In spite of the unseasonably cool weather that has encompassed the merry month of May, sixteen competitors of the eighteen booked to race attended the spiritual home of Hot Rod racing. The absentees being 22 Rob Montagner and 6 Graham Fulker.

Tim Foxlow, Andy Steward and Charlie Schembri maintained their one hundred percent commitment to the sport by their presence at this meeting. It was also pleasing to see an number of drivers making their 2015 debut. Cheshire’s 222 Shane Taylor had put in an absolutely stunning job on the former Winterton Mk1 Escort over the winter. The amount of work involved in rejigging the car and rebuilding the front end of the bodyshell is testament to Taylor’s ability as the car looked as fresh as the day it left the factory. Resplendent in its fresh white and green paintwork, the Shane proudly had the car on pole position for heat one.

Another debutant at Hednesford was 57 Mike Oliver. The Welsh Wizard, who hales from Aberwystyth, last competed in Classic Hot Rods in 2012, but after a short stint in BriSCA F1, Oliver was cajoled back into Classics by the Owen brothers. In the winter Oliver invested in the former John Hendy Mk2 Escort which he purchased from Jason Hunn. Bedecked in the unusually distinctive livery of orange and brown, which was the colour combination his farther used in the seventies (well it was the decade that taste forgot!), Mike’s car looked unique and unmistakeable! Oliver has had not time to shake the car through its paces, he was going out in track raw and see how things went, hoping he hadn’t forgotten how to do it!

The trio of returnees was completed by 88 Dave Owen. Certainly a part time racer these days due to family commitments, the lure of racing at his local track in a classic hot rod was too great for Darren’s brother. Dave had great success at the big circuit in 2014 with three race victories in the all white ex Steve Train machine. The brother planned to re panel the Escort over the winter and stripped it….only for stuff to get in the way. Consequently, some last minute work was put in on Darren’s ‘Old Nail’, the car he had raced the last three years by Dave’s team Steve and Craig…and grinning from ear to ear he was ready for action! Indeed Dave was looking forward particularly in racing Mike Oliver as the two of them had had some excellent closely contested races down the years.

All sixteen classics made the grid for heat one featuring the afore mentioned Shane Taylor on pole. The yellow grade slot was populated 31 Steve Gooding, CHRs had trying happy go lucky Hillman Avenger racer and 444 Gary Andrews, who’s Anglia was looking superb sporting new sign work. Gary had put as much work in on his car as Shane had after the damage it had received at Ipswich in February. Utterly dedicated, Gary is a credit to Classic Hot Rods. Amongst the star grade, we welcomed back 445 Graham Boyd and 20 Dave Fry. Boyd was returning from suspension after an infringement incurred at Northampton’s Easter meeting and was a delight to see both him and son Craig present racing their wonderful Austin A40s. They were in for a busy day as they were racing Lightning Rods also at the meeting! Also present was track debutant 72 Gary Goodswen, the 2015 experienced novice now upgraded to blue and the high riser for this season 58 Steve Lumley who having begun the season in April in the whites, was now starting as a superstar!

With the drop of the green Shane Taylor took the challenge fresh out the box and set the pace from the front. In spite of a quick start from Andrews and Gooding, their pace was swallowed by Oliver and Dave Owen who were wheel arch to wheel arch right from the start. There was quite a melee as Oliver and Owen sought to get past Andrews and scrabbling evasive action saw the all red 88 car of Dave Owen get very side ways as he escaped from turn four. A lap later it all went horribly wrong as Owen suddenly experienced engine failure.

Dave takes up the story; “Out turn 3 going into 4 I lost power. I know now my cam has snapped and ripped the middle carrier of the head. After loosing power I made the decision there was to much traffic on the inside and didn’t want to get spun round and hit in the door, so I hugged the wall. Unfortunately Mike in 57 had sunk his foot to the coming out of the Bend resulting in him hitting me.”

Ken Marriott in 192 also lost control taking evasive action and was collected by Owen just as he came to a halt. Both cars received damage in this racing incident, but it was not as bad as it could have been. The steward of the meeting took the decision to disqualify Mike Oliver from the restart.

On the return to racing 222 Shane Taylor still had it from 444 Gary Andrews but the Gold roofed National Champion 333 Lee Wood was on his way and after making short work of Andrew’s Anglia, Wood set about out racing Taylor. It was exciting clean racing as Lee worked the outside line for two to three laps to out pace Taylor who’s Mk1 Escort was beginning to get increasingly tail happy out of the bends and as Wood disappeared into the distance the 222 car was also passed on the outside by 198 Andy Steward and a very quick looking 144 Tim Foxlow and 45 Craig Boyd. That’s how they finished heat one and hopefully Shane would have felt quietly pleased about his fifth place – his best ever race result.

333 Lee Wood 198 144 45 222 8 58 31 444 445

Heat two was redemption time for Mike Oliver. With Taylor not griding for this race because of clutch trouble, yellow graders 444 Gary Andrews and 31 Steve Gooding led them away but Oliver looked supremely fast and particularly confident in the former Hendy Mk2 and like Wood did in heat one, Oliver worked the outside on Andrews and cleanly got into a lead which he was not to relinquish. A fascinating battle evolved behind as the top men in the sport sought to pass 31 Steve Gooding’s Avenger which on this day was proving to be no slouch itself. To see the classics jostling for position in a race like this is a great attraction as each driver tries to out psyche the opposition and dive and feign, look inside and out to move up the places. As it was Oliver maintained his healthy advantage to take the win, not bad in this first meeting in three years! Andrews held on for a good second place despite some intense pressure and side by side racing from Lee Wood. It was just a pity that on the cooling down lap Andrews detected a tone in his crossflow that suggested a dropped valve. Andrews regretfully but perhaps wisely withdrew from participation in the meeting final.

57 Mike Oliver 444 333 8 198 144 45 445 192 58

The twenty five lap meeting Final was a clutch start affair and it was one which featured 222 Shane Taylor use his repaired clutch to good effect and make an excellent start. Indeed everyone was going great guns in this final…with the exception of Tim Foxlow. Tim was to fall off the pace in the early laps with a mis-fire and was soon to retire to the infield. Ken Marriott was looking impressive in this race, particularly when the damage and the hasty repairs that he had to to to the bodywork, steering and track rod ends are taken into account. The Anglia may well have looked like a wounded animal, but this bull was still charging! Even more impressive though was 45 Craig Boyd. Boyd, defying the expect ion that his arms would fall off in a gruelling six race double formula afternoon was absolutely flying in his Polleysport Austin A40. After making short work of passing his dad in 445, Craig found gaps in non existent places, particularly when squeezing between Marriott and Gooding and incredibly coming out the other side! The way he caught Oliver and long time leader Taylor and passed them both on the outside in the length of the back straight was quite simply awe inspiring! It was an incredible final, the shine on which was erased slightly by Oliver’s near side front wheel catching Taylor’s off side rear as 57 challenged 222 round the West Bend. The contact caused Shane’s car to bounce and unfortunately both cars received damage. Taylor promptly retired whereas Oliver gamely continued but well down the field. In the last few laps Andy Steward bettered both Lee Wood and then Daz Owen to take second place but Craig Boyd’s victory, his second CHR final on the trot, was quite emphatic.

5 Craig Boyd 198 Andy Steward 8 Darren Owen
333 192 58 72 31 57 121
Rob Hughes

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