Despite a grey and overcast sky that persistently failed to deliver the threatened rain, to the eye the second Castle Combe race meeting of 2019 seemed to deliver one of the largest attendances in recent memory. Whilst the racing was somewhat tamer than the out-and-out thrills that the memorable Howard’s Day Meeting delivered on Easter Monday, the spectator banks were still treated to a day of tremendous action.
Each of the local classes only took to the stage one-time-apiece, but the regular cast still provided some fantastic action. Adam Prebble [Vauxhall Astra] continued his domination of the Combe Saloons running, with brother Gary[Seat Leon] beset by mechanical woes. Alex Kite [Audi TT] was the key beneficiary in taking second on the rostrum and former champion Simon Thornton-Norris [Mitsubishi Colt] found himself having to get somewhat physical to reach third.
Kevin Jones was absent in the Combe GTs affair, and whilst the distinctive Noble M12 RSR was missed from the order, the double Howard’s Day winner’s absence did not detract from some fantastic on-track battling. A poor start meant that David Krayem [Dodge Viper GT3] was forced to fight his way back to the front of the field, and he seemed set to achieve a fantastic comeback drive only for contact within site of the chequered flag to deny him the opportunity to finish. Victory therefore fell to race-long leader Barry Squibb [Mitsubishi Evo].
A respectable sixteen car field would battle it out for honours in the Combe Formula Ford race that predictably provided one of the afternoon’s more entertaining affairs. Josh Fisher [Van Diemen JL14] and Luke Cooper [Swift SC16] starred at the front of the field, playing a game of single-seater cat and mouse that ensured they were separated by tenths of a second at the conclusion of the event. Felix Fisher [Ray GR05] was beset by a tardy start and couldn’t fully immerse himself in the fight for the victory garland on this occasion.
In Hot Hatch Kieren Simmons [Ford Fiesta] suffered a rotten start from his first ever pole position, and spent the duration of the race unable to unseat Sam Stride [Honda Civic] during a relatively well-behaved race for Combe’s newest class. Howard’s Day winner Sam Tompkins suffered a difficult sophomore event and was only able to finish eighth in his Honda Civic.
Castle Combe Saloons
The continued domination of the Brothers Prebble was the headline from the solitary May Madness Saloons event, until turbo boost problems halted the charge for Gary [Vauxhall Astra]. Qualifying once more would act as on ominous portent for the other twenty-seven competitors, with Adam [Vauxhall Astra] besting Gary by the margin of a quarter of a second. The gap to former double-champion Simon Thornton-Norris [Mitsubishi Colt] in third was an additional two tenths of a second, with Alex Kite [Audi TT] sitting a further second in arrears.
A rapid start enabled Gary to hound Adam on the run up to Quarry for the first time but he would be unable to usurp his brother. Kite managed to climb up to third with Robert Ellick muscling his VW Golf ahead of a sluggish Thornton-Norris.
Luke Harvey [Honda Civic] would steal an early lead in Class C over Matthew Parr [Peugeot 106 GTi], however neither would last the duration. Harvey fell to the side-lines just after two-thirds distance with Parr forced to quit two laps from the finish, betrayed by a broken drive shaft. Honours subsequently fell to reigning Saloons champion Adrian Slade [Peugeot 106 GTi], who entertained after a tense battle against Class A runner Graham Puckett [Mini Cooper] for sixth – the latter emerging as the victor in this particular personal contest.
Approaching Camp on the fifth lap, Thornton-Norris lunged for the inside of Ellick to reclaim fourth, and despite using the grass on the inside on his approach to the corner, still made light contact with the rear of the Golf. The consequent lost momentum for the last-named would allowed Thornton-Norris to regain the position.
Thornton-Norris and Ellick were both beneficiaries of Prebble G’s aforementioned mechanical woes, a suspected turbo boost problem prematurely halting the brotherly battling at the head of the field on the eighth tour. Despite intense pressure from Thornton-Norris [Class B Winner], Kite would hold on to second until the culmination of activities. At the head of the order it was Adam Prebble who was unstoppable and claimed his second victory of 2019 after another imperious drive.
Neil Greenland [Mitsubishi Colt] was a lonely fifth at the end of proceedings, sitting in the ‘No-Mans Land’ between Ellick’s Golf and Puckett’s Mini. James Blake [MG ZR] achieved a respectable ninth and second in Class C, with Jon Lannon’s Citroen Saxo two places further back in the overall classification and third in the inter-class battle. Class D was a Nick Mizen benefit, the #68 Ford Fiesta victorious for the second time this season emulating A.Prebble in Class A. Chris Hignell [Peugeot 106] and Mark Sutton [MG ZR] were the last two classified finishers and completed the Class D rostrum.
Castle Combe Hot Hatch Challenge
Since its inception the Hot Hatch Challenge has become renowned for close, competitive, and frenetic action. The drama began before the lights had even extinguished to signal the start of the event on Bank Holiday Monday, with
Adam Perrett forced out with battery issues in his 172 specification Renault Clio
Despite poor starts from both front-row men, Sam Stride [Honda Civic] managed to vault from the outside of the front-row to the race lead by the time the field reached Quarry for the first time. Kieren Simmons’ [Ford Fiesta] first pole-position did not thus deliver all he would have hoped for with Tony Cooper [Peugeot 106 GTi] similarly usurping the flailing pole-sitter, as Craig Fleming maintained a secure fourth position in his Honda Civic.
Michael Wyatt provided early entertainment, falling to the back of the field in his crimson example of the Honda Civic after a lurid spin at the exit of Camp. He would rebound to a respectable sixteenth by the end of the race despite the lost time as a result of this incident.
At the head of the field, Simmons was able to retrieve second from Cooper before five minutes of the twenty minute event had lapsed, as Howard’s Day winner Sam Tompkins [Honda Civic] and Michael Bowle [Renault Clio] contested seventh, with the latter reclaiming the position in the early running with greater momentum on the run up to Avon Rise. Bowle would eventually progress to sixth, as Tompkins headed in the reverse direction to finish eighth.
In Hot Hatch terms this was a somewhat tame affair, with the top three relatively spaced out after the early running. A battle between Ray Ferguson [MG ZR] and Guy Parr [Mini Cooper] for eleventh position the closest on-track tussle as the race entered its final stages. Parr made a bold attempt on the outside line at Hammerdown but was unsuccessful and the lost momentum on the approach to Bobbies would secure the position for Ferguson.
Erling Jensen reflected the ever improving pace and reliability of the Mini Cooper entries, claiming victory in Class E and a solid top five finishing position in the overall order. Stride and Cooper, first and third in the final classification, were additionally the victors of their respective classes [A and B].
Rob Channing was uncontested in the fight for Class C victory but still drove an impressive race to finish seventh overall in his Peugeot 106 GTi. A similarly solitary Tom Burles would take the Class D trophy in his Rover Metro.
Castle Combe GT Championship
The GT Championship never fails to deliver an eclectic buffet of some of the finest national racing machinery, and the top ten from the overcast morning qualifying session comprised of everything from Dodge Viper GT3s [David Krayem] and Nissan GTRs [Nigel Mustill], to tiny Caterhams [Tim Woodman] and Seat touring car machinery [Jamie Sturges].
Former Formula Ford competitor Alan Hamilton was an early casualty in his Westfield, having dominated the opening meeting in Class B Hamilton sadly failed to make the start of the third event of the season on Bank Holiday Monday.
Krayem’s Viper was defeated in the initial running by multiple-champion Barry Squibb in his four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Evo. Bradley John’s sister Mitsubishi would also be able to undo Krayem’s qualifying advantage to be second by the end of a mature opening tour from the bunched field.
The Vauxhall Tigra of Oliver Bull held off the monstrous Nissan of Mustill in the contest for fourth position, as Krayem began his ultimate resurgence stealing second back from a defenceless John on the pit-straight at the third time of asking.
Further down the order, reigning double-champion, and former Queen of the Saloons Championship, Ilsa Cox suffered yet more poor reliability in 2019 parking her recalcitrant Seat Leon Cupra on lap four, with Bull’s Tigra deciding mere-seconds later that it too no longer wanted to participate in the afternoon’s activities.
Chris Everill [Ginetta G50], Jamie Sturges [Seat Leon Eurocup] and Tim Woodman [Caterham 7] provided some fantastic entertainment in their battle for sixth position at mid-distance, the variety of size and sound between each competitor’s charge reflecting the greatest success of the Combe GT contest. Sadly this battle would be curtailed with Everill exiting into the Quarry scenery. Woodman would ultimately head Sturges at the fall of the chequered flag, fifth and sixth respectively, both winning their individual classes [B and D].
John found himself falling away as the race progressed, with first Mustill climbing up and subsequently Lucky Kehra [Ginetta G55] taking away track position from the Evo driver. All three though, would be elevated after a dramatic altercation between the race leaders on the final tour.
A poor exit from Westway gave Krayem the opportunity to pass Squibb and reclaim the race-lead on the run down to Camp for the final time. As Squibb attempted to regain control of the Evo, and Krayem moved the Viper across in a defensive move, light contact was made which was enough to unsettle Krayem and send the Dodge towards the field on the inside of the circuit at alarming pace. Whilst the Viper remained intact, Krayem’s race ended within site of the chequered flag, beached.
This allowed Squibb to take his first win of the season, followed home by Mustill [Class C winner] and Kehra. John, Woodman and Sturges comprised the next portion of the finishing order, with Jeremy Cooke [BMW M3] and Michael Parsons [VW Golf] seventh and eighth after a tremendously entertaining race long dice. They were followed over the line by Del Brett’s Porsche Boxster. Class E was claimed by Bal Sidhu in is diminutive Ginetta GT5, with Guillaume Kerboul completing the classified finishing order in his Lotus Elise.
Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship
Josh Fisher [Van Diemen JL14] made a strong getaway from the outside of the front-row of the grid and managed to leapfrog brother Felix [Ray GR05] to hold the lead at the end of the opening tour. Despite his own start being somewhat less impressive Luke Cooper robustly defended third position in his Swift SC16 and denied the Fisher duo a complete domination of proceedings.
An error on the second lap further compounded Felix’s difficult opening to the third round of the season. He fell behind Cooper and life was made especially difficult for the winner of the opening race of the season by Chris Acton in his own GR08 example of the Ray prepared Formula Ford 1600 chassis. Thomas McArthur [Van Diemen LA10] leapt two positions in the opening melee, and made yet more progress on the fourth tour to pass Acton to run behind the leading battle-pack.
At this point Felix’s resurgence truly began, eking away at the advantage his rivals held at the head of the order and managing to create a gap to McArthur. On lap five Brendan Leigh [Spectrum 011C] was able to further depose a struggling Acton, only for an error at Avon Rise a lap later to see order restored.
McArthur, Acton and Leigh would be joined Tom Hawkins [Ray GR11] forming one of the most entertaining quartets on the circuit, dicing for fourth position. Leigh was the first from this group to make his exit from the action, after an off-track excursion clogged his radiators with the circuit surrounding Wiltshire countryside.
Acton then broke away from his original battle-pack and pursued, ultimately successfully, McArthur. Greater momentum on the run through Avon Rise towards Quarry would allow Acton to claim fourth position as the race entered its final third of proceedings.
Josh Fisher’s second win of the season was by-no-means a simple affair, with the gap between him and a determined Cooper mere tenths of a second at the end of a tense event. Felix would reach within two-seconds of the leaders but ultimately failed to truly join the fight for honours this time out.
Shaun Macklin would finish in ninth [Swift SC92] to claim Class B success, with Steve Bracegirdle [Van Diemen 89] heading James Colborn [Van Diemen RF89] in the Class C contest.Posted by Jo Lewkowicz and Lee Bonham on Monday 13 May 2019
at Castle Combe Circuit
1 August 2020