A ‘classic’ weekend of racing is in prospect at the Castle Combe circuit’s ‘West Country Cracker’ meeting on 12 and 13 August, with much of the content supplied by the locally based ‘Classic Sports Car Club’ (CSCC).
Eight of the CSCC's own series are intermingled with the circuit’s home favourites, with the ‘Jaguar Enthusiasts’ club also in action.
One of the most popular offerings from the CSCC is its ‘Swinging Sixties’, catering for a wonderful mix of sports, saloon and GT cars from the 1950's and 1960's. Split into two separate groups for smaller and larger engined cars, they both run for 40 minutes, with a compulsory pit stop.
There are a number of high profile local entries but starting favourite in Group 1 must be brothers Olly and Julian Howell from Radstock in their highly developed Mini. The pair race rarely these days but will expect to be at the front at their home circuit, Julian’s experience including his three ‘Combe Saloons’ class titles from 1996 to 1999. Olly’s last Combe win was the 2011 Marcos President’s Cup race, where his Mini Marcos embarrassed all the bigger engined opposition.
Other formidable local entries include Cirencester’s Charles Marriott in the Turner and Radstock’s Ross Whittock, son of Dave, legendary rally co-driver to Per Eklund, also in a Mini.
The bigger capacity Group 2 includes such cars as the Lotus Elan of Westbury’s Mike Dowd and Glastonbury’s Jeremy Cooke. They also feature in Saturday’s ‘Mintex Classic K’ race for pre 1966 GT and Touring cars running to FIA Appendix K specification. Jonathan Loader from Little Somerford in the 1964 ‘Loaded Gunn’ MGB is likely to be strong contender.
From the 1970s and ‘80s are the ‘Future Classics’, inhabited by Sierra Cosworths, 911s, TVRs, Escorts, Sunbeam Lotus, Quattro and other cars which were the childhood dream of many. Brian Rides from Wotton under Edge and former Combe Saloon pilot David Mears from Leigh on Mendip share the unusual 1979 Lotus Eclat.
A little newer are the various production saloon, hatchback and sports cars produced prior to 1999, in the ‘Modern Classics’ race, where Kevin Bird from Ditcheat wields his ultra-powerful Nissan 200 SX with his son Charles. Bath’s David Marcussen is one of the BMW M3 drivers.
Not limited by age are the ‘Tin Tops’ which should be an interesting comparison to the circuit’s own ‘Saloon Car’ championship, also running on the Sunday.
The ‘Magnificent Sevens’ race on Sunday is for various types of ‘7’, such as Lotus and Caterham and include 2011 Combe GT class C champion, Tim Woodman from Westbury on Trym. Also Caterham mounted are Mike Aikens from Bristol and Simon Oliphant from Devizes.
Many of the aforementioned drivers will also feature in the Meteor Suspension Open series race on Saturday.
The circuit’s own hugely popular championships are split between the two days with the Formula Fords kicking off on Saturday. Although the battle for that championship has started to turn into a two horse race, the intensity of competition between the two main protagonists keeps the interest very much alive.
At the half way stage of the year, Bridgwater’s Josh Fisher and Michael Moyers from Wellingborough are the men who have drawn clear of the rest. Fisher’s 2 point advantage over Moyers is mainly courtesy of his 3 wins, even though Moyers has led more laps. Expect another display of the closest single seater racing imaginable.
Archie Hine from Marlborough finds himself 3rd in the points, his consistency paying dividends in this his ‘rookie’ year.
Having missed the last round, reigning champion Roger Orgee from Langford will be looking for maximum points to keep his title hopes alive.
Grateful for any points after his dreadful luck this year is Luke Cooper from Yatton Keynell, with Coventry’s Nathan Ward another to languish out of the points despite plenty of speed.
Andrew Higginbottom from Llantwit Major is making class C his own in his Wayne Poole Racing Van Diemen, whilst class B has the opposite scenario, with Swift SC92 drivers Richard Morris, Shaun Macklin and Paul Barnes as even in the points as one could expect.
As he did in 2016, Calne’s Simon Norris is beginning to look unstoppable at the head of the ‘Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship’. Whilst 1500cc and turbocharging might not seem to be the package of choice, Norris and his engineers have made the Mitsubishi Colt almost unbeatable, not just in class B, but outright as well.
Nevertheless, Southampton’s Gary Prebble will be looking to stamp his authority back at the front, having retired from the last round with a gearbox failure on his SEAT Leon Turbo.
Similarly afflicted was our 3rd outright championship contender, Corsham’s Will Di Claudio who has now dropped behind Sturminster Newton’s Geoff Ryall, in class C. Both men have super quick Peugeot 106s at their disposal.
Those gearbox issues have elevated Brixham’s Mike Good to second overall in the championship, though his Corsa will still be harassed by Dursley’s Alex Kite in the Saxo.
Other notable entries include class A’s Dave Scaramanga from Bath in the powerful Scirocco, Calne’s Tony Hutchings hoping his recently enkindled Audi will be back to full health and Kevin Bird, buoyed by his last outing in his Nissan 200 SX. Bird’s son, Charles, makes one of his now occasional appearances in his Megane.
The duo also team up in the Nissan in the CSCC’s ‘Modern Classics’ race, where they should start as favourites.
Mark Wyatt from Bristol should be best of the normally aspirated runners in class B in his Astra.
There can be very few championships where a pair of MG Midgets can race competitively with such super cars as a Lamborghini Gallardo.
But this is what spectators can experience in the circuit’s GT championship race where almost anything goes!
Regulars to the West Country circuit will be used to the ‘MG Midget’ clone of Chris Southcott from Curdridge, Hants. His well-developed car has already seen off some of the most impressive cars in the championship, though a new 2.4 litre Ford engine this year has taken some time to settle into the chassis. But joining Chris this time is his father Andy in his newly completed example, sporting a Vauxhall 2 litre engine with 295 bhp. The car has already clocked up a win and fastest lap at the last CSCC meeting, so should be well on the pace.
Tony Hutchings, the erstwhile championship leader prior to his Audi TT catching light, is tied with Axminster’s Chris Vinall at the top of class D, the latter being the reigning champion in his SEAT Leon Supercopa.
At the top of the leader board though is Cowbridge’s Bradley John in his Mitsubishi Evo, hotly pursued by multiple Combe FF1600 champion, Bob Higgins, in the family Ginetta G55.
Saturday starts with qualifying at 08:30, with the first race at 13:00. Sunday's action starts at 08.30 with qualifying, racing getting under way from 12:35.
A 2-day ticket for adults is just £20, with seniors at £10, purchased on the gate. Accompanied under 17s are admitted free on both days.
Phone: 01249 782417 Castle Combe, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN14 7EY
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