simon Cresswell was pressing Tom Hill but dropped back before the flag. Mike Tydeman had driven his best race to date and just made it to the line ahead of James Ford and Andrew Bourke, this foursome (including Chris) covered by just 0.51”. Dave Messenger was next home 4” back and crossing the line side-by-side with Simon McFie ahead of a lonely Stacey Dennis and an equally lonely Andy Inman. By contrast Paul Webster and John Griffiths had fought hard not to be the final Twin Spark finisher. Paul had held sway for most of the way but John would get ahead over the final two laps, much to his rival’s frustration. Final finisher was Ian Brookfield in the Power Trophy 155.

The story of the race was not yet complete, though, as James Browning and Tom Hill were summoned to the Clerk of the Course to give their explanation of the yellow flag incident early in the race. Despite both drivers saying that they had not seen a yellow flag (the marshals post here is quite a way from the track and the immediate line of sight) and no video evidence to the contrary, Tom was adjudged to have passed James under a yellow, was excluded from the results and given four points on his licence. The result propelled Simon Cresswell alongside Andrew Bourke as joint leader of the Championship but did nothing to help Tom Hill in his quest for a second championship title Several hours during the afternoon and evening were spent by Roger Evans, Matt Abell and Graham Seager trying to sort out the fuelling problems of the 145 but it was all to no avail and the car was eventually withdrawn from the Sunday race. It was also decided that it was not worth risking Ray Foley’s 147 engine and that would not run in race 2 either.

Race 1 Results

Modified Anthony George
Power Trophy Ray Foley
Twin Spark Cup James Browning
Invitation Chris Mcfie

View full results

Saturday’s sunshine continued into Sunday and the early arrival of Andy Robinson’s brand new Giulia Cloverleaf caused inevitable interest. The race was due to start at 11.15 and despite failing to cure his 155’s electrical woes, Ian Brookfield decided he would be a starter, thus avoiding the necessity to have the grid re-drawn into everyone go on the lights format.

Away from the line, Chris McFie again took the lead from the slower starting Anthony George but this time he would get past the Fiat on lap 2 although Chris was holding on doggedly, getting back within half a second of the 33 on lap 4, rapidly dropping his brother Simon in the other Punto. Meanwhile, most eyes were focussed on the Twin Sparks and how far would Tom Hill get from the back of the grid. James Browning had gone straight into the class lead with a strong opening lap that was 1.5” quicker than the pursuing Simon Cresswell who headed a tight group comprising a resurgent Dave Messenger, James Ford, Mike Tydeman , Andrew Bourke, Gethin Llewellen and Tom Hill. Dave Messenger closed in on Simon Cresswell on lap 2 while James Ford and Mike Tydeman fought it out behind and Tom Hill made up another place, passing Andrew Bourke. Gethin Llewellyn and Stacey Dennis were also involved in a close battle that would last the whole race, Gethin looking a little ragged at times while Stacey sat calmly waiting for any opportunity that present itself.

Lap 3 saw James Browning open his lead slightly over Simon Cresswell who had Dave Messenger right on his tail and James Ford not too far away, having dropped Mike Tydeman into the clutches of Tom Hill. Over the next lap, James Browning’s progress was relentless but there was a fracas behind between Dave Messenger and Simon Creswell which saw Simon edged over the kerbing onto the grass at the exit of Club (Dave apologised afterwards), allowing to James Ford to take advantage as all three crossed the timing line together. However, his extra momentum allowed James to get ahead of Dave on the next lap but now 4.1” behind the dominant James Browning. Tom Hill was closing in Simon and Mike Tydeman had been demoted by Andrew Bourke. No lack of excitement here then! Meanwhile, behind Gethin Llewellyn and Stacey Dennis, Andy Inman was having a lonely time again and the John Griffiths/Paul Webster battle had resumed.

Running 3rd overall, Simon McFie was starting to have his mirrors full of James Browning again while James Ford had put on a spurt and got ahead of both Simon Cresswell and Dave Messenger on lap 5, Dave now having to watch for the black 156 of Tom Hill. The presence of James Browning on his tail had obviously re-energised Simon McFie as his lap times got quicker and he seemed able to keep the white 147 at bay. Lap 6 and Dave Messenger had stayed ahead of Simon Cresswell, both matching the lap times of Tom Hill who was lying 5th in the class. With 8 laps completed, James Browning still held an impressive 4.7” lead over James Ford and seemed happy to let Simon McFie stay ahead. Tom Hill appeared unable to do much about Simon Cresswell but Mike Tydeman had passed Andrew Bourke. James Ford and Dave Messenger cut half a second off James Browning’s lead on lap 9, the next four cars all lapping faster than the 147 which had now dropped 2” back from the McFie Punto. However, James B. was able to match the lap times of the cars behind on lap 10 but James Ford was starting to pile on the pressure, although his mirrors were full of Dave Messenger’s 156,  so that the gap at the end of lap 11 was down to 2.8” – or was there something wrong with the white 147? A lap later. James Ford swept through into the class lead as James Browning’s engine started to cough and splutter – could he get the car to finish as everyone went by during the next couple of laps. With one lap to go, he had no option but to come into the pits and disappointed retirement after another excellent drive.

At the front of the race, Anthony George had never got far away from Chris McFie, prompting the suggestion that he was not using anywhere near the safe 8,000 rpm permitted by engine builder Darren Snelling (although the engine had originally been built with 10,000 rpm in mind!). Simon McFie had driven a strong race and at the end was no longer troubled by the Twin Sparks, coming home 6” ahead of James Ford who was delighted to be back in the winner’s circle. Dave Messenger was a happy second in class while Tom Hill took the third place on the podium from Simon Cresswell with two laps to go. Despite his best efforts, Andrew Bourke couldn’t pass Mike Tydeman before the flag. Stacey Dennis nearly caught Gethin Llewellyn on the final lap, the finishers being completed by Andy Inman, John Griffiths, Paul Webster and the troubled Ian Brookfield, “winner” of the Power Trophy.

Race 2 Results

Modified Anthony George
Power Trophy Ian Brookfield
Twin Spark Cup James Ford
Invitation Chris Mcfie

View full results

We were delighted to have Anushka from the “Fiat family” presenting the prizes later including the Grove & Dean Motorsport Insurance “Driver of the Weekend” award which  went to James Browning, some consolation for his retirement from such a commanding lead in race 2.

Click to enlarge photos.

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On both days we were very happy to welcome Christine and James Hodgkin who were joined by their regular Avon racing helpers, Graham and Angela Fletcher, and we hope that they all enjoyed themselves and will be with us on other occasions during the season. Ron Davidson was there supporting us on Saturday, missing the opportunity to race his 164 which is still being re-built and re-engined but he hopes to be out at Rockingham. BRSCC’s Dominic Ostrowski also paid us a visit on Sunday to ensure that the weekend had gone well for us.

At the start of the weekend we were very sad to hear of the death of Harry White Snr, father of Bianco stalwart Harry Jnr. He was a regular competitor in the early days of the Championship, racing a metallic green Alfetta GT and taking some good results in the races run on handicap, including a fine third place at Brands Hatch in November 1982. After running the Alfetta in 1983 and 1983 he had a break until returning with an Alfasud Sprint in 1986. For many years, Harry Snr was a familiar figure at race meetings and our thoughts are with Harry Jnr, Kelly and the family in their loss.

Simon Cresswell left Silverstone leading the Championship with 66 points to the 62 of Andrew Bourke with Mike Tydeman third on 58.  There is now a gap until we all meet up again for rounds 5 and 6 at Cadwell Park, one of our favourite circuits that we did not visit in 2016. See you there!

On another subject altogether – congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari for winning two out of the first Grand Prix races of the year, taking the lead in both the Drivers and Constructors championships. The latest Ferrari carries even more prominent Alfa Romeo branding just below the tail fin and the drivers wear the renowned quadrifoglio on their overalls. May the success in Bahrain continue at the end of April in Sochi.

Michael Lindsay