FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” Championship Round 6
HSCC LEGENDS OF BRANDS MEETING; 10th July
It all looked really promising for Formula Junior’s annual visit to Brands Hatch, but, Oh, what a let-down it turned out to be. Just eight minutes of green-flag racing, which was very poor value for the time, effort and money spent by competitors. But more of that anon.
A total of 44 cars were entered at the closing date for the traditional 20 minute single-header, including a remarkable 13 in Class C2. By start of qualifying however it was down to 36 starters, with a late withdrawal from John Chisholm after discovering sand in the engine when settling down to prepare the car from the previous round at Cadwell Park, and too late to fit the spare.
Qualifying was wet, very slippery at the start, but drying towards the end, and the top three were, as expected, Chris Goodwin, Adrian Russell and Clive Richards (all Lotus 22s) then the front-engined Alexis Mk2 of Stuart Roach, as impressive as always on a wet track, followed by Tim Child (Cooper T59). The third row was completed by Richard Wilson (BT6), despite a spin on the penultimate lap at Clearways, bringing the yellows out. Both James Hicks and Richard Ferris had spun coming past the pits on successive laps, James getting away with it, beaching just short of the tyre wall, however Richard’s Donford suffered a damaged front suspension. Jeremy Bouckley (in the Denty T56, now with period ERSA gearbox) was running as an Invitation entry until it obtains its HTP and Colin McKay was back in B2 as his Gemini now had a class-legal cylinder head.
The race was scheduled for 16.55 but no less than four red-flags in the preceding races (including two for the Formula Fords 1600) meant that it was 17.21 by the time the race started, on what was now a dry track. Richard Ferris (Donford) was a non-starter and Bernard Brock (Elva 100) was also missing when a new (!) fuel pump decided to stop working after practice. As the cars lined-up for the start, Michael Hibberd (Lotus 22) coasted up to his start position in neutral and the engine just stopped, Michael saying that they think it was just a faulty battery. The marshals tried their best to get it started but it’s very difficult to bump start a hot FJ engine. The long hold was not too popular with the others as engines were beginning to get very hot. Probably the start should have been delayed and the car pushed off to the pit lane and not left on the grass on the outside of the start/finish straight but, as the meeting was behind schedule and there were two races still to go before the 18.30 curfew, this clearly did not appeal to the Clerk of the Course.
Goodwin was first away when the lights eventually turned green, and as they turned on to the Grand Prix loop the first three were as per the grid – white Lotus leading blue then red, with Richard Wilson fourth and Roach, inevitably, dropping back. At the completion of the first lap the four leading cars were quite close, then a gap to Alex Morton (Condor) who had nipped by Roach, then Tim Child (T59), Nic Carlton-Smith (Kieft) who had made a great start, and Robin Longdon (Lola Mk3) who had only qualified 12th. On lap 2 Richards overtook Russell and Child demoted the front-engined pair of Roach and Morton, these two having exchanged places, with Longdon and Carlton-Smith next. Longdon gained another spot on lap three and on the next tour Wilson put Russell down to fourth.
Then the problems started. Besley and Griffiths were chasing Carlton-Smith for Class C2 when the Emeryson and the red Cooper tangled at Druids. Both cars ended in the gravel, this happening on their fourth lap. Incidents at Druids are pretty common and the usual procedure is use the safety car to allow the big yellow grabber to haul/lift the errant cars into the refuge that is there for that specific purpose. However, it was not until half the field had completed their fifth lap that the safety car signs were displayed and, for some reason, two flatbed trucks were despatched to recover the cars. Commentor Marcus Pye immediately said that they would never achieve recovery in the remaining minutes and, after a couple more laps under the safety car, the organisers (sic) reached the same conclusion and the chequered flag was shown early after 18 minutes so there had been only four laps of fully green flag racing. To add to the tale of woe, Griffiths’ car was damaged in the recovery process.
Somewhere in all this Richards had disappeared when his oil pipe came off, and Colin McKay stopped with overheating. Colin said “I was still going pretty fast behind Chris Wilks who was trying to catch the train up so wasn’t really affected by the slow SC everyone was complaining about later. Manic temp gauge at Hawthorn suggested I should give up, suspect head gasket so hopefully new head not damaged, waiting for Iain to report back on that.”
So, the results were declared after 8 laps with Goodwin winning from Wilson and Russell. Class D2 was a good win for Robin Longdon from James Hicks. The tightly contested C2 class went again to Carlton-Smith, keeping him on top of the points table, from Keith Pickering and Stuart Tizzard. B2 was the province of Stuart Roach from Alex Morton and Justin Fleming whilst Bob Birrell, Peter Edbrooke and Malcolm Wishart were unopposed in their classes.
It is to be hoped that the HSCC will have a good think about the issues surrounding this and other races during the weekend for “lessons learnt”, but one point seems blatantly clear – Saturday’s timetable with a full schedule and the last race due to end at 18.25 was asking for trouble and it seems most likely that this was the driving force behind HSCC’s failure to red-flag and restart the race. Brands’ absence of run-offs and the gravel traps virtually guarantee the need to recover stranded vehicles. This places a huge premium on efficient incident management, which to this observer, seemed less than perfect in other races, such that it is almost “false pretences” to imply that competitors whose race is late in the day are going to get their money’s worth. To their credit the HSCC moved the last race to Sunday morning so that at least everyone got a race of sorts.
by Richard Page