After a six week break since the last meeting, the Castle Combe Racing Club Championships regrouped as part of the BRSCC’s action packed weekender meeting. The weekend would see a varied a mix of racing as you are likely to see at any UK race meeting, from the classic Austin A35s of the HRDC Academy to the mega horsepower menacing machines of the Dunlop TVR Challenge. The timetable offers something for everyone; single seaters, sports racers, classic saloons, and one make series for Porsches, TVRs, BMW Compacts and VW Golfs.
With the local championships all slated to do battle on the Saturday, a cool morning dawned under a heavy cover of cloud with moisture in the air. No doubt this was a relief to many given the recent heatwave, which had it continued, would have no doubt tested engine cooling systems and tyres to the maximum. No rain was forecast but we all know that means nothing given Combe’s own micro climate!
SALOONS CHAMPIONSHIP – Round 4 Qualifying
A few spits of rain were felt while the saloon cars were arriving in the assembly area but thankfully they came to nothing. The summer break appeared to have been well spent by some of the contenders of the championship, playing their part in a much closer battle for pole in the qualifying session for this round. Once the front runners had found their track space, Gary Prebble assumed his familiar position at the front, but not as comfortably as in earlier rounds. Oliver Cook was flying and throwing everything at Prebble’s target time. Tony Hutchings was also pushing his Audi TT to its limits from the outset, and by the third lap, beyond them. A fully committed entry into camp corner with ‘not quite up-to-temp’ rear tyres resulted into one of the most dramatic opposite lock slides as has ever been witnessed at the famous corner. In a masterclass demonstration of how to deal with a sideways front-wheel car, Hutchings kept his right foot well and truly buried to the floor, front wheels pouring huge plumes of smoke, resulting in the white Audi regaining its composure and powering out of the corner with barely any loss of momentum!
Reigning champ Simon Thornton-Norris had got his Mitsubishi Colt doing all the right things and set the fastest time on lap 4. This left Prebble in the unfamiliar position of playing chase, driving his SEAT right on the ragged edge in his attempts to win the top spot back.
In class C, Geoff Ryall was enjoying getting the better of arch rival Will Di Claudio for much of the session, until the latter stages when WDC just squeaked ahead, giving himself a well-deserved birthday present. Mike Good and Alex Kite resumed their thrilling class D battle, with Good coming out on top by just under 7 hundredths of a second.
Prebble’s efforts were rewarded on lap 7 with a new fastest lap but before he could make it round to his pit board to receive the good news, Simon Thornton-Norris secured pole on the very same lap.
A solid session saw Oliver Cook hang on to P3, lining up alongside the Tony Hutchings after his epic ‘save-of-the-day’.
The VW and Vauxhall of Scaramanga and Wyatt respectively occupied row 3 ahead of the class C pairing of Di Claudio and Ryall.
SALOONS CHAMPIONSHIP – Round 4 Race
The saloons picture began to change even before the red lights had come on for round 4.
Having retired from the earlier GT race, the white Audi of Tony Hutchings hadn’t been restored and therefore was missing from the second row of the grid. The crocodile of cars weaved their way onto the green flag lap, exploring grip levels and introducing as much heat as possible into their cool tyres. As the convoy came back into sight at Westway, competitors and spectators alike were shocked to see the colourful SEAT of Gary Prebble peel off into the pitlane and return straight back to the paddock – signalling an issue significant enough to be deemed un-fixable in the pit lane. Now with an empty space on both the first and second rows, this should have meant that Oliver Cook and Dave Scaramanga would be favourite to capitalise on their clear views. The start line star however was Will Di Claudio making the best of the race to quarry, slotting straight into 2nd behind Norris, before losing the place to Cook later in the opening lap. Wyatt was the next of the front runners to fall, pulling his trusty yellow Astra onto the grass before even his first ascent of Avon Rose in what appeared to be an uncharacteristic mechanical failure. John Barnard only fared slightly better, diving for the pitlane before the completion of his second lap.
Geoff Ryall was making his usual rapid progress, passing the more powerful VW Scirocco of Dave Scaramanga and set about chasing down his old nemesis WDC. Sadly for Will, his birthday that had started so well went rapidly downhill when he acquired a gearbox full of neutrals and failed to appear at the end of the fourth lap. The attrition continued with no less than 9 cars retiring in the first 6 laps of the race, the tally would eventually increase to 13 DNFs by the end of 15 laps.
While Norris was in the clear out in front, Cook was looking equally comfortable in 2nd until the end of lap 10 when the blue Renault limped into the pits.
With some of the usual suspects running their early baths, the battle for the final two podium places was well and truly on and being fought between Geoff Ryall, Dave Scaramanga and the gleaming white Nissan 200 of Kevin Bird – seemingly having found its form over the summer break. Ryall defended valiantly until lap ten when Scaramanga slid his black VW past the Peugeot. Ryall then had to turn his attentions to his mirror in which the charging Nissan of Bird was looming ever larger. Unexpectedly, Ryall found himself back in the silver medal position as Scaramanga’s Scirocco once again pulled a muscle and slowed significantly, dropping back to fourth.
Simon Thornton-Norris piloted his Colt to an unchallenged win some 15 seconds clear of Geoff Ryall whose well-honed race craft had served him well to prevent Kevin Bird getting past, crossing the line just half a second behind for the class A win. Scaramanga kept his struggling VW going just long enough to keep James Winter’s hands off of 4th place. With Wyatt still sat on the Armco, Kieren Simmons took the class B silver medal in 6th overall with a delighted Nick Adams 2 places behind taking third in class.
Mike Good trod a much easier path to the class D win this time out due to Alex Kite’s Citroen engine being clearly down on power. Alex soldiered on however and did well to stop Mike’s father Roger taking 2nd spot from him.
Norris’s flawless season of 4 class wins and 4 fastest laps sees him leading the championship at the mid-point of the season. Snapping at his heels just three points behind is Mike Good whose season has been nearly as impeccable, with just two points dropped from a maximum haul so far. DNFs for both Gary Prebble and Will Di Claudio have allowed Geoff Ryall to leapfrog them both into 3rd in the standings and the class C lead, also bagging himself Driver of the day trophy. Despite his non-finish, Prebble is still comfortable at the head of the class A table although Scaramanga has closed the gap to 8 points. Another upwardly mobile runner is Kieren Simmons, closing the gap on Mark Wyatt to just 1 point in class B.
The season is far from over and no doubt the picture will look very different by the end of August when rounds 5,6 and 7 will have been decided. Norris will need to maintain his flawless form over the remainder of the season as Mike Good is hungry to pounce on the slightest glimmer of a dropped ball!Posted by Neil Thomas on Thursday 20 July 2017