A year ago we made our first visit to the relatively new Silverstone International circuit which uses the “Wing” pits complex and is mostly formed by parts of the Grand Prix circuit with a link between the start of the Wellington Straight and the top of Hanger Straight at Chapel Curve.

The circuit length is 1.85 miles cutting the 3.66 mile GP layout almost exactly in half. For Club racing the track itself represents a good option. However, the whole thing is let down by the paddock which is woefully inadequate and was quite clearly designed only with the Grand Prix and other major events such as World Endurance Racing and the Silverstone Classic in mind. In these cases support races can be accommodated by the National paddock and pits. From the BRDC and Silverstone Circuit’s point of view, they can use the  International and National circuits for two separate meetings as they did last weekend, with the BRSCC on the International circuit and the Historic Sports Car Club racing for two days on the National.

The weather at the finals meeting in 2013 had been dire but it allowed Ian Stapleton to take two excellent wins in a variety of conditions including almost darkness. Constant visits to weather websites led us to hope for something better this time only to learn that we might be visited by the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo! Nonetheless, by the time we actually reached Silverstone it was clear that lady luck might run in our favour, if only for a while!

Historically, the end of season meeting always attracts a good entry and it was clear that this would be no exception with a final 32 cars on the list including a record 18 in Class E. It was good to see Ian Stapleton back with the fiersome GTV6 3.8, this being his first Alfa race since Donington in May, although he did run in the CSCC races at the re-opened Mallory Park in July. Anthony George had entered his Snetterton (and Zandvoort) winning 156 Turbo, hoping for better luck than he had a year ago when his differential failed. Vincent Dubois was down to run his Q4 engined 156 Turbo while class A1 points leader Graham Seager would race his supercharged GTV. Roger Evans always likes to have a new project “on the go” and marked his return to the modified category with a newly-built (and much admired) 147 GTA with 3.8 litre 24v engine. Roger was at pains to point out that it was not to be confused with his ex Sarah Heels championship winning car. Final entry in A1 was the Pro alfa prepared Mito to be driven by Dave Peddie, the car now being fitted with an Abarth Fiat Turbocharger and sporting a dramatic new blue and orange livery. Although Graham Seager had already won the Class A1 championship, he still had the chance of moving up to 3rd overall ahead of Tom Herbert and Steve Potts.

Class A2 again saw four cars entered, as at Rockingham, although Chris Snowdon was only down to run the John Sismey prepared 33 16v on Saturday as he had another commitment at Donington the following day. Nick Anderson hoped he had sorted out his gearbox and head gasket problems, the latter with the help of Dave Ashford at Brunswick Motorsport, and needed to finish both races in the 33 8v to make sure of securing the A2 Championship. His main rival in this was Bryan Shrubb and his 33 16v who was mounting a late challenge and would undoubtedly be quicker than Nick but unable to secure enough points to get ahead of him if Nick’s car proved reliable. Final A2 entry was again Louise West with her 33 8v hoping that her return outing at Rockingham would pave the way for a good weekend at Silverstone.

I like the 156 and it is much easier to get in and out of than the GTV!

Having not raced with us since Oulton Park due to VW duties with Team Hard, Darelle Wilson was back with his Diesel powered GT in Class B in which the only other runner was Malcolm Chapman having another outing in the ex Peter Sloan/Avon Racing 75 3 litre (Peter was there to see it run). Ray Foley was the single Class C entry but with a new car. Having had an electrical problem with his GTV on a visit to the Nurburgring, Ray had agreed to borrow Roger Evans’ 156 GTA and then, before Silverstone, had bought it! “I like the 156 and it is much easier to get in and out of than the GTV!” said Ray on Saturday morning.

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Stacey Dennis and her new 147

And so to Class E , with 11 156s, three 147s, two 145s and two 146s making up the 18 car field. Since Rockingham, Stacey Dennis had bought Andrew Bramah’s 147 but Silverstone would be the first time she had driven it. She would join the similar cars of Jon Billingsley, fresh from his third place last time out, and Steve O’Brien. Tom Eastwood and Kristian Leith would be in action again with their 145s, Tom remembering his fine second place of a year ago, while Russell Anderson and Richard Ford were both in their 146s, Richard’s car having received some attention after its debut at Cadwell in June. Amongst the 156s, Champion James Bishop and James Ford would be resuming their season-long rivalry with Steve Potts (with a newly built silver and orange car) and Dave Messenger both hoping to keep them in sight. As was Tom Hill – now 18 he tells me! – with the Bianco renta’ that he raced so well at Anglesey. Tom had given up an important karting weekend to race with us. We hoped he would be rewarded with a couple of good results that would encourage him to commit to a full 2015 season. Andy Hancock was entered with his pretty “Grove & Dean” liveried 156 and Paul Plant completed the ten car Bianco prepared entry with another 156, having  what for him these days is a rare UK race.  Avon Racing were looking after Andy Inman as usual in his purple and yellow 156 plus Paul Webster, a friend of Chris Oxborough, who was in the red and yellow Avon renta’ , having his first ever race (after just a couple of trackdays).

Clive Hodgkin and newcomer Paul Webster

Clive Hodgkin and newcomer Paul Webster

Luther Blissett was in his green 156 and with no conflicting football would be able to do both races.  It was also excellent to see Mel Freeman out again in the Spur Motorsport 156. The last time she raced it was at Donington in May but she seemed relaxed and confident that she could get somewhere near the pace, father Chris Healey and Ian Brookfield looking after her as usual.

Most people arrived on Friday evening and there was the usual shuffling around in the paddock to gain enough space in which it has to be said that some of our Caterham friends were not entirely co-operative. Seeing how they were spread out in the dry and cavernous pit garages, this didn’t exactly bring a smile to some people’s faces! Rain greeted us on Saturday morning and the likelihood that qualifying at 9.30 would be on a wet track. Scrutineering brought another marginally over the limit noise problem for Vincent Dubois and his 156 Turbo but he was to be allowed three slow laps to qualify after which he could see if he wanted to modify the exhaust to comply. Among those on hand for the day was Matt Daly, camera in hand, but sadly without a car to repeat his daring exploits of last year in the 164. However, looking on from the pits gallery he did suggest a competition for the best roof colour scheme – maybe Stacey Dennis’s 147 with its large Alfa badge or the chequered flag designs of the Anderson cars?

Throughout qualifying Ian Stapleton (on handcut slicks) and Anthony George (on wets) were quite closely matched with Ian setting his fastest lap in 1’26.771” three quarters of the way through the session as a drier line emerged. However, it was Anthony who pulled something out of the bag on his final lap with a 1’24.994” to grab pole. In the hope of a wet race he had concentrated on getting a good wet set-up. Chris Snowdon stopped in the pits after 5 laps before coming out for a final 1’27.080” to end third quickest, sharing the second row with Graham Seager. Darelle Wilson and Roger Evans would make up row three, Roger being delighted with the handling of his new car. Darelle’s car, on the other hand was still spewing smoke and would end in the gravel at Club at the end of the session. Bryan Shrubb and Roger McMahon were 7th and 8th with Malcolm Chapman, as at Rockingham, having an excellent qualifying to take over row 5 with Nick Anderson. Ray Foley and  Louise West were finding the conditions not at all to their liking and would be mired amongst the Class E cars on times although they would be starting at the back of the A1/A2/B & C group, as would Dave Peddie who reckoned that he spun about six times during the session as he got to grips with the liveliness of the Mito.

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Dave Peddie with his re-coloured MiTo

James Ford showed that he was determined to make this his weekend in E by lapping 1.33” quicker than a really on-form Dave Messenger. Dave was using the same rebuilt engine that performed so well for him in the second Rockingham race. Paul Plant emerged only a fraction slower than Dave and ahead of James Bishop, Jon Billingsley and Tom Hill, while Andy Hancock, Steve O’Brien, Tom Eastwood and Richard Ford made up the Class E top 10 but with a 6” gap from pole to 10th. Steve Potts reckoned he had had his worst qualifying of the whole year, ending up 11th with Stacey Dennis, Paul Webster, Kristian Leith, Mel Freeman, Luther Blissett and Russell Anderson completing the field.

After qualifying, Vincent Dubois decided, despite having Keith and Tom Waite on hand to help, not to spend time trying modifying his exhaust, having already worked out what he would do long term. A pity, as the car has been a top contender in A1 when it has appeared. Nick Anderson was still having trouble with his gearbox and had ideas of starting from the pit lane.

 

It was still cloudy by the time the 31 remaining cars came onto the grid There was a drying line on some parts of the circuit but the choice of tyres was still a difficult one. Ian Stapleton was sticking with his handcut slicks while Graham Seager and Anthony George had opted for slicks. Anthony however had chosen some new Michelins that he had not driven on before – not a wise idea as it turned out! As the lights went out, getting the 156 Turbo off the line again proved difficult and Anthony was quickly engulfed  by most of the A1/A2 cars. Roger Evans, however, made an excellent getaway and saw a gap between Graham Seager and Chris Snowdon but this began to close. In the position he found himself he had little option but to press on, making contact with Chris’s nearside door in the process. Meanwhile Darelle Wilson had made a good start on the inside, as had Roger McMahon on the outside, Roger getting ahead of Bryan Shrubb twice on the run to Abbey. Then as Chris Snowdon went towards the first corner apex he was tapped from behind by Darelle, the 33 went sideways and was hit again by the GT before heavy contact with Roger McMahon’s GTV which saw Chris heading for gravel on the right and Roger on the left, both heavily damaged. It could have been even worse. There was contact further back as Tom Eastwood was nudged into Steve Potts, Steve heading for Chris Snowdon’s stationary car. Chris saw him coming and couldn’t quite believe that the gravel stopped the 156 before the “bang” he was preparing himself for. Tom was also on the grass but was able to continue. In view of the position of Roger’s car it was surprising that there was no Safety Car, the situation being covered by waved double yellows. All this happened very quickly, and the drivers involved were still trying to piece it all together in the paddock afterwards.

Starting three rows back, Dave Messenger had chosen the outside line from his “front row” starting position while James Ford and James Bishop went for the inside and found their way blocked by slow starting front group cars whereas Dave had a relatively clear run past Nick Anderson and Bryan Shrubb on the outside. To be honest, perhaps this wasn’t a great advert for the split grid arrangement.

Meanwhile, the rest of the field had streamed through Abbey and away towards Village and the Link. Ian Stapleton appeared on his own out of Club at the end of the lap with Roger Evans already 7.7” adrift although ahead of Darelle Wilson and Graham Seager who were fighting over 3rd place. Lying 5th was Ray Foley who had made a good start in the 156 GTA – the result of “a new start procedure” he told me afterwards- and was lying 5th but only just ahead of Class E leader, a really on-form Dave Messenger who was being pushed hard by James Ford who in his turn had Louise West (A2) being hounded by Paul Plant, James Bishop, Jon Billingsley and the remarkable Mito of Dave Peddie (A1) in line astern (or side by side!) behind. Tom Hill, Andy Hancock and Kristian Leith were still well in touch but needed to get past Louise West or for her to pull away. Further back, Bryan Shrubb was also finding that slicks were not the tyres to be on and would have to hope that the track continued to dry.

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By the end of lap 2 Ian Stapleton was in a class of his own, almost reaching Abbey before Roger Evans exited Club. The gap between Roger and Darelle Wilson had remained constant though at around 3” with Graham Seager drifting back a little in 4th. Ray Foley was still enjoying his race in 5th but right on his tail the Class E lead had changed with James Ford now ahead of Dave Messenger, Paul Plant, Jon Billingsley and Dave Peddie (A1) Jon and Dave having pushed James Bishop back a couple of places. Ian Stapleton was now well into his stride, breaking the 1’20” barrier at the end of lap 3 and pulling 21” clear of Roger Evans who was beginning to see Darelle Wilson getting closer, Graham Seager having dropped 3” back. Ray Foley couldn’t pull himself clear of the Class E cars but was still 5th, helped by his extra power down the Hangar Straight. Paul Plant continued to hound Dave Messenger while there was a great scrap going on between Jon Billingsley, James Bishop and Tom Hill with Andy Hancock and Kristian Leith now running ahead of Louise West (A2). There was another battling group behind Louise – Richard Ford (running very strongly), Tom Eastwood, Mel Freeman, Malcolm Chapman (B) and Steve O’Brien covered by just three seconds. Anthony George had spun (one of three spins during the race) and was now right at the back of the field in company with a struggling Bryan Shrubb.

The only real change on lap 4 was Paul Plant charging his way into 2nd in E on the Hangar Straight but lap times were generally getting quicker as the track began to get drier and Ian Stapleton had already lapped Nick Anderson who was gamely carrying on stuck in 3rd gear – “embarrassing at 7,500 rpm before Stowe!”. By the end of lap 5 Ian was lapping the genuine tailenders but Paul Plant had been black flagged with a broken exhaust, stopping at the end of lap 6 and letting Dave Messenger back into 2nd in E while James Ford had managed to take 5th overall away from Ray Foley. On the same lap we also lost Roger Evans who felt that there was something ”not quite right” with the 147 and pulled off but afterwards he expressed himself pleased with the car’s debut, always having intended it as a test run. James Bishop was now starting to give Dave Messenger a hard time with Jon Billingsley and Tom Hill lurking a couple of seconds back while Kristian Leith and Andy Hancock were engaged in their own private tussle. It was interesting to see that Tom Eastwood was matching Jon and Tom Hill’s lap times while Mel Freeman was now running ahead of Richard Ford, Russell Anderson, Luther Blissett and Steve O’Brien.

Mid race, Anthony George was beginning to match Ian Stapleton’s lap times but then threw it all away with a spin on the exit of Club, ending any chance of catching Darelle Wilson and Graham Seager. James Bishop eased himself ahead of Dave Messenger for 2nd in E on lap 8  and it looked as though that was where he would finish until James Ford’s ill luck hit again a couple of laps later when he suffered a puncture, pulling off at Abbey. This gave an added incentive to Tom Hill who could see a potential runner-up spot, closing in to pass Dave with three laps to go. With slicks now working better, Graham Seager was able to home in on the ever-smokey Darelle Wilson, passing him at the start of lap 11. Anthony George and Bryan Shrubb were now coming through the field, Ray Foley being their final target if they were to finish ahead of all the Class E cars. Ian Stapleton, though, was in a class of his own, slashing his lap times at the end to set a best of 1’17.151” to win from Graham Seager by 46.23”. Darelle Wilson would end 3” back in 3rd place, winning Class B,  with Anthony, Bryan and Ray being classified 4th, 5th and 6th.  Of the other A1/A2/B cars, Dave Peddie ended a fine 13th overall, having run as high as 9th early on, Louise West was two places further back while Nick Anderson completed his mission of finishing and taking points towards his A2 championship target.

Class E had once again given us some splendid entertainment with James Bishop taking his sixth win of the year. Second and third after a couple of excellent races were Tom Hill and Dave Messenger, Tom going one better than his third at Anglesey. Jon Billingsley ended up fourth, not quite reflecting how strong he had been early in the race and with Andy Hancock  and Kristian Leith in pursuit at the flag. Tom Eastwood headed Mel Freeman home, Richard Ford having dropped back with a loose idle valve on his 146. Steve O’Brien, Luther Blissett, Andy Inman and Stacey Dennis completed the list of Class E finishers.

russellAnderson

Unlucky were Russell Anderson who ran onto the grass at Village and cracked the sump on his 146, ending his race on lap 11 while he was running just ahead of Luther and Steve, and Paul Webster who suffered a clutch problem after 9 laps. In the paddock afterwards, there were not unnaturally some glum faces as we inspected the damage to Chris Snowdon’s 33 and the McMahon GTV, wondering whether either car would be seen again. Roger Evans’ 147 was on its trailer, showing damage to its offside door although this was not the reason it would not be a starter on Sunday. In the Anderson camp there was work to be done replacing Russell’s sump while Nick wondered if his gearbox could be persuaded to give him the odd extra gear or two! In the Bianco camp, Paul Plant’s 156 needed a new exhaust while a gravel removal effort was required on Steve Potts 156.

 

Chris Oxborough was on hand to present the trophies for Saturday’s race, hoping that he would be back in his 75 during 2015.  Bianco and ARCA had organised a Hog Roast party to keep those who were staying at the circuit entertained, and this proved to be a great success. So our thanks to Paul Plant in particular for his efforts and to “Spitting Pig Central” for providing the delicious roasted pork itself, buns, crackling and associated salads as well. It was also Russell Anderson’s birthday, so we also enjoyed his cake in celebration.

Race 1 Results

Winners
Overall – Ian Stapleton
A1 – Ian Stapleton
A2 – Bryan Shrubb
B – Darelle Wilson
C – Ray Foley
E – James Bishop

View full results

Race 2

Sunday dawned bright, sunny, and importantly dry although still quite cold. As we wandered around the Paddock, it looked as though we would have 28 starters as against 31 the previous day. Only 22 had finished on Saturday but six of those who retired were happily able to run again. Anthony George had reverted to the Dunlop slicks he was familiar with while the rest of A1 and A2 were now on slicks as well. The 20 minute race would also see the awarding of the Kevin Griffiths Trophy to the overall winner.

The start was much more straightforward this time, with Ian Stapleton taking an immediate lead while Anthony George was again slow off the line, falling behind  Darelle Wilson, Bryan Shrubb and Graham Seager. This was the order at the end of the first lap with Dave Peddie holding a remarkable 6th overall in the Mito. Dave Messenger had again taken the Class E lead, having to go through Abbey on the inside this time, and by the Link he was in amongst back of the A1/A2/B & C group although power would tell down the Hangar Straight. Kristian Leith had made his best start of the year and was lying 2nd in E with James Bishop right on his bumper. 1.1” behind at the end of the lap, Jon Billingsley headed the next group with Tom Hill, Louise West, Tom Eastwood, Andy Hancock and Ray Foley in a tight group as they headed towards Abbey. Steve Potts had already got himself up to 8th in class, ahead of the next warring bunch of cars that included Andy Inman, Mel Freeman, Paul Plant and Steve O’Brien. A lap charter’s nightmare, except with Live Timing available much of that is no longer necessary.

By the end of lap 2, Anthony George had got some heat into his slicks and had moved up to 2nd but was still 5.8” behind Ian Stapleton while Graham Seager had passed Bryan Shrubb into 4th. Dave Peddie continued to hold on to his 5th place with Dave Messenger still leading Class E but watching his mirrors closely as James Bishop had taken away second in class from Kristian Leith who was now under pressure from Jon Billingsley and Tom Hill. Ray Foley was beginning to make progress and was now on the tail of Louise West with Tom Eastwood enjoying himself keeping Andy Hancock at bay just behind. Luther Blissett was missing, having gone off and hit the barrier at Village.

At this stage of the race (end of lap 3) it looked as though Anthony George would make no inroads into the lead of the flying Ian Stapleton but going into lap 4 everything changed as the Safety Car was deployed so that Luther’s 156 could be retrieved. Unfortunately it failed to catch the race leader and everyone had to be waived through, after which they had to complete a lap to catch the Safety Car again before the race could be re-started. So we had a situation where Anthony George crossed the line at the end of lap four 1’21” behind Ian but by the time the Safety Car came in at the end of lap 7, the gap was just 0.863” – race on!

Darelle Wilson would take the re-start still in third place ahead of Graham Seager, Bryan Shrubb and Dave Peddie with Dave Messenger ready to fend off James Bishop in E. Louise West, Kristian Leith, Jon Billingsley, Ray Foley, Tom Hill, Andy Hancock and Tom Eastwood came next with James Ford ahead of Steve Potts and Mel Freeman.

Having had things made easier for him by the Safety Car, Anthony George was determined to profit by the opportunity he had been given and stuck to the tail of Ian Stapleton’s black GTV6 over the next four laps as the lap times tumbled into the 1’14s. Dave Messenger had run off onto the grass at Abbey but kept his class lead for the moment although James Bishop was able to take advantage later in the lap and take over at the front of the class. By the end of lap 9, James Ford had made further progress, moving ahead of Jon Billingsley, and was catching Kristian Leith and Tom Hill. A splendid battle had developed behind them involving Andy Hancock, Tom Eastwood, Steve Potts and Mel Freeman. On lap 11, Anthony George made his move on Ian Stapleton down the Hangar Straight. Ian tried to hang on but realised that 2nd was the best he could do and drifted some three seconds back before the finish. Graham Seager had taken over 3rd from Darelle Wilson after the re-start which left Bryan Shrubb gulping diesel oil fumes as he held on to 5th. Louise West had made great progress in the last part of the race, passing Dave Peddie for a splendid 6th place, although Dave himself was delighted with 7th. Ray Foley managed to get ahead of all the Class E cars by the finish, winning the Class C championship in the process. In E, James Bishop pulled away smoothly to celebrate his seventh win of the year (and finish 8th overall) by some 5” from Dave Messenger who was nonetheless delighted with 2nd. James Ford passed Tom Hill on the final lap to grab the third Class E podium slot. Kristian Leith, Jon Billingsley, Tom Eastwood, Steve Potts, Andy Hancock and Mel Freeman crossed the line separated by  just 1.6” seconds, having all enjoyed themselves in the process. The rest of the E field to finish were in the order Andy Inman, Richard Ford, Russell Anderson, Paul Webster (to gain  a signature on his licence this time) and Stacey Dennis. Nick Anderson and Malcolm Chapman also made it to the flag, Nick taking the Class A2 title in the process but Steve O’Brien was unlucky to have a rear suspension link failure cause his retirement. Paul Plant had also retired early on. Graham Seager moved up to a final  3rd overall in the Championship.

Race 2 Results

Winners
Overall – Anthony George
A1 – Anthony George
A2 – Bryan Shrubb
B – Darelle Wilson
C – Ray Foley
E – James Bishop

View full results

Philip Clay from Alfashop was there to hand out the awards including the Kevin Griffiths Trophy to Anthony George – a new name to add. The Grove & Dean Driver of the Weekend was presented by Andy Hancock to Tom Hill for his second and fourth places in E. Our thanks to the BRSCC and particularly Secretary of the Meeting Lucy Ashman and Liz Goodrich from HQ for looking after us in not always easy circumstances.

I should like to thank Dave Messenger for his superb in-car videos (looking forwards and backwards!) which give you a real flavour of Alfa racing – Class E in particular. And also Bryan Shrubb for his video of the start of race 1.

Michael Lindsay