QUALIFYING

A race meeting at the end of October comes right at the end of the normal motor racing season in the UK, which means that track conditions are likely to be less predictable and more challenging than the norm.

Our meeting fell between winter storms thankfully and the rain held off for the most part so it could have been worse but a damp and very slippery track, thanks in part to inevitable fluid deposits left by 70 Birkett relay teams thrashing around the circuit for 6 hours the previous day and in part to seasonal dampness.

Because of the huge cost of hiring the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit we knew from the beginning of the season that we would have to share the grid with another championship – although we didn’t know for sure which one – but we took the view that it was worth it to invoke such a rare opportunity. In the event we were paired with the Hot Hatch championship which had nearly double our entry of 17 cars, so it was going to be very busy on the circuit with the necessity of drivers’ maintaining close concentration on everything that was going on around them. Of course that’s always the case, but here even more so…

The tarmac surface in the paddock looked pretty dry as we prepared for qualifying to start at 9.00 AM so most drivers elected for slicks – apart from the Twin Spark Cup runners on control tyres of course – a decision which, while perfectly understandable, proved to be a mistake as they quickly realised. The conditions were TREACHEROUS. The Hot Hatch runners race on treaded tyres, so our quicker cars which might otherwise have been on the pace were well down the time sheets.

Paul Plant was debuting the long awaited Giulietta 1.4 turbo – seen as a potential future successor to the Twin Spark Cup cars – and it immediately looked impressive in his more than capable hands. Paul always takes to the circuit away from his preparer duties once a season and in doing so reminds us what a seriously quick driver he is and a time of 2:51.67 put him on pole for race 1. Alongside him on the front row was none other than Toby Broome, not in his Twin Spark Cup car but having an experimental one-off outing in the Revs Italia 147 GTA. He made a fine job of it too recording a best time of 2:54.38. In the process he outqualified Tom Hill in the V6 class, something almost unheard of, though Tom (on slicks of course) was only a second or so adrift in 3rd so perhaps normal service would be resumed come the race?

Mike Hilton was 4th quickest, having an almighty struggle keeping the iconic 4C pointing in the right direction on the wrong tyres and in the circumstances a time of 2:56.55 was a good result. Championship leader James Ford was 5th in his 156 Twin Spark in 2:56.82, showing the way to his class rivals as he has throughout the season, an excellent performance in a much slower car even considering his tyre advantage. The Southgate Racing Punto Abarths of Chris and Simon McFie were making a welcome return to the circuits with us for the second time this season and Chris put his on the outside of row 3 with a best time of 2:58.22 on his fifth and final lap.

Remarkably, novice Edward Robinson was 7th quickest overall in his 156 Twin Spark with a best time of 3:01.44, again on his final lap, an excellent performance that bodes well for his racing prospects next season. Simon McFie’s Punto Abarth was 8th in 3:03.72, just ahead of Stacey Dennis’s Power Trophy class Giulietta and it was clear that Stacey would have a fight on her hands in trying to repeat her customary class win with Paul Plant and both Abarths ahead of her on the grid – a challenge she would no doubt rise to with her customary skill and enthusiasm.

Dave Messenger was next, again struggling on the wrong tyres in the slippery conditions, though less so than some others. He was just ahead of Adrian Norman’s 147 Twin Spark who recorded a best time of 3:06.38, a fine effort, and ahead of Jamie Thwaites’s TCR Giulietta which had proved virtually undriveable on slicks and a time of 3:09.85 was clearly completely unrepresentative of this very rapid car/driver combination’s capabilities. 13th overall was Richard Ford who, due to last minute problems with his normal 156, was racing a 147 that had only been raced once before. He only managed his out lap before an abs problem resulted in him going into the gravel trap at Vale on the following lap. Despite the lack of time between qualifying and race 1, Garry managed to fix the problems in time for Richard to complete the requisite number of sighting laps with the Club Enduro race cars. Andy Page was 14th in his 116 Giulietta Turbo, once again evidencing the fact that a rear wheel drive car on slicks in very slippery conditions is less than ideal to put it mildly.

Father and son Keith and Tom Waite were making a long awaited and very welcome return to the Championship in Modified class 75 and Power Trophy class 33 respectively, Tom’s distinctive green liveried car looking the business and sporting a new 16 valve engine. Tom was ahead of his Dad in qualifying, Keith struggling with locking brakes as well as rear wheel drive on slicks and proclaiming it was the worst qualifying session in all his long experience after a number of spins. Gabriele Iaccarino’s GT rounded out the grid, Gabs having only had some medical procedures in the preceding days and doing incredibly well to be racing at all – unstinting commitment!

RACE 1

Our first race was the first of the day, due to start at 10.45 but due to the amount of clearing up that had to be done after the qualifying sessions it didn’t start until 11.08. Tyre choice was still an issue. Some played ‘safe’ on wets and others went for slicks – surely the track surface would have dried by now? Not really – it was still incredibly slippery and some of those who had opted for slicks would regret it.

There was some attrition before and immediately after the green flag was waved for the formation lap. Keith Waite’s 75 had what turned out to be an electrical problem and had to be pushed away to a safe location, and Tom Waite (gearbox) and Chris McFie (driveshaft) were both out on the green flag lap with mechanical maladies.

The Blue Book does not permit a grid that is split 3 ways so, as we were sharing the grid with the Hot Hatches, our own grid was a unified one, not split as per the Regulations. The field made a good clean getaway when the lights went out. There was then a 10-second gap before the Hot Hatches came thundering down the start/finish straight in pursuit.

Toby Broome took the lead in the 147 GTA and finished the lengthy first lap with a couple of seconds in hand over a 3-car group with less than half a second between them, narrowly led by Paul Plant ahead of Tom Hill and a very rapid Jamie Thwaites who had come through the field from near the back. Stacey Dennis was 5th, with 5 seconds in hand over another 3-car battle between Mike Hilton (ruing his tyre choice again), James Ford and Simon McFie. They were followed by a group of 9 Hot Hatches before the rest of the field, scattered among more hot hatches: Dave Messenger, Richard Ford, Adrian Norman, Andy Page, Gabs Iaccarino and Edward Robinson, the latter somewhat overwhelmed by the hot hatches swirling round him in the early stages.

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Having taken the lead on lap 2 – narrowly ahead of Toby Broome – Jamie Thwaites sadly disappeared from the time sheets with a blown engine in the TCR Giulietta, leaving Toby in the lead again. Paul Plant and Tom Hill were nose to tail in second and third respectively, 5 seconds clear of Stacey Dennis in fourth. 16 seconds further back was James Ford in the leading Twin Spark still closely followed by Mike Hilton and Simon McFie. 4 seconds further back were Dave Messenger and Richard Ford who were a couple of seconds clear of the final group. This was headed by Adrian Norman, a couple of seconds ahead of Edward Robinson, who had got his head down and passed Andy Page and Gabs Iaccarino in the final 2 places.

At this juncture the race was effectively over: what was now a Cold Hatch had hit the wall near the International pits and was in a dangerous position so the Clerk of the Course made the call to deploy the Safety Car. Unfortunately by the time it was removed there wasn’t time to have another racing lap so the race ended under the Safety Car with positions obviously unchanged. This shouldn’t diminish Toby Broome’s achievement of a first-ever race win in the Championship in his first outing in a V6 class car. He was the class of the field and once the threat of Jamie Thwaites’s Giulietta had disappeared he recorded a well earned outright race win. Paul Plant won the Power Trophy class, Mike Hilton the Modified class, and James Ford inched closer to an overall Championship win for the season with another dominant display in the Twin Spark Cup.

Race 1 Results

ClassWinners
ModifiedMike Hilton
V6Toby Broome
Power TrophyPaul Plant
Twin Spark CupJames Ford

RACE 2

Race 1 had been something of a non event after 2 laps, so more was hoped for in Race 2 in terms of excitement. There had been some heavy rain over the lunch period and although the sun was out when our second race came around the drivers were wise to the tricks of the track now and weren’t fooled into thinking it would be dry. With the right tyre choices our drivers were now able to compare more favourably with the Hot Hatches on their all weather tyres. Jamie Thwaites and Tom Waite would be non starters unfortunately but Keith Waite had sorted out the problems with his 75 and would start from the pit lane.

At the start Mike Hilton’s 4C got a flyer and was soon in the lead; he crossed the line at the end of lap 1 with nearly 5 seconds in hand over Tom Hill in 2nd. Toby Broome was close behind Tom in 3rd, 2 seconds clear of Paul Plant in 4th. Dave Messenger, Stacey Dennis, Andy Page and Simon McFie were next at 2 – 3 second intervals. There was then an 8-second gap to Chris McFie – who had come through from the back of the grid – from James Ford, keeping out of the way of the battling hot hatches knowing that a finish would take the overall championship title, Gabs Iaccarino, Richard Ford, Edward Robinson and Adrian Norman, again all around 2 – 3 seconds apart – with Keith Waite making up ground in the final place.

At Copse on lap 2 Edward Robinson spun into the gravel from which he was unable to emerge, sadly ending his race. Andy Page, finally with some grip in his Giulietta, squeezed past Stacey Dennis to go 6th overall, and Chris McFie had caught up with his brother Simon in 7th heralding one of their epic dices. James Ford had 13 seconds in hand over his brother Richard’s borrowed 147 in the Twin Spark Cup with Gabs Iaccarino midway between them. Adrian Norman was next with Keith Waite closing on him behind. Mike Hilton was now 8 seconds clear of a close battle for 2nd between Tom Hill and Toby Broome, with Paul Plant 3 seconds behind, and Dave Messenger was in a relatively lonely 5th, except for being surrounded by Hot Hatches.

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There was little change in the running order on lap 3 except that Andy Page really had the bit between his teeth now, passing Dave Messenger decisively to take 5th place, and Dave had Chris McFie’s Abarth right behind him now having gained several seconds on the last lap. On lap 4 Mike Hilton was 20 seconds ahead and not even the hottest of the Warm Hatches was making any inroads into his overall lead. In 2nd now, almost unbelievably, was Toby Broome – it had been an eternity since since any other V6 driver had passed Tom Hill in a straight fight but here it was happening for the second race in a row. The only other change in the running order at this point in the race had been at the tail of the field where Keith Waite caught and passed Adrian Norman.

Over the final two laps Mike Hilton maintained his excellent pace to take an outstanding win overall. Toby Broome took a hard earned 2nd place by 1 second over Tom Hill, while Paul Plant was only 2 seconds behind their battle in 4th. Andy Page was unable to make further advances in the running order but took and excellent 5th place, well clear of Chris McFie who had passed Dave Messenger on the penultimate lap and took 6th overall after a fine drive. Dave took 7th ahead of Stacey Dennis and Simon McFie, with leading Twin Spark James Ford next from Gabs Iaccarino, Richard Ford, Keith Waite and Adrian Norman in that order.

James Ford confirmed his overall Champion status and his first Twin Spark Cup class win since 2013 with a near perfect record. Tom Hill was second overall for the season and took yet another season’s V6 class win, with Toby Broome 3rd overall. Mike Hilton won the Modified class and Stacey Dennis the Power Trophy. Congratulations to all!

Race 2 Results

ClassWinners
ModifiedMike Hilton
V6Toby Broome
Power TrophyPaul Plant
Twin Spark CupJames Ford
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We now look forward to our Awards evening on 3rd February at Brandon Hall Hotel for a celebration of the season in fine style!

Andy Robinson