More subtle than a Bull in a flower shop
Four weeks after his previous triumph, Oliver Bull continued his winning ways in the Fleurtations florist Vauxhall Tigra Silhouette at the Castle Combe Challenge race meeting with a resounding 42 second lights-to-chequer victory over Tony Bennett (Caterham R300). Defending champion Bennett qualified only fifth, but following another early demise for Bradley John’s Mitsubishi Evo 9, had traded places with Alan Hamilton’s increasingly rapid Westfield-Duratec when the ‘sevens’ touched and Hamilton’s smote the barrier approaching Tower. Martin Thomas, who had caught them mid-race in his BMW E46 M3, was thus rewarded with third.
Bull qualified Jeremy Irwin’s 2.3-litre four-pot Ford Ecoboost [Mustang] engined Tigra on pole with a 1m06.629s (99.95mph) charge, with Class B pacesetter Hamilton a feisty second on 1:08.781s, eclipsing Bradley John’s monster by 0.096s on TSL’s timing system. Dominic Shepherd sat a strong fourth in his Nissan V6-powered Audi clone, the youngster’s 1:09.919 eclipsing Bennett’s best by 0.024s. A mere 0.093s slower, welcome returnee Thomas completed the top six.
Tim Woodman’s Caterham 7 occupied the 13-car grid’s fulcrum point, ahead of Keith Butcher’s mighty 5.7-litre Audi R8 LMS Ultra, rebuilt following his whoopsy at Folly last season. Handling problems, suspected to be down to a soft damper, saw the ultra-low coupe from Ingolstadt spook Keith, who needed more laps to acclimatise. Jeremy Cooke (BMW M3 GT4), Brent Hill’s supercharged Honda-engined RoadRunner SR2 and David Tyson’s VW Golf TCR were next up. Lewis Clark’s Ford Fiesta and Adam Perrett’s Renault Clio 172 round out the runners.
Bull’s regular goal to lap the 1.85-mile circuit in an average of 100mph, and ultimately snare Craig Dolby’s 1:04.959 record, set in a 6.2-litre Chevrolet V8-engined Volvo S60 clone, fell short again. Nonetheless, he howled clear of the pack in another impressive display of pace and finesse. John turned his Evo disconsolately into the pits after five laps this time, leaving Bennett, Hamilton and Thomas to excite spectators, back on the banks for the first time in more than a year. Hill and Butcher - still not comfortable despite having climbed to fifth and improved his morning time to 1:09.802 - retired mid-race.
Hamilton rounded Bennett spectacularly on lap 8, summoning all his courage to shoot round the outside at Camp, but Tony dived back ahead into Quarry four laps later. The collision which saw Alan’s car badly damaged ended their fierce duel in a most unfortunate way. “I was right behind Tony approaching Tower and misjudged where he braked,” said Hamilton, surveying the twisted Westfield chassis in the paddock afterwards. Thomas and Woodman thus finished third and fourth, the last unlapped competitors. Bennett still leads the title race, by a point from Bull.
Shepherd fell back when he spun on the exit of the Esses and stalled. He re-caught Cooke who defended his fifth place stoutly, resisting Dominic’s attempts to retaliate by 0.313s. Two laps down on the leaders, Clark, Tyson and Perrett were all classified as finishers.
Posted on Monday 14 June 2021
at Castle Combe
18 April 2022