Hednesford 23 03 2014-2014

Classic Hot Rod Meeting Report. Hednesford 23.3.14. English National Series Round 2
Sixteen of our Classic Hot Rod drivers attended our second meeting in this year’s National Championship series. It was a typical March day, fresh and keen with the threat of heavy showers early in the day. I was accompanied on my visit to Hednesford by Eurosport Commentator Jake Sanson. The Chester based motor racing enthusiast had taken a particular shine to our formula when he tried out the passenger seat in Dave Owen’s Mick Collard replica car at our Press Day earlier this month. This time he had come fully prepared with research on our drivers and his internet connection to do a live internet radio broadcast for his website DOWFORCE UK.
As we arrived at the stadium at mid day the heavens were black and suddenly all manner of precipitation known to man opened up! Rain, hale and snow came fast in the space of 20 minutes. Clear bright blue skies followed and Jake and I made our way into the stadium and from there the day went better and better.
Soon after arrival in pit lane Jake set to work on his live radio broadcast for DOWNFORCE UK and before I knew it I was seamlessly roped into the radio show as the Classic Hot Rod officianardo! Prior to the commencement of racing Jake with my liaison had interviewed Andy Steward, Chris Caton, Tim Foxlow, Ant Whorton-Eales and many more!
Chris Caton had worked tirelessly this last fortnight to get the former Graham McCabe car ready for the Hednsford meeting. Now the car, adorned in black and silver, looked fresh and ready. But Chris was toning down his expectations of today, merely describing it to be more of a ‘test session.’ Others, including Ant, were having issues with the reception of their transponder. 2014 is the first year that the CHRs are using this piece of technology and it had by the end of Hednesford’s meeting, proved to have been quite a revelation to the drivers. But all drivers were giving plenty of optimistic feedback to Jake’s enthusiastic questions. All were looking forward to a great day’s racing on tarmac which now was drying fast under the crisp early spring sunshine.
All sixteen CHRs came out on tack for heat one. The only non-attendee of the day being 444 Gary Andrews who had been chasing engine parts that came too late to be fitted. Of those out on track, Whorton-Eales was at the back as a novice inspite of his previous oval racing experience in Mini Stox and Incarods as were as his long circuit experience in the Clio Cup Series. But the Classic Hot Rod rules make no exceptions. The first three meetings for a new driver to the formula have to be as a novice. Even Neal Smith had to do it! Accompanying the 422 at the back was 79 Gary Winterton having been given dispensation from the steward to do so. Caton was wishing to join them to ‘run in’ the car, but was instructed to take his place in the B grade starting postion lining up next to 121 Charlie Schembri.
Sixteen laps later a breathless Jake Sanson had just seen the mother of all races! He had commentated live on one of the most epic races seen! Beaming with delight Jake proclaimed to his audience that Classic Hot Rods provided far more high speed, knife edge, race action than you would ever see in BTCC! And after a race that had seen a fantastic three way battle between Schembri, Dave Owen and Caton – who had far exceeded his own expectations – it was the superlative Neal Smith who came through, finding gaps were they seemed not to exist and cleanly fight his way into contention. The last lap saw an incredible power-drive round the outside of Schembri and Smith took the flag by inches!
Sanson took the opportunity to interview Chris Caton first after the race who admitted he was amazed and delighted by his own performance, particularly as his engine was about 30bhp down on a top flight engine and as the car was not handling as he wanted it. “Too much over-steer.” Chris stated. In his interview, the winner Neal Smith was typically laid back about his win, but also quietly confident. He makes no fuss about it but Neal wants to win. It’s his reason d’etre as a race car driver. And without a doubt, even at this early stage in the season, Neal has to be the hot favourite to be the Champion of the English national Series by the end of 2014.
Heat two saw Smith start further back in the star grade, thus making his race more challenging. Schembri and Caton battled once again, but this time 88 Dave Owen was in the mix. He had retired early in heat one with a flat tyre – a rare event in hot rod racing – but clearly debri from a supporting event had been left on the track. Dave Fry had also retired from heat one for the same reason and in heat two Foxlow also ended his race on lap two also with a flat! This was almost unheard of in a meeting as a whole and the cost of missing this debri was felt by the drivers….. Anyhow Owen in the mix this time was proving good. The 88 car was handling well but after 275 has got the better of 121 Caton strove to hold out the charge of Owen, but when he saw the pace of the all white machine, Caton moved out wide as his car was pushing on anyway and Owen was through. Smith made charge and late in the race he was finally up to second but did not have enough time to real in the delighted Owen.
The Final gave more laps and more time. Once again it was an epic battle between Schembri, Owen and Caton, with 30 Jamie Bowring this time joining the mix. Smith had made a superb start from the star grade and was making ground fast and Foxlow was looking good ahead of Donut Steward. A great battle saw 198 edge inside 144 and up head 657 ate away at the leading three. The battle allowed Neal the opportunity to pounce. He saw off 924 Stuart Wright, out powered Bowring, Schembri lost his race rhythm and with gritty determination just managed to get around the outside of 88 Dave Owen. It was an astounding drive to victory but Dave must have been delighted with his performance. A late charge by Steward saw the 198 driver snatch third ahead of Bowring who had put in his best performance of the day. Foxlow was fifth. Tim also pleased as MYLAPS had confirmed that he had the second fastest single lap time after Neal Smith.
This was an astoundingly successful day for the Classic Hot Rods, well reported by Jake Sanson. Don’t forget if you missed the live broadcast you can listen again by visiting the DOWNFORCE UK website. Jake is a phenomenal commentator and keep a look out for him on your TV screens! It was fantastic racing but still a secret of motorsport still too well kept. The crowd attendance was very poor but not down hearted we will continue to champion this excellent formula as a pinnacle product to get bums on seats and look forward to round three of the Classic Hot Rod English National Series in just under two weeks time at Northampton on Sunday 6th April.
Rob Hughes