Oulton Park (Gold Cup) – 31 August 2015
ByBox Historic Touring Car Championship
Qualifying - second out on Monday morning - was drizzly wet. The Mini boys had danced for rain and their wishes were granted, but it’s not quite so clear cut nowadays as the quicker Lotus Cortinas are starting to match them when it’s slippery out there. However, Jon Milicevic’s Cooper S had the edge on them all this time, by a second and a half. Sharing the front row would be the Lotus Cortina of Mark Davies backed up by the similar cars of Tim Davies and Mark Jones. Warren Briggs slid the Mustang around to hold Roger Godfrey’s Cooper S back to sixth from Mike Wade’s similar car, then came Pete Hallford’s Mustang, Simon Benoy’s Imp and the top ten rounded out by Tim Harber’s Cooper S (undaunted by a wild slide off at Island bend along the way). A fine 30 car field took to the track for qualifying and all would take to the track for the first of two races.
And two very fine races they were, as echoed by Marcus Pye, commentating and reporting in Autosport - ‘Jon’s Mini fending off a pack of snarling Lotus Cortinas’. We do put on a good show!
Race one, wet but perhaps not quite so wet as qualifying, led all the way from pole by Jon but the pressure always on, especially in the closing laps. For the first four laps Tim held second, slipping back from Jon at around a second a lap, with Mark Davies and Mark Jones in close company. On lap five, an eager Mark (D) slithered past Tim and set about closing the gap to Jon, making fastest lap as he did so. The gap was less than a second at one point, but Jon very much kept his cool and held on for a fine first win in the HTC. Mark (J) hounded Tim for third but wasn’t shown a gap that was realistic to go for. Roger got the better of Warren at the start, as did quite a few others, and held fifth throughout, half the race from Simon, the latter part from Pete’s Mustang who had a recovering Warren on his tail once he’d tamed the fire belching Mustang and found a way round an assortment of Minis, Imps an Anglia and a Cortina. But, with things shaping up for a Mustang friendly, Warren pulls off at Cascades with, as it turns out, a broken halfshaft. Pete’s Mustang is now eyeing up the fifth place scrap between Roger and Simon. He claims Simon’s place but can’t quite catch Roger. The ‘assortment of Minis, Imps an Anglia and a Cortina’ was a cracking race in itself, all bunched up into Hislops, but every lap David Tomlin’s Lotus Cortina (8th) was just ahead of Bob Bullen’s Anglia, at least across the line where it finally counted. Hassling them all the time were Steve Platts’ Chamois (10th) and Tim Harber’s Mini (although Tim faded a couple of laps from the flag to 16th, almost caught by Will Dick’s Mini and Adrian Oliver’s Imp. Variously involved in this scrap along the way were Michael Wade’s Mini (11th), Andy Jones’ Chamois (19th), the Lotus Cortinas of Johns Spiers (12th) and Avill (13th) and Andy Harrison’s Mini (14th). New-to-HTC Gary Warburton hung in gamely for 15th in his tidy almond green Cooper S (brings back memories for me as Mike Smith knows!). Graham Pattle (20th) had a ‘steady’ run in the Lotus Cortina, which he was grateful for as earlier Oulton outings have not treated him or his pocket kindly! The Cooper S’s of Tim Brook and John Marsden were next followed by John Pugsley’s Lotus Cortina, just fending off David Morrow’s Alfa Guilia (finally running well!). Colin Mckay’s Jaguar S type held the unusual, and very welcome, Ford Corsair of Alan Wheelwright at bay and the finishers were completed by the Imp of Stuart Kerr.
Race two and a rather unsettled day was improving weatherwise. There was still a little drizzle but the racing had hoovered up any running water and it was now just damp. Mark Jones made the best start from row two and led for the first three laps from Tim and Mark Davies, until a ‘disagreement’, as he put it later, at Druids then saw Tim in front from Mark (D). Mark (D) piled the pressure on Tim thereafter, and the lap times tumbled to within a second or two of a ‘dry’ expectation. But a determined Tim’s not an easy fellow to pass and, try as he did, a couple of tenths down at the flag left Mark (D) with a second second place. This was fabulous racing, hard but clean, the sizeable crowd treated to some of the best racing of the day. If only the sun could have shone too….. Mark (J)’s third place run ended up a bit lonely but a little behind him the Mustang duel that got spoiled in race one came alive. Warren had a great run from the back of the grid, setting fastest lap along the way, and gradually closed in on Pete Hallford. He didn’t quite make it but I’m thinking he was pretty pleased considering all the effort that went in to finding and fitting a new halfshaft between races. Roger and Simon picked up where they’d left off in race one, but again the Mini just had the better of the championship leading Imp. With immediate confidence in the conditions, they ran as high as fifth and sixth in the early laps until the more powerful cars found their feet. Eventually they finished eleventh and twelfth. In between, the mid field scrap with at least some of the race one protagonists was resumed. Jon’s Mini fell into their clutches, but only let David Tomlin’s (6th) Lotus Cortina actually get the better of him. Bob Bullen’s Anglia had the pace, but not enough time, although Bob was almost caught at the flag by John Avill. John’s lap times were a bit variable, even given the traffic, but his final lap was a stunning 2:04, right up with the leaders pace. Graham Pattle filled the gap back to Roger Godfrey, and was pleased to go home with his car all in one piece! Just behind, and only just behind, came Andy Harrison’s Mini with Tim Harber hot on his heels, then a gap to Adrian Oliver’s Imp with John Spiers’ (16th) Lotus Cortina in close attendance. Steve Platts’ Chamois fell away in the closing laps but kept well ahead of the Mini pairing of Gary Warburton and Nigel Parry. David Morrow’s Alfa, Tim Brooks’ Cooper S and John Pugsley’s Lotus Cortina filled the spots to 22nd and then Colin McKay’s Jaguar S type just besting Alan Wheelwright’s Corsair as in race one. The finishers were rounded out by John Marsden’s Mini and Stuart Kerr’s Chamois.
The championship is somewhat Simon’s to take, with a 13 point lead over Pete Hallford. Reigning champion Tim is a close third at the moment and there are 27 points still to take. Both Pete and Tim have suffered somewhat from absences in their classes diminishing points take. Let’s see if it goes to the Finals, or can Simon take a second HTC Championship at Brands Indy? See you there!Report by Peter Hore.
We were THERE!