There were a few issues of concern as competitors headed to the South East of England for its second round. The first was the circuit itself as during the previous weekend the European Rallycross Championship had taken place. That was quickly disposed of as much time had been spent during the past week by circuit staff ensuring the circuit was clean and of the standard required. Competitors indicated, despite the track being a little dusty in places, no lack of grip being present. Another was that this event represented the first time that the Championship had been with this organiser. Well that issue was also very quickly and obviously dispatched as the operation was of the highest possible standard. The final area of concern was the weather. Here the day began rather grey, together with a biting wind, however gradually blue sky began to materialise and even some sun ventured out. However the temperature, whilst becoming steadily a little warmer, never rose to an extent that it had a significant impact on track temperature, and hence times suffered as a result.
Practice got underway with one multi lap version of 2.75 laps. For a few, as the Championship had not been to Lydden for a few years, this represented their debut at the circuit. Possibly the most prominent of these was Terry Graves, who had his bodywork (and one or two other issues discovered in the last fortnight) solved and was back to its usual pristine standard. This time Craig Sampson was sharing with Mark Smith. Gary Thomas was making his 2013 British Sprint Championship debut in his latest 1600 class Force. Peter Howgate and Brian Woffenden had their engine back from its winter rebuild and installed (their engine builder, as this event was his "local" track, even made an appearance, Connaught's Phil Price once being a British Sprint Championship regular himself). Reigning Champion Stewart Robb was back (having successfully completed his daughter's marriage during Round 1 weekend, and hence his absence. Also back with the British Sprint Championship after a LOT of years was Richard Arrowsmith, now armed with a Force but still in the 1100 class. Martin Pickles was making his 2013 debut, as was Jim Belt in his much-modded Juno (including a rebuilt engine) and was said to be taking it gently "running in" his new engine...Mike Musson had taken his diff apart and a couple of new plates inserted and was hopeful the result would prove positive.
The came the timed runs during which Jim Belt demonstrated what his version of "running in" meant...a new Sports Libre record for Lydden Hill! In the 1100s Martin Pickles seemed to be a little rusty on this, his 2013 debut, but Grahame Harden was very much on the pace and was no 13 in the qualification list, albeit over a second and half away fom qualifying. In the 1600s Glyn Sketchley demonstrated he was back on form and it was obvious that he and Gary Thomas would be only tenths apart and qualifying comfortably midfield. Sadly Bill Gouldthorpe had issues on his second run and wasn't able to improve sufficiently to make qualification a realistic prospect. In the 2000s Mark Smith was very much back on form qualifying 2nd fastest and 4th fastest was his co-driver for the weekend Craig Sampson. Continuing his form was Scott Pillinger (the 3rd fastest qualifier among those with SBD developed motivation). Perhaps disappointing performances (despite them qualifying too) came from Steve Miles and Steve Broughton neither of whom seemed to be performing at their best, but still qualified comfortably. In the unlimited cars Stewart Robb was on top, at a track he does enjoy, although well wide of record time, pursued as ever by Terry Holmes. Also qualifying well was Mike Musson with Terry Graves just hundredths behind him and Graham Porrett was doing his best to keep pace, finding bits of time every outing.
This sadly was brought to a premature end as a result of issues with the timekeeping equipment on the start line combined with the effective curfew, because of the race meeting that was to follow immediately afterwards. However despite this one complete run was accomplished in the sunshine!
Final placed finisher was Steve Broughton who was only able to improve on his qualifying time by 1/100th second. Whereas Steve Miles made more inroads into his qualifying best by close to a second but despite this was only able to finish an uncharacteristic 11th. Gary Thomas was next up and must have been out of "Top 12" practice as he was only able to discover a further a little under three quarters of a second. Craig Sampson fell back from his 4th place qualification to a ninth place finish predominantly due to a moment at Devils Elbow on his "out lap" which was unfortunate in a tightly packed field because without that he would probably have been placed very much higher. Glyn Sketchley came next and found 1.3 seconds on his sole Run Off run and his half second surplus over his 1600 "partner" was enough for a couple of spots to his benefit. Continuing his steady time discovery Graham Porrett found a second and a quarter to conclude a worthy 7th. Maintaining his improvement and form Scott Pillinger found 1.3 seconds (and was grateful for just one run as an issue with his wiring the end of that run meant he wouldn't have been able to take a 2nd) and was delighted to finish 6th and his high scoring form. Terry Graves just improved enough to overcome Scott Pillinger by a few hundredths and had to be pleased to finish in 5th spot on this, his first Lydden hill outing. In 4th spot was Terry Holmes whose improvement over qualifying a rather more modest half a second. Mark Smith made a not dissimilar improvement and finished 3rd with a time only a tenth away from the 2 litre class record. Finishing as runner up was Mike Musson who was delighted to not only finish where he did but also with a time over 3.3 seconds better than his best qualifyer but more particularly only a tad over a second away than the victor. So finally (after the time clock produced a run which was perhaps over 15 seconds away from reality) on his re-run Stewart Robb got into the 64s and worthy victory on the day.
So the SBD British Sprint Championship had, at last returned to Lydden Hill, after a 2 year absence and the numbers who supported its return rather justified that. It is certainly a popular choice of venue for inclusion amongst many competitors, despite its location being "distant" for many. However now having found an organising club with whom we're happy, and they're happy with us, will hopefully lead to the venue continuing its inclusion in the calendar for some year to come.