View Report 26th May 2019

Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Championship 2019

Prescott 26th May – La Vie en Bleu

After a dry/wet/dry/wet/ weekend at Loton Park the weather turned benign for the working week. That’s Monday to Friday if I remember correctly, although I guess it may have changed with all this Brexit malarkey. However, the forecast for Sunday of ‘intermittent showers, some heavy’ was more in line with the traditional Prescott annual rain fest. This forecast provided the clerk of the course the opportunity, at the drivers briefing, to inform us that ‘if it does rain the track may get wet’. An insight that proved most welcome later in the day for the less observant of us.

On taking the register it was noted that there were some notable absentees. In the racing class, Messrs Gidden and Palmer (Stephen), of the 23 clan, were occupied elsewhere and Brian Meddings was resting the 35 after a successful ‘clutch’ of runs at Loton. Following Keith Bristow’s unfortunate engine issue at Loton it was no surprise that he wasn’t in attendance. In the more road going affairs we were notably lacking Pete Bottrill and Jon Dobson. For whom notes of absence had been lodged earlier. Geoff Stallard’s engine malady at Loton meant the Elan was out of commission but fortunately he was able to attend in the TVR and put the cat amongst the pre 1972 invitation class pigeons. Dick Swindall was in the yellow Elan as is the tradition for Prescott. On the returnee side of the register it was good to see Malcolm and Sarah Thorne back in business and a warm welcome was extended to Austin Weltman in his S1Elise – more of which later. On the topic of returnees, it was a delight to see Gordon Morrison in the paddock and hear of his recent acquisition of a S2 Elise. Is a return to the hills on the cards?

Unfortunately, the organisation at Prescott had managed to split our championship with the race cars at the top of the paddock and the road cars on the grass below. Not an ideal arrangement for us as a single championship but it does avoid the guilty feeling one gets watching the single seater drivers getting rained on. So, with no apparent dramas in scrutineering the day got underway with a dry track and an equal amount of enthusiasm.

The times from this initial set of runs looked good and the usual suspects, (two Tonys and a Malcolm) led the racing car class in the high 40second bracket. Dave Hampton had an uncharacteristic ‘Fail’. The Road going class were pretty solid in the mid-50s with one notable exception in the high 40s. No prizes for guessing Sarah Bosworth. However, it has yet to be determined if the constant reminders over the tannoy that the long circuit was in use, not the short version of the hill, was related to Sarah’s pace. And whilst on the topic of useful tannoy announcements it was good to be frequently reminded to approach the start line ‘fully dressed’. A plea that caused some concern amongst those of us that adopt the ‘commando’ style of attire!

The second practice seemed a long time coming and in doing so allowed one of the predicted rain showers to throw a spanner in the works. Consequently, the second timed runs were a bit of a mixed bag. Some showed a slight decline in performance and some an improvement. It was that sort of judgment call on how tricky one evaluated the conditions. But both Sarah Thorne and June Matty found a couple of seconds as they got to grips with their new racing cars. And Sarah Bosworth and Stephen Hopkins were most improved in the road class.

Talking of the road going class, we return to Austin Weltman’s S1 Elise. Our warm welcome had not been as warm as the treatment his engine had received during its recent MOT that produced all the symptoms of a head gasket failure. And, as chance would have it, on investigating the issue, the dratted radiator filler cap decided to fall into the depths of the under-tray. Fortunately, Stephen Hopkins, who has an encyclopedia of all things Elise, located the precisely dimensioned piece of wood to extract the cap from its hiding place. To no avail, however, as all was not well and the increasing thirst of the engine meant an early departure for Austin before the final timed run.

Jonathan Bibby’s second run time being only 6 hundredths slower than his first run convinced him that rain would be a good option so he decided to remove the hood from his Elise in the perverse view that this would encourage a downpour. And, just prior to our first timed runs it worked, giving Tony Shute a new competitor for the title of ‘rain maker’.

That takes us to lunch and, being the entertainment day that the Vie en Blue is, we were regaled with a Frank Sinatra tribute singer doing it ‘his way’. Does anyone know what happened to the Can-Can girls?

Now, fully replete from lunch, and the rain having duly wetted the track, we sat, fully dressed, in our cars waiting for the off. After some time contemplating the flashing red lights Clive Buffey brought us the unwanted news that a cavalcade of demonstration vehicles had managed to lay a slick of oil up most of the hill.

After these first tentative runs, Tony Shute, of course, led the race-car class with a 55.13 with Tony Wallen on 56.60 and Malcolm Thorne on 58.49, the rest of the class in the 60s. In the road class Sarah B had obviously taken the short course again with a time of 56.95. JJ capitalised on his plea for rain and was next in line after Sarah leading the rest of the road car class. Tony W was pleased that he’d done enough to hold off the road car phenomenon that is Sarah B by a vital 3 tenths.  As you would observe from the substantial increase in our times we all took this wet and oily track rather seriously. For this scribe it was a case of the catch all drivers excuse for slow times, without substantiated mechanical problems, – cowardice.

The second set of timed runs followed a dry and windy spell with the odd glimpse of a patch of blue sky (un morceau de ciel bleu) in the distance. The track seemed to be in good order but it was a case of guessing as to its state under the trees through the Esses. Some guessed better than others and bettered their first practice times and others were just above the earlier dry runs. In the final analysis it fell to Tony W on 49.23 to just get the scratch race class from Tony S on 49.65 and Dave H on 49.90. Having chased Sarah Bosworth up the hill all day Malcolm Thorne was a close fourth on 50.15. Keith Wilford in the lone 23b got close to his first practice run and Kenny Lewis did likewise but apparently gear problems had hindered his progress. Paul and June’s times were within a tenth of each other but no better than first practice. Sarah Thorne bettered her dry practice time by 3 seconds and is getting the hang of the 20/22.

The road class was dominated – that should read destroyed – by Sarah B’s pace. Her 51.12 was slower than the dry practice but more than 4 seconds ahead of second place Stephen Hopkins on 55.85. In third place was Jonathan Bibby on a very creditable 56.01 that had left him quite breathless. Then came Jane Millward in fourth place on 56.78 – the fastest of all the Elans! Steve Millward followed as the next Elan on 58.01 and Ian Parmenter on 58.39 with Dick’s yellow Elan (slower than the blue) on 59.48. Karen Buffey had a great improvement over her first practice time that paid dividends for the handicap results to follow.

The handicappers did a great job! And this was the result of their efforts:

  1. Karen Buffey
  2. John Palmer
  3. Jonathan Bibby
  4. Jane Millward
  5. Ian Parmenter
  6. Tony Wallen
  7. Steve Hopkins
  8. Steve Millward
  9. Tony Shute
  10. Keith Wilford

The cheer for Karen’s win exceeded the noise limit for Prescott.

Postscripts

As a consequence of the inclement weather, there was some dismay amongst the single seater contingent at the shocking state of Tony W’s 69. It appeared to have acquired some flecks of mud, which will require an almost total rebuild to return to its normal state! And to add to this woe Tony’s 49.23 was beaten to FTD by a pesky road going MGB GT V8 on 48.07.

Despite nursing an ailing drive train Geoff came third in the Invitation Class. An invitation we hope won’t be in the future when his Elan’s engine is repaired.