Spring had allegedly sprung two days before, however despite that the day before I had received all sorts of messages from throughout the UK from concerned competitors (often in parts of the country where weather conditions were far worse) in a bid to discover whether the event would take place. Weather in the area had not been so terrible in the few days before the event, nothing worse than incessant drizzle, albeit very cold, but as I approached Castle Combe on event morning there was a light covering of snow on fields around and on parked cars (the previous night’s weather forecast had suggested, contrary to earlier days’ ones, that snow might just make it down to the M4 (which is close by the circuit) and it did! However it was not as bad as that at the previous weekend’s Mallory and was not settling anyway. It turned to drizzle a little later and by mid morning had stopped entirely but with a biting cold wind (which was helping dry the track).
The SBD Motorsport British Sprint Championship runners had diminished a little from those entered. Peter Howgate and Brian Woffenden had withdrawn because their engine rebuild was incomplete (they had eventually picked the engine up the day before Combe); Tony Jarvis & Martin Webb, in there newly acquired Dallara, had sadly come to grief the weekend before at Mallory leading to bent wishbones on one corner and nose damage. The Sports Libre fraternity was also badly affected, Angus Buchan not making the trip and Jim Belt & Kurt Ramsden not running at all, so cold was it.
So wets it would be for practice but nonetheless there were a few highlights but fortunately few lowlights. The latter included the one longer delay when club member Brendon Jones had an uncharacteristic “off” which lead to his car having to be retrieved by an outing for the recovery truck, followed by the rebuilding of the tyre wall. Apart from that there was the inevitable range of incomplete runs as such track conditions lead to. My personal highlight was my first viewing of Keith Murray in his rather unique ModProd Audi 80, with a turbocharged “baby sized” engine and 4WD, which had enough power to have not been out of place amongst the single seater runners, it was seriously quick. Mike Musson had a rather disturbing couple of incidents with the car turning right (fortunately to the infield) when the car was running in a straight line which led to him withdrawing for the day.
Unusually 2013 has lead to some interest in the SBD Motorsport British Sprint Championship from touring car-based competitors. One of those, Colin Metcalfe, made his first outing at Combe and he had a rather unique line to Camp Corner on his 2nd timed run. It was something more akin to a line you would expect to see during ice racing. It lead to those in course control firmly convinced an “off” was coming but he kept his foot in and although he didn’t touch the grass he must have left a few seconds behind there and perhaps missed the opportunity of being close to top 2WD ModProd competitor. But he loved his first day with his new “family”.
In the 1100s Grahame Harden straight lined the Esses during his first timed run, putting him under a degree of pressure for his second, and he had a returning Andy Potter to contend with (the Potter family Jedi having now been returned to its more usual normally aspirated GSXR engined condition). However Grahame, who has wide-ranging experience of Combe having Sprinted in various different cars for many years, came up trumps on Run 2 and actually qualified 6th for the BSC Top 12, much to his surprise!
In the 1600s Bill Gouldthorpe came out on top in his re-engined OMS CF08 which for a driver of his age (I won’t say exactly what but shall we say “mid 70s”) was in the midst of perhaps his best whole day performance I have ever seen from Bill. He was backed up by his share driver for the day Carole Torkington, who too was enjoying her outing and ultimately did enough to qualify for her first ever Top 12 run! Uncharacteristically Glyn Sketchley was rather off the pace, looking most unusually tentative all day.
Top 2 litre runner was Championship sponsor Steve Broughton. He was giving his new car its first competitive outing. It is an OMS 25 chassis with the latest SBD Duratec and the same gearbox as in the Mark Smith car together with a wide range of electronic gizmos. His immediate battle at the top of his class was with Scott Pillinger, who has his own chassis built last year with dad Dave, together with the SBD turbocharged Hayabusa engine that Steve Broughton ran in 2009/10. On “home” territory Scott stepped up a gear to pip Mark Smith and these 3 qualified 3rd – 5th for the Top 12 Run Off. Steve Miles had new electronics, including traction and launch control, but something was amiss because most of the time only 3 cylinders seemed to be at home! Matt Hillam was having an outing sharing with Mark Smith and, characteristic of Matt, was being careful to ensure he didn’t deny Mark any Top 12 runs. Phil Lynch returned for 2012 with his Dallara sharing with customary co-pilot John Payne but seemed to be displaying “rust” from his absence and needed some miles to get back on to his more usual pace.
Amongst the unlimited runners sadly we lost the Calders, after but one run by father Colin, when a water leak was discovered and its repair would have required the engine to come out. This was most sad, not only for the distance they had come to get to the event, but during practice Heather was just 4/10ths behind Terry Graves and Colin only another 8/10ths away (and he was quickest after the first, and only, timed run, and by some margin. However at least they have a family holiday in Tenerife to look forward to post-event. Terry Holmes came out on top after the timed runs, with Terry Graves closely pursuing him in 2nd and Graham Porrett taking the scenic route on his first run and being cautious on his second.
Although Colin Calder’s sole timed run would have qualified him, his absence lead to Carole Torkington succeeding him, much to her disbelief! Slicks had already appeared by this point (they were general wear on Timed Run 2) as the track had already improved to make wets no longer a consideration and a dryer track was improving as each run went by. Some share drivers were being cautious to avoid any mistakes which would jeopardise their respective No 1 driver. Nonetheless Carole Torkington cleverly (she’s seen lots of Top 12s over the years) made sure she secured her “banker” on Run 1 and then improved that still further on Run 2. Two runners sadly had to rely on the first run time alone. One was Graham Porrett who having set a midfield time after Run 1 had to abort Run 2 when the clutch said “enough” to him during that run. Another was most unfortunately Steve Broughton whose gearbox electronics took on a mind of their own mid corner at Camp leading to an infield “off” after an unexpected down change which contributed to the front wing becoming detached, meaning Run 2 could not take place. Matt Hillam put in a steady banker Run 1 but improved noticeably still further on Run 2 to secure 9th. Phil Lynch’s times were a little better than Matt Hillam’s and beat him by a tenth to manage 8th. Bill Gouldthorpe made little improvement, strangely, from Run 1 to Run 2 but finished his best ever in a Top 12 Run Off in 7th. It was reported to me that over Avon Rise that Grahame Harden was the most committed, despite the cold still damp track, and unbelievably managed to set the fastest 1100c car time ever around the Combe Sprint course! He deserved his ultimate 6th place in the Top 12, again a personal best finish. Steve Miles managed to improve his time from Run 2 compared with Run 1 despite his engine retaining its peculiarity with number of functioning cylinders (it for example came out of Camp strong on 4 cylinders which reverted to 3 as he changed to top) and managed to beat Grahame Harden by 7/100ths! Quite how he achieved the times he did I still find a puzzle but 5th he was. In 4th was Mark Smith, improving least of all, of the top runners from Run 1 to Run 2 but solid points to start his season. Scott Pillinger also secured his best ever Top 12 performance with 3rd at his “home” track and looked quick all day, a wonderful way to start his British Sprint Championship season! In 2nd spot was Terry Graves who made a big improvement in Run 2 despite his engine cover making a bid for freedom part way around and finished just a couple of seconds shy of the victor. This equalled his best ever performance from 2012 (from a competitor from the British Isles most southerly county, Cornwall, diametrically opposed to Colin Calder’s most northerly county origins!) But the thoroughly deserved winner was Terry Holmes who required just his first run to set his winning time (and decided to forego his 2nd run after learning of his victory) but that run was thoroughly committed and showed Terry at his absolute best.
1. Terry Holmes (3.5 Lola Judd T90/50) 121.13secs 2. Terry Graves (3.5 Gould – DFR GR37) 123.91secs 3. Scott Pillinger (1.3s DSP – SBD Hayabusa) 129.20 secs 4. Mark Smith (2.0 Reynard - SBD Duratec DB Mk 1) 130.85 secs 5. Steve Miles (2.0 Van Diemen- SDB Duratec RF 96) 135.55secs 6. Grahame Harden (1.1 Jedi- Yamaha R1 Mk 6) 135.62 secs 7. Bill Gouldthorpe (1.6 OMS – SBD Hayabusa CF08) 140.17 secs 8. Phil Lynch (2.0 Dallara – Vauxhall F399/001) 141.62secs 9. Matt Hillam (2.0 Reynard - SBD Duratec DB Mk 1) 141.74 secs 10. Steve Broughton (2.0 OMS – SBD Duratec 25) 143.82 secs 11. Graham Porrett (3.5 Lola Judd T90/50) 146.63 secs 12. Carole Torkington (1.6 OMS – SBD Hayabusa CF08) 150.04 secs