Donington Masters Race Weekend; 15th – 16th April 2022

Rounds 2 & 3 HSCC/FJHRA Silverline Historic Formula Junior Championships

Front Engined Race Qualifying

An early start on a chilly bright morning heard the Donington Race Circuit brought to life by the sound of the Historic Formula Junior Front Engined grid taking to the tarmac. No one could have predicted such a sunny start to the Easter weekend which as the day progressed felt more like the South of France rather than Derbyshire. At times it even looked like the Mediterranean with shorts being sported around the paddock, suiting some better than others.

A welcome crowd of enthusiasts had begun arriving before 8.00 am to plot their laps of the circuit armed with cameras, flasks and camping stools all strapped to their backs. This was supported by a very encouraging collection of Marshals all sporting their orange Proban overalls at all the marshalling points.

Qualifying was eventful for some, Peter Edbrooke had problems locating the Assembly Area in his Lotus 18, the single C1 class entry. He proceeded onto the track without having been noise tested. Unfortunately, his unfamiliarity with the circuit and a low morning sun made the pit wall the signs difficult to see, resulting in Peter finding himself with an unscheduled visit to the Clerk of the Course. All was however concluded amicably.

Richard Bishop-Miller was one of the first to play in one of the Donington gravel traps, after he developed gearbox problems. As Richard shovelled out the gravel in the paddock following qualifying his wife Karen set to work on sorting out the gearbox issue and the Autosport was ready to take part in the 1st Race.

Tom Waterfield in the unique Hillwood was another to leave the circuit in qualifying when he spun on his own water when a head gasket failed.

At the end of qualifying, it was Chris Drake who headed the time sheets in the very effective Terrier T4 “silver Torpedo”, by 0.263 seconds from a very relaxed and content Ray Mallock in the family U2. Ray being very satisfied with his time, having matched his personal best for the circuit. Third on the grid was Alex Morton in the Condor SII, and alongside him was Simon Goodliff in the Nike.

Martin Astley in Niall McFadden’s Elva 100 qualified on row 3, his time almost matched by Nick Taylor’s similar Elva which was 1/1000th of a second slower. Some close racing looked to be in prospect, but Martin did admit he was not going to fight Nick into Redgate. He was loving the loaned car, saying it was one the most responsive race cars he had driven. His aim for the races was enjoy the racing but bring the car home in one piece. His wife loved the car as Martin was able to unload it on his own without having to call her to the trailer to help him when he returned home from race meetings.

Tom Waterfield, despite only getting in 6 laps before the head gasket blew, headed the class A runners in 7th with Tom De Gres 10th in his Stanguellini, and Roger Woodbridge having a weekend out with his brother Ian, completing the Italian class line up.

Front Engined Race 1

Unfortunately for Tom Waterfield, his head gasket issues necessitated a withdrawal from the race leaving 14 cars to set off into Redgate on the 1st lap. Ray Mallock got off to a flying start taking the lead which he held until lap 4. Behind him Martin Astley made a slow start whilst Nick Taylor spun out at Redgate on lap 2 when his fan belt broke allowing the water to boil and spray everywhere.

Having taken the lead on lap 4 Chris Drake started to pull away, by lap 8 establishing a lead of almost 3 seconds. Early lappery had helped him gain the advantage. Being the lead man as you work through traffic can often hinder rather than help you especially when racing against someone with Ray Mallock’s experience.

Further down the order a great race was developing for third place between Simon Goodliff in the Nike and Alex Morton in the Condor. Off the line Simon had made a good getaway and at by lap 3 had gained an advantage of 8 tenths of a second, but by lap 5 Alex was hunting the white Nike down, and on lap 6 he took third place only to lose it the following lap. This was shaping up to be a thrilling scrap. Unfortunately, it came to an end on lap 9 when Alex’s diff drained all of its oil. Some into the body of the car and the rest onto the circuit.

This may have been the oil that Richard Bishop Miller encountered on lap 6 when he misread Bernard Brock’s braking point and he reacted swiftly to avoid contact and found himself collecting more gravel for his stone collection.

The pattern for the race at the front looked settled with Drake leading from Mallock and Goodliff now in a secure 3rd place, however further down the order the race was hotting up between John Arnold and Graham Barron. They got closer and closer as they had the complex issue of negotiating traffic ahead whilst looking out for faster cars catching them from behind. As attention remained on this fight for eventual 6th and 7th place, Tom De Gres had put in a sterling drive in the beautiful Stanguellini to place himself 5th .

On lap 12 it became noticeable that Ray Mallock was mounting a renewed effort to catch Chris Drake in the lead. The gap was back to within a second, on lap 15 Ray put in the fastest lap of the race and with a couple of slower cars to negotiate, Ray made his move to lead by just over 2 tenths of a second on lap 16. In the commentary box Ian Titchmarsh was very excited wondering how many laps there were to go. The same feeling was felt within the cockpit of the leading pair of drivers too. With 5 seconds left on the clock of this 25 minute race the two raced onto that final lap. Would Ray be able to hold off Chris on the quicker sections where the Terrier held the slipstream advantage? In a nail-biting finish with Chris slipping wide onto the grass, Ray took the flag with a final advantage of a 6th of a second. Simon Goodliff finished 3rd the only other driver to remain on the lead lap with a very happy Martin Astley 4th. Further down the order John Arnold was successful in keeping a hard charging Graham Barron at bay. 

A great race, making a great start to the weekend. Could the other races match that for close racing?

Front Engined Race 2

As is customary with Formula Junior, the grid for the second Front Engined race formed up in the qualifying order of the previous day. Nick Taylor had repaired his car. Alex Morton had changed his diff overnight but Tom Waterfield became a confirmed retirement, a scored piston cancelling any opportunity for him to race the Hillwood this weekend. Chris Drake having experienced some problems in the 1st race was another to change the diff hoping to stave off the challenge from Ray Mallock.

Not everyone was able to return to the grid following the green flag formation lap, Bernard Brock stopping out on circuit with no final drive. Thankfully he was able to coast into a service entrance and was safely pushed away by the marshals before the start.

Martin Astley was able to limp into the pits when his car developed a misfire. Luckily this was easily remedied as a plug lead had dropped off. His son together with additional help from Gelscoe soon had the bonnet off and the problem fixed with Martin being able to rejoin just one lap down on the leaders.

In this rematch from the previous day, it was Chris Drake who led into Redgate but there was no getting away from Ray Mallock. He leapt back into the lead for the following two laps before Chris Drake retook the lead on lap 4. On lap 7 Ray took the lead back at Redgate but by the time they crossed the line Chris Drake was back in charge.

Richard Bishop-Miller made a slow get away at the start repassing Roger Woodbridge and Peter Edbrooke within 2 laps. Martin Astley was starting to make up for lost time and began the process of unlapping himself from the slower cars in front. A very contented Martin made a joke of it all saying he wanted to find out what the race was like from the back. Then going on to say he felt he had a more enjoyable race having to move through the pack and certainly felt it was better than his race the day before.

With Chris Drake maintaining his lap 4 lead it looked like this time he had the measure of any moves that Ray Mallock could make to reclaim the place. On lap 15, Ray had a good close look but Chris closed the door and extended his lead on the following lap. A concerted effort by Ray saw him cross the line with just over a tenth advantage on Chris Drake. Ray was able to extend this over the remaining laps to take the win with an almost 8 tenths advantage at the end.

Alex Morton’s efforts overnight were rewarded with a third place finish from Simon Goodliff in 4th, but not without a very enjoyable close race with Simon, this quartet all being on the same lap. A lap down in 5th place came Nick Taylor following the repair to his car.  

Tom De Gres was a worthy Class A winner in 6th place followed home by John Arnold who had managed to lose the attention of Graham Barron. A fantastic two races contested in fine spirit by Ray and Chris.

Rear Engined Qualifying

The Formula Junior Rear Engined qualifying did set a challenge for some of the competitors having a busy weekend. The Masters weekend format had encouraged a number of drivers to bring a range of cars to enjoy. So Stephan Joebstl, Tim Child, and Hans Ciers all had other races planned for the weekend. Additionally for Katsu Kubota and Greg Thornton it was a major mental reset as they were jumping from a DFV powered Formula 1 car with slicks and wings in the previous qualifying session into a tiny Junior running on historic treaded tyres with very different braking and handling characteristics. It was also this qualifying session where 7 competitors had issues with the track limits, with a number of drivers being warned and sometimes penalised for testing the limit a little too often.

Following qualifying Peter Fenichel had his Ersa gearbox break. A simple component failure but it did leave him out of the first race. Tim Child also had a valve problem in his Lotus 22, but with the assistance of Sam Wilson who had a replacement available, Guy Sheppard, Tim’s engineering team, along with RM Wilson Engineering had it back to make the start. Alex Ames, was having an anxious time with his clutch not releasing and engaging properly. The SEMA team worked to resolve the problem which they hoped would be fixed in time for the race. However sitting on Pole Position in what would be a 20 car grid was not the most comfortable place to be for that first race. At the back Bob Birrell had some assistance from Iain Rowley in bleeding the brakes on his Lotus 20. We all eagerly anticipated Bob’s late braking manoeuvre into Redgate. Unfortunately Bob was not so keen.

Back to the grid, despite having had times deleted for Track Limit infringements, it was Alex Ames on Pole in the ex Hailwood Brabham BT6, with Clive Richards in the distinctive Red and Yellow Lotus 22  in second with the Green Lotus 22 of Tim Child, accompanied by James Murray in the silver Lola Mk5a, making up row 2. Katsu Kubota was 5th in the HASU racing prepared Lotus 20/22 with Adrian Russell’s Blue Lotus 22 completing the top 6.

Further back Adrian Holey was having his second (he raced it at Brands) run out in the Rennmax BN1-2 previously owned by Roger Ealand. He was still learning the car and found that the ratios were wrong for the circuit as well as the car being overweight by around 20kgs. The car was getting a lot of interest in its Gold livery, and overall he was enjoying the experience. As the weekend progressed, he was able to speak to the man who sold the car. He explained the gearing in it would have been for Monza where it last raced previously, hence its problems at Donington. Following this meeting a day’s testing is planned so he and Derek Buckton who is engineering the car for him can get to better understand it and the set up.

At this meeting it was pleasing to welcome back a number of our overseas competitors, so aside from Katsu in from Japan, it was good to be joined by Stephan Joebstl, Martin Aubert and Hans Ciers, who was pleased to catch up with racing friends in the UK after not being able to meet for the last 2 years.

Rear Engined Race 1

For Alex Ames a second formation lap was not what he wanted to see, when the hapless John Chisholm suffered a clutch failure on the grid. The marshal team at Donington, efficient as ever, swiftly had John’s car cleared from the grid, but sadly that was the last we would see of the Gemini, John and the lovely Kitty Chisholm for the weekend.

Despite his initial concerns, Alex Ames was able to hook the Brabham up into 1st Gear off the line and was able to take a lead which he would not lose finishing as the winner with a 10 second advantage at the end.

Tim Child made a poor start and at the end of the 1st lap with Alex leading it was Clive Richards in second place with James Murray 3rd Adrian Russell 4th and Katsu Kubota holding station in 5th with Tim shuffled back to 6th.

Another to drop back from qualifying was Greg Thornton, coming through 8th from his 7th place grid slot with Robin Longdon’s Lola having taken the place. Chris Chilcott also made a poor start from 10th on the grid in his Brabham BT2 completing the first lap in 13th. On Lap 2 Greg went past Robin, and Hans Ciers slipped down to 18th place. Chris Chilcott overcame his start problem moving up a further two places to 11th.

On lap 4 James Murray came into the pits to retire with a flat battery, elevating Adrian Russell to third place. A lap later it was Greg’s turn to move up to claim 5th place from Tim Child. On the next lap Adrian Russell retired on circuit when a drive shaft bolt failed. This promoted Katsu Kubota into 3rd place with Katsu’s Formula 1 team mate Greg Thornton into 4th place. On lap 13 Tim Child had a scary moment going down into the Craner Curves, when Greg Thornton found some oil possibly from Katsu’s car that had coated the lens of Tim’s in car camera. Greg executed a 360 degree spin missing the grass and the close following Tim. 

It was not until lap 17 that Greg was able to retake the place from Tim on the road, but with time penalties for track limit violations being applied to both Katsu and Greg, Tim took the final step on the podium. Unfortunately on his penultimate lap, Jeremy Deeley went off into the gravel and couldn’t get his Cooper T52 back out, having been left no track by the cars lapping on the inside coming into the chicance before the pit straight. The final result had Alex Ames the worthy winner with Clive Richards second, Tim Child 3rd, Greg Thornton demoted to 4th, Katsu Kubota 5th, Robin Longdon 6th with the Kieft of Nic Carlton-Smith 7th wining Class C2, followed home by Chris Chilcott in 8th.

Rear Engined Race 2

Following another thrilling Front Engined race we wondered what the Rear Engined boys could offer the crowd. An unexpected tussle at the front, some close racing through the field and we will let others decide which group ultimately produced the best racing. Suffice to say they managed to get Ian Titchmarsh pretty breathless in the commentary box by the end.

Alex Ames despite some more work in the paddock decided he could not trust the clutch to get him away cleanly and elected to start from the back of the grid. He was joined by Peter Fenichel who had his gearbox repaired and back together again. After some more sterling work by Iain Rowley, Adrian Russell was able to take up his place on the grid, with a replacement bolt fitted to the drive shaft donut. As mentioned from the Race 1 report John Chisholm had gone home. Joining him as a withdrawal were Katsu Kubota with engine problems, Chris Chilcott and Crispian Besley who listed a catalogue of woes. Crispian, having cured the misfire on his Cooper, then found the starter motor bolts had broken away from the Gearbox ring gear and he had a broken wishbone. On the bright side Jeremy Deeley was able to take the second start.

The top 6 on the grid now lined up as follows Clive Richards on Pole, Tim Child 2nd, James Murray 3rd, Adrian Russell 4th, Greg Thornton 5th, and Robin Longdon 6th.

In the commentary box, Ian Titchmarsh was attempting to predict how long it would take Alex Ames to hit the front. His first prediction was a little out when he said top 6 at the end of lap 1 when Alex managed to scythe through to 4th, but no one had foreseen what a tussle Clive Richards was going to give to the Brabham.

On lap 2 it was Richards leading Ames by 3.63 seconds with Murray almost a second further back from Ames. Greg Thornton had bogged down again off the start dropping him to 8th place. He later explained he has a flat spot between 5500 rpm and 7000 rpm, releasing the clutch at 6000 there is a delay whilst the power kicks in. Third was Murray, then Child with Russell in 5th place.

Lap 6 saw Alex close the gap to Clive to under a second but then he lost a further 2 tenths on the following lap. Lap 8 saw Alex close the gap again to 2 tenths as lappery took place and on the 9th lap Alex took the lead.

Race over? No way. Clive was not going to let go and on lap 13 the gap was only 2 100ths of a second! Could Clive regain the lead? No: but the biggest gap only went out to 3 tenths with the winning margin being just over a tenth of a second, the lead pair trading fastest laps throughout the race.

An early scrap for third place between James Murray and Tim Child was resolved on lap 10 when Tim Child lost time in the chicane.

For many laps there was a super battle between Stephan Joebstl and Martin Aubert until Stephan had a spin at the chicane. Duncan reports over exuberance and certainly no contact in what had been a gripping battle for class D2 honours. Nic Carlton-Smith took class honours in C2 establishing a new fastest lap for the class. The final result for race 2 was a second win for Alex Ames, Clive Richards 2nd, James Murray 3rd, Tim Child 4th, Adrian Russell 5th and the recovering Greg Thornton 6th. Jeremy Deeley was the only retirement for this race.

Being Easter all podium winners were presented with an Easter Egg to accompany their glass trophy. Unfortunately, James Murray was so excited he dropped his Trophy, but he did get to take the box home. Everyone was pleased with the post race prize giving and the generous support from Silverline for the prizes awarded to the class winners. Many of the drivers I spoke to were complimentary of the slower drivers who were very courteous when being passed. A big thumbs up to the Donington Marshals team too. Their mechanical sympathy for the cars they were handling, especially when retrieving them from a gravel trap was really appreciated. Hopefully everyone will reconvene at Cadwell in June for the next rounds of the Historic Formula Junior Championship.

by Alan Jones