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Combe Countdown Race report

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Castle Combe Hot Hatch Challenge – Race 1 - Joe Dorrington (Peugeot 205) and Sam Stride (Honda Civic) shared a win apiece in the scorching Bank Holiday sunshine,as the Castle Combe Hot Hatch Series delivered two fast-paced and closely fought races. Former category winner Chris Southcott endured a torrid day, with his engine maladies forcing him out of the event before the lights had even extinguished on the gantry to signal the start of racing proceedings.

Dorrington beat Stride to pole-position for the first race of the day by less than a tenth of a second, but it was Stride who would lead into Quarry on the first lap after a difficult getaway for the pole-sitter.  Dorrington’s issues shuffled the pack and allowed Tony Cooper (Peugeot 106 GTi) and Ross Parker (Honda Civic) to make progress on the opening lap to third and fourth respectively.

Dorrington wasted no time and reclaimed the lead, but Stride refused to budge from the rear bumper of the Peugeot 205 and relentlessly hounded Dorrington. A small error whilst attempting to take the lead at Quarry gave Dorrington a break, with William Oakley (Peugeot 205) briefly holding the runners-up position.

Erling Jensen (Mini Cooper S) demonstrated his ever-improving pace in the Class E specification Mini, but was eleventh by the time the field had reached Camp on lap one. Jensen’s race would be spent in the company of Dave Spiller’s similar Mini Cooper S, but unfortunately their dice ended in contact at Avon Rise. The resultant accident curtailed the race prematurely, with Spiller’s Mini rolling violently into the barriers. Demonstrating the rigorous safety standards of the Hot Hatch Series, both men emerged without series injury from the incident.

Whilst the red-flag denied Stride from usurping Dorrington, contact as the cars slowed around the circuit between Dorrington and another competitor would prevent the race one winner from taking to the grid for the afternoon’s second race.

In a race of attrition, Shaun Goverd (Peugeot 106 GTi) was another whose good qualifying performance (third) was only rewarded with a pit-lane visit and retirement. One of the best battles on track involved Sam Tompkins (Honda Civic), Ross Parker (Honda Civic) and Rob Channing (Peugeot 106 GTi) who enthusiastically diced to round-out the top half-dozen of the order. Tompkins and Parker ultimately survived the dual to finish sixth and seventh, with Channing a late retirement, poorly rewarded for his role in the enthralling battle.

Further down the order, Guy Parr (Mini Cooper S), James Canfer (Mini Cooper S) and Ross Whittock (Rover Mini) fought for nineteenth. After the late dramas, fifteenth sixteenth and seventeenth were the trio’s classified finishing positions.

Race 2 

Without  Dorrington on the grid for the afternoon’s second race, Stride would enjoy a somewhat less dramatic run to victory than his rival had endured earlier in the day. Cooper and Oakley trailed him after the race start, with Oakley eventually climbing to second.

Nathan Nicholls (Citroen Saxo) produce a fantastic performance to move ahead of Cooper and was then further aided by an error from Oakley who rotated at Camp corner. However, Nicholls’ good run would end on lap thirteen almost within sight of the chequered flag as the Saxo expired and he exited the race. Stride, Oakley and Cooper thus were the rostrum finishers after fourteen laps.

Tompkins would finish fourth after a dice with Ross Parker, with the decisive move coming at Avon Rise. Rob Channing would also make it ahead of Parker, with this trio completing the top half-dozen competitors.

The Citroen C1 dice between Darren and Tom Parkin may have been for the final positions but nonetheless the tense battle was a highlight of the race, with Darren victorious over Tom on this occasion.

Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship - Race 1

With the championship fight poised on a knife-edge, the Castle Combe Formula Ford Championship continued its run of nail-biting races over the August Bank Holiday race day. After qualifying for race one, less than a tenth of a second separated Luke Cooper (Swift SC16) and Josh Fisher (Van Diemen JL14), with Felix Fisher (Ray GR05) mere tenths of a second further back.

This closeness in qualifying translated into an enthralling fight in the first race, with J Fisher making a fantastic start to lead into Quarry corner on lap one from Cooper and F Fisher.

Adam Higgins (Firman 17), Chris Acton (Ray GR08) and David Cobbold (Van Diemen RF89) rounded out the top six after the opening salvo and would proceed to dice in close quarters for the duration of the twelve lap race.

Cooper’s difficult start continued with an error at the exit of Camp on lap one and Felix Fisher would claim second at Avon Rise before Cooper dived ahead and reclaimed that position into Quarry. The top three would not remain static, with Cooper making amends for his earlier Camp catastrophe by making a tremendous exit and claiming the race-lead into Quarry later into the race.

The Fisher duo then proceeded to aid Cooper by indulging in their own scrapping. Josh’s seemingly iron grip on the championship was loosened somewhat in this first race, with Cooper and Felix Fisher managing to reach the chequered flag before he did after some fantastic driving from all.

Higgins, Acton and Tom Hawkins (Ray GR11) would follow them home, with Hawkins recovering after slipping backwards at the start. David Cobbold claimed Class C honours, and Class B went the way of Shaun Macklin (Swift SC92) who just missed out on a top ten result in eleventh. Three places further behind, Alan Slater (Nike MK4) drove well to secure the Class D silverware.

Race 2

The second event of the day would prove to be somewhat tamer than the opener, and somewhat more favourable to Josh Fisher’s championship trail.

From second on the grid he made a superb start and would hold the lead through Quarry and the Esses on the first lap. Cooper was occupied with holding off Felix Fisher’s attempts to make it an all-sibling top two, and was successful in his defence after the opening tour.

Despite running as one twelve-wheeled Formula Ford for the duration of the race, the short eight-lap running time allowed little room for error, or indeed attempts to switch position. Tense as opposed to the out-and-out thrills witnessed earlier in the day, Josh Fisher swept across the line ahead of Cooper and Felix Fisher, with no one seemingly enjoying a decisive pace advantage. With one race remaining in September, Cooper’s hopes took a dent with his failure to prevent J Fisher claiming yet another race victory but only a point separates the two approaching the final race-day before dropped scores are factored in.

Higgins, Hawkins and Acton provided the best on-track display in their dice to be best of the rest, with Higgins initially running at the head of this order. After lap two however, he slipped behind his rivals. This allowed Acton to resume to the position ahead of Hawkins, before a charging David Cobbold joined in on the antics and moved ahead of the last-named to run fifth. Hawkins would then slip behind Higgins into seventh, narrowly ahead of Kieran Attwood (Ray GR07) who demonstrated superb pace in his Ray.

Macklin would be the race’s sole retirement at mid-distance having enjoyed a competitive top-ten run early in the event. James Rose (Swift SC95) picked up the Class B mantle in sixteenth, with Cobbold and Alan Slater again claiming Class C and Class D respectively.

Castle Combe Saloons Championship – Race 1 

Gary Prebble (Seat Leon Cupra) again proved to be the unstoppable force for his Castle Combe Saloons Championship rivals, delivering another two assured victories in a continuation of his electric form in 2019.

Adam Prebble (Vauxhall Astra) suffered more unreliability, having qualified fourth he was unable to make it beyond Avon Rise before his Astra expired. This left Simon Thornton-Norris (Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart) and Alex Kite (Audi TT) to resume their season long dual, as G Prebble stormed away into the distance.

The early running featured a tremendous Volkswagen-on-Volkswagen scrap, with Dave Scaramanga’s increasingly competitive Scirocco leading the Golf train of Christopher Rawlings and Robert Ellick, the last named who saved a spectacularly lurid slide at the exit of Camp corner in front of the packed spectator banks on lap two.

Ellick’s race lasted only four tours, but Scaramanaga and Rawlings would dice inside the top six for the full duration. Only Kevin Bird’s spectacular Nissan 200SX would come between the two, sliding into fifth on lap eight of the twelve lap race.

Rob Ballard (VW Scirocco) and Oliver Cook (Renault Megane) fought hard for tenth and eleventh, disputing the final place inside the top ten in the first portion of the race. Cook claimed the position and got ahead on lap four as Ballard lost pace and fell into the clutches of Matthew Parr (Peugeot 106 GTi). Cook’s progress didn’t stop there, and he was able to usurp Mark Wyatt’s iconic Astra, Tony Dolley’s Seat Leon and John Barnard’s Vauxhall Astra VXR to end the race a very well-deserved seventh.

Thornton-Norris and Kite were unable to challenge the sole-remaining Prebble in the race and delivered measured drives to finish second and third, the former victorious once again in Class B. Parr would claim twelfth and Class C, with Michael Good (Vauxhall Corsa) again on good form and finishing seventeenth at the end of his Class D race, with nearest rival Nick Mizen (Ford Fiesta) in twenty-first after an enthralling dice with Class C runner Jake Alden (Citroen Saxo).

 Race 2 

For race two in Prebble-land, copy and paste race one. Once again Gary Prebble made a tremendous start, and once again Adam Prebble faltered almost as soon as the lights extinguished.

Kite was presented an unmissable opportunity with the demise of Adam Prebble and a bad getaway from Thornton-Norris, and clung gamely to Gary Prebble for the initial few laps of the race before ultimately succumbing to Prebble’s astonishing pace.

Thornton-Norris fell to sixth after a poor start, but was soon on the attack, first moving ahead of Rawlings and subsequently Neil Greenland (Mitsubishi Colt) to be fourth by the end of lap three. His pursuit of Dave Scaramanaga was successful and thus by mid-distance he was back on the rostrum, but late technical problems forced him backwards and dented what had appeared to be a fantastic comeback drive.

He limped the Colt Ralliart home ninth, with Greenland able to pick-up the pieces and finish fourth and, more significantly, at the head of Class B. John Barnard delivered one of the best performances of the whole race-day, climbing from outside the top ten to finish fifth, an early scrap with the subsequently retiring Haydn King (Seat Leon) a highlight.

Dolley and Wyatt emulated Barnard’s charge to finish sixth and seventh having fought tooth-and-nail from the second the lights extinguished. Matthew Parr claimed another respectable twelfth position, and Class C honours for the second time, with Class D again going to Michael Good’s Corsa.

Castle Combe GT Championship – Race 1

Kevin Jones (Noble M12 RSR) scored pole-position by an astonishing margin of just-over half-a-second for the first GT event of the Summer Bank Holiday meeting, but despite complimenting this with an equally as astonishing a start to lead the GT order at the end of the opening lap, he would eventually be undone by Lucky Kehra’s McLaren GT3.

Oliver Bull (Vauxhall Tigra Silhouette) was an early casualty, but also the only man to retire from the twelve lap event as the ever-improving reliability of the GT order was demonstrated in the intense Bank Holiday sunshine that was pleasing the packed spectator banks.

The spectacular display of supercar and sportscar machinery at the head of the order was reflected in the top half-dozen runners, with Keith Butcher’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra leading Chris Everill’s Ginetta G55, resplendent in its crimson colour scheme, and Jamie Sturges’ VW Golf TCR.

Truth be told the fourteen car GT order didn’t produce the most enthralling of races, with positions fairly static after the first tour, but spectators were still treated to a superb demonstration of fantastic driving. Alan Hamilton (Westfield Race Aero) and Jasver Sapra (BMW E36) again highlighted the variety that is such an intrinsic part of the GT championship, with Jordan Billinton running a lonely eighth for much of the race in his fierce Reiter Lamborghini Gallardo GT3. The top ten would be rounded out by Michael Parsons (VW Golf Edition 35 Cup) and Del Brett (Porsche Boxster)

Whilst Jones lead the early running, Kehra enjoyed a slight pace-advantage that ultimately meant there was slim chance of him being denied over the race distance. On lap four the McLaren had greater momentum on the run towards Camp corner and Kehra swept into a lead that he would not lose. Butcher rounded out an all-supercar podium, but the margin of nearly thirty-seconds between himself and the top two reflected how Kehra and Jones stamped their authority on the race.

Everill emerged at the top of Class A, Sturges again victorious in Class D and Hamilton topped Class B. Class F was a battle between Martin Buckland (STM Phoenix) and Jem Hepworth (Sylva Phoenix),  Buckland finishing at the head of this class drama.

 Race 2

Race two was very much an emulation of race one, where Jones’ seemingly imperious qualifying pace didn’t quite translate into the crushing race victory one might have anticipated it would. This time it was lap four where Kehra struck, decisively, with Jones unable to challenge and forced to watch as Kehra drove away to a race-victory of over sixteen seconds.

Also uncanny in its imitation of the first event was the experience of Bull, who again was forced out of the race after just two laps. This allowed Bradley John (Mitsubishi Evo 9), who had been unable to take the start of the first race, to challenge the top two after leaping from fifth to third at the start. Whilst his attempts to move further up the order would ultimately come to nought, it was good to see John and the team rewarded for getting the Evo back on track and John claim the Class A victory.

Butcher again ran fourth, with Sturges and Everill this time reversing their finishing order from the first race in fifth and sixth, with Sturges again winning Class D in his TCR specification Golf. Sapra and Hamilton were again inverted in their finishing positions in comparison to the first race, with Hamilton finishing eighth to again be anointed Class B winner. Jem Hepworth this time was the winner of Class F after Buckland was forced into retirement.

Posted on Monday 2 September 2019

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