CLASSIC HOT RODS RACE REPORT
Not to put a too finer point on it, but it was a cracking day at Hednesford on Sunday 27th September. Eighteen cars were present and some fantastic racing was displayed as the crowd bathed in some exquisite autumn sunshine the bore all the hallmarks of an Indian Summer.
As always at classic Hot Rod meetings, the drivers were enjoying some great camaraderie in the pits. They may go out on track wanting to win, but in the pits, it was typically like old friends catching up trading banterous remarks.
It was good to see 444 Gary Andrews make the journey to Staffordshire. Andrews has had some horrendous luck this season with his stunning looking blue Anglia regrettably continually letting him down. Gary’s principle problem has been his Crossflow race engine. He is determined to see this season through with it but next year a change to Pinto may well be on the cards.
Another Crossflow exponent was present in the form of the ever jovial 271 Jamie Johnson. JJ was all set for a win at the Ipswich Speedweekend only for a rod to punch it say through the side of the block! Another Crossflow built up by Johnson’s expert hand and here was her at Hednesford ready to try his luck again. Practice the previous weekend had seen the Mk1 sounding sweet, so Jamie was keeping his fingers crossed for the day and was feeling quietly confident.
The third of the Crossflow racers was popular Star 144 Tim Foxlow. Tim has only just seen his engine return from Frank Anderson racing engines following the completion of maintenance on Saturday afternoon, but together with his long standing mechanics Richard and Josh Lowe, the Spanker was safely Vick home snugly put to bed in the confines of the Mk2 Escort engine bay.
With the sun bouncing off the resplendent paint schemes on these historic race cars, all eighteen paraded out for heat one, ably introduced to the crowd by resident commentator Dave Goddard. After two installation laps to inject heat into the Avon tyres, it was pole sitter 24 Roger Wright who led the field away from a clean clutch start. From B grade, it wasn’t long before 271 Jamie Johnson closed in on Wright and was able to accelerate past. Fellow B grader 166 Dave Stevens held sway in third place thus making it a Mk1 Escort 1-2-3. The chasing field saw 88 Dave Owen make great progress, quickly getting the better of fellow A grade starter 222 Shane Taylor and in fourth place he began to close down the leaders, only for the local man to beat a hasty retirement to the infield with serious engine failure. Taylor had a close battle with 275 Chris Caton, who was enjoying extra power thanks to the use of his brother’s Pinto race engine and hot rod gearbox, and the chasing Stars were so closely matched that a blanket could have been thrown over them! Their close infighting prevented a close down on the leaders and Johnson was able to pace his final laps keeping clear ahead of Wright and Stevens. A delighted Johnson declared he could hardly concentrate on the last few laps of racing as he was so excited as he realised he could be on for a win and after the trails he had experienced earlier this year, he truely deserved it. 222 Shane Taylor crossed the line in fourth followed by an oil burning 20 Dave Fry thus making it a 1-2-3-4-5 for the Mk1’s – the first time that has happened for a very long time. Despite his hard work, Caton was absent from the results. A plug lead came off just two laps from the end and the power died!
Heat 1 271 Jamie Johnson 24 166 222 20 333 8 198 144 121
Dave Owen was the unfortunate non starter for heat two, with the all red Chase Metal Recycling car already back on the trailer but the seventeen cars present was still plenty round the big Hednesford bowl to put on another superb race. Johnson repeated his feat on getting past Wright to take the lead in the early laps as both strode ahead of 166 Dave Stevens and 31 Steve Gooding. The higher graded battle behind was quite the one to watch as this time 275 replaced his heat one adversary of Taylor and this time found 121 Charlie Schembri in his place. The two of them put on a phenomenally close race lap after lap, it it of credit to Chris that he backed off to prevent contact. Sadly the efforts of the 275 driver came to nought again as he had to dive for the infield again when his accelerator cable snapped! This left Schembri off the hook, but only temporally as he found himself surrounded by the rest of the Star men vying for supremacy. In a great display of clean but close cut, knife edge racing it was fascinating to see just how much the Classic Hot Rod Stars changed positions as the competed on the very limit of adhesion. The apple cart was upset in a split second as Charlie’s engine blew in a very big way on the approach to the West Bend and he halted abruptly in a plume of white smoke. With oil and water on track from the fatal 121 machine the racers visibly slowed as they saw out the remains laps to the flag. Johnson and Wright repeated their first race one – two with a rampant 210 Hughie Weaver getting the better of his fellow star men in the last few laps after a late lunge of propulsion to get third ahead of Donut Steward and Stevens. So two out of two for Johnson, could he be on for the triple come the final?
Heat 2 271 Jamie Johnson 24 210 198 166 8 333 445 20 144
Jamie’s challenge was made the greater by having to start the final in the A grade, thus starting alongside Shane Taylor. Any thought of launching an attack on the the 24 car of Roger Wright must have diminished in Jamie’s thoughts, particularly after the green flag dropped on this 25 lap race and Roger was away like the proverbial scalded cat! If Roger was sending out any indication of his pace in the heats, he certainly threw his chasers off his scent in the final as he turned up the afterburners and Wright was away! JJ d did well, he managed to get past166 Dave Stevens and 31 Steve Gooding in the early laps and set about crawling back the huge lead that Roger had built up. However the fascinating part of the race was again amongst the Star Men of Caton, Weaver, Steward, Owen, Fry, Foxlow, Boyd and Wood and all of them again seemed to swap places every lap as they sought the upper hand. Time after time, the outside line was attempted, particularly by Wood, Weaver and Owen and it was especially exciting as they piled on the pressure to all get past Steve Gooding. Gooding will accept that generally his pace isn’t ever quite that of the top boys but he is there every meeting giving it his all, and indeed it is the presence of the likes of Gooding which makes the racing as good as it is as it forces the top men to deal with passing Gooding cleanly without tripping up their own progress. As the laps fell away, Jamie Johnson gave his all to close down Wright and in the last two laps he was right behind but it came too late to mount a challenge and the amiable Cheshire man got his annual final win! Behind it seemed like a mad scramble but it was 445 Graham Boyd who crossed the line for third just ahead of Steward and Weaver.
Final 24 Roger Wright 271 Jamie Johnson 445 Graham Boyd 198 210 333 8 275 20 144
In celebration of a great days racing many competitors went on to do some high powered, engine screaming, wheel tearing, rubber splitting donuts to the rapturous cheers from the crowd. Of course the man to out donut all the others was indeed Donut himself. 198 Andy Donut Steward, who remarkably refused the offer of a donut in the pits prior to the final from partner Gwen, went out and got his own, racer style! To the length of the entire back straight away, Andy, to celebrate retaining the CHR Points Title in 2015, undertook no less than twenty donuts filling the whole arena in tyre smoke!
Entertainment is the watch word in Classic Hot Rod racing. The drivers involved believe it, and deliver it! Get along to our next meeting. You won’t be disappointed!