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Combe Challenge Race Report

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The always eclectic Reis Motorsport Insurance Castle Combe GT Championship event featured a mouth-watering array of spectacular supercar machinery, and it was Lucky Kehra (McLaren GT3) who became the third different winner of the 2019 season by a staggering margin of over 20 seconds.

After missing the first of the May Bank Holiday events, round one victor Kevin Jones (Noble M12 RSR) wasted little time in outlining his intentions with an ominous qualifying time over half-a-second quicker than anybody else in the field.

Ultimately Jones would be undone be mechanical maladies that allowed Kehra to claim the race lead on the eleventh lap, before David Krayem (Chrysler Viper Oreca) moved ahead to second position, passing the ailing Noble before it succumbed to the side of the circuit on lap twelve.

2015 champion Oliver Bull’s diminutive Vauxhall Tigra Silhouette faced an early challenge from the spectacular Nissan GTR in the hands of Nigel Mustill, but in this instance it was David who beat Goliath with Bull additionally claiming the Class A silverware.

Keith Butcher (Audi R8 LMS) and Ilsa Cox (Seat Leon Cupra) rounded out the top six, with Cox’s effort sufficient for the reigning double-champion to be garlanded as the winner in Class D. Jamie Sturges’ TCR style VW Golf was one position further behind Cox in both the overall and class classification. Sturges’ run of three Class victories across the first two meetings means he sits at the top of the GT title fight currently.

Alan Hamilton (Westfield Race Aero) ran a solid race to finish eighth and claim Class B, ahead of Jordan Billinton’s monstrous Reiter Engineering constructed Lamborghini Gallardo GT3. Jeremy Cooke ran the lone BMW GT4 in this event, with the M3 rounding out the top ten order.

The GT Challenge event that ran subsequent to the championship race was beset by a rain shower, and it was former international single-seater competitor Craig Dolby (Nissan GTR) who simply decimated the field, lapping all other competitors to become the deserving winner of the £1000 prize money on offer for this debuting event.

A thirty-car Pro Alloys Castle Combe Saloon Championship entry stretched up to and beyond the exit of Camp corner, but at the head of the order the theme of Prebble domination that has been the hallmark of racing in 2019 was continued.

Adam (Vauxhall Astra) and Gary (Seat Leon) were separated by 0.892s at the culmination of fifteen frenetic laps, with former class-champion Simon Thornton-Norris (Mitsubishi Colt) and Alex Kite (Audi TT) a somewhat more distant third and fourth.

Despite grey, overcast skies, a staggering twenty-seven drivers (90% of the qualifying runners) made it to the chequered flag after fifteen laps of the close, competitive, and respectful racing that has become synonymous with Combe Saloon competition.

At the head of this display, it was Astra ahead of Leon, Adam ahead of Gary for the duration of the event. Although their lap-times were rarely separated by more than a tenth of a second, Adam’s third consecutive race victory never really seemed in doubt with another measured performance meaning that even at this early stage of the season he is positioned as firm favourite for the 2019 Saloons crown.

The fight for third between 2016/2017 champion Thornton-Norris and Kite was somewhat less simple, with Kite actually holding the position for the majority of the race. Thirteen would prove to be the bad luck omen it is renowned as, with this being the lap on which Kite’s grip on the third step of the rostrum ultimately slipped.

Dave Scaramanaga (VW Scirocco) shook off his own bad-luck to validate the pace of his VW Scirocco with fifth, with Christopher Rawlings (VW Golf GTi) rounding out the top six.

Matthew Parr (Peugeot 106 GTi) rebounded from the broken drive-shaft that curtailed his May Madness Race Day chances to be crowned Class C winner, with nearest rival Luke Harvey (Honda Civic) finishing tenth and Adrian Slade (Peugeot 106 GTi) struggling to break into the top ten, but finishing third in the class classification and twelfth overall.

Nick Mizen (Ford Fiesta) continued his unchallenged run in Class D, with Chris Hignell (Peugeot 106) and Mark Sutton (MG ZR) forming the class podium as the last three runners on the circuit at the end of the fifteen lap encounter.

The consistency of the form men in Classes A, B and D, namely Adam Prebble, Thornton-Norris and Mizen mean that the overall championship fight is even tighter than the frenetic on-track action. Prebble sits as king of the Saloons castle at present, a thirty-two point haul from the first three events only one greater than that which has been achieved by Mizen, whose own efforts amount to only one more point than Thornton-Norris has amassed. These three men have now signalled themselves as the favourites for their individual class titles, and the fight for overall honours now seems likely to be settled in favour of one from this trio. The question as we head to the July race-weekend, is who (if any of them) can make the break and assert themselves as the favourite for the 2019 championship trophy?

Chris Southcott (Peugeot 205) became the third different winner in the Samco Sports Hoses Castle Combe Hot Hatch Challenge, producing a simply crushing performance for the rest of the contenders. Southcott’s margin of victory was an emphatic thirty-nine seconds, after an unusually tame Hot Hatch Event.

From pole-position Southcott just drove away from the rest of the order, seemingly in perfect harmony with his 205. Joe Dorrington (Peugeot 205) would enjoy a somewhat livelier event than the imperious Southcott, taking four laps (a quarter of the overall duration) to climb from his grid-slot of fourth to the runners-up position that he would make his own at the end of the twenty minute event.

May Madness victor Sam Stride (Honda Civic) simply was unable to challenge for the gold medal on this occasion and found himself sixth after a poor start. He would fall as low as eleventh position before producing a display of fantastic race-craft to thrill the spectator banks. His ascent to third was both clean and swift, exuding class, and one of the best performances of the whole event.

Tony Cooper (Peugeot 106 GTi) finished fourth and at the head of Class B, with Sam Tompkins (Honda Civic), Mervyn Becket (Honda Civic Type-R) and Jon Peerless (Honda Civic Type R) ensuring a Japanese/Honda lock-out of the next portion of the top ten positions. Cooper and Tompkins produced one of the closest battles of the race in their contest for fourth, with Tomkins charging across the last few laps but to little avail.

Dave Spiller (Mini Cooper) ran a solid race to eighth whilst heading-up Class E and reasserting the ever-improving pace of the Mini machinery after Erling Jensen’s similarly motivated class success last time out.  His nearest challenger was Guy Parr in his similar

Mini Cooper – thirteenth overall – with Steve Bracegirdle third in class and sixteenth overall in his Mini. Tom Burles (Rover Metro) completed the class podiums, claiming victory in Class D where he ran as the sole entrant on this occasion.

With three different winners so far in 2019, the Hot Hatch challenge is once again proving to be one of the most entertaining and open national saloon competitions and is sure to produce more fantastic racing on The Big Weekend at the start of July.

Luke Cooper (Swift SC16) finally ended the Fisher-whitewash of race-victories in the Melksham Motor Spares Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship, and the reigning champion moved to the head of the title battle with a pair of hard-fought victories.

Josh Fisher (Van Diemen JL14) led sibling Felix (Ray GR05) away from pole-position in the opening salvo, trailed by Cooper, Neil Maclennan (Spectrum 011C) and 2006 champion Matt Rivett (Van Diemen RF91).

Quarry corner would prove to be the centre-point for the two key moves of the race, as Cooper utilised his storming pace through the final corner at Camp to carry greater momentum that his rivals through Avon Rise and up to Quarry. First on the fourth tour he pulled this quintessentially Combe move off to usurp Felix, before pulling an almost carbon copy move on race-leader and pole-sitter Josh two laps later.

Tom Hawkins (Ray GR11) and Chris Acton (Ray GR08) swapped positions throughout the tense ten lap encounter to produce the battle of the race, with Acton finally confirming himself in the top half-dozen on lap seven. 

Celebrating his 70th birthday was Bob Higgins (Firman 17) and he did so in some style, challenging inside the top ten during the early running with David Cobbold (Van Diemen RF89) contesting ninth. Higgins would ultimately fall to a respectable twelfth, with Cobbold making further forward progress to eighth and Class C victory. Sam Street (Swift SC18) and Paul Mason (Swift SC94) would round out the top ten order.

Whilst the battling throughout the top-ten thrilled the spectator banks, on the final tour the Fisher duo attracted the eyes of those trackside back to the front of the order. Felix emulated Cooper by charging into second ahead of Josh into Quarry before Josh successfully reasserted himself into the Esses as Cooper continued uninterrupted to the chequered flag. A slender two-second margin of victory disguised the 2018 champion’s most complete performance of 2019 and would prove to be portentous for the afternoon’s later race.

Maclennan ran a lonely fourth throughout the event, with Matt Rivett similarly static one position further back to win Class B. 

Race 2

The second event of the day would prove to be the more action-packed of the two encounters for this late May Bank Holiday event, with greasy conditions challenging the single-seater contingent upon their return to the circuit.

Cooper this time enjoyed the benefit of pole-position, but it was an advantage that would ultimately be squandered after a tardy getaway allowed Maclennan to wrestle himself into the race lead.  Felix Fisher similarly displaced sibling Josh initially to claim third, before attempting to pass Cooper at Tower, unsuccessfully, later in the lap.

On the third lap Cooper reclaimed the lead as Chris Acton exited the action at Bobbies. Maclennan attempted to keep Cooper at bay holding the outside line at the Esses but to no avail. The pair would then make contact on the run to Old Paddock but survived a dramatic moment to hold position. Unsettled, Maclennan subsequently ran too wide at Tower allowing Felix Fisher into second.

A lap later Maclennan redressed the situation, fighting ahead of Felix to take second position back. The men who had thus far dominated the 2019 Formula Ford action therefore found themselves in the somewhat unusual position of contesting the final position on the rostrum. On lap four Josh Fisher was able to move to the bronze medal position, but he would be unable to maintain his momentum to the chequered flag with Felix reclaiming the position a handful of laps before the finish.

Matt Rivett again claimed an unchallenged Class B victory, and fifth position on the road, with David Cobbold the Class C king in seventh, trailed home by Harry Cobbold (Ray GR10). Mason claimed ninth and Bob Higgins rounded-out his 70th Birthday celebrations with a popular tenth position, with Matthew Hallam (Spectrum 011C) one position further behind.

After another classic double-header of Combe Formula Ford shenanigans, Cooper has ascended to the top of the points table, with only four points separating him and Josh Fisher. Felix sits in third, with Tom Hawkins’ consistency rewarded with fourth in the standings. Matt Rivett and David Cobbold head-up Class B and Class C respectively, with Alan Slater still atop Class D despite missing the previous two events.

A brief break over June is followed by the resumption of activities with The Big Race Weekend over Saturday the 6th and Sunday the 7th of July.

Posted on Friday 14 June 2019

Autumn Classic Race Day

at Castle Combe Circuit

5 October 2019

Samco Sport
Pro Alloys
Melksham Motor Spares
Reis Motorsport Insurance