Brands Hatch, 2 September 2006
The news from Anglesey from pretty much as expected - one completey screwed turbo, in fact it was described as the worst the guy had ever seen. Funny that, sure the one we broke at the end of last year was described much the same way. It shouldn't have been that difficult to sort - but the Greddy turbo fitted for Anglesey turned out to be that much harder to source parts for, and the prices being quoted for a new turbo were silly.
Next plan was to swap in something more common, it would need work to machine up a flange adaptor and no doubt more work making up different brackets - but Auto Integrale were willing to work through the weekend, and the Bank Holiday to get the kappa up and running. But then we found that Mark at Owen Developments was on holiday this week and there was no other way we could get the new turbo mapped in. So that was the end of our plans for Brands - we will be out at Silverstone, hopefully with the kappa running right. If it stays dry, we'll have something to compare with as we've already been there this year.
Enough of the sob story - back to Brands!
An early morning start, but at least it was dry, the rain that was forecast for later in the day had not yet arrived. Its hard watching qualifying from the sidelines, you can never really tell who's going well and who isn't, who's trying and who's taking a breather. There had been much pre-race excitement about Mal Davison's Noble M12 GTR. Would it be quick - could it keep the Super Tourers honest? Watching it go round Paddock, it didn't look that quick, but then when I saw it take 100 yards out of Jason Holmes' Tomcat in half a lap, I knew it was.
But pole position quick? That stirred things up, the Noble qualified on pole, just a quarter of a second in front of Derek Hale's Honda Accord with Simon Blanckley's Accord and Richard Hawken's Nissan Primera on the second row. Just 0.6 seconds between 1st and 4th - it was going to be a good race. A bumper entry of eight cars in Class A meant John Hammersley was going to have his work cut out in his quest for the championship, qualifying 5th and a couple of seconds off pole meant he was in for a tough time.
It all looked equally shady for championship leader Jason Holmes. Ian Craig's BMW M3 was 0.5 seconds and 5 places quicker than Jason's Tomcat, with Dave Roberts' matching Tomcat alongside him on the grid. With 0.6 seconds separating 10th to 15th, it wasn't just up front that there would be close racing. Further back too, with 17th to 19th separated by less than 0.3 seconds. Unfortunately Jim Mepham's championship hopes expired in a cloud of steam on the slowing down lap, he was unable to take part in the race.
A very tightly packed grid came round Clearways in excellent, close formation and as the light went out, Davison's Noble got the drop on the tourers, and led the pack into Paddock with Simon Blanckley moving up to second and nibbling at the Noble all round the first lap. All 20 cars got round safely, though Mark Hammersley was very sideways in his Ford Fiesta near the back of the pack. As the cars came round to end lap one, Davison had pulled out a two or three length gap, and Blanckley appeared to be pulling away from the rest, but the tourers were much quicker round corners than the Noble, and the front four soon closed up. Davison set fastest lap of the race on lap 3, one that stood till the final laps. Each lap followed a similar pattern, Davison would lead across the line and down into Paddock where Blanckley would gain. Going into Clearways seemed to be Blanckley's best spot, or the Noble's biggest weak spot? By now the front four were running within a second or so and had completely dropped John Hammersley's Vauxhall Cavalier who in turn was safely ahead of Tony Soper running in 6th. The pace at the front was such that they were soon lapping backmarkers, and indeed the front four lapped the whole field by the end. Mid race Blanckley finally got through past Davison at Druids, and although Davison gave chase, Blanckley was looking favourite to win. A few laps later Derek Hale made his way past the Noble and set about chasing down Blanckley. As more backmarkers were caught, so Davison and Hawken fell a little back, but up front the chase was on. Hale was taking two or three tenths a lap from Blanckley, culminating in fastest lap and new LMA Euro Saloons lap record - such was the pace in this race that the front four all beat the old lap record, 3 of them by over a second! Over the last two laps Hale closed right up on Blanckley, but despite almost touching on occasion, Blanckley held on to win by just 0.174 seconds. Davison took the final podium position having fallen 8 seconds back, but the Noble is still road legal bar the slicks. Traffic meant that Hawken finished 4th, 3 seconds back from Davison.
If the excitement up front wasn't enough, there was plenty going on further back, Dave Roberts got the better start of the Tomcats and demoted Jason Holmes to third in class B for much of the running. Ian Craig out front in the BMW M3 had opted to run wets - there had been light rain falling in the approach to the race, although the track was dry at the start. This decision hurt him as he fell back first to Roberts and then to Holmes. Roberts was having an excellent race on his first visit to Brand Hatch, but around lap 10 Holmes got by at Druids and slowly pulled away. In the chase to get the place back, Roberts missed his braking point coming into Paddock and ended his race in the gravel. Holmes had played his joker and is now looking hot favourite for the title with 2 races to go.
Near the back of the grid, Dan Modi (Honda Integra), Simon Jackson (Vauxhall Nova) and Mark Hammersley (Ford Fiesta), all in different classes, were running in close formation. The Integra did slowly pull away leaving Mark and Simon swapping places all through the race. At one point when almost touching on the run down to Druids, they were swamped by the front four - the marshall reported a driving incident causing Hammersley and Jackson to report to the Clerk of the Course. He had written up a report for excellent driving standards as they both indicated, stayed off line to let the front four through, and then resumed battle as if nothing had happened! In the end Jackson triumphed over Hammersley by less than a second.
Two races left, Jim Mepham is out of the running for the title, although he's almost got Class C in the bag from Stuart Jefcoate. At the top its all about Jason Holmes and John Hammersley. Jason's joker lifts him 38 points clear, John is going to need 2 wins with Jason not scoring to take the title, so its looking like Jason's title, but you never know. Jason has got Class B wrapped up, as has John in Class A. Class D is going down to the wire with reigning champion Tim Morgan-Barrett leading Mark Hammersley by just 4 points, neither having played their joker yet, while Simon Jackson has won Class E.
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Saloons championship and standings so far.
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