Snetterton May 29th And 30th 2011.
After a long winter lay off the Dunlop TVR European Challenge returned for 2011 at what turned out to be a mostly sunny Snetterton.
After months of preparation for the drivers and teams the opening rounds could not come soon enough. Over the winter work behind the scenes has seen the DTEC and the TVRCC working extremely well together and very hard to increase the profile of the series. This website was the first sign of a new look series and this was closely followed with a deal with all of the race circuits the challenge will visit this year to provide discounted tickets to TVRCC members. This was further subsidised by the club. For Snetterton this discount totalled over 50% on the advance ticket price from MotorsportVision and significantly more on a gate ticket price.
Cheap entry is not the only attraction though, a new hospitality facility has been brought together to provide a comfortable central meeting area for car club members, drivers and team members and sponsors. The hospitality extends to free refreshments and dedicated parking for members.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, a race meeting on a Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday had a distinct disadvantage of us all arriving on the Saturday evening to set up while there were Aston Martins all over the place from the AMOC meeting.
It was a logistical nightmare, the final instruction stated that we would have split areas allocated in the paddock and we wouldn’t be given access to the circuit until 21:15.
Now my forum name is Grumps and that isn’t without reason so a few calls to ‘negotiate’ later I had managed to move our entry to 18:00 but couldn’t get any movement on the split allocation. Now Aston Martins may move very quickly but I can assure you that the crews that set up and take down the huge hospitality units that surround the AMOC series may work very hard but quick they aren’t.
This resulted in a half set up hospitality area and a hastily set up bed in the back of my hired Transit Van. Now a word of warning to those that may wish to consider Britain’s favourite van as a cheap equivalent to a mobile home. Firstly an area that appears to be flat probably isn’t and that had your bald stubby reporter sliding out of bed. Secondly, ensure that your airbed will remain pumped up for the duration of the night, mine didn’t but at least when my backside was on the floor of the van I stopped sliding.
Sunday morning broke with a combination of cloud and sunny spells and the usual Snetterton wind. We completed the assembly of the hospitality area and I was just in time to follow the cars through noise testing and down to the assembly area ready for the qualifying session.
Both Hugh Marshall and Jamie Golby were clearly very quick and with Jamie into his second season the gap finished with Hugh on pole and Jamie on the front row with him with just over a second separating them. Neil Sampson in the LS3 powered Tuscan was also on the pace but was a further second and bit behind Jamie. Andy Race in the class B RV8 powered Tuscan was very impressive, with a second row finish and qualified in fourth. The tussle between local man Kevan Gore and last years Championship runner up Keith Vaughan Williams looked set to continue as they shared row three, Keith edging Kevin by 0.05 of a second.
Row four had Turbo Tim Broughton slightly ahead of a very welcome Darren Smith who is promising to run all season with us where in the past he has always been a bit of an Oulton Park specialist.
Row five was shared by Dave Stewart running in what will always be known as his late father Tom’s Griffith and newcomer Jason Clegg. Dave was out under the watchful and clearly nervous eye of his fiancée. A sensible drive saw him ninth on the grid and back in one piece. Jason is building a speed 6 based Tuscan but doesn’t expect it to be finished for a while so in the meantime he has relieved 2009 champion Tim Davis of the unique S3Erbera. Both drivers were impressive in what would be their first exploratory sessions in their cars.
Perry Waddams found himself on row six following problems with the LS powered Tuscan and a lack of power that would affect him all weekend. You don’t become champion without a wise head and this is where Dave Chant comes into his own. With only Ivor Watson to compete with in class C being on row six alongside Perry suited him just fine.
Row seven was shared by Gary Lancashire in the superbly presented white and purple Tuscan and Leigh Jones in the RV8 Tasmin. Leigh was obviously very cautious under braking and was still bedding in a new set up.
Returning T350R driver Cliff Jobson was experiencing power issues of his own with the speed six engine in the T350 and managed only seven laps. Even less fortunate was Ivor Watson who pulled over with a snapped throttle cable after only three laps and these two shared the back row.
The 200 circuit at Snetterton has had a bit of a makeover during the winter and the complex now has three layouts. A new infield circuit has been added that is around a mile long and when used as a standalone it is called the 100. This was in use this weekend for a Sprint meeting and these guys were the cause of the paddock space issues. When the 100 circuit is added to the 200 circuit the new 3 mile layout gets called, unsurprisingly the 300 and is now an FIA approved layout.
The addition has brought about some changes to the old circuit, the second corner, originally called Sear has been remodelled into a hairpin that joins the 100 circuit, the configuration for this weekend retained an element of the new Montreal corner and has reduced it down to a 2nd gear turn from the original 4th or 5th gear.
Coram has retained its name but what used to be a flat out 4th gear corner into a chicane has been tightened considerably and the drivers are now struggling to find the braking point and the line into this tricky corner and the transition into what was called Russell and has been renamed Murrays.
With a few hours between the qualifying session and race one it was a chance for some of us to eat and others to work on the cars. For Cliff it meant a tour of the car park for a Tuscan road car to borrow some parts to fix the coil pack and HT lead problems. In true TVR spirit a bottle of wine was offered as a reward and a donor did come forward but Jules and the team took one look at the pristine car, decided it would be sacrilege and declined the offer. This meant Cliff would miss race one.
Now I don’t know the truth about double tasking and men but I have to admit it is very hard to keep track of the changes in a race and take pictures, especially when my co-snapper George had a family commitment for the Sunday so I needed some help. One of the volunteers for this year is Charlie Francis and I know she hadn’t figured race reporting to be one of the tasks she had expected to be asked to do but her racing experience was invaluable and I will let her take up the story from her vantage point on the pit wall.
A good start for Hugh Marshall from pole turned into a two second lead over Jamie Golby by the end of the first lap. Local driver Kevan Gore had an outstanding first lap moving from sixth to third whilst Andy Race held station in fourth. Neil Sampson was the main loser dropping from third to eighth. Keith Vaughan Williams dropped two places to seventh promoting Tim Broughton and Darren Smith to fifth and sixth respectively with the pair less then 0.3 seconds apart as they crossed the line at the start of lap 2. Unfortunately Tim retired and new Tasmin racer Ivor Williams pitted with an oil leak but quickly rejoined the pack by the end of the lap. Andy Race found a way past Kevan to third on lap 3 only to drop back to fifth on lap 4 with gearbox troubles to eventually finish sixth. A final lap spectacular spin for Keith Vaughan Williams saw him drop back behind Andy Race and Jason Clegg.
By lap six the two leaders had pulled out a 15 second lead on Kevan and lapped Leigh Jones in his RV8 Tasmin with Neil Sampson pulling into the pits to retire on the same lap. Kevan and Darren started lap 8 side by side down the straight with Kevan keeping in front into Riches. Jamie and Hugh swapped places on lap 9, Hugh losing six seconds over the lap due to gearbox problems leaving him with only two gears. Hugh retook the lead going into Riches on lap 11 and lap 13 saw the pair again side by side down the start/finish straight this time Jamie came out in front. He held on despite Hugh setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 15 to take the first win of 2011. A quote from Kevan Gore on his battle with Darren: ‘That was a proper defensive race. I haven’t defended like that for a long time.’
Now I can manage post race interviews and a chat or two added some explanation to the narrative. Keith Vaughan Williams realised that Andy had issues with the car but was difficult to pass, so realising that Jason behind is running in class A, he took a calculated risk into the last corner. The line between out braking yourself and your opponent is very fine and Keith was just the wrong side of the line and ran wide, he nearly caught it but one wheel in the dust that serves for grass caused a full on spin.
Tim Broughton pulled over before completing two laps with electrical issues and for others it was a tale of woe or two about gearboxes. Andy Race finished without 5th, Hugh was down to two and they both used all of their experience to drive round the problems.
Listening in to the drivers conversation post race they were like excited boys, comparing corners and recalling in-race battles but such is the spirit of the series the animated chat was never derogatory nor did it include any accusation.
Results Race 1
1st Jamie Golby
2nd Hugh Marshall
3rd Darren Smith
Overall places one to four covered by class A cars with Kevan Gore in 4th.
Fastest Lap: Hugh Marshall on the last lap with a time of 1:18.855 and an average speed of 90.58 mph
1st Andy Race
2nd Keith Vaughan Williams
3rd Dave Stewart
Fastest Lap: Andy Race on lap 14 in a time of 1:23.500 and an average speed of 85.55 mph
1st Dave Chant
Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 11 in a time of 1:31.603 and an average speed of 76.35.
For the mechanics it wasn’t going to be a relaxing afternoon but by around 7.00 most were satisfied that the earlier problems were sorted and the evening chill out could begin. For me it was a case of grabbing a well earned Guinness (other beers are available) and wander down to chez Race where a takeaway of Attleborough’s finest (sic) Pizza and Kebab’s had been ordered and of course a beer or two.
Early Monday morning with a slightly fuzzy head, I was putting out the TVR parking signs and erecting a flag claiming the VIP area to be ours. The dawn for others saw Cliff now looking forward to a race as Matt Smith had done a late run to Sebring and back to bring parts for the ailing T350R and Ivor believed that they had cured the oil leak from the day before. Tim’s problems were easily diagnosed and easily fixed with a loose connection tightened but the sad news was that Neil Sampson’s LS powered Tuscan was on the trailer ready for the trip home with yet another clutch failure.
Again I will let Charlie take up the pit wall narrative.
Sunday’s race finishing positions determined the grid for race 2. Hugh and Andy both replaced their gearboxes over night and Cliff Jobson and his T350 started from the back of the grid after curing the electrical gremlins that made him miss Race 1.
A clean start saw all the pack safely into the first corner with Jamie Golby keeping Hugh behind off the line. By the end of the lap 2 Jamie led Hugh by half a second with a gap to Darren Smith, then Kevan Gore and Jason Clegg battling it out for fourth and fifth. Eight seconds further back a good battle was shaping up for sixth place between Tim Broughton, Dave Stewart and Perry Waddams with Perry just nosing ahead of Dave’s Griffith along the start finish straight. Andy Race slipped down the order to 12th with gearbox / clutch problems and Keith Vaughan Williams also had a poor lap dropping to 10th due to a spin at Riches.
Hugh made it passed Jamie on lap 3 and posted the fastest lap on lap 4. Kevan and Jason were evenly matched and went into the first corner side by side and were gaining on Darren Smith in third over the next few laps until they started lapping the back markers on lap 9 when Jason started slipping back before retiring on lap 10 with gearbox problems. Keith Vaughan Williams had been battling back up through the field and Jason’s retirement promoted him to fifth. Cliff had also been working his way up and was sixth.
Kevan swapped places with Darren on lap 11 only to swap back again on lap 12 before Kevan braked hard into Brundle, felt the rear end go light and ended in the wall. Whilst he climbed from the car the race was red flagged due to the dangerous position of the car. Hugh Marshall was the winner from Jamie Golby second, Darren Smith third. Kevan’s retirement promoted Keith to fourth and Cliff Jobson to an excellent fifth from a last row start. There were two great quotes from the post race. Hugh described his one pole, two fastest laps, a second and a win as a ‘good weekend’ and Darren ‘I saw Kev’s doors in my mirrors and realised something had gone wrong!’ Masters of understatement or what?
The post race interviews yielded a bit more information from the driver’s perspective. Darren span and continued at the Montreal hairpin early on, Leigh Jones had continuing brake issues the tussle between Andy and Keith in class B continued until Andy dropped back through the field with the car stuck in 4th gear. With two 2nd gear corners to contend with progress was always going to be inhibited. Ivor Watson dropped out with a disconnected breather hose and loads of oil to clear up and there was a continuation of the power problems for Perry Waddams.
Dave Stewart kept ‘our lass’ happy with a controlled drive and finished with both him and the car unscathed. Jason was making good progress and was getting quicker by the lap until gearbox issues forced his retirement on lap 9.
Results Race 2
1st Hugh Marshall
2nd Jamie Golby
3rd Darren Smith
Fastest Lap: Hugh Marshall on lap 4 with a time of 1:20.892 and an average speed of 88.30 mph
1st Keith Vaughan Williams
2nd Cliff Jobson
3rd Dave Stewart
Fastest Lap: Cliff Jobson on lap 9 in a time of 1:23.478 and an average speed of 85.57 mph
1st Dave Chant
Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 1 in a time of 1:31.520 and an average speed of 76.13.
With less than two weeks to repair and prepare before rounds 3 and 4 at Brands Hatch the guys will have to work hard to be ready for another weekend. By the time this is printed Brands will have come and gone and the results known via our website but we will be looking forward to Saturday 23rd July were the DTEC series visits Donington. Look out for discounted ticket offers on the forums but be quick, this is already looking to be a popular event.
I would like to finish with a huge thank you to the TVRCC and all the other sponsors and all those involved in the paddock for their support and hard work.