The awesome success of the inaugural running of the Castle Combe Hot Hatch Challenge saw 23 cars roll out for its final blast of the year.
Since winning the Saloon Championship in 2015, Mark Wyatt has been unable to repeat his performance in saloons, thanks mainly to a certain Simon Thornton-Norris joining the class B party. Wyatt has however, dominated the new Hot Hatch series and continued to do so by taking pole on Grand Finals Day. Craig Tomkinson took P2 in his very rapid Vauxhall Nova, ahead of Chris Southcott who had made handling improvements to his new 205 GTi since the last outing.
The entry list sported some new drivers from the saloon championship, keen to complete their season with maximum race time. With qualifying occurring before the final saloon race of the season, some were keen to just ‘tick the box’ for the Hot Hatch session. Will Di Claudio secured P4 and quickly departed the session, keen to avoid risking any potential damage to his class C saloon campaign. Kieren Simmons was also protecting his Fiesta, completing the minimum three laps and securing P6 in the process. Roger Good however, stayed out for the full duration in son Mike’s Vauxhall Corsa – a car that could potentially be taking Mike to the saloon title later that afternoon. One can only imagine how relieved Mike must have been to welcome his car (and father!) back to the paddock in fine fettle!
With the saloon championship over and class C title secured, Will Di Claudio wasn’t holding back in the Hot Hatch race. His pocket-sized Peugeot 106 had been in giant slaying mode all season in the saloons and didn’t disappoint in the Hot Hatches either. WDC left the line with his usual urgency and promoted himself to the lead by the end of the first lap. Josh Harvey made a similarly impressive start to climb to second, ahead of Southcott. By the second lap, the green Peugeot was demonstrating its power advantage over the Honda and the pair swapped positions. Craig Tomkinson had a poor start, falling behind Mark Wyatt before getting his Nova up to pace and mounting a recovery. After getting the place back from Wyatt, Tomkinson looked well placed to challenge Harvey for third, but sadly the Nova’s pace reduced to a crawl and he retired on lap five.
Matthew Bawtree was running strongly as per usual, leading the way in class B by a significant margin.
Further back a very close battle was emerging between Izaac Channing and Nick Mizen that would last the entire race. A similar battle of MGZRs was taking place between Ray Ferguson and Mark Sutton, with the latter putting up a valiant fight despite being only a 1400cc to Ray’s 1800cc.
With Di Claudio long gone to the horizon, Southcott’s attentions were to the rear, with Josh Harvey hot on his tail. Southcott’s defences were holding up well until the latter part of the race when the Peugeot started making some unwelcome noises, resulting in a retirement with three laps to go. This promoted Harvey to second but Mark Wyatt was closing.
WDC took an easy win ahead of Josh Harvey who must have been relieved the race distance was reduced to 14 laps, as Wyatt had caught him and crossed the line just two tenths of a second later.
Matthew Bawtree’s fourth earned him another dominant class B victory in his Honda Integra, seven places clear of his nearest challenger.
Saloon novice Christopher Rawlings had entered but had suffered gearbox failure in the earlier saloon race. Undeterred, a standard ‘scrapyard’ gearbox was secured for his Peugeot and hastily fitted in the paddock just in time to make it to the HH grid. The less than ideal replacement part showed its weakness immediately, the inside wheel spinning up and squealing like a stuck pig as the 106 struggled for grip. The lack of LSD didn’t prevent Chris from bringing the Peugeot home in a very impressive fifth position. Channing and Mizen had been trading places throughout the race and the final move was made by Mizen – passing Channing on the final lap to win the race long bout.
It is safe to say the Hot Hatch Challenge has been a resounding success, attracting new drivers with every round. No doubt even more racers have been smitten by the series this season and Hot Hatches will be being sourced and tinkered with in garages throughout the winter ready for the second coming in 2018!Posted by Neil Thomas on Monday 30 October 2017