FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” UK Championship Rounds 8 + 9
CROFT NOSTALGIA FESTIVAL 5/6 AUGUST
By Bob Birrell
Well some may consider 20 cars a meagre entry by our own exalted standards – but consider – 1 week after a massive entry at Silverstone Classic, 1 week before a similar entry at Oldtimer Nurburgring, the same weekend as Copenhagen Grand Prix and the World Tour about to recommence in our Western Colony (USA) – well many clubs and series can only dream of 20 cars on track – not so bad eh?
The paddock was greatly enhanced by 4 of our Australian Comrades – Richard Nitschke’s Elfin Catalina, Lance Carwardine in Vern Williamson’s Scorpion and Nick Daunt in his delectable Taraschi – joined by Mark Goldsmith in his F2 Elfin 622 running with Classic Racing Cars.
This gave a good preview of the treats to come. Benn Tilley and the returning Jonathon Hughes traded pole times throughout with Tilley just shading it by 0.15 seconds driving Paul Smeeth’s well known Lotus 22.
Steve Jones was best of the rest 3 seconds adrift with Peter Anstiss,, Laine Martin and Peter De La Roche all covered by less than half a second – or in F1 speak – 5 tenths!
Bill Grimshaw surprised us all by outqualifying Justin Fleming’s Lola in the Front Engine Class.
Sadly the ravages of qualifying claimed the Lynx of Vern Williamson and the delicious Taraschi which had terminal overheating and consequent coolant loss.
Tilley made a great start, to lead into Clervaux (in F1 speak Turn 1) equalled by De La Roche who briefly held 2nd from 6th on the grid. Hughes made a slightly more leisurely start but soon passed De La Roche and outbraked Tilley perfectly into Tower for the first time.
(Much) further back, George Cooper spun at Tower and in the following cambriolage, Nitschke’s Elfin despite taking avoiding action, could not avoid the returning Cooper. Both cars suffered damage to rear suspension – in the Elfin case the wheel torn off and corner destroyed.
The inevitable safety Car period ensued for 3 laps while the lame Elfin was recovered swiftly by the efficient Croft Staff.
The restart produced no change in order with De La Roche holding off Steve Jones and the gap between the 2 leaders fluctuating but never exceeding 1 second (10 Tenths F1?)
Justin Fleming had by now thoroughly learned Croft and had reasserted himself in front of Bill Grimshaw’s highly original Moorland for the lead of the front engine brigade.
On lap 7, Hughes had a slightly more sideways than usual line at the complex, Tilley seized his chance and took the lead which he held under huge pressure until Hughes slipped by with 2 laps remaining and held on to win by half a second.
De La Roche and Jones scrapped throughout with De La Roche making the line with 0.31 seconds in hand! Peter Anstiss and Laine Martin also enjoyed a good dice with Anstiss pulling away to lead by 2 seconds (20 tenths?) at the finish.
Tilley made the race fastest lap on the very last lap.
Once again, Tilley made a superb start but once again, Hughes made a consummate outbraking move into Tower on Lap 1 – the braking area for Tower is exceedingly bumpy and this move was mighty impressive – cleanly and neatly executed.
Jones held 3rd until lap 4 when main input shaft failure within his T67 gearbox spoiled a good drive.
Up front, Hughes and Tilley were ultra-close – “leaving nothing on the table” and visibly quicker than the rest using all and more of Mr Dunlop’s adhesion.
Martin and De La Roche had an extremely close scrap over 3rd place until Martin found the large oil deposit at the esses – he demonstrated his harvesting prowess in the adjacent cornfield leaving De La Roche to a well-deserved 3rd place.
Fleming and Harrison enjoyed a close race – I really mean they enjoyed it – both returned enthusing over the sheer fun of it all and complimenting each other – this after all is why we do it – isn’t it?
Meanwhile the lead battle was far from settled – in the event, Hughes hung it out one final time and made it by half a second – Tilley seems not to be the type to give up – once again he set fastest lap of the race on the very last lap – great fortitude.
Hughes hadn’t race anything for over a year – two truly great performances – neither he nor his shadow made any error at all – OK he has done a Historic Trials event!
- What a disaster for Richard Nitschke’s Elfin – totally blameless victim of a first lap accident – at the start of his European tour – the spirit of FJ is alive and well in Australia – Elfin Guru Bill Hemming had stripped his own car of vital parts needed and airfreighted them from Melbourne by Monday morning – warms the heart.
- Good to see younger drivers with us – some of the older drivers (like me) have only about 30 years racing left in them – I started racing 35 years before Benn Tilley was born! Sadly, in all that time I was never even half as quick!
- Croft is a great circuit – only 15 minutes from the A1(M) – Motorway all the way!
- No apologies for mocking F1 and their lazy corner designation – sliding a car round the fabulous Jim Clark Esses is truly a great experience – doing it through turns 6 & 7 doesn’t quite hit the spot.