The ‘Castle Combe Hot Hatch Challenge’, supported by Pro Alloys, caters for non-turbocharged, front wheel drive saloon cars, up to 2.1 litres in capacity. The series has principally been designed to give a home to the older cars no longer eligible for the ‘21st Century’ machinery which form the circuit’s long standing ‘Saloon Car Championship’.
Indeed, many drivers from the main championship have either moved across to the series, or are taking part in both. Bristol’s Mark Wyatt is probably the highest profile ‘defector’, his 2015 championship winning Astra no longer as competitive as it was in the saloon car ‘B’ class, given the huge power outputs from the turbo’ machines.
He will be the man to beat, but just like the early days of the saloon car championship some 22 years ago, it’s the ubiquitous Peugeot 205 GTi which a number of drivers have turned to. The circuit’s ‘winningest’ driver, Southampton’s Gary Prebble, will be looking to add to his tally with his already well developed 1.9 Gti, whilst his brother Adam wields his similar, newly built 205. Fellow Southampton resident, Michael Harris, is also supplementing his GT championship outings in his own class winning 205 from 2016.
Bath’s Guy Parr is another man in an ex-championship winning car, his Fiesta taken to the ‘Saloon Car’ title by Yatton Keynell’s Jason Cooper in 2009. Another former ‘Saloon Car’ championship contender, Bristol’s Nick Mizen, has a 1.6 litre Fiesta in class C, having previously campaigned a Rover Turbo and MG ZR.
Such is the health of the circuit’s National Windscreens supported ‘Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship’, its entry list is full to the brim, despite the addition of the ‘Hot Hatches’ to the programme.
This year will undoubtedly be a battle of the turbo’ cars at the front, with the championship winning class B Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart of Calne’s Simon Norris the one they may all have to beat.
Intriguingly, it’s class A which has the biggest support, with a number of heavy hitters out to make an impact. For three of those however, it’s avoiding an impact with each other which will be at the forefront. A year ago, Gary Prebble, Calne’s Tony Hutchings and Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird from Ditcheat had a serious coming together whilst battling for the lead, only Prebble managing to return to the fray with any meaningful runs in his SEAT Leon Cupra. The Renault Megane Turbo of ‘CHAB’ miraculously re-appeared mid-season for one outing, but the Audi TT of a broken ribbed Hutchings had to be re-shelled and is still being readied by the Auto Tech team.
Bath’s Dave Scaramanga, the 2016 A class champ’ will be a force in his potent VW Scirocco, Bridgwater’s Tony Dolley brings unmatched experience with his SEAT Leon, whilst Keynsham’s John Barnard and Seend’s Julian Ellison will continue their Astra VXR battle.
Whilst Norris may be impossible to beat in class B, a man with the driving skill to try is Yate’s Nick Charles, the former double champion hoping to be on top of his 206 Gti, after some devastating engine issues.
Class C is where the fastest 106 Gtis on the planet hang out. Corsham’s Will Di Claudio, Bristol’s Hadyn King and last year’s champion, Geoff Ryall are joined by Peasedown’s Ayrton Anderson, in his Citroen Saxo version of the same car.
If the excitement around the saloon cars is not enough, then the entry for the Simonstone backed ‘Castle Combe GT Championship’ is as good as has ever been seen.
Class C alone gets the juices flowing with Salisbury’s Nigel Mustill in his Lamborghini Gallardo and Tetbury’s David Krayem in a Chrysler Viper Oreca GT3! Audi specialist and double class A saloon champion, Keith Murray from Nailsworth brings his R8 to class A, up against Dave Scaramanga in his Nissan GT-R and Combe FF1600 veteran Bob Higgins in the family’s Ginetta G55. 2015 champion, Portishead’s Oliver Bull is back with a larger engine in his Vauxhall Tigra ‘Silhouette‘. Also with more capacity is the humble MG Midget of Chris Southcott, not to be dismissed as it could well trounce everyone, as it did last year.
Reigning champion Chris Vinall from Axminster will be the man Adam Prebble has to beat in class D, with 1997 saloon champion Ilsa Cox hoping her SEAT behaves this year.
The entry for the Wiltshire College backed ‘Castle Combe Formula Ford 1600’ championship consists of the circuit’s FF1600 royalty. Avoiding clichés when listing the likes of Roger Orgee, Michael Moyers, Luke Cooper, Rob Hall, Josh Fisher and Nathan Ward is almost impossible. What is safe to say is that placing a bet on any of them for the title would be insane, given their equal stature and abilities on the demanding 1.85 mile circuit.
However, some things have changed, so the equilibrium could well be upset in 2017. 2016 champion Orgee, from Langford, has switched to a Ray chassis within the ‘Kevin Mills Racing’ team. Hall, from Bromyard, is also Ray mounted having used a Swift chassis in his title winning 2011 year, not contesting a full season since. Cooper, from next door Yatton Keynell, is very much a Swift driver, his family having designed and built the cars from scratch.
Backing up the circuit’s own impressive races is the contrast of Ferraris and Minis. Having their opening races of the season are the Mini Se7ens and Miglias, with Pill’s Sam Summerhayes and former Autograsser Ian Fraser from Bristol the local entries in the Miglias. Last year, Summerhayes picked up a couple of 6th places. Bristol’s Dom Burger and Frome’s Kevin O’Shea are out in the Se7en and ‘S’ sections respectively.
Also providing a pair of races for the day is the ‘Track Attack Race Club’ with a mixture of Japanese, Asian, French & German sports, saloons, hatchbacks and coupes from its various series, getting stuck in together.
Monday's action starts at 8.30 am with qualifying, racing getting under way from 12.25 pm.
Admission prices are £15 for Adults and £10 for OAPs, whilst accompanied children under 16 are admitted free. ‘Paddock Transfer’ is free if the tickets are purchased in advance.Posted on Wednesday 5 April 2017