John Cleland wins a touring car race in a Vauxhall Vectra. Tiff Needell scores a dramatic Formula Ford victory in a Lotus 69… the very same chassis in which he notched up his first such success, and at the very same circuit, 42 years beforehand. Thruxton’s second Easter Revival was a masterclass in the art of time distortion.
While Cleland and Needell made headlines, star of the meeting was Mallock driver Mark Charteris. In the first Derek Bell Trophy race, won by Neil Fowler (March 782), Charteris capitalised on his Clubmans car’s lightness of foot to give Neil Glover’s F5000 Lola a hard time. He was finally beaten by a whisker.
By the time of Sunday’s second race, the circuit was partially under water – the dawn of a storm that would eventually lead to the temporary suspension of racing and cause two of the final four races to run concurrently.
Conditions were deteriorating when Fowler led away, but Charteris soon moved ahead to win by almost 40sec. John Harrison completed a memorable Mallock 1-3 as theoretically more potent rivals floundered in the puddles.
Cleland’s victory in the first Super Touring race was a little fortuitous, long-time leader James Dodd (Honda Accord) retiring late on with driveshaft failure. Patrick Watts (Peugeot 406) finished second, but went one better in Sunday’s slippery conditions, beating Simon Garrad (Renault Laguna) and Cleland.
Needell was in the thick of a four-way battle early in the opening FF1600 race, but Merlyn drivers Michael O’Brien and Maxim Bartell spun from contention and left the former Ensign F1 driver to tussle with Benn Simms (Jomo). The latter had just retaken the lead, on lap 10, when the race was red-flagged after Daniel Stanzl crashed heavily. He was unhurt, but the result was declared after nine laps, when Needell was ahead.
The second race featured a repeat two-way duel, and Simms profited from an easier run through lapped traffic to cement a 1-1 draw.
Neil Brown (Ford Mustang) won the most spectacular of Saturday’s races, outfumbling Tim Davies (Lotus Cortina) into the chicane on the final lap to win by 0.320sec, with Sean McInerney (BMW 1800Ti) third. Engine tuner Brown was absent on Sunday, when McInerney dominated. Roger Godfrey (Mini) slithered past Davies on the final lap to take second.
Callum Grant (Merlyn) won both Formula Junior races, helped in the first when Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 20) spun and later retired with a dead engine. Oliver Ford (Lotus Europa) won the ’70s Road Sports race, after challenger David Tomlin (up from the back of the grid in his Ferrari 308) suffered a right-rear tyre failure, and Robin Pearce (Morgan) dominated its Historic counterpart. Graeme and James Dodd (Ginetta G16) triumphed in the first Guards Trophy, from Chris Goodwin (McLaren M1B), while the second was yet another Saturday highlight. Paul Tooms (Lotus Elan) and Michael Whitaker (TVR Griffith) were inseparable for most of its 40 minutes, until Whitaker’s quick late spin settled the issue.
The final few races were shortened to fit, victories going to Richard Trott (Chevron B43, Classic F3), Michael O’Brien (Merlyn Mk20, Classic Racing Cars), Benn Simms (Reynard SF77, Historic FF2000) and the irrepressible Charteris, who had to work hard to oust Classic Clubmans rival Ray Mallock.
For all that Sunday afternoon’s conditions turned out to be fairly miserable, the event was anything but. Simon Arron