Donington Park Full Report

Donington Park 15th July

Every cloud has a Silver Lining!

If you had said that to anyone connected to the series at the end of June you would have been thought to have been partaking of illegal substance use or at least were living a in a cloud silver or otherwise. The reason; we had all been looking forward to Donington, this was the venue of the first Tuscan Race back in 1989, we were due to race there in 2009 and the closure of the circuit has robbed the series of a romantic 20 year anniversary, it being on the schedule for this year was probably the jewel in the calendar but dismay had started to spread when the circuit leaked information to the motorsport press that it was going to have to cancel a number of the events set for the year. Whatever the real reason, and there are still a number of alternative views on the why, one thing was for sure, by the end June I had to circulate information that our race meeting on the 23rd July was one of those that had been canned.

There followed a combination of anger, most of it misdirected, doom and gloom and loads of conspiracy theories. Some went into panic and all sorts of desperate solutions were put forward but behind the scenes the series owner John Reid of Grantura Engineering and Readman Racing was using all of his vast past experience and healthy network of contacts to sort out an alternative to ensure we had the promised 10 races this season.

With the help of the BRSCC, John pulled off a masterstroke, albeit with a hectic one day meeting on a Friday and slightly shortened qualifying session and first race we were going to get to Donington after all, but that silver lining was we were on the bill with the FIA World Touring Cars.

It wasn’t without other downsides though, the gigantic paddock setups involved in the WTCC and the normal supporting series such as the Masserati Trofeo naturally pushed us out into a less favourable paddock location and the need to get everyone informed and schedules rearranged to move to a Friday. The original plans for the TVRCC to subsidise tickets for members was substituted for free spectator access and we communicated the changes in the best way we could but to say information was at a premium would be an understatement. We had a timetable but most of us were working on the principle of an ‘it will be alright on the night’ optimism when the DTEC circus rolled up on Thursday afternoon to take our place with the big boys. The truth is we (well mostly Geoff Parkinson) were still negotiating with BARC mid Thursday afternoon and our paddock location had been agreed with the compromise of uneven ground but secure over the alternative of nice flat tarmac and outside of the main area and the remit of the security controls.

Like most I had to rearrange my business diary and me and the hired transit worked its way over from the Black Country to arrive at around six o’clock. In the best traditions of TVR there were a few grumbles going when I arrived but a few more experienced heads just pointed the grumblers in the direction of the Maserati setup. The set up was awesome, they have a marquee big enough to take thirty cars and it had a separate in and out lane to provide their own pit garage area. Add that to a hospitality area that covered at least six hundred square metres and you can see why the drivers pay 150,000 Euros each and still don’t get to own the car. Once a few facts of life were spelt out we did what we do best, all mucked in together to get everyone ready for the early start on Friday with arrivals each hour this kept us busy until the early hours of the morning.

Each of the races has an individual sponsor and for Donington they were the former team members Dave Stewart and Peter Hunter. Peter intended to race this year with the ex Mickey Holden Tasmin but a number of issues have got in the way and progress has been slow and we probably won’t see him race this season. Dave is racing the gorgeous Griffith No 93 and race 1 would be the Tom Stewart memorial race and Dave had some stickers specially commissioned, I managed to secure one and it will long be part of my collection.

In the racing world at club level we are like most other walks of life and times are hard and this is being shown by dropping grid numbers and race series folding, the cheaper series seem to be healthy and if you want to run in the Mazda MX5 series the competition will be very healthy but the racing is rough and it is a good job that the cars are cheap and easy to repair. The story is very sombre for lots of classics and higher value saloon racing but the DTEC series however is bucking the trend, yes we had six cars out as either invitational or non scoring but seventeen others makes for a very good turnout and twenty three cars shows a great deal of respect for the Tom Stewart memorial and the esteem he was held in.

With twenty three cars of hugely varying pace out in a scramble of a qualifying session lasting just fifteen minutes getting a good clear lap wasn’t going to be easy and it was good to see them all back unscathed. Graham Walden was nursing a new engine and had arrived with the car unfinished and help from Nick Fisher and Leigh Jones got the car on some shock absorbers and through the scrutineering in time for qualifying.  The invitational cars made the most of it with the experienced Britcar GT Sagaris of Tim Hood and Fred Tonge taking the provisional pole and position two slots ahead of the Michael Saunders GT Cup Cerbera and the Dutch Supercar Sagaris of Andy Holden just edging Danny Winstanley and the Speed 6 powered GT cup Sagaris into 5th place.

Now these are GT spec cars and were always expected to be more powerful than a standard Challenge Tuscan but they are not built for standing starts and have started from the pit lane whenever they have made guest appearances before but so the FIA and BARC representatives got together with Geoff to sort out a the same arrangement and the cars were lined up in qualifying order in the pit lane. This gave a modified grid with Hugh Marshall in his Tuscan AJP V8 on pole and alongside him running in invitational we had Doug Elwood in the Marcos. Row two had the class B Tuscan RV8 of Andy Race mixing it up with the class A boys with Perry Waddams in the ex Dean Cook Tuscan AJP V8 in position four.

Row three had Darren Smith in his Tuscan AJP V8 with Keith Vaughan Williams alongside him in another class B Tuscan RV8. Row four had Jamie Golby lining his Tuscan AJP V8 up with Jason Clegg in the ever improving S3Erbera AJP V8. Row five had Graham Walden running as a non point’s scorer in the remaining Tuscan RV8 with Martin Crass for company in the Tuscan AJP V8.

Row six had Dave Stewart in the class B Griffith RV8 ahead of Dean Cook in a hire drive of Perry’s Tuscan LS3. Row Seven had the first of the Tasmin Class C cars with Dave Chant alongside the newly yellow painted class B Griffith of Richard Hewitt out with us for the first time this season. Row eight had the Tasmin of Ivor Watson alongside the Class A Tuscan of Gary Lancashire. Row nine had Billy Thompson also out for the first time this year in the class C Tasmin with Wayne Godwin for company in his ex Stewart/Hunter Tasmin.

One guy not racing was Leigh Jones after the Chassis snap at Brands there was still work to do on the car but I wasn’t going to miss the chance of getting a drivers viewpoint of the races albeit from the pit wall and from here I will let Leigh take up the narrative.

Although the GT cars had started in line from the pit lane by lap two they had started to make their way to the front, Martin Crass had also made a charge though the field making up for his poor qualifying position. Andy Race had a good start but had a spin at the Melbourne hairpin due to a tap from Darren Smith so this put him down the grid, this left just Hugh and Perry at the front, by lap four Tim was now in the lead with the other GT cars not far behind, its quite a impressive seeing the GT cars go though the pack. At this point it’s just Hugh, Perry and Martin in the mix at the front in their Class A Tuscans.

Richard Hewitt in the Griffith seemed to have some extra pace from last season and was keeping on the tail of Dave Chant. By lap five through some determined driving Andy had caught back up the class B battle of Keith Vaughan Williams, Graham Walden and Dave Stewart and by lap six the top three became an all GT battle of Tim Hood, Michael Saunders, and young Danny Winstanley. Keith Vaughan Williams was coming under a lot of pressure and a minor spin allowed Graham Walden to get passed, this opened the door for Andy Race who also managed to get passed, so pushed Keith down to third in class. On lap seven there was a change of lead with Michael Saunders taking the front from Tim Hood, with Danny Winstanley still in third. In the Class A battle we had Hugh Marshall still leading from Martin Crass who had now moved up to second in Class A, Michael Saunders held the #1 position till the end with Tim Hood slowing slightly but still keeping second with Danny Winstanley just behind, Martin Crass managed to get passed Hugh Marshall on the last lap to take the Class A win, with Perry Waddams in third in class A. Graham Walden finished ahead of him but Andy Race took the Class B win Keith Vaughan Williams in second.

There were a few casualties, Jamie Golby’s car failed to start the race due to a faulty fuel pump, Dean Cook pulled off on lap six with oil warning lights and Perry took the flag spectacularly with steam exploding from the front of the car as a hose let go on the line. Sadly though, both the cars would be out of action for race two as the head gasket had also failed. Andy Holden had pulled out with a broken ball joint having completed seven laps, the car was fixed so he would be back out in race two but due to lack to a support crew it taken his toll on Andy and left him feeling quite exhausted. Michael Saunders would not be starting race two as he had a suspect wheel bearing, plus he was racing in the GT Cup at Brands Hatch the next day, so wanted to get the car ready for that as he had sponsors commitments to fulfill. Jamie would be out for race two as a fuel pump was donated by Gary Lancashire and James knight and I got it fitted in time.

Results Race 1

With a number of invitation cars the finishing positions do not reflect the points table:

Overall

1st  Mike Saunders
2nd  Tim Hood
3rd  Danny Winstanley
4th  Martin Crass

Class A

1st  Martin Crass
2nd  Hugh Marshall
3rd  Perry Waddams

Fastest Lap: Martin Crass on lap 5 with a time of 1:41.58 and an average speed of 88.20 mph

Class B

1st  Andy Race
2nd  Keith Vaughan Williams
3rd  Dave Stewart

Fastest Lap: Keith Vaughan Williams on lap 9 in a time of 1:44.69 and an average speed of 85.52 mph

Class C

1st  Dave Chant
2nd  Ivor Watson
3rd  Billy Thompson

Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 5 in a time of 1:55.66 and an average speed of 77.41.
The result of race re configured the grid for race 2, but was the same format with the GT cars starting from the pit lane. With Martin Crass and Hugh Marshall on the front row, Doug Elwood alongside and empty space that should have been occupied by the vastly improving Perry Waddams, Darren Smith was on the third row but now had Graham Walden for company and Andy Race was two rows back from his race one starting position with Keith Vaughan Williams alongside him. As the lights changed for our usual 20 minutes you could almost taste the tension.
Andy Race made a great start and got passed Graham Walden and Darren Smith, and was keeping up with the class A guys, but Darren Smith took the place back on the following lap, with Keith Vaughan Williams also getting passed Graham Walden, Martin Crass was making the most of his pole position with Hugh Marshall close behind, by lap four though the GT guys were now at the front on the pack, with the number 12 car now being driven by Darren Dowling with Danny Winstanley and Andy Holden not far behind, Tim Hood was not so lucky with bodywork problems he had to retire on lap 2, Jamie Golby also made good progress though the pack, a situation forced on him due to starting at the rear due to the DNS for Race 1, on lap five we saw Graham Walden in the pits with a problem, in the end it was a noise that sounded expensive a Graham thought better about taking a risk.

Richard Hewitt was having a good race until a big spin and de-tour across the infield down Craner Curves on lap seven and the race seemed to settle into its separate class groups all having a good battle, Keith was pushing very hard and had a moment on lap eleven but caught it before it got out of hand, only to have a second attempt on lap thirteen but this time it inevitably ended in a spin allowing Dave Stewart to pass him a take second place in class.

Results Race 2

With a number of invitation cars the finishing positions do not reflect the points table:

Overall

1st  Darren Dowling
2nd  Danny Winstanley
3rd  Andy Holden
4th  Martin Crass

Fastest overall lap for both races was Darren Dowling 1:36.05 with an average speed of 93.22

Class A

1st  Martin Crass
2nd  Hugh Marshall
3rd  Darren Smith

Fastest Lap: Martin Crass on lap 11 with a time of 1:40.34 and an average speed of 89.24 mph

Class B

1st  Andy Race
2nd  Dave Stewart
3rd  Keith Vaughan Williams

Fastest Lap: Keith Vaughan Williams on lap 10 in a time of 1:43.23 and an average speed of 86.74 mph

Class C

1st  Dave Chant
2nd  Ivor Watson
3rd  Billy Thompson

Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 4 in a time of 1:55.15 and an average speed of 77.76.

Mal Gwynne with race narrative by Leigh Jones

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