Having given up waiting for the arrival of Spring in 2018, the May Day bank holiday certainly made up for it! The soaring temperatures saw the majority of the population either sat motionless on the M5 car park, or playing supermarket sweep on a futile treasure hunt for the last remaining packs of charcoal, bangers and burgers. Meanwhile, the Combe faithful knew exactly how to spend a sunny bank holiday Monday, up and out early to set up camp at their favourite viewing spot on the banks of the Wiltshire circuit.
The three CCRC Championships plus the Hot Hatch Challenge were all out for just a single race for the second meeting of the season. The May Day meeting would also host the sixth running of the Dave Allan Trophy, an all-comers 45 minute race, held in the memory of the Honda test driver and founder of the Swindon factory ‘Synchro’ team, who tragically lost his life in 2012.
The meeting would also boast something of a classic British racing theme, with the BARC Mighty & Super Mighty Minis, and the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club’s Saloon and GT Championship also joining the race card. The Track Attack Racing Club would fill the final slot in the timetable with their 2-4-1 merged race of their highly competitive Tricolore Trophy and Nippon Challenge Championships.
Without a cloud in the sky and tyre friendly track temperatures, the stage was perfectly set for a scorching day of classic Castle Combe racing action
HOT HATCH QUALIFYING -
In its inaugural year, the Hot Hatch Challenge attracted a huge variety of entrants, many racing in other local or visiting championships. Some drivers however are making the series their main focus, and fine tuning their chosen hot hatches into fine racing cars.
As the qualifying session got underway, the four main class A protagonists locked horns and were swapping times and grid positions throughout the session. Late in the session Josh Harvey was the only driver to break into the 1m13s arena and secure P1. Chris Southcott’s Peugeot 205 GTi perished spectacularly at the previous meeting so had undergone some serious surgery in the interim. This was evidently a most successful operation with his green and black ‘pug’ securing the other front row spot. Craig Tomkinson drove his incredibly rapid Nova to P3 and would line up alongside saloon veteran Mark Wyatt in his Vauxhall Astra.
Chris Rawlings’ Peugeot was punching well above its weight, breaking up the class A party with an impressive P5 ahead of Joseph Dorrington and Sam Stride, both in class A.
Matthew Bawtree continued his dominance of class B, qualifying eight places clear of his nearest rival. A pair of Peugeot 106s battled it out for class C honours, with Tony Cooper getting the better of Rob Channing.
HOT HATCH RACE 2
Chris Rawlings had two class dominating quali sessions in both the Saloon and Hot Hatch disciplines however couldn’t take advantage of either, his Peugeot giving up the ghost before it would see any start lights. The Honda Civic of Sam Stride was another victim of mechanical gremlins, and he too would not make it to the grid.
Josh Harvey was unable to protect his position on the getaway, with Chris Southcott getting his 205 all hooked up and into Quarry in the lead. Tomkinson made a similarly rapid start and Harvey was pushing his Civic hard to avoid losing another place. The early dogfight would be short lived however, the pair getting all out of shape at their first visit to the Esses. The opening lap spills continued with the MGZR of Adam Hall swapping ends before gathering it up and continuing.
The early dramas worked in the favour chasing pack, with both Joe Dorrington and Matthew Bawtree steering clear of the troubles and promoting themselves up the order.
Michale Bowle also found himself Renault Clio unexpectedly closer to the sharp end, although this would be a fleeting experience, retiring after the second lap.
Young saloon and hot hatch regular Izaac Channing was unable to attend the Mayday meeting so not wanting to let a good car go to waste, his father Rob fancied a taste of the action and chose the HH Challenge for his debut race. He qualified in the middle of the field but was getting to grips with his new hobby very rapidly, running strongly in the race.
Safe and unaware of the opening lap dramas behind him, Chris Southcott was able to extend a significant lead. Josh Harvey was keen to make up for his ‘moment’ and in pursuit of Southcott set the fastest lap of the race thus far.
Mark Wyatt was one of the innocents forced to lose momentum when taking evasive action, and was piling the pressure on Dorrington ahead, closing the gap at a rate of knots. Even with the back markers in play, Dorrington’s defence was a valiant one, doing just enough to keep the yellow Astra in his mirrors. Sadly there would be no reward for his efforts, his 205 developing problems and retiring at the halfway point.
Craig Tomkinson had come off worse from the tangle at the Esses, but soon had his Nova back on the straight and narrow and climbing back up through the field. Sadly his progress was thwarted, failing to appear to complete the 12th lap.
In the mid pack, an exciting three-way, all French tussle was being staged in class C, between Tony Cooper, Jon Lannon and Rob Channing.
Harvey kept up the pace throughout the race, continuing to lap quicker than Southcott, the gap between them visibly closing, even while negotiating the back markers. As the timer counted down, Harvey’s Honda closed right in on the leader but there was just too few laps left in the race to make a move stick.
Chris Southcott held on to take the chequered flag, with Harvey following him over the line. The leading pair had been pushing so hard, they’d amassed an enormous gap to Mark Wyatt, who took the final podium step nearly half a minute behind, for an all class A 1,2,3.
Matthew Bawtree and his Integra took another comfortable class B victory, Ray Ferguson took the silver medal equally as comfortably from Adam Hall in third.
The three-way class C battle lasted right to the bitter end, with just a few seconds covering all three cars as they completed the race. Tony Cooper came up trumps for the class win in his Peugeot 106, from the Saxo of Jon Lannon. Rob Channing would take home the final piece of class C silverware as a fine memento of his racing debut.
Despite the variety of cars and the fairly relaxed technical regulations, the Hot Hatch Series is already providing some very close racing and will continue to do so at the ‘Combe Carnival’ on the Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday!Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Thursday 17 May 2018