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Saloon Championship - Summer Spectaclar

prebbles lead first race of 2020 Steve Jones

Prebble brothers hit trouble, yet win a race apiece - Second generation racers Gary and Adam Prebble each suffered dramas at August 1’s Summer Spectacular (also designated 2020’s Howard’s Day following Easter Monday’s COVID-19 enforced event cancellation) but returned to Hampshire with a victory each. Indeed, so great has been the attrition this term that Vauxhall Astra Turbo-mounted Adam is top scorer overall, despite missing July 4’s second stanza with gearbox damage.

Supported by father Brian – a Special Saloon/GT Imp ace in the 1970s/’80s – the Prebble boys topped the dry qualifying session, thus locked-out the front row of the grid for the opener. Thirty six thousandths of a second separated Gary (SEAT Leon Cupra 20v T) from his sibling, 1m11.339s (93.35mph) getting the nod for pole position in the 17-car field. Having not started either race on opening day, following a turbo failure, Gary was equipped with a new one and banking on opening his account.

Class B standout Simon Thornton-Norris, another to break in July, had his phenomenally powerful 1468cc Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart back on full song, his 1:11.405 (93.27mph) best a scant 0.294s clear of seasonal debutant Chris Rawlings in the quickest of the well-developed TSR VW Golf GTi turbocars. Team mate Robert Ellick (Golf) and Interceptor Racing’s Mark Wyatt (Class B Vauxhall Astra) filled row three, both in the ‘13s.’

Three more A runners led the chase, Rob Ballard’s rejuvenated VW Scirocco four tenths quicker than Kevin Bird’s Nissan 200SX [before its gearbox failed, trailering it for the day], with a gap back to Tom Cook’s lone supercharged Mini Cooper S. Class C pacemaker Jon Lannon rounded out the top 10 in his 1600cc Citroen Saxo VTS, 1:18.637 (84.69mph) three and a half seconds swifter than rival Mark Sutton’s somewhat heavier 1800cc MG ZR. The bold Peter Elliston separated them in his VW Golf GTi on 1:18.956.

Hot on Sutton’s heels were Terry Thorne (Ford Fiesta) and ‘Saxophonists’ Antony Weeks – top of Class D with 1:22.455 (80.77mph) in his 1400cc version – and Stuart Hignell. Brother Chris Hignell (Peugeot 106) had Weeks in sight, having out-qualified Ray Ferguson’s brick-sided MG ZR by a whisker. 

Adam Prebble led race 1’s opening lap, but his bonnet was flapping. He pressed on nonetheless, trading the initiative with his brother until lap four, when he pitted for a quick fix. This promoted Rawlings to second, ahead of Ellick, Wyatt and Cook, pursued by Elliston, third of the Golfers. Swiftly on his way, Prebble minor was back up to sixth within a lap and lapping three seconds quicker than Wyatt. Adam’s tigering recovery drive was the story of the race, for – aided by Ellick’s quick gyration at the Esses on lap 10 – he salvaged third, behind Gary and Rawlings.

Only Wyatt of the chasers remained unlapped, Mark claiming Class B in his normally-aspirated Astra after Thornton-Norris pulled off on lap 3, his engine hobbled by water in its crankshaft sensor plug. Ballard was fifth, with Elliston an excellent sixth, a mere 2.990s adrift at the chequer. Ellick and Cook were late retirements, thus Class C pacesetters Lannon and Sutton finished next, followed at a distance by Thorne (Wyatt’s runner-up) and Class D winner Weeks. Hignell and Ferguson completed the finishers.

There was no sign of Gary Prebble as competitors assembled by the Avon bridge for their second outing. “A turbo link pipe problem, but he’s fixing it. I expected him to be here,” said Adam. They cars were already stationary on the grid when the white, orange and parakeet-hued SEAT turned out through the gate, headed up the pit road in the reverse direction and U-turned onto the grid. Alas as it spluttered away, with the rest gone at the light signal, the Spanish car was in trouble. It didn’t complete a lap as the hurriedly seated pipe fitting blew as soon as the engine came on boost. Ellick did not start.

Adam Prebble led the race from start to finish, but did not have things easy, for once Thornton-Norris’ rejuvenated Colt was at full gallop Simon closed in. When Prebble understeered onto the kerb exiting Camp on the penultimate lap a momentary lapse in momentum gave ST-N hope of a late overall win, in addition to Class B. But Adam kept his right clog hard in to the throttle and repelled him by 0.388s at the chequer, shown after 10 of the projected 15 laps as officials chased lost time to give the Dave Allan Trophy its full allocation. Rawlings’ productive day ended with third place, another strong podium finish, ahead of Wyatt and a subdued Ballard.

Elliston placed sixth again, moving up to fourth in Class A, with Lannon just behind and delighted with his C double. Thorne, Sutton and Ferguson notched nine laps too, but Hignell, Cook and Weeks fell by the wayside.

Following a very strange first half to this COVID-19 truncated season, in which no competitor has scored in all four rounds amid unusually high attrition rates, Adam Prebble heads the championship table on 29 points, with Sutton on 26, Hignell on 25 and Thornton-Norris on 20, despite only two finishes. The next double-header is on August 31, with all to race for.

Posted on Monday 17 August 2020

Howards Day

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18 April 2022

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