330 GT Registry
Two different winners, superb presentation, squealing tyres
and a lady Championship leader were just part of the new novice
series. Mick Walsh recalls the fun of the first two rounds
If one race typified the character of Brooklands at the Thruxton Bank Holiday historic race meeting, it was the Novice championship. At the bottom end of the paddock, the eager enthusiasm and camaraderie amongst competitors was quite special. No-one could have done more to help each other, lending tools, offering advice, joking about mistakes and at the end of the day exchanging telephone numbers to meet up before the next round. Although the Weak confines of the Hampshire circuit were a far cry from the exclusive social scene of the Weybridge speed bowl, the club spirit was very close.
The final entry of 19 classics produced one of the smartest race grids of the day, putting to shame the more regular HSCC competitors. The fully silenced cars may have lacked dramatic engine noise, but the chorus of tyre squeals clearly proved they were all trying. From the outset of practice it was obvious the Elms were going to be the cars to beat, with Squadron Leader Tim Wright setting the pace in his ‘Kermit’ green S3. The RAF Phantom pilot took pole with lmin55.8sec, while Nick Blunsden was second quickest in his S4 with 1min57sec. Mike Windebank, who looked very confident at the Castle Combe test day, was finding his Sunbeam Tiger quite a handful on ‘new' standard tyres, but still made the front row with a 1min58.8sec time.
It was good to see London solicitor Rory Fordyce braving the circuit with his Ferrari 330GT, and both the V12 car, and Chris Holland's Elan S4 produced sub-two minute times to make up the second row. Stuart Musk only just made Thruxton with his blue MGC coupé. His engine seized on the Thursday, requiring two new pistons, but his ‘mechanic extraordinaire’ Kevin Wright refused to give up. The engine was stripped and rebuilt on Saturday, run-in on the A12 on Sunday, and was ready to race on Monday! Stuart celebrated the achievement with a spin at the chicane on the first lap of practice, but, undeterred, still made the third row.
The Volvo P1800 team caused great amusement with their appropriate ‘Saint’ team logos on boots, overalls (and key rings!), but Steven Bee proved his racing intentions were no joke with a very respectable 2min5.5sec best to put him on the fourth row.
The only unhappy entrants were Jim Rose whose superb AC Cobra MK II was discovered to be rather newer than he claimed, and two Alfa GTVs, their owners adamantly protesting their exclusion on the grounds that their cars were definitely not saloons!
The grid formed up like true pros after the warming-up lap, and it was the Elans of Tim Wright, and Nick Blunsden that led the pristine pack into Allards, and down to the complex. As the pack harried each other through Campbell curve, Judy Freeman’s pretty yellow Elite and Mike Scott’s E-type made gentle contact, but Judy soon recovered, and was chasing back to take class honours and full points.
The leading Elans gradually broke away, with Nick trying everything catch the RAF pilot, chasing hard for the full ten laps. The two cars finish only 0.6sec apart at the flag. Chris Holland had a lonely race once he had broken clear of the Fordyce’s Ferrari and Mike Windebank hurled his Tiger around the demanding circuit with true vigour to finish fifth. Stuart Musk managed seventh after yet another spin, but it was Steven Bee who really impressed with a gallant drive in his Volvo, heading three F-types. Roy Jordan’s Corvette Stingray looked great, but the rare, red coupe Iater slowed with braking problems.
The only retirement was a very unlucky Chris Marchant Lane whose pristine Austin Healey 3000 MK II got all crossed up at Goodwood in an overeager attempt to take Stuart Musk’s MGC. He spun out hitting a marshal post, the only obstacle in sight. Several cars had harmless spins trying to come to terms with the slippery track conditions, much to the amusement of the crowd, but Tim 'Wingco’ Wright was quite ecstatic after winning his very first race, a unique occurrence any racing enthusiast. The idea for the Novice championship was brilliant and it’s a great substitute now I’ve stopped flying jets, in fact, I think the racing is even more exciting!” he said afterwards.
As the track officials began to close the circuit, the novice entrants were still chatting and laughing in the empty paddock about their race thrills. I don’t think you could find a group who had enjoyed their racing so much anywhere.
Everybody seemed to have braking problems at Oulton Park. The scenic sweeps and turns of the demanding Cheshire circuit couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the wide open spaces of the airfield track at Thruxton. Almost all the entrants were checking pads and linings and bleeding systems. Competition brake fluids were clearly essential for the race.
The trio of Elans that had shown form in the first round were again setting the pace, and this time Nick Blunsden was the quickest with 2mm 17.3sec. But to everyone's surprise it was the newcomer Ronnie Farmer who took pole with his orange TVR Griffith. Despite overheating problems, he set a best of 2min14,4sec before rain slowed down the session. Ronnie was clearly no novice to track- work, and several years of sprinting and hillclimbs with a DB5 showed in his smooth driving style. It certainly gave the Elan boys something to talk about all convinced the superior handlog of the Lotus would pay off in the race.
Steven Bee’s Saintly Volvo, which impressed all at Thruxton, was suffering from a recent tune up. Although lacking power Steve ‘loved the circuit’.
The V8 contingent were finding Oulton quite a handful. Mike Windebank’s Tiger and Roy Jordon’s Stingray both had braking problems, the latter having a spin at Lodge at the end of the session. Alan Cameron’s smart Austin Healey was quickest in class B, heading a trio of MGCs. This enthusiastic group, all determined to dismiss the C’s ill handling reputation, lapped within 0.7sec of each other, The orange roadster of Tony Mitchell went particularly well first time out. His ambitious revival of a siezed, unloved car found in a barn last year had taken a little longer than anticipated. Mother welcome newcomer was John Grist’s Lancia Fulvia.
Everyone again commented on the superb presentation of the Novice entrants as they lined up for the last ace of the day, and interest among spectators was high as no one was leaving. Even the sun came out ...
As the lights went green, 'Wingco’ Wright’s ‘Kermit’ green Elan out-dragged Bonnie Farmer’s TVR past the pits and headed the pack into Old Hall, “I won the first half of the bend, but my ultra late braking caused an offside wheel to lock up, and once onto the grass that was it! I’ve never felt such a fool in my life,” Tim later explained. Everybody avoided the drama like real pros, and it was Nick Blunsden’s Elan from the TVR out front it the end of the first lap with Chris Holland close behind. The MGC trio and Allan Cameron’s Healey headed the rest of the pack. As the race settled down, the duel for the lead found Farmer’s smooth driving style no match for the Elan on the corners. As the two chased through the new 'Foulston’ chicane the extra grunt of the TVR showed as the two cars excelerated side by side to Knicker Brook. For the whole race the Elan and TVR were nose to tail, and provided the closest finish of the day. Nick later explained in the paddock: 'I was so relieved to see the chequered flag because it was getting very slippery out there. I’ve done some sprinting at Goodwood, and a bit of road rallying, but nothing as thrilling as this!’
Behind the leaders Wingco’ Wright was enjoying himself even more after recovering from his spin, On the second lap he went by five cars, and by the fourth lap was catching the leaders when an irritating missfire set in. ‘I was really impressed by everyone’s driving, They all made room as I tried to catch up.'
John Grist got a round of applause when he lost his Fulvia coming out of Lodge; his spin lasted all the way up Deer leap before he came to rest in front of several excited marshalls, Another entertaining dice developed between Mike Scott’s E-type coupé and Roy Jordon’s Stingray. The jag looked more confident cornering, but on the straights the ‘Vette used its extra power to full effect until lap five when Jordon lost it, spinning out at Knicker Brook, He dropped to fourteenth.
The TVR developed a slight misfire on the last lap which put paid to a final challenge on Nick Blunsden, but the MGC trio looked great coming round Lodge in line astern, crossing the line in close convoy led by Clive Foskett.
Judy Freeman, so far the only lady in the championship, is now leading overall with two convincing class wins in her immaculate Lotus Elite, but Nick Blunsden was the happiest man in the paddock after winning only his second race. The great spirit of the novice series was illustrated by the sight of the Elan drivers sharing his champagne in the late evening sunlight.
Class Winners: RoryFordyce, Allan
Fastest lap: Chris Holland
Class Winners: Ronnie Farmer, Clive
Fastest lap: Ronnie Farmer,
Classic and Sportscar, July 1987
Copyright 1987 Classic and Sportscar
Published with permission of Classic and Sportscar