WIMBLEDON 21/2/16-21216




The opening meeting of the Classic Hot Rod season proved to be an outstanding success. Thirteen classics made their way to south London to put on a show, which in the context of the of the overall slick presentation of the evening’s events set against the background of the iconic stadiums’s impending future, which felt memorable and indeed historic.

With the continual rise in the popularity of the CHRs, channeled through the successful platform of social media, Dean Cox, PR of Spedeworth, had been very early to realise the leverage of such a marketable Motorsport. The end result had been the creation of relations between the promotion and Retro Ford Magazine, and we at Classic Hot Rods were delighted that the magazine took on the sponsoring of the meeting.

With a regular feed of publicity, the expectation was for a good crowd at Wimbledon eagerly anticipating not only some top class racing, but to see the return of the Legends of Hot Rod racing, Barry Lee, Mick Collard and George Polley, together with the best Scottish driver of the era, Kenny Ireland. With the impending fate of Wimbledon stadium, it seemed fitting that on this night, these legends would come together one final time and be there to revive the memories of the halcyon era of the seventies – a true Golden Age in oval racing, and for the Classic Hot Rods to provide some 21st Century action in these iconic race cars which so many people, young and old, can relate to.

To the reverberating rasp, roar, and rumble, the seven Anglias, two A40’s and four Escorts made there way out on track through the famous Wimbledon tunnel. With engines deliberately revved to emit a snarl, the crowd clearly enjoyed the sight of the Classic Hot Rods coming out on track as they prepared for Heat One.

All drivers were keen and ready for this race, none more so than Scotsman Trevor Harris who had left his Kinglassie base in Fife on Saturday to make the journey “whey doown teh Englandshire” a two day affair. A warm and genuinely funny guy, Trevor, now nicknamed ‘Revver Haggis’ by the CHR fraternity, was keen to try the pace of his Crossflow powered Anglia for the first time in the dry. His first meeting at Lochgelly in early Feb was in typical Scottish rain!

Fellow Anglia racers Steve Kite and Ray Harding were equally keen. Both cars looked polished and resplendent, still looking new after their trip to Blackpool to promote the CHR cause at the North West Rally Stages indoor show. Ever the showman, Ray Harding had purchased a neat little piece of kit for his green and white Anglia; a neon blue Ford badge brake light, that was mounted pride of place in his car’s rear window. “What do you think of that?” Ray said proudly to his mate and on track rival Steve Kite. “Beautiful,” Kite remarked, “though just as well I’d seen it now, as I’ll never see it on track!!” The penny dropped on Harding as Kite darted for the safety of his van!

Steve himself was also feeling well pumped in readiness for racing. Such had been the compliments his Anglia had received in Blackpool, and the number of ‘likes’ his car receives on the Classic Hot Rod Facebook page, that Kite has taken on his new nickname in readiness for the new season – ‘The Black Knight’ with joyful aplomb!

Taking the task far more seriously was the young ‘Red Devil’ of Harry Steward. With a driving style matching the hot intent of the underworld, with the car’s deep lustful livery to match, the Steward team have made it clear that they race to enjoy, but the best enjoyment is winning, particularly if it means beating uncle Andy Steward! Harry lined up for heat one, for the third and final time as a tail grid novice, determined to show all and sundry that he was certainly no novice!

With the green flag dropping on the opening race of the 2016 Classic Hot Rod season, pole sitter Kite found his progress slightly impeded by the pace car’s dive for the infield and outside row one starter Dave ‘The Gent’ Stevens wasted no time in powering his pinto powered Mk1 Escort, a car first driven by non other than Barry Lee when it was first built in 2004, into an early lead. In the opening laps the166 pilot enjoyed an advantage of several cars length and Kite defended from a challenge from Harding who in turn was being hounded by 72 Gary Goodswen. The story of the race however was the storming of the field by non other than the most successful driver in CHR in recent years, current National Series Points Champion 198 Andy Steward. Donut’s pace and forceful style was undeniable round Wimbledon. He is incredibly fast and he makes it stick lap after lap. In catching English Champion Craig Boyd napping in the opening laps, Andy roared past John Bowring and Ray Harding, eased out Goodswen and said goodbye to The Gent and the Black Knight with relative ease. Not that Andy had it easy though, oh no, with Boyd hanging on to his shirt tails as if in a high wind, 45 was set to challenge at very opportunity and Red Devil Harry was right there too. It was certainly no easy victory – indeed it was one hell of a race!

HEAT ONE RESULT: 198, 45, 911, 72, 166, 721, 265, 924, 445, 271

Following the legendary Fab Four’s stadium entrance and on mike repartee, with Barry Lee being, well, Barry Lee (!), the Classics returned for heat two. It was a race of different proportions to the first. True, Stevens again got the better of Kite on the drop of the green but this time Goodswen was able to take the lead in this race and hold it for several laps before the inevitable charge came from Andy Steward. With Boyd a retiree early in the race with starter motor problems it was though that Harry would chase his uncle all the way. Indeed early laps seemed to suggest this until he attempted to follow his uncle past the battling pair of angry Anglias driven by 924 Stuart Wright and 101 John Bowring. Caught on the outside line, Bowring and Wright gave no quarter to the young Devil. That though the three way fight for the lower places with Harry side by side with Wright and then Bowring, bore all the hallmarks of a fascinating hot rod clash, young Steward left the track clearly frustrated with his eighth place!

HEAT TWO RESULTS: 198, 72, 166, 721, 265, 101, 924, 911, 445, 419

The London Championship Final followed the match race between Leapy and Duffy, a sight to warm the heart of every seasoned hot rod fan. The fact that Duffy managed to rub the back of the 351 replica, owned by current CHR National Champion Lee Wood, not only illustrated the old boys zest for the old days, but brought a rye smile to Lee Wood’s face. “I’ll not repair the dent,” Wood remarked, “this is character, it’s added value to the car!” Wood promptly had the legends autograph the boot lid by the dent for posterity!

So to the London Championship itself. If the heats were good, the final, raced still in graded order, proved to be an absolute belter. The Black Knight was determined that in this race he was not going to be beaten by “the damn pace car!” and in flooring the accelerator at the drop of the green 721 avoided the pace car, held his line as hard and as fast as he could into the bends, and this time out powered Dave Stevens . ‘Kite the Knight’ was roaring like a typhoon into an early lead and was desperate to hang on. He lead the race for five or six laps, holding out challenges from Harding, who spun out, and Goodswen. But on the arrival of the 198 car, Kite had no answers and was swept aside. Forced to the outside line, the train followed through, most notably led by Craig Boyd with Harry Steward in tow. The final laps of the twenty lap event saw Boyd try every trick in the book to try and unsettle Donut Steward, but the veteran stoutly held his line and a blanket could have been thrown over the top three as they crossed the line. The crowd just lapped it up!

LONDON CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL RESULT : 198, 45, 911, 924, 721, 445, 101, 166, 265, 419

So, the Classics raced at the grand old lady of Stadium racing in London for what appears, sadly, to have been the last time. But what a note to race out on; the Hottest a Stars in the Coolest Cars, giving it all in front a packed, appreciative crowd and witnessed by the finest, most Legendary drivers in the history of the sport. It is of little wonder that Dave Murphy, still a new driver to the sport who had his third and final meeting from novice grade on this night in a drop dead gorgeous race car, summed up his thoughts in a most perfect way, “I may be way out of by depth, but I’m SO in my element!”
Rob Hughes

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