CLASSIC HOT RODS RACE REPORT
Through journeys long and short they travelled, through the early morning stills of the mist and fog, as the hi-jinks of Hallows’eve gave way to to all Saints day. The white rabbits of the new month were cast and in the midst of the mid morning on this Autumn day the Classic Hot Rod drivers drove through the sun-lit uplands of the Cannock Chase and into the Spritual Home of Hot Rod Racing for what was to prove to be a perfect day’s racing.
Race fans were gathering in significantly larger numbers for this eagerly anticipated meeting, stirred by the attractive line up, the prospect of another spectacular fireworks display as day gave way to night, and by the remarkably unseasonable sunshine that Hednesford Hills raceway was bathed in when all around it, the lower reaches of the Staffordshire townships and countryside continued to lurk in the gloom of fog.
The Classic Hot Rod boys had been allocated the ‘Back Yard’ pits for this meeting, where one sometimes feels a little ‘out of it’ as far as the day’s proceedings are concerned. But, nevertheless, the spirits were high and the usual jocularity could be heard amongst all teams as they readied their gorgeous cars for racing.
Today’s meeting was being sponsored by Neil Edwin of NJE Couriers. A former CHR racer, ‘Nelly’ has continued to be involved with the formula and every November makes available some stunningly impressive trophies for the drivers to compete for. Furthermore, Neil also makes available the unique ‘Merit Award’ Trophy, which he awards to the driver, regardless of grade or results, who he considers to have been to the most committed to the formula this year. This award was to be presented at the conclusion of the meeting final, and at this early stage of the meeting, Nelly was keeping tight lipped as to who he was going to award the trophy to.
A healthy eighteen cars were present for today’s racing, a little down on the twenty booked, but on balance still a perfect number for all in racing at Hednesford. Busy enough to fill the track, but still enough room for close exciting racing but equally enough space to hopefully avoid damage.
Amongst the regulars present like Steward, Foxlow, Owen, Wood, Gooding and Schembri, it was pleasing to see the return of one or two drivers. Darren’s brother Dave was back with us and hoping for better luck this time at his local track. His previous two outing at Hednesford this year resulted in ‘early baths’ as engine trouble beset the 88 car. From Norfolk, we welcomed back 72 Gary Goodswen, who hadn’t raced since the Ipswich Speedweekend. And from Cheshire, it was a delight to see the return of 924 Stuart Wright who had principally concentrated on his Stock Rod racing this year but after ‘she was good to go’ decided to give his delicious black n silver Anglia a run. Also returning was Welwyn Garden City’s 101 John Bowring, who hadn’t raced since the spring Northampton meeting. Running late in his arrival, thanks to a car smash on the M6 was Scotland’s Graham McCabe, but with 40 mins before the three o clock start time, the man from Bo’ness swung van and trailer into the pits carrying his famous Orange and white Vauxhall Chevette.
Without a doubt though, the car and the team that was capturing the interest amongst fans and fellow drivers was the simply jaw droppingly gorgeous Anglia of 911 Harry Steward. ‘Prince’ Harry was making headlines of so many levels today, even before he had turned a wheel in anger. This was the day that young Harry, at the tender age of 16, and only recently retired from Ministox, was to debut and race with the ‘grizzled’ seasoned campaigners that occupy the CHR scene! And what a car for the youngest ever Classic Hot Rod driver was to compete in! All year, father Tick had undertaken a restoration and nut and bolt rebuild of the ex Paul Bowring Anglia – the car needing far more work to make it thoroughly track worthy to the standard that Tick demanded. The finished result though, inside and out, goes beyond superlatives. The deep ‘Devil’ red shone deep like blood filled lagoons and the gold leaf sign work made a mouth watering combination. Cameras were clicking from every angle! Harry himself, a shy lad of few words, like so many drivers down the years of a similar disposition, was ready to do his talking out on track!
With the late afternoon sun, casting the track in half light and shade, eighteen classic hot rods made it out on track for heat one, casting long shadows across the track as the November sunlight dazzled off the gleaming paintwork of these resplendent race machines. The one absentee was Scotland’s 247 Graham McCabe who pinto powered Chevette inexplicably developed a severe misfire as he drove down the pit road, hastening an early return to the pits. National Series Points Champion, 198 Andy Steward was lucky to make it out on track, as a compression structure had failed in practice, necessitating an emergency replacement to be fitted thanks to Tim Foxlow. It wasn’t to be Donut’s day though as gremlin electrical trouble blighted the Silver Roof car all afternoon, and not only did Andy retire from heat one after only one lap, but in the remaining two races as well.
444 Gary Andrews headed the charged from the clutch start, but although his immediate pace seemed impressive, it was sorrowful to see the gremlin blighted Anglia once again prematurely retire. Andrews truly has had a season to forget. This left returnee 101 John Bowring at the head of affairs, but not for long as the under graded 88 Dave Owen soon got under him (!). It was pleasing to see Owen junior settle into a good pace in the number one slot as his two previous meetings this year has resulted in ‘early baths.’ As Owen set the pace, the two men on the move were Irish GP Champ 57 Mike Oliver from the Blue grade and 144 Tim Foxlow from the Reds. After soon getting past first 72 Gary Goodswen and then Bowring, Oliver set about racing hard to narrow the gap between himself and the leader, his friend and rival Dave Owen. Foxlow equally was slicing his way through the traffic, chasing hard after the ever impressive 275 Chris Caton, Foxlow was constantly watching his mirrors as he had 8 Darren Owen and 45 Craig Boyd in tow. The race came to an excellent climax as 57 caught 88, and Oliver sought to ‘unsettle’ Owen with a ‘love tap’! Owen correct led his out of shape Escort with lightning reactions as they careered into turn one and held on for the final lap to win by a nose! Caton, in this his swan song meeting in CHRs as he looks to concentrate on family and business, put in a brilliant drive for third, clearly enjoying the power loaned to him from brother Mick’s engine, and Foxlow just held on for forth ahead of Darren Owen.
HEAT ONE RESULTS
88, 57, 275, 144, 8, 101, 333, 45, 72, 445
It was fully dark for heat two, but something the Classic Hot Rod drivers look forward to, as they all enjoy racing under the lights. It feels even faster! The under graded Owen repeated his heat one feat by taking a flag to flag victory. Mike Oliver tried hard, but on this occasion failed to close the gap. In a race in which the field got very strewn out, 45 Craig Boyd was flying and was awarded third. Like many a young driver, Craig is very gifted, and if he wasn’t fully engaged in his career as crew chief for many a super Kart racing son of famous faces like Juan Pablo Montoya, which can take him round the world, Boyd would certainly be a top contender to threaten Donut for the Silver Roof in 2016. Also impressive in this race were 72 Gary Goodswen and 924 Stuart Wright who finished forth and fifth respectively. Both drivers had made minor adjustments to their cars after heat one and were enjoying the benefit. It was especially pleasing to see Wright go so well in this his first meeting in over a year. The star graders had a good battle in this race for the lower order. Once again Foxlow held out Owen and the train, only to be blue flagged. Obeying instructions he held the line and ‘allowed’ the train through.
HEAT TWO RESULTS
8, 57, 45, 72, 924, 8, 210, 333, 275, 144
The final replicated the splendour of a true floodlit race in the way that the same race was last year.
Speed, style and showmanship! Double National Champion 333 Lee Wood, displayed all three in spades as he brought onto the track his famous HB Viva lit up with blue neon. With a howl from the engine which emits a roar like no other CHR, the Gold Roof, lit up the track with a wheel spin as he entered the arena and the neons on his wheels looked amazing! This was trumped as the lights went green and everyone dropped the hammer to start racing: Wood switched the neon headlights on and you could sure see that he was coming! In a race of epic proportions, 101 John Bowring took the lead from the off and found himself in a race of his life as he desperately sought to defend his lead. The charge came from 88 Dave Owen and 57 Mike Oliver in a two pronged assault on the Black and orange Anglia’s lead. Owen and Oliver raced neck and neck for lap after lap as each sought to unsettle Bowring as he came under almost unbearable pressure. This also allowed the field to close up and Wright and Goodswen also joined the fray. Further back, the battle that Darren Owen and Tim Foxlow had had all day climaxed with 8 erroneously spinning out 144, fortunately with little damage to the Derbyshire mans car. Owen though, retired to the infield. At the head of affairs, Bowring finally cracked after Oliver rode the high line then finally switched inside. Off the hook from Owen junior, the Irish GP champion took the lead and went onto victory as the charging Lee Wood arrived on the scene with headlights blazing! Bowring succumbed to Owen and Wood, then Stu Wright in final laps. 333 went toe to toe with 88, but Dave Owen just held on for second place. After Bowring came home fifth, it is noted that novice 911 Harry Steward who started at the very back of the grid came home an incredible sixth. Great things are expected from this young man next season!
57, 88, 333, 924, 101, 911, 445, 275, 121, 72
This superb meeting was rounded off with a display off celebration donuts from the drivers to the delight of the crowd, then the drivers lined up to honour the top three in the meeting final with some superb trophies courtesy of meeting sponsor NJE Couriers. Neil Edwin proudly also selected 121 Charlie Schembri to be the recipient of magnificent Merit Trophy awarded to the driver who Neil felt was the ‘Trier of the Year’ irrespective of results or grade. Schembri was a righteous and popular winner.