Castle Combe, 4 May 2009
As expected, there has been little progress since Anglesey with the kappa rebuild, so we have had to sit this race out. We did take the opportunity to go down and watch in the hope of another exciting race like last year's was.
Round two of the 2009 LMA Euro Saloon and Sports Car Championship, and a Bank Holiday return to Castle Combe, and typically of Bank Holiday weather, it was cloudy, cold and windy with rain looking a possibility.
A few spots of rain shortly before qualifying seemed to rob the track of grip, or certainly rob some drivers of confidence. Mark Funnell (Lotus Exige) had unfinished business from last year, 32 seconds ahead after 5 laps only to lose the alternator belt, and it was Funnell setting the pace with a sub-lap record time of 1:09.500 on his first of 4 qualifying laps. This was an amazing 4.7 seconds clear of second placed Mark Harrison (Mitsubishi Evo), but Ilsa Cox (heading Class B in her Seat Leon Cupra) was just 5/100ths behind Harrison, Richard Gould's Noble less than 2/10ths behind Harrison.
The class C pole went to Nick Hayes (Seat Leon) in 9th overall, and 7/10ths clear of 2nd in class Olly Allen (Ford Escort). Ian Craig (BMW M3) was looking comfortable in Class D sitting 12th overall and well clear of his competitors Lee Reynolds (Citroen Saxo) and Simon Beament (Ford Escort RS). Class E was well represented with 5 Renault Clios, but the other clars in the class were proving a problem for them. Jim Mepham's pace in his Renault Megane easily eclipsed the rest of Class E and was just 1/10th shy of Craig's Class D BMW M3. Jason Newman qualified his Peugeot 306 third in class ahead, beaten by Brett Walter in his current model Clio, but beating all the old-shape Clios, while Chris Boon's Honda Civic split the remaining 4 Clios.
Despite no improvement in the weather, the rain held off and a dry race ensued. As expected, Mark Funnell got away at the start and simply drove off into the distance, pulling a gap of 3-4 seconds each lap on the battle for second place. Mark Harrison (Mitsubishi Evo) gave early chase, but slowly Richard Gould (Noble M12) moved up to second place even though completely out of contention for a win. Douglas Ellwood (Marcos Mantis) took up the battle for 2nd place and was running within a second or two of Gould for lap after lap, the gap moving backwards and forwards as they started lapping the back markers. Up front, it was a one horse race as Funnell smashed the LMA Euro Saloons and Sports Car lap record (which he set last year) by over a second at 1:09.000 on his way to winning the race by 25 seconds from Gould. Ellwood's challenge for 2nd place ended less than 2 laps from the finish as his Marcos expired on track.
Tony Soper had got off to a slow start but as the race went on, he was getting faster and moving slowly towards the front group, finally finishing in 4th place, almost a minute behind the leader and 15 seconds adrift of Class B winner Ilsa Cox. Cox may have been the solitary Class B entry, but she still set a new lap record for the class at 1:13.106. Andy Harvey was up next in 5th, but a race long battle for 5th between Simon Deaton (Mitsubishi Evo 8) and Dave Cockell (Ford Escort Cosworth) ended on the final lap as they touched on the exit from Quarry, Cockell spun to the infield while damage to the front of the Mitsubishi left Deaton unable to finish the race distance.
Nick Hayes (Seat Leon) made the early running in Class C but alas retired after 3 laps leaving Olly Allen to take a comfortable class win and finish 6th overall, with Kevin Wendt (BMW M3) second in class some 20 seconds further back. Ian Craig was always looking good for the Class D win, but his commitment through Camp Corner with the inside front wheel airborne every time showed no let up in his desire.
In Class E, both Jim Mepham (Renault Megane) and Jason Newman (Peugeot 306) were feeling confident and both played their jokers for double points. Mepham got off to a flying start making up a number of places on the first lap and punching well above his weight on his way to beating all but one of the Class C cars and all the Class D cars, finishing 8th overall. Unfortunately he lost 4 potential points being beaten to fastest Class E lap which narrowly went to championship leader Brett Walter. Jason Newman also had an excellent start, unlike Brett Walter who had a first lap spin and was looking good for a second in class as a reward. After the midpoint of the race, Chris Boon (Honda Civic) started to push Newman, but then on lap 13 suddenly Newman was gone, a broken driveshaft ending a valiant performance. His reward was Driver of the Day (and a bottle of champagne kindly donated by Ian Craig from last year's awards dinner raffle).
Just two rounds in, and no-one has a 100% win record, Brett Walter is nearest and heads the table on 64 points from Olly Allen (60), Kevin Wendt (58) and Ilsa Cox (56). Brett Walter also leads the Mark Fish Clio Cup on 60 points from Antony Sullivan (52) and Joe Walton (34). Renault now lead the MSE-Performance.com cup for manufacturers leading Ford by 222 points to 170 after a massive 96 point haul, with Subaru in 3rd place on 110. The new Super Touring Car Cup is headed by Peter Challis (40) from Richard Hawken (36) and John Hammersley (32).
With Class C competitors Olly Allen and Kevin Wendt already featuring in the top three overall positions, we are already going to have our work cut out if we want any form of pot come year end.
Visit the LMA site for details of the LMA Euro
Saloon and Sports Car championship and standings so far.
Check out the current points
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