FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” UK Championship Round 1 – Donington Park; 8th April 2018
A combined entry and 28 cars arrived for qualifying – a good turnout for the season opener– especially since we will be back for the Donington Festival in a few weeks’ time.
Front running newcomer was Chris Goodwin – son and heir of our President –Doctor Tony Goodwin – Chris was driving his recently acquired Lotus 22 – this was his testing session really.
Joining us were 2 invitees – Andy Raynor with his JBS Mk1 500cc F3 in Class F and Roger Fowler with his delectable Lola T60 SCA – a refugee from the barely alive Classic Racing Cars Series.
A few changes in cars for 2018 – Peter de la Roche back in the Lola Mk3 of Pat Barford, and Simon Durling – highly enthusiastic about his upgrade to the ex-John Rees Lotus 22.
Robin Lackford raced at Silverstone the day before – his gallant son Nigel took the Silverstone car back home, collected the Elva 100 and returned to Donington – a great family effort.
The always happy and smiling Hans Ciers made another lightning dash from Belgium with his Lotus 20 – a true enthusiast.
Well it didn’t take long to assess the benefit of the MSV takeover – parking for latecomers has always been a nightmare – on arrival I was confronted by large areas of new tarmac paddock – plenty of room – someone with a bucketful of common sense has had a reassessment, removed fences and tarmacked redundant areas – well done. The new café drew lots of praise – who remembers decades ago when this was the collecting area subjecting supplicants to carbon monoxide poisoning before joining the grid.
As anticipated, the battle for pole featured Sam Wilson and Andrew Hibberd in Lotus 20//22 and 22 respectively – they traded fastest laps with Wilson a couple of 10ths clear – on the final lap, Hibberd tried a monster effort which ended in the chicane gravel to end the session.
Pete Morton ran them both close – he had the Lightning really flying – smooth as you like. James Murray was expected to be up with the pole battlers – a lack of recent track time and some elderly tyres contributed to a couple of spins which blunted his efforts.
In the front engine class, a real battle looked on for the race with Mark Woodhouse, Alex Morton and Nick Taylor covered by less than a second.
After a quite breath taking FF1600 race (the first 8 covered by 1 second) we expected something of the same with ourselves – a steady drizzle however fell making the track surface extremely slippery. Sadly, the expected close lappery up front didn’t quite happen, James Murray made a storming start, leading for 200 yards, but it was then Wilson and Hibberd – but Hibberd spun out at Mcleans and Goodwin’s gearbox failed going up the hill however those who have seen him win in his McLaren M1B will share my conviction that he will win races with us before long.
Man on the move was Pete Morton, he reeled in James Murray for second place passing neatly on lap 6. The slippery conditions meant Sam Wilson’s lap times were 9 seconds slower than qualifying – the rest of the field suffering a similar margin. There looked like a bit of excitement brewing when Morton started to reduce the defecit to Wilson. The leader however had matters well under control, winning by 2.7 secs, with James Murray falling away to finish 25 seconds adrift.
Peter De La Roche drove well in 4th place, leading the D2 class until 3 laps from home when gearbox trouble parked him.
The front engine class featured the expected duel – Mark Woodhouse struggled with rear brakes and finished 9 seconds down – leaving Nick Taylor to battle with Alex Morton, but Taylor’s Elva was attracted to the gravel on the last lap, leaving Morton as a convincing winner.
There was an intriguing Cooper battle being played out between Steve Jones, Andrew Taylor and Crispian Besley who retired with 1 lap remaining and Steve Jones eventually overcame Andrew Taylor in his much cherished T56.
Lots of spins in the difficult race conditions – no car to car contact or car damage – well done guys.
The Clerk of the Course interviewed 2 of our experienced hands after qualifying – wanted to assure himself that the hand signals between them did not signify any aggression or loutish behaviour – as Driving Standards Officer, I assured him that we in Formula Junior didn’t behave in such a way – turned out these two were acknowledging each other after a gentlemanly “after you Claude” moment.
The Clerk of the Course was later impressed by the sportsmanship of Crispian Besley and Nick Taylor, who, having independently ended up in the Chicane gravel, then helped each other push their cars out of the way.
Philip Walker is my neighbour and drives a Crossle 16F – he is subject to regular entreaties to swop to FJ and remains a friend to many of us – he had a monster shunt on Saturday – the car is quite beyond repair and Philip while very sore and bruised is up and about, talking of a return.
By Bob Birrell