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CCRC RACING HEATS UP AT MAY MADNESS

GULF RACE FUELS FF1600 CHAMPIONSHIP – RACKSTRAW AND SMITH JOIN COMBE FF ALUMNI

Andrew Rackstraw and Rory Smith, both with superb Formula Ford pedigrees, joined the illustrious roster of Castle Combe race winners as rounds three and four of the Gulf Race Fuels FF1600 Championship thrilled a healthy spectator turnout at the May Madness event on Monday, May 6. Rackstraw, 22, South Africa’s national Formula 1600 champion in 2021, emerged victorious on his Combe debut, while returnee Smith, 24 – twice a Festival victor at Brands Hatch – had Rackstraw breathing down his neck when its sequel was chequered three laps early on a schedule torpedoed by a morning race incident and subsequent timing system crash.

Smith was quickest in qualifying, his 1m10.479s (94.49mph) lap in the B-M Racing Medina JL18 displacing reigning double champion Felix Fisher (Somerset Electrical Company Ray GR05) by a scant 0.026s, the pair having traded P1 throughout the 15 minute session. GT racer Alex Walker, making his seasonal debut in the Wayne Poole Racing Van Diemen RF01 previously saddled by Ben Mitchell, 2011 champion Robert Hall (Swift SC24) and Rackstraw (Spectrum 011C) were also in the 10s. Representing different chassis marques, the quintet was split by 0.441s. Walker was confident of more once a gearbox glitch was sorted.

Rackstraw, who saw the circuit for the first time on Thursday’s pre-event test day, was relishing the challenge of matching the specialists in short order, but had “an oopsie” on the final lap, buckling the Australian-originated car’s right front corner against a tyre stack at Bobbies chasing a couple of tenths. Four hours gave Spectrum guru Kevin Mills [Combe champion from 1995 to 1997 driving a Swift SC92] and his well-drilled KMR Sport team time to complete a routine fix and suspension alignment for the first race.

Still the back foot, meanwhile, was 2018 and 2020 titlist Luke Cooper, who had a new tyre delaminate on his out lap. He limped his factory Swift SC20 back to the pits for a used replacement, but was forced to bed in another in R1, by which time the track was wet. Luke qualified sixth, ahead of Alex Kite – going well in a KMR Spectrum – and Class B pacesetter Nathan Ward in his faithful Golden Bull Graphics Swift SC92 on 1:11.734 (92.84mph).

Ward’s closest rival Sam Street had a big scare, having lost the left rear wheel and brake caliper on his sister Swift at Tower when its hub disintegrated on lap 6. With collateral damage a lot of work was required to get Sam out, but paddock camaraderie kicked in and rivals rallied to the Williams F1 aerodynamics engineer’s assistance. Undaunted, Sam gridded 13th, three slots ahead of Vincent Jay in a Van Diemen RF90, the David Baldwin-designed so-called ‘Stealth Bomber’ which was a game-changer in its day.

Between Ward and Street, Toms Hawkins (Springbridge Direct Ray GR11) and Radburn (Spectrum 011) were joined by Class C battlers David Cobbold and Tom McArthur (Van Diemens), 0.334s apart. Historic set leader Sam Mitchell (Merlyn Mk20), Richard Earl (Van Diemen RF88), Alicia Hamlen (Ray GR09) and veteran Devonian auto electrician Pete ‘Hobbit’ Hannam in a Nike Mk6 built by master fabricator Ken Nicholls in his home county completed the pack.

RACE 1

Smith beat Fisher and the fast-starting Rackstraw away, with Walker going with them in fourth. Kite and Ward – top Swift runner in his 32-year-old car – were next up as Cooper, struggling with mismatched tyres, managed to bustle Hall back to eighth on the opening lap. Behind them, Street quickly displaced Cobbold and McArthur but made no further progress over the 10 laps. ‘Tommy Mac’ ousted rival Cobbold  second time round and stayed ahead, although David bagged the bonus point for fastest lap.

The drama came on lap 3 when Smith spun at the Esses, under pressure from Fisher. Rory lost surprisingly little time but rejoined fourth behind Rackstraw and Walker. After three laps behind Felix, and growing in confidence with every lap, Rackstraw breached his defences on lap 6 and forged ahead to score a superb debut victory. The first South African to win at Castle Combe since Alan van der Merwe in British F3 in 2003, In recording the first local championship race victory for a Spectrum driver since Michael Eastwell in August 2018, Andrew also bagged fastest lap at 1:20.722s (82.50mph).

Smith salvaged third, displacing Walker at mid-distance, while Cooper and Hall rose to fifth and sixth ahead of Kite and class B winner Ward who was five seconds up on Street at the chequer. McArthur and Cobbold rounded out the top 10, pursued by Mitchell, Hawkins, Radburn and Jay. Earl, Hamlen and Hannam made it a 100 per cent finishing record.

RACE 2

Gridded by second best qualifying laps, Fisher sat on pole for the later round, with Smith, Rackstraw and Walker within half a second. Cooper at least had fifth this time, sharing row 3 with Kite. Hall, Ward, Hawkins and Cobbold were next up on a drying track.

Smith bolted out of the blocks, with Walker also getting the better of Fisher on the opening lap. Rackstraw was next to oust Felix and, having zapped him and Walker on lap 2, wasted no time in closing on leader Smith. Glued to the red Medina’s gearbox for three laps, Andrew squeezed past on lap 6, but Rory retaliated and was ahead by a car’s length when the chequered flag flew unexpectedly next time round, with two mini-endurance races to accommodate.

Walker joined them on the podium, with Fisher and arch-rival Cooper blanketed by 0.172s in his wake. Five seconds adrift Hall finished sixth ahead of Ward – unbeaten in class B after four rounds – Kite, McArthur and Cobbold, with Hawkins and the plucky Mitchell in tow. Radburn, Earl, Hannam, Hamlen and spinner Jay all finished, but Street retired a lap short after a trying day.

Smith now leads the championship by five points from Fisher heading into rounds five and six at the Combe Carnival event on Whitsun Bank Holiday Monday, May 27. Cooper, Hall and Ward are also in strong contention. Easter double winner Josh Fisher [champion in 2008, 2017 and 2019] is unlikely to compete in many more rounds, but Rackstraw – whose priority is the Porsche Carrera Cup UK – is likely to be back for the Summer Spectacular on June 15-16.

 

SOUTH CERNEY ENGINEERING SALOON CAR CHAMPIONSHIP – PEERLESS CHAMBERLAIN SMASHES SALOON RECORD

Harrison Chamberlain shattered the outright lap record in his H-Sport Performance/Poplar Insulation VW Golf GTI turbo – pushing the target below 1m10 seconds for the first time – in extending his unbeaten 2024 run to four races in a sizzling South Cerney Engineering Saloon Car Championship double-header on Monday, May 6. Chamberlain outpaced 2022 titlist Adam Prebble’s hot and bothered Vauxhall Astra turbo, but Interceptor Racing team mate Mike Good, the reigning champ, dug deep to set a Class D record in his Kingsbridge Auto Repair & Rescue Vauxhall Corsa at the May Madness event.

First on track, Chamberlain and Prebble both lapped inside Adam’s two-year-old 1:10.638s race standard in qualifying, the new lightweight spec Harrison (“I’ve had a haircut”) bagging pole by 0.132s. Dave Spiller was in the long 12s for third in the Audi TT which Grant Motor Sport had massaged back into shape over the five weeks since its dramatic altercation with the Quarry barrier on Easter Monday.

Wiltshire-domiciled Scot John McMillan qualified fourth, not aboard his unusual Renault Megane III coupe, for which damper upgrades and engine work are imminent, but in Bill Brockbank’s remarkably rapid Badger5 SEAT Ibiza turbo on loan in the interim. Brockbank was a second shy in his new SEAT Leon Cupra, chased by Tom Hanks – the American film megastar’s namesake – in Chamberlain’s blue Megane II.

As ever, Class C was super-competitive, Lee Waterman setting the Q pace in his MG ZR on Yokohama AO52 tyres. Teenager Jez Williams, who emerged as a challenger on Easter Monday, ran him closest in the Rhino Goo/Grant Motor Sport Peugeot 106, with James Keepin third in his Nankang AR-1 shod MG. Having traced the cause of his smoky demise on Howard’s Day to “a £2.50 spring washer” in the oil system, the 2021 champion was keen to get scoring again.

Mike Good from the 1500cc division and Wayne Rushworth (ZR) split Keepin from James Blake, running wider Nankangs on his ZR, the last inside 1m20s. Welcome returnee Peter Elliston’s hand-controlled VW Golf GTI, Tim Swift’s Brooklands Racecraft 1600cc Pug, Daniel Williams’ 1400cc Citroen Saxo – Antony Weeks’ regular mount in the continued absence of his Audi A1 turbo, or the programmed Renault Clio 182 – and Darren Griffiths’ Clio completed the 16 qualifiers. Liam Hopkins (BMW 318Ti) and Roger Good (Ford Fiesta) swelled their ranks for the first race having met practice protocols out of session.

RACE 1

Tensions ran high as the runners and riders lined up on a dry circuit. Prebble edged the start, but Chamberlain used the camouflaged Vauxhall as a pacemaker. Adam set a splendid personal best of 1:10.185s on his first flying lap, but fractions of a second later Harrison whacked the record out of reach with a stunning 1:09.721 (95.52mph) in the Golf. “I knew we could go sub-10, but didn’t expect 9.7,” said Chamberlain, ecstatic at the equivalent of a hole in one.

Nonetheless, it took him nine laps to pass Prebble with a dive into Camp. Adam immediately throttled back as the Astra’s water temperature climbed to 105C, but he nursed it home eight seconds in arrears. Spiller was not so fortunate, for he peeled the Audi into the pits from third after 10 laps, promoting Brockbank and Hanks, clear of McMillan who had a moment at one-third distance.

The top five lapped the class C battlers, initially a quartet comprising Keepin, Blake, Waterman and Jez Williams, nose-to-tail. Williams deposed Waterman on lap 5, and Rushworth made it a five-car scrap as the leaders worked their way past them. Williams kept probing but the order was settled when Blake, out wide, took a biff from Waterman at Tower as things got busier on lap 10. Blake continued with a crumpled rear bumper, but Waterman was out on the spot. There was no angst afterwards in the paddock between the pals, indeed both came out to fight anew in the second stanza.

Sixth overall, Keepin thus beat Williams by 0.286s for class honours although Williams, who had Rushworth on his back bumper at the close,  set best lap of 1:17.240 (86.22mph). Behind them, Mike Good rewrote Weeks’ D record with 1:17.075 (86.40mph) a couple of laps from home. Daniel Williams and Roger Good – after an early pit stop – made it three in the class, ensuring Mike’s maximum score this time. Elliston, Blake, Daniel Williams and Swift all covered 14 laps, one more than Hopkins, Griffiths and Good Sr.

RACE 2

Everybody reconvened for race two, started just before 1500 on a now damp and slippery track. As Chamberlain, from P2, scooted off into the lead, Elliston made a sensational start from 13th, his black Golf hooking up superbly to be eighth at the end of the first lap. Spiller relieved Prebble of second on lap 3, taking McMillan with him. Adam repassed the Renault in short order, but couldn’t shake it off, then annexed second from Spiller who retired on the last lap, albeit half a minute behind winner Chamberlain. Despite a spin, McMillan merited third, ahead of car owner Brockbank. “It’s emotional to be up here, my first time in the wet. It’s [the SEAT’s] a lot faster in a straight line than my car.”

Lapped on the penultimate tour of 12 [reduced by three to keep to the timetable for the mini-enduros], class victor Waterman brought his Willand Service Centre MG home fourth, with Jez Williams close enough to keep him fully focused racelong. Seventh overall, Keepin was third in class C, pursued by Elliston and Blake, shadowed by Good Jr, as yet undefeated in the more sparsely populated D. Swift and Rushworth also covered 11 laps. Daniel Williams, Hopkins, Roger Good and Griffiths completed the finishers, but Hanks was an early retiree.

Going into the next double-header rounds at the Summer Spectacular Race Weekend event on June 15-16, Chamberlain leads the championship by eight points from Mike Good, with fellow class leaders Jez Williams and Liam Hopkins third and fourth overall and Brockbank fifth. Behind Williams in the most frenetic division, just four points separate MG quartet Keepin, Blake,Waterman and Rushworth

 

SAMCO SPORT HOT HATCH CHAMPIONSHIP – BACK TO FRONT PARKER WINS IN MAY MONSOON

In a sensational show of wet weather bravado, first time winner Ross Parker did not so much walk on water as hydroplane on it in his Wiltshire College-prepared Slip & Grip Automotive Honda Civic EF to ace the May Madness event’s opening SamcoSport Hot Hatch championship race from the back of the grid. Parker’s withdrawal from R2 opened the door for seasoned frontrunner Shaun Goverd to skitter his faithful W-A-S Racing Citroen AX to the combo’s maiden victory of the season as the largest CCRC field of the day provided quality battles aplenty on May 6.

With three of Easter Monday’s top four qualifiers absent – dominant double race winner Dan Brown, plus fellow Honda Civic battlers Sam Stride (EP3) and Tony Cooper (EG) still chasing braking issues – this was a golden opportunity for a new name to strike. First blood in qualifying fell to Goverd – missing from the Howard’s Day line-up – whose 1m13.960s (90.04mph) best lap in the 1650cc AX put pole position beyond reach of fellow class leaders Geoff Ryall (1640cc Peugeot 106 GTI) and Corey Webber in his two-litre Renault Clio.

SIM racer Matthew Johnston’s luridly-hued Peugeot 205 GTI, erstwhile joint points leaders Jason Stack (Clio) and Jake Alden (class C Saxo) and Oliver Kingston in the quickest supercharged BMW Mini Cooper S were next up, all in the 16s, ahead of Ryall’s rival Shaun Deacon (106 GTI), promising youngster Crofton Woodhatch (Mini) and Julian Fisher (Ford Fiesta ST150) in the 30-car field. The Minis of Erling Jensen and Gary Franks were separated by the Clios of George Kimber and Tim Fooks-Bale, with Hampshireman James MacGregor completing the grid’s upper half in his attractive Cardiosport Honda Integra.

Mark Williams’ Clio was back after its Easter dramas, in the company of sole class D rep Nathan Sutton (MG ZR) – who would switch to Mike Good’s sportingly loaned Vauxhall Corsa and start from the back – Graham Cox’s WPR Clio, the Peugeots of Adam Wilks and Scott Hughes which rounded out the top 20. Intermingled with the Minis of Toby Willcox, Max Gray, Ben Pemberton and Daniel Sajadian were James Dyer-Bufton (Honda Civic Type R), Julian Ellison (Fiesta S1600) and Ray Ferguson (ZR). Parker’s Honda managed but one lap with a fuelling issue – identified by the Wiltshire College student techies as a blocked filter – but Daniel Roe’s Fiesta did not complete a lap and was destined not to race.

RACE 1

With Webber and Roe missing, and heavy rain now falling, misted screens exacerbated the problem of visibility for competitors who ran for two laps behind a safety car before being let loose into the first race. Early leader Govers spun back to ninth on the first green lap, leaving Ryall to take up the cudgels, with Johnston, Stack, the impressive Kingston and Woodhatch, then Deacon forming a train behind him.

Parker was flying, meanwhile, slashing his lap times into the consistent mid-1:20s as rivals floundered. Up six places on the first circuit when overtaking was permitted his relentless ascent of the lap chart saw the white and blue Honda move from 11th to seventh to fourth on successive laps. Exhibiting technique and pace of which six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx – among the world’s most renowned rainmasters in his pomp – would have been complimentary, Ross saw off Ryall and Cox [on a great charge himself] to grab second, then negated a deficit of almost 10 seconds to Woodhatch in the course of three laps.

Woodhatch, from ninth, had passed Ryall to lead within four laps of the circuit going green, but even the confident youngster competing in only his second race meeting could not hold Parker back. Ross swept ahead on the final lap and took the chequered flag 2.645s to the good in what might be the most remarkable race enthusiasts witness at Combe all season. “I just tried to keep it on the track, and make my way through the pack safely,” said Parker, trying to take in his achievement. “It seemed like a very long way, but this is one for the team!”

Behind runner-up Woodhatch there was a 15 second wait before Ryall appeared in the CPR Performance Peugeot, with Goverd, Cox – who amazed preparer Wayne Poole by finishing with a broken rear damper –  MacGregor, Deacon and Jensen well-spaced behind him. Outrun by Cox in his division, Stack finished ninth, ahead of Johnston, class C winner Wilks, Dyer-Bufton, Franks, Alden, Williams and Sutton on the lead lap. Parker’s 1:22.398 (80.82mph) fastest lap on the penultimate circuit was 2.6s better than Goverd’s, with Deacon the only other driver in the 25s.

RACE 2

Parker’s hopes for a repeat performance from the back of the grid – based on second Q times – in the drier sequel were dispelled when a leaking brake caliper forced a non-start. Although the track was still glistening off-line, Goverd, Ryall, Stack, Johnston and Webber set off apace from the lights, opening a gap to Jensen, Kimber, Alden, Fooks-Bale, Woodhatch, MacGregor and Franks. Deacon started from the pits but was quickly into his stride.

Having challenged Goverd, Ryall stopped after four laps, whereupon Johnston closed in on ‘Shaun the Builder.’ Webber grabbed third from Stack en route to Quarry and had bettered the leaders’ times when he too retired, promoting Stack to the class lead. While Johnston harassed Goverd to the chequer no gap in the defences could be exploited, thus the duellists crossed the line exactly half a second apart.

Stack was a distant third, 24 seconds ahead of Woodhatch who in turn had outrun MacGregor. All three were divisional winners, with Stack’s runner-up Kimber the last unlapped runner in sixth place. Deacon carved through the field to an excellent seventh, second in class to MacGregor, pursued by Fisher, Fooks-Bale, Franks and Alden who had Sutton’s Vauxhall in his slipstream over the timing stripe. Hughes – who set best class C lap in the closing stages, four tenths inside Alden’s, was 13th ahead of Ellison, Jenson and Willcox who was penalised three places for causing a collision.

The inaugural Hot Hatch title race resumes at mid-June’s Summer Spectacular Weekend, with Stack leading Alden by a single point and Deacon a further three adrift. Franks heads the Mini class from Erling Jensen, the veteran Dane who was Castle Combe’s Special GT champion way back in 1993, driving a Maguire Stiletto!

 

DAVE ALLAN TROPHY – STEED OUTRUNS GINETTA V8S IN PORSCHE GT POWER PLAY

British Endurance Championship racers Josh Steed and Bal Sidhu’s appearance with the latter’s Xentec Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4, fresh out of the box, threw the proverbial cat among the pigeons in the Dave Allan Trophy closed wheel feature on Bank Holiday Monday, May 6. In deceptively tricky conditions on a drying track, the pair revelled in the superbly balanced German machine, outpacing the thuggish Chevrolet V8-engined Ginettas of CCRC GT Championship regulars Ben Scrivens (in David Krayem’s G50 GT3), Bosnian-born showman Dylan Popovic (G50) and Dorset’s Chris Everill (G55).

Top saloon was the spectacularly acronymous Team Dynamics-run Audi RS3 LMS DSG TCR of returnees Matthew Stockford/Alyn James, fifth overall, but among the less powerful cars Julian Fisher/Joe Hathaway (Ford Fiesta) narrowly beat Stuart Emmett/Dan Ludlow (MG ZR) after a tremendous  tussle which saw them finish only a lap behind the Audi.

The mini enduro run in memory of Honda test driver Allan was short of CCRC GTs this year, but a flurry of late entries brought the field up to 15. That there was only one Honda – the Civic Type R EP3 of Racetruck founder Ian Knight and pal since childhood Jamie Sturges of Ramair Filters fame – was disappointing, but Combe GT champion Sturges enjoyed his first shot in it during qualifying.

Sidhu/Steed seized pole in the sonorous four-litre Cayman, Josh’s 1m07.304s (98.95mph) best half a second quicker than the seemingly omnipresent Popovic, fresh from a pilgrimage to Spa with his purple Ginetta. Everill was in the mid-68s, seven tenths up on his usual co-driver Scrivens, whose services had been snapped-up by Krayem.

Paralympian ski medallist Stockford and James whirled the hand-controlled two-litre turbocharged Audi round in 1:11.118, with the BMW M3s of David Marcussen (E46) and Gavin Dunn (E36) within close striking distance. The Class 3 – sorted by lap times – brigade were packed in behind them, Fisher/Hathaway, Emmett/Ludlow, their team mate Dave Roberts in the Rutpen chemicals Datsun 240Z, James Foard/Gav Mills (MG ZR) and Knight/Sturges looking forward to some afternoon battles.

The field was rounded out by a trio of cars squabbling over Class 4 honours, Formula Fordster Stephen Bracegirdle’s Wayne Poole Racing-tended Mini Cooper S, Roger Owens’ Hyundai Coupe and Kevan and Mark Hadfield’s Ford Fiesta. CCRC Saloon Championship leader Harrison Chamberlain had entered his VW Golf GTI turbo, but without sufficient fuel tankage to go the distance formed a relay team with John McMillan in Bill Brockbank’s Badger5 SEAT Ibiza turbo.

Neither BMW turned out, leaving 14 competitors to form up on a drying track. Sidhu’s mentor Steed – who won on his previous Ginetta Junior race outing at Combe in 2018 – took first stint in the Porsche and was immediately into his stride, extending a whopping 5.8 second lead over Everill, Popovic, Scrivens and Stockford on the opening lap. Fisher, Emmett and Knight lad the chase before McMillan shot past in the black and white SEAT.

The order remained static among the leaders until Everill made his mandatory pit stop after 10 laps. That promoted Popovic who stayed out for three more circuits, handing P2 to Scrivens for two more tours. As the Ginetta stagger unwound, Everill went back ahead, but Scrivens growled past determinedly into Folly with Popovic bearing down on them both.

By the time Steed pitted at 21 laps, with three minutes of the window remaining, Scrivens had plumped out a small cushion to Popovic, now clear of Everill, the three gruff Ginettas having run together for one memorable lap. With Sidhu more than a minute up the road in a seemingly unassailable lead, Popovic began to reel in Scrivens. Ben’s advantage shrank quickly from 5.8 seconds to 3.8, then 1.8 and the seven-litre G50s were together starting the final lap. Catching a saloon into Camp, in sight of the chequer, Dylan left his braking as late as he dared on a greasy track, but gyrated through 360 degrees, to his rival’s amusement. With Everill fading, Popovic did not forfeit third.

Stockton/James were two laps behind the sportscars at the flag, a lap ahead of Fisher/Hathaway who had shaken off Emmett/Ludlow. Knight and Sturges – who had a hairy spin at the Esses – led the 26 lappers home, clear of Mills/Foard and Bracegirdle. Owens and the Hadfields completed the finishers. The McMillan/Chamberlain effort was derailed when Harrison’s gearbox exploded mid-race, having handled 500bhp admirably since he built the monster. Roberts’ meaty Datsun Z-car also fell by the wayside after 18 laps. Steed, Hathaway and Bracegirdle set the best laps in their respective classes, Josh’s 1:12.999 (91.23mph) some 5.6 seconds shy of his qualifying time, such was the going.

Words: Marcus Pye

Photos: Steve Jones and Tim Crisp

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