Meeting Report. Ipswich. 20.7.13
Round eight of the National Series for the ever popular Classic Hot Rods saw the annual long trek (for some!) to The Foxhall Stadium Ipswich.
Many were expecting the oppressive heat of the last few weeks as Britain had had, at last, a summer worth mentioning in 2013. But on arrival in Suffolk drivers and fans alike were surprised and the drivers in particular were re leaved to realise that the weather was nowhere near as hot. Under overcast skys, the air was cooler but happily, rain never threatened. This made for perfect conditions for Classic Hot Rods to exhibit some classic race action for a reasonably healthy crowd at the nation’s premier stadium.
Seventeen drivers were in attendance as our previous meetings had caused casualties. We wish 79 Garry Winterton our best after his Hednesford crash which resulted in cracked ribs. 222 Shane Taylor suffered engine problems in spite of his heat second at the Stafford shire track. Also, 44 Rich Lowe has decided to convert his beautiful car for long circuit racing. On the plus side, Ipswich saw the debut of popular veteran rodder 121 Charlie Schembri. Charlie has decided to race a Classic Hot Rod in addition to his local Outlaw Hot Rod that he races at Arena. Charlie’s car is an absolutely superb MK1 Escort which he is racing under the famous number 121. Tom Laffey contacted Charlie and gave him his blessing!
Charlie lined up in heat one at the back because although experienced, he is classed as a CHR Novice and will start his first three meetings at the tail of the field. Up front, former novice 444 Gary Andrews lined up in the C grade starting position, looking for his first points of the season. He had 271 Jamie Johnson and 03 Brian Starr for company. At the drop of the green for the first race of the night, Chelmsford’s Jamie Johnson gave a clear indication that his beige and orange MK1 Escort was now fully sorted after his early season problems. With his 1700cc Crossflow roaring sweetly, his left 444 and 03 behind and opened up an early lead. Immediately behind, all eyes were following a great battle between 29 Stu Donald and 161 Daniel Holden with 8 Daz Owen in hot pursuit! Beyond the half way point in the race the flamboyant Donald finally forced the gap on Golden Holden and almost immediately swallowed the lead that JJ had for so long enjoyed. Into the last lap and Donald called upon all for his vast track craft experience and out braked and accelerated Johnson and in front of an amazed and appreciative crowd, 29 Stu Donald got his nose in front and ‘stole’ a very popular victory.
Heat two saw Johnson once again open up an early lead from pole position with Gary Andrew in 444 trying desperately to keep up and maintain a competitive run in a race for as long as possible. The Star Men battled away further down the field on this big oval particularly 244 Fil Gambone and 445 Graham Boyd. But again all eyes were on those who tonight had started in the A grade position – 29 Stu Donald, 161 Daniel Holden and 8 Daz Owen. They were going it at it ‘hammer and tongues’ to try and establish track dominance. They soon chased down the luckless 10 Paul Bowring, who was experiencing a night off the pace in his orange Anglia when the drama exploded and Bowring was punted by Holden as Bowring’s track rod snapped on the back straight. 10 came to a sudden holt on the racing line resulting in instant yellow flags. On the re-start the lead that Johnson had established had desolved. He was followed by Andrews in 444 ahead of the marauding Owen, Holden and Donald. Greens again and Andrews was like a rabbit caught in head lights and 8, 161 and 29 flew passed. What followed was some more pure class by Stu Donald as he found the gap to pass Holden and Owen. On the penultimate lap the flying Donald caught Johnson just as the leaders came upon Andrews who had slowed in pace due to questionable oil pressure. As Johnson was baulked by Andrews, Donald saw his chance and executed his classic late braking manoeuvre and look the lead. To the cheering of the crowd, the Scunthorpe man had done it again!
Could he do the treble and win the Final too?
The prelude to the East Anglian Championship saw the late and welcome addition of 22 Robert Montagner to the grid. Rob blew his diff in practice which resulted in a 70 mile round trip to obtain spares mid-meeting! Rob blasted on to the track looking every inch a driver who wanted to make up for lost time. Before the clutch start some warm up laps were required, not only to warm the tyres but also to remove copious amounts of cement dust that was laid on oil or brake fluid that had been spilt by a banger in their last race. This dust was to have quite a bearing on this race. At the drop of the green on the clutch start the Pintos and Crossflows roared into life and 271 Jamie Johnson, cheered on by a significant clutch of family and friends on this the weekend of his 57th birthday, sped into yet another early lead. In the early few laps 10 Paul Bowring once again was caught and quickly slipped down the field as the drivers from the A grade starting position were once again the ones to watch. Montagner battled with ‘bosses son’ 161 Daniel Holden and Daz Owen jousted with Star grade starter (courtesy of his two heat wins this evening) Stu Donald. A fascinating aspect of the race developed as the A graders caught Johnson and all five created a train of speed as a huge gap opened up between them and the chasing stars. Donald was once again ‘on it’ and sought to try every available oppotunity to find the gap – inside, outside, seemingly flicking the car at will to feign and dodge and to force an error from those in front. But JJ wasn’t for relinquishing the lead this time and the train held tight.Holden was challenging Johnson constantly and as he tried the outside line 22 and 8 were right there to try the inside with Donald harassing all four! It was fascinating stuff! From the Star grade 172 Colin Hitch broke away and managed incredibly to bridge the gap and latch on to the leaders. Hitch was flying and came to challenge Donald who in turn was still trying the outside line to pass the leaders. Into turn three and Donald pushed too hard, lost grip on a still remaining patch of cement dust, over corrected a fraction as Hitch challenged on the inside. The two cars crashed door handle to door handle, wheels rode arches and the two careered into the fence on the exit of turn 4. A squeal of tyres and flashing of brake lights as both came from 70mph to zero in a split second. It could have been another Birmingham (see the report of 25/5/13) but fortunately under the cautionary yellow, both cars were able to drive away, Donald to the infield with a shattered outside front bubble arch and bent front end and Hitch to return to the race, albeit now out of contention. From this explosive scenario the climax to the race followed as in the remaining laps Holden did all he could to pass Johnson, but Jamie was having done of it. Jamie won from flag to flag to win the East Anglian Championship but in holding his racing line and keeping his cool he withstood constant pressure to do so. Jamie Johnson was a very popular winner ahead of Holden, Owen, Montagner and Dave Fry who had put in a cool performance from the back of the grid.
In fact Classic Hot Rods as a formula was the winner at Ipswich. The formula was undoubtably the star formula of the night over shadowing the normally ever popular bangers. The fans clearly enjoyed the knife edge racing and cliff hanger finishes and warmly applauded both Stu Donald and Jamie Johnson. It was a very nice touch to see Stu as the first person to congratulate Jamie on his Championship win.