View Report 1st June 2019

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2019

Pembrey 1st June 2019

Caution this report contains asterisked words!

Pembrey, where the Paul Matty Championship goes international. There are two things that a visit to the Pembrey race circuit guarantees. Firstly, by the time you arrive you have learned that the Welsh for ‘slow’ is ‘araf’ and, secondly, there have been sufficient speed cameras and speed indicators to ensure that your speedo is perfectly calibrated for 30mph. If neither of these facts have registered I guess you may have to be prepared for the dreaded ‘speed awareness course’, or worse! The positive aspect of this local obsession with speed is that by the time you get to the circuit you want to put your helmet on and your foot to the floor. So bearing this in it was good that the weather forecast was for dry and warm conditions. A forecast that was truly honoured and so it became the first event of the year that did not feature any dampness of the track.

So to the roll call and apologies. Firstly, a heartfelt best wishes to Jon and Kay. They have been greatly missed and let’s hope they are fully recovered for Three Sisters. Rather than enumerate all the unfortunates that missed a great event, one or two apologies deserve a mention. Unfortunately, Sarah Bosworth, in her Elise, had work commitments to honour and so deprived the road class of an unobtainable target to aim for. Also in an Elise, JJ made the ultimate sacrifice and swapped his race suit for a DJ to accompany Bryony to a ball. The word which provokes one to raise the great benefit of the paddock at Pembrey; compared to, say Prescott and Loton. It is a very trailer friendly place and the trailer b******s is much less of a pain in the s***t*m. The final register, a somewhat depleted number of thirteen cars and fourteen drivers, represented a real hard-core bunch, and one may say quite an ‘elite’ group. The following report will endeavour to ensure they all get an honourable mention.

The day started well. Unless you owned a ‘banana’ coloured Elan. Peter Botrill and Ian Parmenter had both carefully prepared early for the event and had arrived with incorrect numbers fitted to their cars. However, they explained that they had adopted numbers as suggested by the early final regulations, but not the ‘final’, final regulations, in which their numbers had changed. Their ‘slip up’ on the numbering, referred to as ‘yellow Elan syndrome’ required new numbers to be fitted. Their plea of mitigation was accepted and their ‘error’ was recognised as an early sign of a level of lack of communication that was to rear its head a number of times during the event. To add a level of insult Ian’s car shed two of its newly acquired ‘7s’ on the first run.

The normal race day procedure meant the cars had to be pushed to the scrutineering bay for their approval and all went well. Sue, thank you for the push. I think the drivers briefing said don’t stop for a red flag and if you catch someone up you’ll get a re-run. Then practice started with the PMSCC out first, in number order.

According to the final instructions, the class had been seeded, i.e. placed in an order based on some category, which somehow led to road and race cars being intermingled. Cars were released from the pit-lane at what seemed like random intervals and, as can be imagined, things did not go well. Dave Hampton was impeded by June, and Malcolm Thorne soon caught up with Botty. Both got re-runs, and more practice.  Botty would not reveal how much he had been paid to slow down. Keith Wilford had John Palmer in his sights and was looking to race him to the line. The local lad Tony Wallen was quickest of the race cars and Stephen Hopkins’s time blitzed his previous PB and clearly led the road cars. But, following the disarray, it was decided to put the seedings ‘out-to-grass’ and organise ourselves for the second practice – road cars first, race cars second.

Second practice, went smoothly, and times began to tumble. Steve Millward and Jane could not be separated, but for 5 hundreths of a second, and Botty was 3 hundreths behind Steve – things were warming up. So warm that Botty’s oil temperature had reached normal for the first time ever and he contemplated taking the blanking tape off his, up till now, redundant oil cooler. Ian Parmenter didn’t improve much but admitted that he could get to like circuits after all. Stephen Hopkins had spin and temporarily took some pressure off the other road cars. Dave Hampton was 3 tenths quicker than Tony who was just half a second ahead of Malcolm. Tony said Malcolm shouldn’t be going that fast but declined to tell him. Paul was fourth closely followed by Keith Wilford. Then Stephen Palmer, who had been experimenting with gears, improved greatly and was hot on the heels of Keith who was and just ahead of Sarah Thorne, who was just ahead of June.

At this point nomenclature played havoc. ‘Second practice’, as we called it, was called ‘first timed run’ by the BARC. Metaphorical alarm bells rang. Pembrey has history in this direction. Did this mean only three runs? A meeting was held and all agreed we would hold out for two practice and two timed runs as convention dictated. In fact we did have two practice and two timed runs but the BARC and the timing officials called this one practice and three timed runs.

First timed runs came with disappointment for Keith as his clutch decided to not work. A real shame as his practice was showing form well under his PB. For the others it was little drama but mutterings of driving as being ‘scrappy’ ‘ragged’ and even ‘cr*p’. But on scratch it was Dave, Tony, Malcolm in race class, with just 2 seconds between them and then a rather large gap to Paul and the chasing pack, led by Stephen Hopkins flying in his Elise just ahead of Sarah in the 20/22.

Then, in the considerable wait before the next run, a major engineering project was carried out on Mr Matty’s satnav holder and Ian Parmenter described how a ladybird, on his wind screen, had devoured a fly whilst he awaited his run.  After this excitement nothing much happened except the wind changed direction through 90 degrees and your reporter had a nap.

Second timed runs followed the top10 ten run-off for the sprint championship. This select group may be the fastest cars of the day but they featured the slowest pit lane palaver and dual driver changes recorded, whilst the ever-prompt Matty crew stewed in their cars. Maybe the desire to get out of the cars was the reason seven of the drivers further improved their times and all set PB’s. Including June and Sarah who are showing what their new cars can do. Stephen Hopkins clearly wrung the neck of his Elise and was still shaking sometime after to prove the point. Malcolm and Stephen Palmer complained that their smooth runs had not improved their times so learning that smooth can be both fast and slow. 

Once again the handicappers did a great job under considerable stress and the results on handicap are as follows:

  1. John Palmer
  2. Tony Wallen
  3. Steve Millward
  4. Malcolm Thorne
  5. Stephen Hopkins
  6. Pete Bottrill
  7. Stephen Palmer
  8. Jane Millward
  9. Sarah Thorne
  10. Dave Hampton

Thus ended a day on which once again we owe praise for all our helpers during for getting times, pushing cars, making cups of tea, wiping brows, preparing pace notes and doubtless a little ego massaging as required. At the prize giving (DH, TW, MT) we learned that BARC Wales had suffered a loss of many key personnel over the winter period and there was some question as to whether the event would be run at all. So a big round of applause was given to the organisers for making it happen even if it often seemed to run as smoothly as my lumpy custard.

Now we go for our Chekhovian experience near Wigan.