Cadwell Park; 6th – 7th May 2023

Silverline Championship Rounds 2 & 3
Silverline Front Engined Championship Rounds 1 & 2

The Entry

Fact – Cadwell is a superb circuit opened initially for motorcycles, it was later extended, hosting car races from May 1962 when Formula Junior played a prominent part.

The date wasn’t ideal for a UK race, with it falling on the Coronation weekend, but both MSVR and HSCC set their calendars when the Queen was still alive…even so, all things considered, 24 FJ’s and their drivers and teams will always make a good weekend.

It was wisely decided to combine the Front Engined Classes A and B with the early drum braked Class C cars, forming a Pre ’61 grid, as the respective lap times were likely to be similar. Otherwise there would have been only 7 Front Engined Cars. The Pre ’61 grid produced 13 cars, with 11 cars in the “Rear Engined” grid 11 for Classes D2 and E1. Quality not quantity is the key though, and the runners and riders held promise of evenly matched racing.

Qualifying: Pre ’61 Grid [Period E];

After torrential and persistent rain for private practice on Friday, and a river running down the paddock steps in the evening, the track remained damp and extremely slippery from Hall Bends to Barn Corner. The leading five runners were closely matched with reigning champion Nic Carlton-Smith (Kieft) narrowly heading the times  from Alex Morton (Condor S II) and an on form Trevor Griffiths with his immaculate Emeryson with Robin Longdon (Lola Mk2) completing the second row.

Qualifying: ’61 – ‘63 Grid

The slippery conditions continued for the “Rear Engined” practice, which saw Tim Child and Nick Fennell trading fastest times throughout with Tim snatching Pole by 0.42 seconds. The two Brabhams of Geoff Underwood and Mark Carter were third and fourth, but sadly Geoff was caught out by extremely slippery conditions at Barn Corner and the inevitable contact with the barrier damaged the left rear corner sufficiently to prevent further play. Mark Carter (Brabham BT2/6) and Michael Hibberd’s Class D Lotus 20 were next quickest. Martin McHugh was clearly getting to grips with his Lotus 20/22 – he finished a couple of tenths off his friend and Barbon neighbour Peter Anstiss. Martin Aubert was only another few tenths adrift in his Lotus 20.

Race 1: Pre ’61 Grid 

The leading four cars set off running closely in the mixed conditions – sadly we lost Robin Longdon after lap 1 when the Lola’s gearbox developed a fault which could not be fixed at the circuit – a “Dockyard Job” and Graham Barron’s Gemini, tended by Bernard Brock, was out on the first lap with a reoccurrence of rocker failure which ruined his day.

After an indifferent start, Nic Carlton-Smith moved quickly into a comfortable lead which he had extended to 21 seconds by the flag.

Alex Morton came home second in his superb Condor won B2 from an interesting duel between John Arnold and Andrea Guarino, both in Elva 100s, the latter being the car to be driven by his son this season.

Class A promised a battle between Peter Fenichel’s delectable Stanguellini and the Fish & Chips meister Tony Pearson’s familiar Bandini. Sadly, Tony retired to the paddock on lap 4.

Race 5 – ’61 – ’63 Grid

With Nick Fennel making a slightly leisurely start, this allowed Tim Child to stretch a small gap at the start. However, Mark Carter in the Speedsport Brabham BT6 not only closed up to second place, but for  several laps was looking likely to take the lead, having a distinct straight line advantage along the finishing straight. Wisely he made no desperate or hazardous moves, missing out on the win at the line, by less than a second. Both Child and Carter drove well and with great skill on this difficult and narrow track, Nick Fennell fell 15 seconds back with Class D2 winner Michael Hibberd less than a second further back, after a fine drive in his drum-braked Lotus 20.

Race 9 : Combined Grid

In view of the numbers, it was decided to combine the two grids on Sunday, the first counting for Championship points, the second just for fun. 

We had a cracking points scoring race on our hands with 21 starters on Sunday morning – this time, Nick Fennell made a much better start and took the lead, pursued throughout by Tim Child and the uber experienced Michael Hibberd. On the move however was Nic Carlton-Smith, who, after a poor start, carved from ninth to third setting fastest lap of all along the way.  In fact with two laps to go, it looked like he was going to win, but settled for third and the class win. Carter was up past Child but dropped back after a wild excursion which lightly touched the barrier, but without damage, allowing him to continue although he was passed by Aubert on the last lap. Keith Pickering, in his superbly self-restored Britannia, made up for his Race 1 DNF, having a dice with Peter Anstiss’ similarly self-prepared Lotus 20/22. The Britannia finished just 2 tenths ahead. Chris Wilks enjoyed a great scrap with John Arnold’s Elva 100, the Deep Sanderson looked a bit, err, lively, in the conditions, but Chris seemed to have the measure of his steed. The two Italian cars of Fenichel and Pearson renewed their scrap, the Stanguellini winning Class A by just under 2 seconds.

The Driver of the Day award was unanimously awarded to Nic Carlton Smith after winning Race 1 and coming so close to the later Lotus 22s and 27 in the much earlier Kieft – great drives – little wonder he won the 2021 and 2022 championships.

The overall race result was particularly significant, as it put Tim Child as the aggregate winner of the Rear-engined classes in the two Championship races, and therefore the Barry Westmoreland Trophy recipient. Barry as you will know died at Cadwell in 2008 at the top of the Mountain having had a fatal heart attack driving his Lotus 22. Cadwell was his favourite circuit, having raced not just motorbikes, but motorbike sidecars there before racing with us in Formula Junior. As is now a happy tradition, Barry’s widow Margaret came to Cadwell with their son Andrew and presented the prizes – we are greatly honoured by this each year – despite her loss, Margaret remains part of the Formula Junior Family and always will.

Race 15 (Non Championship)

A third race for your entry fee! By this time a number of drivers and/or their cars had had sufficient motoring and headed for home, however those left made the most of it! Child made a good start but so did Fennell, so these two raced closely and safely before Fennell took the lead, winning by 1.2 seconds. Third was Martin McHugh – his first “podium” in FJ – except there was no podium ceremony, no championship points and not even any prizes as this extra race had cleaned us out of our allocated ration of trophies! But he has the results to prove it to anyone who may question his stories– an excellent steady race nonetheless.

In summary, a great weekend’s racing on a great circuit (this writer would like to see the British Grand Prix run here). The standard of driving in extremely difficult and slippery conditions was highly commendable – only one car damaged and remarkably few spins on this unforgiving circuit – well done everyone.

By Bob Birrell