Classic Hot Rod Meeting Report
English National Series Round Eight, The Bill Morris Memorial Trophy
The world of Classic Hot Rods enjoyed their biggest field so far this season as twenty three drivers and their teams descended on Hednesford Hills Raceway for the first major championship of the year, the Bill Morris Memorial Trophy. Bill was the architect of both Hednesford Raceway and indeed of Hot Rod Racing in the UK itself and had he been alive today he would have been 100 years old. It is of little surprise therefore, that this meeting is always well supported as this man is held in high regard.
The weather presented a possibility of a mixed bag for the day and it was certainly racing lightly but steadily prior to racing, but fortunately things brightened up as the day went on and the speed and quality of the racing was never seriously threatened.
All the CHR stalwarts were present including Foxlow, Owen and Steward but it was pleasing to see yet another driver make his debut in Classics. Today was the debut of 159 Mick Caton, brother of Chris (275), who last raced in bangers fourteen years ago. Mick, who purchased a MK1 Escort CHR from former racer David Holden less than two months ago, had put in the midnight oil and the car, bedecked on a pleasing black and silver livery certainly looked the part.
Another ‘new’ face was Tom Hannah. Tom, a regular on the banger scene had raced classics before in seasons past and therefore with this his return to rodding, he was to start in the C grade at the front of the grid. Hannah would be racing the Ford Anglia tribute car to George Polley, a replica car in George’s iconic colours which George himself raced once in 2012 and 2013. The car, owned by Mr CHR Daz Owen, was up for sale, was effectively being put on racing display with Tom at the wheel.
All cars were out for a busy heat one in front of Hednesford’s large crowd which was swelled by the owners of the classic road going Mk1 and 2 Escorts who had come on this auspicious day to display their cars. There cars did indeed get many admiring glances.
With the drop of the green, it was another new of 2014, former stock rodder 101John Bowring who got away from pole whilst fellow C grade starters 2 Colin Chambers, 222 Shane Taylor, 79 Gary Winterton and 306 Tom Hannah got in each other’s way. Good progress was made by the B graders 924 Stu Wright, 22 Rob Montagner and 275 Chris Caton but of the three it was Wright who really made in roads and soon having passed the busy C grade field was on a charge after Bowring. Like wise 88 David Owen, one of the fastest men this season round the big Staffordshire Oval, was slicing his way through the pack from the A grade and as Wright hounded down Bowring Owen sought to do the same but first had to over come Gary Winterton. The 79 pilot, perhaps having even surprised himself as to how well he was going so far was in third place. Clearly astonished at seeing 924 Stu Wright spin himself out on the East Bend all on his own due to brake failure, 79 was elevated to second but being hounded both Tom Hannah and Owen. In a three way flight into turn one, Owen looked to out drive Winterton round the outside in a’classic’ hot rod manoeuvre, but clearly Gary was unnerved by Tom Hannah looking to make the drive on his inside. Winterton, desperate to keep the right line and avoid contact unfortunately over corrected out of turn 2 the very moment that 88 was seeking to power past him. The gap disappeared in an instant and poor Dave Owen was sandwiched up the plating and was left to stagger up to the apex of the West Bend with smashed steering. Winterton, rhythm lost but power still on, kept ahead of Hannah but the car snaked from one side of the track to the other as the speeding field closed in rapidly. Into the East Bend again the careering 79 lost it altogether and spun, under of the pressure of the whole pack into the inner apex barriers. With the exit of 924, 88 and 79, 101 John Bowring had kept his number one position though it was threatened in the last two laps by Hannah and as Bowring took the chequered, Hannah was right up his exhaust. A great first ever CHR win for 101 John Bowring amiss all the action and chaos of the pursuing pack.
Heat two was just as exciting. With the cars stating again within grade but places reversed, Tom Hannah this time started on pole. If Darren Owen was looking for a demonstration of just how good this car was to potential buyers, he certainly got it here. Engine singing sweetly, Tom danced the Polley replica to victory in the most belligerent of styles. Hannah trounced the field winning by over half a lap! But the race wasnt just about Hannah. It also featured the treat of a great battle between the star men Foxlow, Daz Owen, Graham Fulker, Steward and indeed Ken Marriott. Lap after lap side by side these skilled rodding aces plied their trade, one then the other gaining the advantage. There can be plenty of overtaking in Classic Hot Rods and the fans love it! The other incident featured 333 Lee Wood, 275 Chris Caton and 20 Dave Fry would were engaged in their own battle ahead of the star men. Into turn three it was a fifty fifty for the racing line into the turn. 333 was just ahead of 275. Racing is always tight but clearly accidentally, as there is no way that Chris forces the issue on track, Caton’s Mk2 Escort glanced the inner rear quarter panel of Wood’s HB Viva. The 333 car slewed the bend in a power slide, causing avoiding action from Fry on his outside, the tyres bit and in a split second Wood was heading headlong for the fence but with lightning reactions, corrected the car’s slide the other way, careered for the infield then back on the racing line. It certainly was a brown trouser moment for the eighties Wham Boy! By the time the race fans had caught their breath from this spectacular incident, Tom Hannah had taken the flag. The only man more pleased with this than Tom was Daz Owen!
The Final was of course the Bill Morris Memorial Trophy. It was to be raced over 25 laps (though the CHR drivers had clamoured for at least five more….) and the grid was formed with the highest point scorers from the heats starting at the front. Tom Hannah headed the field with John Bowring on hiss outside. Row 2 featured Rob Montagner and Dave Fry. Row three was Andy Steward and Chris Caton. At the drop of the green the final featured and early tangle between 2 Colin Chambers and defending champion 8 Daz Owen but the story at the front was what made the race. Hannah clearly lead the charge from the front but Andy Steward (198) wasted no time in charging through to second place in the opening laps hotly pursued by 20 Dave Fry. Hannah, accustomed to defending his position banger style he defended his lead resolutely giving Steward no quarter. For five challenging laps 198 attempted to dive to the inside of 306 but each time his nose was cut off. This continued until the Steward of the meeting decided that enough was enough and instructed Mr Starter to issue the blue flag to Hannah, which incidentally does not mean give up your position, rather, hold your racing line. Nevertheless, in holding his line it clearly gave Steward the opportunity he needed and 198 dived to the newly created gap to become the new race leader. If you thought well that was it all bar the shouting, you would be wrong as Andy had to work very hard indeed to protect the lead he had. Andy could not get away and continually had Dave and Tom hounding back every lap. With a lap to go Fry tried a dive only to get it slightly wrong and Hannah was back in an instant trying to regain second. further back Lee Wood was going well in fourth only to mysteriously retire. The reason Lee has given to me was that he was trying to get ‘Club Tropicanna’ on his IPod when he dropped it mid corner, and rather than miss his favourite song he parked up to retrieve his IPod and enjoy it!! Lee’s retirement elevated the flying Spanker 144 Tim Foxlow to fourth. Tim enjoyed a spectacular charge through the field with the Crossflow singing to perfection and out rodder many of his rivals. Had the race been longer than 25 laps thing could have been even more interesting!
So 198 Andy Steward was crowned Bill Morris champion for 2014. It was a fantastic days racing capturing the imagination of the crowd. We received plenty of positive feedback from the Escort Owners Club in attendance and I have received another enquiry today from another former driver wishing to join the CHRs.
Things continue onwards and upwards for the Hottest Stars in the Coolest Cars!