All three series qualified together on a rather busy Mallory Park circuit. The 1.35 mile circuit is deceptively fast, even though it has the slowest and tightest hairpin in the country. With 25 cars on track it was a matter of getting a clear lap to set a quick time. Kevin Bird did just that with his BMW GT4 (not his Nissan 200 SX). This moved Kevin to the invitation class. Next up were the two intermarque Audi TTs of Volker Timm and Joe Russell. Steve Rothery just pipped Mick Robertson for fourth spot on the grid, with Niall Bradley rounding out the top six.
Row four was headed by Paul Nevill in his Ford Escort Mk2, then came David Cowan in his BMW. Languishing in 9th was Rod Birley, who pulled off early due to a bad vibration. Tenth position went to Adrian Bradley followed by Chris Baker in his Ford Escort. Next up was the leading production saloon runner Bradley Lane. It was good to see Brad back on track after his recent hernia operation. The production cars would have their own race and they started proceedings, just before the lunch break.
From pole position Lane easily out dragged fellow front row starter Marcus Bicknell. In fact Ken Angell (BMW E36) also powered past the diminutive green Saxo as they went along Stebbe straight. Another driver on the move was Dave Charlton (Seat Leon) as he went from sixth on lap one up to second by lap four. It looked like he might set off after Lane, but it was not to be. The black Honda Civic was still extending his lead, by over a second a lap. As the race settled down all eyes focused on the battle for second position, as gradually Angell, Adrian Matthews (Ford Puma) and Marcus Bicknell reeled Charlton back in.
The Seat was running high temperatures, so Charlton had backed off. Matthews got ahead of Angell on lap 11, and closed in on Charlton who took a defensive stance to stave off the orange Puma. It all got very close on the final lap, but the white Seat held onto the runner up spot by 0.015 of a second. Angell was just 0.6 further back with Marcus Bicknell completing the blanket finish. Todd Garner (Ford Fiesta ST) had a fairly lonely run in sixth, although he was catching the second place pack near the end. Nathan Wells (BMW Mini) had a good battle with Chris Bicknell (Saxo), which went in his favour as Chris had a braking issue as the race progressed. Giuseppe Minetti borrowed Steve Everson’s Saxo and learnt a new car and a new circuit all in one go. He initially had a tussle with Chris Burley (Ford Fiesta XR2) but as the engine in the blue Ford wilted, Minetti was able to pull away in 9th.
The second race was for the super saloons and intermarque silhouettes. As the cars gathered in the assembly area, it started to rain but only lightly. Gradually the rain increased just as the cars were going on track. Birley bailed out and returned to have wet tyres fitted as did Baker. Birley returned to the collecting area, whilst the rest were on the grid. Confusion then set in as two drivers removed their cars from the grid. Both Nevill and Russell drove back to the paddock. The officials apparently did ask some drivers if they were happy to continue and were given the thumbs up. So the cars were sent on two green flag laps behind the safety car. Birley joined in at the tail of the field for the second lap, but Baker did not get back until the race started, and Russell rejoined 3 laps down.
The start saw the slick shod cars slither around, but nobody did anything silly. Birley soon picked his way through and was obviously on the best tyres. From 12th on the grid he was in the lead by lap four. However, it was short lived as just two laps later the black Escort pulled off with a broken CV joint. This left Rothery in a commanding lead as he coped really well with the tricky conditions and was 15 seconds ahead of Bird. The black VW Golf of Paul Huxley was on the move, as clearly front wheel drive was coping better than rear wheel drive. Huxley took second spot as the BMWs were really struggling.
So Rothery added his name to the list of race winners with a comfortable 16 second win over Huxley. Bird hung onto third, with Niall Bradley just pipping David Cowan for fourth. All three BMWs very close at the chequered flag. Adrian Bradley had a moment on the last lap, but took sixth followed by Ronan Bradley. Mick Robertson was a lap down, but claimed intermarque honours as Russell was too far behind, despite having the correct tyres. Joe finished tenth behind the similar wet tyre shod Baker.
The third race combined all three groups and the grid reverted to the qualifying times mainly because of the different weather conditions in the races. This put Bird back on pole position, but the better start was made by Timm who took the lead. Bird was initially second, but suffering from locking brakes as the ABS system was malfunctioning. Niall Bradley squeezed into second on lap five, although Timm had managed to establish a five second lead. Robertson was next to get by the white BMW as Russell, Birley and Nevill were queueing up behind.
The gap between Niall Bradley and Timm suddenly diminished, as back markers were being encountered. Then on lap 9 there was an incident at the hairpin. It looked like Bird’s BMW locked its brakes and slewed sideways and was collected by an innocent Russell. As Bird limped into retirement, Russell was stuck on the track. With double waved yellow flags it created a bit of a bottle neck. Somehow Timm got boxed in and Niall was able to scoot around the outside into the lead. Birley had avoided the incident and got past Robertson as they rounded the Devil’s Elbow after the green flag. Nevill, Rothery and Cowan also jumped ahead of the Corrado.
With Russell unable to re-start, the chequered flag was shown prematurely to end the race. At which time the Audi did manage to get going! Niall, along with most people thought he had won the race, but sometime later a report came from the clerk of the course about a yellow flag infringement. It was therefore our long distance German traveller Volker Timm who was declared the winner. Birley was upgraded to second, taking the super saloon section with Nevill third (also winning class C). Rothery took class B honours in fourth, followed by Cowan and Robertson.
Brad Lane had driven very well in his production section winning Honda to take 7th overall. He just held off the battling class E duo of Jezz Francis (Vauxhall Nova) and Baker. Adrian Bradley was right on their bumpers, taking 10th in his BMW. Huxley was next up, chased by Paul Cocksedge (Vauxhall Tigra), then came the next production car, which was Charlton again narrowly in front of Matthews and Marcus Bicknell. Angell was under a second behind the green Saxo, with Garner close behind the E36 BMW. Ronan Bradley managed to get ahead of Chris Bicknell, who outpaced Wells this time. Minetti and Russell completed the classified finishers, as Chris Burley non-started due to a seized engine.
Niall Bradley had the small consolation of being awarded the best prepared car from Caesar electrical. Ronan Bradley got the Biddenden motor racing driver of the day award. In the production saloons Ken Angell took the H&G Engineers driver of the day prize, as Brad Lane’s team picked up the best prepared car bubbly courtesy of Cannons Motor Spares.
There is now a six week break until the Brands Hatch British GT meeting on the Grand Prix circuit over the weekend of August 3rd/4th. With qualifying on Saturday it means both our races will be on the main day Sunday.