Birmingham 23 11 2013
Classic Hot Rod Meeting Report
It was a bitterly cold night for the final meeting of the season for the Hottest Stars in the Coolest Cars. Nevertheless sixteen of the CHR clan saw fit to do their bit and inject some racing heat into a freezing autumnal night. In support of the National Bangers for their Champion of Champions meeting, the CHRs were determined to put on a good show in front of the the large ‘high viz’ crowd and put on the sort of presentation which illustrates that close clean racing can be just as entertaining as a banger in a big smash.
Good banter was prevalent amongst the drivers in the pits prior to racing. Boosted by the positive comments Incarace Race Director Paul Gerhard has put the way of the drivers for what had been the most successful Classic Hot Rod season to date, there was a fair bit of leg pulling between the drivers and they looked forward to the nights racing and the conclusion to what had been a very close and thrilling points battle for the National Series. 333 Lee Wood and 8 Daz Owen had a outside chance of winning the Championship if either took a clean sweep in all races, but really the focus was going to be on the top two in the points – defending title holder 20 Dave Fry and heir apparent to the Silver Roof, 161 Daniel Holden.
The cars took to a dry track for heat one, but all knew the race surface was going to be a challenge courtesy of the chilling cold night air and the obvious banger slurry that was accumulate on track after every banger race like engine and gearbox oil, brake dust and clutch fluid. 31 Steve Gooding was the lone C grade driver at the meeting and he led the drivers away on the rolling lap, but at the drop of the green it was clear that all was not well with the local man’s Avenger as the engine was clearly down on power. Very soon the whole field were racing by the 31 car in a number of laps and within 5 laps Gooding had retired not only from heat one but the nights proceedings. This left the real race to be contested, and off like a shot was Bucks driver 121 Charlie Schembri. Schembri, a former 2 litre Hot Rod star has been a mid season addition to the ranks of the CHRs, but what a popular and welcome addition this experienced racer has been. Having already won this season, Charlie on slick tyres that he considers to be past their best, was determinably driving, seeking another win. Fellow B grade starter, Cheshire genial 24 Roger Wright was chasing hard, and it was a delight to see Roger’s car going so well. It the previous meeting at Hednesford, Roger was using a newly built engine for the first time and it really hadn’t been run in. He was really off the pace. But tonight at Birmingham, things looked completely different, he was really on the pace. But it was a pace that could match that of A grade starter 198 Andy Donut Steward. Steward missed our last meeting at Hednesford due to injury. He had fallen off a truck and damaged his leg. Now recovered Steward looked back to his old self. The SHP Mk2 Escort was handling superbly and one wonders if this large man enjoys the advantage if significant inside weight! Having swallowed up Roger Wright, Donut made great strides into Schembri’s lead and despite a stiff level of resistance by 121, Steward wasn’t to be denied. Engine slightly more powerful and on newer rubber than Charlie, Andy Steward was one his way to his first victory of the night. Schembri was second and Wright third. Significant progress through the field was made by 144 Tim Foxlow who finished fourth, his Frank Anderson prepared Ford Crossflow powered car was revving and handling sweetly as he gobbled up the positions held in front of him by 924 Stuart Wright, 30 Jamie Bowring and 22 Rob Montagner. It was pleasing to see Rob back after a few meeting absence. The other driver who also mad superb progress from the very back of the field was 657 Neal Smith. Smith has been a real live wire addition to the CHRs. He has courted controversy since he joined the formula but tonight he was making clean fast progress which was a delightful spectacle to his significant fan base.
Heat two has a near action replay of heat one, the difference being the increased pace brought to bear by 24 Roger Wright. The battle for the lead was an even greater spectacle than it was in the first race between Schembri and Steward. Steward has to work hard trying both the outside and inside line. It was just a light yaw out of turn 2 and onto the back straight by Charlie and in flash Andy switched inside and just forced the gap. On the inside into turns three and four and 198 was on his way. Significantly, Wright was just behind all the way through this battle, just looking for an opportunity to present itself. Further back, more mistakes were awry but fortunately non too serious. Bowring cut across Foxlow but only succeeded in contact and a spin. Foxlow was delayed and had to start his race again from the back of the pack. Bowring lost an entire lap but was surprisingly included in the official results with a fourth place. The other incident in heat two was 75 Colin Gilbert’s home straight spin. Incredibly the following pack did not hit the novice’s car. Lightning driver reactions plus warning in the ear piece thanks to the meeting steward avoided damage that could have been far worse.
And so to the Final and the notable fact that so far neither of the main protagonists tonight for the points title, Dave Fry and Daniel Holden, had scored a point! Both had been interviewed by Paul Gerrard on the infield after heat two. It was clear that both were trying hard to get in the places from the back of the field, but when on a small track with the bulk of the field as fast as you are, it damn hard work! Interestingly Fry had looked the faster and had beaten Holden in both heats, but had still been unable to achieve a points scoring place. Dan? Well he was playing the percentages game. In following Fry and enjoying the small but important points advantage he had, the pressure was on Fry … and now only the final remained. Fry had to win and Holden not to score. Dave was racing as hard as he could in the final and he took on the hotshot that is 657 Neal Smith and beat him fair and square. But seventh place was the sum reward for Fry and the defending champ was the out going one. The race up front? It was not Steward! The clutch start final was all about the genial chatterbox that is 24 Roger Wright. In short Wright, who had gone faster and faster every race was up and gone in the final! He beat Steward by half a lap! His dominance was incredible. Meeting commentator Dave Goddard suggested that this was a final reward for a challenging season for Roger….but this was his third final win of the season! I’d say he’d done pretty damn good on balance! That man 121 Charlie Schembri was third so between him and Roger and Steward, they look the lion’s share of the last set of points available in season 2013.
And what an incredible season it had been. It may not have been his night place wise, two tenths and a ninth meant no points at all but 161 Daniel Holden was the happiest man of the night. The National Champion was now also the National Series Points Champion and broad silver stripes will adorn the gold roof for the Golden Wonder in 2014. Dan’s conversion from Legends has been a boon for CHRs and this young man’s championship status in this burgeoning formula will only serve to attract more youthful drivers with the right attitude and respect for the fellow drivers and cars that they race in Classics.
Classic Hot Rods, the formula with the Coolest Stars in the Hottest Cars and 2014 will see these superb race cars place an even bigger stamp on the oval racing scene. Be there nest season to see this formula reach even greater heights.