Historically, drivers and teams contesting the home championships have found themselves with a with a late season hiatus between the August Bank Holiday meeting and the Grand Finals. For some with all to play for and a race car raring to go, this was an agonising wait – for others it was a gift of precious extra workshop time. This season however would be different; for the local heroes would be taking to the track for the final time with engines and tyres almost still warm from the furious double header meeting less than three weeks prior.
The FF1600 Championship was wrapped up at the previous meeting but there is everything to play for in both the Saloon and GT Championships. One race each remains to make or break the dreams of several contenders, with glory in their grasp.
The final act of the three home championships will be joined by the last Hot Hatch blast of the season, and the 750 Motor Club’s highly competitive Toyota MR2 Championship and the Monoposto Tiedman Trophy. As is traditional, the last meeting of the season features some one-off open races; one for single seaters and a Sports vs Saloons shootout. These races and season finale not only offer some extra smiles per mile for the regulars, but this year has also been the catalyst of an unofficial ‘Team Bosses Challenge’; tempting both Kevin Mills and Wayne Poole out of retirement – both entering the final Formula Ford race!
The forecast was for a clear, sunny, bone-dry day, providing the perfect conditions for a thrilling climax to the 2018 Castle Combe Racing season
In its second year, the Hot Hatch Series has continued to evolve with great success. The popular format continues to attract new drivers, and already some of the front running cars have changed hands, being sold to the highest bidder in a bid for series stardom. The series has continued to provide close racing and superb extra smiles-per-mile for many drivers also racing in other series.
Ex saloon champion Mark Wyatt has been one of the most successful in the series so far, and in the final qualifying session of the season, secured a very impressive pole position with a lap of 1:13.707, beating the Peugeot of Will Di Claudio by less than two tenths of a second.
Sam Stride has been getting quicker all season and secured P3 in his Honda Civic, alongside Joe Dorrington in the 205GTi.
The ever-consistent Matthew Bawtree drove his ever-reliable Honda Integra to P5 and would line up alongside Anthony Weeks for an impressive series debut.
The series has also opened an invitation class for supercharged Mini Coopers with Erling Jensen and Paul Dickinson entering.
Both Prebble brothers have been seen regularly on the Hot Hatch entry list but today a third family member appeared! Uncle Alan entered seeking a stamp on his licence in order to upgrade to be able to join the family team to contest the Spa 24 hour Citroen C1 Endurance race.
As the impressive grid of 26 cars weaved some heat into their tyres on the green flag lap, Mark Wyatt took an unexpected detour down the pit lane. The Interceptor Racing Team didn’t rush out and lift the bonnet however as Wyatt continued through the pits right to the end and stayed in the car. It was later discovered that Mark had had some gear selection issues and wisely decided to start from the pit lane. As Mark later explained, with 25 cars in full launch mode behind you, it wouldn’t be the best time to discover a gearbox full of neutrals!
This left Will Di Claudio unchallenged at the start – and for the entire race, completing yet another lights to flag victory, amassing a huge 24 second lead by the end of the 15 laps.
With WDC disappearing into the sunset, Sam Stride led the chasing pack from Matthew Bawtree and Michael Harris. Joe Dorrington was dropping places, clearly having issues with his Peugeot 205 GTi.
Gary Prebble had started the race from the very back of the grid but had no intention of staying there, climbing 19 places in just two laps. Following him through the pack in similar fashion was Mark Wyatt, making up places after his pit lane start.
Sam Stride’s race would only last two laps, his Honda Civic giving up the ghost while running in second place. Lap two would also claim another faller, Rob Channing pulling his Peugeot 106 off at the Esses.
A terrific battle commenced which would last the whole race between Anthony Weeks, Tony Cooper and Shaun Goverd. The trio, all driving Peugeot 106s duked it out over 15 laps, swapping places right up to the chequered flag.
The Peugeot 205 GTi club started to suffer mechanical gremlins with both Michael Harris and Joe Dorrington retiring from front running positions before the half way point of the race. Dorrington’s stranded car triggered the safety car which should have allowed Gary Prebble to close in to the leader Di Claudio, however Gary found himself with back markers blocking his view of the Peugeot’s rear end.
The back markers allowed WDC to very quickly resotre his huge lead after the safety car left the circuit. Prebble looked certain to take second until the 205 curse struck its last surviving member; retiring in a cloud of smoke with just three laps remaining.
Will Di Claudio took a lonely win in his ridiculously quick Peugeot 106 from Mark Wyatt who in contrast had plenty of company in his Astra, making up 24 places in 15 laps. Matthew Bawtree drove another composed race to a deserved third place.
Anthony Weeks had the upper hand in the three way Peugeot 106 battle for most of the race, but was being pushed hard by Tony Cooper and Shaun Goverd all the way. Cooper and Weeks swapped places several times on the last two laps with Goverd hoping the pair would out-brake themselves and allow him to profit. Weeks was clearly having tyre issues, locking up under braking and struggling to keep his orange machine in a straight line. Cooper took full advantage of Weeks’ difficulties to take 4th, however Anthony did successfully defend 5th from Goverd.
With the grand finals a taking place early this season, the long winter break offers maximum workshop time for the Hot Hatches to be refreshed and fine-tuned, with no doubt new cars also in build ready for their series debut. One thing is for sure; the Hot Hatch Series is here to stay and will be back even bigger and better in 2019!Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Thursday 11 October 2018
at Castle Combe Circuit
22 April 2019