The three outright champions from the Castle Combe circuit’s home championships were crowned on Saturday October 14, but their routes to the honours were notably different.
Two drivers had the option to play it safe and drive for a finish, whilst the third had little option but to go flat out for a win.
But whilst Calne’s Simon Norris had the luxury of needing only the most modest of results to be crowned the circuit’s ‘Saloon Car’ champion for the second year running, he chose to take the riskiest strategy possible, much to the delight of the crowd.
The safe option was to keep clear of other cars and score just one point to secure the title. But Norris was determined to win outright and was prepared to risk his title in doing so. Annihilating his class opposition has long been taken for granted, so outright victories have been his main goal for most of the year.
Intriguingly, the man he would race for the win was also one of two who could deny Norris a second outright title. Yet, even if Southampton’s Gary Prebble took a top points score of a win and fastest lap, the most he could do was equal Norris’s points haul, making the pair the first ‘Saloon Car’ joint champions.
With the two rivals sharing the front row of the grid, Prebble knew his only chance of a joint championship was for Norris to hit trouble. Prebble’s SEAT Leon Cupra took the lead from the start, Norris initially dropping behind the indecently fast 106 Peugeot of Will Di Claudio from Corsham. By lap two Norris was past and right on the tail of the SEAT, Prebble purposely holding his line and backing his rival into those behind him, hoping they might challenge and give him an issue.
Norris’s efforts to remain in touch meant using every inch of the track and more. The warning flag for exceeding track limits epitomised how far Norris was prepared to go. But with the vital point for fastest lap in the bag and the chequered flag just half a lap away, the local man made his move. “My car’s always been stronger on the brakes into Tower than Gary, so I went for it” said Norris. But his move proved a step too far, the Mitsubishi Colt leaving the track and the prospect of retirement a definite prospect. Having retrieved the situation, the Colt passed the line in 4th place, but was then demoted to 8th after penalties for the track limit exclusion were applied. Nevertheless, it was more than enough for the crown to be retained.
Prebble took the outright win and the A class title, with Di Claudio just a second behind and a clear class C champion after his rival Geoff Ryall from Sturminster Newton was eliminated in qualifying after spinning on coolant dropped from the Grant Motorsport VW Scirocco of Bath’s Dave Scaramanga. Bristol’s Oliver Cook was 3rd in his Megane despite also incurring a track limits penalty. Mark Wyatt from Bristol was 4th and 2nd in class B.
Bill Brockbank from Stonehouse was 5th in his SEAT Ibiza Cupra with Peasedown’s Ayrton Anderson 6th and second in class C in his Saxo.
Further down the field, Brixham’s Mike Good, the only other man capable of taking the crown from Norris, was having his own class D battle, qualifying his Corsa well clear of his rival Alex Kite from Stroud, but finishing just a quarter of a second ahead of him after a ding dong battle.
Bridgwater’s Josh Fisher faced a similar situation to Norris in the fight for the circuit’s Formula Ford 1600 championship title. Whilst his points advantage meant he could also have a modest race to the finish, the chances of a coming together are much higher in this open wheel formula, as clearly evidenced this year. After two particularly high profile altercations at the last two meetings with his main rival, Wellingborough’s Michael Moyers, Fisher elected to start from the back of the grid, despite qualifying 4th fastest. Awbridge’s Michael Eastwell and Yatton Keynell’s Luke Cooper were 2nd and 3rd fastest, with Coventry’s Nathan Ward 5th. Langford’s Roger Orgee, the reigning champion and the only other man able to take the crown, was 6th on the grid.
Moyers needed to win and set fastest lap to retain a chance of taking his first title, his only hope being that his rivals would fail to score. Despite immense pressure from Cooper, Orgee and Eastwell, Moyers crossed the line ahead of the rest, but the dreaded track limits were also a factor here. All except Orgee were given 15 second penalties for their transgression, just 10 going his way. Once applied, Ward was declared the official winner, with Orgee second, Moyers 3rd and Cooper 4th.
With Fisher taking 8th, the title was his for a second time, (the last being in 2008) though in the event, the penalties applied to the others meant even a non-finish would have given him the honours.
Bradford on Avon’s David Vivian was 5th in a one-off outing in the Wiltshire College Spectrum, with Luke Cooper’s brother Jason a great 6th in a rare outing in the family run Swift SC16.
An intense discussion on the grid for the traditional end of season FF1600 Carnival between the penalised four drivers and officials delayed the start, but once underway the 12 lapper gave Moyers a genuine win, with Eastwell second, Orgee 3rd and Cooper 4th. Vivian took 5th and Jason Cooper 6th.
Hove’s Ilsa Cox was the driver who needed a class win and point for fastest lap to take the circuit’s GT championship outright title. That was exactly what she achieved. Whilst Cowbridge’s Bradley John was equal on points with Cox, he would be denied the title in his debut year, despite a maximum score, as his number of wins was less than those of Cox.
The biggest grid of the year saw Torquay’s Barry Squibb dominate with his Evo, but as is often the case, a result was denied him. Even though Squibb completed the first part of the race in the lead, his car was pushed off the track with a blown head gasket when the race was red –flagged due to a huge accident befalling Gillingham’s Steve Hall.
Newcomer to the circuit, Dale Gent, took the win in his Impreza in the restarted second half, but was not eligible for points, meaning John’s second place saw him take class A. 5th place overall and a class win for Cox gave her another title, 20 years after her last, the ‘Castle Combe Saloon Car.’
Gent’s impressive performance continued with another win in the season ending ‘Sports v Saloons’ race, with Salisbury’s Tony Bennett second in his Caterham and Plymouth’s Steve Putt 3rd in his mighty 7 litre Mazda RX7.
Di Claudio rounded off his successful year with a one off outing in the circuit’s ‘Hot Hatch Challenge’ race, taking a dominant win from 4th on the grid in his 106. Westbury’s Josh Harvey was second in his Honda Civic with Wyatt 3rd in the Astra.
Another pair of champions were also crowned on Saturday, when the visiting Porsche Club championship had its final two races of the year. Despite Mark Sumpter winning race one, it was his rival Marc McAleer in the 996 who took the main title, with his son Jake winning class 2 in his Boxster S.
The pair of Monoposto Tiedeman Trophy races were dominated by Gloucestershire cousins Jeremy and Jason Timms, Jeremy taking the wins in his Dallara Formula 3 car, significantly quicker than his rivals. Warminster’s Geoff Fern took second in his class in race two in his Reynard.Posted by John Moon on Friday 20 October 2017
Combe Challenge Race Day
at Castle Combe Circuit
27 May 2019