LOCHGELLY 9/4/16 & 10/4/16


What a welcome the Classic Hot Rods received when they travelled from near and very far indeed for the inaugural CHR Scottish Open. The weather was kind when everyone was expecting a deluge, the fans were delighted and the promotion was the slickest the Classic racers had ever encountered. All this made the key components of what was going to be an epic weekend.

Many had undertaken their journey as early as Thursday. Charlie and his from Buckinghamshire got their heads down half way through their 400 mile journey north in Carlisle before continuing early Friday morning. Irish Points Champion Trevor Cusack did similar, having to travel the entire length of Ireland from Co Cork to Belfast to firstly make the ferry, then travel across the width of Scotland to arrive in the Kingdom of Fife with is usual Irish jocularity un diminished!

A spectacularly impressive 22 teams arrived to compete at Lochgelly. Four came from Scotland, with Graham McCabe, so long the only Scottish competitor, revelling in the fact that he only had twenty miles to travel, whereas usually it is hundreds! An achingly delightful eight racers came from Ireland, with Gerry Rothwell particularly instrumental in being the powerhouse of car building in Co.Meath over the winter and arranging the Irish convoy. Of course the reminder were the English competitors, with #Deadly Daz Owen leaving it till Saturday morning to make is way north from his Midlands base.

Never before had CHR had such a solid representation of Nationalities congregate of a meeting and it spoke volumes from the superb progress the class is making all over the Anglo-Celtic Isles.

The drivers were naturally in the Lochgelly pits in plenty of good time for competition on the Saturday with all making very positive comments on how much they were impressed by the tarmaced paddock area and they indoor scrutineering bay. Everything about Lochgelly looked so professional and organised and, indeed, tidy. There were plenty of staff and officials, all in staff coats and uniforms, there was the building were entry tickets were purchased which compared to what many fans were used to, looked like the entry to a cinema, and their was even an employee collecting litter during the meeting! Everything about Lochgelly looked the part and all drivers were saying so.

The challenge though was getting used to the track. In hot rod terms, this shorter oval with irregular bends was challenging and it was going to take the quick and the brave to establish whether they had chosen the best gearing ratios for the unfamiliar oval, and learn the fastest way round and discover if there was also a workable outside line.

Practice was fully utilised by the visiting CHR drivers on both Friday and Saturday, and although some racers like Schembri and Scotsman Keith Chesher would have been very happy if their rain dance had worked, the majority had their setting right, in bright and dry conditions, for the first of four qualifying heats on Saturday evening.

Naturally, all twenty two competitors took to the oval for heat one, and what a full field it looked! The installation laps, where cars show they are ready for racing and take the opportunity to inject some heat in their Avon Tyres proved all too brief and inconsequential as so many cars on such a short track really denied any opportunity to but any power down.

Nevertheless, all cars were ready and the first qualifying heat, racing over twenty laps burst into life. Ireland’s 156 Gerry Rothwell, piloting is distinctive Aqua green 100E Anglia, the oldest style of car racing in CHRs, broke into an impressive early lead. Fellow row one starter 31 Steve Gooding was soon swallowed up by the rest of the field which was headed by Ulsterman 966 Thomas Dilly, at the wheel of the former Tim Foxlow ‘Spanker’ and local man 247 Graham McCabe. Whilst the Irishman and the Scotsman ballot led closely all through the race, 911 Harry Steward was the prime mover, and once past the battling Celts, the youngest driver in CHRs led the race. With Darren Owen, Andy Steward and Hughie Weaver engaged in their own mid race battle, it looked like Harry was on his way to his first ever win in Classics. His undoing however was an errant spin of back marker 24 Roger Wright. Harry crossed the line first but was penalised for contact by the steward of the meeting. The win therefore went to Scotsman Graham McCabe who in the last lap had got the better of #The DungannonCannon Dilly, by powering around the outside of the red Mk2, and to natural appreciation of the big crowd at Lochgelly, a delightful #Proclaimer look his lap of honour, grinning all the way!

247, 198, 966, 72, 210, 8, 445, 924, 175, 232

The damaged Roger Wright was absent from heat two, but his nemesis, young #Harold Harry Steward was out once again amongst the ‘A’ grade starters to prove, that his time, imbued with the confidence in his own ability and the power of an all new Toovey race engine provided by former National Hot Rod World Champion Malcolm Blackman, that he had what it takes to this time make it count. It was a very exciting race with Rothwell once again leading Gooding from the off and McCabe and Dilly resuming the battle they had in heat one. It proved to be a brief contest however on this occasion as Dilly, the only Crossflow powered car present, suddenly died on the back straight baulking McCabe who was hot on his tail. This allowed a train of top grade racers to pass in predominantly their red coloured race cars, headed by Steward junior. As Weaver, Goodswen and Owen battled for mid pack dominance, #Harold in 911, swept up the leader #Rocker Rothwell and from there he was away, engine singing sweetly, and he began to extend his lead. This momentum was suddenly terminated thanks to a crash in the chasing pack. The Red train of 72, 210 and 8 had successfully got by the Avenger of #TheGoodGuy 31 Steve Gooding but was caught off balance as he sought to return to the inside line of the back straight and was caught by Irishman 175 Andy O’Donnell. The 31 car swung fence-ward and proceeded to slide down the plating with a sickening crunch. The yellow flags came out and the stricken Avenger was returned to the pits looking very sorry for itself. The restart saw the all red train resume and as Weaver, Goodswen and Owen returned to battle, this allowed Harry to get away. An interesting counterpoint was the battle in the remaining laps between 247 Graham McCabe, 198 Andy Steward, 924 Stu Wright and 232 Brett Sneddon. Graham just sat there making those around him really work for it. If they wanted to pass they would have to take the outside line! A frustrated Steward looked far from his normally invincible self in this race and was in turn under intense pressure from #TheWrightStuff and new boy 232 Brett Sneddon joining the fray. Sneddon, in the former Lee Holden Mk2, first time in CHR competition, looked very impressive, using his extensive Lochgelly track knowledge and previous Stock Rod experience to the full. The chequered dropped to Steward who won his first ever race, this time cleanly trouncing the opposition.

911, 210, 8, 72, 445, 198, 247, 924, 232, 25

The third and final heat of the Saturday evening proceedings saw an absence of C grade competitors and consequently Graham McCabe and Thomas Dilly headed the line up. Upon the drop of the green the Ulsterman got the drop on the Scot and the shrill scream of the Anderson Crossflow could be heard as it headed the field. Yellows came out within two laps to come of the assistance of the beleaguered #RogerTheDodger 24 Roger Wright who had crashed across the infield curbs on turn one, losing a rear wheel in the process and caused Points Champions #Donut 198 Andy Steward and #TheIrishThoroughbred 25 Trevor Cusack to take avoiding action. As the yellow Mk1 of Wright was recovered to the pits, Steward also returned to the paddock with panel damage and handling issues. Cusack was ready for the re-start which saw DIlly lead McCabe and the fastest man on the track 911 Harry Steward. #Harold worked the outside line brilliantly and shot past McCabe making the Scotsman look pedestrian and then driver of the Red Devil Anglia set about the #DungannonCannon in 966. For two laps they raced side by side, with neither prepared to give way to the other. They momentum was unbalanced in lapping #PenelopePitsop Kara Boyd in 44, forcing Harry to turn across Dilly’s path. They both snaked down the back straight and Steward desperately sought to put the battle to bed and take the lead diving across the path of Dilly who promptly T-boned him. Fortunately, both drivers quickly recovered as McCabe and Goodswen shot through but Dilly was quick to retire with tracking problems. In the pack #TheMusicMan 210 Hughie Weaver clashed with the now ragged Steward junior causing damage to both whilst #TheCowboy 445 Graham Boyd, under attack from 8 #Deadly Daz Owen, chased hard after Goodswen and McCabe. Once again the Classics proved that with Avon Tyres there certainly is an outside line at Lochgelly, as Goodswn did the trick on McCabe and look the lead. Behind, Boyd seemingly took exception to the manner of the challenge Owen was putting in and anchored up to howls of shock and delight from the crowd. Incredibly a major crash was avoided and both 445 and 8 continued. By now #TheNorfolkBoy 72 Gary Goodswen was away and became the third different winner ahead of McCabe and 924 Stuart Wright. In a race of attrition it was heartening to see 44 Kara Boyd and #TheOmen 43 Damien Corrigan record their first CHR points of their careers.

72, 247, 924, 8, 25, 43, 44, NOF

After a very enjoyable social evening when many of the drivers congregated together to drink and joke the night away, Championship day arrived with grey and threatening skies. After a hearty breakfast the competitors arrived in good time at the track for final adjustments and practice. Even Kara Boyd was ready, make up still on face, after partying in Dunfirmline until five in the morning!

The final qualifying heat was the first race of the day with the racers taking to a damp and greasy track which was beginning to dry as the grey clouds and rain headed out to sea. The different track conditions clearly suited some drivers more than others. Rothwell led them away and led for laps until Thomas Dilly took over, looking very comfortable. Weaver was the man in the groove and the oldest man on the raceway made short shrift of passing the youngest, Harry Steward, whose car looked far from happy in the damp. As Weaver set about chasing down Dilly, #Harold succumbed to the dual Escort challenge of Daz Owen and uncle Andy in 198. All three passed McCabe with outside passes as Weaver challenged Dilly in a similar move. In the final laps some fantastic side by action took place as the battle was on for the lead, but on the final lap it it all came unstuck for #TheDungannonCannon as the battling duo sought to pass the now lap down #Rocker Rothwell in the perilously tight exit to turn two. Weaver had no choice but to squeeze on Dilly as they dived for space on the inside of 156 only for the two Irishmen to make contact and Dilly went skating over the infield kerb and spun out of the race! Weaver was now the fourth different winner of the weekend.

210, 8, 198, 911, 72, 445, 924, 247, 100, 232

Such a degree of variance in race results made for a fascinating points order line up in the inaugural Scottish Open Championship Final for the Classic Hot Rods.

INSIDE. 72. 247. 445. 924. 25. 121. 44. 162. 10
OUTSIDE. 8. 911. 210. 198. 966.100. 232. 43

Goodswen earned poll thanks to a heat win and a consistent performance, Owen on his outside even without a win, but high places in all heats. McCabe was delighted to be boxing above his weight with an inside row two start whereas pre-meeting favourite Andy Steward was languishing on row four.

In a superb clean and fast race, #Deadly Darren Owen wound up car 8 to get the drop on 72 Gary Goodswen as the green was shown and powered the outside line to take the lead. The train proceeded in the early laps with 911 Steward challenging Goodswen and McCabe racing on the limit. As 911 past 72 , 210 Hughie Weaver was coming like a train from the second block of starters with #Donut hanging on to the old man’s shirt tails. Beyond the mid way point in the race, as Goodswen was slipping down the field and Dilly was on his way forward, Weaver managed to ‘rub’ McCabe wide but as Steward Senior tried to follow, his ‘rub’ caused the 198 car to veer fencewards. Evasive action unbalanced the SHP built machine and as Stu Wright went for the gap on the apex of turn one and two he spun the hapless #Donut. With the exit of uncle Andy, nephew Harry went on the attack for the lead and racing out of his skin caught the Owen juggernaut. But just as the challenge was starting to go in, out came he yellows for Stu Wright who had crashed the plating on the home straight! The drivers were able to gather their thoughts as the 924 car was returned to the paddock. The re-start was all about whether Harry had it in him to out race the experienced Owen to the flag. Well, for a lap he tried, but the engine went ‘tight’ and with 911 retiring to the infield the race was over and Owen was off the hook and clear to the flag. The last time he raced Owen took a championship, and on his return his Deadly Warhorse had taken him to another. It was a red car white wash with 210 Hughie Weaver second and Ulster’s 966 Thomas Dilly delighted with third.

8, 210, 966, 72, 247, 445, 121, 43, NOF

The weekends superb racing was rounded off in the All Comers Finale in an almost poetic balance with 247 Graham McCabe taking a flag to flag victory to plenty of cheers from the Scottish fans. Darren Owen capped a top weekend for him with a closely paced second with 100 Kevin Feeney recording his best ever race abroad with third. But the story of the race was new driver 232 Brett Sneddon. In a race from the tail of the grid the CHR ‘novice’ scalped Boyd and Goodswen on his way to an incredible fourth.

247, 8, 100, 232, 72, 445, 25, 175, 43, 44

The drivers made it clear that they loved the weekends racing at Lochgelly, and such was the impression the Hottest Stars in the Coolest Cars made on the race fans and the promotion that the green light was given to commence a six round Scottish series in 2017.

Good news begets good news!

Let’s keep it going!

Rob Hughes

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