Huge numbers of spectators lined the banks at the Castle Combe circuit’s opening meeting of 2017 on Easter Monday, enjoying close racing and plenty of incident.
Many had come to see the first race for the circuit’s new ‘Hot Hatch’ series, catering for older front wheel drive ‘hatchbacks’. A healthy grid of 23 cars, with many new names to both the circuit and to racing itself, showed ample justification for the series.
The race saw a familiar winner in the form of Bristol’s Mark Wyatt, who overcame his Astra’s qualifying issues to take a fine win from Southampton’s Gary Prebble in his much older 205 Gti. Craig Tomkinson from Salisbury took third in his 2 litre Nova.
Wyatt was particularly delighted with his win having suffered an unusual flywheel fault in qualifying. He also contested his more familiar Castle Combe Saloon Car championship race where he finished second in class B behind Calne’s Simon Norris who in turn recovered from a very slow start to bring his Colt Ralliart to a fine class win, despite being demoted from 4th overall to 5th after exceeding track limits.
Having been involved in a serious accident this time last year, Southampton’s Gary Prebble made amends with a dominant win in the saloon car race. Making the most of the new tyres allowed this season, Prebble’s SEAT Leon Cupra was never challenged, taking the flag some 14” ahead of the outwardly similar car of Bill Brockbank from Stonehouse. Corsham’s Will Di Claudio made a stupendous start from 5th on the grid, managing to bring his 106 Gti home in 3rd place overall and a clear class C winner.
Class D for cars under 1500cc provided the best racing of the field, eventual winner Mike Good from Brixham spending all his time defending from class pole man Alex Kite from Dursley in the Citroen Saxo. Just a tenth separated them at the end, the rest of their class left far behind.
The Castle Combe Formula Ford 1600 championship race saw a dice which was as close as anyone could remember. Pole man Michael Moyers initially established a lead but that was negated with the deployment of the safety car on lap 4.
At the restart and with ten laps left to run, Moyers’ arch rival, Bridgwater’s Josh Fisher, was rarely more than a few inches away and often not even a millimetre could be detected between the rear of the Spectrum of Moyers and the nose of Fisher’s Van Diemen.
That was the way it stayed to the flag, but sadly for Moyers, a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits saw him demoted to second, Fisher a surprised but happy winner. Of the rest, Langford’s Roger Orgee, the reigning champion, overcame braking issues with his new Ray GR17 to take 3rd, having battled past Rob Hall and Yatton Keynell’s Luke Cooper.
Safety car intervention also affected the circuit’s GT championship race, but Tetbury’s David Krayem benefitted, having spun to the back of the field on the first get away, but managing to recover after two deployments allowed the field to bunch up. By lap 7, Krayem’s pole sitting 8 litre Viper GT3 was back at the front, never headed to the flag.
2016 champion, Chris Vinall from Axminster, took advantage of the rain which began to fall after a few laps, moving his SEAT Leon up to 2nd by the end, with Tim Woodman from Westbury on Trym performing a similar feat, moving up from the 6th row of the grid to take the 3rd step of the podium. Quadruple multiple Combe FF1600 champion, Bob Higgins, drove the family’s Ginetta G55 to 4th place in his first outing in the car.
The first of two Mini Miglia races saw Pill’s Sam Summerhayes engaged in a tremendous three car battle for the lead with Rupert Deeth and Aaron Smith, the local man eventually taking 2nd behind Smith. Sadly, the second Miglia race was unable to be run when a first lap accident at Folly at the start of the second ‘Track Attack’ race caused a significant amount of damage to the barrier, with not enough time before the curfew to repair it. Basildon’s Lee Gillard was therefore unable to unleash his Subaru Impreza to another dominant win, having trounced the rest in race one.
Almost Mini-like in their competition were the pair of leading drivers in the two ‘Ferrari Formula Classic’ races. Race one saw Wayne Marrs holding off perpetual Combe winner Gary Culver by 3 tenths of a second at the flag, with race two even closer, just two tenths separating them. Tim Mogridge and Peter Fisk took the third step of the podium in each race.
The next race meeting at the Wiltshire track is less than two weeks away, on the next Bank Holiday Monday, May 1. As well as round two of the Castle Combe championships and the ‘Hot Hatch Challenge’, there are double header races from the ‘MG Owners Club’, Historic Formula 3 and Classic Clubmans. Buy tickets here!
For further information, visit the Castle Combe Racing Club online at www.ccracingclub.co.uk, www.facebook.com/CastleCombeCircuit, or @castlecombeuk
Phone: 01249 782417 Castle Combe, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 7EY
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