FJHRA/HSCC UK “Silverline” Front Engined Championship Rounds 3 & 4

FJHRA/HSCC UK “Silverline” Championship Rounds 5 & 6; Front Engined Grid

Sunny weather and a large and separate paddock space greeted the FJ return to Britain’s fastest race circuit when the FJHRA/HSCC Silverline championship resumed at the BARC Thruxton Celebration meeting. There were two races each for front-engined and rear-engined, the former also counting for the front-engined championship.

Fifteen front-engined cars came out for qualifying, which would set the grid for both rounds, including Colin Nursey debuting the ex-Dietrich Merkel, David Brand BMC Mk1 #13. Colin said that he felt immediately at home in the car, much more so than when he had starting driving his Lotus 18 and 22 and thought that, perhaps, he rather preferred sitting behind the engine. There had been plenty of pay testing on Friday, with Ralf Emmerling sadly destroying the chain drive drop box on the Gemini Mk2. Others in trouble were the ex-Merkel Lola Mk 2 entered for Michael Hibberd but tested also by Andrew: still with teething troubles, it was initially withdrawn but some hard fettling by Michael followed and it was reinstated for Andrew to have a second drive in addition to his 22 in the rear race. Niall Murray was not able to do the Thruxton race so John Arnold was planning to stand in for him. Unfortunately, a hold up in getting his licence wasn’t resolved in time.

The entry list contained the “fast five” from class B2 and it was no surprise that the front of the grid was occupied by Ray Mallock and Chris Drake, followed by Peter de la Roche in the dark blue Lola Mk2, Stuart Roach’s pale blue Alexis and Alex Morton’s Condor, then a clear time gap to Mike Walker in the first of the Bonds. Iain Rowley was out to do 3 laps to qualify Colin Mckay’s Gemini Mk2 for Sunday’s race, while Colin did the rest of qualifying for Saturday! Iain then did a quick change to rush off to make the speech at good friend Jim Woodley’s Memorial service.

Mallock took the lead at the start of Race 1 with Drake right behind him and so it stayed for the next 14 laps of very close battling, the final gap being just 0.762. To start with, Roach was third but de la Roche nipped by on lap two until he retired after five laps with oil pressure issues, which elevated Stuart back to third well clear of Alex Morton fourth, hindered by a misfire, and Mike Walker fifth and last unlapped runner.

By the time Race 2 came around in the middle of Sunday afternoon the sky had clouded over somewhat with a little light drizzle in the preceding race, but the track was dry by the time the FJs came out. This time the race was not quite so close as Drake made an awful start and was almost last away, thus gifting the race to Ray Mallock who was in command from the start. Stuart Roach ran second for two laps until overtaken by de la Roche whilst Drake was trying very hard to make up time and dived past Roach at the Chicane on lap 7 but his lap times were not any quicker than de la Roche’s so the places were then set for the duration except that, unfortunatley, Roach stopped after 11 laps with a fuel pick up issue (none left), letting Mike Walker, whose style and pace through the chicane were a joy to watch, up to lonely fourth. Andrew Tart was fifth followed by Justin Fleming. Interest was provided by a middle order battle between Tart, Nursey, Fleming and Barron though it rather spread out after mid-distance. Alex Morton started from the pit lap having strived unsuccessfully to cure the Condor’s misfire but pulled in after only one lap.

There were no Class A entries and Graham Barron was the only B1 car but he had an unwanted excitement when he spun and stalled in the middle of the track at the Complex although able to get going and so avoided the dreaded safety car; Craig McWilliams who had run on Saturday was not entered for Sunday. Peter de la Roche set fastest lap which was a new B2 record and Barron’s best lap beat the B1 record.

FJHRA/HSCC UK “Silverline” Championship Rounds 5 & 6; Rear Engined Grid

A glance at the entry for the rear-engined classes showed Richard Wilson in a Brabham BT6 rather than his more usual Lotus 27. This was the ex-Jonathon Hughes FJ-17-63 which, Richard said, he had acquired mainly for his wife to drive, but they felt that Thruxton was a rather quick circuit for her debut! In fact Richard said that he had not raced here before so was getting used to both car and circuit.

Qualifying saw Andrew Hibberd having lost none of his form for his first FJ race of the season in his ex-Swedish 22, with FJ Thruxton lap record holder, Pete Morton in his wake. Practice was interrupted by a red flag when Steve Futter spun a second time, and Simon Hewes (18) was unable to avoid him, both losing right hand corners with broken uprights: the only winner here sadly would be the Peter Denty spares store!! Row 2 was made up of Adrian Russell’s ex-Grandsire Lotus 22 and Robert Hoemke’s Lola 5A. Row 3 was Chris Drake (Class D2 Elva 300) and Iain Rowley, celebrating the 35th anniversary of his first FJ race at this very circuit, in the very same Lola Mk 5, on kind loan from Ian Robinson this weekend. But Iain was to miss race 1 as he was at Jim Woodley’s memorial service. Stuart Tizzard, at last with new wet sump BMC fitted in the ex-Len May T56, returned to Southampton overnight after Friday testing for adjustments and a further run on the rolling road. Sadly though, it was all in vain as the oil pipe came adrift on the second lap of qualifying and it was decided that it would be unwise to run without checking the engine back at base. Mike Gregory, excited to hear that his de Tomaso had a full wall spread at the Berry Restaurant in Pau, had a broken spring in his right rear brake, but was allowed to qualify out of session with the fronts.

The rears were out first at lunchtime for their race for Round 5 of the Championship. It was soon to be an Andrew Hibberd/Pete Morton dual of epic proportions to the flag; lap after lap they were just so close, and on the 9th lap almost inseparable as they came up to and through the chicane, and yet again five laps later at the flag, but it was the burgundy red 22 of Hibberd which just crossed the line first, although Pete’s existing FJ lap Record from 2015 remained unbeaten after a fine display of totally clean, close racing at the limit. Third place at the start was Adrian Russell’s 22, but he spun it away as he entered  the chicane for the first time, rejoining behind class C leader, Andrew Taylor (T56). He carved his way up the field to be in fourth on lap 9, behind Stuart Roach in third, who had qualified further down due to rotor arm failure in qualifying, but that was it as far as Adrian’s progress went, as he and Stuart’s lap times were very similar. Robert Hoemke was fifth with Chris Drake next. Chris Wilks dropped out two laps from the end whilst running third in class when his engine seized.

For Race 2 Pete got the better start and headed Andrew, Adrian Russell and Robert Hoemke into the complex. At the end of the lap Stuart Roach had secured fourth from Hoemke and next time through he was up to third. Meanwhile, on lap 2, Pete had run slightly wide at Cobb and Andrew needed no further opportunity to take the lead and this time was able to ease away, especially when lappery seemed to work against the Lightning Envoyette so that Andrew’s winning margin was 9.6′ with Stuart a further 20′ behind with a similar gap to Adrian.

Richard Wilson was finding his feet now and worked up from eight to fifth, his best lap of 1:29.529 being three seconds faster than qualifying. There was a good tussle for the next places between Hoemke, Drake and Rowley. The later two appear to touch at the Chicane and Hoemke had a quick spin there too. Drake, of course won class D both times and class C was a double for Andrew Taylor (Cooper T56). Andrew was far from alone in class though, and Keith Pickering had a particularly good weekend, finally taking not one, but two chequered flags in the ex-Michael Ashley-Brown Britannia.