The CSCC Special Saloons + Modsports series
The sun came out for the first race at the CSCC finale at Mallory Park last sunday and the field put on an entertaining show indeed.
The CSCC season ended with a 1-day meeting at Mallory on November 1st under the metaphorical cloud of the many lockdown restrictions returning and the threat of more wet weather that had blighted the country in the days before.
Three entries had reluctantly withdrawn : Tim Cairns, Bill Richards and Martin Reynolds leaving 15 competitors to head out for qualifying on the sunday morning.
With some of the regulars having parked their race cars up for the winter the series did welcome back some old friends. Jack Harper was back in dad Ron`s venerable Triumph Spitfire that has been running a more modern Honda engine fo a while and previously run in the series with special dispensation. Now the Spitfire is running in the 'Modern' engined class B introduced for 2020. Thomas Carey was back in the series in his Honda CRX silhouette which in its many past races in the series had done 48-second lap times. Tony Davies in another period race car, his Transpeed Vauxhall Firenza was pitched with Carey in class C. Ben Gough was also back in his modsports Scimitar turbo and was actually one of the competitiors from the series' initial meeting back in 2011.
This really was a return to the series' spiritual home and one of the race winners from that inaugural August 2011 meeting was back. Joss Ronchetti made a strong return in his Sunbeam Lotus at the previous round after an 8-year lay off. The rapid black car had also won both races in the 2012 meeting and is another 48-second lap car.
Race winner in 2020 would probaly come from one of the 3 more recently constructed silhouette cars. Andy Southcott and his Mike Johnston-built Midget GT has set a new standard for the series and has the series most wins. Wayne Crabtree was back in the Ray Addis-built 570bhp Ford RS200 that gave Southcott a close run at Snetterton but had a suspension break at Donington. Crabtree was one hoping for a damp track as it had suited the car in Snetterton qualifying. New to the series and pre-race favourite was the Simon Knighton-built Lancia Stratos silhouette with twin-bike engines of Matt Manderson. This car has lapped Mallory sub-45 seconds in other series. This the mark 2, an evolution from the Knighton-raced mark1 of the '90s. Prior to race 1 race commentator and voice of UK club sport Marcus Pye described it as 'if you were stood in the next county, at dusk and saw it you might possibly think it was a Stratos' ! Decide for yourselves. A car that maybe splits opinions but is without doubt a well enginered and unique race car. Ironically in the abscence of the regular V8 cars ( Percy, Ward, Plant, Anderson etc ) the Stratos clone was the only car in the race that could boast 8 cylinders.
The track was greasy rather than actually wet ( like it had been in 2018 qualy ) and again as at Snetterton it was Wayne Crabtree who seemed to benefit from the conditions most with a best time of a whisker under 55 seconds to grab pole. Manderson was half a second behind and Ronchetti a fine 3rd in the Sunbeam, just ahead of Carey and Southcott. Paxman whose car always does well in the damp 6th, Harper had the Spitfire going well in 7th, Harding`s Zakspeed Escort replica 8th, Neil Duke ( Anglia ) 9th. Struggling on old wets was Tony Davies in 10th 3 seconds slower than Duke and also the Morris brothers Peugeot on its slicks another 3 seconds back. Not every team in the series has a set of wets and as Davies discovered his 20-year old set had lost their effect over the years between usage.
By the time the cars rolled out for race 1 just before the lunch break we were blessed with sunshine ! A small and welcome window between showers and a dry line had appeared in the previous 'Magnificent Sevens' race.
Manderson nipped inside Crabtree into Gerrards to set a very fast pace out front, the RS200 on its tail. Joined by Southcott and these 3 eased away in close company in their own private race. The now dry track didnt help Crabtree against the 2 lightweight rockets and he was dropped to 3rd on lap 5. Southcott was on the tail of Manderson and seemed to have both better traction round the tight hairpin plus was using the grass as he pushed the Midget to its max. On lap 10 Southcott in determined mood finally got passed Manderson and there he stayed. This was an enthrauling dice and credit to all 3 up front, each lapping at 100-mph+. After 19 frantic laps Southcott had actually eased a lead to over 7 seconds by the flag. Manderson headed Crabtree by 2.3 seconds. This was Southcott's finest series victory to date . 'Yes i enjoyed that' he said afterwards as he had to work harder than any previous race.
Behind, Thomas Carey held 4th before retiring on lap 5. This left a tremendous battle for 4th between Ricky Parker-Morris ( Peugeot ) and Ronchetti ( Sunbeam ) trading places each lap and less than a second apart. The Peugeot Thundersaloon just taking the place at the flag and the pace such that the pair were still on the lead lap.
Jack Harper ( Spitfire ) was flying in the old car on the tail of 2 ahead and on lap 8 actually got into 5th taking the Peugeot at the esses before his oil pressure switch popped and he had to pull in. Behind now in 6th was Malcolm Harding ( Escort ) from Tony Davies ( Firenza ) and the usual close dice between friends Tony Paxman ( Escort ) and Neil Duke. Spoiled when the latter spun into the wall exiting the Devils elbow right under were i was filming on lap 16. Thankfully Neil was able to get the damaged car across the track to the safety of the paddock gate. Good work by the Marshals to warn oncoming cars.
David Smith ( Midget ) and Ben Gough rounded out the finishers with Claxton ( Escort ) and Fray ( Ginetta ) having been early retirements.
The sunshine had gone by race 2 at 3-40 and we had lost a few cars too leaving 12 to start. Sadly race 1 winner Southcott was one having withdrawn the Midget. Also out were the damaged Anglia of Neil Duke and the poorly Scimitar of Ben Gough.
The abscence of the race 1 winner left a clear likely win for the Manderson Stratos providing there were no dramas from pole. Indeed the rapid little red machine led Crabtree by 4 seconds by the end of the first lap. Behind, Ronchetti was 3rd, just 0.1 second ahead of Danny Morris in the Peugeot with Carey close behind.
Sadly for the spectacle 3 competitors hit trouble straight away. Tony Davies had gearbox failure coming out for the pace lap, likewise the Harper Spitfire and the pretty Ginetta G15 driven by Steve Fray which pulled off on the back straight after just a lap, leaving 9 runners.
Crabtree though was soon slipping backwards to 5th, whilst it was Thomas Carey climbing to 3rd to engage Ronchetti in the dice of the race, just 1/10 of a second apart from Morris, Crabtree, Harding, Paxman, Faux and Claxton.
Carey took 2nd on lap 7 pulling a tiny 8/10th lead over the Sunbeam. The Peugeot pulled off onto the grass on the start-finish straight putting Crabtree back into 4th. These chasing cars had put on a great show so it was a shame they were being depleted as the race wore on.
Up front Manderson was extending his lead, 15 seconds by the end of lap 5, to 24 seconds by lap 10.
Ronchetti retook 2nd on lap 14 on the back straight as Carey hit trouble and his excellent showing came to a halt. Crabtree though was still going, caught and passed Ronchetti to grab 2nd on lap 15. These 2 cars have added much to the series spectacle in 2020 and fans can only hope for a restored full 2021 season with all the regular chargers present to entertain once again.
Manderson meanwhile had set fastest lap with a 47.373 and by the flag had lapped the rest of the 6-car field. Afterwards he summed the day up with ' Thanks so much to all the competitors for making me so welcome into this great series. A massive thanks to Andrew Knighton, Ali Knighton and Chiron Wsc for making today so great. The Stratos ran like clockwork barring a little glitch in qualifying. Not bad at all for a car that has not turned a wheel in 5 years. I absolutely loved it . Hope to do it all again next year. Well done to Andy Southcott for a fantastic drive in the first race.'
Manderson`s Stratos leads Crabtree's RS200