Club Racing & Beyond

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

It’s not just the UK racing season that has wound down. Time is up, too, for Britain’s newest track. Incorporating the nation’s first banked oval since Brooklands, opened amid great fanfare in 2001 and twice a host to America’s now-defunct Champ Car series, Rockingham will henceforth be used as an automotive storage hub before, in time, being redeveloped. Housing? Retail? Who knows? The only certainty is that there will be no more motor sport.

After six years, it is also the end of the road for this column in its current form. Fitting, then, that it should sign off at Brands Hatch, the circuit that has featured most frequently herein.

ROCKINGHAM

I’ll confess that I didn’t attend often. The circuit’s location, within Corby’s industrial fringe, gave it a slight sense of soullessness – as did a couple of grandstands that have long stood condemned – but it retained the capacity to surprise. On the morning of the Super Send-Off, its valedictory race meeting in late November, there were kestrels hovering above the circuit and a colleague spotted a deer in the car park. Rockingham was never likely to be an Attenborough magnet, but nor was it wholly cars and concrete.

Despite the drainage problems that delayed its first Champ Car race in September 2001, that remains one of the most compelling racing spectacles I’ve witnessed in the UK. Gil de Ferran and Kenny Bräck, two drivers who somehow contrived never to land a Formula 1 race deal, swapped the lead as they worked through traffic and the Brazilian repassed at the final corner to take victory. He did it around the outside, too.

As a guide to that afternoon’s flavour, Mrs Arron – no great fan of the sport – asked at one point if I could nip away to get a couple of drinks for the kids, because she was engrossed and didn’t want to miss anything. That hadn’t happened before – and hasn’t since.

The swansong, on the infield road course, was never likely to be quite so spectacular, but as farewells go it was decent – not quite ‘run what you brung’ but an old-fashioned clubbie, two races apiece for sports/GTs, saloons and single-seaters, plus a 60-minute enduro for anything bar the latter. The single-seater entry was weak, but the other races attracted strong – and very diverse – entries. Radical SR3 vs Citroën C1? Step this way…

The driver of said Radical was circuit CEO Peter Hardman, an accomplished competitor of long standing (and a front-runner in junior Formula Ford back in 1983). He went on to win three of the seven races and put his name in the record books as the last driver ever to chalk up a Rockingham victory. Luke Souch (Mazda MX-5) became a motor sporting footnote, too, as the final participant to be classified in a race at Rockingham, one lap in arrears in 23rd position. And, after a run of just 18 seasons (not quite longevity on a Shelsley Walsh scale), that was that.

A lack of financial viability stopped the Champ Car fixture after a couple of seasons, but over time Rockingham drew high-profile national categories – British Touring Car Championship, F3, British GT – and its banked oval remained in limited use, predominantly in recent years for the BARC’s Pickup Truck Championship.

It was also a friendly venue, with elevated seating (in the one non-derelict stand) that offered decent views across the whole site and – a thoughtful touch – raised platforms at ground level to enable spectators with cameras to shoot over rather than through the debris mesh.

It is unlikely ever to be mentioned in the same breath as Brooklands or Crystal Palace, but I suspect it will be missed.

BRANDS HATCH

In the slipstream of its high-profile finales for the BTCC and the British Superbikes, Brands Hatch maintained its tradition of hosting race meetings through until mid-November. Ever since Jonathan Palmer’s MSV took over management of a selection of British venues in 2004, it has ensured that all are used as often as local planning permission (and available daylight) allow…

Although it no longer has its lustre of yore (with entries now around the 80 mark, rather than close to 200), the Formula Ford Festival remains a very fine event and, along with Silverstone’s Walter Hayes Trophy, provides some of the most reliably entertaining racing on the planet. There was even a building queue at the main gate by 9am on Saturday morning. And there is always a sense of brewing anticipation when a Formula Ford 1600 chain lines up at the pit exit, steam shimmering from exhausts in cool autumn sunshine.

Delays with red flags and safety cars meant it was nigh-on dark by the time the final commenced in earnest, but the absence of headlights did nothing to dilute the ferocious precision of a lead duel between Niall Murray and Josh Smith. In a race reduced by circumstance to just eight laps, Smith pulled off a last-lap pass at Druids to take the flag by 0.087sec – quite a sizeable margin by the standards of the weekend. Benn Tilley won both Classic FF1600 races after epic duels with Scott Mansell, the first by 0.016sec and the second by a slightly more comfortable 0.022.Neither driver was sure who had won until they returned to the pits; motor racing is seldom better than this.

And credit, too, to veteran Stuart Kestenbaum, whose antique Crosslé 16F seemed to appear in most of the FF1600 races. He’d probably have sneaked it onto the Ford Fiesta grid, too, had an opportunity presented itself.

The seasonal fare continued with classic touring cars, the Formula Vee Festival and two Dunlop Endurance Championship ‘into the night’ races, in which ‘night’ translates to about 4pm. Admitting everything from McLaren 570S GT4 to Smart ForFour via Saker and Lotus Elise, the DEC would be engaging in daylight, but no matter whether you are at Daytona, Le Mans or just down the road from Swanley, our sport always has a little extra zest beyond dusk.

This meeting also confirmed that Mini Sevens and Miglias remain every bit as captivating as they have been for more than half a century (even when there aren’t really enough of them on the grid), that MSVR’s Trackday Trophy is a fantastic starting point for budding racers and that the Hyundai Coupé Cup is an emerging force in the world of relative affordability.

A few seasons ago it ran concurrently with other series due a shortage of cars, but there were more than 20 on the grid at Brands and the lead tussles between Steve Kite and Wayne Rockett illustrated the ancient art of how racing should be conducted. They took one win apiece – and their second encounter was particularly entertaining.

“That’s the way things should be,” said the victorious Kite. “We all have to go to work on Monday and this is only a hobby, so everybody wants to enjoy it.”

Rockett’s response? “Second feels as good as a win after a race like that.”

Right formula, right attitude.