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The CSCC Special Saloons + Modsports series

Donington report

A packed field put on an excellent spectacle at Donington, here about to start race 2.

DSC_9571 Southcott2020

A pefect weekend for double race winner Andy Southcott who extended his series record wins tally to 20 in the Mike Johnston-built Midget Lenham GT . Andy also broke the series record lap record.

Qualifying

This must be the most challenging qualifying session the series has seen. The format for saturday had been planned well in advance that to accomodate all the CSCC series the usually under subscribed Special Saloons would share the 30-minute session with the fledgling 'Slicks' series. The Specials would also be joined by cars from the Bernie's V8 series of whom a handful and joined the fun previously at Thruxton. A week before the races it was clear the response across all the CSCC series by competitors to get back racing was so positive that a record 492 driver entries had come in and each series had bumper grids to sort out. The Specials/Bernies plus Slicks session was over subscribed thus some cars were placed on the Reserves list. It should be noted the club didnt favour their own series cars over the guesting Bernies cars as it was a fair, first come, first served basis. 2 of the cars were entered in both Specials and Slicks to confuse matters further.

There were 24 Special saloon entries and they included 2 of the most famous Supersaloons of all time. Joe Ward again kindly brought out 'Baby Bertha' for a second time this season. The other car though hadnt been seen racing for 42 years other than the series revival meeting back in 2011. This was the ex-Tony Hazelwood Daf V8 now owned by Andy Wilson. This was on the reserve list and hadnt even had a shakedown test so fresh from its major overhaul was it.

Further entries of note were the Maguire Mini Countryman of Mini legend Bill Richards who was delighted to be at the meeting. Now fitted with a 2-litre Ford Duratec the car, which used to sport a Metro body, becomes the first car officially in the series to run in the parallel 'modern' engine category. Bill had problems in both qualifying and then race 1 before it all came good for race 2 for him taking 18th. Returning to the series after an 8-year lay off was Joss Ronchetti and his immaculate 'black bullet' Sunbeam Lotus. This was to the scene of that accident back in the 2012 race when he was clobbered by a locked up 'Baby Bertha' at the chicane leading to the car's long break until now. Joss was one of the 2 down to qualify for both the specials race and Slicks race which caused some confusion with TSL timing. His time should have been good enough for 4th on the specials grid but this was used for the afternoons Slicks race. Overnight he was listed as starting at the back of the specials race with no time but come morning he would start 7th.

Back in the series too were both the James Plant Healey-Chevy, which for me was the best sounding car of the entire weekend, after its accident at Thruxton plus the spotless BMW V8 of Clive Anderson who also had missed Snetterton. These were all likely top 6 runners but who was going to be on the front row ?

Qualifying was indeed hectic and many drivers said they couldnt get a clear lap in. Ignoring the Slicks ( which are modern GT cars and a fabulous series in itself ) Andy Southcott set Specials pole in the Midget with a rapid 1 minute 11.7 . He had been testing the day before and honed his car and style to perfection to set the benchmark yet again. The Peugeot 309 of the Morris brothers were again 2nd, ahead of the fastest of the Bernies cars, Steve Ough in a Crossle sports racer. Then Ronchetti as mentioned, 2 Bernies TVRs then Plant, Paul Connell ( Sierra ) and John Cockerton ( Porsche 935 ). The latter was having trouble with the lovely black Porsche which didnt want to fire up at soundcheck and come race day John would swap it for his GT3 Cup car from the Slicks and run as an invitational entry.

2 Bernies Ascars were next then Anderson's BMW which was struggling on 'new' second hand rubber ahead of 'Baby Bertha' and Tim Cairns ( Midget ) all around the 1 minute 21 region. However the biggest loss was the Ford RS200 of Wayne Crabtree which gave the Southcott Midget a good run at Snetterton.

Sadly after just 3 laps the right rear suspension broke and Wayne pulled the car straight onto the grass. Despite what seemed a fix back in the paddock the car was withdrawn. Oddly most of the problems seemed to be all suspension related over the weekend. Meanwhile back on the reserve list was the popular Tony Paxman ( Escort ) who made no fuss about not being able to qualify and happily waited to start the race at the back the next day. The Daf too would start at the back subject to any last minute final preparations.

Race 1

For Sunday morning's race 1 and the lunchtime race 2 could be watched for the first time on a full live stream with multiple cameras. A facility I hope the CSCC can continue with as the coverage linked to race commentary was excellent for a mere 'club' event. Fans were able attend but of course with the restrictions the Paddock was out of bounds.

So 35 starters lined up in the sunshine for race 1, 22 from the CSCC series and 13 from Bernies series. This beating the previous best number at Donington for the series which was 18 in 2014. Only 2 cars hadnt made it, the Crabree RS and Steve Fray`s Mondeo. Cockerton having switched to his GT3 Porsche as an invitational. Six cars came in as Reserves including the famous Daf driven by Andy Wilson. Joined by Tony Paxman, Rob Fenn ( Mustang ), Martin Reynolds ( Escort ) and 2 of Bernies.

Having the live stream to review retrospectively helps greatly to get a more comprehensive view of how everyone faired. Given 35 cars of differing characteristics this was a remarkably clean race with only 3 retirements and no incidents. The Griffiths MGB pulled in after a lap, Richards pulled off at Schwanz with a steering problem and the ASCAR of Andrew Knight pulled in after rotating off the Craner curves.

The field put on a terrific show throughout. The only close shave was on lap 2 at the chicane when Clive Anderson`s BMW locked up and went across the path of Ronchetti. That dropped Anderson from 9th to 18th as the car struggled with its 'new' tires to do it or the driver justice.

Out front as expected Andy Southcott eased away to lead from flag to flag breaking Simon Allaway`s series lap record from 2013 with a 1 minute 11.343, just a whisker under a 100-mph lap. Danny Morris ( Peugeot ) had to fight for his 2nd place from Ough in the Crossle, the Bernies class winner. James Plant beat the 2 fast TVRs to come 4th. Ronchetti had Baby Bertha in his mirrors throughout but no problems this time and the two took 7th and 8th. A recovering Anderson took 9th from Scott`s Cavalier, these 2 cars the best for flame spitting moments. The Scott car having sorted its lose under tray out after a dreadful rattling in qualifying. Connell took 11th but smoke from the car proved ominous and he would miss race 2.

Lim ( Cobra ), Percy ( Morris Minor ) and Bicknell ( ASCAR ) were next before the class D battle.  

Tony Paxman had come from the back to pip his old friend Neil Duke to class honours, perhaps aided by Dukes Anglia having propshaft problems.' Had a good clean race with Tony Paxman as we always do' Duke said on live stream afterwards 'I`ve known Tony since we were about 18 or 19.We knew each other for years, we raced for years but we never went out on the same track `til about 5 years ago'. Martin Reynolds  ( Escort ), 3 more Bernies and Tim Cairns ( Midget ) all followed after a great dice as a gaggle with Andy Edwards ( Escorts ), Tovey ( MGB ) and Wilson behind. Wilson had found his famous old Daf to be severly lacking brakes on its very first track outing for years, taking the corners very carefully and was happy to bring her home in one piece down in 24th. 32 cars made the finish to everyones credit.

 

Race 2

The cars were back out after midday for race 2 and we still had a very healthy 34 cars with Connell the unlucky only non-starter. Andy Southcott took his 'winners penalty' and started 11th giving brief centre stage to Ricky Parker-Morris ( Peugeot ) and Steven Ough ( Crossle ) to trade the lead for 2 laps. Ough had just retook the lead at Redgate on lap 3 before the charging Southcott dropped the Peugeot further at Hollywood and took the Crossle into Coppice to assume his usual spot out front. The Midget again eased away faultlessly and with confident driving for Southcott`s 20th series victory.

Ough kept in 2nd and would take his second Bernie's class but this time it was James Plant in the wonderful-sounding Chevy engined Healey that took up the chase for 2nd place. The Peugeot was left battling the 2 faster TVRs over 4th place. Further back Andy Wilson was gaining confidence in the famous Daf V8 every lap having bled the brakes between races. He had a race long dice with Martin Reynolds' Escort with the Daf 'doing a dance' under breaking and not quite able to get the better of the Ford for 13th overall, a big improvement from race 1.

The other famous supersaloon 'Baby Bertha' was again going well and up to 5th ahead of Douglas' TVR followed by Anderson`s improved BMW. "The first race was hard as had no grip and ran car with low boost" Anderson said afterwards " But really enjoyed the challenge. The second race we got another set of tyres which was better then had the idol jammed at 2700 rpm due to bent throttle plates. Scary as no engine braking. But all in all had a great time with very close racing and great driving from everyone."  

The race had only 4 lost for runners from 34...Edwards ( Escort ), Sanders ( MGB ), Kennerly ( Marcos ) and Lim ( Cobra ) before Cockerton slid into the gravel trap at McLeans causing a safety car period with 4 and a half minutes left. This of course bunched the field up and it was a race gainst the clock to be able to finish under green. The excellent work of the Marshalls and their grab tractor made the circuit safe to go green with 15 seconds to spare thus allowing a final lap at race speeds.

Southcott had a clear track in front of him and blasted off towards the flag. Behind James Plant made good use of 2 back markers to pass Ough down the start-finish straight to grab 2nd which he held on to to and also win class A. The Plant team had frowns after Thruxton's crash but his time back in the paddock the team were smiling including car builder John Plant whose he`s own biggest critic of his handywork. The Peugeot took 4th and Anderson grabbed 5th on the back straight demoting the 2 TVRs. Sadly 'Baby Bertha' suffered a suspension issue and Joe Ward pulled the old girl into the pits rather than risk a frantic final lap.

After a near perfect 2 races the last lap dash caused a couple of incidents that left 2 series regulars unhappy. Neil Duke ( Anglia ) was nudged into the gravel in one and Craig Percy ( Morris Minor ) tangled with the lapped Mustang at Coppice corner and was also picking gravel out his car back in the paddock afterwards. Tony Paxman inherited Percy`s 10th place and would get class D.

 

Overall the day was a great spectacle with the wonderful variety of cars we`ve come to expect. Our thanks to Bernie`s cars for such a good turn out who added much to the event. Next round is the season finale at Mallory Park on November 1st.