View Report 18/08/18

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2018

Blyton Park 18th August


This was our penultimate round of the PMS Championship for 2018 and, unlike last year at Blyton, the weather seemed to be set fair.  With Geoff Stallard leading the main championship by 12 points from Dave Hampton, and others coming up on the rails it was going to be very interesting to see if the advantage would shift before the last Shelsley.   It was to be the Eastern Circuit again and despite some nadgery bits with bales and cones it was pretty fast.

Paul and June were not able to make this meeting due to unavoidable garage pressures, so I was going to deputise.  With the very small entry, not much over 40 cars, despite the planned late start, I was concerned that handicapping would potentially need to be done quickly as there would probably be very little time between runs and agreed various scenarios with our drivers accordingly.  The main thing we agreed is that we would keep our championship on handicap to ourselves with the usual two-timed runs to count, and let the MAC handle the practice and competition runs as they wished.

In the event we need not have worried as the first practice proceeded at a rather relaxed, some might say glacial, pace.  During the first runs there was only one car on the track at a time, so we were lining up for ages.  The subsequent runs were better but still we only had the two practice runs before lunch so that this did give time for some more relaxed handicap setting.    I had asked John Palmer to assist me in setting the times.There were a lot of car changes compared with last year.   The Millwards and John Palmer were in their Elise 111R’s joining Chris Westwood.  Malcolm and Sarah were in the 35 and 61/69 respectively.  Brian Meddings was in his new 35.  Clive was dual driving Karen’s Elan and it was Karen’s first visit.   Dick was in the S3 (now cured of misfire!) and it was Steve Hopkins first try on the Eastern circuit. So there were only 9 car/driver combinations that had ‘history’.

First practice saw a great run by Steve Hopkins with a 84.12.  Faster than both me and Geoff.  Jonathan Bibby set a new PB, not surprising since his runs last year were very compromised by a clutch failure.  Dave Gidden had a spin and Stephen Palmer also I think. It was no surprise that Malcolm Thorne’s 78.54 was an improvement on his best Buick time.

On the second practice run most people improved but Clive had a spin at Bishops.  The Elan not quite as nimble as his normal steed, the 61.  Dick Swindall had quite a bit of track time as he was red flagged due to Clive’s spin and then on his re-run he was not given a time at all and so he had yet another run finally recording a 91.63!

Steve Hopkins improved to a 81.39, still faster than Geoff and I!  A tremendous time was recorded for Jonathan Bibby who received a 76.14.  I think everyone, including JJ himself, thought this a bit unlikely!  For handicapping purposes, we ignored that time.

John Palmer and I spent a lot of time setting the handicaps during the lunch break since, as mentioned previously, there were so many unknowns.  We used the times that Paul and I had set last year as a guide where we could, tightened some and relaxed some others.

Our first competitive run was after lunch.  Clive spun the Elan again, this time at Bunga-Bunga.  Dick was a bit slower than his best practice.   Botty set a new PB with  91.52 but that was compared to the damp meeting last year.  Mr Hopkins went faster again with an 80.85 that was just 0.10 over the tight handicap we had been forced to give him based on those super practice times.   Jonathan Bibby set an 87.63.  I was pleased with my run.  The 80.84 being a new PB by 1.86 seconds, and 1.16 under handicap (and quicker than Steve Hopkins, thank God, even if only by 1/100th).   Steve Millward improved to 88.39, 1.89 over.   We had given all the Elise 111R runners the same 87.00 handicap and Chris Westwood set a new 87.38 PB, therefore just 0.38 over.   John Palmer was a little slower and his 87.76 was 0.76 over.   Geoff Stallard improved to 80.54 but that was some way off his 79.22 PB from 2016 – the fully dry meeting.   Karen was a bit slower than her best practice time but Jane was 3 seconds faster than her best of the morning but that was still some way off her target time.

First in the race class was David Gidden but although completing his run he fell foul of the ‘all four wheels off’ rule by running wide coming out of Bunga-Bunga and this went down as a fail.   Keith Wilford set a new PB on 81.07 and then Stephen Palmer ran wide on the final bend at the finish after the very fast straight.  He collected a cone and was adjudged not to have been four wheels off (probably only about 3.5 wheels!) and got a time but just not a very quick one.  During the meeting quite a few people did have moments at that final bend but just got away with it. Tony Shute set a new PB and the 73.59 was just 0.59 over.  Sarah set an 82.58 complaining that she was never going to get anywhere near the 78.75 handicap we had set. As is often the case the later run proved we hadn’t been too far away when setting that time.   Brian Meddings had not been having a great day in the 35 as the ‘air in the clutch slave cylinder’ problem had returned and it compromised effective gear changing and although his 81.42 was his best so far it wasn’t where it needed to be. Dave Hampton, the 69 having been effectively repaired after the Shelsley driveshaft failure was going well and the 72.59 was just 0.34 over and 0.41 away from his 2016 PB.   Last man Malcolm Thorne kept on setting new PB’s and the 73.90 was just 1.15 over.

In comparison with the pace of the morning our second time run came around very quickly.  Ian Parmenter set a 89.17 that was 0.67 over and a similar amount away from his PB.   Clive Buffey made it round OK this time but the 100.49 was still some way off the handicap we had guesstimated for him.    Dick improved but couldn’t equal his multi-run time from the morning.   Botty had decided that he had not been using his normal style of chucking the Elan about and, adopting this more aggressive approach, improved by nearly 5 seconds and his 86.70 was just 0.20 over.    Steve Hopkins improved yet again and the 80.61 was 0.14 under.   Jonathan Bibby also improved and his 85.00 was just 2.00 over.  Again still a very good time for an S1 Elise.

I was next and I thought that I had overdriven a bit and therefore I did not believe Clive when he told me that the time was in the 78’s.  I went and checked and it was 78.88 with a speed trap figure just before the finish of 108 mph.  Oh, a bit embarrassing for one of the handicappers but it was a nearly 4 second improvement on my 2016 PB so I felt the 3.12 under was reasonably earned.   Kay had been watching by the finish and had been scared stiff by my 108-mph approach so told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t going for a third run!    Steve Millward gained another couple of seconds this run and the 86.85 was 0.15 under.   Chris Westwood has been driving much faster this season and his 84.95 was easily a new PB and was also 2.05 under.   John Palmer was 2 seconds slower than Chris but the 86.95 left him 0.05 under.   Geoff Stallard was, of course, going to go for it and had a really good run and the 78.96 was a new PB for him and 0.29 under.   So, I had just pipped him at Blyton at the fourth attempt but we both enjoyed the competition and, after all, the difference was only 0.08! Karen set her best competition time with a 122.51 but that was not quite equal to her best of the day in practice.   Jane improved by about 1/4 second and finished 3.06 over.

David Gidden kept it on the black stuff this time and the 78.99 was a new PB and 0.49 over.   Keith was slower this run but Stephen Palmer did put a more sensible time on the board but whilst the 84.65 was a new PB it was still 5.90 over.  Tony Shute was just a tad slower to just finish out of the points but Sarah despite her earlier protestations took nearly 3 seconds off to record a 79.24 that left her sharing 0.49 under with Mr Gidden.   Brian had a worse run with the clutch issues making things very difficult.   Dave Hampton had a very tardy start with his first 64ft time being over 13 seconds!   He had told the start line marshals than he was slowly rolling forward but then the green light came on and he left the line.  The result was a 84.24.  He didn’t have much trouble persuading the officials about what had happened and he got a re-run.  Before that Malcolm set his best time of the day and his 72.38 was not only quicker than Mr Shute but was 0.37 under. Dave then had his run in the midst of a later class and this time things were a little better with a new Eastern circuit class record of 71.76 that was 0.49 under!

So, at the conclusion of the championship runs I took the 11 points from Chris Westwood in second – his best result so far in the Championship.   At the event I made a mistake and announced that Steve Hopkins was third.  That was a keyboard typo and, in fact, he was fifth.  So Dave Hampton took 9 points in third, Malcolm 8, Geoff 7 and Steve Millward 6.

In race scratch DH took the 5 points with Malcolm edging out Tony Shute for second.

In road scratch I was first from Geoff and then a well-deserved Steve Hopkins.

So with just the one round to go Geoff Stallard with 60 points has a 10 point lead over Dave Hampton with still Messrs Shute and Buffey joint third on 41.   I would say that Geoff only has to turn up to Shelsley (with the Elan!) to win the Championship.  Dave H would have to win the event with Geoff not scoring in the top ten.  Even then count back would be needed to settle the equal scores.  Let’s wait and see.

In race scratch Dave Hampton has already secured the 2018 win from Tony Shute in second and Malcolm third.   In road scratch something very unusual would have to happen at the last event for Geoff’s 3 point lead over me to be overturned.  Jonathan Bibby is secure in third.

So four weeks now to that last event at Shelsley.   Let’s hope it’s dry (sorry Tony) to keep the playing field as level as possible.