Twelve competitors returned to the Northampton circuit to compete to this year’s Midland Championship. In gracious and timely manner, the meeting to place on a dry and reasonably sunny warm spring Saturday night just ahead of a cold front that was racing down from the north bringing rain!

It was a well run meeting by the incarace promotion with a good turn round of races and the meeting final itself being completed by 8.30pm.

Several of the drivers had arrived early in the afternoon including 144 Tim Foxlow and 192 Ken Marriott who enjoyed some quality practice laps in the afternoon sunshine. This was Ken’s first meeting of 2015 and was keen to try out his new Andrew Parker prepared two litre race engine.

Amongst the drivers competing there were other first time entries for the season. Displaying an absolutely gorgeously prepared Mk2 escort was former long circuit racer 58 Steve Lumley. Steve entered the sport of Classic Hot Rod racing in the summer of 2014 at the wheel of the former Glen Moore race car. Other the winter this was was overhauled at the workshops of Sonny Howard and the power unit converted from xflow to two litre pinto. The car was completed with a baby blue and black colour scheme to match the livery of the trucks he runs topped off with retro sign work from Dan Klyn signs. The 58 car looked a peach!

Also joining Classic Hot Rods at this meeting was current National Hot Rod Star driver 42 Shane Bland. Shane has always hankered a desire to have a race of the type of car that his dad Gordon enjoyed so much success with in the seventies and eighties and to contrast just how different an ‘original’ National Hot Rod of the day compared with the space frame specials that he races today. He was certainly looking forward to racing Darren Owen’s spare car.

Our third first time racer for 2015 was 275 Chris Caton. Chris, absolutely inundated with work this days had had no time to prepare his car this winter but realising that there was a meeting on and his presence appreciated, he cot the green light from understanding wife Donna to cancel a meal out they were going to take to go racing instead! “I will scrape the rust off the brake discs on the rolling lap!” Declared Caton.

Making his return for 2015 was defending champion 6 Graham Fulker from Oxfordshire. Graham’s Anglia and kit defies his budget approach. He is very much a one man band who over the winter had completely rebuilt his Anglia and race engine. He has devised the car to be much more maintenance friendly this season with a bespoke front end fabricated by Tim Barnes and detachable front wings that are bolted in place just like a Morris Minors were back in the day. Also Fulker has built a mould to make new fibre glass wheel arches for his Anglia. The completed car looked fresh and new and is a real credit to Fulker.

On track smartly before 6.30 in the evening bathed in spring sunshine, the drivers took their cars out for heat one. It was a race that turned the form book that had so for been established for 2015 on its head as the field, well spaced within grade, dispensed with the warm up laps and headed without no science in the opening laps of this twenty lap event. From this first time position as a white top C grader, Lumley wasted to time in getting into was smooth rhythm as establishing a comfortable lead. Indeed, such was the grade spacing that within a few laps, he had passed novice driver 265 Ray Harding and was within a few lengths of the star drivers at the rear of the field. It was refreshing to see such a different complexion to the race as to the first time in 2015, it was clear that National Points Champion 198 Andy Steward was not going to win this one. In fact it look Andy until three quarter distance to overcome an impressive drive from 31 Steve Gooding was racing from yellow grade. The man chasing valiantly the 58 car though was fellow B grader 275 Chris Caton. It was was the case of the home brew special chasing the factory prepared racer but Chris with rusty brakes and very second hand tyres did close the gap on Lumley.. But it was quite enough and Steve Lumley won a competent flag to flag career first CHR victory. “Even if I had caught him, I would never have had the grip to pass him!” Caton laughed in the pits afterwards.

RESULT. Ht 1 58 Steve Lumley 275 198 31 121 20 144 8 6 42

Heat two was almost and replay of heat one with Lumley once again taking the race from the front with Caton in pursuit. Andy Steward earmarked his intent for the championship by making sterner progress in this race overcoming other high grade opposition as the field swamped the hapless Gooding on this occasion. There was plenty of determined close racing as the top men impatiently sought for a way past the 31 car. Marriott dived and Foxlow took his favoured outside line. Charlie Schembri was put out of stride with some accidental contact from 8 Darren Owen with resulted in some clear kinks in Darren’s outside front wing, and although damage was less severe on the 121 car Schembri was a little displeased about the ‘rubbing’. As for Owen, Darren described the car as ‘more of a real hot rod’ with a few battle scars.

RESULT. Ht 2 58 Steve Lumley 275 198 192 144 8 6 121 265 42

The occasion took an atmospheric feel as the drivers came out for the twenty five lap Midland Championship Final in the post 8pm dusk. Bright paint jobs and polished sign work illuminated by the floodlights. The cars parked up against the fence to be summoned to their points order grid position. Naturally, as winner of both heats, 58 Steve Lumley lined up on pole position with second place finisher in the Heats 275 Chris Caton alongside. Row two was made up of 198 Andy Steward and 144 Tim Foxlow, and from this position it was clear that Steward would become favourite to take this title unless Foxlow could do something about it.

It was a false start but the field swiftly came under instruction from the steward and lined up again. No problems for the second time of asking and the twenty five lap title race was underway. Lumley took them away with Caton scrabbling from grip on the outside. Steward made his time honoured lunge, dived for second, followed by Foxlow and Caton was regard to fourth within two laps. As expected, Steward at the wheel of the other SHP prepared machine used his guile, experience and authority to pressure Lumley and found the gap through turn four and Steward look the lead. Tim Foxlow in 144 followed through and for the next five laps a remarkable power struggle took place as the screaming Anderson Xflow sought to out drive the grunt of Steward’s Toovey Pinto. On the shorter tracks like Northampton though, it’s always the grunt out the corners that counts and remorselessly Steward began to pull away. Tim found himself defending his second place from the increasingly confident Lumley who has invested well in his classic hot rod commitment and will certainly make quite an impression this season. That’s the way it stayed to the flag with 8 Daz Owen catching Caton to nab fourth place, defending champion Fulker getting more in the swing of things recording a seventh and Shane Bland really getting to grips with the Owen Classic in the final and collecting eighth.

RESULT. Midland Championship 198 Andy Steward 144 Tim Foxlow 58 Steve Lumley 8 275 192 6 42 20 121

So despite a small field it was again Classic Hot Rods doing what they do best. Good close racing, good atmosphere both on and off the track, banter amongst the drivers and cakes from Racey Tracy Killick! A perfect night.

Rob Hughes

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