Race Report (Castle Combe 23 July)

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2016

Castle Combe 23 July

Circuit Castle Combe
Date Saturday 23 July2016
Race Report
This was the first visit of the Championship to the Bristol Motor Club run sprint at Castle Combe.   Some of our number knew the track quite well, some had managed a few laps on the Friday in the driver experience sessions but most others, myself included, had not experienced the track before at all.  On the face of it the track layout looked not too difficult to learn but we were to confirm the reputation of the circuit to be quite difficult to get a good time out of.   The infamous Avon Rise – Quarry section being quite tricky to learn and the off camber Tower bend  coming after the ‘flat’ Hammerdown section also being one where time could be won or lost.   Having said that I enjoyed the track a lot and particularly the chicanes which were great fun.I had expected that Castle Combe would be as fast as Anglesey but in fact it was faster.  I was running out of revs in top in two places.  Brian Meddings was also having that trouble.

Iain Stallard was sharing dad’s Elan and, with previous knowledge of Castle Combe was producing some outstanding times.   We know Geoff is very fast with all his experience but even he was typically around 4 seconds slower than Iain!!!  Luckily (for the rest of us) Iain was guesting with his times not counting the in the Championship.

Tony Shute was back in the Exposé as the 69 had some fairly serious engine issues that was necessitating cylinder liners and new pistons.   It was good to have Steve Hopkins back with us after his late start to the season was delayed further by other engine issues.  Mr Swindall was in the ‘yellow’ Elan S3 this time.  Keith Bristow’s Exige was looking very nice following the repairs post Loton.   Geoff Stallard had put a 4.1 diff to replace what had been the normal 4.4 in the car.

We were the last class (just one class for all our cars unusually these days) and the road cars were running before the single seaters.  This was causing some overheating for the race cars and Paul requested that they ran first, at least after the two dual drives for Steve Millward and Geoff Stallard.      For the reporting I’ll just stick to the class order

Steve Millward set a low 84 with Geoff a mid 78 and then me a mid 77.  Chris W recorded a high 88 with Sarah a high 81 and Keith B a low 81.   Steve Hopkins set a high 88 and Ian P a mid 87.  Dick saw a low 85 and Grayham a low 77.  Jane set a 84.00 dead and then then Stallard the younger put us all in our place with a low 72.  DH also recorded a low 72 but then Malcolm, with quite a bit of previous at CC set an impressive mid 71.   The track obviously suiting the grunt of the 15.

John Palmer saw a low 76 and then June a high 78.    Paul a high 77 and Stephen Palmer a high 89.    Tony Shute was straight on it and the Exposé went round with a low 73.   Mr Wilford saw no end to the continuing fuel problems with the 23B and he recorded a Fail.  Brian Meddings set a mid 87.

The second runs came round quite quickly and, not surprisingly, everyone got a new PB!.   The exception was Dave Hampton who had stalled on the line but was not brought back to start again (presumably because it was only practice) so was slower.

Most people improved by between 2 to 5 seconds.  The exceptions were Malcolm who ‘only’ improved 1/2 a second on his very fast first run and this time Keith Wilford did record a time (low 83) but the car still stopped just after the finish. Iain Stallard was the only driver to get under 70 seconds

Paul and I sat down to try and make some sense of the practice times we had seen to attempt some vaguely sensible handicaps.   In the end I don’t think we were too wide of the mark but there could have just been a  little luck creeping in to assist the obviously superb judgement!

Leading off for our first timed run was Steve Millward who recorded a 77.65, 2.65 over.    Geoff had a very good run and his 71.47 was 0.03 under.  My 72.91 was 1.91 over.  Chris Westwood was a bit slower than his second practice with an 85.08 and then Sarah’s 77.11 was 3.11 over.  Keith Bristow also had a slower time than second practice with a 78.34.  Steve Hopkins was going very well in the Elise and improved to 75.74, 2.24 over.  Ian P’s 80.42 was 2.42 over and Dick’s 80.86 was 4.86 over.

Grayham was 1.20 over with a 73.70 and Jane 3.60 over with a 78.60.  We had given Iain Stallard a handicap time despite it not counting for the Championship and the 68.10 was just 0.10 over.

Dave Hampton made amends for his fluffed second practice start and set a 67.43, 2.43 over.   Malcolm also went sub 70 seconds and his 69.61 was 1.61 over.   John Palmer set a 70 dead that made him 3.00 over.  June was a bit slower than second practice to record a 78.12.  Mr Matty was 4.24 over with a 71.24 and Stephen Palmer set a 80.94.

Tony Shute took a big chuck of time out and the 68.15 was just 0.65 over.   Keith W set a 80.99 but again conked out after the finish.   Brain Meddings set a 79.98.  After this run Keith W decided to give it best and retire the car.   It has been a pretty dismal season so far for him with problems at every event.

So after that first run it was a one – two for the Stallard’s with Geoff first just ahead from Iain.    Third was Tony Shute and fourth Grayham.

For our final runs it saw Steve Millward improved to 76.86 to finish 1.86 over.  Geoff Stallard was a bit slower than his first attempt with a 72.07.  I improved to a 72.08 that left me 1.08 over.   Chris Westwood improved, though still not as quick as his second practice and he finished 7.20 over.   Sarah improved and the 75.64 was 1.64 over.  Keith Bristow also improved to 77.84 and that was 6.34 over.  Steve Hopkins set a stonking time for an Elise with a 74.62 that was 1.12 over.  Ian Parmenter also improved buy a big margin and the 78.16 was just 0.16 over.    Dick was a bit slower that run but Grayham was flying with another 2 second improvement to finish with a 71.69, 0.81 under.   Jane was a bit slower than her first run time and finished 3.60 over.   I know she was disappointed to be unusually far away from Steve but then he is more of a circuit driver.

Iain Stallard was flogging the Elan round unmercifully and set an unbelievable time of 67.54.  I must say that Geoff was being very brave as he was telling us that all the time Iain looked right on the limit.   Err Yes………………….

Dave Hampton took 3/10ths off to finish with a 67.12, just 2.12 over.  Malcolm also was going very quickly and the 67.95 was a great time to put him 0.05 under.

John Palmer having set 70.00 first run now was keeping things equally neat with a 69.00 for his final effort.  This was two seconds over.   June had her best run of the day and improved to 77.03 though this was some way off her 72.50 target.      Paul also improved to 70.64 that left him 3.64 over.  Stephen Palmer was a bit slower that run so finished with his best of 80.94.   Tony Shute was also 1/2 second slower than his first run .  Brian Meddings improved another 1/2 second but his overall gearing issues meant that the 78.41  was still 7.91 over.

So after what most people thought was a thoroughly enjoyable event the final result saw Grayham as the winner.    Iain Stallard was in an actual 2nd place but as he was not scoring in the Championship that meant that Malcolm Thorne took the second place points with Geoff Stallard third.    In race scratch it was Dave Hampton, from Malcolm and then Tony Shute.  I Road scratch it was Geoff, from Grayham and then me.

In the main Championship things have closed up with now Dave Hampton with 41 points just 1 point clear of Tony Shute.   Joint third are Ian Parmenter and  Dick Swindall with 35, just 1 further point ahead of John Palmer.

In race scratch Dave Hampton is still fairly comfortable with with 29 from Tony Shute on 24.  John Palmer on 14.   In road scratch I am still leading on 26 from Geoff on 22 and then Grayham on 11.

I found it quite strange that on this very fast circuit that the time differences between the fast single seaters in the class and the faster road cars was so small – even if we exclude Iain Stallard.   At Anglesey it can be 10 seconds but here it was more like 4 – 5.

I would certainly like to do Castle Combe again but for now it’s on to Blyton Park nest Sunday.   Another difficulty for the handicappers as it will be on a different layout (The Eastern circuit) to our previous visits.
Jon