At the Mallory Park Tuscan party, the gatecrasher was Doug Ellwood in his Marcos and he was bested by two of the regular Tuscans. This time out the gatecrashers were TVRs. The usual partygoers were joined for this race by GT Cup contender, Mike Saunders and Dutch Supercar Challenge convert, Andy Holden in their Cerbera and Sagaris. Both of these cars are beautifully prepared and equally well-driven, both were using the race as a test session after major re-builds but both are prepared for a rather different type of racing. It would be interesting to see how they would fare against the out-and-out sprint cars.
Rockingham can be a bleak place. Circuits seem to be built in parts of the country that offer the least resistance to the passage of wind across the landscape and Rockingham exemplifies that approach. Sunday brought rain early on but when this cleared to leave shiny blue skies the wind blew a cold northerly that kept everyone under awnings or in their motorhomes. A packed programme of racing organized by the BRSCC following on the tail of the previous day’s Britcar round included two rounds of the Tuscan Challenge.
The two day meeting had a strange timetable for the Tuscan Challenge with qualifying late on the Sunday and both races on the bank holiday Monday, apparently to suit the availability of the TV crew. One advantage of the wind was that by the time the cars went out for qualifying the track had a chance to dry out. Dry, yes, but after the rain the track would be green and all the drivers complained of lack of grip.
Of the gatecrashers, Mike Saunders was the star of qualifying with a fastest lap over two seconds quicker than his nearest rival whilst Andy was not so fortunate. Air in the clutch hydraulics delayed his entry to the proceedings and before he could get a quick lap in, a spin at the Brook chicane left him beached on the kerb. This brought out the red flag and ended his session.
Behind Saunders were Tuscan regulars Dean Cook and Hugh Marshall, followed by the improving Jamie Golby. Fifth quickest was Neil Sampson in his 6 litre Chevrolet engined Tuscan. Sadly for him, when the session restarted after Andy Holden’s red flag, his car wouldn’t. Paddock investigation revealed the cause to be a broken ignition coil and with no spare available, he could take no further part. Tim Davis’ S3erbera arrived freshly repaired after his Mallory prang and he had used the opportunity to fix a number of issues he had with the car. The car was only completed in time for a shakedown in deluvian conditions at Brands Hatch during the week preceding but was good enough for 7th quickest.
His Happy Endings Motorsport team-mate, Keith Vaughan-Williams, is riding high. He came into the event with seven straight class wins and looked set to build on that success with the class B pole. Then came Kevan Gore, also rebuilt after the Mallory shunt and another series visitor Pete Reeve. Perry Waddams was brave enough to make his racing debut in a Chevrolet engined Tuscan and he managed 12th fastest time.
Unusually, Dave Chant was not the quickest class C car. He complained of brake trouble as he slithered his way to 15th fastest time and left the class pole to Dave Stewart.
Andy Holden’s concern over whether his car had been damaged on the Brook kerb was unfounded and he took his place on the grid for the first race, leaving the only absentee as Neil Sampson. As the field pulled off for the green flag lap, Richard Hewitt pulled off onto the inside at turn one. The recovery vehicle quickly hitched him up and took him on a tour of the speedway banking, depositing him at turn four. As the rest of the drivers arrived on the grid, Andy Holden caused the commentator some consternation when he pulled into the pit lane. No need for the drama, he had always intended to start from the pit lane to save his transmission, designed for rolling starts, from the stress of a standing start.
As the lights went out, the poleman bogged down in plumes of wheelspin and it was Jamie Golby who got the best start. He challenged Dean Cook round the outside of the turn one banking and all the way up to Deene hairpin only to find out that he had no brakes! He went straight on, whilst behind him, Kevan Gore had a major lock-up with acrid white tyre smoke drifting away from the scene and Mike Saunders’ bad start was compounded by a spin and a further drop in places.
At the end of lap one, Dean Cook was three seconds ahead of Hugh Marshall but the revelation came next. Keith Vaughan-Williams had got a peach of a start, took advantage of the first corner shenanigans and was in a solid and deserved third. He was closely followed by Gore and Davis. Four seconds away were Pete Reeve, the recovering Mike Saunders and Dave Chant in close company. From further back, Andy Holden picked his way with ease through the spinners and came round in ninth. Dave Stewart and Perry Waddams were close, Jamie Golby was looking for stopping power and Leigh Jones and Billy Thompson rounded out the field.
Kevan Gore and Keith Vaughan-Williams took over where they left off at Mallory Park and this time they were joined by Tim Davis. For five laps they circulated nose to tail, the Rover engined class B car was not only nimble around the technical infield but also doing well not to be engulfed on the fast main straight and round the banked turn one. Keith seemed to have the edge but made it hard for himself with a spin at Tarzan on lap six. The manoeuvre cost him seven seconds but in two laps he was back with them. Davis managed to nip past the blue Tuscan making the order on lap eight Davis, Gore, Vaughan-Williams. Next time round it was V-W, Gore, Davis. Keith was on a roll and managed to pull out a small but vital lead which he held to the flag. Tim pegged away at Gore and got past on lap 13. Then he left the door open a little too wide at Chapman on the final tour and Kevan got back past.
Pete Reeve, Dave Chant and Perry Waddams were enjoying some close racing. First timer Waddams slipped past old timer Chant on lap five and held him until lap 10 when a misfire spoiled his race; a confident performance from the driver but clearly some teething problems on the car. His willing helpers from Dulford would be busy in the break between races.
Despite his lack of brakes, Jamie Golby was making good progress until a spin at the Brook chicane put an end to it. Another set of willing helpers were destined to be busy in the interval.
The gatecrashers however were making better progress. While the commentator was eulogizing about the appearance of the Sagaris, Andy Holden was working his way through effectively. It took him seven laps to catch Hugh Marshall in third place but by the time he was past the 13 ½ seconds to the leaders was too much to make up in the time available.
Mike Saunders progress was more meteoric. The yellow Cerb was seventh first time round, then fourth and third on consecutive laps. The 3 ½ seconds to Hugh Marshall was closed in a lap and a confident move around the outside at turn one was made to look easy. Dean Cook was 4 ½ seconds further on and the outcome looked inevitable. Dean Cook is a natural racer, at his best when being chased and he was not going to give up as easily as Hugh. An attempt around the outside of Tarzan looked good but was never really on, especially with the yellow Cerb’s poor traction that seemed especially acute at that corner. A repeat of the Hugh Marshall move looked better but Dean is not so easily passed. Mike was determined and the two were side by side going into the hairpin. It was the irresistible force meeting the immovable object and the result was always in doubt. Dean held on; just! The move put Mike a couple of seconds back, a gap that took until the final lap to claw back. A final attempt was made around the outside of Gracelands, hoping to get the inside line into Tarzan but it was Dean Cook who crossed the line to take a well-deserved win.
Joining Neil Sampson on the trailers for an early ride home were Billy Thompson and Pete Reeve. Billy Thompson’s clutch cried enough and Pete Reeve had a persistent oil leak from the turbo which despite galliant efforts from the driver, was unfixable. Richard Hewitt cured his running problem so thirteen cars formed the grid for the second race. Andy Holden again started from the pit lane but the commentator was wise to it by now.
This time Mike Saunders managed to get the better of the wheelspin and he and Dean Cook moved off the line as one. Side by side they went round the banking and side by side they stayed into Deene hairpin. It was pure muscle tussle, like two tattooed, twenty-stone brutes arm-wrestling, and Mike was determined not to spend the race looking at the orange rear of Dean’s Tuscan. Still on the outside on the exit he powered away towards the following right hander from which he emerged clear in the lead.
Behind them as they crossed the line Hugh Marshall was already 3 ½ seconds back, then came the fast-starting Tim Davis marginally ahead of Keith Vaughan-Williams, Jamie Golby and Kevan Gore. With a solid set of brakes, Jamie could start to enjoy himself. From the back of the grid he made short work of the cars in front, Tim Davis made it hard for him for a lap, then he set off after Hugh Marshall. A four second gap was slowly but surely whittled down. On the tenth lap, powering out of Tarzan hairpin Jamie was alongside and even got his nose in front. Hugh’s been at this for a long time and he was not going to let the young gun past without a fight. The fight was too much for Jamie and he spun the blue Tuscan at the following corner. Undeterred, he gathered it all up again and set back off in pursuit catching Hugh on the last lap. Time alas was against him and they crossed the line separated by less than a second.
The Davis/Gore/Vaughan-Williams trio was resolved early on. Tim Davis started well and built a cushion but very quickly the gremlins got to him again. He pitted on lap five with gear selection problems. With the loss of a lap he continued but could never challenge effectively. The reigning champion is having what they call a character building year and it is a credit to the Kent racer that he keeps smiling through and maintains his enthusiasm for the series. His team-mate Vaughan-Williams though is going from strength to strength. Gore was close throughout the race, even managing to sneak ahead at one point but Keith kept his cool this time, repassed and stayed ahead to the flag.
Billy Thomson’s early departure left just two starters in class C. At first it looked as though Dave Chant would walk away with it, within a few laps he was 6 seconds ahead. Then the other Dave (Stewart that is) realised some pace and slowly closed the gap. It took him the whole race and they crossed the finishing line just yards apart. That they both set their fastest lap on the last time round shows how they were trying and the relief from Chant, as he punched the air F1 style, at the finish was self-evident. It was a superb performance from Stewart in his first year and showed his coming of age as a racing driver. He’ll be handing the car over to Peter Hunter for the final round but no doubt eagerly anticipating next year.
Another driver who was not hanging about was Andy Holden. His drive through the field made his race one effort look pedestrian. Seventh at the start of lap three, he took Vaughan-Williams, Davis and Golby in one gulp. Marshall succumbed with ease a lap later and even the feisty Cook could hold no challenge to the flying Sagaris. That just left Saunders. Six minutes were left on the clock, about enough time for four or five laps, nine laps had been completed, the Sagaris was six seconds behind the Cerbera and closing at three seconds a lap. Ten laps down and the gap was down to three seconds. Eleven laps and they were together. The clock was counting down, just a few minutes to go and Saunders still led across the line at the end of lap twelve, a wafer between the two cars. A breathtaking move around the outside of Chapman gave the lead to Andy Holden. He rounded out the final lap a worthy winner after a sterling drive. Mike Saunders backed off, nursing a few problems to the finish. Mike commented after the race that he did not realise his rival was catching him so quickly and that if he had a radio he probably would have won the race. A look at the lap times confirms his theory. While he was cruising in the lead lapping in 1 minute 29 seconds or so, Andy Holden was circulating in the 25s and 26s. As soon as he was caught, Mike started to match the times.
Where a few weeks previously Doug Ellwood failed, this time the gatecrashers stole the thunder. But it took two very special cars and drivers to upset the regular order. The party now moves to Oulton Park for the season finale. The championship is still to play for with Dave Chant leading the way. He has got class C sewn up but has to keep an eye on Keith Vaughan-Williams for the overall title. He is just 9.5 points behind. It happens on the 16th October.
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