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Hot Hatch Race Report - Combe Challenge

Hot Hatches Steve Jones

CASTLE COMBE HOT HATCH CHALLENGE SERIES Sponsored by EBC Brakes

Southcott’s double but debutant Brown stuns in his wake

Hampshireman Chris Southcott has had mixed fortunes at Combe in the past, but a stirring double victory in his rorty Peugeot 205 started his 2020 season almost perfectly. Quickest in qualifying, which earned him pole for the first race, he failed to back it up with his second best shot, thus started the sequel only seventh as racing debutant Sam Brown found himself with a clear view of Folly from P1 in his Honda Civic. Buoyed by second place in the opener, the super-impressive Brown led the finale’s first few laps, before Southcott powered past, but far from overawed kept him in sight to the chequer.

Southcott cut a 1m15.002s (88.79mph) best for pole, but Shaftesbury mechanic/MOT tester Brown on 1:15.213 and Sam Stride’s 1:15.983 in another Civic gave the Pugmeister plenty to think about. Class B leader Tony Cooper (Peugeot 106 GTi) was fourth quickest on 1:17.241, with Nathan Nicholls (Citroen Saxo) breathing down his neck, although Nicholls non-started. Shaun Goverd sat sixth, heading Class C in his Will di Claudio-prepared 106 GTi.

The 205s of Will Self and Joe Dorrington, former Formula Ford ace Steven Jensen in the quickest Class E Mini on 1:19.200, James Blake (MG ZR) and Class F leader Mark Nicholson (Renault Clio) on 1:19.920 were the last to break 80 seconds. Nicholson’s closest opponent Mike Wyatt (Civic) and another FF1600 convert Adam Higgins (Ford Ka) were just behind, in the thick of the 28-car pack representing eight marques.

It was drizzling when the start lights signalled the opening race away, and Southcott scrabbled ahead of fellow front row starter Brown – in his first race remember – who gamely kept him in sight. With a cushion of more than eight seconds by the mid-point, Chris slackened his pace and Dan began to erode the deficit. He finished 4.708s down at the flag, almost 22 seconds clear of Cooper, with Goverd and Jensen making it four class winners in the top five. Self, Dorrington, Higgins, Stride – after a topsy-turvy run, having plummeted from fourth to ninth on lap 2 – and Lewis Clark (Fiesta), the Class F winner, completed the top 10. Only Nicholson failed to go the 12-lap distance.

Nicholls got out for the afternoon’s finale, again on a wet track, but it was not as straightforward for Southcott. It took him two laps to get to second, by which time Brown was 2.9s clear. Another two laps in he’d caught the leader, with Goverd ahead of Nicholls, Higgins and Self. Once Southcott was ahead of Brown it was job done and he became the day’s only double outright race winner. Elated with a pair of seconds, Brown could hardly believe his first event. “I’ve learned a lot and am going home with two trophies. I can’t wait to be back,” he said, having lapped barely 1.1s slower than the experienced Southcott’s 1:21.282s standard in difficult conditions to read.

More than half a minute elapsed before the promising Goverd completed his race, improving to third and another satisfying class victory in the W-A-S Peugeot. Higgins and Self, pushing class B winner Nicholls down to sixth overall, ahead of Mini standout Jensen and Dorrington. Joe had slipped a couple of places to 13th in the initial stampede, but knuckled down and recovered to eighth. His best lap was quicker than three of those who finished ahead, only three-tenths shy of Goverd’s so watch for improvement in future races.

Blake, Darren Duffield (Mini Cooper S), Cooper and Class F winner Michael Bland (Peugeot 306) all covered the 13 laps, the same as the winner. Veteran Nick Mizen (Fiesta) finished 13th, ahead of Graham Cox (Clio) and three-way squabbles between Lee Waterman (MG ZR), Steve Bracegirdle (Cooper S) and Adam Perrett (Clio 172) then James Canfer (Cooper S), Clark and Shaun Deacon (106 GTi).             

Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Monday 3 August 2020

AUTUMN CLASSIC RACE WEEKEND

at Castle Combe Circuit

3 October 2020 to 4 October 2020

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