Now it’s Watts & Wright’s turn, on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit!St Cross Electronics Monoposto Championship Round 4 Brands Hatch
Sunday Mono 2000/Classic 2000: Qualifying & Race
Sunday qualifying for the 2 litre field was bright and breezy, with Robbie Watts and Lee Cunningham being the quickest “straight out of the box” for what was to be a very competitive session. Although no-one in the Mono 2000 field was able to touch the Watts sub-lap record 1:27.9, behind him Adrian Holey, Richard Purcell, Kevin McLurg, Malcolm Scott and Russ Giles swapped grid places almost every minute; finishing up in that order, but with only 0.2 seconds separating 2nd and 5th. Holey and McLurg secured 2nd and 4th places respectively with banzai final laps each having just found a space on the crowded track.
Mono Classic 2000 was almost as close with Ben Cater closing to within 0.3 seconds of Cunningham before a brush with Len Coleman bent a rear corner on Cater’s Van Diemen. Ben’s team were able to repair the car for the race with the aid of a suspension pick-up bracket kindly supplied by class rival Jim Timms. Back in the qualifying action Daryl Jones did very well to hold off both Jim Timms and Mike Hatton; and other notable performances came from David Gambling and Neil Tomlinson, both of whom were clearly getting to grips with car and circuit. Similarly Tm Tudor got a good run in the repaired Swansea Metropolitan Renault.
Come the afternoons race, rain was definitely threatening but everyone got away at the start; Watts smoothing into a lead he was not to loose from Holey, McLurg, Purcell and Scott. The third lap saw the chasing trio of McLurg, Purcell and Scott close right up, and fireworks looked imminent, but once again Richard Purcell’s bad luck gremlin appeared and the Topmarx team leader ground to another frustrated halt. This left the leading three as Watts (with a new lap record) Holey and McLurg to run out the race in that order, and although Scott ran very close indeed to McLurg for much of the race he wasn’t able to find a comfortable route past the green Dallara.
Behind the leading Mono 2000 group the head of the Mono Classic 2000 field was very hectic indeed. Off the line and into paddock a fast-starting Daryl Jones ran out of space and options as the field bunched up into paddock, and the car fired off the outside of the corner, across the gravel and into the wall. It was a biggish shunt which did the car no good, but fortunately Daryl was stirred rather than shaken. This left Lee Cunningham in the class lead from Ben Cater, with Russ Giles's Dallara as a buffer between them for a couple of laps. Cater was past by lap two and had passed Cunningham by lap five, pulling out a couple of seconds buffer which Cunningham then eroded back to just 0.2 seconds at the end, it was a very close, uncompromising and impressive performance by both drivers. Behind them in the class the man on the move was none other than Jim Timms, Jim had taken some serious coaching after qualifying from none-other than Jason Timms, and had been sent away with the objective of improving his times by two seconds a lap – which he duly did. Jason further developed his coaching credentials by delivering the same result for Nick Catanzaro. Meanwhile the self-instructed group of Gambling, Clark, Tomlinson and Otway entertained themselves and the watchers with a very good midfield dice, and Alistair Bell, Lou Watts and Tim Tudor did the same behind them. All of which made it a very enjoyable race to watch.
Sunday Mono Moto/1800/Ztec/1600: Qualifying & Race
Qualifying for the Moto/1800/Ztec/1600 was treacherously bright, lulling everyone into a false sense of security about how stable the weather would be later in the day. The field was joined by 2 litre refugee Matt Jordan in the familiar Team Fern Van Diemen RF89 which needed to be run in before it could be wielded in anger. In Mono Moto most of the action happened in first three laps. Marc Fortune was fastest out of the box an dinto the 29s on his first flying lap, but then next time round Adrian Wright put in a 1:27.2 which no-one else got close to. Similarly Fern and Ward had thrown their dice by lap three, with Chris Scott waiting until lap 5 to take a good 5th in class and overall. Unfortunately the car then stuttered to stop and nothing anyone could do for the rest of the day was able to find the obscure electrical problem.
By contrast the 1800 and Ztec classes took a more measured approach to getting onto the grid. Matt Hayes came out on top of the Ztecs, ahead of John Whitbourn’s repaired Mono 1800 Ray, with Ryan Hayes and Marcus Sheard around a second slower, but only separated by a few tenths. In turn they were only just ahead a tight dispute for the Mono 1600 pole between Luke Rosewell’s FF Ray and Adrian Heath’s Vauxhall Junior. These two circulated in close company for much of practice and there was maybe a degree of cat and mouse as each searched for a marginal improvement. These laps took them past the Mono 1800/Ztec duo of Jonathan Baggott and Douglas McLay and clear of third in class positioned Dave Parkinson. Matt Jordan gradually wound up the Van Diemen into fourth in Mono 1600, just behind Mary Whittaker who had been systematically improving her pace until she came off at Graham Bend, without any great harm, but bringing out the red flags right at the end of the session.
Much of the field qualifying and careful race preparation was negated by the weather as the field assembled for the race late in the afternoon. The track was seriously damp, even wet, as the previous Mini race got underway, and although it was spitting the balance did seem to be tipping in favour of a dry track. About 40% of the field thought so, and turned up the assembly area on slicks. Everyone else was on wets, many of which were showing some of the hammer they had already received this season already. Then one of the Minis fell over in the Clearways gravel, the race was red-flagged, and as a slightly tardy recovery got underway it stated to rain more determinedly. Race Control declared a wet race, and granted a 15 minute hold for the slick shod to change tyres. For several cars this entailed a run back to the paddock and a very sweaty tyre change. Three cars: Matt & Ryan Hayes and David Parkinson, didn’t quite make it back in time and had to start from the pit lane.
The lights only stayed on red for maybe two seconds before the start, and this maybe contributed to Marc Fortune stalling on the outside of the front row and frightening the life out of the observers. Fortunately everyone missed him but he then had a very slippery mountain to climb to get a result. From lap 1 Adrian Wright held the lead and gradually pulled out a 5 second advantage on Dax Ward, until they started to catch the traffic on lap 4 when the lead gap telescoped back and forth. However Wright held on for his second win of the weekend, from Ward who got abit bogged down in tail enders as the shortened race ran out at seven laps. Behind these two Dan Levy had a brilliant race to take third, holding off Geoff Fern whose wet tyres had maybe just seen too much nearly but not quite wet tack in the first two meetings this year. Marc Fortune climbed through the field to take fifth and had the consolation of fastest lap.
John Whitbourn had a comfortable run to win the Mono 1800 class, but next up came part 2 of the Adrian Heath/Luke Rosewell discussion about the Mono 1600 class. This time maybe Adrian’s wets gave him the advantage over Luke’s all weather ACB10s, but either way it was his maiden win, and it secured him the Championship points lead in Mono 1600 from David Parkinson who was still struggling with a tricky gear change and had started from the pit lane. Although he was beaten for third by Matt Jordan, David at least had the consolation of the Driver of the Day Award for his efforts.
Behind the Heath/Rosewell dice the other two pit lane starters, Ryan and Matt Hayes had risen through the field to take first and second in the Ztec class respectively, ahead of a good run by Douglas McLay into third place. It was nice to see Ryan get a result after what had been a pretty trying weekend up to that point.
So at the end of it all the Modense Group Monarch of Brands leader was Robbie Watts, with both Adrian Wright and Ben Cater hot on his tail. In terms of the overall Championship positions at this point of the season it’s still all to play for…
Simon Davey (words except captions) Andrew Cliffe (pics)
Adrian Wright, Gem AW3
Robbie Watts, Lola F106/03
Mark Smith, Dallara F395...
..showing signs of close racing
Mary Whittaker, Van Diemen RF82
Adrian Heath, Vauxhall Junior
Marc Fortune, Jedi Mk6
Tim Tudor, Tatuus 97
Joe Venor, Lola T644E
Dan Levy, Jedi Mk4
Kevan McLurg, Dallara F397
Peter Whitmore had his first ever double finish in the pretty Reynard 913
Alistair Bell in the earlier Reynard 883.