Castle Combe Autumn Classic Report



A really splendid entry – 36 cars for this, the penultimate race of our reduced season – it must be said that the various agencies involved – Motor Sports Vision, HSCC, Motorsport UK, Castle Combe, and above all FJHRA have made quite magnificent efforts to produce what has been a most worthy season considering the obstacles and pooh traps to be overcome – well done all.

Sadly, there were 15 withdrawals including at least 2 potential winners and even more potential class winners. A combination of the dire weather forecasts, mechanicals, quarantine, and the odd issue in testing earlier in the week created the nonstarter list – never fear, we had 21 remaining for qualifying which promised close results with the usual heartening variety of different makes.

Good to see Keith Roach back in action after being AWOL for too long – the Roach family are very much part of the Formula Junior Team – a major part too! Another well remembered face (hiding behind the ubiquitous mask) was ex Lotus 20 driver Fred Boothby due to race his pre-war MG on Sunday (some chance!).


Held in a steady drizzle, it may have looked like a distinct improvement on the earlier downpour but it probably didn’t seem so to the brave participants, all of whom survived the extremely slippery surface without any inter-car contact. The spray and consequent rooster tails of sheet water made life a tad tricky.

It looked like the various Lotus 22s and 20/22s seemed most sure footed but Pete de la Roche had Pat Barford’s Lola Mk 3 really flying, rounding Camp Corner in superbly executed slides, he duly snatched pole by just under a second on his last lap of qualifying. Clive Richards in his immaculate Lotus 22 was next, followed by the first of the Front Engineds – Stuart Roach – an acknowledged Wet Weather Expert in his Alexis Mk 2.  Next up was Adrian Russell in his equally well prepared Lotus 22 – then, surprisingly far back, Sam Wilson in Simon Diffey’s gold Lotus 20 – this had sounded rather sick before pitting to investigate – a plug led had chaffed, rendering one cylinder redundant – no problem for Sam and Rob to fix for the race.

Nick Taylor went well – not much wrong with an Elva 100 in good hands – he was 2nd Front Engined. Tim Child was having his first ever single seater race outing in his recently acquired ex-Chris Merrick/Curt Lincoln Cooper T59. He coped magnificently with the very difficult conditions, looking in full control throughout.

All cars finished the session intact and were able to start but Chris Chilcott, having endured one soaking in his Frazer Nash, opted to withdraw his superb Brabham BT2 as it wasn’t handling as he wished, later diagnosed as needing a new steering rack.


The Race

Perhaps surprisingly, poleman de la Roche made an indifferent start and set off towards the fearsome Quarry Corner in 3rd or 4th place. Rounding Camp Corner at the end of lap 1, the order was – Richards, de la Roche, Wilson, Diffey, and the first 3 front engineds Roach (minor), Taylor and Morton.

Adrian Russell, an impressive 4th fastest in qualifying, spun at Quarry on lap 1 and thereafter made only moderate progress through the field – hardly surprising as he had the worst of the spray to contend with.

On lap 3, leader Richards spun at Quarry and Wilson grabbed the lead which he held until lap 8 when de la Roche, right at the very edge, gained the lead from Richards and Wilson in that order with Roach driving smoothly and well, next up.

Having really excellent drives in increasingly heavy rain were Nic Carlton-Smith in his unfashionable but nicely prepared Kieft and Tim Child, being anxiously watched by previous owner Chris (and Val) Merrick, who were both overjoyed by the 6th place result.

The order remained de la Roche, Richards and Wilson until the very last lap when Wilson squeezed past, gaining 2nd place by 0.36 seconds.

Class winners were, E1 Sam Wilson, D2 Peter de la Roche, C2 Nic Carlton-Smith, B2 Stuart Roach, B1 Graham Barron. Viewed from the warm and dry environment of the Control Tower, it seemed abundantly clear that everyone who finished (and that was every starter) was a worthy winner on this day. Formula Junior enjoys a well-earned and excellent reputation in this regard – notably the Stewards of the Meeting praised the efforts of the Formula Junior Drivers for their skilful and safe performance providing a most exciting and close race when such racing must have been least expected.

A very poignant moment was the presentation of the Jon Goddard-Watts Memorial Trophy to the very deserving winner of the Front Engined Class – Stuart Roach. Jon was the much-admired sponsor of Formula Junior through his business, “Silverline”, and his two Bonds which he owned and ran “in period”. The presentation was made by his son Mark Goddard-Watts.

Those of us who deplored the miserable conditions ultimately had the better day – the Sunday races (day 2 of the Circuit’s 70th Anniversary Meeting) were abandoned. The faithful heroes at marshalling posts were up to their knees in water and mud.

Final word from that enthusiastic fan of Castle Combe, Marcus Pye, who recalled the quote from the much missed Dan Gurney “There are 2 ways to learn nothing about a race car – first – not to drive it at all, second to drive it in the wet!”

by Bob Birrell