The CMMC Southern saloon car series returned to Brands Hatch at the weekend.
Report by Adam Grant & photos by Rafal Biniszewski
On Saturday it was the turn of the Amusetime production saloons, who had a 30 minute pit stop race. A field of 15 cars took to the Indy circuit for qualifying, which saw Colin Tester annex pole position with Paul Restall in their Ford Sierra Cosworth. Starting alongside would be Jonathan Bevan and Rod Birley in their Honda Integra. Third on the grid was Marcus Bicknell in his T3 class Citroen Saxo. Next up was Dave Charlton, the leading T1 runner in his Seat Leon. Mark Cripps had his guest class turbo VW Golf on the inside of row three with invitation runner Martyn Scott alongside in his familiar BMW E30 (running on treaded tyres).
Row four was headed by Nathan Wells in his BMW Mini, although he did lose two lap times due to exceeding track limits. Gideon September was the fastest TP competitor in 8th. Chris Bicknell had newcomer Alex Baldwin partnering him in their Citroen Saxo. Alex has had tuition from Rod Birley and was looking forward to his first race, he was also filming the event as part of a university project.
It was welcome back to Andy Banham in his TP Renault Clio, although he did get pinged for track limits. Steve Dann brought out his VW Polo and was joined by Graham Richardson instead of Steve’s wife Kelly. Nick Lunn was still smiling in his Honda Integra, and another debutant lined up alongside. This was the first race for our website manager Giuseppe Minetti. Chris Burley completed the starters after Andy Woods-Dean had terminal gearbox failure in his Honda Civic. Hopefully Andy will return again soon.
The initial start of the race only got as far as Druids hairpin, when there was a multi car collision. As with all accidents opinions differed as to what exactly happened, but the net result was the race was immediately stopped to allow the removal of two badly damaged cars. This was Martyn Scott’s previously immaculate BMW and the unfortunate Marcus Bicknell.
The re-start saw Tester steadily pull away from Bevan, until the pit stops began. Bevan stopped first to hand over to Birley, but the stop took longer than expected. However, by the time Restall took over from Tester the lead had swung in Birley’s favour. Undeterred the more powerful Cosworth gradually reeled in the white Honda. At the same time a penalty board was shown, which was for speeding in the pit lane. The culprit turned out to be Restall, who was now required to do another drive through of the pit lane. For some reason he ignored the penalty which was then upgraded to a black flag, meaning the team had been disqualified. Although Restall did in fact pass Birley on the track he was subsequently removed from the results, which gave the win to Bevan and Birley.
Initially Cripps slotted into third position and maintained a good pace, just a couple of seconds behind Bevan. Mark stopped on lap 12 rejoining in 7th but soon moved back up to fifth and staying on the lead lap. On lap 21 the black Golf suddenly slowed on Copper Straight and trickled into the pits a couple of laps later to retire. An engine issue signalling the end of a good run.
After the pit stops Charlton briefly held second, just 5 seconds behind Birley, until Restall swept past. In the end Charlton was promoted back to second. A good initial battle between Wells, September and Banham lasted until lap 9, when September dived into the pits albeit a bit too early. Gideon returned to the fray, but had to do a drive through penalty later on. Banham continued to harry Wells and they were joined by Chris Bicknell after he took over from Baldwin, who had driven very well to keep in touch. Banham snatched third spot on the last lap as Wells headed into the pits. Lunn had closed in on Banham and was only 0.4 of a second behind the Clio. September recovered to take fifth after battling with Bicknell.
Completing the finishers were Minetti and Chris Burley. Burley was awarded the “spirit of the race award” (a bottle of whisky kindly donated by Martyn Scott). The H&G driver of the race went to Andy Banham, whilst Nick Lunn collected the Cannons best prepared car prize.
On Sunday it was the turn of the super saloons, which had two 15 minute races. Qualifying saw a tense battle between Birley (now in his familiar Escort Cosworh) against the mighty V8 Holden Commodore of Alex Sidwell. In the end Birley took pole position by just 0.1 of a second. Malcolm Wise had a new turbo for his rebuilt engine, as he took third on the grid. Alongside him would be Tony Skelton, back out in his rapid turbo charged Renault Clio. Niall Bradley was best of the class C horde of BMWs, with Mick Roberton the quickest silhouette car in his VW Corrado. Row four saw Kevin Bird, not in his Nissan this time, but instead a BMW in the guest class. Newcomer Gavin Dunn had his immaculate E36 BMW in 8th spot.
Ed Leigh should have been next up, but he elected to miss the first race, so David Cowan was a bit lonely, although just in front of sparring partner Matt Turner. A welcome late addition was Nick Proudlock in his rapid class D Mk.1 Ford Escort. Paul Cocksedge and Mark Cripps (now in his usual BMW E36) were on row 7, then came Kenny Hunt and Colin Tester (in Paul Restall’s Sierra), followed by Ronan Bradley, Steve Dann and Ian Hales. Ian actually missed qualifying, but was allowed to start due to recent circuit knowledge.
The first race saw Birley lead away with Sidwell hot on his heels. These two gradually pulled away from the other 16 cars and treated the crowd to a high speed duel. Birley seemed to have everything under control, until just four laps before the end his car’s engine suddenly cut out on Cooper Straight. In a flash the big blue Holden shot past, and motored away to take the chequered flag. Birley managed to hold onto second place after he re-set the engine management system. Hales had closed impressively on the leaders, until he found he did not have quite enough grunt to get past in the straight bits. Sadly Ian was later excluded due to a yellow flag infringement, which meant he would have to do it all again in race two.
Malcolm Wise quickly settled into third spot, which he maintained until the chequered following Hales’ exclusion. Skelton soon realised that wet tyres were the wrong choice so he retired. Robertson leap frogged up to 4th pursued by Niall Bradley. Besides the progress of Hales, we also saw circuit instructor Tester scything through soon arriving in 7th position. Dunn and Bird had a good race long battle in their white BMWs, pursued by Cowan, Turner and Cripps. On lap 15 Dunn caught Tester and grabbed what became fifth, as Robertson pulled off with more engine maladies. Tester held onto sixth fending off Bird, whilst Cowan got away from the squabbling Turner and Cripps. Proudlock acquitted himself well in 11th, winning class D as well, whilst Cocksedge was very happy to take the intermarque silhouette honours. Ronan Bradley and Steve Dann completed the finishers just 0.2 of a second apart. Kenny Hunt having an incident on lap one and pulling off.
The second race saw Sidwell gain the advantage from the start, although Birley twice drew alongside as the battle resumed. This time Sidwell appeared to have everything under control, until the last lap when they caught a group of back markers. Suddenly Birley saw an opportunity as he closed right in, but Alex just hung on by 0.3 of a second to take his second win of the day.
With Robertson non-starting, in theory Wise should have had an easy run in third, but a somewhat shambolic start (where some drivers thought there would be 2 rolling laps) saw Dunn burst through to take that position. That is until Hales came storming through on lap 5. It was difficult to know where to look as there were several battles going on throughout the field. Although he was on the correct tyres this time, Skelton had a quick spin exiting Druids, but carried on undeterred to come home 13th and take class B honours. This was because Tester pulled off near the end with a blown differential.
Class C honours went to Dunn this time, as his quick start enabled him to stay clear of Niall Bradley. Gavin also claimed the Caesar electrical best prepared car award. Bird was good for sixth and invitation class honours, with Cowan 7th (winning the BMR driver of the day award) and Turner 8th. Cripps was the first lapped runner in 9th, with Proudlock taking 10th and another class D victory, followed by a slightly subdued Leigh. Wise had an excursion at Paddock bend near the end, but extricated himself to come home 14th, followed by Niall Bradley and Dann, who just held off Hunt.
Special mention goes to Hales who set the fastest lap of the day with 50.593 seconds, on his way to a hard earned third spot and intermarque honours. He did drop back after catching the two leaders, when a recurring engine issue thwarted his progress.
Everything now moves onto Snetterton for the 300 circuit on Sunday May 26th.
Full results here