The CSCC Special Saloons
+ Modsports series
This was the first trip to Croft for the CSCC for 10 years and the first ever for the Special Saloon series. With heavy rain forcast too would anyone actually turn up ? In the end the series was rewarded with 22 starters ,3 more than at Silverstone and after a scare early saturday morning before qualifying with glorious sunshine yet again !
Entry saw the return of regulars Wayne Crabtree and Thomas Carey having both missed Silverstone. As hoped the northern-based drivers did committ so a welcome return to both Ron Harper ( Spitfire ) and Neil Claxton ( Suzuki ) both of whom had rebuilt their cars after damage last year in non-CSCC races. Veteran Harper ,75, having made his race debut at the track some 51 years ago now sharing with son Jack. Also back in the series with his new car was David Brewis in a former hillclimb Darrian T90-Vauxhall .
Also new to the series was the second MG Midget for Andy Southcott smartly presented in blue with a Lenham type nose and 2-litre Vauxhall power in class C. This backing up Silverstrone winner and son Chris' Midget with a 2.3 unit in class B. Two new cars also appeared in the 'Taster' class and challenged the Morris Minor for best sounding car ! The Brock-tribute Holden Commodore of Paul Eaton also on its first ever outing plus the glorious sounding MGB GT V8 of Lee Barnard.
22 cars took qualifying at half past 9 just as the drizzle ceased. About a quarter of the cars went out on slicks whilst some on wets really struggled with grip. 'It was like driving on jelly' said one competitor. No dramas as the times were recorded but these were not taken too seriously given the conditions. Ian Stapleton was one relishing the damp in his Alfa and set 2nd fastest splitting the 2 Southcott Midgets and this trio the only ones to get under 1 minute 42. Fourth was the wonderful Allard replica of James Plant but sadly it had to withdraw altogether with suspected diff failure. Another enjoying the damp track was Neil Claxton in 6th some 11 seconds faster than the next class D man. The Morris brothers Peugeot with only slicks on hand were way back in 20th.
RACE 1 : By quarter-past one the track had dried but we had several cars still struggling for grip and rotating all by themselves. Pole man Andy Southcott had a fuse blew on the warm up and couldnt take the start so Ian Stapleton lined up with class rival Chris Southcott along side at the front of the train. The nimble Midget soon got ahead and would lead all the way home. Crabtree and Hall battled behind the Alfa over 3rd but the biggest loser on lap 1 was Barnard in the MGB which spun at the hairpin whilst in 7th and lost 8 places. Hall took 2nd on lap 2 and Crabtree spun out of 3rd to eventualy finish 5th but still win class A from the Peugeot by 15 seconds at the end. Carey demoted Stapleton into 4th and easily won class C and thats how they finished. Southcott setting a fastest lap benchmark at 1minute 28.98 winning by 12 seconds as Hall struggled to keep up on his mixture of old tires at the back and new at the front. Neil Claxton won class D in 8th. Sadly the Paul Sibley Elan was done for the day when a spin into the gravel on lap 7 whilst in 5th kicked up a stone which took off the cam belt which in turn damaged a piston. Lap times typically some 15 seconds quicker such had the track dried from qualifying.
RACE 2 : Remarkably by mid-afternoon we had a glorious summer's day on our hands. Ian Hall started from pole in the fierce Darrian and romped away to win fairly comfortably. Thomas Carey gave good chase in the CRX for 9 laps but was reeled in by Crabtree as his old gearbox issues returned and the flame-belching Escort got past to take 2nd some 8 behind the winner. All 3 winning their respective classes. Danny Morris pushed on too taking a close 4th in the Peugeot. It was a bad race for Southcott father and son team. Chris started in 10th due to his 'winners penalty' but his charge was first compromised first time at the chicane when Neil Claxton's little Suzuki ran into the back of him pushing him into a spin. Chris dropping to 17th and then finding he couldnt select gears ,stating afterwards he didnt think that a result of the incident. Taking 4 laps to finally pass the Prelude of David Beatty after a great ding-dong Soutcott eventually came in 5th . Dad Andy also had a bad race spinning off whilst in 5th and only managed 11th at the end. Ian Stapleton had also spun off at the first corner and did well to recover to 5th. Tim Cairns ( Midget ) won class D in 10th having ran with the Percy Morris Minor all race finishing just half a second behind the V8 car. Hall set fastest lap at 1 minute 29.801 and 14 of the 16 cars finished on the lead lap.
RACE 3 : The one outing on the sunday turned out to be one of the most exciting and extraordinary races the series has ever seen partially by accident. The weather stayed dry for the mid-afternoon third race but missing were the Sibley Elan and now the Hall Darrian with an engine issue. Veteran Hall making a point at presentation that he was again impressed at the spirit in the paddock after mechanics from rival teams had come forward to try and solve his engine issue.
With no Hall it was Wayne Crabtree's Escort on pole and he and Thomas Carey ( CRX ) traded the lead for the first 4 laps with the Alfa and Peugeot right behind. Meanwhile at the back both the Southcott Midgets had been forced to start from the pitlane. They had missed the call to join the formation lap due to the tanoy in their pits not working. Chris should have been 5th on the grid and Andy 10th thus both started so far behind that they were still about 30 seconds down on the leaders after the end of the 1st lap.
Leader Crabtree slowed exiting Tower and lost 2 places as the Escort began to misfire leading to him pulling in ,the race's only classified retirement. Carey held the lead until Stapleton got his Alfa passed down the old pit straight on lap 5. Meanwhile Andy Southcott passed son Chris for 11th on lap 3 and began to set consistant sub 1 minute 29 seconds laps lifting him up 5th by lap 5. Catching the lead group and passing the Peugeot then the CRX and finally the Alfa for the lead on lap 8. It had been an amazing recovery and Andy held the lead to win by 5 1/2 seconds at the flag. Chris snatched 4th from the Peugeot though Ricky Parker-Morris still won class A .
In the second cluster of cars Craig Percy had held 5th but was passed by the B-train of Brewis ,Beatty and Barnard for 6th ,7th and 8th respectively after a great race of their own. Tim Cairns again won class D in 11th. The Commodore and Midget of Ian Staines had a bit of a tangle early on but both finished to keep the attrition rate very favourable.
This was Andy's first series win and quite an astonishing performance and broke the lap record set the day before by son Chris with a 1 minute 27.89.
Other items of note that again the series had the vast expereince of Tony Sugden in the pace car on the saturday and he gave his seat up to new honorary member Gerry 'Swish' Taylor for race 3. Also well done to Neil Duke who although had a steady weekend on track raised over £1000 for The Children's Trust charity with a back wax !