Shelsley Walsh 16th September 2017 – Race Report

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2017

Final Round Shelsley Walsh 16th September

The last meeting of the year had come round very fast as usual.  What was not so usual was that we were going to have a really nail biting finish with three drivers that could take the title and they were only separated by one point.   Dave Hampton was leading with 55 points from current champion Tony Shute sharing second place with Geoff Stallard on 54.  Also still to play for was the race scratch with Tony Shute and Dave Hampton dead level on 34 points apiece.   Geoff Stallard had already sewn up the road scratch.

Whilst we were without some of the usual competitors – John Palmer was not entered and I think Grayham P was on holiday.   Keith Wilford had withdrawn following major driveshaft issues on the non-championship Jersey events.   I had also cancelled my entry due to engine smoke issues at the last meeting (now determined to be a loose inlet valve guide!).   Steve Hopkins was entered but did not show up.

On the plus side Sarah Thorne was back now recovered from her shoulder op.   Dick Swindall had entered his S3 Elan but had suffered a small misfire when setting off from Glasgow and returned home to fetch out the S4.    Tony Wallen had forsaken the somewhat unsuitable 59 he ran at the last meeting and was out in his equally lovely but more sensibly geared and powered F3 69.

The weather forecast was a bit iffy with a good possibility of showers in the afternoon.  I was certainly hoping that weather would not intervene in the result and in the end, apart from a few tiny sprinkles, it did stay dry.

 There had however been overnight rain and the Esses were typically uninviting and, literally, very green according to first reports.  Since our class was spread across the first and second batches no-one tried any heroics on the first practice since Shelsley rarely fails to punish an indiscretion.   As an aside, I had watched a recording of the BTCC event from Silverstone on the Sunday and there had been major issues with time penalties for exceeding track limits.   It is usually a much more painful and expensive penalty if track limits are exceeded at Shelsley.  In most places it is impossible to exceed them! 

Kenny Lewis, not untypically, had some fluid leaking from the 61 and caused the marshals to red flag Stephen Palmer.   The fluid turned out to just be coolant.  Apparently the water pump is very much life expired and leaks a lot.

Only a short time after the second run Steve Millward caused something of a stir to those partaking of breakfast in the restaurant by saying that we had just been called for the second run.  A brief panic ensued before it was realised that it was a false alarm!

 By the time the second practice was actually called track conditions had improved quite a bit but still few drivers were willing to push too much.   The exceptions were Clive Buffey and Sarah with new PB’s of 37.55 and 37.92 (for the 61/69) respectively.   The other good showing was, not surprisingly, Tony Shute, and the 31.84 was only about 1/2 second shy of his PB, though that was a bit slower than Mr Hampton’s time that run.   Dave was limping a bit in the paddock and was suffering with some sort of sciatic issue.   I expect adrenaline was a good painkiller when in the car!

Paul and then sat down as usual to consider the handicaps.   Of course it was very important to get the targets for the top three guys right but, equally, any mistakes setting the times for the rest of the class could have an adverse, or at least distorting, effect on those top three.      During the previous evening’s dinner Paul had told the assembled company that he was minded to base the handicaps more on best times achieved this year rather than outright PB’s.

He and I talked about this and I agreed that it was not a bad basis for setting the target times and accordingly we did that with some exceptions as per usual.

The lunch break was mercifully quite short although during that time Barbara Meddings kept many of us entertained with her poem based around some of the travails of the Jersey visit with particular emphasis on the part that ‘trailer b*ll*cks played for all those without road legal cars.

The class was lining up again at 1 pm and Dick led us off.  He set a 37.47, about 0.5 off his target but quicker than Steve’s 38.16.    Botty was going much better than in Jersey – Jane accidentally (???) letting slip that she had beaten him him there – and his 36.78 was just 0.28 over handicap.     Ian Parmenter’s 37.87 was 0.52 over.   Geoff Stallard was trying, as a championship contender would, and the 34.49 was just 0.36 over.  Jonathan Bibby was next and pedalling the pretty standard Elise S1 to an excellent new PB of 36.81 that was 0.24 under.  The first of only two drivers to get under handicap that first run.    With the relatively small road car class it was Chris Westwood last in our first batch (though Jane was in the second) with a 39.54.

Jane Millward then took her run and set a 38.16.

Clive Buffey was first off in the race class and improved again for another PB with 37.44.   Sarah was a bit slower than second practice but Tony Wallen was going well with a 31.91, some 0.81 over.   Andrew Lewis set a 37.99 and then Malcolm in the lovely 35 saw 34.08 as he came over the finish.     There is a lot of friendly(?) needle between Malcolm and Paul now both in 35’s and Paul was well chuffed to beat Malcolm with a 32.42, 0.42 over.

Brain Meddings was going well today and the 33.52 was just 0.22 over and 0.21 away from his PB.      Dave Hampton was going quicker, well aware of the spectre of Mr Shute behind.   Dave set a 31.19 that was some way off his goal time.    David Gidden set a 33.14, 0.99 over and then June, with some really quick first 64 ft. times off the line recorded a 33.93, 0.63 over.  Kenny was just 2/100ths behind June though that was 1.45 over.     Stephen Palmer  recorded a 35.52 was just 0.52 over.   Last man Mr Shute, though not getting his preferred wet conditions, nonetheless rocketed up the hill to set a new 30.98 PB for the 69 and also, in the process, going 0.27 under.     Interestingly Tony’s outright PB was a 30.92 in the Exposé in 2014.   Another interesting comparison that Roy Bury and I discussed was that of the best time recorded by Nick Glazzard in his 51.   That was 30.28 in 2007 on a recently resurfaced Shelsley (I did my best 32.89 that meeting).  Nick was using very sticky slicks to achieve that and many of us will recall his very lucky escape from serious injury when he spectacularly and aerobatically crashed coming out of Crossing whilst trying to beat the 30 second barrier on his second run.

 So after that first run it was Tony Shute leading from Jonathan Bibby with Brian Meddings third.

 With the threat of showers still about, and some delays during the meeting due to various attempts to exceed track limits, it was by no means certain that the first run times would not be the ones to count.   Had that been the case Tony Shute would have won both the main championship but also the race scratch competition and I know he would dearly love to get his hands on the ‘red steering wheel’ award.

 Luckily (for some) it did stay dry and Dick Swindall led the class off with an excellent 36.74, 0.21 under.   Just a few more years experience and I’m sure he will be quite quick!

Steve Millward improved to a 38.15 but that was 0.90 over.   Botty was a couple of hundredths slower this run and Ian Parmenter was also slower.   With championship rival Tony Shute already 0.27 under handicap Geoff Stallard knew he would have to pull out something special and at least beat a 33.86 to keep the fight going.   He was determined to leave nothing on the table and gave it what he thought was the on the limit maximum through Kennel and Crossing and through the Esses and he felt the time was going to be on.   But he was very deflated to find that it wasn’t.   The 34.66 was 0.17 slower than his first run.   He just couldn’t understand it.   The first 64 ft time was identical but he was actually 0.05 down at Kennel and 0.16 at Crossing.  At the Ess split it was 0.19 down.  The finish speeds were an identical 94 mph.   Like many others I know that feeling of coming over the finish just knowing that this will be a really good run only to find out that that the time clock is telling a different story. Geoff actually has a 33.64 PB but that was set with a lower axle ratio a couple of years ago.

Jonathan Bibby however did produce another big improvement with a stonking 36.55 PB which meant he was 0.50 under.   Chris Westwood was a bit slower than first time up but then Jane improved to 37.64 but that was still 0.39 over.

Clive Buffey was a bit slower that run but Sarah shaking off some of the rust set a new and emphatic PB with a 36.25 that was just 0.25.   Tony Wallen was slower by 4/100ths this run but Andrew Lewis made a big improvement for a new 36.98 PB that was 0.98 over.  Malcolm Thorne also produced a big improvement with a 31.97 PB.  This was 0.03 under.   This time Mr Matty couldn’t quite compete with that and although taking 1/100th off his first run time the 32.41 left him 0.41 over.   To be fair to Paul, Malcolm has a newer and bigger engine!

Brain Meddings was just 4/100ths slower this run but Dave Hampton did put in an improved time and though the 30.52 was 0.50 over it was faster than Tony Shute, so far.    David G also improved to a 32.54 that was 0.39 over.   June was going really well and took a big chunk of time off and the 33.09 was 0.21 under, sharing that margin with Dick.   Kenny Lewis usually leaves the best until the last run and improved to a 33.08 that was 0.58 over. Stephen Palmer also went faster with  a 35.31,  0.31 over.  So now Tony Shute was secure in the knowledge that his two key rivals could not eclipse him but, being Tony, still gave it everything and though his run was slower it was only by 8/100ths.

So the first run positions were somewhat modified in the end and the 11 points went deservedly to Jonathan Bibby.   I did tell him that I was going to petition Paul to change the championship rules to prohibit any drivers under a certain age to participate.   I was suggesting 60 but could be persuaded to consider 50!

Tony Shute was second and the 10 points secured him the championship for the second consecutive year.   June and Dick shared 3rd place.

In the race scratch Dave Hampton’s second run improvement just enable him to pip Tony for the win by just one point.     Having to miss one of the Loton’s could have been costly but he just got it back.

 In many ways it was rather a symmetrical result since all three top men at the start of the day ended with a championship result each with Geoff taking the road scratch.

Tony secured the main championship finishing on 64 points

Also, rather interestingly both Dave Hampton and Geoff Stallard shared second place on 56 points in the final result.  I will let Paul decide how he wants to deal with that as both had two wins and taking a count back further starts to get tricky.  Jonathan Bibby came up on the rails to finish with 54 points.

Also, another tie situation further back as Dick Swindall and I both share 8th place on 34 points.  Again both of us had two 9 point scores.   We’ll let the Gaffer be the judge on that as well.

So there we are. 

On to the ‘do’ on the 4th November at the Chateau.

See most of you there.

Jon