Brands Hatch report by Adam Grant
For the second time this year the CMMC southern saloon car series were back on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. On Saturday it was the turn of the Amusetime production saloons who had a 30 minute pit stop race.
Qualifying saw the Birley/Bevan duo initially fastest until Kam Tunio (in Jamie Primett’s Honda Civic) snatch pole position. Unfortunately a track limits infringement demoted them to second position, but there was further heartbreak. A routine eligibility check for all the front runners revealed their car to be underweight (this was NOT a protest). The team were therefore relegated to a pit lane start. So joining the white Integra on the front row would be Vic Hope in his Civic. Row two contained the similar car of Bradley Lane, with the dynamic Rikki Taylor/ Gideon September alongside in the Ford Fiesta. Row three brought up David Charlton (Class T1 Seat Leon) and Dave Hutchins (Honda Civic). The Marcus Bicknell/Steve Everson duo headed row 4 from Harry Hardy in his Ford Puma. Andy Banham planted his Renault Clio 9th, just in front of the BMW Minis of Rob Methold and Nathan Wells. The grid was completed by Nick Lunn (Integra), Jon Wild (Fiesta), Ken Angell (BMW) and Chris Burley (Fiesta).
The rolling start saw Bevan lead as far as Paddock bend, where the car suddenly slewed sideways and beached itself in the gravel. The safety car immediately popped out to slow the field, whilst the stricken Honda was towed away. On the resumption of racing Lane held the lead from a fast starting Charlton, with Hope in third. Hutchins quickly moved through to fourth as Angell charged up to fifth. As the race settled down Everson re-took fifth from Angell, whilst Hope got past Charlton on lap 9. On lap 10 the pit stops began, which saw Hutchins and September come in first.
There is always a degree of confusion as different tactics are employed during the pit stop window, but when it all unravelled it showed Lane still in the lead, but with Hutchins just over a second behind. Tunio was charging along in the Primett Civic and was up to third, as Hope was slipping back with a gearbox issue. The last five laps saw the three leaders all close up, so there was barely a car length between them. In the end Lane held on by just 0.129 of a second with Tunio just a second further back in a thrilling finish. Hope held onto fourth, whilst Charlton just beat Bicknell by half a second. Angell was the first lapped runner in 7th pursued by Methold. The close finishes continued as Banham just took class TP honours (and 9th overall) from Hardy by 0.134 of a second. Wells was next up in 11th from Lunn. Taylor’s Fiesta, which had started well, had issues which dropped him to 13th. Chris Burley and Wild completed the finishers which only saw one retirement.
The Cannons best prepared car award went to Rikki Taylor/Gideon September whilst the H&G driver of the day went to Harry Hardy.
Sunday started off rather wet, which meant that qualifying for the super saloons and intermarque would be a case of who could find any grip. The front wheel drive turbocharged Peugeot 308 of Steve Rothery emerged quickest from the Escort Cosworth of Rod Birley. Birley had a fuel pressure problem, which necessitated a quick trip to near neighbour Matt Moore who kindly allowed Rod to borrow the recalcitrant part from his car. Third on the grid was taken by Niall Bradley with the similar BMW of Dave Cowan fourth. Tony Skelton headed row 3 from Steve Dann, who was hoping for a bit of luck in his VW. Volker Timm was quickest of the intermarque runners in 7th from Terry Stephens (in a Renault Clio previously owned by Rothery). Mick Robertson was 9th joined by Sean Fairweather, with Joe Russell next up. Returnee Jamie Liptrott posted the 12th best time in his new BMW. The grid was completed by Ronan Bradley, Jonathan Bevan (back out in his Honda), Ian Seale (in Rikki Taylor’s Fiesta) and Paul Cocksedge.
The first race was not long after a rain shower, but the track was drying. Rothery and Birley went for slicks, whilst Niall Bradley opted for wets. The start saw Bradley shoot through into the lead, but then there was a heavy crash going up Hailwood’s Hill. Skelton smacked the barrier quite hard, so the race was immediately stopped. Although the driver was uninjured the car looked a bit sorry.
The re-start saw Birley get the lead by Paddock bend with Bradley slotting into second. Rothery had a spin which dropped him to the tail of the field as Timm emerged in third. Bradley squeezed into the lead going into Surtees, as he found better grip with his wet weather tyres. Niall then tried really hard to draw away as a dry line started to emerge. By lap 7 the tide had turned and the slick shod runners started to capitalise. Birley closed in on Bradley and took the lead coincidentally going through Surtees on lap 8. Bradley started to struggle and was seeking the dampest parts of the track. By lap 12 he had lost 7 seconds to Birley and now had Timm on his tail. On lap 14 Timm tried to go inside Bradley at Druids but half spun and stalled. Sadly the Audi would not re-start, so Niall was able to ease off.
Further back we saw Liptrott (also on slicks) make good progress, which eventually netted him a well earned third place, only 5 seconds behind Bradley. David Cowan drove steadily to capture fourth from the recovering Rothery. Mick Robertson was best intermarque in sixth, whilst Joe Russell just held off a happy Steve Dann who managed to keep his albeit smokey Scirocco in 8th. Stephens won class D as he shook off Ronan Bradley. Paul Cocksedge moved through to 11th from Fairweather and Bevan (winner of class E) who completed the finishers. Seale retired on lap 14.
The second race was again after another shower, but most of the drivers went for slicks. Missing were Skelton, Dann and Bevan, but the rest set off in their usual charge towards Paddock bend. Birley held the initiative and fended off Bradley’s early advances. Rothery was third, but he soon had Timm filling his mirrors as he moved up from the back of the grid. Liptrott slotted into fifth. On lap 7 Timm moved into third, but was nearly ten seconds behind the two leaders. Rothery lost another place on lap 10, this time to Liptrott.
As Birley extended his lead to over three seconds, it all looked a foregone conclusion, but then Paddock bend suddenly became rather slippery on lap 15. Birley slid sideways as Bradley went broadside. Both survived but the gap was reduced dramatically over the final two laps as Rod held on to win by half a second. Timm took third, 17 seconds back, also winning the intermarque class. Rothery regained fourth on lap 16 and held off Liptrott in a close finish. Russell was the final unlapped runner in sixth, then came Cowan and Robertson. Ronan Bradley got the better of Stephens this time, although Terry still won class D. Cocksedge, Fairweather and Seale (who won class E) completed the finishers as this time everyone saw the chequered flag (no retirements).
The BMR driver of the day was Sean Fairweather, whilst Liptrott won the Caesar electrical best prepared car prize. Robertson was voted the day’s hardest trier.
All three series now move on to Lydden Hill on October 12th for their final encounters of the year.