The Joy and the Despair
Motor Racing can be a fickle master. There are times when everything goes right with no apparent effort and it will have you riding the crest of the emotional wave. There are times when despite everything thrown at it, nothing prevails and the heart reaches rock-bottom. There are times when these two extremes can be reached in a single day. It’s often glibly dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders and the comment; “Well, that’s motor racing!” At Mallory Park we had it all.
After the previous races combined with the Quaife Intermarques it was a relief to be back to the traditional Tuscan format with their own races and a standing start. Particularly relieved was Dave Chant. He appeared with a rebuilt driver’s side after his tangle with an Intermarque car at Brands Hatch. The Shiny Car Trophy, had it been awarded, would have gone to Dean Cook. He had a complete rebuild since Snetterton. Someone having more than his fair share of rebuilds this year was Tim Davis. He is currently on the third incarnation of the AJP engine in the unique S3erbera, with broken camshafts piling up in the corner of his garage. The current champion is having what is called a “character building” year.
The Tuscan Series has a very sparsely populated “invitation” class. The idea is that any like-minded driver with a car that is in the TVR spirit can enter and join in the fun that is TVR racing. Apparently there are not many of these around but at Mallory, Doug Ellwood brought his Bob Gerard Marcos Mantis along to play. This is equipped with a 6000 cc Chevrolet engine and on paper could prove more than a match for the faster Tuscans. More on this subject later…
Race day dawned with showers that had not been forecast but by the time the Tuscans assembled in the marshalling area for qualifying the track was dry and it remained dry at least until they ventured out. A shower that started light eventually grew heavy and the track became progressively slippier. The shower lasted for about half the qualifying period but it was enough to ensure tricky conditions for the allocated fifteen minutes. As a result, several drivers were taking it easy, not wishing to fall off so early in the day.
It did not seem to slow the Marcos which reappeared on the pit straight after an indecently short period of time and set its fastest time of 54.324 on its first flying lap. Keith Vaughan-Williams approach was different. He had some lairy moments as he explored the grip levels but did nothing spectacular in terms of lap times – until the dying moments that is when as the chequered flag flew, in true Ayrton Senna style, he banged in his fastest time. 57.012 was enough to put him on the front row and made his class B Tuscan the fastest TVR. Kevan Gore was next up. The neat blue road-derived Tuscan is now handling more to its driver’s liking and looked very planted on its way to a 57.553.
Graham Walden turned out for the second of his budgeted four events this year. His fastest lap was on lap 2. 4 laps later he ground to a halt with a broken crankshaft sensor. That lap was good enough for second on the grid until the very last lap of qualifying when he slipped down the order.
On row three, Richard Hewitt survived an alternator belt that turned itself inside-out but did no more damage than earn the driver a trip to see the stewards because his transponder failed as a result. He would line up alongside Dave Chant.
The grid had a topsy-turvy look to it that was more a result of drivers taking it easy in the tricky conditions than a true indicator of real pace.
Except for that Marcos…
A good turn-out of TVRs from the local region was parked up alongside the Kirby Straight. TVR flags were waving and the sun at least tried to shine as the field lined up on a dry track for the start of race one. With the mixed-up grid, we were anticipating some keen racing. Keith Vaughan-Williams attempt to beat the Marcos to the first corner went well until the change to third gear and the power of 6 litres took hold. But it was Graham Walden from row two that took the fight to the interloper. Squeezing past Keith’s red Tuscan he was second into Gerrards. It seemed almost impudent that a class B Tuscan should challenge the monster but that is exactly what he did going into the esses for the first time. It very nearly came off.
Dean Cook was happy by now that his rebuilt car was working properly and he started to get serious. From 12th on the grid, he was 6th by the end of lap one, 4th after two laps and was with the leading group a lap later. It took him two laps to dispatch Graham and one more to get past the Marcos and into the lead. From then on it looked easy although Doug in the Marcos stayed close enough to keep Dean honest and close enough to pounce in case of any mistake.
It was far from easy for the pair behind the leader. Graham Walden stayed cheeky in his Rover V8 engined car, harrying and hounding the bigger car all the way. Several times he very nearly got inside at the hairpin, several times he very nearly got sideways out of the hairpin as he tried to get his power down fractions of a second before the more powerful car in front. And if that was the only place on the track where he had a slim advantage it would have been exciting but it was happening all round the 1.35 miles of Mallory Park. Gripping stuff!
Behind them Jamie Golby was on his own learning to muscle a Tuscan around the tight circuit, then came Keith Vaughan-Williams and Kevan Gore. Kevan had slipped past Keith at the start, establishing his rightful class supremacy, but in a replay of Graham Walden’s impudence Keith prodded and probed for a weakness, a way of getting back in front but, also paralleling the battle for second, the class A car managed to hold sway, just. The battle continued, lap after lap; whether it was tyres or the driver going off is hard to say but as the race wore on it became clear that the blue Tuscan was finding it increasingly difficult to hold off the determined Vaughan-Williams and was getting more and more ragged. Then, on lap 9, Keith was alongside going into the hairpin but on the outside. Evidently no-one told him that you can’t overtake there because that is just what he did. Driving very neatly all the way round the outside he was through into fifth place. Kevan tried to challenge but a few laps later he took to the grass in a big moment at Gerrard’s and that effectively ended any chance.
Next up was Tim Davies, continuing the frustrating season of development of his S3erbera. His problem this time was the cooling system seemed to be sucking in air which eventually blew the radiator cap and lost his coolant. A trip to the pits for a new cap and more coolant had him out but with the loss of seven laps, any possibility of a result had vapourised.
In class C, John Simpson was not quite able to match Dave Chant for pace, the red Tasmin holding a comfortable lead over the red 3000M throughout.
It is good to see Leigh Jones managing now to get some reliability out of his V8 Tasmin although overheating problems meant he could not push as well as he would have liked. Nevertheless, he and the car are gaining experience so it’s one to watch out for, you can’t miss it with that chequered front.
So Dean Cook stroked home an easy winner but who would make it to the flag in second place? Doug was hustling the big Marcos round at an honest pace but the only place on the track where he could really relax from the pressure of Graham Walden was on the Kirby straight. Everywhere else he was harried by the blue Tuscan in a match that was more even than physics would have predicted. It seemed just a matter of time before the pressure would yield something but a puff of smoke from the Tuscan presaged doom. A few laps later a lack of oil pressure forced Graham to slow down as he pulled into the pits and out of the race. Paddock investigation revealed a core plug had gone, releasing the coolant and the loss of oil pressure was down to losing a main bearing from the ensuing overheating. Possibly the cheapest component on the car resulted in the loss of an engine and the four race budget was correspondingly depleted.
With the grid for race two being decided on the finishing order of race one, Dean Cook was on pole with the Marcos next to him. Behind, on row two, were the Tuscans of Jamie Golby with Keith Vaughan-Williams on the outside. There would be a gap on row 6 where Graham Walden should have been. Tim Davis lined up on row 7 hoping for better things. He had been busy between races trying to get to the bottom of his race one problems and was hoping for a better run. Last on the grid was Billy Thompson. A loose HT led brought race one to a premature end for him, another driver hoping for better things in race two.
When the lights went out it was again the Marcos heading the field into Gerrards and along the back straight but instead of a class B Tuscan chasing, this time there were two class A versions. For three laps these three circulated as one and they all tried to occupy the same piece of tarmac at the hairpin when the gap concertinas up as the cars brake for the tight corner. Dean suffered a slight punt up the rear from Jamie Golby as a result, the first battle scar for the rebuilt car. Dean got through on lap four and pulled out a small lead, Jamie followed him through the next time round. Unfortunately the Marcos did not get through traffic as well as the two cars in front so, although he could match their pace, he never could quite get onto terms with them. “I was beaten by two of the things,” was his comment when asked afterwards how the race went for him. There seemed to be a slight tone of indignation.
A few seconds up the road, battle was joined again between Keith Vaughan-Williams and Kevan Gore. At first it seemed Keith had the advantage, and for a couple of laps he was able to pull out a small gap. Kevan thought different. Using his greater power he pulled himself back onto the tail of the Tuscan and on lap 9 he sailed past on the main straight. Meanwhile, the work by Tim Davis between races was paying off. From 12th on the grid he was past Leigh Jones, Richard Hewitt, Peter Hunter and Gary Lancashire on lap 1. It took three laps to catch the class C leaders, then in successive laps he was past John Simpson and Dave Chant to set off in pursuit of the tussling duo. A gap of nearly six seconds was gradually reduced until on lap 15, the three were circulating nearly nose to tail, Gore, followed by Vaughan-Williams followed by Davis, the three going past quicker than you can call their names out.
Gore was starting to get a bit wayward again. That and the sight of his Happy Endings Motorsport teammate filling his mirrors spurred Keith on and a very sweet move at the esses saw him past the blue Tuscan in a classic Mallory overtake. As Kevan Gore got more and more ragged he came under intense pressure from a fired-up Tim Davis; the champion enjoying the best race of his season. Coming into the elbow on lap 17 he was very nearly alongside but on the outside. They were passing a back-marker and Kevan was taking a tighter line than normal. A wheel on the inside kerb had the car fishtailing, first one way then the other and it was obvious that he would not be able to catch the slide. Tim, on the outside, had nowhere to go. The silver S3erbera t-boned the wayward Tuscan with a big hit that sent both cars through the gravel trap and into the tyres. Fortunately the drivers were given a clean bill of health by the circuit’s medical team but it was sad end for them both; Kevan, who was now starting to get to grips with the car’s handling and Tim who was just starting to enjoy racing the hybrid.
Class C was again the property of Dave Chant. John Simpson was having his last race of the season, racing having to be sacrificed on the altar of work and family commitments. John’s own unique humour will be missed almost as much as one of the nicest prepared cars in the paddock. Further back Richard Hewitt and Peter Hunter were close throughout the race. This was Peter’s first “proper” race in the car he shares with Dave Stewart and he did well to shadow the bigger engined Griffith throughout.
Billy Thompson’s second race turned out to be no better than the first. Four cylinders working were just not sufficient in an engine that was designed for six and he retired on lap one.
To the victor go the spoils and Dean Cook left a happy man with two more trophies for his cabinet. Double winners in the lower classes were Keith Vaughan-Williams and Dave Chant. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, TimDavis, Kevan Gore and Graham Walden left with work to do and money to spend. Billy Thompson, at only his second race meeting, summed it up when he said, “This is a funny sport, one minute you’re up, then you’re down. When you’re up you’re riding high, when you’re down…” His face told a story that his words couldn’t.
As they say, that’s motor racing.
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