The CSCC Special Saloons + Modsports series
The CSCC`s Special Saloons + Modsports returned to the superb Oulton park circuit for the first time since 2016. The entry was missing a few regulars including Andy Southcott ( at Angelsey ) and the Minton Escort ( at Brands ) so 16 cars took qualifying .
Pre-race favourite ws probably Paul Sibley who had won 3 of the previous 4 series races at the circiut ( 2014 + 2016 ) and lap record holder. Sure enough Paul was over 5 seconds than the next to set pole in the Elan that has raced at Oulton so many times with its previous owners ( Rob Cox ,Nigel Reuben and Phil Barak ).
Another red Elan ,that of occassional series visitor Patrick Smyth was 2nd fastest. Next up was one of the returning cars...the Tony Davies 'Transpeed' Vauxhall Firenza was back after a 5 year restoration and the driver/car partnership of 42 years was a strong 3rd fastest. Thomas Carey .so often Sibley's main rival in class C in the Honda CRX clone was 4th. Paul Connell in his Sierra was 5th and have a fast and consistant day throughout.
There were 3 cars out in qualifying in particular that caught the eye and ears...John Cockerton was making his series debut in his recently acquired Porsche 935 replica that Mark Ticehurst had much success with in 2014 under its previous owner John Griffiths. John ,a Porsche regular already set 6th fastest time as he familiarised himself with the flame-spitting black car. David Beatty bought the ex-Gerry Marshall 'Silver Dream Racer' now with full evo package and sounding superb took 9th.
Alot of interest was in the one late entry...the Vauxhall Cavalier Coupe 'Mega Bertha' built up by Ric Wood last year using mostly 1970s parts including the wide bodyshell and 8.4 litre Can Am V8. This was it`s second ever race having ran at Mallory last autumn and Ric had adressed the overheating issue with extra radiators and ducts. Monster rear tires had been increaded to to cope with all that power but Ric was playing down any chance of victory 'She`s still geared for Mallory ,about 140 mph ,but she`ll be quick through the corners'. Ric set 12th time in a curtailed session.
In 7th was series stalwart Neil Duke in the only Anglia and 8th was the white wedge TVR of Ian Wilson ,son of Oulton old boy Garry Wilson. Tim Cairns was 10th in his Midget ,the only example present ahead of the lovely little Ben Bowlby-built Suzuki SC of Paul Turner. He and Carey having made the trip up from Gravesend ,Kent along with a 3rd car racing under the 'Garage 83' banner the spaceframe Mondeo of Steve Fray in 14th.
Another making a welcome return was Jeremy Burgoyne in his trusty Escort mark 1 ( the only such entered ) set a steady 13th. Sadly we lost the venerable Triumph Spitfire that Ron Harper has raced since 1971 when so Jack Harper had to pull off at Cascades smoking. Initial optimism that the problem were only rear brakes turned to withdrawl despite the pairs best efforts to fix her.
Lastly the Mini of Anthony Hayes set the 16th fastest time and whilst not on the same pace is becoming a regular and reliable series competitor.
Sibley`s time was remarkably fast at 1 minute 46.894 ,over 2 seconds faster than his own race lap record from 2016 set during the heat of a 4-way battle for the lead in race 2.
Back in the paddock It soon became apparent there was an issue with Mega Bertha. Ric Wood had returned to the pits after 3 qualifying laps to check on temperatures and tire pressures ready to push the magnificent beast further but was halted in the pit lane. A second sound spot check was declared over the maximum and the car wasnt allowed to rejoin. Too cut a long story short after much debate and consideration Ric reluctantly withdrew. The combination of Can-Am engine and side exiting exhausts proved too much. It was such a shame as this car has caused a stir where ever it goes and is a credit to its builder/ driver. One veteran Oulton Park official said 'it`s probably the best sounding car ive ever heard' and he`s not alone. 'Oh well we tried' said a philosophical Ric and with a stream of enthusiasts photographing Mega Bertha ,discusing her and a few getting to sit inside even he left the girl on display until mid-afternoon to honour the entry for those who had come in especially.
Paul Sibley turned his pole into victory with just enough in hand over the chasing Thomas Carey ( Honda ) to stay out front and eek out a 7 second lead after hot 8 race laps . Sadly we had 3 non-starters ,Mega Bertha ,the Harper Spitfire and 2nd fastest Patrick Smyth who had alternator problems.
Third for the first few laps was Tony Davies in the Firenza going ( perhaps ) surprisingly well in that he was ahead of 2 much more powerful cars. Sadly his gearbox let him down having lost 4th. Having pulled off to check he rejoined to eventually place 7th.'Fantastic debut outing, sadly ruined by gearbox failure. My fault as I believed box was serviceable, and was the only part we didn't refurb!' he reflected later.
The best dice of the whole day must have been that for 3rd with the glorious Aston V8 of David Beatty really having to work hard to stay ahead of the turbo Porsche of John Cockerton. Lap times confirm what the fans were watching ,a lead of only half a second every lap as Beatty took 3rd from his new class A rival. Great clean racing that was reward for Beatty`s continued support for the series coming over from Northern Ireland.
Often overlooked Paul Connell in the NEC-livered Sierra put in a consistant shift following the great dice ahead of him for 5th. Ian Wilson claimed class B in 6th just holding off the recovering Davies. Neil Duke and Tim Cairns had there own dice barely a second apart and this was for class D honours with the Anglia taking it. Paul Turner was the only class E car taking 10th in the Suzuki and Jeremy Burgoyne took 11th.
Anthony Hayes retired after 2 laps and the Mondeo of Steve Fray pulled off at Knickerbrook with a smokey engine on lap 6, these 2 had been at the tail en of the field.
Good racing and a good spectacle with Sibley setting fastest lap but not quite bettering his own record.
Race 2 was the last of the day and sadly suffered from too many missing cars ,again underlining that these cars cars are indeed fast but also sometimes tempermental.
3 more cars failed to make the start with the Mondeo out ,the Firenza deemed to damaged in the gearbox to risk racing after such a promising showing and the lovely Porsche left in the assembly area. So 10 cars took the flag with Thomas Carey in pole with race 1 winner Paul Sibley at the back due to the 'winners penalty'.
Could Carey get away before the Elan got through the traffic ? The blue Honda held a 4 second lead over the Elan back in 4th after the first lap but would you believe it the Honda's Oulton park ill luck struck again and his rear spoiler broke lose being dragged behind on the floor ,Carey pulling in after just 2 laps.
Sibley thus hit the front and was never headed. A superb drive and his 5th win from 6 races in the series at the track. The Aston Martin was withdrawn to the pits too after 4 laps with rear vibration so the field was sadly now depleted.
There was one car that stepped up superbly to keep the Elan honest ,Ian Wilson was flying in the wedge TVR Tasmin to get to be only 4 seconds behind at the flag. The Elan probably had something in hand looking at the lap times but it was entertaining all the same. Paul Connell took class A in 3rd after another superbly reliable run and remaining 4 cars were all from class D . Tim Cairns this time getting the better of Neil Duke for the class win from Burgoyne and Hayes.
Ric Wood entertained the crowd in qualifying but it wasnt to be his or Mega Bertha's day.