Photo: Guy Swarbrick
At last – the long wait between the end of our 2022 season and the start of our 2023 season was over and we gathered at the Silverstone National circuit on 30th April for the first of our six double header meetings of the season.
We were rewarded with a day of mixed sunshine and cloud with a tinge of coolness in the air to make it a perfect spring day and perfect conditions for racing. An allocation of pit garages by the 750 Motor Club was also welcome, with plenty of space to work on the cars, and it was noticeable how superb all the cars looked. Some subscribe to the saying ‘It doesn’t matter what it looks like, it just matters how fast it goes’. That may suit some championships but 8 different models of Alfa Romeo in a group of 18, all beautifully prepared, made an impressive sight and gave our field of cars an extra dimension.
Unusually, the strongest class numerically was the Modified group with 7 cars including Jamie Thwaites’ exciting TCR Giulietta and it was good to see Jamie returning to the Alfa paddock. Also returning for the first time since 2014 was Ian Stapleton in the distinctive and very rapid GTV6. Riccardo Losselli was in the Alfa Workshop Mito with Jamie Porter on hand to provide support. Good to see both these drivers back on the grid. Experienced racer Mark Skeggs was making his debut in the Alfa championship in his GTV, supported by Bianco Motorsport. Scott Austin in the very competitive 156 turbo, Andy Page in the Giulietta 116 and Barry McMahon completed the class entries. Barry had intended racing his championship winning 156 turbo, but a problem with the underbonnet fire extinguishing system meant that he was unable to pass scrutineering due to a change in the Regulations. As luck would have it, Bianco Motorsport had also brought along the Giulietta so he was able to race after all.
The sole Power Trophy entry was the Bianco Motorsport 156 2.0TS driven by Stacey Dennis who is intending contesting more events in this class.
Regulars Tom Hill, Dave Messenger and Gabriele Iaccarino were joined in the V6 class by Revs Italia boss Roger Evans in the 147 GTA previously driven successfully by Graham Seager.
A field of half a dozen Twin Sparks was made up of the 156s of Toby Broome, Andreas Georgiou and James and Richard Ford, joined by the 147s of Adrian Norman and Jon Billingsley.
Profuse thanks goes to our 2023 sponsors: Our headline sponsor HITEK Electronic Materials Ltd., Axis Shift ecommerce investment partnering, the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club and Yokohama.
Our qualifying session commenced on schedule at 9.20 AM in cool sunny conditions. Tom Hill in the Revs Italia-prepared Alfa GT was first out onto the circuit and the first to post a competitive time – others were playing themselves in, warming their tyres and getting ‘into the zone’ but Tom dispenses with such preliminaries and drives flat out virtually straight away. Also posting quick times from the outset were Roger Evans and Scott Austin who was first to get into the 1:08s. Scott would trade early times with Jamie Thwaites and Ian Stapleton until gremlins appeared on lap 6. The car cut out with what turned out to be an underbonnet electrical problem caused as a result of a broken bracket allowing the wiring to get too close to the exhaust. Nevertheless his best time of 1:03.02 was sufficient for the second row and was 0.7 seconds off the pole time.
Jamie Thwaites took overall pole with a 1:02.32 on lap 11 eclipsing Ian Stapleton’s 1:02.58 set early on in the session. Riccardo Losselli’s 1:04.62 meant the first 4 were separated by just over 2 seconds which would bode well for a close race at the front. However, Riccardo had gone off at Aintree on lap 6, bringing out the yellow flags and unable to post any further times in the session but his fourth fastest time would not be eclipsed by anyone outside the top 3.
Tom Hill often sets the pace in the V6 class, his time of 1:06.24 on lap 10 securing the position from Roger Evans by a quarter of a second with Gabs Iaccarino in touch with another sub 1:07 time, both set on their final lap. Mark Skeggs was 8th with a 1:07.12, Barry McMahon 9th in the Giulietta with a 1;07.78 and Andy Page rounding off the top ten with a 1:08.74 Stacey Dennis completed the front section of the grid with a 1:13.28 on lap 10 in the power trophy car. Andy Page finished qualifying with the car overheating having lost three litres of water during the session. He suspected a cracked liner or leaking head gasket, decided to apply some headgasket sealant and tightened the head down, hoping to complete race 1 if he turned the boost pressure down.
Dave Messenger had a difficult session, initially putting in some competitive times but fell foul of the officials after a number of track limits infringements brought out the black flag. Failure to return to the pits following the posting of the flag resulted in his disqualification from the session although the Clerk of the Course decided to allow him to compete in the races, starting from the back of the grid.
In the Twin Spark Cup, Toby Broome would set the early pace, quickly settling into the 1 minute 11s. His provisional pole time of 1:11.66 would be eclipsed on the next lap by James Ford by 5/100 of a second and this time would be sufficient to secure pole. Third was Jon Billingsley with a 1:11.94, with Richard Ford fourth with a 1:12.34. Adrian Norman put in his best lap on the last lap to post a sub 1:13 time with Andreas Georgiou sixth with a 1:13.99.
As the lights went out to signal the start of race one, pole sitter Jamie Thwaites didn’t enjoy the best of starts allowing the the cars around him to gain an early advantage. The leading V6 class cars got off the line well but by the end of lap 1, it was the GTV of Ian Stapleton that had taken the lead from Scott Austin with Riccardo Losselli’s Mito in third nearly 3 seconds adrift and Jamie in fourth, with the V6 cars of Tom Hill, Gabriele Iaccarino and Roger Evans following closely behind. Barry McMahon, Dave Messenger and Alfa newcomer Mark Skeggs were a further second adrift followed by Andy Page’s Giulietta and the sole Power Trophy car of Stacey Dennis.
In the Twin Sparks, James Ford had taken the lead from his pole position start but was to spend the whole of lap 1 in the close attention of Toby Broome with Jon Billingsley staying right in touch in third. At the end of the lap James had a half second lead from Toby with Jon close on their heels and Richard Ford in fourth spot a second and a half clear of Adrian Norman with Andreas Georgiou sixth.
Scott Austin and Ian Stapleton traded places over the next few laps in an exciting battle for the lead, whilst Jamie Thwaites, who had eased past Riccardo Losselli on lap 2, then set about closing the 5 second gap on the leading pair. On lap 5, the leading GTV put in a much slower lap allowing Jamie to close the gap before Ian resumed his earlier pace. On the same lap, Scott Austin’s 156 had started to slow which gave Jamie the opportunity to take second place, now only half a second behind the lead GTV. Scott continued to lap at a reduced pace but managed to take the chequered flag in 14th place, the last of the classified finishers. Afterwards the problem was traced to a turbo pipe air leak and he was able to get the car fixed in order to start race 2. Meanwhile, Ian Stapleton had opened up a 3 second lead and set a new lap record of 1:02.16 on lap 8. However, a overheating problem would slow Ian’s GTV on laps 10 and 11 and he decided to retire the car rather than risk further damage. Jamie took the lead on lap 10, lapping Scott Austin’s slowing 156 in the process and building up a healthy lead over Riccardo Losselli, Mark Skegg’s GTV and Barry McMahon’s Giulietta. Riccardo Losselli was the next Modified class retirement, the car stopping on the circuit with what turned out to be lack of fuel due to a missing fuel tank plug! Andy Page, after his overheating issues in qualifying, found that the engine was getting hot again so he decided to retire the car after just four laps. Mark Skeggs was meanwhile driving a fine first race in the GTV and enjoying a close race long battle with Barry McMahon’s Giulietta. There was very little between the two cars all race, Barry leading the first few laps but Mark managed to gain the initiative on lap 10. Barry regained the place a lap later, and Mark managed to take the place back on the final lap. A great race by both drivers!
In the V6 class, a tremendous race unfolded at the front with the Revs Italia pair of Tom Hill and Roger Evans less than a second apart virtually all race with Tom just managing to take the class win from Roger second. The other 2 V6 cars of Dave Messenger and Gabs Iaccarino were having their own scrap a few seconds down the road, never far apart but Dave managing to take 3rd on lap 4, a position which he held to the finish with Gabs finishing 4th. The pace of the V6 cars had put them right amongst the Modified class cars and they ended up following Jamie Thwaites across the line in 2nd to 5th places overall!
In the Twin Sparks, James Ford continued to hold on to first with the chasing cars close behind and taking the win by a 6 second margin from Toby Broome, with Jon Billingsley a further 6 seconds adrift in third, Richard Ford in fourth and Andreas Giourgiou fifth. Stacey Dennis had ended up in amongst the Twin Sparks in her Power Trophy 156 and finished the race in 12th overall. Adrian Norman had been running in fifth for the whole race but found his car cutting out on the penultimate tour so he decided to pull into the pits and retire the car, unfortunately just missing out on a class finish.
Race 1 Results
|Power Trophy||Stacey Dennis|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Ford|
Unfortunately, Andy Page’s Giulietta 116 and Ian Stapleton’s GTV were both non-starters for race 2 as a result of the overheating problems that caused their retirements in race 1. The remaining five Modified cars, the four V6 cars and the Power Trophy 156 of Stacey Dennis would therefore make up the first part of the grid and start on the lights with the second group of six Twin Spark cars starting under the Union Flag.
All cars were cleanly off the line in both groups with Jamie Thwaites’s TCR Giulietta heading the field from the group of V6 cars headed by Tom Hill. Scott Austin, starting from the back of the grid but having fixed the car in the break between races, immediately set about making up ground on the leader whilst Riccardo Losselli, in the Alfa Workshop Mito that Jamie Porter had fixed after its first race maladies, also made up ground and was amongst the V6 cars. At the end of lap 1, Jamie Thwaites crossed the line less than 1 second ahead of Scott Austin who had put in a blistering first lap to reel in the rest of the group including all V6 cars. The first of these V6 cars was Tom Hill’s 3.2 GT, still only half a second adrift, followed by Roger Evans in the 147 GTA and Dave Messenger’s 156 GTA. Riccardo Losselli had got the Mito up to seventh, ahead of Mark Skeggs in his GTV, Gabriele Iaccarino’s GT and Stacey Dennis in the Power Trophy 156.
In the Twin Spark cup, James Ford took advantage of his pole position to take the lead through Copse, but was once again closely followed by the Bianco Motorsport cars of Toby Broome and Jon Billingsley. As they crossed the line at the end of the first lap, all three cars were separated by only 0.8 seconds, whilst Richard Ford in his 156 was just over a second adrift in fourth, Adrian Norman a further couple of seconds adrift with Andreas Georgiou half a second further back in sixth.
A fantastic battle enfolded at the front between Jamie Thwaites in the Giulietta and Scott Austin’s 156, with just fractions of a second separating them until Scott managed to take the lead on lap 5. Scott held the lead for a couple of laps until lap 7. As the 2 cars were making their way through the Twin Sparks, Scott locked up going into Brooklands, his car sliding sideways and Jamie needed no second invitation to nip through and retake the lead. Little time was lost however, and at the end of lap 7, only half a second separated the two cars once again. Riccardo Losselli was making his way up the leaderboard, passing Barry McMahon’s Giulietta on lap 3, Dave Messenger’s 156 on lap 4 and Roger Evans’s 147 on lap 6.
In the V6 class, Tom Hill pulled out a lead over Roger Evans over the first few laps so that by lap 6 the lead was nearly 7 seconds. It looked as if Roger had got some sort of issue and sure enough, on lap 7 he retired the 147 with what turned out to be a broken throttle cable bracket. By this time, Tom had a comfortable 10 second lead over Dave Messenger with Gabs Iaccarino almost a second behind Dave. Gabs himself was starting to have problems and on lap 10 he also retired his GT with suspected clutch failure. This left Tom Hill and Dave Messenger in the class and Tom continued to extend his lead and he took the chequered flag with half a minute in hand from Dave’s 156 GTA.
In the Twin Spark Cup, James continued to hold a slender lead over Toby with Jon third. As the leading Modified cars started to lap them, Richard Ford had also caught up with the group as had Stacey’s Power Trophy car, only 4 seconds separating all 5 cars as they completed lap 9. Adrian Norman was running fifth in class and Andreas Georgiou a few seconds further back in sixth. This continued to be the order through the rest of the race with James Ford taking his second win of the day by 3 seconds from Toby Broome with Jon Billingsley a couple of seconds behind in third. Richard Ford finished another couple of seconds behind in fourth, Stacey’s 156 finished a further 10 seconds behind, Adrian Norman finished fifth in class and Andreas Georgiou was sixth.
The battle for overall honours continued between Jamie Thwaites and Scott Austin. After Scott’s lockup on lap 7, Jamie held the lead for the next two laps but Scott retook it on lap 10. Still very little separated the two drivers and Jamie took the lead again on lap 13, a lead that he never relinquished. Even so, Scott was always a threat and never gave up the chase but unfortunsately for him, a yellow flag infringement which occurred as he was lapping cars resulted in his subsequent disqualification from the results. Scott had been going so well that he had recorded what would have been a new lap record on lap 11 and he was obviously gutted at receiving the news after the race. This meant that Riccardo Losselli took second after catching Tom Hill’s GT and going past as the cars started their final lap, with Tom finishing a couple of seconds behind in third overall. Barry McMahon took fourth overall and third in the Modified class with Mark Skeggs fifth overall and fourth in class. Once again, these two drivers had a tremendous race long battle in the middle of the field, often separated by less than a second. Barry held on to the advantage after taking the initiative at the start but Mark put in another great drive to stay right in contention throughout and only a quarter of a second separated them as they took the chequered flag.
James Ford’s maximum points haul for his pole, two race wins and fastest laps means he leads the championship by a slender point from Jamie Thwaites and Tom Hill, who both took two race victories in their respective classes. There were fine performances from many drivers on the day so choosing a driver of the day wasn’t an easy task but it was agreed that Jamie Thwaites, debuting the TCR Giulietta in the championship and succeeding in a terrific race with Scott Austin’s 156, should receive the award.
Race 2 Results
|Power Trophy||Stacey Dennis|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Ford|