CLASSIC HOT ROD RACE REPORT
National Series Round Seven. The Bill Morris Memorial Trophy
Seen as the perfect build up to the National Championship just a week away at Ipswich as part of the massive Speedweekend at that Showcase Arena, all rounds centred on Hednesford in the West Midlands, the spiritual home of Hot Rod racing as 24 of the Hottest Cars in the Coolest Cars came to compete for a beautiful trophy raced in memory of the man, without whom, Hot Rod racing as we know it in the UK, may well never have existed.
Twenty four of the twenty eight drivers booked in with Incarace attended, and even at twenty four, it was still the biggest car attendance that the formula has enjoyed so dark all season. Drivers came from England, naturally, with 57 Mike Oliver coming from Wales and 247 Graham McCabe and 3 Graeme Allister coming down from Scotland. It was delightful as well to have three drivers come over from the Republic of Ireland, namely 156 Gerry Rothwell, 100 Kevin Feeney and 175 Andy O’Donnell.
Not only did the meeting have an entry from far a field, but also some new faces. First to welcome to the formula on this his debut day was 721 Steve Kite from the ‘deep south’ of Horndean in Hampshire. Had had purchased the former Colin Gilbert Anglia from Steve Tandy over the winter and had worked especially hard, particularly in recent weeks, to get the car finally fully equipped and up to spec’ for racing. It looked resplendent in its all black gloss and vivid retro styling sign work. Needless to say, the car has captured the appeal of many fans.
Debuting an Anglia of equal appeal was a man from the opposite pole of the UK! Graeme Allister had made the long journey down from Fife in Scotland to put his gorgeous ermine while and cherry black liveried classic hot rod through its paces. Graeme, an enthusiastic race fan who has worked hard to make his racing dream come true, initially started racing in August last year at Tipperary, when, with the car still in its George Polley colours, he achieved the infamous honour of rolling the car! Since then the car was painstakingly rebuilt and eventually made to look more fantastic than ever. Allister was understandably nervous about racing at ‘the deep end’ at Hednesford and was simply concentrating on wanting to finish every race with no damage.
The third of the ‘new boys’ could hardly be described as ‘new!’ Sixty eight year old Hughie Weaver, father of the National Hot Rods Points Champion of 2015, Kym Weaver, quietly had a Mk1 Escort quietly being built for four years. This certainly wasn’t a rush job! This stunning creation has been finished off this last few weeks in the workshops of Sunny Howard Motorsport. It looked low, it looked mean and certainly looked a winner. The avuncular Weaver, a well seasoned racer who last drove competitively five years ago was ‘just here to see how it goes.’ Weaver made it clear he wasn’t expect anything from today……it was amazing just how events were to make a mockery of those remarks!
It was the Summer Solstice and fortunately the weather was just about what it should be for the time of year. Although blustery, the showers that for a moment of two threatened prior to racing, never materialised and racing too place on a drive, fast track.
All twenty four cars made it out for heat one and to see the biggest field of the year make it trackside certainly made an impressive sight. The drivers were allotted strictly to their correct graded grid position by meeting steward Paul Gerrard and advised that points achieved in the two heats would determine the line up in the Bill Morris Trophy Final – the top points scorers staring at the front.
After three installation laps, the cars burst into life from the clutch start and it was pole position starter 222 Shane Taylor who powered away. Ireland’s 156 Gerry Rothwell immediately found the pace a hot one in his Anglia 100E and 159 Mick Caton was soon through followed by a very impressive looking 175 Andy O’Donnell. before the race had chance to settle down though, the one thing most feared in Classic Hot Rods occurred – the big crash. Welshman 57 Mike Oliver unexpectedly and severely ground to a sudden halt half way down the home straight and with literally no time to react, 247 Graham McCabe and 72 Gary Goodswen were left with nowhere to go and the impact was severe! Both 333 Lee Wood and 275 Chris Caton had extremely lucky escapes. Wood especially was called upon to display lightning reactions for the second time this season as he had a similar experience at Northampton in March. The aftermath was painful to look at as the stricken 57, 72 and 247 cars were extracted to the infield.
The restart saw Taylor continue where he started off. The 222 car was handling superbly after being set up at the Garage of Ken Marriott. Keeping a tidy inside line Shane maintained his lead despite some tremendous pressure being applied by 159 Mick Caton. Caton drove a perfect hot rod drive, attempting to cleanly race Taylor by trying determined to out race the Cheshire man on the outside line. For lap after lap they raced neck and neck and at one point 159 got his nose in front, only to be baulked as the two leaders leaped the Irishman Rothwell and Taylor escaped. close behind 175 Andy O’Donnell was driving a brilliant race and only got passed by 198 Andy Steward in the last two laps. There was more contact further back as the packed chased the leaders. 22 Rob Montagner tripped over 144 Tim Foxlow and 100 Kevin Fenney and the contact caused panel damage to all three. Foxlow retired where the other two gamely continued. After a brilliant race 222 Shane Taylor just held on to win and looked absolutely delighted on his lap of honour as this was his very first race victory in Classic Hot Rods.
Heat One Result:
222, 159, 198, 175, 333, 45, 20, 58
Heat two saw, understandably, a slightly depleted field. Both Goodswen and Oliver had loaded up and Montagner and Fulker where trying to solve engine problems. positively, Foxlow was back out and remarkably, so too was McCabe. The Chevette with looked initially severely damaged, fortunately had received no chassis leg or steering damage and the bodywork was extensively taped up and ready to go again! What was also so positive was the attitude of the McCabe crew in the pits. As they worked to repair the car they were found laughing and joking and set a great example of what racing should really be all about – friends, and banter with fellow crews and drivers.
The drop of the green saw the lift of the clutch and the drop of the hammer and all got clean away. It the high speed procession didn’t last long though as Tim Foxlow once again found himself in the wars again, tangling out on the West Bend with 445 Graham Boyd. Their prone position caused yellow flags and both were instructed to the infield as they were the cause of the stoppage. Green flag again and the chase for Taylor was again resumed by Caton and O’Donnell with Feeney not too far behind either! It was a fascinating battle again with clean fast exciting racing being displayed by the top three. Further back, Steward was storming through along with Boyd junior, while Wood and McCabe continued a tussle of the Orange cars..and 210 Hughie Weaver was going a hell of a lot faster than he was in heat one. Teething problems being solved, Weaver was brushing off the rust and remembering how to drive! Up ahead Taylor was hanging on and hanging on and hanging on! Caton’s challenge was usurped by Steward who had elbowed his way up the inside of both 175 and 159. But credit is to be heaped on Taylor in the way he withstood the challenge of the faster Steward. 222 maintained a tidy inside line and made Andy work for it. Maybe with more laps Steward would have made it count, but the laps ran out and an ecstatic Shane Taylor took his second win! As it was Steward was not awarded second as the meeting steward had decided his had jumped the restart and was demoted accordingly.
Heat Two Result:
222, 45, 159, 175, 210, 333, 275, 198
The Bill Morris Memorial Trophy Final saw the finalists take to the track to be instructed to their correct row of the grid dependant of the points they had scored in the heats. Consequently, the row one starters where 222 Shane Taylor and 159 Mick Caton. Row two saw 175 Andy O’Donnell and 45 Craig Boyd. Row three was 198 Andy Steward and 333 Lee Wood. Surely the winner would come from these first three rows with Steward and Boyd junior clearly earmarked as favourites. prior to the installation laps and rolling lap start, it was poignant moment when the daughters of Bill Morris came out to the centre green to commemorate his memory and after the brief ceremony Paul Gerrard announced, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” The pintos and Crossflow burst into life and with the pace car diving to the infield the race was on with a hell for leather charge! It was late braking supreme into turn on and everyone just going for it. On the exit to turn two Steward, with the hammer down made contact with O’Donnell. The Irishman spun at speed and sorrowfully crashed into the infield Tarmac rostrum causing serious rear axle and suspension damage. It was a sad end to what had been an excellent day for O’Donnell, who had proved that he was a competitive as the best of the Englishmen.
The race suspension for the extraction of the stricken 175 machine saw the exclusion of Steward from the restart. But from the drop of the green again, we were to bear witness to another incredible race. Taylor led them off but 45 Craig Boyd was there challenging immediately Bon his outside and in third and going extremely quickly was 210 Hughie Weaver. The ultimate dark horse pounced on the unsuspecting leaders. Up the back straight in the second lap later the restart he stormed up the back straight causing an unnerving three-wide move cutting a swathe between 222 and 45. Amazingly as all three sought for grip through the West Bend, 210 powered out first and 68 year old Hughie Weaver was in the lead! Boyd recovered next ahead of the power sliding Taylor. What followed was the incredible battle between Weaver and Boyd and Craig clawed back the lead Weaver had grabbed and beyond half way in the 25 lap race Boyd saw his opportunity as came upon the cluster of back markers which included Mick Caton, who had never got into his stride after the lap one incident, and Steve Gooding. With Weaver momentarily baulked, Boyd whipped round the outside on the West Bend and took the lead once again! And that’s the way it stayed to the flag with Shane Taylor attaining third place after a long clean duel with 20 Dave Fry.
45, 210, 222, 20, 275, 445, 144, 121
As the Bill Morris Memorial Trophy winner, 45 Craig Boyd took this third Final of the 2015 season on the trot. A fantastic meeting with perhaps more car damage than anyone would have wanted. But, as they say, ‘That’s racing!’