Silverstone Finals; 14th -15th October 2023
FJHRA Silverline UK Championship Rounds 11 & 12
FJHRA Silverline Front Engined Championship Rounds 4 & 5
The FJHRA Silverline UK Formula Junior Championship concluded at Silverstone on the National circuit on October 14th and 15th. Approaching the final rounds four drivers were still in contention for the overall Championship:- Alex Morton, Michael Hibberd, Nic Carlton-Smith and Horatio Fitz-Simon. Horatio was hoping to add the UK Championship to the Lurani title that he had gained the weekend before at Mugello.
An entry of 39 cars split was across two grids, one for the Front-Engined cars, the other for the Rear-Engined cars, providing four Formula Junior races over the weekend to excite the audience.
In the Front-Engined races Chris Astley was making his second appearance of the year in his Elva 100, whilst Gary Thomas had a run out in the Nota of Mark Haynes whilst still sorting his Kieft for next season.
The Rear-engined grid had a very competitive entry. At the front, Michael O’Brien would be racing the Lotus 27 of Nick Fennell, Cam Jackson was guesting in the family De Tomaso, whilst Sam Wilson had finally got a working first gear in his gearbox in his Cooper T59 to be able to do the standing start. James Denty was giving his Cooper T56 a run, making it four Coopers Nic Carlton-Smith would have to fend off in his class. Mark Williams, after his problematic debut at Castle Combe, was back in the De Sanctis. In class E1, John Gemmill was a new name in the ex-Kim Shearn Lotus 20/22, and Perry Tubb had fired up Greg Thornton’s Lotus 20/22 for a run out.
The Rear-Engined qualifying was a disjointed session punctuated by a red flag and yellow flags too.
The session had only just started when Syd Fraser’s Lotus 20/22 ground slowly to a halt up against the pit wall. With no safe way to clear the car the session was halted while Syd’s car was recovered, luckily fixed later and would take part in both the races over the weekend.
Once restarted, the contest for Pole Position was fierce. Initially it was Michael O’Brien who took pole, setting a time on lap 7 that just bettered Cam Jackson, both in the 1min 4 secs bracket whilst the others were still in the 1min 5 seconds. Horatio joined them on the next lap but it was lap 9 before Sam Wilson completed a quartet battling for the top slot. Andrew Hibberd and Adrian Russell both in Lotus 22’s remained in the 1min 5 secs bracket, but times for all six fluctuated as they caught traffic on the fast but relatively short ex-airfield circuit.
Perry Tubb was struggling with the Lotus 20/22. He found the gear selection to be awkward and he could not get the car to pick up. He did briefly pull off on the Wellington Straight but was able to restart, doing two laps without setting a time. After qualifying he diagnosed a blocked fuel filter as the problem.
Following his “off” in the Historic Formula 3 qualifying, Mark Carter seemed a little circumspect, qualifying in 9th place behind Tim Child and Geoff Underwood. Michael Hibberd would complete the top 10, leading Class D2 in his Lotus 20, ahead of Nic Carlton-Smith, a fellow contender for the Championship title who was leading his Class C2.
A spin by John Gemmill on the last lap at the exit of Woodcote left him stranded in the middle of the track facing the traffic as it passed either side of him. The double yellow flags in that sector brought the session to a close.
At the end of qualifying, it was Cam Jackson who had set the fastest time from Horatio Fitz-Simon, Michael O’Brien and Sam Wilson. However, Jackson, Wilson and Carter, having all set their fastest laps of the session on the last double yellow flag lap, had all their times disqualified and were penalised to start at the back of the grid.
Being later in the morning the conditions were dry with a bright sunny sky when the entry of 13 cars for the Front grid came out for their session. From the onset there were two cars contesting for Pole Position; Andrew Hibberd in the family Lola Mk2 and Ray Mallock in his U2. The pair traded fastest lap with Ray taking pole by just over 100th of a second from Andrew, who was complaining of a gearbox issue.
Alex Morton in the Condor qualified 3rd overall from Chris Astley in the Elva 100, with Graham Barron in the 1000cc Gemini Mk2 finishing in 5th. Graham stopped on circuit just before the end of qualifying, but as he had parked up just round the corner after the end of the pill wall when the car lost drive, the qualifying was able to run its short remaining distance without interruption.
Dave Wall was a strong 6th in his Gemini with Gary Thomas and Justin Fleming in 7th and 8th, being separated by just 0.02 seconds. John Arnold in his Elva was 9th with Andrea Guarino qualifying 10th. Andrea’s weekend unfortunately ended here due to a gearbox issue later further diagnosis of a broken diff, meaning his son Eduardo, also in an Elva 100, would maintain the family name inheriting the place from Andrea as he had qualified 11th. Peter Fenichel (Stanguellini) and Peter Edbrooke (Lotus 18 – sole C1 runner) completed the grid.
Rear-Engined Formula Junior Race 1
With three very quick cars starting from the rear of the grid, this always promised to be an exciting race. Having qualified out of session following his problems, Syd Fraser lined up alongside Perry Tubb on Row 13 of the grid to complete a 26 car race. On Row 11 & 12 were the penalised cars, with Mark Carter sharing the penultimate row with Paul Clark who was having issues with his Lotus 20/22 and elected to start at the back.
The front the revised grid had Horatio Fitz-Simon on Pole with Michael O’Brien alongside, the next row was Andrew Hibberd, sharing with Adrian Russell. Behind them it was Geoff Underwood and Tim Child, Geoff’s Brabham being the only interloper in the otherwise Lotus dominated grid.
The additional worry for all was the darkening skies with showers popping up on the radar. Officially they were not due to appear until later in the day but there was a watchful eye upwards.
At the start it was Michael O’Brien who led from Horatio Fitz-Simon. Geoff Underwood had an “off” at Becketts, rejoining in 24th place, just ahead of Mark Williams in the De Sanctis and Perry Tubb still not comfortable with the Lotus.
In 3rd place on Lap 1 was Andrew Hibberd, from Adrian Russell, Tim Child and Alan Schmidt who had started 13th on the grid. Cam Jackson was already close behind the group having made his way up to 7th with Michael Hibberd 8th, Sam Wilson 9th and Crispian Besley 10th, leading the Class C2 runners. Nic Carlton-Smith having had a poor first lap dropping back to 15th and 3rd in class.
On lap 2, Horatio had a moment at Luffield dropping him back to 6th place when a local cloud burst caught out a few of the runners. The rain was focused purely around the Luffield/Woodcote area, and Tim Child was another to fall foul of the change of conditions which relegated him to 15th place. Andrew Hibberd was now occupying the chase position as Michael O’Brien continued to pull away in the Nick Fennell Lotus 27. Adrian Russell remained in 3rd, whilst Sam Wilson had slipped past Cam Jackson into 4th with Cam 5th and Horatio shadowing them from 6th place.
For the next three laps Adrian continued to come under pressure from the squabbling pair behind of Wilson and Jackson who continued to swap 4th place between them, until on lap 5, Adrian succumbed to the attacks of the group behind him dropping all the way back to 6th place as Jackson, Wilson and Fitz-Simon all swept past him. Michael Hibberd had lost 7th place to the Rennmax of Adrian Holey and Nic Carlton-Smith had regained the lead of Class C2 with James Denty 2nd and Crispian Besley 3rd in the class behind Nic. The last of the penalised runners, Mark Carter, had made his way up to 10th place.
With Michael O’Brien extending his advantage to over 7 seconds, barring problems, his second win of the weekend (having won the HF3 race earlier) was beginning to look assured. On lap 7 it was Sam Wilson who brought his Cooper through to second place from Andrew Hibberd, who had the De Tomaso of Cam Jackson on his gearbox. On the following lap Cam was through too and Andrew had his last battle of the race with Horatio, who too went past pursuing the train in 2nd and 3rd. It was a bad lap for Andrew as Adrian Russell also went by relegating him to 6th place. Sam and Cam continued their race with strategic lappery coming into play as each one tried to place a slower car in the way to try to break free from the tow of the other.
At the line, Michael O’ Brien took the flag with a 9 second advantage of the battling pair behind, Cam coming home second by 5/100ths of a second from Sam. Horatio, following his early spin, could not make up the deficit finishing just over 5 seconds down in 4th place, a result that did no favours to his Championship hopes. Fifth was Adrian Russell and Andrew Hibberd 6th. Tim Child recovered from his spin to finish 7th whilst 8th and 9th were the Speedsport Brabhams, Mark Carter BT6 leading Geoff Underwood BT2. Both drivers having clawed their way through the field.
Completing the top 10 was C2 class winner Nic Carlton-Smith followed in 11th place by D2 class winner Michael Hibberd. Michael having overtaken 12th place man Adrian Holey on lap 12. Kim Shearn, back out in the Penny Ford, was 22nd winning his class, and Mark Williams had his first finish in his De Sanctis, in 24th to win his class too.
The only non-finisher was Perry Tubb who retired on Lap 10.
Front-Engined Junior Race 1
With Andrea Guarino and Dave Wall (diff) non starters following qualifying it was 11 cars that took to the start, and as the saying goes, it only takes two cars to make a race. In the case of the Front-Engined Juniors those two were Andrew Hibberd and Ray Mallock.
At the start it was Andrew Hibberd in the Lola that pulled away from the U2 of Ray Mallock. Alex Morton was 3rd and Chris Astley 4th, with Chris’s energetic arms and elbows driving style entertaining the crowd watching from the BRDC stand. The drifting through Luffield always created an air of anticipation with each appearance. Luffield was not such a great joy for Graham Barron though as he spun there on the 1st lap relegating him to last place giving him a chase to get back up the field.
At the front Andrew continued to head the U2 of Ray, but with the U2 like a terrier snapping at his wheels, it was proving difficult to break away. By lap 7 Andrew had his biggest margin of just over a second on Ray but the U2 came back again. It was on Lap 12 that Ray finally found the opening to take the lead.
Keeping the lead would be more difficult with Andrew close to his wheel tracks. On the final lap Ray came through well clear when Andrew pulled the Lola into the pits, but still taking second place, from Alex Morton and Chris Astley.
Initially John Arnold had held 5th place behind Chris Astley, but he was passed first by Justin Fleming on lap 3 then Gary Thomas on lap 4. As the field gradually separated the interest in the lower order would be the progress of Graham Barron on his recovery drive. By lap 9 he was back up to 7th, his target being Justin Fleming in the blue Lola. A very determined drive from Graham had him rise from being almost 8 seconds down on lap 9, to 6/100ths of a second ahead of Justin at the finish on Lap 18.
Peter Fenichel Stanguellini and Peter Edbrooke Lotus 18 were the other class winners.
Rear-Engined Formula Junior Race 2
Looking at the result for Race 2 after the event it would appear as though it was another straightforward win for Michael O’Brien, but at the beginning it did not look like it was going to go his way.
As in the first race, we had three penalised drivers starting from the back and again Michael would line up alongside Horatio. This time it was Horatio who got the better start to lead Michael. Andrew Hibberd was 3rd, Adrian Russell 4th, Tim Child 5th, Michael Hibberd 6th, Geoff Underwood 7th, Cam Jackson 8th, Sam Wilson 9th and Nic Carlton-Smith having no problems this time 10th.
Tim Metcalfe didn’t get off the line having broken a drive shaft in his Cooper T56, and Perry retired the Lotus 20/22 not long after, for some work over the winter.
Horatio held onto the lead for 3 laps before Michael O’Brien slipped past bringing with him Andrew Hibberd who maintained the pressure for a further two laps before Horatio regained 2nd place. On lap 4 Sam Wilson was already up into 4th place displacing Adrian Russell, with a 4 second deficit to make up before catching 3rd place. Cam Jackson was also in pursuit from 6th place.
Mark Carter who had come through the pack so well in Race 1 was really struggling in the second race, gaining places to only slip back again on the next lap. With just two Laps remaining, we got an idea of the issue when he entered Luffield, the car not wanting to turn and locked up in a straight line. Turning the car around Mark pulled off the circuit to retreat back to the paddock. A disappointing end for him in what had been a good season.
Back to the race, and it had settled into a steady order with Michael was leading Horatio, Andrew in third, and Sam closing the gap. On lap 9 Sam moved into 3rd place with Horatio only just over a second ahead of him.
By lap 10 the interval second to third was measured in mere tenths of a second. Sam was in second on lap 13, with Horatio close on his heels and Cam up to 4th, with Andrew once again slipping back to 5th. Adrian Russell was 6th, Tim Child 7th and Geoff Underwood 8th. Michael Hibberd was 9th embroiled in a three-car battle, trying him best to influence the result of the Class C2 contest behind him involving Nic Carlton-Smith and James Denty.
The lappery was now intense as the pace of the battle for 2nd brought them higher up the placings, meaning by lap 17 Michael O’Brien had been able to extend his lead from almost 9 seconds, to just over 12.
Mark Williams unfortunately couldn’t make it two finishes this weekend in the lovely De Sanctis, pulling off at the Complex on lap 13 which brought out the yellow flags whilst he was pushed to safety. Tim Child also retired on Lap 15, when the coolant hose came loose. “I felt a very hot shoulder, saw ‘smoke’ in the mirror (steam) and got out of the car quickly!”
In a dramatic final lap the last twist in the tale was revealed when behind Michael as winner just under 14 seconds clear of his rivals, Sam Wilson came in 2nd, with Cam Jackson 3rd ahead of Horatio by just 1/10th of a second.
A brilliant finale to a particularly good season of close racing at the front.
Front-Engined Junior Race 2
The dice between Ray Mallock and Andrew Hibberd had been close in Race 1 but Race 2 was even more engrossing, with Ray and Andrew swapping the lead at regular intervals, but neither gaining advantage to break away. On lap 1 it was again Andrew Hibberd that led Ray, but the lead would switch to Ray on lap 3. On lap 6 Andrew reclaimed the lead holding it up until Lap 13, when Ray took the lead for the final 3 laps to the flag.
Alex Morton held a secure 3rd place throughout giving him sufficient points to finish 2nd in the overall Championship and winner of the Front-Engined Championship. Graham Barron initially held 4th place from Justin Fleming who was enjoying a dice with Chris Astley, then on lap 3 Chris came through in 5th place with Justin having been shuffled back behind Gary Thomas in Mark Haynes’ Nota, to be 7th.
Edoardo Guarino had a spin at Becketts on lap 1 losing him a lot of time to rejoin in last place, but gradually he closed the gap to the cars in front.
On lap 6 Chris Astley slipped past Graham Barron who would retire from 5th place on lap 11 handing the place to Gary Thomas. The race finished with Ray Mallock as the winner making it two in a row for the local man, with Andrew Hibberd just 0.432 seconds behind. Alex Morton 3rd, Chris Astley 4th, Gary Thomas 5th, Justin Fleming 6th, John Arnold 7th with Edoardo Guarino 8th. Peter Fenichel and Peter Edbrooke completing the order both winning their classes.
Prizegiving was a jolly end to a social weekend, with not just the drivers who were entered present, but many visiting too, all making the most of the tea turn and garage shelter, as Nic was confirmed as 2023 Champion, his third in a row.
by Alan Jones