CLASSIC HOT ROD MEETING REPORT
ENGLISH SERIES ROUND NINE
THE SHP AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEERING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 2016
The biggest meeting of the year rained in at Ipswich year with tidal wave of entries from England, Scotland and Ireland to entertain the huge crowd at the principle Speedweekend in the Spedeworth Calendar. The racing weekend which gives the greatest field of multi formulae perusing their respective championships (in excess of four hundred and fifty cars) certainly attracted contrasting weather too! This was in particular evidence on Saturday, the racing day for the CHRs, as bright skies and brilliant sunshine was suddenly interrupted by dark clouds and torrential outbursts. Indeed, there were ‘outbursts’ a plenty involving the Classic Hot Rods, and the pursuit of the Gold Stripe created controversy a plenty!
Twenty eight Classic Hot Rod drivers fielded for the 2016 National Championship, just two down on the numbers that had originally booked. 721 Steve Kite and 419 Dave Murphy were unable to attend, however, the twenty eight that were present created the biggest field of CHRs for the history of the formula. Not since the Golden Era of the Seventies had so many Escorts and Anglias (not forgetting the BMCs and Hillman!) been seen gracing an oval.
We were delighted to have #TheDungannonCannon 966 Thomas Dilly and #TheDiggerMan 976 Clive Richardson over from Northern Ireland, and representing the Republic of Ireland came the Irish Points Champion of 2015, #TheIrishThoroughbred 25 Trevor Cusack, along with Meath’s duo #TheLeopard 671 Alan Leonard and #CaptainMorgan 19 Anthony Morgan. Three drivers came down from Scotland, #TrevTheRev 12 Trevor Harris, #TheChesherKat 162 Keith Chesher, and #OorBrett 232 Brett Sneddon.
From the English contingent came the pre-race favourites of #Donut 198 Andy Steward, #TheMusicMan 210 Hughie Weaver and #Harold 911 Harry Steward racing his famous Anglia #TheRedDevil! We also welcomed some returnees for this season, #TheBlueBomber 58 Steve Lumley and 88 #Dangerous Dave Owen who was racing his brother Darren’s all conquering Mk2 #TheDeadlyWarhorse! In contrast to the battered War Horse, #TheAquaFreshman, 144 Tim Foxlow, still classed as a returnee having only commenced his 2016 CHR campaign at Hednesford the previous weekend, was again presenting his immaculate patriotic themed Escort, #TheBelter.
Really entering into the spirit of the #HashtagNickNames for the CHR drivers this season, #TheLittleGreenMonster 265 Ray Harding, not only had his beautiful green and white Anglia bedecked with a cartoon green monster on its roof but both Ray and his team were sporting #LittleGreenMonster sweat shirts! Little Miss Boydy, Kara Boyd, the driver of the wonderful Woolsley 1500, also has her #PenelopePitstop nickname emblazoned on her team sweatshirt. Overall it was a wonderful acknowledgement of the character side of the sport and the CHR ‘racing family’ engaging in the personality side of things.
The atmosphere in the pits pre-meeting was jovial and relaxed on the surface. Cars looked polished and BBQs were being readied for later. However, defending champion #ThePrinceOfPop 333 Lee Wood, standing next to his immaculate HB Viva, admitted nerves. “Nerves are good,” Lee said, “it means you are feeling your adrenaline and it heightens your reactions. You feel more alive. Barry Lee told me he was always nervous before racing, and even back in 2013, when he raced my Mk2 replica of his 1980 car, he was brimming with nerves!” Wood was up for the occasion, and indeed despite below par performances since his return in his newly rebuilt race car, was quietly confident that he had got the car right to give a good account of himself. Lee was hoping for the conditions to stay dry as he had set the Viva up for racing his favoured outside line.
Different drivers favour different conditions. Some see rain as a frustrating speed inhibitor, others see it as an equaliser! Indeed, both #TheItlaianStallion 121 Charlie Schembri and #TheMusicMan 210 Hughie Weaver were considering combining their ‘powers’ and doing a rain dance together! In contrast #Harold 911 Harry Steward and 271 #JJ Jamie Johnson were definitely in the ‘dry’ camp.
So, it bright warm and sunny conditions all twenty eight competitors brought their historic steeds on to the hallowed Ipswich aphsalt witnessed by the packed crowd. It was a slow rolling lap that commenced proceedings, but at the drop of the green, C grade starter 44 Kara Boyd bogged down in the wrong gear as fellow low graders Gooding, Harris and Willis charged away. Impressively, #TrevTheRev wound up the screaming Crossflow in his cherry black Anglia and hit the front with #TheGoodGuy in pursuit. 232 Brett Sneddon made a good start from the the B grade. However a huge incident occurred in those early laps as Kara Boyd got swamped from all sides. A grade starter 121 Charlie Schembri sought to take her from the high side and 101 John Bowring up the inside. In a three way sandwich through turn three, the 44 Woolsley was erroneously tank slapped one side then the other and helplessly, the stunning machine went ‘light’ and Kara, in her efforts to control the car, over corrected and spun – full in the face of the on coming traffic! Some went high, and some went low in their efforts to avoid Boyd, but of all the drivers to hit her full on, it was 198 Andy #Donut Steward! In a sickening crunch, Kara’s rear took the full force of Andy’s front end and as 198 followed through, his SHP Escort was hit up the back by 966 Thomas Dilly, with #TheDungannonCannon escorting Steward into the door of #TheSilverFox 20 Dave Fry!
With the yellows hastily brought out, 198, 966 and 44 went to the infield to join 271 Jamie Johnson who had retired on lap one. On the re-start it was 12 from 31, 232, 265, and 88. Harris made a superb start once again and Harding a was certainly on the pace too but it was suddenly to change again with #TheLittleGreenMonster getting it wrong attempting to take the wide line on Sneddon and clattered the wall. As the laps passed both Brett and 88 #Dangerous Dave Owen got in to the groove, passing Gooding and Harris and a fascinating battle between the blue and red Mk2s took place for the lead spot. As 232 and 88 battled lap after lap, 166 #TheGent Dave Stevens was putting in a very impressive drive in his maroon Mk1. Indeed he closed in significantly on the top two in the latter stages of the race. Behind, #TheBlueBomber 58 Steve Lumley was involved with a close race with Ulstermen 976 Clive Richardson followed by Goodswen and #Harold Steward. In exciting tussle, Owen finally got up the inside of Sneddon to take the lead and on the dying laps 911 tried to take the high side on 72 only to anchor up significantly as 162 #TheChesherKat Keith Chesher suddenly halted with a blown engine. Dave Owen crossed the line first but was demoted two places have been adjudicated to have jumped the re-start and consequently a delighted Scotsman Brett Sneddon took his second CHR victory in the space of six days.
HEAT ONE RESULT: 232, 166, 88, 58, 976, 72, 210, 911, 445, 144
The competitors may have had two hours to prepare for their second heat, but it was still nevertheless heartening to see so many repaired and fit to race again. Ray Harding received super assistance from the Irish drivers in the form of an electric welder and a man to do the welding in the form of fellow driver Charlie Schembri! With such excellent assistance Harding was able to repair the damage and relocate the rear axle. A few yards away team #Donut was performing miracles in rebuilding the 198 car which was little red with damage all round. Team Boyd were successful in repairing #PenelopePitstop’s Woolsley with the half shaft replaced and the rear wing pulled back into shape. The only drivers who took early retirement from the day’s proceedings were Thomas Dilly and Keith Chesher with engine damage.
Under changeable skies the rain was trying to fall as the cars rolled for heat two. Dave Fry quickly retired to the infield before the drop of the green, but with the actual commencement of racing Gooding lead the way from Harris, Willis and Boyd. The charge from the B grade was fraught however as Kara in 44 impeded their progress quicker than expected. Harding suddenly found he had nowhere to go at the end of the back straight and with a reflex turn of the wheel to avoid rear ending the Woolsley, he clipped the heat one winner Brett Sneddon. The slightest of contact was enough at speed to lift the rear of 232 and the Scot spun at velocity into the fence with a clatter! With the two tone blue Escort off the racing line, the race continued unhindered with leader Gooding challenged by the impressive #Gent Stevens. Harding, who had come away from his earlier contact with Sneddon unscathed, was flying, passing #TrevTheRev Harris on the outside hotly pursued by 271 #JJ Johnson. They were suddenly catapulted into the lead when the spinning #Cowboy Boyd in 445 caught out Gooding and Stevens. Thundering down the back straight, 88 Dave Owen shot through the melee of cars in third ahead of #TheDiggerMan Richardson in 976. The race ‘settled down’ into a high speed chase. If the empty card board boxes were thrown, we would easily be witnessing a re-enactment of Starsky and Hutch! #TheLittleGreenMonster was racing on the raged edge, desperate to keep ahead of Johnson, Owen and Richardson and repeat the Heat two win he enjoyed at Speedweekend last year. Further back #TheAquaFreshMan 144 Tim Foxlow was having a fascinating battle with both Stewards and got by both of them. #Donut’s car was looking for all the world like a high speed wreck but up ahead, heat two was building to its climax as the top four descended as one on the back markers in the field. Again young Kara Boyd played her roll in proceedings as she was lapped. Johnson and Richardson made it three wide with Boyd into turn one and wheel arches clashed, and coming out the other side the Ulsterman was struggling with the rear side arch rubbing his tyre. Coming out the other side of Boyd it was 265 from 976, 88 and 271 with blue tyre smoke coming from the Irishman’s car with the late Leslie Dallas homage livery. In the final laps, the crowd were on their feet again as 671 #TheLeopard Alan Leonard impeded Richardson just as #TheDiggerMan looked for the gap on the inside of Harding and then, half a lap later, Clive was scrapping away, close to the turn two fence as he evaded the spinning #MusicMan 210 Hughie Weaver. This gave Harding the space he needed into the final lap and Brighton man crossed the line first! But in a huge twist of irony, it was Ray this time who had been judged to have jumped the start. 265 was docked the two standard places and the man who crossed the line first in heat one and not given the win, 88 Dave Owen, this time was given the win, having not crossed the line first!!
HEAT TWO RESULT: 88, 271, 265, 121, 976, 911, 58, 198, 333, 72
The intermission from the afternoon to the evening meeting had seen torrential rain, yet a greasy but drying track saw the drivers line up, in points order, scored from the heats, for the 2016 running of the Classic Hot Rod national Championship.
THE LINE UP.
— 44. 12. 19. 4. 25. 210. 265. 144. — 72. 911. 976 —> OUTSIDE
671. 257. 20. — 198. 445. 101. 333. 271. 166. 121. 58. 88 —> INSIDE
The rolling laps start was elected over the clutch for the prestigious twenty five event in view of the greasy track surface but the drop of the green saw a clean start which was a relief after the incident packed early laps of the preceding heats. It was the Ulsterman who got the bite and from the outside lane slipped effortlessly into the lead on the first turn. #Dangerous Dave in 88 fought hard to defend second from a flying #Harold in #TheRedDevil. The first incident in the high speed high stakes race occurred on lap three with 271 Jamie Johnson T-boning 265 Ray Harding. As Harding crashed into the turn two barrier he was collected by 210 Hughie Weaver resulting in #TheLittleGreenMonster looking in a very sorry state. #JJ was able to continue having lost several places, and was now out of contention. Up ahead #TheDiggerMan 976 Clive Richardson was pulling out all the stops to establish a solid lead in his quest to become the first Irishman to win the National Title. He was chased by Owen, seemingly struggling for grip, then Harry Steward and #TheNorfolkBoy 72 Gary Goodswen. #Harold was on the move and was soon up the inside of 88 and he was quickly followed through by Goodswen, and the question on many lips was “could Harry have it in him to catch Richardson?” It was at this point that the slower back markers again had a hand to play in events. Leader Clive Richardson was able to quickly pass 445 Graham Boyd but the Cambridgeshire man was soon back in his racing rhythm when Harry came to pass. Steward’s approach to line up Boyd for the pass was offset by the need to also pass 671 Alan Leonard and resultantly, he made contact with Boyd, putting the British Racing Green Austin A40 into a spin. The unsettled 911 pilot was immediately under pressure from Gary Goodswen, and has the Essex lad defended, the Ulsterman Richardson again increased his lead. At this point Leonard crashed out with #TheBlueBomber 58 Steve Lumley and on the opposite corner #TheWycombeWarnderer 101 John Bowring spun into the fence. This brought out the yellow flags to remove the stricken cars of Bowring and belatedly, Harding. The restart saw Harry Steward’s immediate attack on Richardson’s lead blocked by back markers Graham Boyd and the recovered Lumley. Harry could not afford to hang about as he had 72 and 88 all over his tail and he looked to have Boyd out of his way post haste! Pressuring the back marker Boyd through turns three and four, down the home straight, with Goodswen and Owen in tow, Steward switched to the outside. Both braked late into turn one and with the red Mk2s of 72 and 88 bearing down, 445 tagged 911 on his outside and both spun with Harry hitting the fence with the rear quarter of his car. Goodswen and Owen just squoze through but the youngster’s quest for Gold was gone. The final laps saw the late charge of uncle Andy Steward, who having passed the fading Owen, challenged then undertook Goodswen. It appeared he was gaining in Richardson but the Irishman had cannily eased off and on the last lap 976 cantered to the flag. After #TheDiggerMan ‘out donutted’ #Donut in the post race celebrations, it was declared the Andy’s late charge was diminished by the decision that he had jumped the restart and therefore had to be content with fourth. On the parade lap, Irish eyes were certainly smiling though as a delighted Clive Richardson became the first Irishman to win a CHR Major. Gary Goodswen was equally pleased with second and third place went to defending champion #ThePrinceOfPop 333 Lee Wood who had seemingly ghosted up the placing in a superbly handling Viva.
CLASSIC HOT ROD NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULT:
976 Clive Richardson, 72 Gary Goodswen, 333 Lee Wood, 198, 144, 25, 20, 58, 4, 12
So concluded an exciting, controversial and unfortunately, somewhat damage strewn National Championship. Yes, the racing could have been tighter, and some damage could be argued to have been needless. But these drivers are racing drivers, racing to win, and respect, although expected out on track, is something that is earnt, not something necessarily automatically given. Lessons learnt then, but overall the racing was still exciting and appreciated by the Speedweekend crowd.