Race report for Castle Combe sprint race 15/16 JulyPosted on: July 28th 2017 • Posted in: Race Results
Saturday morning dawned breezy over the fast, open Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire for Sports 2000 as they joined the BRSCC Club Weekend for a Saturday sprint and mini enduro on Sunday. With 27 cars taking part in the sprint and 15 opt-ing to stay overnight and race in the enduro, there was guaranteed action on track – and Combe didn’t disappoint.
Saturday morning’s driver briefing made clear the usual Castle Combe rules about track limits in the chicanes, although that didn’t stop more than one driver falling foul of the rules and being hit with penalties over the weekend. As well as managing the track, the Duratec power and aero advantage would make traffic manage-ment crucial for success over the weekend. With 27 cars lined up in the assembly area, the track went green for qualifying under an over-cast sky at 10:45 on Saturday.
In Duratec, it was up to Tom Stoten and Nick Bacon in their Gunn TS11s to stop an MCR benefit, with nine massed up and counting 2016 Duratec champion Michael Gibbins amongst the drivers. More chassis diversity in Pinto made the results less predictable, and a few drivers were so new to the circuit that they were just using this session to work out where the track went.
Tim Tudor and his merry band of students from University of Wales Trinity St David had made the trip from Swansea earlier that morning having tested in the week – Tim put his right foot where his confidence was, and immediately looked ag-gressive through the technical Quarry corner, followed by a fast-arriving Michael Gib-bins who spent most of the right-hand Quarry with left lock on.
Damien Griffin’s Lola was initially hesitant to start in the paddock, but once run-ning he quickly got to the pointy end of the Pintos. As the drivers got back into the groove, times kept falling and the very tail of the session saw a flurry of best times in both classes.
Tom Stoten’s effort on Lap 6, a 1:07:542, ended up being just strong enough for pole as two other laps were discounted for track limits. He beat Michael Gibbins by 0.031 seconds, with David Houghton a further two tenths back and Tim Tudor fourth, not quite breaking through the 1:08 barrier.
Tim later remarked that “with this traffic, you can’t really be strategic about fast laps because you never know where the gaps are – you just have to go for it every time”. Pole man Stoten echoed that, saying the Duratec advantages took some get-ting used to: “you see a guy far off and think it’s fine but we’re so quick around here that you’re on him by the next corner”.
Geoff Tremblet led the Derek Bell classification for what the circuit commentary decided to call “the more venerable drivers”, setting a 1:10.178, beating Peter Wil-liams’ 1:10.9 and Giles Billingsley’s 1:11.1. With six cars under the 1:10 mark and conditions forecast to improve later that day, hopes were high for a very fast race.
Having finally got his Lola started, Damien Griffin went about chasing fast laps and managed to bag pole in Pinto with a 1:11.992, actually beating Jon Owen’s Duratec Fox/Lola and managing to be the only Pinto under 1:12. Josh Law in his Shrike P15 was the next fastest Pinto, almost a second fur-ther back and minus a properly-connected front anti-roll bar – something he only discovered when he took the front bodywork off after the session!
A very rapid Jonathan Loader came next overall, eight tenths down on Law but comfortably the fastest Historic in his Tiga SC80. Mike Fry’s 1:14.2 was good enough for third fastest Pinto, and set up a battle between himself and Josh Law that would last the entire weekend. Colin Feyera-bend and Jeremy Knight filled out the top 3 His-torics, and Pinto A fast men Paul Streat, Richard Cooke and Chris Snowdon were
Saturday Sprint race:
The start of Race 1 was marred by a big startline incident. Michael Gibbins, starting on the front row, had been losing fluids on the formation lap and had no throttle as the lights went out – later diagnosed as a catastrophic failure in the fuel system. With the rest of the pack streaming past him on the run up Avon Rise, he was hit from behind by an unsighted Andreas Floth who could’ve done nothing to avoid him.
The red flags flew immediately as both drivers were taken for medical evalua-tion and their stricken cars removed from the circuit. Andreas’ suffered tub damage and Michael was to spend Saturday hunting around for rear suspension and ex-haust parts after being admonished by circuit medics for being “a shameful heart rate” apparently far too high for a young man – although he had just walked away from a major crash. Andreas was less fortunate, and was diagnosed as requiring surgery to his hand – everyone at Sports 2000 wishes you well, Andreas, and we hope see you back in a paddock before long.
On the restart, it was Tim Tudor who took the initiative and managed to get right alongside Tom Stoten’s pole-sitting Gunn, although he couldn’t make a move stick. Giles Billingsley found space and grip around the outside of Quarry and man-aged to cut back in before the first chicane.
A clean first lap had nose-to-tail racing for the lead of all classes. Nick Bacon was the man to watch, taking advantage of re-tirements ahead of him to close right up on Houghton, who himself was making inroads into Tudor as the student-run MCR seemed to have a developing handling problem, giv-ing Stoten in the Gunn breathing room out front. After the race, Tim described his ‘handling problem’ as what felt like suspen-sion, saying “it was pulling a bit but felt driveable so I decided to stay out – eventu-ally it got so bad I couldn’t hold it and had to come in”. And come in he did, where the team found the front right tyre had a huge split through the sidewall.
By Lap 6, Stoten had a 3 second lead from David Houghton, who was ten seconds up on Nick Bacon in the second Gunn as the leaders came to lap the tail of the field.
John Owen spun his Fox/Lola on the exit of Quarry, luckily heading towards the in-field rather than out across the racing line. No harm done, but it would put him at the back of Duratec. On the same lap, Ash Law was creeping up Avon Rise after his oil pressure exceeded comfortable limits – he pulled off almost exactly where Owen had been sat facing backwards moment previously.
Pinto pole man Griffin had been picking his way through the field after a poor restart and finally got back on terms with class leader Josh Law after a few laps spent tucked up underneath him. A neat move saw him through to take the lead, making the Pinto top three Griffin-Law-Streat. Streat then snuck past Law in the dying moments of the race. The Duratec race had settled in-to its rhythm, Stoten managing a 3-4 second gap through the traffic from the chasing Houghton and Nick Bacon, third and lonely with big gaps around him.
As they crossed the line, Tom Stoten in the Gunn TS11 took the win by 3.2 sec-onds over a very happy David Houghton in second and a cruisinng Nick Bacon in third. However, a five second penalty applied to Bacon for abuse of track limits actu-ally put him in fourth, 0.142 seconds behind Nick Bates in his MCR. “You slowed down too much!” True, in retrospect – “I knew the gaps – wouldn’t you have done too?” This fine result gave Nick Bates the Derek Bell trophy as well as third overall – Peter Williams and Giles Billingsley filled out the Derek Bell podium. Duratec B had only two finishers, Steve Watkins in the MCR beating Jonathan Owen in the Fox/Lola for eighth and ninth overall.
Damien Griffin survived a few hairy moments and grassy trips in the battles on the final laps to take tenth overall and be first Pinto home, just edging out Paul Streat by 0.179 seconds. Josh Law was the luckier brother, although a third place trophy doesn’t make up for the disappointment of Ash’s early retirement. Chris Snowdon beat Richard Cooke by two seconds to win Pinto A, the class fight split by Historic winner Colin Feyerabend’s Lola T492, leading Jeremy Knight and Charles Fogg in their Tigas.
Castle combe Saturday