Saloon Car Championship in association with National Windscreens – Round 1 Qualifying - A full to the brim entry list rolled off the printers for the opening round of the Saloon Car Championship, with the very familiar National Windscreens logo making a welcome return to the windscreen strips after a 3 year absence.
The ever successful championship continues to attract new drivers, so we welcome Alex Kite, Neil Greenland, Michael Bowle, Graham Cox and Miles Hodgeson to the championship. Some riders have treated themselves to new steeds over the winter; Oliver Cook upgrading his Clio to its bigger brother Megane in class A. In class D there appears to have been something of a ‘race car swinger’s party’ in the closed season, with Russell Poynter Brown’s (and latterly Russell Humphries’) championship winning Vauxhall Corsa transferring ownership to Mike Good. This has allowed Mike to pass on his ex-David Rose championship winning VW Lupo to his father Roger, while Mike’s Peugeot 106 ‘spare’ race car (what a greedy boy!) has been sold to Chris Hignell, switching from his trusty Fiat Punto.
Class C looks set for a stunning battle this season with double champion Will Di Claudio and Craig Wright unleashing their respective Peugeot 106s for full seasons to take the fight to last season’s on-form stars of Geoff Ryall and Haydn King.
Many were delighted to see Tony Hutchings’ name on the entry list but sadly the Audi TT still isn’t quite back to racing condition after sustaining huge damage in the leading trio pile up in the opening round of 2016. Fingers crossed everything will be back together in time for the early May Bank Holiday meeting.
The innocent victim of that trio is back in fine form however; the SEAT of Gary Prebble, whose 1:12:818 lap gave him his familiar seat on pole position. In contrast, his front row partner in P2 was something of an eyebrow raiser. Seasoned campaigner Bill Brockbank had an flyer of a session in his ‘Badger’ liveried SEAT Ibiza, taking P2 a fraction over a second behind the pole man.
Reigning Champion Simon Thornton-Norris was the fastest class B car taking P3 while Oliver Cook (cousin of BTCC star Josh Cook) must have been delighted with his second row spot in his new Megane. Di Claudio was the best of the Class C boys with an impressive P5, lining up alongside the VW Scirocco of Dave Scaramanga. Behind them Geoff Ryall also showed a clean pair of heels to the class A Vauxhall Astra of John Barnard.
New Grant Motorsport Driver Alex Read made an excellent debut, going one better than the rest of the ‘Mike Good Motors’ customers to set the fastest time in class D.
Three cars returned to the pits on a tow rope; Julian Ellison’s Astra, Guy Parr’s Fiesta and the usually bomb-proof ‘classic’ Astra of Mark Wyatt, all succumbing to mechanical gremlins.
Saloon Car Championship in association with National Windscreens – Round 1 Race
Mark Wyatt took his position on the 33 car grid despite being towed in at the end of qualifying, but sadly the similarly retired cars of Guy Parr and Julian Ellison did not make it back out for the race. When the lights went out the start line stars were the 3rd row pairing of Di Claudio and Scaramanga, both leap frogging the 2nd row of Norris and Cook. Geoff Ryall stalled leaving everyone holding their breath as the following cars took evasive action, thankfully successfully.
Norris continued to go backwards, dropping to 9th by the end of the first lap while Cook brought his Megane into the pits before re-joining, then retiring on lap 7.
Brockbank retook his second place position on the second lap while the Scirocco of Dave Scaramanga kept Di Claudio’s Peugeot honest in the battle for 3rd.
Kevin Bird was initially enjoying better form from his Nissan 200, which suffered teething troubles last season, climbing five places in the first five laps – only for the gremlins to return on lap 12 causing him pull off for an early bath.
Di Claudio was well clear of his class C rivals, ahead of Geoff Ryall who had made a valliant recovery from his start-line stall to claw his way back past the rest of his rivals to 7th place, aided by the retirement of rivals Haydn King and Craig Wright.
Prebble took first blood of 2017 with an incredibly comfortable 15 seconds from Bill Brockbank in 2nd. Will Di Claudio’s run to his 3rd place finish was made easier in the closing stages thanks to a slowing Scaramanga, who managed to keep his Scirocco rolling well enough for 4th. Simon Norris pulled off an admirable recovery to finish 5th despite being handed a time penalty for exceeding track limits. Perhaps the most exciting battle of the race was between Mike Good and Alex Kite in class D. Good emerged victorious but Kite’s Citroen appeared to be pushing the Corsa round for the entire 15 laps.
Lap records were beaten in three classes, perhaps as a result of the new change in regulations which now permits the Yokohama AD-08R? Prebble, Norris and Ryall all beat their own records from last season, with only Mike Good unable to better the class D best, which was set in his Corsa last year while the hands of its previous owner; Russell Humphries.
So a very comfortable start to the season for Gary Prebble, let’s hope his old oppo Tony Hutchings can make it out for the next round to give him a run for his money?!Posted on Wednesday 19 April 2017