WIMBLEDON 15/11/15-151115

WIMBLEDON 15/11/15

It promised much and delivered so much more! The Classic Hot Rod Best of Britain Championship at the hallowed Wimbledon stadium rounded off a fantastic year for the Coolest Cars on the Ovals. The hype of the meeting had been a long time in brewing, but the results delightfully matched the heightened expectation : the meeting had it all, nostalgia, atmosphere, noise, sights, smells…oh and the racing! OH YES, the racing!

Even Mother Nature was on the side of the CHRs at this challenging time of year, though the wind and the rain and out the other side. The UK capital found Wimbledon Stadium overcast but dry and even reasonably mild for November!

Eighteen drivers arrived to compete at the final meeting of the year, all with plenty of time for practice and to congregate to determine the grid positions between them and assist the meeting promotion in the tidy administration of the meeting format and grid positions. With plenty of banter and jocularity, the CHR pilots drew lots to determine their grid place in heat one. This would be reversed for heat two and the final grid would formate with the top points scorers from the heats at the front.

The time arrived for heat one with the cataphony crossflows and pintos singing their racing anthem as they entered the arena via the pit lane tunnel. To the appreciation of the packed spectator attendance, the engines revved screamed and snarled their way as the Classics came out on track. Double National Champion, Cambridgeshire’s 333 Lee Wood parked up pride of place on his allotted pole position start, his gold roof shining brightly under the ultra bright stadium floodlights. 265 Ray Harding look his position alongside, keeping his fingers crossed that his former Faulker Anglia, with everything now set up to suit Ray’s style, would behave itself. He knew he couldn’t afford to hang about: double Points Champion 198 Andy Steward would be starting right behind him on row two!

The drivers had elected for a rolling lap start for all three races tonight, and as the pace car peeled away, the first green of the night dropped on the opening CHR race of the night. Never a man to over think and plan his moves, seat of the pants racer, Donut Steward was inside Harding in a heartbeat and within two laps unsettled Wood to such and extent that he got his nose up the inside of 333 and made it stick. As Donut did his upmost to open up a gap, Wood dug deep to stick with him whilst immediately behind a phenomenal battle was taking place between Ray Harding and 72 Gary Goodswen. Harding was going like an express train the quickest so far in his CHR career, and was really on the pace with the top cars. Battling for third, Ray was going full chat to hold out Gary when suddenly coming out of turn four “I put my foot down, and nothing happened!” as Ray himself explained afterwards. Ray’s rebuilt engine had cried fowl and dropped a valve and the resultant loss of power saw Gary helplessly punt the Anglia into a spin onto the infield. In the same moment, 911 Harry Steward caught the wires on turn one, sickeningly damaging his beautiful Devil Red Anglia. As Goodswen also retired, offering unnecessary apologies to Harding, the yellows came out to extract Prince Harry from the fence. The re-start was momentarily delayed by Tim Foxlow’s starter motor failing, and 144 was pushed to the infield, joining 444 Gary Andrews (engine electrics) 419 Dave Murphy (gearbox) Harding, Goodswen and Steward in early retirement. The drop of the green saw a rejuvenated challenge from Lee Wood on Andy Steward and not far behind an above par 166 Dave Stevens was successfully holding out Jamie Johnson, Stuart Wright and a whole train of followers. The last lap climaxed with Wood’s desperate lunge up the inside of Donut, seeking to literally carve his way to victory. With wheels screeching for grip 198 just managed to out drag 333 to the line to the whoops of delight and applause from the packed grandstand.

198, 333, 166, 271, 210, 924, 8, 121, 102, 445
Heat two was lead away by 210 Hughie Weaver with a explosion of power that his Mk1 Escort appears to enjoy. In the initial lap 445 Graham Boyd wrestled with his A40 racer to stay neck and neck with Hughie on his outside, but such wax the grunt from the 210 machine on the straights that the diminutive BritishRacing Green liveried car had to give best and Boyd soon found himself defending second from a very determined 8 Darren Owen. Tim Foxlow executed a tidy and independent sojourn in fourth which was enough to guarantee a second place in the season’s points chart. Behind Andy Steward was attacking the race like his life depended on it, careering round the outside line and winning the grip debate with 924 Stu Wright and 101 John Bowring. Harry Steward’s team were very impressive in repairing the significant damage his Anglia had received in heat one and he was flying in heat two, indeed at one point he succeeded in passing Lee Wood, before Lee switched off ‘Absolute 80’s on his car radio and settled down to business taking the place back! Weaver, one of the oldest men racing, once again showed speed defied age and took the flag to flag victory. Owen out raced Boyd to just grab second on the line. Despite his strong performance, Andy Steward was docked two places by the steward of the meeting for what was deemed excessive contact and therefore finished seventh.

210, 8, 445, 144, 102, 924, 198, 333, 121, 911

And so the big race of the night was next on the CHR programme. With swift points calculation executed, the CHR team submitted the grid to the stewards box and the line up took shape with top points scorer Weaver on pole, Donut along side, Owen and Wood on row two and Wright and Boyd taking row three. The crowd were at fever pitch as the flag dropped on the 25 lap Best of Britain Final, and the roar from the engines only just drowned out the grandstand cheer. Pandemonium irrupted on the back straight for the first time as Boyd and Wood went side by side resulting in a tangle of wheel arches. 445 shot up and upmost across the bows of 333 cannoning the famous Viva helplessly into the back straight posts. To the audible gasps and groans from the crowd, Wood’s Viva crunched the wires and post with a sickening suddenness and 333 stopped dead, strewn wildly at right angles to the track. The race was immediately red flagged as a badly winded National Champion gingerly departed his car and sadly surveyed some severe damage.

With the fallen Viva extracted to the infield the race recommenced. Howls of amazement, anguish and joy went up as Donut sailed into the opening turn way too fast with Weaving roaring in after him and 198 spun! Weaver bounded down the back straight for the first time with Darren Owen strongly giving chase. Then came Wright and Boyd. More drama ensued as Weaver suffered a flat tyre just one lap later and as Owen was given the lead and sailed off into the distance. The race evolved in several different high speed battles. Wright and Boyd duelled the whole race for second then came 271 Jamie Johnson holding out the pressure building like plumber using his thumb to try and stop the water squirting in all directions from a burst water pipe! Absolutely everyone was fighting to get past and blue flags were being waived every lap. Schembri tried, Foxlow tried, Steward junior tried, but to no avail. But here came the man, like a bullet from a gun, making an incredible recovery from his first lap spin. Andy Steward, coming from dead last, was on an absolute mission! Careering the outside line, 198 was at ten tenths with minimal margin for error. Incredibly, as Darren Owen was enjoying an untroubled Sunday evening drive, Donut ate the jam and just had time to lick the cream off his fingers! To yells, screams and whoops from this London crowd, Andy latched onto Wright and Boyd, and just, JUST managed to do the outside deal, stealing a marvellous third place from Wright right on the line! What a race!

8, 445, 198, 924, 271, 101, 144, 72, 721, 166

The increasingly popular celebratory donuts completed the nights proceedings at Wimbledon and indeed the season for the Classic Hot Rods. It was great to finish on a high with Darren Owen taking a popular win and Donut Steward, richly cheered for his out of this world drive!

2015 was a great year for Classic Hot Rod Racing. 2916 promises to be even better!

Rob Hughes

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