Now it’s Watts & Wright’s turn, on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit!St Cross Electronics Monoposto Championship Round 3 Brands Hatch Donington Park 1
Suddenly we are well into the season and another strong Monoposto field assembled to do battle on the challenging Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
The meeting schedule was back to a normal structure after Donington, but the weather continued to play tricks, especially on the Mono Moto/1800/Ztec/1600 competitors which at times resembled a “600 yard dash carrying four tyres and a jack” novelty strength race. Brands is not a great layout in iffy weather if you don’t have a big team, a quadbike and a mobile tyre rack.
Extra support by Modense Group for the Monarch of Brands £500 prize added a little spice, but that chicken is going to come home to roost at the next Championship event at Brands Indy.
Saturday Mono 2000/Classic 2000: Qualifying & Race
There was a “Reynard” panic as the field crowded into the assembly area, with Terry Clark discovering a major water leak in his very smartly rebuilt example and Len Coleman’s car refusing to start at the required moment. Terry made it on track, with help from water drawn from Radical’s nearby cool water fountain – very upmarket - but Len had to qualify in the Moto session.
Emerging onto a breezy and dry track, by mid-session Robbie Watts had stamped his mark on proceedings by getting into the 1:28’s and beating Tristan Cliffe’s lap record by a couple of tenths, using the very smart RawPower Lola 106 to good effect. He was a couple of seconds up on next man Richard Purcell whose Topmarx team had finally discovered that a faulty wiring loom has been the cause of the car’s major engine problems. The car was clearly going well now but despite qualifying well on both days Richard ultimately had another frustrating weekend. Behind him on the grid came a closely matched black and white Dallara pair of Malcolm Scott and Russ Giles, with Malcolm getting into the groove first and Russ finally finding a gap in the traffic to get within 3 tenths of him. The ebullient Kevan McLurg was next up, turning in a trio of laps all in the 1:32.1 to 1:32.6 range. Three of the front runners from Donington seemed to have more trouble finding a gap in the traffic, with Donington winner Adrian Holey coming out ahead of Topmarx team mate Steve Patania and a subdued Tony Bishop. But all three were behind the leading Mono Classic 2000 car of Brands expert Lee Cunningham in the Edginton Racing Van Diemen, although they did keep clear of the second Classic Van Diemen driven by Ben Cater. Ben was hoping for better luck than he had at Donington and was a couple of seconds clear of a tightish group comprising Mike Hatton, SUNBAC leader Daryl Jones, Kevin Otway (running for the first time this season) and Jim Timms.
Elsewhere Tim Tudor went well at first in the Swansea Metropolitan Renault, but a small fire at the front of the engine did a lot of damage which the Swansea team then had to spend most of the day carefully rectifying in order to get a run on Sunday. Newcomers Alistair Bell, David Gambling and Neil Tomlinson all set about learning the circuit, to generally good effect, but Lee McCrumlish had to pull his Dallara off early and Chris Chandler had a harmless-looking spin at Surtees but then disappeared for the rest of the weekend. It was a well-behaved session until a couple of minutes before the end when the red flags came out to enable a recovery of an unidentified miscreant.
Come the race in the afternoon it was still dry but threateningly overcast, and there were some nervous exchanges with Race Control about what would happen if a downpour hit the large slick-shod field while it was assembling. However it stayed dry and everyone got away from the line OK. Robbie Watts lead but behind him Kevan McLurg had a rocketship start to land in second ahead of Richard Purcell and Russ Giles. Lee Cunningham’s start got him ahead of both Malcolm Scott and Adrian Holey but apparently he had ignited the boosters too soon and was docked 10 seconds by the Start Judges. For the first half of the race Watts pulled out a five second lead on the more crowded duo of McLurg and Purcell, with first Scott and then Holey getting past Giles, both a few seconds adrift of the three leaders. As the race went into its second half the pattern changed, and Watts seemed to be struggling for pace, or maybe he was just more cautious through the traffic. Whatever his times fell off by almost two seconds a lap and McLurg and Purcell started to close. By lap 8 they were within a second of the leader…and then it all fell apart. Purcell stopped with a broken throttle cable, not the first time this has happened to him, and then McLurg started to stutter and slow – his car running out of fuel. He made the line still in second place, a couple of seconds ahead of a rapidly closing Scott, with Holey taking fourth, helped by the fact that Cunningham was keeping between him and Giles. Cunningham’s effort was neutralised by the start penalty and Ben Cater took the win, hoping this really did signal a much needed change of luck. Behind him Mike Hatton had another good run to third ahead of Daryl Jones, going very well and building his SUNBAC points lead.
A little further down the field Terry Clark (on his way to the Driver of the Day Award), Mark Smith and Jim Timms enjoyed a brisk dice; and Alistair Bell, David Gambling and Neil Tomlinson all put their qualifying experience to good use as they climbed the steep learning curve that confronts you at the Brands GP venue. At the not-happy end Matt Jordan stopped the Team Fern Van Diemen with a completely seized engine, necessitating a rush back to base that evening to retrieve the spare Mono 1600 Van Diemen to use on Sunday.
A few drops of rain fell over the last couple of laps, but as the field returned to the paddock the heavens opened, and the circuit was never really dry again for the rest of the day.
Saturday Mono Moto/1800/Ztec/1600: Qualifying & Race
The big issue before qualifying was the state of Jason Timms’ engine. It had lost most of its water at Donington and Jason was hoping that it would survive the weekend intact – it was not to be. He didn’t take any chances on its longevity in qualifying, rushing straight out and putting the car permanently onto the race pole on his first flying lap – which was pretty impressive in such a competitive field. However once back in the paddock after the session it was clear that the motor was loosing water and compression. Without enough time to drop in another motor it did not look good for the race. Back in fray, Geoff Fern, Dax Ward and Adrian Wright all worked away and climbed to between 0.1 and 1.0 seconds of the flying Timms, with Mike Scott’s original Speads and Marc Fortune’s glossy Jedi both also putting times in which were in the frame with the leading pace.
Matt Hayes Ztec-spec Jamun lead the chase for a grid place, doing well to be ahead of John Whitbourn’s Ray which was running in 1800 form. Unfortunately the Ray then broke another drive shaft, and John feared it had also again damaged the diff, so departed for home to effect an in-depth repair, and missed the race. It turned out to be a simple drive shaft failure caused by a legacy crack, so he was back again for the Sunday. Welcome returnee James Chapman qualified as second Ztec but an apparently innocuous trip into the gravel became serious when a stone chip broke a pump belt and terminally damaged the engine. Marcus Sheard was a strong third in Ztec ahead of a frustrated Ryan Hayes whose Jamun’s engine would not run properly on corners. Jonathan Baggott took second spot in the 1800s, presaging a very good weekend for him, ahead of Brands ARDs instructor Mary Whittaker’s Van Diemen RF82 (we would like to see more FF2000s in Mono 1800 please) and Peter Bassill’s HRTMono Ray.
Mono 1600 turned into a fascinating competition over the weekend. Reigning SUNBAC Champion Luke Rosewell, running for the first time this year, initially occupied the class pole spot in his red Ray, but after 4 laps a wire fell off the ignition and the car stuttered. Adrian Heath had been persuaded to bring out the Team Fern Vauxhall again, and he took advantage of the Ray’s problem to snatch the class pole on the last lap. Dave Parkinson was third, but was some way adrift struggling with the car jumping out of gear.
Come race time it was cold and damp, although the track was starting to dry. Slicks or Wets? Eight of the entry went for wets, which again turned out to be the wrong choice – as at Donington last time. Geoff Fern’s JKS – on wets – leapt into the lead from Jason Timms Speads and Adrian Wright in the GEM, both of these on slicks. They were both by him by the third lap as the wets started to fade, lap times tumbling as the track dried. Dax Ward held fourth initially but had a huge moment at Paddock letting teammate Marc Fortune (Jedi) and Mike Scott (Speads) past. Although Scott didn’t get away easily. Behind them Mike Reed (who had been off-colour at the start opf the weekend) and Dan Levy enjoyed an entertaining dice. At half distance Fortune climbed past the hapless Fern, but it was Timms who was in real trouble. The black Speads had been literally steaming round in the lead, but ominously the steam plume faded away and two laps from the end the car started to lose pace.So Wright got past to take the win and Timms just staggered over the line holding on to second, ahead of Fortune Fern Scott and a recovering Ward.
Ztec went to Matt Hayes (on wets) with Marcus Sheard taking a good second place in the class taking fastest lap as well. Ryan Hayes had a very frustrating experience when his refettled Jamun flattened its battery on the way to the grid. Jonathan Baggott capitalised on John Whitbourn’s absence to take a maiden win in Mono 1800, ahead of Peter Bassill and Mary Whittaker who were both delighted with a podium result.
Luke Rosewall took the Mono 1600 lead from the start and held onto it from Adrian Heath, despite having a medium scale moment at Surtees near the end. Luke maybe benefited from the all weather ACB10s on the Ray compared to Adrian Heath’s wets, but it was a good drive through very tricky conditions. David Parkinson was challenged throughout by Jonathan Greenwood’s smart Classic Dulon Formula Ford (which won the Cartek Trophy for best prepared car) but Parkie did well to hold on for third place.
Despite the tricky and changeable conditions the race ran uninterrupted by incidents, and no cars were damaged at all, which was no mean achievement.
But what would the weather demons do on Sunday?
Simon Davey (words, pics, captions)
Robbie Watts (pic by Chris Mount, chief scrutineer)
Cartek Trophy winner Jonathan Greenwood
Chris & Miles Scott, Speads RM02
Edddie Guest's naked Lola
Jonathan Greenwood's Dulon MP15
Peter Whitmore & Ollie Olsen