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!
FF1600 QUALIFYING -
The 2018 curtain was raised on the legendary Formula Ford 1600 Championship to reveal a disappointingly sparse grid. The most notable void was the absence of most of the Kevin Mills Racing Team, who fielded just one entrant in the form of Michael Eastwell. Sadly the situation didn’t improve for round 3, this time with no KMR entries at all.
Despite the low numbers it was good to see Felix Fisher back on the entry list and the return of Matt Rivett a long absence, both of whom would be driving Ray Racing class A chassis cars. Alex Rivett was another new entry in the runners and riders (surprisingly no relation to Matt), entered in a class B Swift SC92.
The depleted grid allowed Luke Cooper to rise to the top with a double win in at the Howard’s Day meeting. Picking up exactly where he left off, Luke Cooper made hay as the sun shone on the sparsely populated track, putting in perfect clean laps to secure pole. The early morning conditions could have made for lap record territory lap times but this was not the case. Cooper’s best was second down on Mike Moyers’ record of 1:09.866, although this was more likely as a result of the new-this-season rumble kerbs at the chicanes; remedying the corner cutting antics of last year.
Reigning champion Josh Fisher is in a different Van Diemen chassis this year and secured the other front row spot alongside Cooper. With nearly half a second between them it was clear the Wayne Poole Racing team still have some fine tuning to do to match the performance of their 2017 championship winning machine.
David Vivian relished his step up to class A at the season opener and continued to show good form in the Wiltshire College run Spectrum, earning P3 just a tenth of a second behind the reigning champ. Felix Fisher would line up alongside Vivian and directly behind his brother, in his Ray Racing GR05.
Paul Mason made a dream start to his maiden season and maintained momentum to show a clean pair of heels to class B rival Shaun Macklin. Class C sported just two runners, Steve Bracegirdle and Michael Phillips, with the former out qualifying the latter.
FF1600 ROUND 3
The warm conditions made for a high traction start, the Avon control tyres having a head start on reaching optimum temperature.
Luke Cooper’s reactions were razor sharp, leading the pack into Quarry corner. David Vivian managed to get the nose of his Spectrum between the front row pair, taking 2nd from Josh Fisher. By the end of the opening lap it was clear that Josh Fisher was keen to get the position back, coming through Camp welded to Vivian’s gearbox, and taking his brother along for the ride. Vivian’s defensive stance allowed Cooper to stretch an early gap; a most desirable asset in a field of such similarly performing machines.
David Vivian’s defence would not last long, struggling to keep track of where the reigning champion was, swapping from one mirror to the other or disappearing altogether when directly in his slipstream. Josh lured Vivian onto one defensive line, only to dive down the other side and retake 2nd. More disappointment for Vivian would soon follow, his Spectrum developing a misfire and causing him to retire to the pits on lap 6. Paul Jeavons race would also not go any further, leaving class B rivals Paul Mason and Shaun Macklin to battle it out.
Vivian’s retirement allowed Felix to inherit 3rd but some way back from his brother, meaning his focus was on the chasing Ray GR10 of Matt Rivett. Tom Hawkins, also driving a Ray Racing chassis was next in line, making it a class A lockout for the first 6 cars on the road.
As the race entered the closing stages, Josh Fisher mysteriously put in longer lap allowing Cooper’s lead to extend but more importantly, allowing his brother to loom larger in his mirrors. The sibling rivalry was too much to resist as Felix flexed the bulkhead under his right foot and put in the fastest lap of the race. With time running out, Felix was driving right on the ragged edge in a mission to make a bid for 2nd, but it was a strategy that cost him dear. He lost control of his Ray GR05 exiting the Esses, spinning and handing his comfortable podium finish to a most grateful Matt Rivett.
Paul Mason’s dream start to his debut season continued in dominant style, beating his only class rival Shaun Macklin by over 20 seconds. The two class C entrants brought up the rear, with Steve Bracegirdle getting the better of Michael Phillips.
2018 certainly looks to be Luke Cooper’s year thus far, taking a win at Silverstone in the National Championship in addition to his perfect hattrick of wins at Castle Combe. This puts Cooper at the top of the standings on 71 points a very healthy 23 points clear of his nearest challenger, Paul Mason. Mason has a similarly comfortable lead in class B with Shaun Macklin having failed to score in round 2. It’s a similar story in class C with Steve Bracegirdle carrying a comfortable 12 point lead.
Entries may be down but the entertainment isn’t, the tried and tested Formula Ford format upholding its reputation as one of the greatest measures of raw driver talent in UK club racing!Posted by Jo Lewkowicz on Thursday 17 May 2018