QUALIFYING - Castle Combe’s GT championship has always encouraged diversity, but the 1.85-mile circuit, which rewards brute force and agile handling, is a great leveller. Stalwart David Krayem unleashed an 8.4-litre Chrysler Viper GT3 developed by Hugues de Chaunac’s legendary French Oreca team to good effect from the start of official practice. Krayem’s excellent 1m07.217s (99.08mph) pole time was almost two seconds inside his own class record of 1:09.006 with the V10 truck-engined monster.
Also saving his best until last, 2015 champion Oliver Bull was but 0.607s shy of Krayem though wringing the neck of uncle Jeremy Irwin’s 2.3-litre Ford Ecoboost-powered Fleurtations Vauxhall Tigra clone – continuously developed for long circuit use from an early Chris Ludlow National Hot Rod chassis – running in Class A.
Welshman Bradley John (Mitsubishi Evo) headed row two, a tenth quicker than defending champion and points leader Ilsa Cox (SEAT Leon Cupra) who despite being more than a second inside her Class D record had closest overall rival and Class B standout Tony Bennett’s potent 2.4-litre Caterham R300 breathing down her neck. Both outqualified the intrepid Steve Putt’s staggering iridescent blue-wrapped 7-litre Mazda-Chevrolet RX-7, running on new Avon tyres.
Krayem’s class opposition came from Jordan Billinton who wheeled out a colourful current spec 5.2-litre Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo rather than his previous ageing Gallardo, also V10 motivated. Tim Woodman was less than half a second adrift in his 2.1-litre Caterham. BMW enthusiast Lucky Khera’s left-hooker S54 looked the part, withAlan Hamilton’s purposeful Westfield XE for company on row five.
Serbian-born Dylan Popovic – who cut his racing teeth in the championship a decade ago, moving forward in ever-evolving Marlin cars – lined up 11th in his Ford V6-motivated Ginetta G50. Next up were Jamie Sturges (SEAT Leon Supercup) and the BMWs of Michael Timberlake (E46 M3) and Jasver Sapra (E92 M3 V8).
Carleton Williams’ Seat Leon Supercopa was next, ahead of Mark Williams (Caterham 7). Canadian Del Brett in his Dan Cox-prepared Porsche Boxster, Iain McBay’s rare 1700cc Davrian Mk8 and Paul Dickinson’s Mini Cooper S completed the 19-car race one line-up.
RACE 1 -Krayem blasted his Viper away from the rolling start like a dragster, but Bull refused to be shaken off in the early laps. Power told, however, and untroubled by a slight misfire the ex-British GT/Dutch Supercar contender growled home almost three seconds to the good. Punching the class record through the 68 second barrier – leaving it at 1:07.937s (98.03mph) added to David’s pleasure, “although the car is capable of fours or fives!”
The only time Krayem looked pressured was when he was stuck behind a lapped car through Old Paddock and Bull, flat out, eroded the initial advantage. “I got onto his tail in Tower, but it’s a rapid thing in a straight line,” said Bull. Bradley John finished a strong third, having somehow repelled Putt’s snarling beast. “Holding off Steve was one of the most difficult races I’ve had to do,” he puffed on the podium.
Behind Putt, Billinton’s confidence in the top spec Lambo grew by the lap. It showed on the clocks as he reduced his personal best to 1:08.777 en route to fifth, ahead of the scrap between class winners Bennett and ‘Queen’ Ilsa who reduced her record to 1:09.583 (95.71mph).
Only 3.5 seconds behind her, Alan Hamilton posted a quicker Class B lap than Bennett. Woodman, Khera and Sturges were the last unlapped competitors.
RACE 2 - All bar Carleton Williams made it out for the second bout, the grid for which – decided by second best Q-times – saw only Khera and Woodman’s order reversed. The race’s pattern at the sharp end essentially followed that of the first, before a puff of smoke heralded the demise of Bull’s Tigra clone on lap four.
That left Putt – whose progress in the Mazda V8 resembled that of a cowboy trying to tame a bucking bronco at a wild west rodeo – chasing winner Krayem at a distance. John held of the feisty Bennett by half a second for third, with Cox fifth nursing a gearbox issue and with Woodman’s rapid Westfield filling her Seat’s mirrors.
Sturges and Woodman finished seventh and eighth, a lap ahead of Billinton who had taken a long while to refind the circuit having spun a long way off into the infield having got The Esses wrong in the early stages. That Lamborghini doesn’t make a World Rallycross Championship car will come as no surprise. Billinton recovered to ninth. Khera, who had been fighting with Sturges and lapping much quicker than before, careered off backwards at Tower on the penultimate lap.Posted on Friday 1 June 2018
at Castle Combe Circuit
22 April 2019