The FF1600 Championship was sporting three potential champions. Josh Fisher entered the finale as hot favourite, only needing a sprinkle of points to seal the deal. Should Fisher stumble, two men were tied in second and eager to capitalise; Mike Moyers looking for his maiden championship and Roger Orgee looking to score his hattrick of consecutive titles.
Since the previous round, all technicality clouds hanging over the front runners had been banished. Both Josh Fisher’s and Luke Cooper’s engines had been fully stripped and given a clean bill of health by the MSA scrutineers; triggered by a protest against Fisher and a mandatory inspection after Cooper finished as runner up in the ‘Triple Crown’. A further protest against the chassis dimensions of Spectrum cars was also found to be without foundation, much to the relief of all five Spectrum pilots, including potential champion Mike Moyers. The championship would therefore be fully settled on the track - as it should be.
The Kevin Mills Racing Team totally dominated the time sheets for the first half of the qualifying session. Moyers stood at the top, followed by Eastwell, Ward and Orgee. Championship leader Josh Fisher was considerably off the pace leaving us guessing if he was ‘playing it safe’ or that there were issues with the Van Diemen’s engine following it’s post inspection rebuild. David Vivian was having a blinding session, his class B car running right with the quickest of the class A machines. Luke Cooper was the first to gate crash the KMR party, climbing up the timesheet past Orgee and Ward. Late in the session, Josh Fisher found more pace and followed suit.
The session completed without incident, Moyers securing a final pole position for the season. Eastwell continued to astound in his stunning debut season, lining up on the front row just one tenth of a second behind his teammate. Cooper and Fisher would occupy the second row in third and fourth respectively, ahead of Nathan Ward and Roger Orgee.
Moyers had done everything expected of him regarding his title chances, while Orgee would assume his familiar position to watch any dramas unfold in front of him. Fisher meanwhile would be hoping for the most undramatic of races and no doubt opting for a strategic race plan. He would need to keep well away from his sparring partner Moyers, look after his Van Diemen, and conduct some mental arithmetic on the fly to make sure his points haul would suffice.
An almost full complement of single seater machines made it onto the grid for the opening race of the day. As the field reappeared at the end of the green flag lap, championship favourite Josh Fisher was suddenly missing from his P4 position. Breath was held as he came into view, with other cars passing him. Thankfully Fisher joined the convoy and didn’t dive down the pitlane, before assuming a new spot on the back of the grid. The heart stopping confusion suddenly began to come into focus as a deliberate strategy. It was obvious that Fisher needed to stay out of trouble but somewhat surprising he chose to stay that far out of trouble!
The only person missing from the grid was Andrew Higginbottom which meant rival Steve Bracegirdle was crowned the Class C champion before a wheel was turned in the race.
A clean start saw Moyers lead the pack while his row-mate’s inexperience showed again on the start line. Luke Cooper tucked in behind Moyers as Orgee and Ward closed in on Eastwell.
After initially breaking away a little, the leading pair began to battle which allowed the chasing KMR trio to close back in. Cooper looked like he was keeping up with Moyers comfortably but in no rush to mount a challenge for the lead.
Fisher meanwhile was making steady progress, passing the back markers clean and wide and keeping well clear of the kerbs. In contrast, the kerbs were in use up at the sharp end. Black and white flags started to be issued, initially for Roger Orgee who was trying to pass Eastwell, then the leading pair also received warnings.
In the mid-pack, Jason Cooper (elder brother of Luke) who has not raced for some time, engaged in a great tussle with David Vivian. His younger sibling was all over Moyers at the front, so much so that the chasing pack were lapping quicker and reeling in the leaders. Roger Orgee made a successful move on Eastwell on lap 6 although Eastwell began looking to return the favour in the following lap, with Ward hot on his tail. This battle for third once more allowed the leaders a bit of breathing space.
At the midway point, everyone was expecting Cooper to mount his first serious challenge for the lead. Moyers had other ideas however, choosing this point in the race to dig deep and go after the all-important fastest lap point. While all the action was unfolding at the front, Josh Fisher was running a deliberately inconspicuous race, completing lonely tours of the circuit in eighth place.
With the fastest lap secured, Moyers turned down the volume on his Spectrum just a fraction, bringing Cooper back into contention. Moyers had it under control though and kept Cooper at bay to take the chequered flag. Orgee was successful in defending all attempts from his team mates to take third, with Eastwell finishing in fourth and Ward in fifth. David Vivian resisted Jason Cooper’s advances who crossed the line in front of Josh Fisher, whose eighth place secured plenty enough points to become the 2017 Castle Combe FF1600 Champion.
In the closing stages, class B contenders Shaun Macklin and Richard Morris took each other out of the race at Tower corner, thus ending any chance of denying Paul Barnes the honour of class B champion.
As the winners were enjoying their lap of honour aboard the winner’s car, talk of track limits penalties for the first four across the line started to be heard. After the interviews were concluded, the penalties were confirmed which shuffled the pack considerably.
Nathan Ward was rewarded for keeping within the track limits for a gratefully inherited win. Despite being penalised himself, Roger Orgee was promoted to second, leapfrogging Moyers and Cooper who’d been received double penalties. Worst off though was Michael Eastwell who had also received fifteen seconds worth of penalties which relegated him down to eighth place.
David Vivian finished fifth in the revised order, just half a second clear of Jason Cooper.
Most importantly, none of this results sheet shuffling had any effect on Josh Fisher, who remained a worthy champion. In his post-race interview, the Wayne Poole Racing ace explained his ‘safety first’ strategy and commented ‘it was the most boring of my life… but it had to be done!’
Fifty years on from the birth of Formula Ford, the Castle Combe single seater series is still one of the fastest, closest and most exciting club championships in the UK!Posted by Neil Thomas on Tuesday 31 October 2017
at Castle Combe Circuit
30 August 2021