Report Pembrey 02/06/18

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2018

Pembrey 2nd June


This was just our second visit to Pembrey in South West Wales.   Last year this

BARC organised sprint, part of the British Sprint Championship, was marred for us both by weather problems for our practice runs but then only getting one competitive run as the meeting was running late and some of the medical staff had to leave to attend an international football match at Cardiff.

This year, fortunately, although the day dawned quite damp, from mist rather than rain, it soon cleared up and most of the day we enjoyed sunshine and, most importantly, we got all our runs.

It was however, a first visit to the track for Dick Swindall, Jonathan Bibby and John Palmer.   Pembrey is pretty quick and despite some sections being relatively straightforward to learn the wide and sweeping left hand bend following the section from Hatchett’s hairpin was very tricky and quite deceptive.   The course comprised one and half laps of the track.

The Millward’s were back in their Elan  and enjoying  the light and nimble feel of this compared with the Elise 111R.   Peter Bottrill was back with us after missing Loton and Prescott and his fears about the engine expressed at Shelsley appeared unfounded and the car was going well.  Karen Buffey accompanied Clive but was not driving as she didn’t fancy the long drive down to Pembrey in the Elan.  Ian Parmenter had driven down but was suffering from Cellulitis in his left leg and was on antibiotics but that certainly didn’t cramp his driving!

There was quite a bit of confusion about the running order.  This was eventually resolved with confirmation that we were last, not as Mr Matty had been promised!   The race and road cars unusually were mixed up in number order in our class which did have some consequences later.  Actually, in practice, the lining up  order was fairly random anyway but for this report, after the first practice I’ll stick with road cars then race.

Last year, Steve Millward had got the tricky left hander wrong at the point where it tightened and he went up the alternative part of the track that was coned off!.   At least he wouldn’t do that again this year.   Oh dear, he did.  A dead ringer!  To be fair it isn’t easy and on every one of my runs coming round and seeing those cones it was a clear reminder that I had to get in tighter to follow the main track.  After Steve it was Tony Shute who set a high 121 about three seconds away from his class record of last year although only after being given a re-run owing to catching Steve recovering from his misdemeanour..  Botty’s 141 was only about a second off his PB from last year.  Geoff Stallard however was given a low 138 which was strange as he did a 132 last year and he is not known for hanging around.  I’m sure this was a timing error, anyway, it’s practice.  I set a 133.17, exactly a second away from my PB of last year so as Geoff and I are normally so close it seemed to confirm that his time was wrong.  Sarah Thorne set a 134 which again was about a second off her best.  Malcolm was now in the 35.  He had brought the BRM engined 24 last year and now, at least, we did not have to bear the ear splitting protracted warm up procedure that the 24 required!  He was immediately into the 123’s. Jane Millward was 2 seconds under her PB.   Dave Hampton was next and his mid 120 was a new PB.  June, not a fan of high speed circuits, set a cautious 143.   Paul’s 132 was exactly a second off his PB.  Keith Wilford was about 3 seconds off his best.  Messrs. Swindall, Bibby and Palmer (J) all set exploratory times.

Clive Buffey set a new PB by nearly 3 seconds as his driving and confidence improves, event by event.  Ian Parmenter was given a re-run after some issue that I can’t recall and the 136.66 was not only a damn good time but was close on 6 seconds under his PB.  He put it down to warmer tyres, not the antibiotics!  Stephen Palmer set a 141, maybe a gear change problem and then Tony Wallen, the 69 now with it’s wings back, set a mid 126.

The long lining up queue in the hot weather was causing us all some problems with engine temperatures so that Paul arranged that the single seaters would be held back until just before they were due to go out.   So now I’ll talk more road car/race car order.

Steve made it round this time OK for a 148.  Botty improved to a 138.42 PB.  Geoff Stallard also set a new PB with a much more believable 131.21.  I was just slower, but again with a new PB on a 131.55.   Dick was a tad slower this run, still learning the track.  Ian Parmenter showed that his first run time was not a fluke and an excellent 135.70 was, of course, another new PB.  Jane also set a new PB this run with a 139 second run.  Jonathan Bibby saw a 144 this time and John Palmer a 141.

Now our ‘race’ class.  Tony Shute’s 118.88 was just 2/100ths away from his class record.  Sarah was bit slower this run, again probably a gear change issue but Malcolm improved to a low 120. Dave Hampton set a new unofficial class record with a 118.64. June was still not happy and was a bit slower.  Paul improved to a 127 and then Keith Wilford a 134.  Clive Buffey was storming on with a 130.05 and then Stephen Palmer took a tenth off his PB with a 136.56.  Last man, Tony Wallen set a new PB by some 2 seconds with a 121.38.

So that was it for practice and with nearly everybody making big improvements after only the fifth run at the track for most.  Geoff Stallard had driven Pembrey before and his best in his TVR was a 128.  He was puzzled that he wasn’t quicker in the lighter and more powerful Elan.

Paul and I sat down to debate the handicaps.  With so little running last year and first time drivers and cars this year it was quite tricky.   One major issue was the silly time registered by Mr Parmenter.  This put all the Elans under some scrutiny and we were forced to give some people with more powerful cars a tighter target time than if Ian had driven in a more sedate fashion.   We generally reasoned that with the lovely weather that there was no reason not to suppose that everyone would go quicker.  As is frequently the case these days we gave me and Geoff Stallard the same handicap and I had said to Paul that I would be very pleased to get under 30 seconds.  We agreed a 129.95 for us both.  Everyone was being asked to go quite a bit quicker than their PB’s

Time was ticking on before we got our first competitive run and some fears were starting to surface as to whether we would get the last run, fortunately groundless in the event as the afternoon went quite smoothly with few interruptions.

Steve Millward led us off and set a 141.95, just outside his PB but nearly 4 seconds away from target.  Botty set a new 137.26 PB, 2.26 over.  Geoff Stallard was pleased with a 128.51 that not only helped a little to rationalise his Lotus vs TVR question but was also 1.44 under.  I was annoyed that I made a bit of a mess of Hatchett’s hairpin twice and was mildly cursing when I came back to the paddock and told Geoff  I wasn’t happy.  He went to get his time, saw his 128 but then saw I had done a 127.21 that was 2.74 under!  Dick Swindall set a 142.66, a new PB but 4.66 over (Sorry Dick, it was that Ian Parmenter!).  John Palmer was 3.38 over with a 140.38.  Jane saw a 140.78 that was 5.78 over (Ian again).  As usual we had had trouble setting Mr Bibby’s handicap as he is an embarrassingly quick driver and always sorts us out though it is drivers championship and we surely can’t penalise good driving.  Sure enough the 135.71 was 1.29 under.  For the same reason we couldn’t give Ian a time much less than his 135.70 from the morning.  We set him a 135 and he nearly did it being just a fantastic 0.42 over.

For our race class Tony Shute set a new 118.25 class record, 1.25 over.   Sarah also went quicker and the 132.16 was just 1.16 over.   Malcolm was really trying – not unusual, and set a 121.15.   His telltale on the tacho was 9750 rpm.  This was still 3.15 seconds over as we were expecting more.  Dave Hampton lowered the class record again with a 118.12 but had a bit of an exciting wobble through the big left hander.   June’s run was much better this time with a 133.29 that was 2.29 over.   Paul was also going quickly and his 123.74 left him shy of his target by 3.74.  Keith Wilford did not have a good run and was over 5 seconds away from his goal time.  Clive Buffey was taking big chunks of time off each run and saw a 126.16, only just over two seconds shy of his handicap.    Stephen Palmer was also improving run on run and the 134.94 was 3.94 over.   Last man Tony Wallen  was 4.71 away from target with a 122.71 that was slower than his best practice.

So, after the 1st  runs I was leading on handicap, from Geoff Stallard with Jonathan Bibby 3rd.

Our final run came round quite quickly with Mr Millward taking 4 seconds off his first run.  The 137.79 getting him 0.21 under. Botty also set his best time and the 135.86 was 0.86 over.   Mr Stallard was somewhat on the horns of a dilemma since he was entered on the Sunday also and his runs both days would count towards his HSA championship score.  So if he went quicker today he would potentially compromise the score he could make on Sunday.   I doubt if that really held him  back when out on track as I think beating me might have figured more strongly!  Anyway, his run in the end was a tenth and a half slower.   After my first run with the problems at the hairpin I had very jokingly said, “Oh there’s a couple of seconds more to come”.   This time I still wasn’t happy with the hairpin first time off the start but gave it death. I was fully on the 8500 rev limit on the straight and the result was a very pleasing 125.11, a 2 second improvement(!) and 4.84 under.  Dick Swindall also knocked a couple of seconds off his time and the 140.62 left him 2.62 over.  John Palmer was even more ambitious and his 136.73 was 0.27 under.  Jane was quicker with a 137.76 that saw her finish the day 2.76 over but importantly 3/100ths quicker than Steve.  Of course, Mr Bibby went quicker;  now with a 132.74 that put him very solidly in profit to the tune of 4.26 under.   The bubble had to burst some time and and Ian Parmenter’s enthusiasm this time resulted in an interesting but fortunately harmless (particularly as he had to drive home) grassy excursion and a fail.

The last run for the race class was going to see the usual Shute vs Hampton battle with Messrs. Thorne and Wallen adding to the spice.   Tony Shute was first off and yet again lowered the class record with a super 117.11. Sarah was a little slower than her first run but Malcolm was pleased with a dip into a sub 120’s with a 119.15 that was 1.15 over.  Mr Hampton was also in a determined mood and this run got it all together with yet another lowering of the class record with a stunning 115.39 and that was 1.61 under.  Both Mr and Mrs Matty were a bit slower than first time .  Keith Wilford set his best of the weekend but the 133.99 was still not what he was hoping for and not a new PB.   Earlier Clive Buffey was just a little put out to find he had been given a 124 handicap.   More that he had found out his target rather than the actual time but Paul Matty had assured him that it was within reach and sure enough his 123.27 was a great time and 0.73 under.  Stephen Palmer took 2 seconds off this run and the 132.90 was 1.90 over for the day.  Our last runner Tony Wallen improved to a 120.57 but that was still 2.57 over.

So, with the meeting concluded I had held on to the handicap lead but now Jonathan Bibby had moved into second place and Dave Hampton took a well deserved third.

In race scratch it was Hampton, Shute and Thorne and in road scratch it was me, from Geoff Stallard and then  Jonathan Bibby.

In the championship Geoff Stallard’s 8 points has meant he has kept a commanding lead of 12 points with 44 over Jonathan Bibby although trimmed by 2 points.  Dave Hampton with 30 points is close behind just one point ahead of Tony Shute.

In race scratch DH with 23 points has a 2 point lead over Tony Shute, both well clear of Tony Wallen in third on 13.

Road scratch sees Geoff Stallard with 22 from me with 17 and then Jonathan with 14.

It was a very enjoyable meeting though sometimes the organisation was a little rustic but most were very pleased with their times.  It did put speeds somewhat into perspective when we know that Heather and Colin Calder in their 650 bhp Gould GR55 were going around in about 90 seconds.  Wow!

If we come back to Pembrey I think new PB’s and class records may be just a tad harder to find. 

Quite a long gap now we’re in the second half of the season with the next event at Harewood not until August 4th.