A return to the Championship’s roots at Snetterton is always looked forward to by competitors and was helped this year by a £100 discount on the entry fee offered by ARCA out of this year’s sponsorship income.
The result was a far better entry than we had at Rockingham a month ago although we are still missing cars in the Modified class, Graham Seager once again being the only entry. By comparison the Power Trophy had suddenly come to life with four cars down to run. Ron Davidson’s re-engined orange 164 was eagerly awaited and a dyno run had shown it to have 236 bhp at the wheels to balance the fact that it is a heavy car.
Ian Brookfield was having another run in his black and yellow 155 V6 and was hoping that he had cured the chronic lack of power that had given him such a miserable time at Silverstone back in April. A quick run on trade plates near to Peter Smart’s workshop had given him cause to be optimistic. Joanne Eastwood was on hand with some more computer cut graphics to continue the task of making the car look more like a racer! We knew that Paul Webster had bought the 156 GTA last raced by Clive Hodgkin at Croft in 2015 and we were eager to see Paul racing it. Earlier in the year he had been cautious about when that might be so we were pleased to see his entry pop up in the Power Trophy for Snetterton. Richard Drake had checked over the engine and was on hand to offer his support. The fourth entry in the class was Paul Plant in a 156 3 litre. “Not a GTA” he assured me “just the old ex Gareth Haywood/Ian Fisher car fitted with a bog standard engine”, all his other cars requiring a measure of re-assembly! This was probably a relief for leading championship contenders Andrew Bourke and Tom Hill who wouldn’t have to contend with Paul’s love of winning in the Twin Spark Cup.
Andrew and Tom had shared wins at Rockingham but were both hoping to outdo the other with a double this time. Tom’s weekend didn’t get off to too good a start during testing when his alternator packed up during Friday testing. A replacement was fitted in double quick time by Bianco which allowed Tom to complete the last session of the day without further problems. Andrew didn’t test and his usual laid-back late arrival on Saturday gave no hint of how quick he would be during the weekend. Another late’ish arrival on Saturday was Dave Messenger but we had kept plenty of paddock space for him this time so that he was not parked too far from his allotted garage. It was good to see Gethin Llewellyn back with his Horley Motor Services Bianco assisted 156 joining Jeremy Chilton who had missed Rockingham but had benefitted from some Bianco t.l.c in the meantime. That had revealed various things that it was hoped would bring Jeremy nearer to the mid field bunch. Mike Tydeman, Simon Cresswell and Richard Ford completed the Bianco line-up the impressive Bianco line-up, much commented on by various luminaries who saw it as the first item of note as they arrived in the lower paddock. Completing the Twin Spark entry were Andy Inman’s purple 156, tended by Peak Alfa and the two 916 Spiders of Nick Anderson and Louise West.
This was the first time that we had seen Nick’s yellow car this season although it had competed at the end of 2016 and been the “star” of the ARCA stand at the Autosport Show. Louise’s though was totally new to us. After temporarily abandoning her modified 33 (supercharger too small!) Louise and Charlotte Smith had prepared the silver Spider which had originally been donated by Nick. As ever, the presentation was immaculate but for good measure they asked the scrutineers to give it a good inspection to see if there were things they had overlooked. It came through the process with a welcome clean sheet. A last minute Twin Spark entry (4pm on Friday afternoon!) was John Griffiths with his black 147.
We were very pleased to see the McFie brothers, Chris and Simon, back with their Puntos, although there was a change in the cars they were to drive. Chris had his familiar silver Abarth, now with rebuilt gearbox, but Simon’s HGT had been sold and replaced by a second Abarth. This was the well known ex Alastair Kellett car although we wouldn’t have known it as it was now white instead of the previous metallic blue. Not that it will stay that colour as plans are afoot for it to go to the paintshop to match the other team car, as the HGT had done. The allocation of four pit garages meant that several cars were undercover should the weather deteriorate, the choice of who would benfit was made easier by Bianco parking their truck, plus marquee in the area we had been given on the Murrays end of the pits, being joined there by the McFies.
Scrutineering seemed to be problem free so it was the weather that became the next concern with drizzle around in the morning. Happily it relented in time for the track to be drying well for qualifying (as last year we were using the 300 circuit) although Graham Seager and Paul Webster both considered wets might be the best tyre choice to avoid any risk. The 20 minute session got underway at 12.55 with Tom Hill emerging first as usual to take advantage of a clear track. That the circuit was still slippery was shown by the lap times which remained well off a dry pace until right at the end of the session. A red flag appeared at the end of lap 3, Simon Cresswell having stopped in a dangerous position near the Wilson Hairpin with a clutch problem. By the time the 156 had been towed behind the barriers, only just over 6 minutes remained but that was enough for most people to make their final lap their best although the times themselves were fairly irrelevant. As expected, Graham Seager took an unchallenged pole with a lap in 2’15.530 (well off the Alfa lap record) and would be joined on the front row of the Modified/Power Trophy/Invitation group by Paul Plant. Third quickest and best of the Twin Sparks by a wide margin was Tom Hill ahead of Andrew Bourke, a happy Gethin Llewellyn and Dave Messenger. Ron Davidson, Simon McFie and Ian Brookfield would make up the front starting group plus Chris McFie who had only managed 2 laps before a clip on his gearchange cable dislodged itself, leaving him unable to select the right gears.
Amongst the Twin Sparks, Richard Ford would be on the third row, alongside Dave Messenger while Mike Tydeman and Nick Anderson occupied row 4, Nick enjoying the improved competiveness of his Spider. The grid was made up by Jeremy Chilton, Simon Cresswell, Andy Inman, Louise West and John Griffiths. Jeremy felt that his 156 was definitely running better but Louise was handicapped by having to hold her Spider in gear – not the best way to go racing but at least she had completed the session.
There was now a long wait until the first of our two races which was due to start at 5.30 but at least Harry White was kept busy (when he is ever not?) fitting a new clutch for Simon Cresswell and Chris McFie had his gearchange to sort out. Joy Fairy and Linda Robinson had set up a tea. coffee and biscuits area that proved a welcome focal point for many competitors and passing friends. On track, the endless Mazdas seemed to be producing some great entertainment if the enthusiastic commentary of Jake Sanson on the pit wall was anything to go by. Finally, I made my way to the commentary box where I was surprised to find John Ward who was Competitions Manager at the BRSCC before becoming circuit manager at Mallory Park while it was in the stewardship of the BARC. Much nostalgia and chat about Jake’s recent visit to Pau as official FIA Formula 3 website streaming commentator (hilarious!) ensued before the Alfa Championship field lined up below us. Absent initially were Paul Webster and Chris McFie who finally arrived to start from the pit lane. It was a cloudy late afternoon but at least the track was dry.
As the red lights went out, it was Paul Plant who eased his 156 away ahead of Graham Seager’s GTV ,the white Punto of Simon McFie and Ron Davidson’s 164 with Ian Brookfield quickly losing ground. Jonathan Palmer, heeding some starting light failures of late, had obviously authorised the purchase of a large new Union Jack and no one could missed it when it was waved for the Twin Sparks 10” later! Tom Hill didn’t make a jack-rabbit start but was still ahead as the TSC cars exited Riches while Andrew Bourke, Dave Messenger and Gethin Llewellyn went three abreast. On the short straight to the re-named Wilson Hairpin Dave found himself in second place with Andrew and Gethin fighting it out side-by-side in front of Mike Tydeman, Richard Ford and Simon Cresswell. There seemed to be some kind of order before Palmer but Andrew Bourke was obviously keen to get ahead of Dave Messenger and go in pursuit of Tom Hill. However, he had to wait until Coram before he could take the place. Through Murrays Dave Messenger was now followed by Richard Ford, Gethin Llewellyn, Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman in close order.
Up ahead, Paul Plant had managed to hold onto the race lead but it was only going to be a matter of time before Graham Seager surged to the front which he did on lap 2. Ron Davidson was revelling in the extra power available in the 164 and overtook Simon McFie’s Punto while Ian Brookfield has already been caught by the Twin Spark leader, Tom Hill. Further back, Chris McFie was making faster progress through the field than Paul Webster at this stage, getting ahead of a lively battle that was going on between Andy Inman, Jeremy Chilton and Nick Anderson. All through lap 2, Richard Ford was demonstrating his intention of trying to get past Dave Messenger. It looked as though he had managed it going into Brundle but Dave Messenger just snatched back the initiative and Richard had to start all over again. At Agostini on lap 3, Simon Cresswell went into the corner a little too deep and tapped the rear quarter of Gethin Llewellyn but both cars continued without changing places. At Murrays, Richard Ford was again almost in Dave Messenger’s boot. He had enough momentum to get ahead briefly at Riches at the start of lap 4 but by Palmer Dave had re-asserted himself. Richard had Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman just behind, Chris McFie having caught up and no doubt wondering how to get through this lot!
At the head of the field, Graham Seager had eased away from Paul Plant without exerting himself too much, so that by the end of lap 5, the gap was 8.9”. Lying a comfortable 3rd, Ron Davidson was 6” clear of Simon McFie. Leading the Twin Sparks, Tom Hill was managing a 4” gap to Andrew Bourke while Richard Ford had found himself in a Power Trophy sandwich having caught Ian Brookfield and being caught by Paul Webster. Paul was ahead of both Ian and Richard by Piquet (the Esses to you and me) but then slid off onto the grass, throwing a dust cloud as he regained the track behind Ian who had been wondering if the GTA was going to come across the track in front of him. By the end of the lap Paul had recovered his momentum and was about to re-pass the 155 and continue his chase of the Power Trophy cars of Ron Davidson and Simon McFie although he still had to pass Andrew Bourke and Tom Hill on the way. Further back, a lot of entertainment was still being provided by Andy Inman, Jeremy Chilton – having his best ever race in most peoples’ opinion – and Nick Anderson.
It became clear with under 5 minutes still to go that Ron Davidson’s 164 was slowing and there was a good chance that Simon McFie would catch him for third place overall before the end of the race. At the end of lap 7 ( of the eventual 9) Ron had to give way on the pit straight, his loss of power later being traced to a spark plug problem. Paul Plant, still running 2nd, had been suffering from fairly severe brake problems and had a “big save” at Murrays with a lap to go, immediately pulling into the pits to retire. This brought Simon McFie into 2nd place and Ron Davidson back onto the podium although he was so nearly caught by Paul Webster before the flag after a charging drive that Clive Hodgkin would have been proud of. At the same time, we were watching Andrew Bourke’s efforts to claw his way onto the tail of Tom Hill, lapping faster over the last four laps to the point where he set the fastest TSC lap of the race right at the end (1’ 22.818” against Tom’s best of 1’23.607”), eventually coming home just 2.2” adrift. Meanwhile Ian Brookfield and Richard Ford were continuing their battle for 7th place with Simon Cresswell sitting just behind. The extra power of Ian’s 155 was enough to take him away from Richard on the straights, only to lose out in the corners, leaving Richard frustrated and arm waving. Welcome to the world of multi-class racing! On the final lap, Simon Cresswell found a way past Richard but there wasn’t enough time to challenge Ian and the three cars crossed the line separated by just 1.5”. Mike Tydeman was nearly caught for 5th Twin Spark by the race-long battle behind which ended with a delighted Nick Anderson heading home Andy Inman and Jeremy Chilton. John Griffiths and Louise West (still holding her car in gear) completed the finishers. Graham Seager had crossed the line with a 49” advantage over Simon McFie, the supercharged GTV once again giving him a trouble free run.
Race 1 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
Our race would be the first after the lunch break and we were pleased to see 18 of the original 19 cars in the assembly area, only Gethin Llewellyn’s 156 being missing. Nobody would be starting from the pit road this time. Lights out and it was Simon McFie in the white Punto that was quickest away but it didn’t take the 156s and Graham Seager’s GTV long to get up to speed but to everyone’s surprise (and probably his own!) it was Paul Webster who led the way through Riches and all the way to the Bentley Straight where Graham Seager moved to the front. But Paul now had to keep his eyes on Paul Plant who was clearly eager to get ahead.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on the Twin Sparks where Andrew Bourke made a fractionally better start but had Tom Hill trying to pass him on the inside line at Riches. Crucially, Andrew managed to get his nose in front. Simon Cresswell had slipped past Richard Ford at Riches and for him too this was an important moment in the race. At the end of the first lap Graham Seager crossed the line 1.14” clear of Paul Webster with Paul Plant 1.7” further back while the two McFie Puntos occupied 4th and 5th places ahead of Ron Davidson with Ian Brookfield a lonely 7th but still well clear of the pursuing Twin Sparks where Andrew Bourke just led Tom Hill, Simon Cresswell and Richard Ford. Mid field, it was Andy Inman heading Mike Tydeman and Dave Messenger. At Oggies, Paul Plant managed to move past Paul Webster but from then on it was a game of cat and mouse between the two of them, power versus bravery perhaps as occasionally it looked as though the silver GTA would get past on the Bentley Straight only to lose out under braking into Brundle.
Mind you, it looked as though the Paul Plant was not totally confident in his stopping ability as the brake lights showed a confidence dab before the braking area proper on occasions. The race at the head of the Twin Sparks continued to be close and hard fought, Tom Hill never giving up the challenge. When the leading quartet came up behind Ian Brookfield’s 155 on lap 4 Ian politely got out of the way, much to the relief of Richard Ford! Ron Davidson’s 164 was overheating and on lap 4 he spun on his own oil at Oggies just ahead of the Twin Spark leaders, giving Andrew Bourke a momentary breather but Tom Hill quickly close the gap again. Richard Ford, looking very calm at the wheel this time, hadn’t given up on the idea of passing Simon Cresswell either although a “moment” at Wilson nearly caught him out.
It seemed as though Paul Webster had worked out that the only way he was going to pass Paul Plant was to get a quicker run than his rival out of Murrays. On lap 8 he was perfectly placed and led Paul P. across the line and into the final lap. At Agostini they came across Louise West who helpfully kept out of the way in her Spider. Down the Bentley Straight and into Brundle the GTA stayed ahead but the black 156 was closing as they came through Coram and Paul Plant made a “do or die” lunge down the inside to grab the place and cross the finishing line just 0.386” ahead. Graham Seager meanwhile had motored serenely on but never had to push hard, taking the flag just 10” clear of the battling 156s. Chris McFie’s Punto finished 4th overall but there was last lap drama for brother Simon, who had been running just behind him all the way, when his bonnet flew up, cracked the windscreen and totally obscured his view.
As it was the final lap Simon took the decision to try to reach the finish line before pulling off before Riches. Tom Hill had been sitting right on Andrew Bourke’s bumper for the last few laps of the race but it was Andrew who just outdragged him to the line, to take his 5th win of the year by a mere 0.385” after another fine and well judged race. Simon Cresswell had Richard Ford just as close but held on to another 3rd place.
10th car home was Ian Brookfield’s 155 that had just managed to keep ahead of the pursuing Mike Tydeman after a last lap incident at Murrays, Mike being the 5th Twin Spark home ahead of Dave Messenger, troubled by a diff problem after his retirement the previous day,Andy Inman, Jeremy Chilton and Nick Anderson. John Griffiths and Louise West completed the finishers. Graham Seager had improved on his fastest lap with a 2’12.934” while Paul Webster had set a new Power Trophy lap record with 2’15.902”. This time the fastest Twin Spark lap was that of Tom Hill (1’23.037”) negating he one point gained by Andrew Bourke on Saturday. In the pit lane after the race there was a “hug-in” between the Pauls, Plant and Webster, who had thoroughly enjoyed their battle and let’s hope we have more of that in the future.
Race 2 Results
|Twin Spark Cup
The trophies were presented afterwards by Diana Lindsay and Paul Webster was a very popular winner of the Grove and Dean “Driver of the Weekend” award. Our thanks go to Linda Stearn and her team from the BRSCC East Anglian Section for organising another smoothly run meeting, and to the hard working marshals some of whom had resisted the chance to marshal during the Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone. Andy Robinson had another busy couple of days as “On-the-day” Co-ordinator, many thanks Andy! We were pleased to see our busy webmaster Matt Daly, Graham Heels, Sarah Heels and Martin Jones, Philip Clay from Alfashop, Gary and Nicky Orchard and several AROC East Anglian Section members during the weekend. It was good to back after our holiday and Diana and I certainly plan be at Brands Hatch, Mallory and Donington. Brands comes next, on Sunday August 13th when MSVR will be running their second Festival Italia, sponsored this year by Abarth, which we hope will be another successful day and well supported day for Italian car enthusiasts.
The Championship is still led by Andrew Bourke from Tom Hill (once dropped scores are taken into consideration) and only Tom’s pole position on Saturday made any difference to the points gap. Simon Cresswell and Mike Tydeman retain their respective positions while Graham Seager and Ian Brookfield lead the Modified and Power Trophy classes respectively.
I should like to thank those who provided in-car videos – Ian Brookfield, Richard Ford, Paul Webster and Dave Messenger – plus Matt Daly for his on circuit footage. You all made writing this report so much easier.
Dropped scores are now in effect