Kite and Thornton-Norris weather storms
Sizzling two-wheel-drive turbocars provided Easter Monday thrills and spills as Castle Combe’s resident tin top championship contenders flexed their muscles for the first time in 2021 on Howard’s Day, dedicated to the memory of long-time circuit owner Howard Strawford. Alex Kite (Audi TT) and top qualifier Simon Thornton-Norris (Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart) won a round apiece, setting the scene for another tough and ultra-competitive season.
Relatively tall and narrow, the 1468cc Mitsubishi looks a trifle ungainly at standstill, but Thornton-Norris has eked tremendous power and roadholding from it. His 1m11.196s (93.54mph) pole charge on a cold, crisp, morning was inside his own Class B record and 0.315s from Adam Prebble’s outright record of 1:18.881, set last August in his Vauxhall Astra turbo. And Neil Greenland’s sister Colt, the vivid green ProAlloys version shorn of its GT aero appendages, gridded fifth in the 23-car field.
Between the Japanese cars sat Combe legend Gary Prebble’s mighty Seat Leon Cupra 20V T, Kite’s Grant Motorsport Audi - with 600bhp on tap - and Kevin Bird’s Nissan 200SX which boasts a chunk more oomph! Graham Puckett’s supercharged Mini Cooper RS6, veteran Tony Hutchings’ older-shaped Audi TT, Harrison Chamberlain’s CookSport Renault Megane, Rob Ballard’s VW Scirocco and Class C leader James Keepin’s humble 1800cc MG ZR completed the top 10.
The intrepid Peter Elliston (VW Golf GTi), Ben Hindle (Vauxhall Corsa SRi), Class D pacesetter Michael Good (1400cc Corsa), Nick Mizen (Ford Fiesta) and the Citroen Saxos of Jake Alden and Anthony Weeks were next up. Reigning champion Mark Sutton (MG ZR) was only fourth in Class C, separated from James Blake (ZR), Roger Good (Fiesta) and Ray Ferguson (ZR) by two-litre runners Julian Ellison (Vauxhall Astra VXR), Terry Thorne (Fiesta) and Adam Prebble (Astra turbo).
What of Prebble minor? His was a tale of woe for Adam was bedding-in his brakes when a new dog-engagement gearbox grenaded after two laps. That spelled curtains for the day. As if lightning couldn’t strike twice, or even thrice in one place, sibling Gary’s afternoon would be no better…
Bird and Kite took flight like drag racers from the Christmas tree as the red lights were switched off, with Greenland and Thornton-Norris, slowly away, settling in behind. Gary Prebble made a dreadful start. Swamped when his Seat didn’t pick-up the 2002 champ found himself in the danger zone where he was tagged, sustaining a broken right rear wheel. He crept back to the pits, but was out, soon to be joined by Chamberlain.
After three ultra-close laps, Kite “got a run” on Bird exiting Tower on lap 4 and dived for the inside line into Bobbies. Two into one wouldn’t go however. “There wasn’t room,” said Bird, whose Nissan was turned round by a light brush which delayed his rival, advantaging Greenland and Thornton-Norris, the latter grappling with elusive ignition problems which forced him to hit the start button each time the engine cut out.
Kite hounded the Colts down, annexing the lead on lap 9, then setting fastest lap. Greenland and ST-N chased him home with Bird fourth, ahead of the duelling Hutchings and Puckett, with Keepin also on the lead lap. The Clerk was initially minded to exclude Kite for contact, but Alex was spared following a word from Kevin who has been around a long time and sportingly put it down to a racing incident.
Elliston, Hindle, Class D victor Michael Good - 10 seconds clear of Mizen - Sutton and Thorne completed 14 laps. Local man Ballard conked out in front of the pits, having run sixth in the early stages.
Twenty survivors turned out for the event’s curtain-closer, including Ballard and Gary Prebble, who rejoined Thornton-Norris on the front row by courtesy of his second quickest Q-time. “Prebbs” led Kite initially, before ST-N forged through to second and challenged for the top spot. They circulated as one, the Seat apparently unaffected by occasional belches of black smoke, but it slowed on lap 10. The left driveshaft had failed and Gary could only limp to the finish, a lapped ninth and sixth in class.
ST-N, having shrugged off the mysterious electrical gremlin which has bugged his car for a year, could hardly believe his good fortune and took the chequer 8.432s before Kite. Greenland was third, 23s up on Bird, with Puckett fifth, with a union gap of 0.431s over Hutchings, the last unlapped competitor.
Ballard was seventh, ahead of Keepin who completed his Class C double over Hindle who finished nine second adrift, in Prebble’s wake. Michael Good won D again, this time with first race faller Antony Weeks on his rear bumper after an excellent skirmish. Behind then Mizen was a distant third in the 1500cc division.
Posted on Thursday 8 April 2021