Historically, drivers and teams contesting the home championships have found themselves with a with a late season hiatus between the August Bank Holiday meeting and the Grand Finals. For some with all to play for and a race car raring to go, this was an agonising wait – for others it was a gift of precious extra workshop time. This season however would be different; for the local heroes would be taking to the track for the final time with engines and tyres almost still warm from the furious double header meeting less than three weeks prior.
The FF1600 Championship was wrapped up at the previous meeting but there is everything to play for in both the Saloon and GT Championships. One race each remains to make or break the dreams of several contenders, with glory in their grasp.
The final act of the three home championships will be joined by the last Hot Hatch blast of the season, and the 750 Motor Club’s highly competitive Toyota MR2 Championship and the Monoposto Tiedman Trophy. As is traditional, the last meeting of the season features some one-off open races; one for single seaters and a Sports vs Saloons shootout. These races and season finale not only offer some extra smiles per mile for the regulars, but this year has also been the catalyst of an unofficial ‘Team Bosses Challenge’; tempting both Kevin Mills and Wayne Poole out of retirement – both entering the final Formula Ford race!
The forecast was for a clear, sunny, bone-dry day, providing the perfect conditions for a thrilling climax to the 2018 Castle Combe Racing season.
In contrast to the single seaters, the ‘tin-tops’ of the Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship had everything to play for. Adrian Slade’s near perfect season in class C would see him enter the final round in prime position. Despite the dominance indicated by the points table, Slade has had to work hard to stay at the top being kept very honest all season by his class rivals, including Martin Chivers, James Keepin and newcomer Nathan Nicholls.
Next in the queue was Simon Thornton-Norris, hoping to make history by lifting the trophy for a third time in as many seasons. A rare retirement in the third round was the only blip in an otherwise perfect season in class B thus far. The fight for the class B silver medal would be an good watch, between newcomers Neil Greenland and Jordan Curnow; both of whom have had superb debut seasons.
Matthew Parr led the way into the last meeting but a cruel retirenemt in the first race sees him enter the final round in third, still with a shot of the overall title, albeit a long one. Parr would need to marry a class win with mass misfortune for his rivals in order to emerge victorious. One consolation was that Mike Good was a no show, meaning his rival wouldn’t be around to put a further obstacle in his path.
Alex Kite headed up class A, however an overall trophy was just out of reach. The youngster has had a stellar season in the new Grant Motorsport Audi TT, which has included three outright race wins. Fellow TT driver and Combe veteran Tony Hutchings held second in class A, with a narrow margin from Gary Prebble; Combe’s most ‘winningist’ driver having had some mechanical misfortune resulting in three non-finishes over the course of the season.
The first sharp intake of breath came from the sight of Simon Thornton Norris heading for the pits before a first flying lap could be completed. The early pace was set by Gary Prebble, his engine problems in the previous round having clearly been remedied. His first surprise challenger came in the form of his own younger brother, who finally had the ex-Russell Humphries Vauxhall Astra lapping at its true potential. Dave Scaramanga was also enjoying full power from his VW Scirocco, picking up where he left off at the last meeting and assuming top spot for a period. Just as more contenders were finding track space and getting up to speed, the red flags were waved, bringing the session to an unscheduled stop.
The delay was a welcome reprise for Norris, the extra crucial minutes allowing him to get revive his Colt and rejoin the action with just enough left on the clock for a couple of flying laps.
Charles Hyde Andrews Bird had not put in a competitive lap prior to the stoppage so wasted no time in getting his Nissan up to full pace after the restart. The frantic remainder of the session resulted in one of the closest encounters of the season, with just over a second between the five fastest times.
Seeing the name ‘Prebble’ at the top of the time sheets is a familiar sight, but this time it was younger sibling Adam stealing the limelight. Adam re-joined the saloon championship this season after several years in GTs, but has struggled to achieve the all important balance of performance and reliability from his Vauxhall. It all came together though today and if the sweet spot of his Astra has been found, could be a real contender next year.
STN would join Adam on the front row, just 0.016 shy of pole. CHAB and Gary Prebble also affirmed their place in the ‘low 13s’ club to secure the second row, with the Nissan in prime spot.
Neil Greenland has been getting quicker all year in the Simon Norris built Mitsubishi Colt and would line up in P5 having impressively out qualified the class A Scircocco of the in-form Dave Scaramanga.
Occasional racer Anthony Weeks reappeared at the previous meeting in yet another different car; a Grant Motorsport Peugeot 106 and got to grips with it very quickly indeed. Weeks returned this time out and proved that this year, in contrast to previous years, any car with a GMS sticker on it is a force to be reckoned with. A PB of 1:16.461 made him the best of the class C runners; crucially out qualifying championship leader Adrian Slade by over a second and 4 grid places. Slade should still be able to take the title without an outright class win, but rivals James Keepin and Nathan Nicholls qualified right on Slade’s heels meaning Adrian will have to really work for his silverware.
Matthew Parr did everything he could by clocking up the fastest lap time in class D, setting himself up to do his bit and leave fate in the hands of the fortunes of his championship opponents.
SALOONS ROUND 9
The famous Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship has a habit of going right to the wire every year and 2018 would be no exception.
The lightweight Mitsubishi of the reigning champion found the best traction as the red lights were extinguished for the final act of this year’s show, slotting in front of Adam Prebble to take an early lead. Despite having the off-the-line advantage of rear wheel drive, CHAB lost out to Gary Prebble on the second row, leading Scaramanga and Kite up over Avon Rise for the first time.
In the mid pack, Adrian Slade was delighted to see that Anthony Weeks hadn’t yet found the best way to get his new Peugeot moving, allowing Slade to assume the class lead right from the first corner of the race.
The leading pair pulled a small gap over the chasing pack which was being shuffled right from the outset. Having lost out to Gary Prebble on the startline, CHAB soon wound his Nissan up to full race pace and got a good run on the SEAT at the Esses to steal third. Having finally found the sweet spot of his VW Scirrocco, Dave Scaramanga was holding off the in-form Alex Kite, who had the class A winner’s trophy in his sights. Tony Hutchings was enjoying some much improved performance from his Audi TT, piling the pressure on Kite’s newer model.
After a superb championship debut this year, Neil Greenland had a disappointing end to his season, retiring his bright green Colt on lap 6, and would be only one of two cars that wouldn’t finish the race; the other being the late entry of Martin Perry in a VW Bora.
The brothers Prebble were having mixed fortunes; Adam was keeping his Astra in close proximity to Norris’ rear bumper, while Gary found himself losing touch with CHAB ahead of him, while Scaramanga’s Scirocco was growing larger in his mirrors.
The leading pair became a leading trio at the mid-point of the race with CHAB joining the party just as the back markers started to come into play. The three cars were alternating between mounting challenges on each other and picking paths of least resistance though the back markers. Despite the traffic, CHAB somehow managed to put in an eye watering lap of 1:12.711, breaking the lap record. The Nissan had a clear speed advantage through the fastest part of the circuit and looked certain to take second from Adam Prebble. CHAB was about to pull the trigger but chose the wrong part of the track to do it; right on the crest of Avon Rise, which unsettled the Nissan sending him into a spin. CHAB would have no doubt been relieved to have kept it out of the barrier but bitterly disappointed as a race win looked a definite possibility.
Adrian Slade was still leading his class although Anthony Weeks was making amends for his poor start. At the rear end of the field, Matthew Parr was looking good for the class D win, having a healthy buffer of a trio of class C MGZRs between himself and nearest rival Chris Hignell.
Adam Prebble’s laps defending from the charging CHAB allowed Simon Thornton Norris to gallop his Colt home to take the chequered flag and further seal his class B victory, and with it second place in the overall standings. Gary Prebble joined his brother on the podium having successfully held of advances from the VAG club behind. Alex Kite was the victor of that battle, his fifth place earned him the overall class A victory; a fantastic reward for an outstanding season.
Adrian Slade only needed to finish third in class to seal the coveted title but finished in style, crossing the line in 12th and first in class.
Having so recently been in a strong position to take the overall title, Matthew Parr finished well clear of his rivals, taking the class D honours comfortably, and third place in the overall standings.
The final race of the season secured silver championship medals for Gary Prebble, Jordan Curnow, Martin Chivers and Mark Sutton in classes A-D respectively. Deserved third place silverware goes to Tony Hutchings, Neil Greenland, Nathan Nicholls and Chris Hignell.
Adrian Slade once again proved that while each race is a sprint, the saloon championship is most definitely a marathon. Slade has barely put a foot wrong all season, dominating class C and dropping just three points in the opening round. Yet another new name to be engraved on the winner’s trophy is further testament as to why the Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship is still one of the most exciting ‘tin-top’ series in UK motorsport.Posted on Thursday 11 October 2018