This event proved something of an historical milestone. It was the first time, in British Championship Sprints and Hillclimbs history,that the Championship organiser had organised its own event. An inevitable consequence of the SBD Motorsport British Sprint Championship wanting access to a venue but no events to join in with. We ran at the venue in 2010 but in partnership with our friends in the British Superkart Championship but in 2011 they were unwilling to return so a full day Sprint it was to be. Sadly timing issues delayed the start of the event by 40 minutes the consequences of which were to be found later.
Glorious weather greeted a fantastic entry. This included the first outing of the year for the Napier family and Colin Birkbeck. Also added was the return, after two years, of father and daughter Colin & Heather Calder. A few newcomers and in what for me, as Championship Co-ordinator, was my competitive history in the Sports Libre world in the form of Jim Belt in the quite delightful Juno-Jaguar JR400. In ModProds the return of Duncan Cowper in the turbocharged Dax Rush was good news for the top of Sprinting. The course was as 2010 except the chicane had to be switched to the opposite side of the back straight as a consequence of the construction of "The West Wing" and its associated paddock complex.
Timed Runs got underway with a real mixed bag in the 2 litre Modified Series Production class. This was won by a very welcome returnee to Sprinting in the form of Graham Miller in his Mk 2 Escort (and his unique style!) and he was hussled along by an Astra and Mini but also included a Bond Equipe, a Hillman Imp and a Gerry Marshall replica Viva GT, all a lovely way to get things off the ground. In the over two litres a Morgan and Nissan 350Z battled away with Paul Clarke in the former overcoming Gordon Peters in the latter. Then came the Modified Specialist class, not helped by the loss of Derek Hodder & Paul Aspden after their engine let go in Noise Testing. Finishing at the top of the pile was the SBD duo of Craig Sampson & Matt Hillam in the Westfield. These two were a little way off half a dozen of their class compatriots all of whom were covered by about 3 seconds in the end.
The came the Libre troop split into up to and over 1800cc. In the baby class Angus Buchan & Andy Laurence had a rare old battle (including re-runs for them both) finishing only a second apart with Philip Young joining them a little way back. In the big class unfortunately the timekeepers had not taken into account an entry list update from us, which had switched Duncan Cowper to his ModProd home (which was a shame as he and Craig were just tenths apart). All three in the event with Jim Belt and Simon Bainbridge were all very closely matched (Duncan & Jim just a second apart and Simon close by in an unaccustomed third after a 2nd run problem). The Formula Fordsters were all three very closely matched. Dennis Pickett finishing on top, ahead of McLaren employee Peter Caiado-Gillett having one of his occasional outings and Chris Bennett a rare 3rd spot in FF1600 and Les Buck's older but pretty 61F a way back from this trio.
Then came the two litre racing cars and Mark Smith topped the pile in the now very pretty (and clearly effective) SBD car who bettered Tom Potter (who sadly seized the Suzuki engine to end his 2nd run and his day) and works boss Steve Broughton, clearly enjoying his 2011 outings. Colin Birkbeck was close behind and a closely matched Phil Lynch, Steve Miles & Mike Musson a little further adrift. Kevin Lealan seemed to have a problem on his 2nd run.
In the unlimited racing cars Stewart Robb and Ross Napier finished just 2/100ths of a second part. This meant that that top 3 Top 12 qualifiers were a mere 0.05 seconds apart; the British Sprint Championship not competitive? I don't think so? Terry Graves continued his national campaign and development (after an enforced 12 months in confined to events in the South West in 2010) to come up third and Terry Holmes & Graham Porrett (being faced with the gearbox popping out of gear) were facing a difficult day with only Terry qualifying after a lot of mechanical work. Behind Terry were the Calders, almost looking disappointed (despite a 2year absence), but both qualified just a fifth of a second apart.
Then came the Roadgoing fraternity and the two litres were almost all sports Cars, apart from a Peugeot 205. A delighted Tony Thomas finished top of the pile, chased hard by a bunch of closely matched Morgans and the 205, a highly competitive class. It was all Morgans in the unlimited Series Production class and two of them outdid the rest tied closely together. In the 1800 Specialist class the Spencers were just a squeak ahead of the Westfield pack, throwing the Sylva Striker around, with John Palmer in third and David Hussey a bit back in 4th. In the over 1800s Keith Adams & David Birch with their varied motivations were less than a second apart at the top. Then finally came the huge Lotus 7 Championship Caterham fraternity. Looking at the variety of different models and power units this was almost like a Caterham showroom. Nonetheless they're a competitive bunch and David Nelson slipped ahead of Stuart Millar joined by Michale Sankey in the awards "podium".
The time lost at the start meant that only a limited time was left before the circuit curfew and this would only allow a single run so the pressure was on. Tom Potter, although qualified, would not run because of his earlier problem. Sadly also a suspension breakage, shortly after leaving the line, would leave Ross Nelson returning to Africa without acquiring any points which his days performance deserved.
Steve Miles lead off and showed years of Top 12 Run Off experience, and greater familiarity with his 2011 Van Diemen mount, finding over a second on this one run, this would become 7th in the end. He was followed by Heather Calder who posted a disappointing time but nonetheless got her first points on the board. Then came Phil Lynch and, like Heather, fell back from his best Timed Run time. The work in the garage by the Chichester Flyers had not paid dividends and Terry Holmes set a disappointing time, well back from his T1 best. Terry Graves found over three quarters of a second over the timed runs for 5th but Colin Calder found over 3 seconds that he found in a long lost locker kept in Thurso for 4th! Colin Birkbeck was only a couple of hundredths of his best to make 6th and Steve Broughton, like Terry Graves, found over a three quarters of a second improvement to finish in 3rd. Penultimate runner was Stewart Robb and having been told his T2 time he was taking no chances, on went the 2011 Run Off tyres and he flew, taking over 2.5 seconds from the 2010 Course Record for his 2nd win. Final runner was Mark Smith and he found over half a second in a terrific display to become runner up.
2011 is set to become a very exciting and tightly packed display. So next it's off to Scotland, over the Early May Bank Holiday weekend. The media attention will be on a wedding on the Friday, the excitement will be where we are! 15 years ago this was a glorious double lap format, will it ever re-attain that, we shall see.
1. Stewart Robb (4.0 Pilbeam-Judd MP88) 83.20sec; 2. Mark Smith (2.0 SBD Reynard DB-MK01) 85.72;3. Steve Broughton (2.0 SBD Reynard DB-MK01) 87.84; 4. Colin Calder (4.0 Gould-Judd GR37) 88.38; 5. Terry Graves (3.5 Gould-DFR GR37) 88.38; 6. Colin Birkbeck (2.0 Dallara-Vauxhall F301) 89.05; 7. Steve Miles (2.0 Van Diemen RF96mm11) 90.76; 8. Phil Lynch (2.0 Dallara-Vauxhall F301) 93.57; 9. Heather calder (4.0 Goud-Judd GR37) 95.76; 10. Terry Holmes (3.5 Lola-Judd) 97.28: Ross Nelson (DNF); Tom Potter (DNS)
Graham Miller (2.0 Ford Escort Mk2)111.51; Paul Clarke (3.0 Morgan Roadster) 112.50; Craig Sampson (2.0 SBD Westfield) 94.78; Angus Buchan (1.4 Radical Clubsport) 102.93; Duncan Cowper (1.3T Dax Rush) 94.58; Dennis Pickett (1.6 Quest FF86) 108.55; Mark Smith 86.37; Stewart Robb 86.40; Tony Thomas (2.0 Mazda MX5 Mk3) 119.35; Trevor Firmin (3.5 Morgan +8) 123.76; David Spencer (1.6 Sylva Stryker) 103.74; Keith Adams (2.0 Westfield Sei) 105.96; David Nelson (1.8 Caterham 7 Superlight) 101.13