Castle Combe (50th Anniversary) - 16 April 2016
ByBox Historic Touring Car Championship
Our season kicked off where it all started for the HSCC fifty years ago and in celebration there was a display of many of the fifties sports cars that competed in that very first race. Some of the drivers were there too, with the original cars.
Driving to the meeting along the M4 on the Saturday morning I must confess to a sense of foreboding as the weather deteriorated to the point of a ‘proper’ snowstorm, and it was chilly enough for it to lay. Combe was cold, damp and drizzly and we rushed to set up the shelter and fire up the tea urn. Hmm…..where’s the shelter roof? We seem to have everything else but that most vital part! However, from this iffy start it all started to get better. Steve Jones took pity on us and we took shelter under his awning and Flo helped me set up the stall. Bacon rolls all round, warming up, all started to be right with the world again.
A fine 29 cars took to the track for qualifying and most took several laps to get in the groove, a combination of a track we don’t go to often, first time out for six months and it was very slippery, especially around Camp, which seemed to be the only section of the track not resurfaced. Much tiptoeing here and a couple of offs, fortunately with little damage. Steve Platts kissed the tyre wall, sort of side on, and Jim Chapman took to the infield, finding the only tyre ‘bollard’ in sight! Minis to the fore of course, Peter Crewes finding some early bravery to set second on the grid on his third lap, but super stalwart Roger Godfrey set the pole lap right at the session end. Bob Bullen put his Anglia third, admitting to not knowing quite how he’d done it, but in fairness he looked tidy going round. He just shaded Warren Briggs’ Mustang (first time at Combe I think), from Paul Inch’s Mini and the aforementioned Steve Platts’ Singer Chamois. Chris Clarkson’s Falcon and reigning champ Simon Benoy’s Imp took row 4 and the top ten were rounded out by Chris Sanders’ Lotus Cortina and Greg Thorntons’ Mustang. Six different cars in the top ten – that’s the variety the HTC gives you! And all but one would start the race – Steve Jones’ Mini the casualty with transmission maladies.
By race time mid afternoon (the weather improved remarkably around lunchtime) the track was dry and rubbered in. Warren used V8 power with effect and was in the lead comfortably by Quarry with Roger in pursuit. Simon was a very focused third by now (Andy Jones told me the ‘focused’ bit) but all was not well with the Imp’s cooling system, having taken a biff from a piece of debris just after the start (I think this was Bob’s silencer, which would account for the Anglia’s noise). Simon fell away as he watched his temperature gauge rising, retiring on lap eight. By lap two though the prime mover is local man Chris Sanders, the Lotus Cortina finding the dry much more amenable than the wet and on lap 4 it looks like he might challenge Warren’s lead. Warren puts pedal to the metal a bit more as his circuit confidence increases and pulls out a little gap, held to the flag from Chris, who never gives up on the chase. If not for his silencer falling off, Bob’s Anglia could have challenged Chris, as was the case in the Classic Festival last October. Around laps 6, 7, 8 Bob was catching but then he spotted the black flag (for excess noise) and it was for nought. A couple of others are making steady progress from relatively lowly grid spots – Greg’s Mustang, which would finish third, and Tom Jones’ Lotus Cortina. However, on lap 6 Tom smites the tyre bollard at the second chicane a blow enough to derange the steering and retirement beckons when he’d worked up to fourth (and with Bob in sight, who was to retire…..). Cue more to come to the fore from mid grid – Chris Clarkson, who generally tracked Greg, and indeed had the better of him for a lap or so early on, who came home fourth, and Oliver Ford (Lotus Cortina, smoky), John Spiers (Lotus Cortina) and Jimmy Fuller (Alfa) who were very close in that order at the flag. Jimmy could have been sixth, but left the door open at Tower on the last lap. John didn’t need to be invited anyway….. From pole, Roger finished eighth, horsepower (or lack of relative to those ahead) his downfall, although, as ever, he never stops trying. A few seconds back down the road, Adam Gittings (Anglia, nursing some sort of cooling system problem), Steve’s Chamois and the Minis of Peter Crewes and Paul Inch contested ninth to twelfth. David Alexander (Alfa) had a good but lonely run to thirteenth, the last of the unlapped runners. Nigel Cox (Lotus Cortina) was fourteenth and Jim Chapman at last finished a race in the unique Chevrolet Corvair (and has a turbo engine on the blocks – I think the only pre-66 saloon ever to come from the factory with one) in fifteenth. Will Dick (Mini), Adrian Oliver (Imp) and David Lloyd (Mustang) tussled for sixteenth to eighteenth and John Marsden (Mini), Ian Claridge (Anglia), Stuart Kerr (Singer Chamois) and Tony Bailey (Alfa) completed the finishers. Although the top finishers weren’t so close there were some good scraps through the midfield, so most went home happy. A couple didn’t of course and I can only hope Simon’s engine woes aren’t too bad and whatever problem afflicted David Heale’s Imp off the startline too. It was great to see David back (I still recall a terrific win of his at Cadwell in the wet a few years ago). David had the presence of mind to go a long way off circuit and not cause any race delay.
A little wait I’m afraid until Silverstone on the GP circuit on the 22nd May. I’m on holiday but you’ll be looked after by Pete Wray and Marius et al.
We were there
Let's go RACING!