After a six week break since the last meeting, the Castle Combe Racing Club Championships regrouped as part of the BRSCC’s action packed weekender meeting. The weekend would see a varied a mix of racing as you are likely to see at any UK race meeting, from the classic Austin A35s of the HRDC Academy to the mega horsepower menacing machines of the Dunlop TVR Challenge. The timetable offers something for everyone; single seaters, sports racers, classic saloons, and one make series for Porsches, TVRs, BMW Compacts and VW Golfs.
With the local championships all slated to do battle on the Saturday, a cool morning dawned under a heavy cover of cloud with moisture in the air. No doubt this was a relief to many given the recent heatwave, which had it continued, would have no doubt tested engine cooling systems and tyres to the maximum. No rain was forecast but we all know that means nothing given Combe’s own micro climate!
GT CHAMPIONSHIP – Round 4 Qualifying
A healthier quantum of GT cars took to the circuit for their early morning qualifying session, made up of some returning regulars and a couple of value hunters racing elsewhere on the program, looking to maximise their ‘smiles-per-mile’ ratio for the weekend.
Fastest laps were being traded early in the session between the ‘David and Goliath’ pairing of Tony Bennet and Barry Squibb; with David being Bennett’s waif like Caterham and Goliath taking the form of Squibb’s imposing Mitsubishi Evo. Teething troubles for Chris Southcott’s MG Midget continued following its engine transplant, pulling into the pits before the first lap could be chalked up. Oliver Bull had his Tigra silhouette looking very racy indeed and set the second fastest lap behind Squibb, while Bradley John slotted in behind Bull, relegating Bennett further down the timesheets. Southcott’s Midget made a fashionably late arrival to the party, and with Gremlins seemingly banished, clocked up a lap time good enough to secure P3. Ilsa Cox set the best of the class D times just pipping rival Chris Vinall to P6, however returned to the paddock prematurely, leaving her rivals wondering if she’d be able to take advantage of her premium grid position come race time.
Squibb’s best lap remained unbeaten for pole, despite Oliver Bull’s best efforts who joined him on the front row. Southcott and John lined up behind in P3 & 4 respectively, with Tony Bennett joining Ilsa Cox on the third row.
GT CHAMPIONSHIP – Round 4 Race
The grid formed up for the GT Race, refreshingly for this championship with not a single vacant grid box to be seen. While the temperatures hadn’t increased from their early qualifying session, the cloud cover was still heavy but conditions were thankfully dry. Sadly, the full complement of runners and riders began to wain right from the get-go, with Adam Prebble’s miserable season continuing, pulling his time-served Rover Tomcat off the circuit on the green flag lap. Tim Woodman would only fair slightly better, managing to complete the first lap of the race before retiring his Caterham, closely followed by the demise of Tony Hutchings’ Audi TT.
The rolling start got underway without incident, staying largely in formation. Squibb appeared at the end of the lap in the lead but with Chris Southcott’s Midget in close contention, the leading pair pulling an early gap over Oliver Bull in 3rd. Bull’s Tigra came under a successful attack from the Evo of Bradley John while a close 3-way battle for 5th was commencing between Tony Bennett (Caterham), Steve Hall (Audi TT silhouette) and the stunning, freshly rebuilt Audi R8 of Keith Murray.
Ilsa Cox made a good start and put the Ginetta of Bob Higgins between herself and rival Chris Vinall to protect her class D lead.
Despite the low slung MG of Southcott’s keeping itself fairly large in the Evo’s mirror in the corners, Barry Squibb was able to use his power advantage on the straights to protect the lead. By the midway point, the back markers had helped Squibb stretch out a more reassuring gap over Southcott, with John’s 3rd placed black Evo similarly pulling away from Bull. Chris Vinall made a move on Bob Higgins and wasted no time in chasing down Cox, and was rewarded with the class D lead on the eleventh tour of the circuit.
By the closing stages, the top six were all spread apart sufficiently and looking like a processional finish - but that would be far too dull for the GT Championship! Squibb’s lead became significantly more comfortable with the sudden slowing of Southcott, the mighty Midget limping sorrowfully down the pitlane. The comfort was fleeting however with an equally dramatic loss of forward momentum for the leading Evo, Squibb retiring onto the grass on the approach to Quarry. Prior to these dramas, Bradley John could barely see the leading pair on his horizon, yet just a couple of laps later, he took the chequered flag for the win. The celebratory champagne had to stay on ice however, as John had incurred 15 seconds of track limits penalties in the course of the race. Fortunately for the Evo driver, his lead over 2nd place Oliver Bull was sufficient to keep his hand firmly on the winner’s trophy. Steve Hall took the final podium step, the only one of the trio of Audis to finish with both Hutchings and Murray only able to leave the circuit with the aid of the recovery vehicles.
Vinall won the battle of the SEATS in 4th, even managing to put Tony Bennett’s Caterham between himself and rival Ilsa Cox in 6th.
Michael Harris took class E honours in giant killing style, putting both the SEAT of Carleton Williams and the Ferrari of David Hathaway between his plucky Peugeot and nearest class challengers.
Not only did Bradley John inherit the race win, he also now assumes top spot in the championship standings. Bob Higgins and David Hathaway share second place, trailing John by just two points thanks to the pair both chalking up four solid finishes from 4 race starts. Tony Hutchings’ retirement has allowed Chris Vinall to pull up level for the joint class D lead while they also share the 3rd overall spot with Oliver Bull.
The respective workshops of the GT campaigners will no doubt be hives of activity for the immediate future with the next three rounds occurring in the space of just five weeks!Posted by Neil Thomas on Thursday 20 July 2017
at Castle Combe Circuit
22 April 2019