Updated: 15th April – Michael Lindsay’s Race Report
Photos by Michael Lindsay, Katy Read & Paul Stone
Anyone who doubted the resilience of the Alfa Romeo Championship will have been delighted to have their fears prove unfounded by the first meeting of the year on the Silverstone National circuit.
Over the winter, the running of the Championship has been taken over by a “co-operative” of committed competitors, team members and friends while the role of Co-ordinator is in the hands of the BRSCC. Named co-ordinator on the regulations is Competition Secretary, Drew Furlong, but as at Silverstone it may be another BRSCC stalwart taking over the responsibility on the day, in this case Judith Hibbens, wife of their chief scrutineer, Mike.
What was really heartening last weekend was the size of the entry. 24 cars were on the list and only one failed to appear – the Class E GTV of newcomer Andrew Bourke after an engine problem testing on the Friday before the meeting. And, we didn’t have to rely on Fiat Puntos to make the numbers look more respectable. Class A1 brought together Guy Hale in his NJS Racing prepared 147 GTA, Graham Seager in the ex Roger Evans supercharged 3.2 litre GTV and “Big Yella”, the 3 litre 12v 164 of Ian Brookfield. Graham had not been able to test the GTV which, as it turned out was something of a disadvantage when he started to push the car a bit in Race 1. After a busy weekend at Goodwood with his GTV6, Chris Snowdon was back in his 33 fuel injected 16v prepared by John Sismey and was joined in the class by Nick Anderson’s 8v version, now looking very smart after a winter’s fettling, Louise West and Charlotte Smith helping Nick once again.
Class B was going to be a two car affair, with the diversity allowed by the regulations shown by Clive Hodgkin’s familiar 75 3 litre 12v and the Diesel GT being driven once again by Darelle Wilson. Roger Evans always likes to have a new project on the go, and having fulfilled the potential of the 147 GTA he had embarked on a Class C 156 GTA for the 2014 season. His only opposition here was the 3.2 GTV of Ray Foley, hopefully benefitting from some improvements to the rear suspension, and the lack of more starters in C may prove a problem this year in Roger’s quest to become the first driver to win the championship three times. However, as he would point out, there is a very nice, fully prepared 147 GTA for sale!
With 15 cars down to run, Class E formed the hard core of the entry and with so many competitive drivers it promised some excellent racing. Bianco Auto Developments were involved in no less than 8 of the 15 and there was certainly going to be some rivalry there. Tom Herbert had rebuilt and repainted his 156 over the winter and was joined by James Ford, James Bishop, Stacey Dennis and Andy Hancock in similar examples. Andy’s car was extremely smart in the blue and white livery of Grove & Dean Motorsport Insurance. With a new engine in her car, Stacey had been testing on the Friday and had set a time that would have put her 5th on the Class E grid in 2013. Bianco had three 147s to look after. Jon Billingsley was starting a full season in the ex Graham Heels/Adie Hawkins example while newcomer Steve Potts had persuaded Emma Karwacki to part with her 2011 Championship winning car. His recent racing experience had been in the Toyo Porsche Championship with a Boxster. Steve O’Brien, having raced a Fiat Punto last year, now had the ex Paul Plant/Tim Perry 147 to play with.
At Avon Racing, Andy Inman was looking forward to another season – his fourteenth – with the ex Paul Buckley 156. Luther Blissett’s 156 was looking smart with a new paint job while 156 ranks were brought up to nine with the Spur Motorsport car of Chris Healey which daughter Mel had also been testing and was hoping to run at Donington. Class E ranks were completed by two 145s, the easily recognisable orange car, of Tom Eastwood (Spur Motorsport) – winner on a damp track here in 2013 – and Dave Peddie’s blue and white example which he had leased to Kristian Leith. Kristian had had some experience in Scottish XR2s at Knockhill but reckoned it was just as much effort for him to reach most other UK circuits, travelling from Shetland. The car was being looked after by Proalfa.
There was a disaster early in the day when the ARCA hospitality marquee was pretty well destroyed by a strong gust of wind but it didn’t seem to affect the upbeat atmosphere too much. The 1.64 mile circuit was damp when qualifying got underway approaching 10.30 and the surface was particularly tricky down at Magotts and Becketts causing everyone to adopt a cautious approach which resulted in lap times that were initially some 12” off a dry pace for the likes of Guy Hale and Chris Snowdon while the Class E cars were running about 8” slower. The track did start to improve as the session progressed with Graham Seager setting his best of 1’10.498” on his 8th lap but the GTV’s brakes were causing problems – and a spin a couple of laps later – meaning that he couldn’t improve. Guy Hale, on the other hand, left his best to the end and came very close to deposing Graham from pole with a 1’10.651”. Third quickest was Chris Snowdon, with three quick laps in a row, before peeling off into the pit road feeling that he could not improve. Darelle Wilson had an in and out of the pits session with a recurrence of the old turbo boost pipe problem but still qualified 4th overall ahead of Nick Anderson and Ray Foley. Ray was happy to outpace Roger Evans in Class C. Ian Brookfield would line up 8th, a row ahead of Clive Hodgkin. The 75 is a tricky car in these conditions but Clive also had a recurring loss of power which was holding him back on the straights.
Most of the Class E cars set their best laps near the end of the session with James Bishop emerging 0.32” ahead of James Ford to secure pole with a 1’19.028”. A satisfied Dave Messenger would line up third. When you looked at the .003” gap between himself and James Ford you could sense some frustration although they had ended on the same row. It was perhaps then a question of whether it was better to be on the inside or the outside of the grid. The next three positions were very tight with Tom Herbert just ahead of the impressive Stacey Dennis and Andy Inman, all in the 1’19s as was Tom Eastwood. The top 8 in the class were covered by just under a second with Steve Potts ending .098” slower than Tom Eastwood which left him confident that he could improve in the race. The class was completed by Chris Healey, only 0.038” behind Steve, Jon Billingsley, Kristian Leith, Steve O’Brien and Andy Hancock. Once again misfortune struck Luther Blissett who pulled off on the pit straight without completing a lap and would be a non starter.
22 cars that made their way to the grid for the 12.50 start with Graham Seager sitting on pole, Guy Hale alongside him. When the red lights went out, Graham made a cautious getaway while Guy Hale jumped into the lead.
The 164 slid sideways and then backwards at Copse towards the inside of the track causing many a heart rate to have a quick spike!
Elsewhere it all looked perfectly straightforward until, from the fourth row, Ian Brookfield with cold ex Porsche championship slicks on the 164 slid sideways and then backwards at Copse towards the inside of the track causing many a heart rate to have a quick spike! Visions of the same situation two years ago were inevitable but miraculously contact was avoided and although some people were delayed slightly, everyone pressed on toward Magotts, albeit with the expected mid field order shuffled a bit. By the end of the lap Guy Hale had established a relatively secure 3” advantage over Chris Snowdon with Darelle Wilson 3rd, 0.8” behind Chris – the Diesel blowing out its usual smoke cloud – but 2.3” clear of Graham Seager whose GTV was giving him untidy moments, particularly at Becketts. This would drop him back further on the following lap. Roger Evans and Ray Foley were lying 5th and 6th with Nick Anderson, having experienced Copse “deja vue” just behind and battling with Clive Hodgkin.
The first corner incident had worked in favour of Tom Herbert and Steve Potts who emerged tied together at the end of lap 1, heading class E. Andy Inman was a remarkable 3rd with the closely matched trio of Jon Billingsley, James Bishop, Tom Eastwood, Dave Messenger and Chris Healey next in line. James Ford was the worst affected and was sandwiched between Andy Hancock and Stacey Dennis with a lot of work to do if he was to get on terms with the leaders. So close was the racing that it would take many pages to cover every overtaking, or attempted overtaking move, just watch the in-car videos to get a flavour of what was going on!!
Just watch the in-car videos to get a flavour of what was going on!!
Guy Hale was wasting no time on trying to open the gap between himself and Chris Snowdon – 3.8” at the end of lap 2 and we were beginning to wonder if Chris had no answer. But the past Alfa champion had other ideas and started to whittle away at Guy’s advantage until at the end of 9 when they came across a Class E traffic jam at the Complex it was enough to turn a 2 second gap to almost nothing as Chris used his experience to the full on the inside. A lap later the 33 was in the lead and the gap nearly 2” in Chris’s favour. Darelle Wilson was still 3rd until lap 13 when the dreaded turbo pipe disconnected itself yet again and Graham Seager had spun himself down from 4th to 8th.
While all this breathless stuff was going on, Steve Potts had managed to edge himself into the Class E lead from Tom Herbert with James Bishop chasing hard in 3rd place on lap 7 in front of Jon Billingsley, Tom Eastwood, Chris Healey, Andy Inman, James Ford and Dave Messenger. Andy Hancock came by on Dave Messenger’s tail just ahead of the recovering Ian Brookfield and Stacey Dennis. Lap 9 was disrupted mid-class by a collision between Jon Billingsley and Chris Healey at the end of the Wellington Straight as Chris tried to take his 156 down the inside of the 147. The impact was enough to break Chris’s steering and to send Jon into the pits. Inevitably there are two sides to every story but the Clerk of the Course later decided that the responsibility lay with Jon and docked him 2 points on his licence.
With 13 laps completed, Chris Snowdon had pulled 4.2” away from Guy Hale and Roger Evans was now up into 3rd place but being challenged by Ray Foley. Nick Anderson was running strongly in 5th in front of Clive Hodgkin and Graham Seager while Ian Brookfield, having regained his momentum was now up to 9th. The class E lead had temporarily reversed, with Tom Herbert taking the advantage briefly while James Bishop was running quicker than the two cars ahead of him and closing the gap. Tom Eastwood was having a fine race running 4th in class but was coming under pressure from James Ford who now seemed to have picked up speed, getting by the battling Andy Inman and Dave Messenger while Andy Hancock and Stacey Dennis was involved in an entertaining side-by-side contest not far behind.
The last five laps saw Guy Hale make every effort to get back on terms with Chris Snowdon as the odd spot of drizzle appeared and he could use his Intermediates to good effect but Chris was not going to let a win disappear if he could possibly avoid it and crossed the line 3.03” clear. Ray Foley had driven splendid to third place and a class C win finishing just clear of Nick Anderson. Graham Seager persevered to 5th in front of Clive Hodgkin, Roger Evans – suffering a front suspension problem – and Ian Brookfield. But it was Class E that was still causing all the excitement as James Bishop had worked his way between Steve Potts and Tom Herbert on lap 14 and was then able to move firmly into the class lead a lap later. He would finish 1.2” in front of Steve, a gap that was considerable by the evidence of the day so far. Tom Herbert never gave up, third in class, while James Ford had made further progress to pass Tom Eastwood with a couple of laps to go into 4th place. Thereafter, Andy Inman and Dave Messenger continued their race long contest to finish 5th and 6th. Andy Hancock led home Stacey Dennis who was more than happy with her own performance while Kristian Leith and Steve O’Brien made up the list of finishers.
The large and happy crowd surrounding Chris Snowdon in the paddock celebrated with some unusual birthday, Guinness flavoured(!), cakes while Guy Hale wondered what he could do to turn the tables in race 2. Joy Fairy said that Roger’s 156 GTA had lost his class win due to “some of the usual new car problems” and there was plenty of work for him and brother Kevin to do on the offside front shock absorber.
Celebrated with some unusual birthday, Guinness flavoured(!), cakes
At Proalfa, yet more attempts were being made to keep the Diesel’s turbo boost pipe in place. Sadly a non starter in race 2 would be Stacey Dennis with a leaking oil pump but she was pleased enough with her first race efforts not to mind too much. At the other end of the paddock, Ian Brookfield’s 164 was having its front brakes looked at and a course marker removed from underneath that he had collected at Woodcote.
20 cars made it to the grid for the start under grey skies. The race was to be a short one for two of the top race on performers, Tom Herbert pulling off at Copse and Chris Snowdon coming into the pits at the end of lap 1 both with gearbox related issues. This left Guy Hale powering past the start/finish line at the end of lap 1 with a 1.7” second lead over the fast starting Ray Foley. Roger Evans had moved up from 7th to 3rd ahead of Graham Seager, Nick Anderson, Clive Hodgkin and Ian Brookfield but up to 8th already from the back of the grid was Darelle Wilson’s Diesel GT. It looked as though Class E was again going to offer us some more great entertainment as Steve Potts headed James Bishop, James Ford and Dave Messenger. During the second lap, Graham Seager showed he was getting more familiar with the supercharged GTV by moving ahead of Roger Evans and then a lap later Ray Foley in pursuit of Guy Hale. Ray was holding on to his third place but Roger Evans was now starting to lap quicker in his GTA and it seemed only a matter of time before he would take over third. Darelle Wilson was still on a charge, though, and he was up to 5th in front of Nick Anderson by the end of lap 3. On the same lap, things changed in E as James Ford took over the lead with James Bishop now in front of Steve Potts and eager to hold on to the red 156 just ahead. Just over two seconds covered the next trio of Dave Messenger, Andy Inman and Tom Eastwood.
The battle of the front of the field had now hotted up as Graham Seager closed on Guy Hale and passed him into the lead on lap 6. Guy was able to keep the gap at under half a second for the next 4 laps, his Intermediate tyres helping when it started to drizzle, but then lost time on the grass at Brooklands after which the fight seemed lost for a while. But never underestimate Guy as he kept the pressure on, cutting the gap to 1.01” on lap 16 before re-taking the lead a lap later. However, it was clear that all was not well with the GTV which pulled off on the outside of the pit straight with what was thought to be a broken gearbox. Guy completed lap 18 to take a well deserved win by 29.7” from a delighted Darelle Wilson (winner of Class B) with Roger Evans (1st in C) a further 17” back to complete the podium. Ray Foley completed his day with another satisfying finish, 4th this time, ahead of Nick Anderson, winner of Class A2, a much happier Ian Brookfield in the 164 and Clive Hodgkin. The battle in E never relented between James Ford and James Bishop, having dropped Steve Potts. Tom Eastwood had managed to get ahead of his old rival Dave Messenger mid race and was able to stay ahead. At the finish James Ford had a mere 0.3” advantage over James Bishop, Steve Potts finished 8” further back with Tom Eastwood, Dave Messenger, Jon Billingsley, Andy Hancock, Kristian Leith and Steve O’Brien completing the list of finishers. Out of luck was Andy Inman who had been running with Tom Eastwood and Jon Billingsley when he had what was referred to afterwards as an “electrical malfunction”!
The well attended prize giving took place in the Bianco marquee with Maggie (Peddie to be) enthusiastically handing out the awards. Grove & Dean Driver of the Day was James Bishop for the 1st and 2nd places in Class E.
During the day it was good to be able to chat to almost everyone who put themselves forward to look after various tasks in the season ahead. Andy Robinson is now sourcing trophies while Tony Herbert, in addition to looking after the printing and distribution of decals, was to be seen trying to keep track in a large book of everything that Bianco was doing during the day. Joanne Eastwood was taking money from anyone wishing to register who had not already done so, Keith Waite amongst them, and Matt Daly was happy to talk about the development of the ARCA website. Joy Fairy has been looking after sponsorship matters and Christine Hodgkin was keeping a weather eye open on behalf of Clive. Treasurer David Thomas and son James were there, talking about selling their 146 and building a Mito. The ever-supportive Ron Davidson was much in evidence throughout the day as were Mel & Brad Freeman, and also Spur Motorsport’s technical guru Gary Orchard. It was also good to discuss some of the other potential newcomers at Bianco with Paul Plant and Paul himself also has hopes of racing at Donington with his own 156. Sadly, we shall be without Ray Foley at the next three meetings as son Steve, an Alfa racer for several years, is getting married when we shall be at Donington and then Ray and Heather are off to the States to follow Route 66. Ray says they might be back just in time for Cadwell but “jet lag” might just keep him at home!
The points after the two races saw Guy Hale holding a single point advantage over James Bishop with Ray Foley, and jointly Roger Evans and Nick Anderson next in line. The full points table can be found elsewhere on the website.
Our thanks go to Judith Hibbens for looking after us so well during the day at Silverstone and to Graham Whitaker, Secretary of the Meeting, enjoying a change of scene from Cadwell Park. The next meeting for Championship is a two day double header at Donington, on May 10/11. We look forward to seeing you all there.