The August Bank Holiday race meeting has for decades been one of the most hotly anticipated in the Castle Combe Racing Club Calendar, but never more so than 2018 event. As a result of the ‘home championships’ playing no part in the BRSCC Caterham meeting, the opportunity arose for the local heroes to have a race meeting almost entirely to themselves. With double headers for all three championships and the Hot Hatch Challenge, there was only a small amount of race time left to spare, taken up by the MG Owners Club. There would be only one race remaining by the time the sun set on the August Bank Holiday, meaning the stakes have never been higher. A strong brace of finishes for any campaigner could see their race to championship glory shift into overdrive, with double points in a single day’s racing. On the flip side, an early mechanical failure could see all hope lost even before the green flag lap of the first race of the day. With so much to win and so much more to lose, the stage was well and truly set for the most adrenalin fuelled event of the season.
The GTs have seen something of a resurgence this season with strong grids and some serious machinery on display. Today was no exception with a healthy 22 cars filing out under the Avon Bridge for their qualifying session.
David Krayem was back with his 8.4 litre Chrysler Viper Oreca and looked favourite to steal the show by repeating his Whitsun performance. Chris Southcott had other ideas however, who was back having rebuilt his MG Midget having sustained some significant damage earlier in the season. In the course of the rebuild, Southcott must have also taken the opportunity to add a few extra horses as he set the fastest time of the session with an impressive 1:07.859. Krayem was pushing his Viper hard but couldn’t quite beat Southcott’s time, getting a tantalisingly close, securing P2 with a gap of just 0.04 seconds.
The second row went the way of Barry Squibb, just managing to keep 2015 champion Oliver Bull at Bay in his Tigra silhouette.
The in-form Tony Bennet lined up in fifth, but was not too chuffed to see the return of Southcott; running in the same class, Andy could very well deny him precious championship points.
Reigning champion Ilsa Cox could only manage P9 among the more powerful competition however this was crucially 2 places clear of class D rival Jamie Sturgess.
Steve Putt was back hoping to find a solution to the wayward back end of his V8 powered Mazda RX-7, as was Jordan Billington in his Lamborghini Hurracan providing the exotica eye candy.
GT ROUND 7
The usually bomb-proof Tigra of Oliver Bull has been experiencing some mechanical issues of late and it was clear they hadn’t been resolved when Bull headed for the pit lane just before rounding Camp for the rolling start.
Krayem powered past Southcott after the rolling start, as did Barry Squibb to assume second. Steve Putt’s Mazda was spitting its trademark flames and wasted no time making up places from his lowly P10 starting position. Bradley John was also enjoying his opening lap, getting past Southcott to take third having started from P8. Initially it looked like the Midget was not fully match fit but whatever caused his backward momentum cleared as he set about making up for lost places.
Oliver Bull rejoined the action bit his lightweight white and orange machine was still sounding far from its best, and would return to the pits by the mid point of the race.
Krayem’s had a small but sufficient lead over Barry Squibb’s Mitsubishi Evo, setting a new lap record of 1:07586 in the process. Tony Bennett had now bought into the battle for third chasing Southcott while simultaneously defending from Putt.
Bradley John’s early progress was thwarted with a misfire, losing touch with the sharp end and eventually retiring on lap nine.
Putt’s handling issues were still evident and the more agile Westfield of Alan Hamilton was able to take advantage of the Mazda’s problems. Lucky Khera soon followed suit, slicing his Ginetta G55 past the struggling RX-7.
Krayem’s lead was significantly reduced having taken to the grass in the process of lapping the Lotus Europa of Ben Bird, allowing Squibb to close. Andy Southcott was reeling the Evo in however, taking the fastest lap, and lap record, from Krayem with a 1:07.175.
Just three laps from home Barry Squibb’s Evo gave up the ghost, promoting Southcott to second and allowing him a clear view of the back of the Viper. Southcott was lapping faster but the gap was to great, allowing Krayem to take the win unchallenged. Tony Bennet had to settle for second in class B in 3rd overall, a gargantuan 25 seconds behind Southcott.
Lucky Khera held on to 4th while despite obvious his obvious handling issues, Steve Putt was able to retake a place from Alan Hamilton to finish fifth.
Ilsa Cox took maximum class points finishing eight with Jasver Sapra’s BMW as a buffer between herself and class rival Sturgess.
GT ROUND 8
Barry Squibb was unable to make effective repairs to his Evo so was missing from the grid for the second race. Both Oliver Bull and Barry John had had a more productive break between the races, both taking up their places hoping for better luck at their second attempts. In contrast, two strong finishers in the earlier race; Lucky Khera and Jasver Sapra, were sadly missing from the starting line up.
Andy Southcott’s second rolling start of the day was more successful, defending his starting position and tucking into the tow of the mighty Viper. Slingshotting out of the slipstream, Andy was able to use his weight advantage by braking later and taking the lead at the Essess. Ilsa Cox had a storming start, leapfrogging herself from eight to fourth. Oliver Bull’s troubles looked to be continuing, his Tigra spluttering when asked for maximum acceleration.
Southcott’s momentum allowed him to stretch a healthy early lead over Krayem, who had a comfortable gap over Tony Bennett who had held position. Barry John’s Evo was back on all cylinders and making a serious nuisance of itself with Ilsa Cox’s SEAT, sliding through to take fourth.
Oliver Bull got his Tigra back on its best behaviour, climbing back up the order, passing Tony Bennett’s Caterham. Steve Putt was still wrestling with his Mazda, doing a good enough job of taming the beast to hold his position.
Tony Bennett’s lap times slowed allowing the class A cars of Barry John and Oliver Bull to pass. The drop in the Caterham’s performance also allowed Ilsa Cox to get by, with Bennett realising his nearest championship rival was leading her class and closing the caps in the overall standings.
Up at the front, the lightweight Midget had the upper hand through the south half of the circuit while the more powerful Viper made up ground on the faster section to the north; meaning the gap was being maintained. Bradley John was having a lonely run in third as Bull was unable to reel him in.
As the race entered its final third Putt’s Mazda declared, allowing Tony Bennett and Alan Hamilton to profit. Meanwhile the Lotus Europa of Ben Bird crashed at Tower corner causing a red flag, bringing the race to a premature end. Southcott was declared the winner from Krayem, with Barry John completing the podium. Oliver Bull took fourth from Ilsa Cox, taking the win in class D.
Tony Bennett lost points to the race winner but given the problems his Caterham appeared to be experiencing was no doubt relieved to see the end of the race and secure decent points for second in class. Cruicially though, Ilsa Cox failed to secure the extra point for fastest class lap, which was set by Jamie Sturgess. This allows Bennett to go into the final round one point ahead of Cox, and are the only two able to take the overall title.
Third place in the championship looks to be a three-way scrap between Michael Timberlake, Steve Putt and Oliver Bull with just four points separating the trio.Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Wednesday 12 September 2018
Combe Challenge Race Day
at Castle Combe Circuit
27 May 2019