CLASSIC HOT ROD MEETING REPORT BIRMINGHAM 13/9/14
A wonderfully warm Indian Summers evening welcomed the thirteen Classic Hot Rods that attended Round 12 of the CHR National Series at England’s second city.
A relaxed and convivial atmosphere was to be found in the pits with drivers catching up with each other, swapping news and stories. 333 Lee Wood, the 2014 National Champion, was at his first meeting since winning the coveted title in August at Hednesford. Extensive body repairs on the HB Viva had been completed and the car was back to its high standard of presentation. Young Josh Benham was busy polishing the car! Tim Foxlow was found lazing in his car, catching the late sun rays, happy that the engine mis-fire issues that he had at the last meeting at Aldershot had been cured. Frankenstein’s monster was present too! This was the car of 192 Ken Marriott who also had cause to completely rebuild his ex Holden Anglia after his sever crash at the National Championship. The wings and tail end of the original body shell had to be completely replaced sourced from a replacement shell found in deepest Norfolk. Repaired, Ken’s sign writer had named the car ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ as it has been rebuilt from so many different parts!
The sun was still shining as the cars made their way out on track for heat one. Taking his place on pole, we welcomed the return of 62 year old veteran gentleman racer 24 Roger Wright. This experienced driver was very self deprecating of his considerable racing talent and told me that in a car which is a lot heavier than the competition and with a self built engine, “We’ll just see how we go tonight.” This was the first time that Roger had raced his Classic Hot Rod since May, but as it turned out, Roger enjoyed a very consistent evening indeed, thank you very much.
31 Steve Gooding took his place alongside Marriott in the B grade starting position having replaced the engine that expired on him at both Ipswich and Hednesford in the summer. Happily for Steve, no engine issues were experienced by Gooding and the CHR popular under dog again got himself a nice few points by the end of the night.
924 Stu Wright was back, accompanying his dad Roger to the nights racing, and was starting from the A grade. This was Stu’s first meeting since our July session at Ipswich. The intervening time had seen Stu concentrate on his Stock Rod, were fortunes had been “mixed” to quote Stu. He was looking for better fortune tonight, as long as his brakes behaved themselves. He had already had to bleed them after practice.
Heir apparent to the National Series points title for 2014, thanks to his considerable points lead carved out of regular appearances and a healthy success rate, 198 Andy Steward was taking his place at the back of the grid. Andy had recovered from his nasty crash that occurred at the start of the National Championship Final and his car had been extensively rebuilt at the SHP workshops. Thanks to fresh sign work the 198 machine looked superb.
Star men Irish Grand Prix champion 8 Darren Owen and Midland Champion 6 Graham Fulker were late arrivals. Fulker scrapped in some pre meeting practice but had remarked to me that he was down on power. He had literally thrown an older engine under the hood to make it to tonights session only hours earlier before departing his home in Oxfordshire. As for Owen? Daz was late because he always is!
445 Graham Boyd and the Bowring boys of 30 Jamie and 101 John completed the nights field. Its of note that the Boyd Austin A40 has competed in every CHR meeting this year with either father Graham or son Craig at the wheel. Combine their points and 45/445 would be challenging Steward for the points title this year! John Bowring was very upbeat. With several victories already this season, the former stock rod racer has already proven himself to be CHR Rookie of the year for 2014.
The warming lap completed and the flag dropped on the first heat. Roger headed the way as expected but Ken in 192 was soon clear of the slower 31 Steve Gooding and within 5 laps was challenging for the lead. Roger, soon realising that Marriott was the quicker, gave sufficient space on turn one and Ken look a lead that he wasn’t challenged for. Those in pursuit look up their separate battles. 924 Stu Wright maintained his advantage over 445 Graham Boyd and Jamie Bowring but the were surprises as National Champion 333 Lee Wood was accidentally spun out by Boyd as he sought to make progress. Fortunately, no damage was inflicted to either car as Wood spun to the spacious infield. He was to spin again later in the race as he tried hard to make up his positions again. 198 Andy Steward had an uncharacteristic error also as early in the race he tried an outside pass when battling with Foxlow and Owen and clipped the fence. Slight panel damage came to 198, but more crucially he damaged the rear axle and had to retire from the race. 144 Tim Foxlow and 8 Daz Owen continued with their own private battle. Tim, with his engine cured of the mis-fire that had plagued him for several meetings found the power coming on very quickly in the Spanker through the corners and found he could power up the inside if the slightest space was offered. After getting the better of Owen he also passed 101 John Bowring in the same manner but ran out of laps to challenge 121 Charlie Schembri.
Heat Two saw the drivers swap their staring positions within grade, but in the early laps this did not present any problem to 192 Ken Marriott who once again sped away from Gooding to challenge 24 Roger Wright for the lead. Roger held on a few laps longer in this race, having dialled himself and the car in a little better and Marriott had to work harder to get passed. Roger just held his line and Ken had to pull out the stops to eventually find a gap again through turn one. This allowed 333 Lee Wood to close the gap on the lead two, having himself a far better race than the preceding one. While a fantastic battle took place again between the Mk2 Escort pilots of Owen, Foxlow and Steward up ahead Wood managed to nip passed Wright on the back straight and immediately looked to present a challenge to Marriott. Ken had to remain vigilant in the last two laps but held his pace and line and just held out a spirited challenge from Wood.
The Final was a delightful surprise to the impartial fan! Ken’s card was marked as the expected winner on a hat trick of wins from the rapid clutch start, but as in heat two, Roger was faster again in the final and it took longer for Ken to catch him. The surprise came from Roger’s son Stuart in 924, who having disappeared from the results in heat two because of recurring brake issues, found that the car was performing perfectly in the final. Not only had he got clear of Boyd and Wood but now, as Marriott challenged his father for the lead, he closed the gap on the top two. In the space of a lap and a half the positions changed as Marriott first found himself in a Wright sandwich and then broke out, passed 24, only to find himself closely followed by 924! As 198 Andy Steward started to make his presence felt from the tail for the field, and benefitting from the longer race distance, started to get the better of Foxlow and Owen, up ahead Wright junior sensed his opportunity and looked for the best line to tackle Marriott. Ken, in response started to drive defensively and with just two laps to go looked like he had done enough to hold off 924. However drama suddenly ensued as 192 snapped the steering arm to the right front wheel and as Ken fought to control his car, 924 Stu Wright stole past him to take the victory! As Stu celebrated with a double donut a disconsolate Marriott could only retire to the infield with nothing to show for his efforts. In the final lap there was more action in the chasing pack too as 144 Tim Foxlow had tangled front wheels with 30 Jamie Bowring due to Bowring also suffering with broken steering. Bowring recorded a DNF due to the break: Foxlow recorded a tenth place – but with a broken thumb! The impact had whipped the fast ratio steering wheel through his hands and and smacked his thumb hard. The damage was confirmed to Tim the following day with a trip to Derby Hospital.
Overall, a good nights racing. Congratulations to 924 Stu Wright on an over due final victory. Ken still came away with two race wins and a climb up the points chart; a chart still dominated by the consistency of 198 Andy Steward. It is unfortunately unlikely that Tim Foxlow will return to racing this year as a result of his injury but still cant wait to get behind the wheel. 6 Graham Fulker may also take a financial sabbatical to ensure he has a fully competitive engine for the 2015 campaign.
Our next meeting is a Hednesford on 28th September. We will see you then.