Just two weeks after Snetterton at the end of May and the Dunlop European TVR Challenge series moved further south to the Indy circuit at Brands Hatch for a double header and rounds 5 and 6 of the championship. Coming around the anniversary of the death of one of the major players in TVR history the race also serves as the Peter Wheeler Memorial Race. Brands is effectively the mid point of the season already and with the grid numbers still lower than desired, John Reid of Readman Racing, series grande fromage (sort of Bernie Ecclestone, but taller and wider) had to again approach the BRSCC to modify the intended timetable by limiting it to Sunday only to reduce the costs. This would allow for the drivers and sponsors to fund the TV Coverage.
This meant a hectic timetable again, and the trade off with the timetable adjustment was that we would run with the Quaife Intermarque League again but from a spectator viewpoint the prospect of a 29 car grid with the sort of speed differential between classes and car types on this type of circuit is mouth-watering. From a reporter and photographers viewpoint, watching the action through the letter box like opening of a viewfinder, it is difficult to keep track of who is doing what to who and when but that’s the cost of the privilege of a media pass so here goes.
I’ll start with something easy, the weather and qualifying. The 10.00 am start of saw Brands in a chilly and overcast mood but with a brightening prospect. The entry list also had a few new names, well one that has been around a while in the shape of Pete Reeve who campaigns what he has named a Cosmin that is in reality a Cosworth powered Tasmin in another series, he has raced with us before and generally likes to make a guest appearance at this his home circuit.
Billy Thompson on the other hand is a true rookie with his first outing this year in a very well presented 2.8 Tasmin. On the entry list and in the paddock but without the car was Dean Cook, engine problems causing a pre weekend withdraw.
With 29 cars on a track that is less than 1.2 miles round meant that finding some clear space to put together a decent qualifying lap was to say the least a little taxing. For Dave Stewart in Tasmin 95 he managed only 6 laps before depositing the car in the kitty litter at Paddock Hill. In a world full of classic race driver excuses, the gear lever coming of in his hand ranks fairly high. Hugh Marshall headed the TVR contingent with a 52.229 that put him on the 5th row. Realising the traffic was preventing him getting a decent lap and feeling that newcomer Jamie Golby was likely to struggle to get to grips with the Indy circuit he brought the car in after only 8 laps.
Row 6 on the grid was shared by the Happy Endings Motorsport boys, Keith Vaughan-Williams using the class B Tuscan to just edge out Tim Davis. Kevan Gore, back with the blue Tuscan looking tidier than it left Snetterton but still not fully fixed was on row 7 complaining about a twitching rear end and Jamie Golby was row 9 in the last of the class A cars. Pete Reeve was on row 10, local knowledge paying off and the class C battle looked set to recommence with John Simpson on the 3000M just ahead of Dave Chant and the Tasmin on row 11. The series is starting to come together for Leigh Jones who found himself sharing row 12 with Dave Stewart. Richard Hewitt took row 13 and Billy Thompson, unsurprisingly for the first time out, faced with such a busy circuit was on row 14 all by himself.
By the 2.30 start the sun was out and the heat haze disguised the approach of the near capacity grid as the rolling start thundered them into Paddock Hill for the first time, somehow they all made it through and the racing began in anger. The nature and size of the Indy circuit accentuates the speed differential of the Intermarque Silhouettes’ as their cornering speed is awesome and it wasn’t long before they were passing slower cars on either side. At the drivers briefing everyone had been told to stay on the racing line and let the faster cars go round off line. With them passing on either side and at times with a car on both sides, I guess that is an okay theory but in reality at times the TVR guys were looking over their shoulder a bit more often than is healthy.
Tim Davis was the first retirement on lap 5, early diagnosis was a camshaft problem. Sadly Billy Thompson followed soon after with a spin. Finding all sorts of ways to keep the crowd entertained Dave Stewart managed to spin three times, not collect anything or anyone and still finished the race, albeit in 22nd place. He got called to the clerk of the course where it is understood he was given an eight for style, a ten for artistic merit and a request to explain himself. The car is handling #@#@ was probably a close enough explanation. Since getting the car home the investigation identified both differential mount broken in two places and all the bushes shot. We all knew he wasn’t that bad a driver, really we did.
Richard Hewitt’s woes continued as the car finished the race stuck in 5th gear, a true demonstration of the torque of a RV8 given the topography of the Indy circuit. The class C tussle between Dave Chant and John Simpson continued until Dave took a wide line into Druids to avoid oil that John didn’t see and the oil resulted in a spin and recovery for John and the loss of three places. This allowed Leigh Jones to pass and go onto a class B podium. Keith Vaughan-Williams continued to mix with the class A cars and had the best of Kevan Gore and Jamie Golby with only Hugh Marshall in front of him. On his 100th race, celebrating a reunion with the stars and stripes Manta, Hugh was on the verge of lapping all and was clearly winning when a throttle pot sensor caused a misfire that had him into the pits. The problem cleared a bit to allow him to finish the race with a class A third but the disappointment was palpable. Keith went on to take his first overall win, hot on the heels of his first class win at Snetterton. After last years problems I don’t think anyone begrudged him the beaming smile.
Tim Davis was clearly not going to make it out for race 2 and for the car sharing team of Dave Stewart and Peter Hunter it was time spent under the rear of the car trying to work out why the car hated Dave so much and was tryingto hurt him. They would have a little success but the real reason wasn’t obvious in the time they had available.
For Kevan Gore it was an unusual break between races. Instead of forlornly putting most of the car back into the truck or dashing about trying to fix it they could relax a bit and plan for future developments. The only work needed was the application of a large ‘BiffGone’ sticker. This is the invention of Kev and his bodywork guru Chris Brown who along with car builder Matt Smith have spent an awfully large amount of time repairing this stunning looking machine. To explain Chris uses an oval logo sticker to promote his services and more than once these have been pressed into service to cover the evidence of the over exuberant attentions of a fellow track user.
For Hugh Marshall, the team set about fixing the sensor and Hugh set about trying to calm down and to stop beating himself up over losing a race he so clearly should have won.
Into the race and Dave Stewart was slightly more in control of the Tasmin, but still clearly not comfortable and the other protagonists in class C set about the race with their normal approach but this time it was a very different outcome, John Simpson was the first to go when on lap 7 he pulled off between Druids and Graham Hill, believing he had sorted it hecontinued for a further two laps but was forced to withdraw with gearbox problems. This would leave Dave Chant with sort of a clear run to take top honours in class C and all was going to plan until he was assisted off the track at Paddock Hill bend on lap 12. His version of events was that an Intermarque car had gone inside him while he was on the racing line and that the move was only ever going to end badly. Dave was beached on the gravel and the Inter pulled off two laps later. There must be more than an element of truth in DC’s version as we understood the other driver was cited by the marshals and paid a visit to the clerk of the course.
Keith Vaughan-Williams is taking the class B Tuscan by the scruff of the neck now and was getting involved in a good tussle with Kevan and Jamie but this time round he couldn’t repeat the overall win.
With both John and Dave out, Dave Stewart quietly took a first in class C and debutant Billy Thompson kept out of trouble for a nice podium in only his second race.
The star of the race was Hugh Marshall, finishing in top place of the TVR’s by a clear lap and a 5th overall. Jamie took second closely followed by Kevan.
The post race interview with the commentator was a pure pleasure. Brian Jones is an old friend of Hugh’s and was genuinely pleased with his success but it was when he asked Kev what he thought about the mixed racing that Kev’s face was an absolute picture and his silence said way more than words could have conveyed.
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