As I arrived at a damp and cold Donnington Park, I was greeted by many bleary eyed revellers, Dave “I only had one pint”, Strike looking very much the worst for wear after Ginny’s birthday celebrations. Piggott and Thomson (F) having spent the night in the back of their vans had the dishevelled look that only this kind of sleeping arrangement can offer, Piggott slightly worse as he had forgotten his sleeping bag. Thomson benefiting from the anaesthetic effects of three pints of “Badgers Old Rat Urine” or some such cloudy offering from Kent.
There was much activity around Hewers car, despite the car being prepared by our very own qualified electrician it seemed to be being plagued by wiring issues, some parts clearly destined for domestic shower applications should prove useful in the very wet practice that loomed. An errant spark box proving to be the guilty party but found too late to prevent starting at the back. The track was looked very slippery as the field tippy toed around, Hanna, in her Metro seeming to have the most balls (clearly borrowed!) with a superbly held slide around Redgate! Strike managed to bury his wet race demons and put in some very good lap times. Browns dampers in his ZR (that appear to predate the car) having been re-fettled helped in the wet track. Arden in his immaculately straight panelled Maestro clearly not taking it seriously pottered around to the admiring approval of the crowd, “not often you get to see a Maestro with such good body work” I overheard one of the marshall saying.
Darbys technical issues continued, a real shame as he was doing some lovely slides around Redgate. This time with water in his fuel, the car cutting out in the middle of the track James prudently pulled over, parking it with great aplomb into the tyres at some speed, the damage actually making the car symmetrical again. I’m not sure if Darby did find the time to repair the car, it can be hard to tell! Certain other drivers couldn’t get enough of the terrible conditions and chose to ignore the chequered flag and continue with the practice long after everyone else had finished, Thomson (F) and Dare seizing the opportunity to improve their times, bettered only by the fire tender and the safety car. Both were summoned for an interview with Ron, who was less than impressed with Thomson’s (F) suggestion that the meeting to which he had been summoned was to sample the chocolate biscuits. Eales posting the quickest times despite a big moment at the final chicane.
Positions looked like this: The class B ZRs locked out the front of the grid with Coles and Diment on the front and Davies and Thompson on the second row. Thompson asked me not to make any hairdressing comments as he was getting rather fed up about it so I agreed. Thompson noting that the paint from other cars on his had come off “It looks like the blue rinsed off” he told me, not sure if this happened when he clippered the kerb?
Class C was headed by Buckley in his ZR ahead of the potent V8 roadster of White, not the tool for the job in those conditions. Eales easily ahead of class A but Jonsey and Strike posting near identical times. Bringing up the rear was Conner Holmes in his FIA MGB running on Dunlop L sections, that must have been terrifying for a first outing ever, but he brought it back in one piece. “I didn’t really enjoy that” he said in what must surely be a master piece of understatement. Piggott reported that he “enjoyed having the $hits more” but was more concerned about the state of his flattened and rather damp Marlboro so he set off to find a way to dry his ciggies “if only someone had a hairdryer he thought….”
The cafe filled up with damp drivers hiding from the rain, which after an hour or so petered out. With the wind drying the track it promised dry and cold race.
The race got off to a good start, Coles dropping back from his front row position to fourth by the first corner. Browns start hampered by selecting third rather than first, (a feat only to be bettered had he selecting reverse, sadly for the spectators this was not to be). Darby going around the outside of Redgate with his arse end out, the ZRs heading the field with Diment leading Davies and Eales in third, Coles back in fourth, Thomson (F) dropping down the field with engine problems, The Green House Effect’s oil temperature rising and pressure dropping, Class A headed by Eales mixing it with the 170 Zrs leaving the rest of the class As to scrap around Red Gates, Strike leading Jonsey (never a good thing to have in your mirrors) with Arden holding station behind them, Piggott, Dare and Eales Snr having a great dice, The two ZRs of Diment and Thompson duking it out at the front but Hewer storming through the pack in his rumbling V8 starting from last place he passed five or six cars on the opening lap and made it up to to 10th place, then 14th place then tenth place then ….. etc etc…The main scrap was ended when Diment got all agricultural at the top of the hill, he must have carried impressive speed when he left the track because he later said he just missed Derby…. Jonsey’s tyres by this time where crying “enough already” and his notorious elbows where being readied for action as he was being hauled in by a steadily closing Arden, the longer race distance suiting the FWD car, then suddenly Arden’s race was cut short when Dowler, now racing car number 99 (rather than 66 as at Brands) tried an over ambitious move on Arden on the climb from The old hairpin hitting the Maestro hard in the rear. Arden once punted onto the grass was a passenger and hit the tyres taking a bit hit on the driver’s side, car and his championship lead in tatters. Piggott, Dare and Eales senior scrap carried on with Piggott finally making it stick but once through was left to a rather lonely race, behind him the action continued when Whites V8 tapped the front of dares car forcing the Golf coloured GT into the bunker. The immaculately prepared car now wearing the black swirls on its flanks and gravel in its arches. You don’t get this sort of thing in hill climbing you know!! The race was shorten rather than bring out the safety car to rescue Dare and White from the bunker, at the waived flag it was a determined Buckley in class C from Davies in the class B in the Zrs with Darby doing a sterling job in his battle scarred GT coming in third overall and second in class from a very poor starting point. Class A Eales proved un-catchable in his GT with Jonsey in second place (this place nearly forfeited for talking in the presentation). That would have gone to Strike ten seconds behind him. After the race the paddock banter was in full flow, Cross and Hewer continued with their vulgar hand signals and Dare showing an excellent stiff upper lip saying he had really enjoyed himself, other noteworthy performances where series returnee Rayment in his father’s semi FIA car having not raced for five years had a great race, “I’ll take that” delighted with his lap times.