Castle Combe Autumn Classic 2019; 5th October

Forecasts of heavy rain were fortunately wide of the mark, so apart from a prize donation to Colin McKay for being the 20th entry (in his Gemini Mk2), and a generous purchase by Elaine Mallock, the new stock of FJHRA umbrellas went unsold.

22 cars made an appearance, the De Tomaso ISIS of Mike Gregory still under rebuild, while Keith Roach’s priorities were looking after Heather, rather than exercising the Condor S II. But at least the later De Tomaso 63 of Westie Mitchell did make a welcome reappearance, but, unused for over a year while Frazer Nash activities had intervened, there was a mysterious noise from the Colotti gearbox direction, and Westie wisely decided to examine at leisure rather than risk another expensive failure.

Qualifying was on a wet track, but with a dry line and damp patches off piste and Chris Drake, benefitting from Thursday testing, was in superb form, just behind Stuart Roach’s rear-engined Mk4 Alexis on discs. Iain Rowley in Ian Robinson’s Mk5 Lola and Anthony Binnington, making a welcome appearance in his late-model Cooper T67, were happy behind these two. Andrew Taylor had an off on his own, slowing lap times for a while as the yellow flag was displayed. Andrew Turvey in the ex-David Baker MRP Lola was going impressively well, while Keith Pickering’s Britannia sat out the remainder of the session parked up at Avon Rise having paid a brief visit to the barriers, damage was limited to bodywork, subsequently repaired with help from Stuart Roach..

It was John Hutchison Senior’s turn to test out Envoy 006 but being delayed at the airport, he missed practice, however having raced here within the last year, the Stewards were able to place him on the grid, which would be missing Bill Grimshaw, when, pushing his car after practice, activated a heart problem and he was rushed off to hospital in Bristol. Fortunately, all in time and Bill was to leave the ward early the following week.

With the circuit near fully dry for the race, it was Stuart Roach’s Alexis Mk4, freshly back from its successful podium outing at Monza, that led the remarkable front-engined Terrier T4/1 of Chris Drake, never more than a few seconds apart, for a race-long duel, with Iain Rowley driving M Ian Robinson’s historic and so original Lola Mk5 BRJ 49 making up for a slow start into the last place on the post-race rostrum. Anthony Binnington’s T67 Cooper with 6-speed ERSA (“I wish I had a chance to use them on all circuits!) was beaten by Ray Mallock, who certainly had the bit between his teeth, but it was a close shout across the line.

Adrian Herbert in the ex-John Surtees Lotus 18, having his annual FJ outing was doing well mid-field, and towards the tail-end, Ian Robinson held Duncan at bay for the whole race, with Craig McWilliam getting by both of them to chase Australian Bill Hemming, who had got off the plane and driven straight from the airport to pick up his Tojeiro from Terry van de Zee.