Lydden Hill meeting report by Adam Grant
The weather forecast was unfortunately spot on, persistent light rain fell all day. At least it made tyre choice easy, grooved wets would be the requisite item.
The Amusetime production saloons kicked off proceedings, with a reasonable turnout of 14 cars. It should have been 15, but sadly Nathan Wells had his tow vehicle break down on the A2. Qualifying saw Dave Hutchins annex pole position in his Honda Civic, with Steve Everson alongside in his Saxo. Alan Breck was giving his Ford Puma an outing and impressively was third quickest, followed by Marcus Bicknell (Saxo). Rob Methold was quickest T1 runner in fifth, with Chris Bicknell next up. Jon Wild and Nick Lunn shared row four, then cam Brad Lane (further back than expected), Andy Banham, Todd Garner and Ken Angell. Sadly the green BMW was a non-starter due to ongoing overheating issues. The grid was completed by Chris Burley and Ian Seale (in Rikki Taylor’s Fiesta, normally driven by Gideon September who was recovering from an eye operation).
The usual rolling start saw Hutchins step into the lead, with Everson in second. Marcus Bicknell had a time consuming spin exiting Paddock bend, narrowly missing the inner bank. He resumed at the tail of the field. Meanwhile Breck was holding off Chris Bicknell for third until lap 3, when they touched at Pilgrims. Chris retired to the infield, whilst Alan resumed in 8th. This left Lane in third, up from his lowly qualifying position, with Garner also making good progress in fourth and Wild now fifth.
Meanwhile Hutchins had extended his lead to over 7 seconds by the time Lane got past Everson. The gap then gradually whittled down, as Brad upped his pace. In the end he fell shy by just over a second, so it was a well deserved victory for Dave. Everson just withstood the advances of Garner (who took class TP honours), whilst Steve was the T3 winner. Wild kept his fifth spot, but only just, from a hard charging Marcus Bicknell. Equally Lunn managed to resist the attention of Breck by just half a second. Banham, Seale and Burley completed the finishers, after Methold retired his Mini on the first lap.
Race two saw Hutchins again make a good start to fend off Lane. He stayed ahead until lap 5 when Brad sneaked through. Holding an impressive third was Garner, clearly revelling in the slippery conditions. Coincidentally he also lost a position on the same lap, as Marcus Bicknell was eager to make progress in the green Saxo. Everson was a bit further back in fifth, but under pressure from Breck, who had Chris Bicknell in tow. With Wild contending with Methold there was certainly plenty of action throughout the field.
As the race progressed, Hutchins started to lose pace and was overtaken by Marcus Bicknell on lap 8, then by Chris Bicknell on lap 11. Chris was really on a charge having started 12th. By now Lane was secure in the lead, over ten seconds in front of Marcus. However, Bicknell senior was delighted to get his second place overall and T3 winner, with his son coming home equally delighted in third. Garner held onto fourth despite an unfortunate minor clash with Everson, as Steve dived for the inside at the Devil’s elbow. The Saxo driver recovered to 9th in the end. This meant that Breck was fifth, as he also got past Hutchins who did retain sixth, albeit with Lunn on his tail gate. Methold won class T1 in 8th overall, followed by Everson, Wild, Banham, Seale and Burley (who won the H&G driver of the day award). Breck won the Cannons best prepared car prize.
The Iwade garage super saloons were not as well supported, which was a shame. A couple of non-starters meant the field was reduced to six and with Paul Eve having fuel issues it did not bode well. Rod Birley sat on pole position, with a returning Mark Cripps alongside. Ronan Bradley was third quickest, from Andy Woods-Dean back out in his recalcitrant Honda Civic (stuck in 4th gear). Peter Thurston was a welcome addition in his newly acquired Holden Commodore V8, whilst Eve managed to qualify out of session but then had to go and find some more fuel. The start was held in the hope that Eve would return, but eventually they set off minus the yellow Escort Cosworth. As Birley eased away in front, the similar car of Eve burst onto the track a lap and a half behind. From a spectators view it was interesting to monitor the relative pace of both cars, as they traded fastest lap times. In the end Paul just took it, on his way to fourth overall.
There was a good race long battle between Cripps and Bradley, with Mark just holding on by half a second. Woods-Dean completed the finishers, after Thurston retired with clutch issues. Peter was third initially, broadsiding the car around in his own style.
Race two was minus Thurston, but a close encounter was provided by the two Escort Cosworth drivers. Birley shot away in the lead, with Eve slotting into second. These two then romped clear of the rest, as Rod pulled out a six second lead by lap 12. Paul then started to catch up and the gap slowly reduced to just over 3 seconds by the chequered flag. Again Eve set the fastest lap. As in race one, the two BMWs had a race long set to, which culminated in Ronan having a spin exiting North bend on the final lap. This meant Mark was secure in third as Ronan held onto fourth from Woody. Eve deservedly got the BMR driver of the day award, with Cripps winning the Caesar electrical best prepared car trophy.
Similarly the Avon tyres Intermarque were expected to have more starters, but luckily the six who did appear put on a great show. On pole position was the smart new Ginetta of Mike Thurley, with series regular Mick Robertson alongside. Row two contained Colin Smith (Vauxhall Tigra) and Richard Smith (not related) in his Mercedes SLK. Volker Timm was next up with Paul Cocksedge alongside.
The start saw Robertson gain the initiative and forge into the lead. Mick held firm until lap 7, when Thurley edged past. By now there was a four way dice for the lead, which considering the conditions was very impressive. Richard Smith was third pursued by Colin Smith, then a gap to Timm with Cocksedge falling back. Robertson clung onto second, until lap 13 when Richard Smith found an opening to overtake. By now Thurley was 4 seconds up the road and heading for victory. So attention switched to see if Robertson could hang onto third, which he duly did, but only just from Colin Smith. Timm and Cocksedge completed the finishers.
Race two saw Thurley make a cracking start and hold the lead from Richard Smith, as Colin Smith slotted into third. Unfortunately that was it as far as overtaking went, but nevertheless it was still good to watch a high speed group of cars contend with the slippery conditions. Thurley took his second win of the day, from Richard Smith, then Colin Smith, Robertson, Timm and Cocksedge, all of whom had shown good reliability and skilful driving. Cocksedge received a special award for his first wet race and generally enjoying himself.
The final race of the day featured some cars from all three southern CMMC series. This time Lewis Smith was piloting his father’s Mercedes SLK, so it would be interesting to see how he faired. Rod Birley was again on pole position, with Adrian Bradley (in his brother’s BMW alongside). Todd Garner and Rob Methold occupied row two with Lewis Smith and Colin Smith next up.
The starting start was as a bit different, but it didn’t stop Birley launching his Escort in impressive style. His lead after just one lap was 2.5 seconds from the charging Lewis Smith, who was experiencing rear wheel drive for the first time this year. Lewis has been in the VW cup and not had the best of luck. Meanwhile Rod’s relentless pace drew him away by nearly 2 seconds a lap, as he set the quickest lap of the day in 47.2 seconds. Lewis powerslid his way to the runner up spot, safely clear of Colin Smith in third. Adrian Bradley was a lap behind in fourth, as the two production runners battled out for fifth. Garner completing his impressive day in fifth by beating Methold.
So a rather soggy day completed the main season for the CMMC southern competitors. The clerk of the course Terry Scannell was full of praise for all the drivers who conducted themselves extremely well in difficult conditions. There was not one red flag during the whole day, impressive indeed!