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
SALOONS QUALIFYING -
Throughout its entire history, the popularity of the Saloon Car Championship has never faltered and when the curtain was raised on the new season, 2018 proved to be no exception. All the usual campaigners were back, together with a small batch of courageous newcomers making their first appearances in one of the UKs most hotly contested and competitive championships.
In recent seasons, Adam Prebble has campaigned the GT championship but has switched to saloons this year, making his debut in round two in the ex-Russell Akers Interceptor Racing Vauxhall Astra. Also returning to the championship were Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird driving father Kevin’s RWD Nissan 200, James Winter in a Renault Megane and Arthur Marks in his time served trusty Suzuki Swift. Craig Wright would make the step up to class A, debuting his Vauxhall Corsa VXR.
In his usual style, Gary Prebble seized the opportunity of a clear track by leading the crocodile out and getting straight into his stride. First to challenge for the front row was Alex Kite in the GMS Audi TT, showing that his impressive debut performance wasn’t a one-off. CHAB and Winter proved they’d not allowed any cobwebs to gather on their right feet after some time off the track, swapping rapid times in the early stages.
Dave Scaramanga’s Scirocco seemed to be enjoying some improved reliability, unfortunately the same could not be said for the other Scirocco of Rob Ballard, who was significantly off the pace.
Reigning champion Simon Thornton-Norris took his usual leisurely approach to qualifying, allowing his Colt to warm up steadily before joining the fray. Gary Prebble’s early pace could not be matched, although Norris broke into the 1m13s territory to join him on the front row.
James Winter secured P3, just managing to keep the nose of his Megane ahead of the Audi TT of Alex Kite.
CHAB would be joined by Mark Wyatt on the third row, ahead of the class A pairing of Scaramanga and Julian Ellison in his Vauxhall Astra.
Christopher Rawlings dominated the session in class C, driving the ex-Haydn King Peugeot 106 to an impressive P12, four places clear of the chasing gaggle of class rivals.
Missing from today’s entry list was Mike Good, due to the heavy damage his Vauxhall Corsa sustained in the hands of his father in the opening Hot Hatch race. Good’s absence allowed Matthew Parr to take the class D limelight, qualifying in P15 some 13 places clear of his nearest rival.
SALOONS ROUND 2
As the busy grid formed up, some unfortunate empty grid spaces appeared. ‘Keepo’ had left the qualifying session early to discover the engine of his MGZR had taken it upon itself to add some extra cooling, in the form of a big hole in the side of the engine block. The performance of Rob Ballard’s new Scirocco was disappointingly not matching its stunning looks, the VW suffering either clutch slip, or electrical gremlins doing a very good impression of clutch slip, meaning he would not start the race either.
When the fifth red light was extinguished, the front two rows wasted no time in starting to jostle for the first prize of every Castle Combe Race – the race to Quarry corner. If the obscenely quick Mitsubishi Colt has anything of an Achilles heel, it would be its ability to lay its first bit of traction down. This meant that both occupants of the second row managed to get the better of Norris. Prebble’s start looked pretty near perfect but was clearly not quite as perfect as Winter’s, the Megane earning first bragging rights by assuming the race lead at the first corner. CHAB appeared to enjoy his first outing in the Nissan, especially the startline advantage of rear wheel drive.
One driver who wasn’t able to get his car to respond to his inputs on the startline was Chris Rawlings. The Peugeot just wouldn’t get going, leaving Chris with no alternative but to pull off to the safety of the infield, adjacent to the start line. With the current class leader Keepin also taking no part in proceedings, this would make for a significant race for their fellow class C contenders.
Winter completed the opening lap still in front but on the full defensive with a mirror full of Prebble’s SEAT. Norris’ Colt didn’t take long to make up for its initial loss of position, sliding through to take third from Kite.
Winter’s overly defensive line into Camp corner at the end of lap two cost him dearly, not only allowing Prebble to slice past him on the inside as the Megane ran wide, but also took Norris through in his slipstream. CHAB (who had already got past Kite) was keen to pull of the same stunt, but Winter was able to shut the door and stem blood flow of lost places.
Despite having very little time to familiarise himself with his new machine, Adam Prebble was enjoying his return to the championship, weaving up through the field from his 9th place starting position. Hot Hatch sponsor Neil Greenland was also on a mission right from the very back of the grid. Having only managed three laps of qualifying, he had clearly resolved whatever the Mitsubishi’s issues were, the bright green Colt galloping up through the pack.
Elsewhere in class A, Dave Scaramanga’s Scirroco took its usual early bath, as did Julian Ellison and his Astra, both retiring to the pits. Craig Wright’s new class A Corsa fared slightly better but was clearly not realising its full potential, retiring after just five tours of the circuit.
Adam Prebble’s dream debut fell apart just as he was readying himself for a challenge on James Winter for third, the Astra losing power and disengaging immediately from the dogfight. With the back markers now in play, CHAB was able to take over from where Adam left off, with the Megane coming into firing range of his Nissan.
With Neil Greenland having made his way all the way up to 7th he found himself the meat in a tasty class B sandwich between Mark Wyatt and Jordan Curnow. Despite being a rookie, Curnow showed his ability and made his intentions clear right from the start, his Honda Civic punching well above its weight.
With Rawlings still parked up on the grass, the class C action was another nail-biting three-way battle between the Saxo of Adrian Slade and the two MGZRs of James Blake and Martin Chivers.
Up at the sharp end both Gary Prebble and Simon Norris had amassed a huge gap from the chasing pack. There wasn’t much of a gap between them but it seemed like Norris was squeezing everything from his Colt, with nothing left with which to mount a credible bid for the lead.
Alex Kite’s dream start to the season with his new Audi TT unravelled as the race entered its final act, initially losing a little from his lap times and hinting at a problem before grinding to a halt completely. Two of his class A rivals John Barnard and Peter Elliston suffered similar cruel late stage retirements.
Gary Prebble completed a faultless drive to chalk up his first win of the season and maximum points haul in class A. Simon Thornton-Norris’ second place maintained his perfect record thus far, winning class B and securing the bonus point for fastest lap.
Having valiantly resisted the Nissan’s advances for the entire second half of the race, James Winter’s Megane cruelly started to misbehave just one lap from home. This allowed CHAB to pilfer a last minute podium finish and second in class A. Winter’s problems were fortunately not significant enough to lose further places, crossing the line in 4th, ahead of Tony Hutchings who is still yet to find the sweet spot of his re-shelled and rebuilt Audi TT.
Mark Wyatt held off Neil Greenland for the class B silver medal, who in turn beat Jordan Curnow to third in class. Greenland’s epic climb from the back row of the grid to finish 7th earned him the coveted ‘Driver of the Day’ award, chosen by the circuit commentators.
The race was a highly valuable one for Adrian Slade, just taking class C honours ahead of James Blake. The no-score day for James Keepin and Chris Rawlings means Slade will leave the circuit leading class C in the overall standings. Matthew Parr enjoyed similar fortunes, the absence of Mike Good allowing him to take the class D win with ease and assuming the top spot in the table.
The Saloon Car Championship action will resume at the ‘Combe Carnival’ meeting on the Whitsun bank holiday Monday. Gary Prebble and Simon Thornton-Norris lead the way, neck and neck on a maximum 22 points. As the class D leader, Matthew Parr finds himself just two points behind the joint leaders, with class C leader Adrian Slade snapping at his heels just a point behind.
Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Thursday 17 May 2018
at Castle Combe Circuit
22 April 2019