Friendly Battles At The Friendly Circuit
Our series moved on to “The Friendly Circuit” as Mallory Park is known for the third round, with a wary eye on the sky as the forecast was for showers on and off all day.
A leisurely start with signing-on at 10am and qualifying at 11.35am, left plenty of time for a legendary “Mallory Breakfast” for those competitors who can face eating before qualifying!
Qualification saw 14 cars appear, including that well-known Alfa variant, the Lancia Beta Monte Carlo, invited as it was run by ex-Alfetta pilot Mark Oldfield (Banbury), but Rusper’s Rob Lawlor was taken out en-route by a shortsighted driver while he was trying to avoid the Olympic cycling event.
For a number of drivers qualifying was an opportunity to see how accurate/useful YouTube and X-box are in teaching a new circuit. It is always a surprise just how much of a slope there is up from the Esses to the hairpin.
For most it was uneventful from where I was watching at the Esses, although Nick Starkey standing in for Ken Lark in the yellow GT Junior got his psychological advantage in early over Roz Shaw by passing her with a deft move at the end of the Stebbe Straight and through the Esses.
Roz did confess to being very nervous though, partly as she had brought so many guests to spectate at her local circuit and she did a wonderful job on hospitality for them.
Times were very close – headed by Nick on 57.187 just 0.026 seconds ahead of Roz, with Bob Trotter a whole 0.25s (!) behind Roz and Richard Merrell a suitably Alfa-ish 0.164 behind Bob. Geoff Shephard and Will Dick rounded off a top six covered by only one hundredth of a second, with the next four – new-to-the series Steve Fletcher in a 33, Jonathan Griffin, Will Morton and James Nairn all within another second.
Mark in the Lancia just headed Ian Daltrey’s Sud from Richard Ibrahim having a first run this year in his 33. He had taken the precaution of advising me beforehand that he had just got the car, didn’t know anything about it, was very out of practice, etc. Obviously a professional as he had all his excuses ready at the outset!
With the race programme running well on time,our first race started out in good conditions, sunny and dry. Neither of the front row made a good start with Nick complaining that the signalling position was almost over his shoulder and Bob Trotter took advantage to lead briefly, although Nick took the lead back by the end of the first lap.
They had dropped Roz by about 1.5 seconds, with Richard Merrell in fourth, although a quick starting Steve Fletcher had initially shot from seventh to fourth before being deposed by the end of the lap. On the third lap Roz had settled down and re-took second round Gerrards, as Bob Trotter dropped back to sixth losing four seconds on the lap, allowing Shephard past him.
Jonathan Griffin was recovering from a poor start that dropped him back a couple of places to 10th, and by lap five had worked his way up to fifth, partly profiting from the close battle between Fletcher and Shephard. Back down the field, Ian Daltrey was winning the battle with his gearbox, or working his way round it, and after a battle with Will Dick started to work his way up the field.
At the front the situation remained stable, with the gap varying as Roz pushed hard and Nick adopted a efensive approach, reeling off consistently smooth laps, with Richard shadowing them closely, hoping for an error or “keeping them honest” as they say on TV.
Unfortunately on lap seven, having set the second fastest lap of the race on lap six (only beaten by Roz on the penultimate lap) Jonathan Griffin dropped a rear wheel onto the grass on the outside as he exited Gerrards, and that spat him across the track and careering across the inner grass into the Armco.
Jonathan reckoned that it wasn’t a bad impact, and his checkover in the medical centre thankfully showed that he was OK, but inspection of the car showed a badly mangled offside front corner, with the suspension also deranged, and further damage along the offside where the car had bounced sideways onto the Armco. I am sure the car will live again, but am very sorry for Jonathan as the car was pretty as well as quick.
On lap 10 Steve Fletcher started to drop back from fourth, his car sounding as though it was mis-firing, and was down to seventh by lap 14, at which point he discovered that switching a fuel pump on might be helpful. Ah well, another “won’t do that again” experience.
Meanwhile James Wright had pitted fearing overheating again, only to be sent on his way by his Dad, re-joining having lost a lap or so, and Ian’s Sud continued to harry Bob Trotter, although selecting fifth rather than third on the way to Devil’s Elbow may not have helped his cause.
Richard Ibrahim pulled off on the penultimate lap, with a noise which he thought was a broken camshaft on his 33, the car having briefly seized.
The race concluded with the leading positions unchanged, despite Roz’s pressure, often within 0.2 seconds of the lead. It was a close-fought race, reflecting the qualifying performance with the top four being within 16 seconds of the leader after 16 laps.
With Jonathan and Richard non-starting this race, a dozen cars started in their finishing order from their first, and Roz made a much better start to lead round Gerrards, although Nick dived past her in the Esses, reprising his move in qualifying.
Steve Fletcher again started well and climbed from seventh to fourth although a second or so behind Richard Merrell. The first three were destined to remain locked in battle all the way to the flag. Although Roz maintained pressure throughout, the gap only once opening to over 0.5 seconds, and usually being less than half that, she just could not find a way past!
At the back of the field, Mark had lost out to Will Dick, but on lap two Will dropped nine seconds or so and the Lancia was released. James Wright in the 75 trundled round very slowly for a couple of laps, I think pitting again, before resuming and building up to reasonable lap times.
One of the battles of the race was for fourth, as Shephard harried Fletcher for lap after lap. From lap six the gap between them being less than 0.2 seconds, until on lap 11 Shephard pulled off a brilliant, not to say brave move, to pass around the outside of Devi’s Elbow. Not a move you often see!
While this was going on, Ian Daltrey was gradually hauling in Bob Trotter, closing to within a second or so by lap 14, before finally getting past on the last lap, to claim sixth.
Again a good race. This time the top five were within 16 seconds of the lead after 16 laps – a good indicator of close racing – and with only one mechanical mishap all day, a tribute to the cars and their preparation.
Congratulations to Nick who put on a masterclass display of smooth, quick driving to win both races. And to Roz for never giving up and pushing hard throughout – as well as for her generous sponsorship of the event and the special awards and providing a viewing platform and celebratory victuals at the end of the day, courtesy of GTS Motorsport.
Thanks also to Mangoletsi, who provided a Giulietta as Course Car for the afternoon, showing their commitment to our Series.
Watch out for coverage on Motors TV atthe end of August!
Results From TSL Sports Timing
AROC Racing Information
Approved AROC Racing Series
Regulations are available on the
BARC website – www.barc.net
AROC Contact: Nick Wright
Entry details: Sally Langley
Regulation details: Mike Bedwell
CTCRC Contact: Peter Edwards
Photos by Ken Carrington
Race Report by Richard Murtha