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FF1600 Championship - Summer Spectacular

Luke Cooper race report

Swift Cooper doubles-up to go top of the tree - Faultless under relentless pressure, Luke Cooper’s two hard-fought victories at August 4’s Summer Spectacular [aka Howard’s Day for COVID-19 interrupted 2020] re-established the young Swift Cooper SC16 driver back atop the points table having arrived one – a fastest lap bonus – behind rival Felix Fisher, honours having been otherwise shared at the season opener.

Fisher claimed first blood, however, grabbing pole from Cooper by 0.138s with a 1m10.390s (94.61mph) qualifying charge in the TM Racing Ray GR06. Indeed, the top four were in the ‘10s,’ blanketed by 0.692s, when the chequered flag fell. At that point 16-year-old American Bryce Aron (Low Dempsey Racing Ray) had been third for some while, but a late spurt by Wiltshire College lecturer David Vivian (Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum 011) put him firmly into the sub-71 club.

Aron’s fellow Chicagoan Grant Palmer (19) in a sister LDR Ray sat fifth on 1:11.082, with 17-year-old karting graduate Alex Walker (Van Diemen RF00), Kieran Attwood (Ray GR07), Matt Hallam (KMR Spectrum 011c) and Class B leader Nathan Ward (Swift SC92) also in the 11s. Ward’s 1:11.980 (92.52mph) effort was stoic, for father Carl’s illness meant that he was battling without his greatest supporter.

Tom Hawkins (Ray GR11) sat ninth, ahead of Ward’s closest rival Paul Barnes (SC92), who had Van Diemen-mounted Class C pacesetters Mark de Rozarieux (RF88) and Steve Bracegirdle (Wayne Poole Racing RF89) breathing down his neck. De Rozarieux’s 1:13.547 (90.55mph) held sway by 0.363 at this point. James Rose (Swift SC95) and youngster Hayden Hardiman (ex-Robin Parsons RF90) weren’t far adrift.

Stalwart Shaun Macklin’s seasonal debut in his familiar red #27 SC92 – tweaked by Paul Fox since last season – netted 15th, ahead of James Colborn (RF88) and Bob ‘Papa’ Hawkins, wrestling with engine problems in his SC92. He didn’t start.

The two Historic FFs, Alan Slater’s North Devon-built Nike Mk4 and quadruple champion Bob Higgins’ 1969 Macon MR7 – designed by the late Angus McPhail and [like most of its kin], exported to the US and just repatriated – were 0.053s apart. The Swifts of Michael Phillips (FB87), Paul Morcom (SC93) and novice Chris Warden (FB91) completed the 23-car field.            

Fisher led Cooper and Aron at the end of the opening lap of the first race, but Luke jostled to the front second time round. As the long-time protagonists fought the young American drafted into contention, learning from the experts. Vivian, next in line, was looking strong when Walker tripped him up on lap four. The contact was deemed avoidable thus Alex was penalised 10 seconds post-race and had his MSAUK licence endorsed with three points. David picked himself up quickly, but had to work hard to recover from 10th.

Having four-wheel-drifted through Camp in pursuit of the leader, Aron lined-up Fisher and cresting Avon Rise on lap 6 went for an audacious pass into Quarry. That didn’t bear fruit, but on the penultimate lap he made a move stick, seizing second and keeping the white Ray behind to the chequered flag, albeit 2.376s after the red Swift Cooper. Luke’s fastest lap of 1:10.747 set mid-race, earned the bonus point and gave him breathing space at a crucial time.

Palmer finished fourth – with Walker shadowing him, prior to his imposition – which dropped him behind the gallant Vivian (who never gave up), Attwood and Hallam. Class B winner Ward and Tom Hawkins were classified ninth and 10th, ahead of Ward’s rival Barnes.

Bracegirdle staved off de Rozarieux racelong for Class C gold, the gap a mere 0.214s at the flag, with Mark bagging best lap by a tenth for an extra point. Even closer were Higgins and Slater in Class D, the former’s dark green Macon beating the latter’s yellow Nike by 0.199s.

The sequel was a corker with lightning starter Vivian splitting leader Cooper from Fisher and Aron initially. Vivian spun down to 15th second time round, leaving the other protagonists to slug it out. While their order did not change, Fisher and Aron sensed they had a chance of victory when Cooper touched the kerb on the timing line on lap 5. But Luke stayed ahead and, just as Felix and Bryce – who set fastest lap of 1:10.765 - homed in for a final challenge the chequer was flown two laps early, to facilitate the last two races.

As Cooper punched the air having landed three wins from four this term, those with long memories recalled Jacky Ickx unilaterally ordering the wet 1984 Monaco GP to be flagged, as F1 rookie Ayrton Senna (Toleman-Hart) appeared sensationally to deny Alain Prost (McLaren-TAG/Porsche) victory.

Behind the virtual podium trio, Palmer was a lonely fourth, 11 seconds clear of Attwood who had Hallam and Ward on his tail. Nathan’s Class B double over Barnes was impressive. Vivian, back to ninth, overhauled the Class C fight in which Bracegirdle, race 1 retiree Colborn and de Rozarieux were blanketed by 1.385s. Slater was the sole Historic set finisher, Higgins’ car having conked-out at the start.

Cooper can thus reflect on a day in which he extended his points lead from five to eight over Fisher in the overall standings. Team mates Aron and Palmer, who are not due to contest future races due to National FF1600 clashes, are third and fourth ahead of Spectrum duo Vivian and Hallam. Barnes leads Class B by a point from Ward (pushed from the season opener’s grid) while de Rozarieux is five ahead of Bracegirdle.       

Posted on Monday 17 August 2020

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18 April 2022

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