Snetterton has always been one of my favourite circuits – probably because it was the first track away from the Goodwood/Silverstone post war pairing that I visited.
Yes, it is fairly flat and wind and rain can regularly accompany any race weekend. The first time I went there (by train!) was in September 1953, not long after it was opened, and there have been plenty of memorable race meetings since then, not least the 1966 European Touring Car Championship round won by Andrea de Adamich’s 1600 GTA which also featured the splendid Fiat Abarth 1000s based on the Fiat 600 (my first car!) with their raised rear engine covers and parallelogram wipers. And then there were the Willhire 24 Hour races in the early 80s with teams of Suds and Alfetta GTVs. I could ramble on for ages but time dictates that a report of rounds 6 & 7 of this year’s Alfa Championship title chase must take priority!
For us, Snetterton usually manages to attract a good entry and this year’s event was to prove no exception. Originally there were going to be five Modified cars but Roger Evans withdrew his entry at the last minute but we still had Graham Seager’s race winning GTV, Andy Robinson’s 156 3.8, Vincent Dubois in his 156 Turbo with 2 litre Q4 engine and, making his first appearance of the year, Anthony George in his rapid 156 2 litre 16v turbo. Anthony told us that his car was exactly as it had left Silverstone after winning the final race of 2014 and that none of the team’s planned “developments” had been achieved. Probably just as well! By contrast, Vincent Dubois had been hard at work modifying his front suspension angles but had had no opportunity to test the changes.
For the first time, the Power Trophy had more than a one or two car entry. There were five this time, headed by Ray Foley’s 156 GTA. However, on his recent trip to Magny Cours, Ray had found himself faced with a stationary Giulia during one of the races , the resulting collision damaging the front of his previously pristine car. He loved the circuit though but not the migrants who tried to get into the boot of the race car some 60 miles from Calais! Nick Anderson’s 33 8v had had new electronic ignition fitted since Rockingham. Nick had been able to test a couple of weeks before, also getting more accustomed to the Avon radials now fitted to the car and reckoned that he would pose a strong challenge to Ray. Newcomers to the class were Keith Waite’s much loved 75 3 litre, Ron Davidson – back with a 164 now being tended by Bianco – and Matt Abell, who has not raced since 2010 with his 33, now fitted with a 16v engine and running on slicks for the first time. Ron had raced the 164 in a couple of AROC races last year but this was to be the first time ever that he had raced on slicks (Toyos) and he was hoping to have more fun with us. His GTV has now been sold but Ron is not sure whether the new owner will decide to race it rather than just use it for trackdays, an ongoing problem we have.
15 drivers were on the list for the Twin Spark Cup but the stand-out vehicle here was probably not a car but a very large ex Touring Car transporter which had just been acquired by Bianco Auto Developments. As Paul Plant has yet to take his HGV test, they employed Russell Anderson who had the necessary licence, courtesy of the tank regiment, to deliver the car for them before rushing off to the Goodwood Festival of Speed where he was working with Mission Motorsport. Most of those who missed Oulton were back including James Bishop (156), Stacey Dennis (147), James Browning (147), James Ford (156) and Paul Webster (156). Tim Perry was having another outing in the Bianco renta’ 156 while Andrew Bourke was making his first appearance of the year in his GTV, now fitted with a Bianco built engine. The 156s of Tom Hill and Steve Potts were looking as immaculate as they had been before their Oulton accident and Dave Messenger’s similar car was sporting a new sponsor, BSS Pipeline and Heating Solutions. The 156s of Andy Hancock – 2nd at Snetterton last year – Jeremy Chilton and Andy Inman completed the field.
For some time we have wanted to organise power testing for the Twin Spark Cup and Power Trophy cars and Snetterton was chosen as the most suitable venue – the BRSCC providing a pit garage for Tracktive Solutions to set up their “at the hub” equipment. As a result, during the day, all the Twin Spark cars were able to submit their cars to what was a noisy – with three run-ups for each car – and somewhat frenetic operation! However, it did give us an idea of the power difference between a nicely prepared and built engine and one straight out of a road car – 20 bhp!
It was bright and dry as qualifying got underway at 11.30 on Saturday morning. Not having seen Anthony George all year, it was going to be interesting to see how his 156 Turbo matched up to the GTV of three times race winner Graham Seager. We had to wait until the end of the 20 minute session before the outcome became clear when Anthony dropped from his previous best to a 1’19.359” and then a sub lap record 1’18.884” on his final lap. Graham had no answer to that and had to be content with a best of 1’22.542” to share the second row. Andy Robinson couldn’t get anywhere near, although he was third quickest ahead of a frustrated Vincent Dubois who found that the changes he had made to his 156 made it, in his own words “undriveable, even on the straights” where it dived about under power and took all his concentration to keep it on the road. A re-think was obviously required! In the Power Trophy, Ray Foley found that his 156 GTA had a bad misfire, possibly caused a timing issue (after the Magny Cours incident?) and sadly he decided to go home rather than cause any damage. This left Nick Anderson heading the class, 7th overall behind the two leading Twin Spark cars, but ahead of Keith Waite and Ron Davidson who, on a normal grid would have found themselves surrounded by the Twin Spark field. Matt Abell was disappointed with the handling of his 33 on slicks, saying that it felt like “jelly”!
James Bishop made a pretty dominant return although at one point it looked as though either Tom Hill or James Ford might beat him to the TS pole. In the end though, there was no disputing JB’s time (1’ 31.254” – another sub record lap) but in view of what we learned later about relative power outputs, Tom Hill’s best time of 1’31.562” for second with 20 bhp less than his rival was outstanding. Sadly, though, Tom would have a four place grid penalty following the 2 points he received on his licence at Oulton. For someone making his first visit to the Snetterton 200 circuit, Dave Messenger’s fourth in class ahead of Andy Hancock was impressive, both drivers in the 1’32s. Close enough to present a challenge if they could both get off the line well , Tim Perry and Steve Potts were next in line and there was a very evenly matched three car group just behind consisting of Stacey Dennis, Richard Stevens and Andy Inman. It was good to see that Andrew Bourke was up to racing speed with his GTV but Paul Webster would be a non starter. With qualifying over by 11.50 there seemed a long afternoon ahead although the BRSCC were able to bring forward the races a little so that our cars were on the grid just before 4.30 but for many the gap was filled by their visit to the power test. It was also one of the nicest weather days I can recall at Snetterton for a while which helped. I eventually made my way to the commentary box to join Scott Woodwiss while Downforce Radio’s Adam Johnson would commentate enthusiastically outside, from the top of the stairs. “Motor racing is like a rock show” he writes on the Downforce website “Fast, loud and little bit out of control!”.
After much discussion with Louise West and Charlotte Smith, Matt Abell decided to run his 33 on intermediates and also to start from the pitlane. As the red lights went out, it was Graham Seager who made the best getaway in the Modified/Power Trophy group with Vincent Dubois also in contention but by the time they got to the entry to Riches, the slower starting Anthony George had powered his way to the front with Graham, Vincent Dubois and Andy Robinson in pursuit. The fast starting Twin Spark Cup cars had quickly closed the gap to Power Trophy cars ahead, James Bishop taking the inside line at Riches, followed by Dave Messenger as James Ford ran slightly wide. They were all on the tail of Ron Davidson’s 164 as they approached the Montreal Hairpin and we had what could have turned into a disaster as James Bishop and Ron Davidson touched, Dave Messenger was on the inside as both James and a sideways 164 came across the track where it was hit hard by Dave’s 156 which then spun onto the grass while Ron speared off in the other direction. Somehow, luck was with us as James Bishop carried on with almost no delay while Dave and Ron were relegated to the back of the field. Is there maybe a case to rethink our start procedure now that the Twin Spark and Power Trophy are so evenly matched on lap times?
Whatever, lap 1 ended with Anthony George 1.3” clear of Graham Seager with Vincent Dubois managing to hold on just clear of Andy Robinson. Lying 5th overall, Nick Anderson was in front of Keith Waite in the Power Trophy. James Bishop, his car showing damage from the lap 1 incident, was the leading Twin Spark but about to be passed by a flying James Ford. Tom Hill was already up to third in class having passed Andy Hancock while Richard Stevens and Steve Potts were engaged in their own lively battle with Tim Perry trying to close the gap. As the race progressed, Anthony George pulled away gradually from Graham Seager with Vincent Dubois doing better than he expected, charging along only 3.5” behind Graham at the end of lap 4. Andy Robinson, however, had had a spin and was soon to retire the 156 when his water temperature went sky high. Nick Anderson had also retired with a broken throttle cable just as he was about to become embroiled in the Twin Spark lead battle, still being led – just – by James Bishop. Keith Waite had dropped behind Tom Hill and Andy Hancock, but had started an enjoyable race with Andy which was to last the whole race, while not being left behind was a battling trio of Richard Stevens, Tim Perry and Steve Potts. Dave Messenger had recovered somewhat from his first lap delay, moving ahead of Stacey Dennis on lap 3 but Stacey held on well to the red, white and green 156 before running wide and spinning on the exit of Riches. Thereafter, she seemed to have trouble selecting gears and would eventually retire with a broken clutch. Andy Inman was Dave’s next target, passing him on lap 5 before tackling James Browning’s 147. On lap 4, James Ford took over the TS lead and edged away but James Bishop never gave up and would only be 2.3” adrift at the flag.
Entering the second third of the race (on lap 6) Anthony George was still only 4” clear of the chasing Graham Seager but Vincent Dubois had given up the unequal struggle with his evil handling car and was driving for a podium finish. Keith Waite led the Power Trophy unopposed, 10th overall, the 75 V6 engine sounding as glorious as ever. Behind Keith there was now a splendid group involving Andy Hancock, Steve Potts, Tim Perry and Richard Stevens, with Dave Messenger homing in on Richard. This would go to the finish although Dave Messenger dropped back before the flag but Andy was keen to get past the big 75 which he would manage on the final lap to finish 7th overall and 4th in class.
The sight of Anthony George lapping the field, particularly flashing between a couple of Twin Spark cars on the way to Riches kept us all entertained but he never had a clear enough track to set a new lap record, or match his qualifying time, his fastest lap being a 1’20.342”. By the time the flag came out he had a 22” lead over Graham Seager and had lapped third placed Vincent Dubois. Unusually, the top three in the Twin Spark Cup were well spread out, 12” covering James Ford, happy to take his first win of the year, James Bishop and Tom Hill. The TS field was completed by James Browning, Andy Inman, Andrew Bourke and Jeremy Chilton. Matt Abell and Ron Davidson both finished the race but neither very happy with the outcome. Ron had some damage to contemplate on the 164 and Matt was disappointed not to be quicker.
The damage to Dave Messenger’s 156 might have deterred lesser teams but there was one of those splendid “spirit of the championship” efforts when help was forthcoming from around the paddock to get the car into a raceable condition for Sunday. When I got back to the paddock on Sunday morning, only the ripples in the nearside front wing would have told you that it had been in a hefty “traffic” accident. Ron Davidson’s 164 had suffered a damaged A pillar which was making the driver’s door difficult to close but it was deemed raceworthy by the Bianco team. Andy Inman had suffered a misfire in race one, so a replacement ignition pack was borrowed from Paul Webster’s car which seemed to be successful. Kevin Evans had told Andy Robinson to let his 156’s engine cool down completely before filling it with water again, the suspicion being that the filler cap had not been tightened properly before the race. When it was eventually fired up again, all seemed well, much to the relief of Andy who was looking unhappy at the pound signs for another engine rebuild! Louise West had sourced a replacement throttle cable for Nick Anderson’s 33.
Race 1 Results
|Power Trophy||Keith Waite|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Ford|
From the lovely sunny day on Saturday, the weather had completely changed with heavy rain overnight and the likelihood that we should be racing on a wet track which would necessitate two green flag laps. An immediate casualty was Tom Hill whose ignition switch failed and he pulled off on the inside at Riches which resulted in a slightly delayed start while the car was removed. Nick Anderson apart – the Power Trophy contenders (Keith Waite, Matt Abell and Ron Davidson) had decided to start in a queue from the pit road. The race had also been reduced from twenty to eighteen minutes. This time, Anthony George was even slower off the line but by Montreal he had already slipped ahead although in second place this time was the irrepressible Vincent Dubois ahead of Graham Seager, Andy Robinson was up into fourth place with Nick Anderson running strongly in 5th. In the Twin Spark Cup James Bishop was making no mistake this time and was already 1.5” clear of James Ford with Andy Hancock lying a handy third. Dave Messenger had thrown up his hands in frustration as a muffed change from first to second had momentarily delayed his progress off the grid, the gearchange seeming to give him some problems throughout the race.
Vincent Dubois was finding his 156 easier to drive in the wet as he was never pushing it as hard as he had in the dry and was able to pull out a 4.5” gap over Graham Seager by the end of lap 4 and keep within 3” of Anthony George up ahead. Andy Robinson was running smoothly in fourth place ahead of Power Trophy leader Nick Anderson while James Bishop had shown his class by pulling away to a 9” lead over James Ford while a couple of seconds further back, Andy Hancock was being pushed hard by Tim Perry. Lap 5 brought out a Safety Car as Ron Davidson had stopped at the Esses but it was a short lived interruption as the orange 164 was quickly removed and racing resumed on lap 6. Anthony George was not pulling away from Vincent Dubois to begin with but Graham Seager, having taken advantage of the Safety Car, was now in a position to challenge the silver 156, only to lose the GTV under braking for Montreal and spinning on lap 8.
This also delayed Nick Anderson who found himself on the grass but was happily able to resume but not before he had been passed by James Bishop. James Ford was on his own in second place in the Twin Spark Cup but there were two battles keeping us entertained – Dave Messenger v Richard Stevens and Andy Hancock v Tim Perry. Richard seemed to lose out at Montreal with a lack of grip while Andy had the misfortune to have a nearside rear tyre pull off the rim at Riches, depositing him on the gravel, happily without hitting anything, with a lap to go although he was mightily frustrated to have lost a good result through something that was not his fault.
With 11 laps completed, Anthony George crossed the line to take his second win of the weekend, 10.67” clear of a happier Vincent Dubois. Andy Robinson was relieved to finish on the podium, the overheating problem having not recurred, while Nick Anderson made it back past James Bishop into fourth place, taking the Power Trophy in the process. James was a comfortable Twin Spark winner, 6.2” clear of James Ford with Tim Perry – “I seem to go well in the rain” – completing the class podium and taking 7th overall. Graham Seager had appeared at the tail of the field after his spin, much to our relief, and worked his way back to 8th place. Dave Messenger managed to stay ahead of Richard Stevens by the flag to take 4th in TS with Richard having his best result so far in 5th place with the 145 although he had James Browning’s 147 right on his tail at the end. Keith Waite had managed to get himself up to 12th overall by the end ahead of Stacey Dennis, happy to finish in the points, Steve Potts who had had an “off” early on, Matt Abell and Jeremy Chilton.
Alfashop’s Philip Clay had excused himself from the prize giving as he wanted to take his family to the low level Vulcan flypast at Norwich Airport, part of the aircraft’s last ever flying season – sad! However, we were lucky to have Tom Hill’s mother Linda to take over the role for the double presentation after the second race. It was good to see full podiums for each class and with different winners featuring each day in the Power Trophy and Twin Spark Cup. The Grove & Dean Motorsport Insurance Driver of the Weekend award was presented by Andy Hancock to Richard Stevens.
Race 2 Results
|Power Trophy||Nick Anderson|
|Twin Spark Cup||James Bishop|
The Snetterton results took James Bishop back to the top of the overall points table with 124 points, Dave Messenger moving into second place with 101 – a Twin Spark Cup 1-2 at the moment. Graham Seager (97 points) has moved into third place and now leads the Modified class from Andy Robinson. Ray Foley has kept his Power Trophy lead from Nick Anderson and Keith Waite.
The next two rounds are at Cadwell Park and at the time of writing we already had 23 entries. The maximum grid size is 28, so if you are planning to race and have not already confirmed your entry I would urge you to do so as soon as possible. The BRSCC’s provisional timetable for the meeting also looks very user-friendly as far as we are concerned, despite the presence of a “million” Mazdas who dominate the weekend’s proceedings. At least we offer something different to look at!
Downforce Radio Coverage
Listen to commentary of race 1 on downforce radio featuring a very enthusiastic commentator! Skip to around 143 minutes for the start of the Alfa race.