Silverstone Finals; 16th – 17th October 2022
FJHRA Silverline Formula Junior Championships Finals – Silverstone
The FJHRA/Silverline Formula Junior season drew to a conclusion at an occasionally blustery Silverstone National Circuit. The winds also drew in some brief periods of damp just to enliven qualifying with very damp, testing, circuit conditions.
The season concluded with some drama, as well as great drives. In the Rear-engined races, Samuel Harrison demonstrated great maturity and craft to win both races and gaining fastest lap in the Speedsport Brabham BT6, a car he had not previously raced. Sam Wilson, starting from the back of the grid of both the Rear-engined races in the Cooper T59, carved through the field on both occasions to finish 4th overall in the first and 3rd in the second. Whilst the second of the Front-engined Junior races produced a Front-engined Championship winning drive from the master Ray Mallock in his father’s U2. All this at the expense of the unluckiest person of the weekend, Graham Barron, whose car failed him in the second race denying him the finish he needed to take the Front engined title.
In the absence of her father Duncan Rabagliati the organisational duties rested upon the shoulders of Sarah Mitrike to keep the boys in order and ensure the prize-givings maintained their usual humour and Pa-zaz.
An entry of 42 cars was posted for the two double header Formula Junior races, unfortunately during the week we lost two entries from the Rear-engined grid, reducing it to 17 cars. These were Syd Fraser in his Lotus 20/22, liveried as it appeared in the film Grand Prix, and the Ausper T4 of Roger Woodbridge. The Ausper expiring much to Roger’s disappointment during the Friday test when a lay shaft broke in the Colotti gear box. So, whilst no car was on track he still had the didgeridoo and Australian flag flying in his garage in honour of the absent car. Hopefully he still had the Italian Coffee and Chianti in the trailer in respect of the faithful Volpini that ensured he did get to race over the weekend.
The Front-engined Formula Juniors were the third qualifying session of the morning, and joined again on this occasion by the 5 Class C early drum braked entries. The damp track was slippery but improving as the session progressed. As the track dried, so the times tumbled and the leader board constantly changed with Peter de la Roche in the Lola Mk2 of Pat Barford, heading a 1,2 for the marque as Andrew Hibberd was second in his wheeltracks just half a second off the pace with Ray Mallock a mere two tenths further back.
Such was their speed that fourth man and 2022 Silverline Historic Formula Junior Champion, Nic Carlton-Smith (Kieft) was over three seconds behind the pole man. He had Michael Hibberd in the De Silva Lola Mk2 close on his heels. The group from 4th place to John Hutchison Jr in 11th place, was covered by just over 2 seconds. Close racing was promised.
The ‘flying carrot’ was entrusted into the hands of Iain Rowley to maintain the car’s appearance record whilst regular driver Duncan Rabagliati was performing other duties away from his much loved Formula Junior family. Iain coaxed the Alexis into 15th on the timing sheets behind the Mitter of Rudolf Ernst.
In the fight for Italian honours, Tony Pearson who, it is rumoured, brings the best sausage rolls to the paddock, led in his Bandini from Peter Fenichel, switching from his usual Cooper T56, to his recently reaquired blue Stanguellini, and Roger Woodbridge in his Volpini.
On a dry track later in the morning it was the turn of the Rear-engined cars to qualify. It became a battle of the Brabhams, with Alex Ames and Samuel Harrison in their BT6s heading Sam Wilson in his Cooper T59 from Andrew Hibberd in his Lotus 22. Benn Simms was the first to split the class E1 runners coming in 5th fastest driving Jim Blockley’s drum braked Caravelle Mk2, 1.3 seconds off the pace of the front runners, who were split by just over 8 tenths of a second. Whilst the next group headed by Simms in 5th to Michael Hibberd in 10th, were covered by an interval of a further 2.2 seconds. Each group held the promise of great racing for the afternoon.
The HSCC always try to keep ahead of time, particularly as October always come with the risk of fading light towards the end of the day. The officials did a great job to get the afternoon racing to start half an hour earlier than originally scheduled.
On the warm up lap of the first Front-engined race, Rudolf Ernst had a scare when he accidentally turned off the fuel supply, resulting in him starting from the back rather than his 14th place grid position. At lights out it was Peter de la Roche who led from Andrew Hibberd in the Lola Mk2, but a mistake at Becketts dropped Peter to second with Ray Mallock in third place. Keith Pickering had made a good start to come through in 4th place whilst Nic Carlton-Smith in the Kieft had dropped down to 7th. Rudolf Ernst had gained five places from his starting position of 23rd, but for Crispian Besley sadly it was an early bath with the Elva 100, loaned by Niall McFadden, not completing the first lap.
On lap 2, Peter de la Roche returned to the lead followed by Ray Mallock, with Andrew having dropped back to 3rd. Keith Pickering remained in 4th place but Nic Carlton-Smith had moved back up to 5th place. Michael Hibberd was in 6th with James Denty the second of the early rear engine cars in the Cooper T56 usually driven by Jeremy Bouckley, lying 7th. On the following lap Nic Carlton-Smith found some clear track and put in a lap almost a second quicker than Pickering to close the gap, however it wasn’t such a good lap for John Hutchison Jr, as he dropped from 9th place to 17th just ahead of a recovering Rudolf Ernst, following his back of the grid start.
On lap 5, Peter de la Roche put in a very fast lap, breaking the tow and extending the interval between him and Ray Mallock, the pair having slowly eased away from Andrew Hibberd. On this lap James Denty retired to the pits with a misbehaving engine, whilst Tony Pearson also ended his race due to electrical issues, but on track Nic Carlton-Smith passed Keith Pickering.
The order for the top 4 positions was now set. Further down the field, the next change came when Martyn Astley (Elva 100) came into the pits on lap 7, reappearing again on lap 10 having lost two laps on the leader, elevating Nick Taylor to 8th place. He was trailing Justin Fleming in his Lola Mk2 who was 7thth. John Hutchison Jr, lapping at similar times to Justin Fleming, had now recovered to 11th place.
Lappery was now stretching the field in some cases, but, when getting a clear track Michael Hibberd was slowly closing on Keith Pickering at times running almost a second a lap quicker only to lose time or record a similar time on the following laps. John Hutchison Jr. was having the same kind of race he had moved to 9th place and was in pursuit of Nick Taylor in the Elva 100 ahead of him. John completed his pursuit taking 8th place on lap 16. The remaining place in dispute was 5th place, when, on the last lap coming into Luffield, Michael swept past Keith Pickering to take the position. At the time Graham Barron finished 12th with a class win only needing to complete Race 2 to be the Front-Engined Champion whilst Ray Mallock, having finished 2nd, had pretty much conceded the title. Iain Rowley brought the carrot home in 13th place with Rudolf Ernst following in 14th.
The first Historic Formula Junior Rear-engined race had been anticipated to be potentially as close as the Front-engined with young Samuel Harrison up against a number of previous race winners, including both Alex Ames and Andrew Hibberd, who are no slouches and they know how to win on the Silverstone National circuit. Sam Wilson, despite having qualified third in the Cooper, had elected to start from the back because of gearbox issues. There was certainly some debate amongst the commentators about how quickly and far up he’d progress.
Samuel surprised Alex with his pace away from the lights. Alex later admitted that he had probably been too cautious and not put enough heat into the Dunlop tyres before the start. With a series of very quick opening laps Samuel had opened up a 3 second gap to Alex after 4 laps. As Alex set about his pursuit of the fellow Brabham driver they swiftly eased away from Andrew Hibberd who was having a lonely race in 3rd place. In 4th was Benn Simms, who was already being reeled in by Sam Wilson, who had got into 5th place by lap 2.
Following them, a dice was developing between Tim Child (Lotus 22), Geoff Underwood (Brabham BT2) and Rudolf Ernst (Lotus 22). Relegating Rudolf behind them, Child and Underwood would continue to battle for the remainder of the race. The trio set lap times equal to Benn Simms in 5th place but some quick opening laps had given him the cushion to avoid being threatened by the trio. For Rudolf it was Lukas Halusa he needed to watch out for, who was recovering from a bad start that had him left second to last on the opening lap.
At the front Sam Wilson had whittled down the distance between himself and Andrew Hibberd in third. The question of if Sam would catch had now changed in the commentary to when would Sam catch Andrew.
At the back, Colin Lloyd was having his first outing in the Lynx Mk2 of Justin Fleming. He had only passed his ARDS test in the week of the race meeting and, sadly, problems with the car meant he did not get to test it on the Friday. So, he was having a very steep learning curve to encounter in this highly competitive pack of cars, however, to his credit, he did not in any way interfere with the racing and for his first time was doing exceedingly well. But, like many in the previous races he made a small mistake into Luffield that spun him around, fortunately onto the grass infield, but in his frustration the engine stalled and would not restart. No damage and he was quickly recovered to be able to race the following day, but the yellow flag ,whilst the car was cleared, did prevent any overtaking or late braking manoeuvres at the start of the complex.
Adrian Holey was having better luck at controlling his car on a track he thought was rather slippery and was concerned there may have been oil on the track. The oil was coming from his own overflowing catch tank that was spilling onto his rear tyre. He did finish, having enjoyed the race for possibly all the wrong reasons.
On lap 15, Sam Wilson produced the move the commentators had been forecasting into 3rd place on the road which was converted back to 4th place in the results as Sam had a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits. It was not until the penultimate lap that Lukas Halusa passed Rudolf Ernst to complete the final overtake of the race. There had been some good racing throughout and with the promise of Alex Ames getting his tyres up to temperature in time for the start, the second race held a lot of promise. Saturday ended with Sarah Mitrike multi-tasking, as MC and presenter, of the race day awards.
The last round of the Historic Formula Junior Front-Engined Championship came to the grid on Sunday morning. A number of non-starters elected to load happy selves and cars up for the winter, together with the previous day’s DNF’s, which left just 17 starters. Unfortunately though, this was the end of Graham Barron’s season when his diff broke on the line, with John Hutchison Jr retiring the Envoy at Becketts on the first lap too when the half shaft UJ snapped.
In the commentary box the abacus’s were running as they tried to calculate the points position following Barron’s retirement. As in the first race, it was Andrew Hibberd who accelerated away to the lead on the first lap, but on lap 2 it got a little more exciting, with Peter de la Roche now leading and Championship contender Ray Mallock, now second. Nic Carlton-Smith had from the outset slotted into 4th place with Keith Pickering in 5th. Michael Hibberd moved into 6th place on lap 2 displacing Justin Fleming. From the sidelines all Graham Barron could do was watch. The Championship would still be his so long as Ray remained in second place.
Unlike Race 1, the leading duo were able to stay together, never more than half a second apart. The field was gradually splitting up with Roger Woodbridge getting to enjoy the fight for the lead as they passed him on lap 5. The pace at the front was very quick and for this writer’s confused brain trying to keep everyone in the right column on my lap chart got a little muddled at times. Lap 4 saw Michael Hibberd retire the Lola to the pit as he was not happy with the engine, which was not running well and rather than risk damage to his customer’s engine he came in to retire.
Rudolf Ernst was having a better race and was in a little trio of cars headed by Mark Haynes in the Nota, with Rudolf following and Dave Wall in the Gemini Mk2 the third of this pack. This little gaggle of cars was slowly being caught too by Jeremy Deeley in his Lotus 18. On lap 7, Jeremy also not only joined the tail of the group, but went on to pass both Ernst and Wall, with only Mark Haynes to catch.
On lap 8 the lead of the race changed, with Ray Mallock making the pass at Luffield. Peter de la Roche was not giving up though and there were several occasions when on the exit from Woodcote onto the pit straight the leading pair would be indulging in a drag race to the line. The utilitarian shape of the U2 punching a huge hole in the air on acceleration.
On lap 10 Jeremy Deeley’s charge stuttered with Rudolf now leading Dave Wall, both clearing Jeremy. Deeley regrouped and regained one of the lost places when Dave Wall retired to the pits, Jeremy himself retiring one lap later.
The duel for the race lead had the eyes of the commentators focused with Marcus Pye and Ian Titchmarsh concurring that if Ray stayed in the lead he could be the Front-engined Champion.
On lap 16 it looked like Peter de la Roche was going to retake the lead, but Ray’s experience and race craft sealed the race on the following lap when they caught Bernard Brock going into the complex. Ray was able nip in front of Bernard leaving Peter to wait until he could clear Bernard, who did his best to ensure he did not interfere with the race battle. Post race Peter admitted it had been a very difficult race as he had little braking. A surprised Ray could not believe that he had won the Front-engined Championship again. At the prize giving he thanked everyone for the pleasure of the opportunity to race with them and have so much fun. Rudolf Ernst completed our list of retirees when one of his spark plugs failed.
At the prize giving Sarah had an illustrious pair of presenters in the form of Tony Goodwin and Howden Ganley; who better to help in the end of season celebrations.
The Rear-engined Formula Juniors assembled in the afternoon to close the curtain on the UK Historic Formula Junior year. As in the first race, Sam Wilson was starting from the back of the grid but on this occasion he had two less cars to pass with the withdrawals of Chris Drake and Martin McHugh.
As he had predicted, Alex Ames stayed with Samuel Harrison at the start, the two Brabham BT6s again pulling away from Andrew Hibberd in 3rd place. The opening laps saw the front two matching each other and trading fastest laps between them, making it an interesting comparison. Experienced head versus rising talent. Ultimately it was consistency that drew Samuel clear, but he had to work very hard for the victory.
Behind the dicing duo Sam Wilson had carved through to 8th on lap 1 and as he found clear track was starting to match the times of the two leaders. It was a shame that Sam had not started at the front as we lost the opportunity to witness a three way battle. Perhaps that is something to look forward to next year.
Someone who had a less than favourable first lap was Geoff Underwood, who afterwards admitted that in his attempt to run with the big boys nearer the front, had run wide and lost a lot of places.
On lap 2 Lukas Halusa moved up to 4th place passing Benn Simms but on the following lap he was passed by Sam Wilson who was now in pursuit of Andrew Hibberd. With a smaller field of 15 cars there was more clear track but Andrew was not hanging around and for several laps it looked like the task would be too great on this occasion.
The race settled down with Samuel Harrison gradually extending the leading margin to just over a second on lap 10 which, as they became involved in lappery, extended to 4.5 seconds. On lap 12 Sam Wilson finally caught and passed Andrew Hibberd, but he was too far back to make any further progress. This time he kept the Cooper within the white lines and retained his 3rd place.
Lukas Halusa finished 5th ahead of Benn Simms. Tim Child was a lonely 7th with Rudolf Ernst having a better run with the Lotus 22, finishing 8th. Geoff Underwood climbed back to finish 9th passing Michael Hibberd in his Lotus 20 on lap 17. Whilst not classified Colin Lloyd successfully completed his debut race in the Lynx. John Arnold saying there will be a lot more testing prior to the new season so Colin can get to enjoy some racing rather than learn his way around both car and circuit during the race.
The day concluded with the final prize giving where Nic Carlton-Smith was reminded he had now won all of the Silverline Tool selection, and that Sarah would be expecting a short video of him giving a practical demonstration of the use of each piece of equipment for the awards luncheon at the end of November. Book your tickets now.