CLASSIC HOT ROD MEETING REPORT
LOCHGELLY 21st April 2018
INTERNATIONAL SERIES ROUND ONE – THE SCOTTISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Almost unbelievably warm spring – almost summer – weather greeted the drivers and fans who came to enjoy the evening’s racing at HRP Lochgelly on Saturday 21st June. The crowd numbers looked especially healthy at this superbly appointed venue which enjoys excellent vantage points, quality cafes and a whole host of staff who know their roles very well and carry them out expertly. It’s the only raceway I know of that even has staff on litter duty throughout the course of the meeting and the venue maintains very high standards.
It was perhaps a little disappointing therefore that the number of Classic Hot Rod drivers attending this year’s event was a little down on the previous two years with sixteen drivers in evidence on the night of the big championship. The reasons for the non attendance of a number of missing drivers was of course varied with perhaps the most significant absentee being the defending champion 966 Thomas Dilly. The Northern Irishman had put his car up for sale just a week earlier and never seriously expected the car to sell so fast, but sell it did! Nevertheless, those present were of course of the high quality expected of CHR with one Welshman, four Irishmen and five Englishmen travelling to contest the title with six Scots. Significant first time visitors were 42 Dean Kitchen who had left his Kent base at 4am in the morning and 756 Marc Spence who had brought his beautifully presented former Graham McCabe Talbot Sunbeam the 150 miles south from his Inverness base. Also bringing his self built Zetec powered Sunbeam was #WelshWizard 57 Mike Oliver who always has a significant trek from his Aberystwyth base in mid Wales to get anywhere!
As is normal for Major International Championship meetings, the reserve grid system is employed. The drivers draw their grid positions for heat one and this starting line up is reserved for heat two. The points the drivers score in these two heats determine this stating grid position in the Championship Final. The stage was set from the very beginning of the draw: with top English driver 198 Andy Steward drawing pole with top Scot 17 Kenny Purdie along side. Purdie was fresh and ready for the contest. His stunning race car, his Ford Escort Mk2 known as #TheSpanker, was re panelled and repainted, with the bold all silver roof stating his overall points title win from last season. Under the hood lay a brand new Crossflow screamer built by Anderson Racing Engines.
Naturally all sixteen present were out on track for heat one with Scotsmen 232 Brett Sneddon and 871 Graeme Callender lining up behind Steward and Purdie on row two. With the drop of the green for the first race of the evening, the pace of all top drivers became immediately evident around this small and unique shaped Lochgelly oval. Steward dropped the hammer a nano second ahead of Purdie but the opening lap saw the Scotsman match Steward’s speed and raced him side by side. From the third row, seventy year old ace 210 Hughie Weaver wasted no time at all, and got up the inside of Graeme Callender’s beautiful blue and white Mk1 to steal fourth place and chase hard after third placed Sneddon. Within two laps, a speeding train was established with 198 leading 17, 232, 210, and 871 with 72 Gary Goodswen and 976 Clive Richardson closing fast. Ireland’s 195 Adrian Boyle was an early casualty, spinning out and retiring and he was soon joined by popular local driver 162 Keith Chesher who had caught the infield kerb and damaged his engine sump. Chesher soon parked up on the apex of turns 1 and 2 as the head of the field continued to circulate like a swirling lasso! Within five laps, the leaders had caught the first back marker in the shape of 63 John Wakins in his all black Mk1. The pace seemingly caught Watkins unawares and swung out wide up the home straight as he saw Steward flash by. However the man on his outside was Kenny Purdie, and like a man from his true stock car racing heritage, Purdie is never a man to back down! Never giving the situation a moments hesitation, Purdie went for the gap that increasingly wasn’t there! Wheel arches clashed and 17 rode up the side of 63. Crashing down, Purdie went wide with damaged steering and the rest of the field went through. Perhaps with hindsight, this was the moment where Purdie’s true chance of the Championship vanished. The hapless Watkins recovered to continue circulating with his damaged Mk1, but was lapped for the second time as the lead train soon came through again. It was nose to tail right to the flag, with the places only changing latterly with the demise of 871 Graeme Callender as his Pinto power unit went sick. In the last few laps only 333 Lee Wood was brave enough to stick his neck out and try the outside line on Richardson. It however proved fruitless and the colours of the snake that crossed the line remained the same. In the warm down lap, things looked bad from lone Ulster man Clive Richardson, as plumes of smoke escaped his mean looking Mk2. This was soon diagnosed as a blown head gasket, dashing #TheDiggerMan’s chances for another year.
HEAT ONE RESULT
198, 232, 210, 72, 976, 333, 25, 57.
The grid reversal saw 195 Adrian Boyle on pole position and he stood alone to await the onslaught from the row two starters of Wood and Cusack with 63 John Walkins being a non starter. Also absent in this race was Clive Richardson and Graeme Callender and thus only eleven drivers took the green flag. Boyle’s lead lasted only half a lap as down the back straight away 333 #ThePrinceOfPop Lee Wood dove down his inside to lead into turn three hotly pursued by 25 #TheIrishThoroughBred Trevor Cusack. 210 #TheMusicMan Hughie Weaver experienced an adverse start as he half spun into the opening bend and lost ground. He soon recovered however and was soon hounding #TheBromleyBomber 42 Dean Kitchen as both chased down Boyle. Initially it was Wood from Cusack with the Irishman being closed down rapidly by the English Points Champion #NorfolkBoy 72 Gary Goodswen whereas further back both Andy #Donut Steward and #TheKingOfCarluke 17 Kenny Purdie had a lot of ground to make up. As Boyle slipped down the places lap after lap, Cusack succumbed to Goodswen’s pressure and Gary moved into P2 with a powerful drive up the inside. Dean Kitchen was swallowed up by Weaver and the driver of the #WideBoy Anglia soon had to retire with broken suspension linkage. An initial mini train developed as 333 led 72, 25 and 210 nose to tail, but as Cusack’s pace began to slip a gap opened and Weaver successfully passed the Irishman round the outside. In the latter laps as Wood continued to stoutly defend his lead in the face of strong attacks from Goodswen, Cusack had to give second best to first Andy Steward and then Kenny Purdie. In a fascinating pacy spectacular, Purdie seemed to have his bonnet glued to the boot of Steward’s Escort. Lee Wood held on to cross the line a worthy winner at this his debut meeting in Scotland with Goodwen right on his tail ahead of Weaver, Steward and Purdie.
HEAT TWO RESULT
333, 72, 210, 198, 17, 25, 232, 57
Incredibly daylight still hung on in the Scottish sky on this pleasant spring evening, although the chill rose significantly as the sun drooped to the mountainous skyline as the finalists appeared on track to contest the 2018 running of the Scottish Open.
With the points calculated, the drivers were lined up to formate on the grid as below:
Following the warm up laps, tension mounted as the clutch star was anticipated. The drop of the green was greeted with a furious roar of Pinto, Zetec and Crossflow engines and it was 72 Gary Goodswen who got the bite first. For the whole opening lap he raced on the edge to maintain a half bonnet length of a lead on the outside of Steward only for his grip to finally give way and for Andy to barge his way back on to the racing line on the inside and regain the lead. Sensing his opportunity, 210 Hugh Weaver dived up the inside of the prone Goodswen with paint flaking off the front of his Mk1 revealing battle scars. Maintaining such forceful momentum, Weaver attacked Steward in the same way, feinting dives up the inside in a bid to unsettle the leader. It was 198 from 210, 72, 232, 333, 57 and 17 with Purdie’s bonnet already flapping with enthusiasm! With Weaver continuing his attacking drive, Purdie continued his wild ride in his endeavour to move up the placings – making it abundantly clear to all drivers and fans, just how much a major victory on home soil would mean. Power-sliding, Kenny careered past Oliver and Cusack. Suddenly the 72 car of Goodswen just nudged the tail of 210 Weaver and it was enough to ping the boot lid loose. With it flapping like a whirly-gig, the boot lid worked loose and escaped on the wind down the back straight. Immediately, the yellow flags were thrown and commands to the drivers came through on the raceievers. The pace car came on track and with the car marshall waving a declaration, the drivers were brought to order – with the exception of Weaver, who concentrating on the race which, only seconds before, he had been fully committed to, accidentally shot past the pace car! This is something of a no-no at HRP and the meeting steward expects his instructions heeded! As the cause of the stoppage, the 210 driver was instructed to retire to the infield – disqualified. Awaiting the re-start, Goodswen now found himself elevated to second ahead of Sneddon and the now rampant Purdie. The drop of the green saw the return of frantic racing. Purdie hit the back of Sneddon and #Braveheart was knocked off the racing line. Up the home straight 17 passed 232 to move into third. In retrospect, this incident was duly noted by the meeting steward, but Kenny really had the bit between his teeth now. With the laps now counting down, Andy Steward was now sitting there, absorbing every attack from inside and outside as Goodswen tried again and then Purdie got alongside Goodswen! The climax was coming with everyone giving their best and in the final laps an incredible seven car train came nose to tail with Oliver, Wood and Cusack matching the pace of the battling quartet at the front and presented their own challenges. It was so absorbing to witness, more fantastic laps of racing could have been enjoyed, but suddenly the chequered flag dropped and 198 Andy Steward was across the line to become a Major Champion for the first time in over twelve months and confirming that the Big Boy is back!
SCOTTISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL RESULT
198, 72, 232, 57, 17, 25, 333, 43, 195
(Purdie was docked two places for contact on Sneddon.)
Overall a great nights racing with Andy Steward well received as a deserving winner. With Kenny Purdie’s sanction, Welshman Mike Oliver was delighted with his fourth place finish with his Zetec engine showing itself to be every bit as competitive as it’s far more expensive Pinto and Crossflow rivals.