View Report 19/5/18
Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2018
Loton Park 19th May
This was the first of the now very popular double header at Loton Park and the weather was glorious. We were without Paul and June as he was just too busy running the business after a few days away and that, understandably, had to take priority. The rest of the class were just managing to cope with the disappointment of missing both the Royal wedding and the FA Cup final!
I was not alone in looking forward to seeing what the new track surface was going to be like.
It was another first for Karen Buffey and we all know Loton takes a bit of time to learn. It was also the first time also for Team Millward at Loton with the Elise 111R as indeed it was for John Palmer with his 111R. Dick Swindall was in the yellow car but having had no time to change the 3.55 diff for the 3.9 that had been rebuilt at Bromsgrove he was not finding the gearing very helpful. Another driver that was suffering a little from inappropriate gearing was Clive Buffey in his 61. That didn’t stop him making a big improvement over last year. It was Malcolm Thorne’s first visit to Loton in the 35.
Although this was a double header for us over the weekend for most of the rest of the entry it was a two-day event so we were sort of fitting in. We were first up the hill in practice after Mr Millward’s first climb. I was certainly surprised at the grip from the tyre warming area as my normal approach resulted in an unexpectedly very quick arrival at the line. The grip was equally good off the start and it was a finer line between wheel spin and bogging down which caught me out a couple of times over the weekend.
Of the first runs Tony Shute was right on it as usual with a 57.45. Sarah Thorne was going well and was only a couple of tenths off her best. Clive Buffey, though having some carburettor frustrations immediately took over 5 seconds off his best from last year. Stephen Palmer also improved his PB though by a rather more modest 0.4 but he was pleased to be seeing the effects of the horsepower increase that had eluded him at Shelsley. Malcolm set a low 60 that was quicker than Tony Wallen. Chris Westwood also set a new 68.25 class PB but he told me he had been in the 67’s at other meetings.
The rest of the entry then had their first practice but that suffered a long delay when a single seater had a big accident on Cedar Straight and the driver was taken to hospital. Information from the Clerk later indicated that it was fortunately ‘only’ concussion.
Our second practice runs featured a little more incident. Steve Millward set a low 69 and Karen improved her time by a few seconds as did John Palmer with a 67.92. Geoff Stallard however had an off at Loggerheads resulting in a fail but no damage at all to the car. Jane Millward made a good improvement but was telling me how heavy the handling of the Elise felt compared with the Elan. Not something I was expecting to hear about an Elise. Chris Westwood improved again to 67.51 PB. There was then another stoppage when Jonathan Bibby also had an off on the inside at Loggerheads and this resulted in a launch over the ‘cliff edge’ (where an old building foundation had been) and a resulting heavy landing. This was a carbon copy of my antics in 1993 that featured in the Hillclimb incidents of 1993 video like a sort of Dukes of Hazard stunt. I broke the front spoiler on landing. Luckily JJ got away without any damage – he checked it out fully that evening.
I was on the line behind JJ and after the red flag came in I set a low 62 and then Clive Buffey saw another big improvement to a high 61. Stephen Palmer improved to a 63.47 PB. Keith Wilford was having a bit more of a struggle with a mid-64. Brian Meddings took over 5 seconds off his first run time for a mid-61 and then Sarah set a new 62.29 PB. Malcolm set an excellent 57.91 that was obviously a PB since his best in the Buick had been a 61.18 and Tony Shute improved to 56.60. Tony Wallen set a 58.60 and Dave Hampton a 57.58.
With Paul’s absence I had asked Dave Hampton to assist me with the handicapping. It was in no way a consequence of this, but I must say that I found this one of the most difficult meetings to handicap that I can recall, and Dave and I were struggling to reconcile the usual conflicting considerations. Anyway, it was done and given to the Hagley Club.
We had quite a wait then as our two competitive runs were going to be back to back right at the end.
It wasn’t late however when we went off as time had been largely recovered after the morning accident.
Steve Millward set a 67.40. Karen was also improving. John Palmer was a bit slower than Steve with a 68.04. Geoff Stallard set a 60.53, 0.63 over his 59.90 handicap that he and I shared. Jane was also improving to a 70.14 and then Ian Parmenter set a new PB with a 66.57, 0.57 over. Chris Westwood was a tad slower than his best practice, but Dick improved to a 67.49. Jonathan Bibby was, not surprisingly a little cautious after his earlier Loggerheads excursion and this was reflected in a 65.29. I was fairly pleased with a 60.30.
Clive was still taking chunks of time out every run and his 60.24 was just 0.99 over. Stephen Palmer was a little slower than his best of the morning but then Sarah was the first to get under target time with a new PB of 60.15 that was 0.10 under. That was just a hundredth faster than David Gidden. Mr Thorne was not quite so fortunate as Sarah as he experienced a significant gearbox issue on this run. He got to the top but the 86.42 was not quite what he had planned and the 35 would not compete again. Having confirmed that fitting into Sarah’s car was a diet too far, basically that was it for Malcolm for this, and indeed Sunday’s event. It transpired that on strip down at Bromsgrove on the Monday the 1st gear had broken into 3 pieces.
Tony Shute set a 56.49 and then Mr Wallen a 57.49. Dave Hampton just edged it with a 56.48.
With the runs being back to back there was no time to dwell on this as we were off again as soon as we came back down the hill, most of the cars (and drivers) being rather hotter that was desirable.
Steve Millward got down to 67.01 that was 2.01 over. We had given all the 111R drivers the same 65 second target. Karen kept improving but there would be more to come. John Palmer couldn’t match Steve’s time and he was 2.74 over. Geoff Stallard improved a tenth to 60.46, 0.56 over. Jane also was getting quicker but was 3.94 over. Ian Parmenter was really on form and the 65.84 was a new PB (by 2/100ths) and 0.16 under. Mr Westwood went quicker and his 66.91 was the best 111R time and 1.91 over. Dick was a bit slower this run. Jonathan was quicker, confidence returning, but still mindful that the car could have some damage, with a 63.90 but that was still 1.75 over. I bogged down off the line and was slower. Clive had a gearchange fumble, coming into Fallow I think, and was much slower. Stephen Palmer was much quicker this run with a 61.77 and this was 1/2 second quicker than Keith. Brian Meddings was just a couple of tenths shy of his PB and the 60.65 was 0.90 over.
As well as Malcolm it transpired that David Gidden was having gearbox issues and couldn’t select 1st gear. On this run then he had to set off in second and promptly annihilated his PB by 0.80 and the 58.12 was 0.83 under. He was concerned that 2nd gear couldn’t take this strain for too long and, indeed, what other damage could be caused to the box, so he reluctantly rested on his laurels and withdrew from the Sunday event. Quite a few of us were a bit concerned about the extra stress on the transmission from that super grippy start line, so it was probably a sensible decision from David.
Mr Shute went quicker again and the 55.59 was just 0.03 shy of his PB but also 0.39 over. Tony Wallen was setting better times but the 56.70 was 1.20 over but also well shy off his historic 54.82 PB. Last runner Dave Hampton was uncharacteristically slow (relatively of course) with a 56.87.
So, this left the Saturday result as a convincing win for Mr Gidden with Ian P second and Sarah an Excellent third. In race scratch it was Shute, Hampton and Wallen. In road scratch it was me, Geoff Stallard and then JJ.
The championship positions can wait until after Sunday and that report.