Donington Park – Sunday 25th June 2023
FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” Championship Round 4
FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” Front Engined Championship Round 3
Round 4 of the FJHRA Silverline UK Championship (and Round 3 of the Front Engined Championship), took place at a hot and humid Donington Park on Sunday 25th June. The entry was split between front and rear engined grids giving each group a single race. Sarah Mitrike flew in from Lithuania to co-ordinate the event where Formula Junior had the luxury of Garages for the day, providing welcome shelter from the heat.
Rear Engined Qualifying
The Rear engined Formula Junior grid was the first of the Junior grids to both qualify and race during the Sunday event. An entry of 22 cars boasted three newcomers, Tim Metcalfe in Peter Fenichel’s Cooper T56, Gary Thomas in the ex-Gil Duffy Kieft, and Mark Bates in Justin Fleming’s Lynx. After one failed attempt at VSCC Cadwell the previous weekend, Gary was very pleased to be qualifying in the Kieft, and his appearance made for a special moment with their being three Kiefts taking part in the race, alongside Champion Nic Carlton-Smith and Robert Goodwin. Gary is part of the HSCC chaplaincy you will have read about in the HSCC magazine. His most recent racing with the HSCC was in the 70s Roadsports with a psychedelic Lotus 7. Completing the line-up of newcomers, Mark was struggling with the change of gear selection from right to left, Mark having previously raced Classic Formula Ford with the shift on the right. He also had a helpful note on the dash to remind him of the configuration.
The rear engined competitors were very enthusiastic from the start of qualifying with many searching for the track limit, with some finding it more often than others judging from the comments on the qualifying sheet.
At the start of qualifying it was Horatio Fitz-Simon in the Lotus 22, back from his wins at Hockenheim and Dijon in the Lurani Trophy, who was dominating the timing screen. Clive Richards, similarly mounted in a Lotus 22, was once again in his wheel tracks. Mark Woodhouse in the third Lotus was having a battle with Mark Carter in the Speedsport Brabham BT6. Michael Hibberd was heading class D2 in the Lotus 20 whilst embroiled in a fight with Rudolf Ernst and Martin Aubert.
On Lap 10 Horatio Fitz-Simon was the first to put in a lap below 1min 18 secs, seemingly drawing clear of all opposition. The following lap Sam Wilson in his Lotus 20/22 caught the top runners by surprise by getting within 2/10ths of Horatio’s time. The battle for pole had been declared with the promise of a great race to follow.
As qualifying ended it was an all-Lotus top 3, Horatio on pole from Sam Wilson and Clive Richards, separated by a mere half a second. Breaking the Lotus domination was Mark Carter in the Speedsport Brabham BT6. He was then followed by yet more Lotuses of Mark Woodhouse, class D2 leader Michael Hibberd and Rudolf Ernst. Martin Aubert was 8th overall and 2nd in Class D2 followed in 9th by Nic Carlton Smith, heading Class C2 with the Kieft. Completing the top 10 was Alan Schmidt in the Speedsport Lotus 22. Robin Longdon (Lola Mk3) was eleventh overall and 3rd in Class D2, followed by George Diffey in the Gold Lotus 20 wearing the distinctive matching helmet.
For Chris Wilks qualifying was, sadly, the end of his weekend with a broken front hub. Mark Bates was still settling in with the Lynx being a regular pit visitor during qualifying, and only clocking 4 laps, so it was arranged for him to get a bit more seat time with a run out in the front engined qualifying session afterwards too.
Front Engined Qualifying
The front engined entry was the smaller of the two grids with 13 cars taking to qualifying. Chris Astley was having his debut in the “Indy” Elva 100, bought last season by his father Martyn, from John Arnold. The opening laps of the qualifying session initially saw Crispian Besley heading the timing sheets, quickly to be overhauled by Stuart Roach and Alex Morton who then battled to be top. Andrew Hibberd made occasional appearances towards the front in between intervals in the pits setting up the Lola for his final dash.
Just like Formula One, Andrew took to the track with the final minutes remaining, establishing a time over two seconds faster than his rivals. Stuart Roach conceded that his only chance to steal a march on Andrew would be for it to rain.
Alex Morton, in the Condor S II, shared the front row with Andrew, Stuart starting third in the Alexis Mk 2, whilst completing the second row was our new runner Chris Astley in the Elva 100. This started an Elva trio of Crispian Besley in 5th with John Arnold 6th, followed by Rudolf Ernst in the distinctive Mitter DKW starting 7th on the grid. Eighth and the lone class B1 runner was Graham Barron with his Gemini Mk II from fellow Gemini Mk II runner Dave Wall.
Class A was an all Stanguellini affair, Martin Sheppard leading Peter Fenichel. Class C1 runner Peter Edbrooke in the Lotus 18 was next up whilst the final place on the grid was occupied by the Elva 100 of Edoardo Guarino.
Rear Engined Race
This Formula Junior race had to be one of the best races of the weekend. Classic Formula Junior action right from the start with Horatio, Sam and Clive engaging in a superb slipstreaming battle that pulled them well clear of the pursuing pack.
It was Horatio who led into Redgate on lap 1, with the majority following in grid order. Both Mark Carter and George Diffey made poor starts, dropping them down in the order, Mark from 4th to 7th, George from 12th to 16th.
On lap 3 Sam Wilson took the lead from Horatio, only to be displaced the following lap. On lap 9 it was Clive Richards’ turn to lead from Horatio with Sam slipping back to third place. Horatio again retook the lead on the following lap with Sam Wilson into second and putting Horatio under pressure. On lap 14 the pressure became too much for Horatio and at Macleans he had a half spin which he corrected, leaving Sam with nowhere to go. As Sam said, it was just one of those things. Sam retired from the race and Clive Richards was the beneficiary, holding Horatio off to the flag.
Mark Woodhouse by comparison had a relatively lonely race to inherit 3rd place whilst Mark Carter clawed back through the field to finish a worthy fourth. The team said he seems to make a habit of comeback drives, enjoying the overtaking.
Rudolf Ernst passed Michael Hibberd on lap 10 for 5th place. Michael finished 6th winning his class and was the last of the unlapped cars. Nic Carlton-Smith in 7th added another class win to his trophy collection. Martin Aubert was eighth overall, tailed by Robin Longdon, giving them 2nd and 3rd in Class D2. Completing the top 10 was Alan Schmidt from George Diffey who had recovered from his slow start.
Sadly Gary Thomas was one of the early retirements in his Kieft. Progress continues. The following lap saw Mark Bates come into the pits to end his first race with the Lynx. Anthony Binnington was the other retirement, late in the race, aside from Sam Wilson, with the fuel tank not quite full enough.
Front Engined Race
As the cars approached the grid for the race it looked like Stuart Roach’s prayers were to be answered as a brief heavy shower passed over. But in the latent heat any damp was soon dispelled. Dave Wall had withdrawn following qualifying with a broken crown and pinion, and the 12 cars roared off into Redgate for the first time. Andrew Hibberd quickly asserted himself into the lead, opening a gap of over 3 seconds on the first lap which he extended to 23 seconds over the course of the 15 lap race. Stuart Roach settled into second place, leading Alex Morton by 10 seconds at the end, with Chris Astley fourth.
Crispian Besley, John Arnold and Rudolf Ernst had a super battle behind. Initially it was Besley just leading Ernst, before John Arnold got into his stride. Closing onto Rudolf by lap 7, John made his passing manoeuvre on the following lap. Arnold was closing down on Crispian but not quite in a position to pass before the end of the race.
Peter Fenichel made a good start leading the Stanguellini battle for Class A honours on the opening lap followed by Graham Barron from Class B1, with Martin Sheppard in hot pursuit. However, on lap 3 both Graham and Martin passed Peter. On lap 6 Graham dropped behind Peter, The two continued to battle for a further two laps before Peter gained the advantage as Graham’s engine began to sound a little rough.
The result was a class win Martin Sheppard from Peter Fenichel, and sole runners in their Classes, Graham Barron (B1) and Peter Edbrooke (C1) took the flag too, albeit Edbrooke lost 11th place overall to Edoardo Guarino on lap 6.
The day ended with suitably enthusiastic podium jumps from the Trophy winners. Next stop Brands Hatch and the Grand Prix circuit.
Report by Alan Jones