Snetterton; 22nd April 2023

Silverline Championship Round 1
Snetterton 22.04.23 

Like the flowers that bloom in the Spring, the UK Historic Formula Junior Championship came into blossom at the HSCC Autosport 3 Hour Meeting at Snetterton. The opening round attracted an excellent entry of 34 cars from across the classes of both front and rear-engined cars. With the event just a week after the Goodwood Members Meeting that had attracted an entry of 30 cars, it would seem the gentle winter nurturing could be heading towards a really fruitful season of racing.

Amongst the entry were several new faces along with some welcome returnees. Father and son Andrea and Edoardo Guarino in Lotus 22, and Elva 100 (ex-Taff Smith) respectively had come across from Italy. Andrea of course being a regular competitor in the Lurani Trophy, while Edoardo was making his debut in the UK, but sadly Eduardo’s experience did not last beyond testing with a diff failure in the Elva.

Brazilian Pedro Castrioto De Azambuja fielded the Ausper T3 formerly owned by David Drew and Alex Morton, in its new Brazilian national flag livery. Alan Schmidt in a Lotus 22 was the third of the Speedsport prepared cars to have completed the graduation of his fellow team members Mark Carter and Geoff Underwood from the cut and thrust of Historic Formula Ford, to the competitive but more genteel racing of Historic Formula Junior.

Last of the newcomers was John (Chip) Fudge in the ex-Peter Morton Lightening/Envoyette. For Chip, competing at Snetterton was the culmination of a lifelong ambition to compete at the Norfolk circuit. Now for many in the UK, Snetterton is not necessarily high on the list of circuits they want to compete at, but for Chip, being a fan of Archie Scott-Brown, there was nowhere more important to visit. Before getting onto the track his special time was complete when he saw the big picture of Archie in the Lister that is on the wall inside the café. Chip, who not only has three Historic Trans Am cars that he races at home in the USA, but a Cooper T59, really enjoyed the experience and was looking forward to continuing his Formula Junior season at Dijon in June.  

Roger Woodbridge had switched from front-engined to rear-engined propulsion. The restoration of the ex-Brian Gubby Ausper T4 that raced at Monaco in 1962 had been arduous, lengthy, and at times challenging. Roger had to undertake a number of changes, including switching the car from the Hewland box it came with to a period correct Colotti. Cranking the engine over to 30 degrees, as it ran in period, necessitated a spill shield to prevent any unburnt fuel escaping from the Carb onto the exhaust and switching from left to right hand drive. A big project still very much in the development process but Roger was very pleased to get the car out on track.

Further to Edoardo Guarino’s previously mentioned withdrawal the others missing from the entry were Adrian Holey’s Rennmax (after he broke ribs off road biking), Simon Jones Elva 100 (engine issue in local testing), and Peter Edbrooke Lotus 18 (awaiting delayed licence). It was unfortunately not to be a good weekend for Lotus 18 as Stuart Monument and Clinton McCarthy both withdrew their cars following qualifying with differential failures, Clinton having only completed two laps before coming to a halt at the end of the pits.

In the opening laps of Qualifying on the Snetterton 300 circuit, Clive Richards set the early pace in his Lotus 22 until Horatio Fitz-Simon settled into his stride setting a series of times that left the chasing pack well in the distant wake of his Lotus 22. Horatio was almost three seconds faster than Clive, with Adrian Russell, also in a Lotus 22, 3rd, 2.2 seconds behind Clive with the remaining top 6 runners of Mark Woodhouse (20/22), Tim Child (22) and Nick Fennell (27) all closely bunched just over half a second behind Adrian.

It was left to the Speedsport pair of Mark Carter and Geoff Underwood, Brabham BT6 & BT2 respectively, to be the first of the non-Lotus cars. Nic Carlton-Smith headed the C2 Class with his 2021 and 2022 Championship winning Kieft, followed by Alex Morton in his B2 Class Condor SII who was the fastest of the front-engined runners, with Michael Hibberd (Lotus 20) leading D2 Class. Two gentlemen in a class of their own were Richard Ferris in his Donford in Class E2 and Peter Fenichel (Stanguellini) in Class A.

Qualifying left work to be done on the Lotus 20 of Martin Aubert whose car dislocated a rear trailing arm which created an interesting shift in the drive shaft, whilst Hans Ciers’ similar car had some work to do following a lack of brakes. Stuart Tizzard, after qualifying his Cooper T56 8th in Class C2, remarked that the car was okay but said the driver needed some work.

There was never to be any doubt concerning the top two podium finishers. Horatio produced a storming performance from the outset drifting under throttle through the corners, hands characteristically crossed at times on exit.  Despite a lunchtime change of gear ratios, Clive Richards was unable to keep pace with the on-form Horatio. The top two dominated finishing almost 40 seconds clear of their rivals with Horatio trimming 0.127” from Cam Jackson’s 2021 lap record.

The race for third place was, however, a lot closer. Tim Child, who had started 5th, was up to 4th behind Adrian Russell, maintaining his qualifying position in third.   relegated Mark Woodhouse to 5th at the end of lap 1, Mark dropping back a further position when Nick Fennel Lotus 27 slipped past him on the following lap.  Mark gradually lost touch with the battling three whose dice lasted throughout the race.

Michael Hibberd dropped a couple of positions on the opening lap, locking up and running wide, whilst Hans Ciers started from the pit lane, bedding the car in to finish the race 25th of the 28 starters. The race settled into a pattern with some close fought battles taking place throughout the pack.

Andrea Guarino had made a great start from his 15th place on the grid to be following Alex Morton in the Condor, who was lying 11th at the end of the first lap. Problems on lap 5 dropped Andrea down the order to finally finish 21st.

In the closing laps of the race the contest for mid field positions became a lot closer. Alex Morton in the Condor was onto the back of Keith Pickering in the Britannia lap after lap, and Tim Child was having a great tussle with Adrian Russell and Nick Fennell. Tim’s pursuit of Adrian faded at the end as a fuel pick up problem increased, robbing him of power on the straights. This allowed Nick Fennell to finally breeze past him closing to within less than a second of Adrian Russell.

Mark Carter had for the majority of the race held the honour of being the first non-Lotus car, lying 7th overall in his Brabham BT6. Geoff Underwood, after 5 laps, had caught his team-mate and was trying to find a place to overtake. On the last lap Geoff made one final attempt to pass Mark into Russell. The resulting spins and contact, in what can best be described as a racing incident, relegated Mark to 9th place behind Nic Carlton-Smith, with Geoff Underwood taking 7th place in the Brabham BT2.

As for Stuart Tizzard, I am not sure what they tightened or adjusted, it is always best not to ask, but he did move up the order from qualifying 22nd and 8th in class so that he finished in 18th overall with a 4th in class, one position away from a podium. 3rd spot in Class C2 going to Ian Simmonds, a welcome returnee after a few seasons’ absence, in his Envoy Mk1.

28 Cars started the race and 28 cars finished, not necessarily in as good a condition as when they started, but passing the chequered flag nonetheless. Chip Fudge was very pleased with his 14th place finish at Snetterton, and delighted to be racing in such a healthy grid, used to being one of only a handful of FJ’s in the US. Roger Woodbridge was simply pleased to finish, as always, the gentleman racer, keeping his eyes focussed on his mirror waving faster competitors through as he continued to sort the Ausper. Class winners were C2 – Nic Carlton-Smith Kieft, with a new class lap record D2 -Michael Hibberd Lotus 20, 21 years after Andrew first raced the same car here, B2 – Alex Morton Condor SII, E2 Richard Ferris Donford FJ, who enjoyed a close dice with Ian Simmonds for 16th overall, and collected his first FJ trophy, now his papers and car have him period correct with a 4 Speed gearbox. Completing the winners was Peter Fenichel in the Class A Stanguellini. Tim Child was awarded Silverline Driver of the Day, as nominated by Marcus Pye, commentator on the day.  

Prizegiving took place outside the garages in the sunshine and continued with drinks and social until sunset.

Report by Alan Jones