Race Report – Loton Park 20th May

This was the first day of what has now become our traditional double header at Loton and featured a big entry for the class. I make no secret that Loton is one of my favourite hills. It always seems possible to really lean on the car in a way that I never have the confidence to do at, say, Shelsley and I was hoping to use the two days and the total of eight runs to build up to some respectable times. I’ve had some great runs in the past here. What is it they say? ‘The older I get the faster I was!’
As I said the class was pretty big with 27 drivers. Graham Pattinson was again dual driving with Grayham Parker. The Shelsley electrical problems taking some time to sort out but the Elise was now fully fit. Dick Swindall was in the ‘Yellow car’ (the S3) as he was going on for a holiday in Somerset and this car was a bit more civilised for Diane than the S4. Malcolm Thorne was again in Sarah’s 340R as the entered Buick had suffered a dropped valve seat insert at Goodwood and there was a bit of collateral damage to the engine to sort out at John Eales. He is hoping to have the car fit for Pembrey. Jonathan Bibby was again with us and this time with quite a bit of knowledge of Loton we were expecting a good performance. It was the first time at Loton for Clive Buffey and the first time there for Sarah Thorne in the 61/69. Keith Bristow was hoping for a little calmer start than he experienced last year with his intimate acquaintance with the Museum tyres. He has even got a little more power now.

Most of the drivers at the meeting were there for just the one two day meet. The main event being the Midland Hillclimb championship. So for us it was an atypical sort of day with us first off in practice and then our second practice prior to lunch. We were then to do our two timed runs back to back after lunch before the second practice runs for the rest of the entry.

All drivers were summoned to a briefing from the Clerk before things got under way was strict instructions to behave on the track to avoid the problems that befell the Easter meeting causing a late finish. One particular comment concerned the corner markers that had been frequently knocked down so we were asked not to aim at them!

The weather was not great for our morning runs with intermittent light rain making things a little difficult. Graham Pattinson and Steve Millward were first off as the dual drives. Everyone took it fairly steady that run though there were some exceptions. Malcolm doesn’t do fairly steady and the other good times were from all the 23B’s. Stephen Palmer even setting a new PB. David Gidden was quite fast, courtesy of new stiffer springing and, of course, it was Keith Wilford’s first visit with his new engine.
When it came round for our second practice the rain had stopped and the track was nearly dry. Graham Pattinson was going well in the 68’s, slightly quicker than Grayham himself but he had been a little put off when he disobeyed the Clerk’s earlier instructions and clipped a corner marker with his nearside door mirror (at Hall corner I think) and knock the internals of the mirror out. At some point, and this included Jane being red flagged, Dick apparently runs over the mirror which results in another red flag as the marshals clear the bits and the glass. Jane had come round again and filtered back in just before me and was on the line when that red flag came out. That was annoying of course, but worse was to come for while we were waiting for the flag to come in there was a spell of quite heavy rain so the rest, the majority, of the class tiptoed up the hill. In these conditions it was not surprising that the rain loving Mr Shute was easily fastest. He was later complaining that there weren’t enough wet events last year – you know, the year that he won the Championship!

So with the unpredictable weather conditions Paul and I found it hard to really put sensible handicap targets together as well as the new drivers, cars, etc.

Luckily our fears that we might have more rain were unfounded and as we lined up for the first of our timed runs the track was dry though there were still some threatening clouds about.
Graham Pattinson recorded a 65.01 against a handicap of 64.00, very respectable. Steve Millward set a 66.61 against his 66.50 target. Grayham was the first to go under handicap with a 63.98 with the same handicap as his partner. Geoff Stallard was the first to bust our handicaps with a 62.32, 1.18 under. Chris Westwood set a 70.96, Ian Parmenter a 69.13 and then Jane Millward a 69.49, all some way off their targets. Keith Bristow however was in the process of setting a new PB and his 62.89 was 0.11 under. Mr Bibby was proving not only a good driver but one that was determined to upset our new driver policy. His 63.66 was 0.84 under. Everything had been going so well when Dick went off the line. I followed to the line and then the red flags came out. Dick had overcooked it accelerating out of Fallow and going off on the right had, as is often the case re-crossed the track to the left and hit the tyre wall round the big Scots Pine to the left of the entry to Museum. The rear offside wing took the hit. I can only speculate that his thoughts were 1, Bugger, 2, What do I tell Diane, and 3, probably the worst to contemplate – What if I need to go on a trailer? Fortunately the damage was largely cosmetic and polished out with T Cut and there were just a couple of very minor crack lines (that Diane probably won’t notice Dick hopes).
However, I was stuck on the line, and whilst the tyre warming was a bit of a waste of time, I was beginning a friendly acquaintance with the start line marshals that I would continue during the weekend.. When I finally got off the 63.37 was under handicap by a bit but this was certainly not the steady build up that I had been hoping for. Steve Hopkins was the last of the road class (apart from Malcolm in the 340R, keeping the same number as the Buick entry) and was strangely off the pace for him. Most of the race class were a little off their handicaps though both Stephen Palmer and Keith Wilford reset their PB’s convincingly. Both Tony Shute and Dave Hampton did get under handicap and the dryer weather was proving a problem for the handicaps we had set. Dave had the scratch advantage.

So we came down from the top of the hill to straight away have another go, not helped by the marshals up there not letting us go down in number order so there was a lot of faffing about in the bottom paddock.
So, Graham lead us off again and I must say he is going very well in the car, just keeping a respectful time distance behind Grayham, and his 64.08 was just 0.08 away from his target. Steve Millward got well under his handicap with a 65.75 that was 0.75 under and about the same away from his PB. Grayham kept pride intact and his 63.68 was 3/10ths quicker than his first run, this leaving him on 0.32 under. Geoff Stallard improved a lot to 60.97 and despite being 3/10ths slower than his PB was nevertheless 2.53 under. Chris Westwood got into the 69’s and then Ian Parmenter’s 66.67 was just 0.17 off target. Jane was, unusually, not keeping pace with Steve and was a second or so outside her handicap. I think last year’ s engine will have to go back in Steve! Keith Bristow improved a lot and the 61.04 was a convincing new PB and also 1.96 under. Jonathan Bibby continued to annoy the handicappers (not really, honest!) with a new PB on 62.83, 1.67 under. Dick was not on it at all after the previous run’s shenanigans and was not best pleased with a 69.88. I improved to a 62.46 but whilst under handicap by 1.04 was not pleased to be behind my current arch nemesis, Mr Stallard, and even less pleased to be over 4 seconds off my twice set PB of 58.11!
Steve Hopkins improved but the 66.43 was not where we expected him to be and this was not far off 3 seconds away from his PB. He did confess his new fairly stressful London job is taking it’s toll.
In the race class Andrew Lewis improved 1/2 second but was some way off his target. Stephen Palmer recorded yet another new PB with a 65.28 (about a 6 second improvement on the day) but was still about 3 seconds behind the goal we had set.
Clive Buffey had been making steady progress – Loton takes a lot of learning, and got into the 69’s. Kenny Lewis made a big improvement to 60.55 but that was still 0.55 over. June pulled a really super run out of the bag and her 59.74 was not only within a second of her long standing PB but also 1.26 under. The other thing was that it was 2/10ths quicker than Paul who however did get under handicap by 0.01! Malcolm (in the road class) set a 63.63 in the 340R. Whilst this was 0.63 over handicap it was about a 1/10th quicker than Sarah had managed in the same car so she was somewhat peeved. Why does he always do that??? However, Sarah did go quicker than Malcolm with the 61/69 and set a new 62.74 PB. Keith Wilford was really getting to grips with the 23B and the 61.19 was a big PB improvement and just 0.19 over handicap. Brian Meddings also went quicker with a 61.89 against the 61 second target we had set. John Palmer’s 60.05 was just 0.05 over. This left the normal two scratch protagonists to run. Tony Shute’s 57.26 was a good improvement and 1.74 under. Mr Hampton though did even better and his 56.07 was 2.93 under, about 1.6 away from his 5 year old PB.

So the final result gave a win to DH from Geoff Stallard with Keith Bristow 3rd. In race scratch it was Dave Hampton from Tony Shute and then June and excellent 3rd. In road scratch it was Geoff Stallard from Keith Bristow and me third .
We had our own trophy presentations for this Saturday event as the main trophies were to be given out the next day and some of our number wouldn’t be there on the Sunday. I suppose the highlight of our get together, as usual, at the bar was a performance by the Matty Ladies Choir of a song brilliantly written and conceived by Barbara Meddings in tribute to Mr Matty and all things Lotus. The precise reasons behind the writing of the song are beyond the scope of this report!

So, with the next meeting on the Sunday I won’t bother going through the championship positions. That can wait for the second Loton report.