QUALIFYING -A superlative 29-car entry underlined the strength of the National Windscreens backed Saloon Championship before a wheel had been turned. When Gary Prebble cut a staggering 1m12.529s (91.82mph) best for pole in the Seat Leon Cupra 20v T the excitement was cranked up another notch, particularly since Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird was also inside Prebbs’ 1m13.412s target in father Kevin’s Nissan 200SX.
Behind the pacemakers, the rakish VW Sciroccos of Dave Scaramanga and Rob Ballard bookended a quartet in the 14s, separated by Adam Prebble (ex-Russell Akers Vauxhall Astra) and Alex Kite, going great guns in the Grant Motorsport Audi TT. And there were five competitors in the 15s, Tony Hutchings in his faithful Audi TT Mk1 heading off Robert Ellick (VW Golf), Class B leader Neil Greenland’s Pro Alloys Mitsubishi Colt, Julian Ellison’s Astra VXR and remarkable Class C topper Chris Rawlings’ Peugeot 205 GTI which broke under the strain.
Unusually low down, only 12th quickest, was defending double champion Simon Thornton-Norris who had a crank sensor fail on his Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart. The first replacement proved to be the wrong type, thus he would start race one with another fetched from base. Veteran Tony Dolley (Seat Leon) and the Honda Civics of Nick Adams and Jordan Curnow were closely-matched in ST-N’s wake.
Outpaced by Rawlings in the preliminaries, Adrian Slade was second in Class C, 16th overall, in his 1600cc Citroen Saxo with the 1400cc version of Class D leader Matthew Parr separating him from rival Nathan Nicholls. Martin Chivers’ MG ZR was the best placed of five examples, gridding just ahead of Peter Elliston’s VW Golf GTI.
Past master Erling Jensen and former FF1600 ace son Steve were sharing the family’s BMW Mini Cooper S, bumped into Class A through turbo coefficient weighting. Parr’s principal opposition, meanwhile, came from Arthur Marks’ Suzuki Swift GTI, some 4.5 seconds slower.
RACE 1 - Alas the first race would start without Gary Prebble – the ‘winningest’ driver in Combe history – who having discovered a leaking inlet manifold on his Seat’s engine and was unable to fix it. Brother Adam, meanwhile, was concerned by overheating, a debilitating malady which mysteriously had also struck Ellison’s Astra. Neither Vauxhall would finish.
After the 27-strong stampede had rounded Quarry safely the early exchanges were fantastic to behold, with CHAB’s innocuous-looking Nissan and the VWposse comprising Scaramanga, fast-starting Hutchings, Kite, Ballard and Ellick pursued by hard-charging Thornton-Norris, scuttling round in the Colt, at the end of lap one. ST-N’s race was curtailed by a split oil cooler which rattled against the front subframe.
Hutchings breached Scaramanga’s defences on lap two but Kite went top when CHAB somehow caught the mother and father of grassy moments exiting Camp on lap six, falling to fourth. Scaramanga retired from third at mid-distance, whereupon the two white Audis – illustrating the evolution of the TT model – fended off the undeterred CHAB, thrilled to have shaved 0.001s from Gary Prebble’s class record.
As Kite netted his first win from Hutchings, Charles throttled back after another excursion at Tower. “That was a great race,” beamed first time victor Alex. “Tony was catching me and I had a couple of offs – the brake pedal was a bit long – but we made it.” Hutchings was equally delighted with “my first good result for a while. The old car is on form again, the power is back!”
Newcomer Ellick finished a promising fourth ahead of Greenland – who claimed Class B victory on Thornton-Norris’ demise – and Ballard. Curnow, Adams, Class C winner Slade and Dolley (with oil seeping from a gearbox drive flange which would keep his Seat out of the second race) completed the top 10. Chivers and Nicholls also went the full distance. Parr maintained his unbeaten Class D run, thus is emerging as an early title favourite.
RACE 2 - Supreme efforts by the Prebble crew to Seat out in the sequel fell short by perhaps 20 minutes, but Thornton-Norris’ Colt was rejuvenated, albeit obliged to start on P27. That said, there is no greater incentive to some drivers than the thrill of the chase and Simon was primed to go as the red lights went out.
Hyde-Andrews-Bird bolted out of the blocks to lead Kite and Hutchings, resisting pressure when Alex found his TT’s sweet spot and homed-in. Thornton-Norris was into the top eight in three laps and didn’t stint on the loud pedal as he continued to pick cars off one by one.
CHAB held on out front for nine laps, but his race ended when flagging oil pressure told him it was time to park the Nissan. “There’s more to come, believe me,” he said, lokking forward to the remainder of the season. Kite thus completed a fine double victory under immense pressure from Thornton-Norris who crossed the line but 0.631s behind after a sensational drive.
“I was good to be up with CHAB, but I lost a bit of ground locking up into the chicane,” said Alex, who praised Grant Motorsport for a great car. Gallant runner-up ST-N was also happy. “I was going 10/10ths from the start and didn’t have much left at the end,” he said.
Hutchings joined them on the podium, having finished ahead of Ellick, Greenland, Adams, Curnow and Class C star Slade, who took the chequer eighth, one place higher than before, and was named Driver of the Day.
Parr, unopposed in class D again, leads Slade by a point in the overall standings, both having been beaten in Easter Monday’s opener. Despite this weekend’s tribulations, Thornton-Norris lies third in the table ahead of Kite who leap-frogged the previously dominant Prebble in Class A.Posted on Friday 1 June 2018