Race Report (1 May)

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2016

Shelsley 1st May

Circuit Shelsley Walsh
Date Saturday 1 May 2016
Race Report
The first event of the 25th season of Paul’s Championship was not blessed with great weather, the last run on Sunday being pretty wet and the rest of the time though mostly dry it was bloody cold.Keith Bristow was back with us, after his initial  brief foray a few years ago, now in a fearsomely lovely V6 Exige with 350 bhp.  We also had a new driver in the class, Stephen Palmer (no relation of John!) in a 23B.  It was his first ever competitive outing.On the car front there quite a few changes from last year.   Grayham P had sold his 211 and bought a lovely S2 Exige 260 Cup.  He said he appreciated the air conditioning……………..  Chris Westwood was now in an equally nice late model Elise 111R.  Our reigning champion Jane Millward was again in the S3 Elan, sharing with Steve, as usual, but now with a new engine (bought on eBay!).  This had been built to a period  FIA spec by a well known engine builder and was all steel.  The spec necessitated a 4 bolt rope seal crank.  It was a lovely looking engine but appeared to have a bit less torque than the older, bigger engine.   Jane was not convinced it was a step forward.Geoff Stallard was back with us, hopefully for a full season this year, and had gone the similar route to me in that he was now running fuel injection and engine management.  Geoff was very pleased with the result, particularly eliminating the flat spot problems he had suffered.  He was also pleased to have done away with the troublesome distributor.  It seemed to go very well though I noticed it was quite smoky on firing up while queuing to go to the start line. Seemed OK underway though.Keith Wilford was back in his 23B and, after a few failures in pre-season testing now seemed to be better sorted and it was a trouble free event for Keith, much to his relief.On a sad note, Gordon Morrison announced that he had made the decision to retire from the Championship.   I sure we will see him at some events but it is a shame to lose him to the series and his dry sense of humour will be much missed.


It was great to have Ian Parmenter back with us with Mrs P now doing much better after the travails of last year.   With all that had been going on Ian had not picked up on the fact that the validity of his helmet had now expired and the scrutineers promptly confiscated it for the duration of the meeting.   The end result was that Gordon gave his helmet to Ian, despite protestations of recompense.  Gordon just said he wouldn’t need it any more!


Of course, we were missing Messrs Crook and Bottrill.   JC had had a heart valve operation a few weeks previously that had gone well but full recuperation will take some time.   Botty had received a new right knee just a couple of days previously and that seems to have also gone well.   Best wishes to both for a speedy return to normality (?) though Botty still has to have the other knee done in due course.  Stop Press – Botty’s op. has gone very well according to Viv, so much so that he has got bored with watching the snooker and has gone back in the garage.  That’s the good news.  The not so good is that it looks like the second knee will be done in June so we may not be seeing much of him in the car though I’m sure he’ll come along to some of the events to annoy us and take the p*ss.


Of course, having mentioned the pit garages earlier it must be pointed out that for the first time in my 24 years at Shelsley the ‘road’ cars had actually been given pit garages.   Robin Webb, as the new competition secretary decided  to take pity on us.   I certainly hope this will continue as not having the car fill with water in heavy rain when out on the grass, nor cook in the car when it’s sunny is very welcome.


The forecast for the Saturday practise promised some showers in the middle of the day so many elected to try and do their runs early.  In the event not much rain fell and those that ran much later in the day had some pretty good track conditions.  From the forecast on Friday I had expected more rain at the weekend and had therefore put on my ‘wet’ fronts and the larger diameter rear tyres with a light cut in the slick.  That was a big mistake and the gearing change completely upset the car and took a big edge off performance.  Only needing 1st and 2nd up to Top Ess was very sub optimal.  Anyway, lesson learned and maybe a new strategy for Loton!

It was very cold, particularly early on and it was only those running later in the day when there was a little more temperature that got anywhere near PB times.  The closest was Tony Shute on his third run that was only 1/2 second or so off his best.   This is maybe the last run for the Exposé for a while as his 69FF is nearly finished.  He is just trying to give it a shakedown run somewhere before Loton. Ian Parmenter managed to touch the nearside bank just after Bottom Ess on his first run and trapped some mud between the rim and the tyres.   BMTR sorted that for him.    I can’t recall anything else of great note for the practice day.


Paul and I compiled the handicaps with some leeway with respect to PB’s and other factors.  The new drivers, cars and changed cars being fairly stiffly targeted.


The forecast for Sunday was for a basically dry morning with rain from late morning to mid afternoon.    That is basically what happened.  We were batch 3 for the competition and so were off quite early in the morning so had a fully dry run.   I squandered any chance of a respectable time by not engaging brain.  I always change into 2nd gear for Bottom Ess (at least for the last 24 years) and this run was no exception.  The problem was I was already in 2nd gear with the large diameter back tyres so I duly came out of second, had a short period of ‘what the hell’s going on?’ and then went back into second having by then lost much momentum as well as self respect.   The commentator said that I had missed a gear.    I suppose that was sort of correct.

Steve Millward was in the previous batch and his 38.49 was 1.49 over.

Geoff Stallard was off first for us in the main batch and set a 34.91.  0.91 over.  Jane was next and her 38.30 was 1.40 over. Ian P  set a 38.67 that was 1.17 over.  Mr Swindall then had a very good run and his 37.35 was just 0.60 over.   My dithering moment up to the Esses and hopeless gearing resulted in an underwhelming 35.92, a long way over.  Chris Westwood was still playing himself in with the Elise and the 41.95 was also way over.   Keith Bristow was doing better in the Exige and the 35.43 was 1.43 over.   Sarah Thorne was also in the ‘not very close to target’ group and the 38.17 was 2.67 over.   Last in the road car class was Grayham.  His 36.81 was his best so far in the new car but was 1.81 over.

First in the racing class was Kenny Lewis and he had been going well in practice.  His 35.28 was his slowest so far that weekend though I don’t know if he had a moment.  This was 2.78 over.  June was next and put up a very good 33.72, just 0.72 over.   John Palmer also went well and the 32.79 just pipped June as it was 0.69 over.   Stephen Palmer was taking a very sensible approach at his first event and was chipping away every run and set a 42.33.    Brian Medding’s car had had some re-fettling over the winter I believe and was going smoothly.  The 35.50 was just 2 seconds over.   Mr Matty’s 34.37 was 2.87 over (and slower than June though don’t mention that to Paul, I’m sure he won’t have noticed and, of course, June would not have commented at all)  and Keith Wilford’s 39.49 was 4.49 over.  I think the 23B’s need a bit of getting used to to extract the most and with the previous problems Keith is only now being able to set about improving the times.

Mr Shute wasn’t happy with his 32.16 that was 1/2 second slower than his Saturday best and 0.91 over.  Dave Hampton had a good run and his 31.38 was just 0.88 over.

Last man was Malcolm Thorne in the beautifully repaired 15 Buick and he set a 35.82 that was 2.42 over.

So after the first run it was Dick leading from John P second and June third.


The meeting was going very well and though clouds were threatening lunch was able to start at 12 noon.   Unprecedented in my experience.   The restart was set for 1 pm but by then it was raining well and time improvements looked unlikely.   To give Dick his due I didn’t see him actually doing any rain dancing, though he might have nipped round the corner out of sight!


So for the last runs nearly everybody was 8 -10 seconds slower.  Exceptions were a great performance from Keith Bristow only being just over 4 seconds slower and t’other Keith only dropped 6 seconds to his first run time

Dick Swindall was laurel resting and was 14 seconds slower (I don’t blame him) but the wooden spoon must go to the notoriously rain hating Dave Hampton who was 16 seconds slower.

Again, those who have done Shelsley for years and particularly those that have come to grief in damp and wet conditions definitely know where the discretion/valour balance point is set.


So Dick had a well deserved win from John Palmer and then June.  In race scratch it was DH from Tony Shute and then JP.   In road scratch it was Geoff from Keith B and then me.


As most of you know the Mattys’, Thornes’ and Meddings’ will not be at Loton, for some bizarre reason preferring Monaco to Shropshire.   I’ll be doing the handicapping and have asked Dave Hampton to assist – that is if he gets back from his work trip to the Burma railway.

During Sunday the subject of brown envelopes came up in the context of gaining handicap favour.  I told Dick I had no objection to receiving a brown envelope but I had to point that next time I would like something in the envelope, not just an empty one, though we must bear in mind that he is Scottish.