Rockingham and Oulton Park

Rockingham August 2011 and Oulton Park October 2011

Rockingham Rounds 7 and 8 August 20th.

There aren’t too many circuits in the UK that polarize opinion quite as much as Rockingham. Set in the outskirts of Corby, a town that is still suffering the effects of the closure of what was probably the reason it exists, the steel industry, the circuit commands a huge plot of land that is approached down a long straight road with a view as you drive down that is dominated by the huge grandstands.

Purpose built for a Days of Thunder NASCAR based series the banked oval is probably the fastest in top speed terms in the UK, an Indy car reputably topping 235 mph. The grandstands were built to seat huge numbers of spectators and in the early days the draw of something new meant they were filled but it wasn’t long before the novelty wore off and the UK motorsport fans returned to what we know best, circuits with wiggly bits or as they are technically known corners. The four potential configurations now feature the use of the infield circuit and this is where the majority of the action is now.

For the Dunlop TVR European Challenge, the last three years has seen us use the International circuit which is a combination of the infield and the short main grandstand section of the banked oval.  We had originally planned for a two day meeting, but the economic situation has affected a lot of race series and the entrant numbers are simply not there so the BRSCC amended the timetable to give us one very busy Saturday.

On arriving mid afternoon on Friday, I was immediately reminded of the reason for the mixed appeal of the circuit. If your race series is fortunate enough to be given pit garage allocation, the inner paddock it is quite nice but the shorter straw gets the outer paddock and this is definitely not a place for the wig wearer. Windy doesn’t begin to describe it.

With a few of the guys already on circuit testing, we set about the construction of the TVRCC supported hospitality centre making sure the 40 litre water containers were in place and that the full size ratchet straps secured the gazebo’s to the hired van.

Now normally my perspective of a circuit is limited to the bit between the noisy side of the spectator fence and the Armco barriers and tyre walls either as a media pass holding photographer or more recently as one of the orange army of track marshals, but for once I can contribute from a drivers perspective, having driven a V8 Touring Car around the infield circuit what appears to be a very simple is in fact quite complex. As they are fond of saying on Top Gear ‘How hard can it be?’ Well very is the short answer, I now have a new respect for the guys, hauling a 400 bhp 5.7ltr monster Chevrolet Lumina CSV (left hand drive!) through the bends was full of surprises, most of them good. The speed at which a car on slick tyres turns in and brakes is impressive but I was also taken aback on how hard it is to consistently get the right line into and out of a corner and the importance of hitting the braking point with accuracy. This was with limited number of cars on track and although I was in the company of Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars, the race pedigree of the touring car meant that none of them were able to overtake, making the task a whole lot easier than doing it in proper race conditions.

This brings me back to the love hate relationship, most drivers love the circuit for the challenge and the for the DTEC the added tweak factor of the proximity and magnetic draw of the concrete wall of a banked section but hate the very basic set up in the outer paddock and the poor spectator facilities. From the main Grandstand you can see the whole circuit but it is quite anesthetised from the noise and sense of speed that some where like Brands Hatch or Cadwell Park offer and for the photographer it is barren and windy and quite uninspiring. But that said it is better than working for a living so I shouldn’t complain. 

Normally I would start the race report proper with the results and mishaps from qualifying but those nice folk from Norfolk, the father and son combination of Kev and Alex Gore deserve a mention for damaging the car before getting to the circuit this time and they had us all in stitches with the repairs to the GRP on the front end of the Tasmin with the car buried nose first into the hospitality area for the light as the work continued way past midnight. Also worthy of mention is the fact that Dave Stewart and his fiancée came down as spectators and support and they fell victim to the alcohol fuelled late night discussions that brought on an impromptu but well staged lack of comprehension from the Dulford’s boys to Dave’s very north east England accent. Just how many times can someone from the West Country get away with saying ‘No I’m not getting it’ to even the most simple thing Dave said was a surprise to me and a testimony to his patience and personality. I don’t suppose I helped either by suggesting that they must be from Poland. That’s the thing about TVR racing, the banter and camaraderie somehow made up for the fact the wind was trying to move the van all night long.

The qualifying session saw a continuation of technical problems for Ivor Watson and Leigh Jones and shortened sessions for newcomer John Seery and veteran nice guy turbo Tim Broughton; although when I spoke to him in the paddock he suggested that caravanning might be an option for next season as this one has been full of minor technical irritations.

For #77 Perry Waddams in the class A AJP V8 Tuscan though, the smile couldn’t be wider, in his first season of racing on a circuit that takes balls to do quick he scored his first pole position. The smile started to narrow a bit once the implications of that first corner rush on cold tyres started to sink in but he deserved pole with a lap of 1:28:70 0.385 seconds ahead of #89 Andy Race in the Class B RV8 Tuscan. Row 2 had two AJP V8s with #3 Hugh Marshall piping #21 Martin Crass by just 0.445 secs. Row 3 placed #4 Jason Clegg in the S3Erbera alongside the #23 Tuscan of Jamie Golby (both cars run AJP v8). Row 4 Had #27 the speed six powered T350R of Cliff Jobson ahead of Darren Smith #58 in another class B RV8 Tuscan. He had left his AJP Tuscan at home for this one. Two Tuscans how many can a man drive at once! Turbo Tim Broughton #33 in the Turbo Cosworth Tasmin headed row 5 ahead of the AJP Tuscan of #42 John Seery. Dan Birch put the RV8 Griffith 500 #66 in front of Dave Chant in the #1 V6 Tasmin on row 6 and row 7 had #44 Gary Lancashire’s AJP Tuscan in front of the V6 Tasmin of #11 Ivor Watson. Row 8 had two Tasmins with the RV8 class B #40 of Leigh Jones ahead of the V6 #26 of Alex Gore. Row 9 had Wayne Godwin in the #19 Tasmin V6.

Race 1

The Days of Thunder series may be long gone but the Thunderous roar of a TVR 16 car pack going along that banked oval into the first corner is something to behold. Hang on a minute, 16 cars, there’s one missing surely! Yep you’re right but don’t call me Shirley! Dan Birch encountered a fuse problem on the green flag lap and he started from the pit lane after a hasty fix. The battle royal up front saw Andy have a terrible start and fall back to sixth and Perry held the car, his nerve and the pack into the first corner and beyond into lap 2 but the experienced Martin Crass had already put some moves on Hugh and Jamie and was biting at his heels. Turbo Tim dropped out on lap 2 and the race stabilised into a front tow tussle between Hugh and Martin. Back in the middle a good race unfolded between Andy and Darren until lap 9 when the steam ejecting V8 decided enough was enough. From my viewpoint it had decided that 3 laps before but that Darren in one determined Northerner. We had also lost cars 44 and 40. Leigh succumbed to more Gremlins on lap 6 and Gary pulled into the pit lane with inner ear infection induced car sickness. I wouldn’t want to throw up into a closed face crash helmet whilst kissing the wall in an immaculate 400bhp Tuscan either so I for one don’t blame him. We also lost Cliff on the penultimate lap but he would be back out for race two. The race at the front settled by lap 5 and Hugh led Martin home with a 1.6 second margin.

Overall

1st  Hugh Marshall
2nd  Martin Crass 
3rd  Jamie Golby
4th   Andy Race

Class A

1st  Hugh Marshall
2nd  Martin Crass
3rd  Jamie Golby

Fastest Lap: Hugh Marshall on lap 7 with a time of 1:28.386 and an average speed of 79.01 mph

Class B

1st  Andy Race
2nd  Dan Birch
3rd  Cliff Jobson

Fastest Lap: Andy Race on lap 7 in a time of 1:29.645 and an average speed of 77.90 mph

Class C

1st  Dave Chant
2nd  Ivor Watson
3rd  Alex Gore

Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 5 in a time of 1:39.830 and an average speed of 69.95 mph.

Race 2

With a one day meeting it all gets pretty hectic and it wasn’t long before we were heading back out onto track for race 2. The short gap meant that it would be a case of alas Smith and Jones as there would be insufficient time for Darren and Leigh to repair the cars. The grid would also be missing Gary Lancashire who had decided not to tempt fate with that ear infection.

With the grid adjusted to the finishing positions of race 1 the 14 cars lined up to do it all again at 5.00. Hugh took the pole advantage and held it for a while from Martin Crass who briefly dropped behind Jamie Golby to take the position back on lap 3. Andy dropped back a couple of places from 4th on the grid at the start and found himself tucked behind the S3erbera of Jason Clegg and Perry took full advantage and moved into fourth, Andy was back into fifth at the start of lap 3 and this then became the race within the race. The series had a reputation in the early days as being a crash fest but all the cars now are supported by personal money so there it a lot more respect between the drivers, Andy and Perry are good friends off the track and this showed through in the really close but fair battle between the two of them for the whole race, yes there was some minor car kissing going on and yes the fronts and backs of both cars needed attention afterwards but this was the result of great close racing rather than deliberate punt and run tactics. Dan began to find his feet in the immaculate Griffith 500. Unfortunately a change in personal circumstances has meant that this would be Dan’s only races in the car and that it would be up for sale, at the price Dan mentioned to me, someone is sure to get a real bargain. Keeping it pristine was therefore a consideration but it was good to see him move through to a solid position and to take a deserved second in the first race. New cars always need development so it was no surprise to see him finish behind Cliff and Tim. Young Alex also moved up a notch and managed a second podium of the weekend after Ivor managed to bin it all by himself on lap 5, fortunately with no serious damage to car or driver. Both Tim and Cliff overcome the Gremlins to finish this time and we hope that Turbo Tim has abandoned all thoughts of caravanning now.

Martin put a move on Hugh on lap 5 and maintained the lead all the way to the end and despite the valiant efforts of Hugh to get past; he had to settle for 2nd and fastest lap. The points share between them definitely adding to the interest for the final rounds at Oulton Park

 

Results Race 2

Overall

1st  Martin Crass
2nd  Hugh Marshall
3rd  Jamie Golby
4th   Andy Race

Class A

1st  Martin Crass
2nd  Hugh Marshall
3rd  Jamie Golby

Fastest Lap: Hugh Marshall on lap 14 with a time of 1:28.546 and an average speed of 78.85 mph

Class B

1st  Andy Race
2nd  Cliff Jobson
3rd  Tim Broughton

Fastest Lap: Andy Race on lap 14 in a time of 1:30.500 and an average speed of 77.17 mph

Class C

1st  Dave Chant
2nd  Alex Gore
3rd  Wayne Godwin

Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 5 in a time of 1:40.989 and an average speed of 69.15.

 
Oulton Park Rounds 9 and 10 October 15th.

As the Dunlop TVR Challenge returned once again to its regular end of season venue Oulton Park, there was still an awful lot to play for. True the individual class champions were decided during rounds 7 and 8 at Rockingham in August, with Hugh Marshall taking the class A champion slot over series returnee Martin Crass and the strong challenge of Jamie Golby. In class B, Andy Race in the RV8 Tuscan held off the advances of Keith Vaughan Williams in another RV8 Tuscan and the T350R of Cliff Jobson. In class C 2010 overall Champion Dave Chant used guile and consistency to once again prevail. Sadly for Dave he would be unlikely to score back to back overall Championships as a lack of entries in class C meant that although he had an 8 from 8 win ratio some of those only scored half points so he needed some pretty bad luck to befall Hugh, Andy and Martin as the drivers need to finish both races as there are no points for a DNF. Mathematically he could still do it but it has to be said it didn’t look likely.

However the fight for the overall championship couldn’t have been closer, it is awarded to the driver with the most overall points scored in their respective class and this made the finale a fascinating finish. Just 4 points separated Hugh Marshall on 165 from Andy Race on 161. With 21 points for a win in each class and each round there were two sets of 42 on offer and second place gets 19 points and there is the added factor of a bonus point for fastest lap in each race. Remember then, they could both score a maximum of 22 in each race as it is awarded per class not on finishing positions. Andy had the better win ratio but lost a number of fastest lap bonus points to Keith and also had a bad day at Snetterton. Keith wasn’t there to cause more upset as he retired from active racing (for the moment) after Donington, but Martin Crass was and he could and had given Hugh a very close tussle throughout the season.

Add into the mix some non points scoring invitation cars, we had two GT class Sagaris entered by Tim Hood and Fred Tonge. A bright Yellow Porsche driven by Brett Winstanley, a name familiar to us from his brothers exploits in TVRs in the GT Cup and the series in 2009. We also had the return of 2009 Champion Tim Davis out for the first time in the red Tuscan RV8 previously owned by former Happy Endings Motorsport teammate Keith Vaughan Williams. Also worth watching for was Perry Waddams, probably this years most improved driver, he had a pole position to his name now and would be there at the front and is very competitive. We had the return also of 2008 champion Dean Cook having recently acquired the Class A Tuscan from Jamie Golby. We also have local legend Darren Smith out again this time in the more familiar Purple AJP Tuscan.

For me personally, although we had a gap during September with no races, a trip to the Goodwood Revival for three days and a further 6 days away at Spa (another article to follow on that) meant that the time past very quickly. The freak weather early in the month allowed me to sleep in reasonable comfort in the back of the van while in Belgium but I wasn’t about to risk it for the middle of Cheshire in the middle of October. So an early start on Friday got the long drive north done and dusted and we all met up in the early evening to set things up for the following morning and the frantic day that would follow. A good meal in excellent company followed by a warm comfortable hotel bed made for a very welcome change and a good night’s sleep saw me back on circuit at about 7.30am to complete the set up and start to think about where to go to catch the qualifying session.

George Carter had already called the mobile to tell me he had electrical issues with the Land Rover and would be delayed maybe past the first session so it was an easy choice to repeat last years stop off and I headed for the iconic shot as the cars came through Lodge Corner in the early morning sunshine.

During the session we lost Alex Gore to over exuberance at the Britten’s chicane when he attacked it too hard and put the Tasmin into a spin and the resulting side and front collision with the tyre wall. Alex was out of the car quickly and was OK but the car would be unfixable and we would be one down for the first race. The comments of like father like son were pretty predictable when we were back in the paddock but that said everyone tried to help get the car back out.

Young Brett Winstanley was straight on the pace in the 958 Porsche seemingly oblivious to the damp and greasy early morning circuit.

Dave Stewart also managed a spin in the Griffith #93 but fortunately the damage was superficial. Andy Race also had his session shortened with a lost belt that although not terminal would be a bad portent for things to come and would have the team rushing around for replacement parts. He had a decent qualifying time but getting to the start of race one was in the balance.

With the invitational cars deciding to start from the back of the grid we had Martin Crass on pole and alongside him Darren Smith, Hugh Marshall headed row 2 with Perry Waddams for company. Row 4 had Dean one place ahead of Andy Race. Deano was complaining about a lack of power from the cold engine. Row 5 paired up Tim Davis with Cliff Jobson following the latter’s two spins. Row 6 had an empty slot for the Tim Hood Car so john Seery had it all to himself. Row 7 put the very different Tasmins of Tim Broughton and Dave Chant together and row 8 placed Ivor Watson alongside Gary Lancashire. Row 9 saw Richard Hewitt slightly ahead of Leigh Jones and Dave Stewart on row 10. Despite a slightly delayed start my heart dropped to see the absence of Andy Race on the grid, the parts were being fitted as the cars took the green flag lap and although he would start he was 4 laps down when he did. Another casualty was the Black Sagaris #10. Driven by a guest driver Paul Smith for race 1, he lit up the tyres on the exit from pits on the green flag lap and spun it collecting the tyre wall with the back end. The damage wasn’t too serious but we wouldn’t see the car again during the day.

From the start Darren got the jump on Martin Crass into Old Hall for the first time and kept it for the next 7 laps, Fred Tonge and Brett started to eat their way through the pack. Most of the guys were holding to pretty much their grid positions for most of the race, Leigh Jones completed some independent ballet moves at Britten’s chicane in a repeat of Alex Gore qualifying shunt but he and the car escaped pretty much unscathed. Dave Stewart pulled out with a shot differential and would take no further part. The action was split into the battle up front with the lead exchanged a few times between Martin and Darren and the battle for 6th position as Perry presented a large car to Deano, managing to block him fairly but effectively.

Hugh had his sensible head on and with Andy not making the grid, he did what he had to do and kept it on the black bit to finish in a controlled overall 5th.

Results Race 1

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

Overall

1st  Darren Smith
2nd  Martin Crass
3rd  Brett Winstanley
4th  Fred Tonge

Class A

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

Fastest Lap: Darren Smith on lap 8 with a time of 1:49.127 and an average speed of 88.80 mph

Class B

1st  Tim Davis
2nd  Cliff Jobson
3rd  Tim Broughton

Fastest Lap: Tim Davis on lap 8 in a time of 1:53.388 and an average speed of 85.50 mph

Class C

1st  Dave Chant
2nd  Ivor Watson

Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 3 in a time of 2:03.870 and an average speed of 78.23 mph.

Andy’s title bid had stalled, a drop in oil pressure caused him to pull out of race one and  he recorded a DNF but it might not have stopped there but, sadly the root cause was the oil pump and a discussion between Andy and his mechanic Big Colin decided that it was unsafe and potentially very expensive to risk it in race 2 and he sportingly was the first to congratulate Hugh, race one then had effectively decided the overall championship a mechanical failure robbing us of a glorious finish but we had a worthy and well deserved Champion in Hugh Marshall.

Race 2

With the grid mixed up for race 2 Perry made an excellent start and was tucked in behind Martin Crass until the fast charging Sagaris now piloted by Darren Dowling came through hotly followed by the Porsche 958. Martin held the Sagaris off for three or four laps and the Porsche for the whole race until Martin disappeared on lap 10, fuel problems causing his demise. This left the front of the championship field to Darren Smith and he took full benefit. Hugh started in a fairly controlled manner and one could be forgiven for thinking that with the championship sorted he would be Captain sensible but even mature race drivers cant resist a challenge and he soon found himself in a proper race with Perry Waddams, this continued to the final lap where they were side by side going into Lodge corner for the last time, there was no contact between them but a wheel on the grass had Hugh backwards into the barrier for significant shunt.

Results Race 2

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

Overall

1st  Darren Dowling
2nd  Brett Winstanley
3rd  Darren Smith
4th  Perry Waddams

Class A

1st  Darren Smith
2nd  Perry Waddams
3rd  Dean Cook

Fastest Lap: Martin Crass on lap 8 with a time of 1:48.672 and an average speed of 89.17 mph

Class B

1st  Tim Davis
2nd  Cliff Jobson
3rd  Tim Broughton

Fastest Lap: Tim Davis on lap 3 in a time of 1:51.947 and an average speed of 86.56 mph

Class C

1st  Dave Chant
2nd  Ivor Watson

Fastest Lap: Dave Chant on lap 5 in a time of 2:03.435 and an average speed of 78.51 mph.

Well that’s it for another season, Championship decided and post season party fully enjoyed. The tales from that could fill another three pages but I am sworn to secrecy, ‘what goes on on tour, stays on tour’ as they say.

To finish we need to say a few thanks to the sometimes unseen people behind the scenes, John Reid of Readman Racing owner of the series who keeps it all going, Geoff and Linda for all the work on the presentations, driver motivation, ticket negotiations and paddock organisation and of course the magnificent the end of season party. Thanks also to Iain and Charlie for all of their efforts in and around the paddock, guys you made a huge difference this year, the boys from clickmotorsport.com for following the series through long lenses and to wish George continued progress on his road back to full health, the circuit owners, the BRSCC and the marshals as without them we wouldn’t be able to race and lastly all the drivers that I haven’t singled out for attention during these articles and importantly the mechanics, team and family members that follow the circus around all season and never get the glory of a mention in a race programme let alone a magazine article. You are all what makes the Championship so special. See you next year!

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