Croft (Nostalgia Weekend) - 8/9 August 2015
ByBox Historic Touring Cars
Although often blighted by heavy rain for this meeting the drivers of the twenty two cars that arrived for practice were met with warm, and sometimes even sunny, weather. Straight from the off Tim Davies and Mark Davies looked like racing had already started as they ran very close to each other for most of the session before Mark got ahead and pinched pole from his namesake. Tim, however, had transgressed the track limits on almost every lap and he was penalised 10 grid places for his enthusiasm. Warren Briggs’ Mustang was elevated to the front row in his place ahead of Mark Jones, making a welcome return to the series in his class C Cortina, and Pete Hallford’s Mustang. Graham Pattle was next up in his Cortina followed by the Minis of Jon Milicevic (repaired after engine problems at the Mini Festival at Brands) and Roger Godfrey. Andy Jones’ on song Singer (sorry!), Steve Jones’ Mini and John Davison’s Cortina rounded out the top ten. There were a few casualties during practice and Andy Harrison didn’t feature on the time sheet after his Mini broke a halfshaft on his first lap out though he qualified later out of session. Destined not to start were Graham Briggs’ Imp which misfired throughout the session, Ed Glaister’s Ford 100E with unknown problems and Steve Jones who had qualified his Mini well up the grid.
I was invited by the Clerk of the Course to watch the first ‘ByBox’ Historic Touring Cars race from the control tower and listen in to the reports as they came in from the marshall posts. The tower gives a good view of the circuit from the hairpin at the start of the pits straight round to the approach to the Esses and a couple of monitors inside the control room cover other sectors so I had an ideal ‘big brother is watching you’ chance to see how the HRSR boys behaved themselves – more later. Pole sitting Mark Davies bogged down a little at the start and Warren got the power down well to take a lead he never relinquished, pulling out a gap of almost 2 seconds at the end of the first lap which he extended to almost 7 seconds by the close. Mark held on well until the chicane on the last lap when a slight oil haze slowed him though he held on to a comfortable second place. Andy Jones made another stunning start in his Chamois to mix it with the bigger boys on the opening lap but dropped back to an eventual eighth place by the end well clear of his class E competition headed by Simon Benoy who had made two engine changes between practice and race before finding a gearbox fault! Tim Davies threaded his way through the midfielders during the opening laps reaching third place at half distance where he stayed to the chequered flag. Mark Jones, Pete Hallford, Graham Pattle and Jon Milicevic took the next four slots ahead of Andy’s Chamois and Roger Godfrey’s class D winning Mini. Andy Harrison provided most of the interest in this first race following his practice woes and he fought his way up to tenth place after an entertaining dice with Tim Harber’s similar Mini, John Pugsley’s Cortina and Simon Benoy. Adrian Oliver was next up in his Imp after a bit of a coming together with the ‘Ace’ Harrison Mini on the opening lap and was followed home by Michael Wade’s Mini, David Lloyd’s late entry Mustang (a last minute gap in farming activity), John Davison and Steve Platts. John had outbraked himself into an elegant pirouette at Clervaux as Tim Harber went for the inside line on lap 7 whilst Steve lost some time when his engine cover blew off on lap 3. Roy Stephenson’s Mini was the only retirement from the race and he would miss race two also.
Very interesting to watch from the control room and apart from a few track limit violations on the opening lap being radio’d in from around the circuit (and the Harrison/Oliver incident, which was missed ‘upstairs’) the Clerk of the Course asked me to let you all know that he considered this an object lesson in good, clean racing and sent his congratulations. So now you know – well done.
The large crowd of spectators on Saturday was greatly surpassed on Sunday with queues of traffic making their way in to the circuit and loads of classic cars, army vehicle displays and aerobatics, including the Vulcan in it’s last flying season, to entertain them. As if all that wasn’t enough for them the second race was an absolute cracker.
Mark Davies retired his Cortina at the start as Warren Briggs led away from Tim Davies’ Cortina and for most of the race they were never more than half a second apart. Warren led the first 4 laps before running a bit wide into the first part of the complex which allowed Tim to lead lap 5 before Warren restored the status quo on the drag out of Tower bend on the next lap. On lap 10 the Mustang hesitated out of the second part of the complex as Warren searched for a gear and he lost a couple of seconds as Tim nipped through to take a lead he held to the end. Great stuff and the crowd loved the dice up front with the Mustang belching flames on overrun and the Cortina smoking locked wheels in to the complex lap after lap. Mark Jones ran a lonely third and Pete Hallford was a subdued fourth until Graham Pattle started gaining on the Mustang towards the end. Graham had dropped a couple of places at the start and was part of a great four way battle with the Minis of Jon Milicevic and Roger Godfrey and Andy’s Chamois taking a few laps to get to the head of the group before he could start to reel in the yellow Mustang but the flag came out before he could get close enough to take fourth. Towards the end Andy dropped away from this dice with handling problems at the rear which allowed Simon Benoy to catch his rival and snatch eighth place, and win class E, on the line by 0.003 seconds!
A few seconds back was another great dice involving the Minis of Andy Harrison and Tim Harber and John Pugsley’s Cortina which finished in that order (some great videos on YouTube from Tim’s camera) with Steve Platts only a little bit further back. Steve had got taffled up with Adrian Oliver’s Imp and John Davison’s Cortina as he started at the back due to his engine cover woes in race one and by the time the Cortina retired on lap 10 Steve did not have time to catch the group in front though he was lapping slightly quicker. Adrian fell back with a slowing Imp towards the end though still well clear of David Lloyd’s Mustang (first time at Croft for this driver) and Nigel Parry in the Mini he shares with Michael Wade. Graham Briggs started this race after missing race one but still had a misfire in the Imp and retired after four laps.
This was a great race enjoyed by the drivers and the spectators. The crowd on the banking near the Complex loved it and as I wandered back to the paddock I overheard a spectator say to a friend who was sat in an MGB waiting to go out on a parade lap ..”you missed a great saloon car race. It was fantastic!” Back in the paddock Andy Harrison was enthusing about the driving standards and what a great race it had been and that he was determined to do the rest of the season and a full season next year with the Historic Touring Cars. What more could we want to hear? allford and Graham Pattle