Qualifying was a damp windy affair for the first race of the year for both the MGCC and the Peter Besters.
With some of the drivers opting to go testing a few weeks before this gave drivers like David Strike and James Darby an advantage over others that may not have been here for many years.
But both Darby and Strike made poor times, Darby excuse – The moths had been chewing on his 10 year old wet tyres and he had man flu. Strike excuse – Too heavy a right foot and broke the throttle cable.
Paul Eales had engine failure during qually and that would be the end of the day for the GT, but the joys of having his father on the grid in his FIA car meant that he could go out with another series and still get to have some fun.
So with the weather still making it a better place to be in the car rather than outside it, the drivers headed for the start line.
Everyone managed to get some power down on the sodden circuit and headed around lap 1, all was well around the hairpin but on the exit of the Devils Elbow Nick Arden gets an almighty tank slapper and tries his luck at rallycross and heads down the escape road at full throttle, barely losing much ground at all. The other drivers all come barrelling towards the line with Hannah Brian deciding to take the same line as Arden and exits the Elbow backwards and executes a tidy reverse flick into the edge of the gravel. She was able to back the car out without any outside assistance and set off to catch the pack in the mist and rain.
The Zeds of Diment Halliwell and Davis all battled together at the front of the pack and were trying to catch the quicklydisappearing Simon Cripps in the lead, but with the track covered in oil and fuel from the previous race it was slippy everywhere and there were some very hairy slides from everyone on the fast decent out of the Devils Elbow.
Back in the battle for Class A honours were the rapid Maestro of Arden followed by Clive Jones, but with a storming start from the back of the grid was Strike. David had to qually out of session with another series, but the laps in testing were showing as he caught and passed a defending Jonesey in a move that looked to last 4 laps. Jones had no answer as Strike pulled away to chase down Arden.
The MGB V8 of the father and son pairing of the Wheelers was back out and doing well to start with, but a failed clutch out of the hairpin cut short their Mallory escapade and Jonnie had to pull off onto the escape lane opposite the control tower. That would spell the end of the day for them and James didn’t get to come out for race 2.
Cripps was away in the distance and lapping almost everone exept the ZR’s of Diment Halliwell and Ed Davis, Ed posted the second fastest overall time in his ZR, and the other two were very close behind, a sign of some good close racing to come during this season we hope. Ashley Cross was not particularly enjoying the conditions of race 1, but the 180 was sounding like it was flying on the straight and looked one of the most planted cars out of the complex.
Rod Oakenfull had a newly built engine, but was struggling with lack of power at low revs during qually, but a few brave pills were taken and revving the engine provided enough power higher up the rev range to keep him in contention with David Eales in the FIA car. Hannah Brian was making steady progress in the Metro ensuring that she got another well deserved signature on her novice license. But the Class A fight was not to end well as a leary moment out of the esses had the chequered MGB of David Strike heading nose first into the armco. Strike was still in the car when the Marshall’s came to his aid and the race was red flagged so he could be attended to safely.
Simon Cripps was first to line by a country mile and took Class B, Tom Diment and Tom Halliwell both finished 42 seconds later after a hard fought race, and winner of Class A was Nick Arden who was 18 seconds ahead of second place finisher Clive Jones.
A flying start from Cripps ended very briefly with having a loss of drive 50 yards after the starting light went out. The Zr’s then managed to pull past the slowing Class B MGB once the wheelspin had been stopped and the power was down. the last of the cars in the field of Hannah Brian, David Eales and Oakenfull then had to go 4 abreast to clear the stricken Class B car, also with the 4 cars from the Trophy series that had joined us at the back of the grid. These guys then had to do their best to pull away from the slower cars and not get involved in any class battles for the Peter Best drivers. I think all went well and there were no problems or concerns from any of the drivers. It is always difficult when two championships are joined as it is all too easy to get a car from another series in between yourself and the car you are racing with in your own championship.
A safety car was called for to move the stricken mgb of Simon Cripps and this closed the pack, Jones had a blinding start and had already pulled a lead over Nick Arden in Class A, and Tom Halliwell had a great start off the line with Ed Davis in hot pursuit. Tom Diment was a non starter this time out. It was mentioned that he got into the wrong side of his car and missed the start, as his steering wheel and pedals had been fitted to the left hand side of his car. Although I’m sure he says differently.
With the safety car in the class battles were closer this time out with the dry weather, and in Class A Jones had pulled out again a gap in first place ahead of Nick Arden. They seemed to be on an elastic band as he closed up several times and dropped back when Jones turned up the wick and pulled away again.
The Zr’s were all very close and the 2 identical 170’s do seem to be well set up and were all having a battle between themselves, that was until the charging Darby mixed up the action and was posting some flying lap times in the ever more sorted class B MGB GT, despite the odd excuses made by Darby of the ailing driver having a quite serious bout of man flu, and a failing exhaust. Tom Halliwell then set out a blistering pace and with his 190 suiting the dry track he was really enjoying Mallory Park.
Brian was closing down the more confident Oakenfull all the way through the race and was determined not to finish in last spot, on lap 9 she was close enough to exit the fast devils elbow on a better line than Rod and slipped up against the pit wall and made the pass stick. The move started at the hairpin when the faster car of Darby nearly rear ended Eales Snr in the braking area, the Metro had the legs on the mgb of Rod on the exit of the corner and the move was done. Two laps later the red Mgb of Oakenfull started to make some expensive noises and he pulled off at the esses. Brian seemed to have the bit between her teeth and was posting faster lap times than Eales snr and was catching fast, a move out of the esses put Hannah up along side the FIA car but with the decisionwas made to ease out of a possible coming together and she pursued him to the line to post another finish and another signature to a full race licence.
At the line it was a dominant Tom Halliwell in his first race out with the Peter Best that took the flag, leading from lights to the finish and incredibly pleased with himself, this was only his second ever win and not the last by the looks of his performance. Ed Davis was close behind in second, and Ashley Cross was chasing down James Darby to the line who finished third.
Class A pots went to a closely fought battle between Jones and Arden with Jones getting first, but only just.
Word from the hospital came through during race 2 that David Strike was on his way back to the track, a bit beaten and bruised but ok. Previous news was a bit more serious as he was still on a spinal board and needed a wee!
I’m sure a stiff brandy or three was had on his return home, not for the neck injury but before the spanners and hammers come out on the damaged car. Although he was heard asking how many weeks there are until Brands?? A return could be on the cards sooner than we think??!!