Combe Countdown - Saloon Championship Report -Round 6 & 7  » Castle Combe Racing Club
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Combe Countdown - Saloon Championship Report -Round 6 & 7

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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.

SALOON QUALI

With a long day ahead, the commencement of the saloon championship qualifying was noticeably more measured than usual.  Track temperatures were somewhat cool but thankfully the notorious August Bank Holiday rain was a no-show.

It didn’t seem that long ago the idea of a saloon car breaking into the elusive 1m13s second bracket looked a highly unlikely prospect.  Not only has that pipe dream become a reality this season, but the next barrier was smashed through in this qualifying session.  Last time out Gary Prebble had to concede to Charles Hyde Andrews Bird’s ‘mid 13s’ pole lap but was not going to let history repeat itself this time.  At the mid point of the session, Prebble’s SEAT made championship history with an incredible lap of 1:12.890, only to defy belief and shave over four tenths off that time before the session ended.  Not to be outdone, CHAB quickly became the second member of the exclusive ‘Club 12s’ to join Gary on the front row with a lap of 1:12.669.  Reigning champion Simon Norris was also pushing hard for club membership but couldn’t quite meet the criteria in P3.  

After what seems like an eternity, Dave Scaramanga’s VW Scirocco finally found its sweet spot, allowing Dave show the Combe faithfully his true driving ability, putting in a career best 1:13.772 to secure P4.  A further six drivers followed all in the ‘14s’, headed up by the championship’s ‘boy wonder’ Alex Kite, alongside Neil Greenland, continuing his impressive debut season.  A delighted Adam Prebble pedalled his new Astra onto the fourth row alongside the returning Mark Wyatt, who made it an impressive trio of class B cars in the top 8. 

Adrian Slade put himself in the best position to defend his class C lead and keep his championship bid well on track, securing 17th, two places clear of his long-time oppo Martin Chivers.

Matthew Parr entered the weekend with the overall championship lead, having dominated class D.  That continuation of that dominance came under threat with the return of Mike Good, having completed a major front end transplant on his Corsa after having a disagreement with the concrete pit wall in a Hot Hatch race earlier in the season.  The quality of the workmanship was clear to see when Good secured class D honours, taking over a second out of Parr’s best effort.

The grid for race two would be a near carbon copy of race one, with a few notable exceptions.  Mark Wyatt’s second best time was good enough to swap places with class rival Greenland, while Alex Kite would see himself tumble down the race two starting order to 13th.  Adrian Slade and Mike Good both protected their class poles, but with rivals Chivers and Parr hot on their heels.

A special mention must also go to saloon veteran Ray Ferguson whose qualifying session was his first outing of a very busy day.  Not only was Ray entered in both saloon races, he was also on the entry list for both hot hatch races... and both MGOC races!  With three qualifying sessions and six races in one day, Ray would be literally jumping between his two trusty MGZRs all day, his mechanics having them ready and waiting like costume changes in the theatre wings.  This must be some kind of record for any racer, let alone for someone who is not far off starting his seventh decade on this earth.  What an absolute legend!

SALOONS ROUND 7

Only one gap appeared as the saloons took their grid positions for the first race of the day, making an impressive crocodile of 35 saloon cars.  The teething troubles of his new Scirocco continued with gearbox failure, meaning Rob Ballard was unable to build on his 7th row qualifying performance. 

Gary Prebble couldn’t have got his SEAT off the line any better as the race commence but that still wasn’t good enough to prevent CHAB from taking the lead, using the advantage of his Nissan’s rear wheel drive layout to full effect.  His lead was short lived however, the White 200SX grinding to a halt at Bobbies before the end of the first lap.  Another significant victim of the opening lap was Matthew Parr, his class Citroen Saxo couldn’t have picked a more cruel time to throw a driveshaft. 

Prebble stretched a good early lead, setting a new lap record of 1:12.926 on the second lap.  All the early action was in the chasing pack; Simon Thornton-Norris initially coming under attack from Dave Scaramanga.  The VW Scirocco had to switch to defensive coming under fire from the Grant Motorsport Audi TT of Alex Kite.   A couple of slower lap times from Prebble hinted at a problem but before Norris could capitalise, Alex outsmarted him to steal second place.

With Parr out, eyes in the mid pack turned to the class C leader Adrian Slade who although leading his class, was losing placed meaning rivals Martin Chivers and James Keepin’s MGs were looming larger in his mirrors. 

Adam Prebble was enjoying his new Astra and was getting in the thick of it at the sharp end but sadly would retire with three laps to go.  Another faller from a strong run was rookie Jordan Curnow, retiring his Honda Civic on lap nine.

Gary Prebble’s reduced pace didn’t look to be of serious concern until the final lap when the SEAT began to backfire loudly.  Just half a lap from home the problem worsened, allowing Kite to take the lead and the win, but the salt was truly rubbed into Prebble’s wound as Norris also passed to steal second.  Prebble hung on for the final podium step but the very poorly sounding SEAT looked a real doubt for the second race.

Dave Scaramanga took fourth comfortably for his best result of the season so far. 

Adrian Slade resisted all assaults on his championship lead, taking class C honours ahead of Chivers and Keepin.  With Parr out of the picture from the start, Mike Good rewarded himself with an easy class D winner’s trophy, five places clear of his nearest challenger Arthur Marks.

SALOONS ROUND 8

The winner of the earlier race would have his work cut out for him if he was to repeat the performance, his second best qualifying time being some way off the pace, starting the race way back in P13.

As suspected, Gary Prebble was missing, with his SEAT’s oil pressure gauge on the decline he chose to protect his engine, and his wallet from further damage.

Class B front runner Neil Greenland made the grid but made a beeline for the paddock before the end of the green flag lap.  Earlier retirees CHAB and Parr however had seemingly made effective repairs to their respective cars and took their places on the grid. 

Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird made another blistering start but his second race of the day would be even shorter than the first, the Nissan’s gremlins returning before he’d even made it to the top of Avon Rise. Norris assumed the lead from Dave Scaramanga who had a mirror full of Adam Prebble’s Astra.  The pair were split on the third lap by Alex Kite, wasting no time in remedying his lowly starting position.  Norris had a comfortable lead but Scaramanga’s second placing was anything but, with Kite all over him in bid for the class A lead.

Matthew Parr wasted no time making amends for his earlier retirement, taking the class D lead from Mike Good.  Good wasn’t planning on him keeping it however, regaining the place at the mid point.  This would be the most important battle of the race with Parr needing a maximum haul to keep his championship hopes alive.

Adrian Slade again found himself being pushed hard again for the class C lead but this time from newcomer Nathan Nicholls, continuing his superb debut season.

Alex Kite was throwing everything at the Scirocco ahead of him, but Dave Scaramanga defended brilliantly.  Kite’s furious efforts had a taken its toll on his Audi’s tyres which allowed Scaramanga some breathing space in the closing stages.

Norris took the win unchallenged with Dave Scaramanga delighted with the silver medal.  Kite chalked up another podium well clear of fellow Audi TT driver Tony Hutchins.

Adrian Slade took the class C win from Nicholls and in doing so enters the final round with a slender five point championship lead from the race winner.  A terrific race long dogfight between Parr and Good went the way of Parr, leaving him third in the standings, nine points behind the leader. Alex Kite heads up class A but is too far adrift of championship glory.

It will be a thrilling three horse race in the final round, needing eyes all over the TSL Timing screens with all three contenders running in different classes!

Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Wednesday 12 September 2018
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