BIRMINGHAM 02 10 2015-2015




On a dry crisp autumn evening, eleven Classic Hot Rods attended the twelfth round of the National Series at Birmingham Wheels Park. With only six days having passed since their last day of competition at Hednesford, the car attendance was never going to be exceptional but as it happens, Birmingham, one of the smaller circuits the Classics compete on, never needs many cars to make for close exciting competition.

A number of drivers were present at Wheels who had not raced at Hednesford the Sunday before. One of these was new comer to the formula Dave Murphy. Murphy, who had purchased the former Jamie Bowring Anglia from Ray Harding in the summer, had been as keen as mustard to make the long journey from his Southampton home. He had come up in convoy with fellow southern racer Steve Kite, both of them declaring they didn’t have a working starter motor between them as they made their way north!

121 Charlie Schembri had pulled out all the stops to attend this meeting. His original pinto engine blew in a very big way at Hednesford the previous Sunday abruptly ending his racing endeavours in a serious cloud of smoke, steam, water and oil! But, many hours in the garage this week had seen Charlie build up another block he had and with hours to go before race day the Chesham man had 121 firing up again!

Heat one naturally saw all eleven competitors take to the track with 444 Gary Andrews on pole and 31 Steve Gooding along side. Both were racing from White grade due to poor results and I’ll fortune befalling both drivers. Andrews, his patience wearing thing of the reliability issues he has suffered with his Crossflow all season, has got next season’s eye firmly fixed on a switch to pinto, but for tonight he hoped he had cured his timing issues. The green flag dropped on the clutch start 20 lap event…and Andrews frustratingly bogged down at the start, seeing Gooding’s Avenger flash by on the outside. But Gary’s issues were soon to be drastically eclipsed by the fortunes of Schembri. In to lap three and 58 Steve Lumley spun on the infamous turn two, a part of the track which has seen many a CHR crash in the past, 121 sought to evade but only succeeded in crunching the Armco plating in a sickening fashion. Charlie’s escort was dragged off the track in a very forlorn fashion under the race suspension and he was joined by Lumley and by 35 Dave Cushion, who unfortunately was also experiencing a serious misfire. On the re-start, Andrews was soon to join the retirees. However, some lightning fast racing was brought to bear as the speeding 445 Graham Boyd took the tricky outside line to power past Gooding, followed hotly by 210 Hughie Weaver, 198 Andy Steward and 144 Tim Foxlow. Again, Gooding’s presence on track made for spectacular racing. Whereas it would be unfair to describe him as a jam car, he presence, whilst fast is not quite as quick as the star men. But Steve holds his line and the fast men have to pass him round the outside, which makes a great spectacle. Once past the 31 car, Weaver brought a torrent of pressure on Boyd, forcing the error from the A40 driver on turn one, and as 210 took the lead he was quickly followed by Steward. If an expectant Weaver/Steward battle was going to bring this race to a climax, the fans were to be disappointed as Hughie, with a clear track ahead of him, opened up the gap and took an emphatic win. At the tail end of the race, 419 Dave Murphy enjoyed his own private battle with friend and rival 721 Steve Kite. Both were delighted to finish the race.

210, 198, 445, 144, 31, 721, 419. Nof.

In contrast to the shinanikins of heat one, heat two was a real sped fest under the atmospheric lights of the Birmingham arena. With the absence of the bedevilled Andrews, Gooding cut a lonely figure waiting for the off, but as soon as the green flag dropped, Steve dropped the hammer and made sure he could enjoy the lead for as long as he could. With Boyd starting from the A grade, he raced out of his skin to reel in Gooding – a task that was harder than many lay fans could imagine and it took two laps of frenetic side by side racing to make it stick and Boyd made the outside line work and he took the lead. Following on at a great rate of knots came the star men headed by Donut. Lumley and Schembri resumed their heat one battle – making it last longer this time, with Foxlow in the mix. Weaver was storming on making a bee line for the narrowest of opportunities that a gap by Steward would present. At the back the Anglia trio of Kite, Murphy and Cushion continued in their own private race which was close and competitive in its own right. Up ahead, a error by Weaver saw him clip the rumble strips into turn one and the 210 car spun out of contention. Fortunately no one made contact and the race continued as Weaver sought to recover. A few laps on and Schembri went sick and after some great close racing with Foxlow and Gooding, his sparring partner Lumley joined Charlie on the infield together with Weaver who had to pull off due to the tracking being out after hitting the rumble strips. Some surprising retirements but more surprises were to follow at the conclusion of the race in this strung out field. Although Andy Steward had passed Boyd and went on to win by a healthy margins, the meeting steward deemed that the big man had jumped the start and docked him two places. This awarded the win to 445 Graham Boyd ahead of an increasingly quick 144 Tim Foxlow.

445, 144, 198, 31, 721, 419, 35

The absentees for the 25 lap Final were 444 Gary Andrews, whose devil of an engine had this time blown a head gasket, and 121 Charlie Schembri. The Italian Stallion who had worked like a lion this week to install the replacement engine and at the meeting itself to repair the extensive damage he suffered in heat one to get it ready for heat two, had no option but to load up as the engine was just getting too hot. This was because the electric fan had broken in the heat one crash and the manual override fan wasn’t working properly either. Both made their way out the stadium for an early bath, but making it clear that this spell of ill fortune won’t beat either of them!

58 Steve Lumley also failed to make it out for the nights Feature and in the event the form on the night was very much repeated. Gooding once again made a good start from pole only to have Boyd take it from him in a move that replicated the heats. Weaver and Steward tussled for supremacy early on, but Andy, who had complained of ‘carrying the family’ last week, appeared to have dropped them off, suitcase and all prior to this race! 198 looked incredibly quick and up the inside of Weaver he was soon breaking away and eating up the distance between himself and race leader Boyd. Second place Gooding quickly succumbed and Foxlow followed through. Steward wiped out Boyds lead quickly and efficiently and seeing him loom large in his mirrors, Boyd allowed the gap into turn one and Steward took the lead. Weaver was able to replicate but just couldn’t do enough to keep up with Donut. In the final laps the fast men of Steward, Weaver, Boyd and Foxlow were lapping the Anglias of Kite, Murphy and Cushion and that’s the way it stayed to the flag. Steward picked up his fourth Final of the year.

198, 210, 445, 144, 31, 721, 419, 35

That concluded a neat nights racing which was on balance clean and fast, but not without incident. We now look forward to the final meeting of the Irish calendar on the 17th October at Aghadowey and the conclusion of the mainland season in November at Hednesford and Wimbledon.

Rob Hughes

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