500 Owners Association Circuit Racing Championship - Round 1. The Lewis-Evans Trophy
BRSCC Meeting, April 10th, 2016
Brands Hatch, Kent
With a bit of cajoling, competition secretary Gordon Russell called out an impressive nineteen cars for the season-opener, just missing the magic twenty as Mike Woods found himself short of spare drivetrain parts. Attendees were rewarded with an unusually warm day and BRSCC race staff almost falling over themselves to be helpful. Simon Frost got things off to a proper start by bringing along his new barbeque grill and cooking up a feast for those who arrived Saturday night.
After Humphrey Collis’ death last year, John Jones has taken over the Jack Rowbotham special – one of the oldest surviving cars – and brother Gareth installed himself in the Cousy, the latter sporting new upper bodywork and looking rather tidy for it.
The Frost’s had extended their empire over the close season and were present with four cars under service – the Fillingham, Steve Jeffords’ Mk VIII Cooper, David Baldock’s Mk IV Cooper, and Gilbert Lenoir’s Terigi JR. The Terigi, a 1950 chassis from France may look a bit weird, but is impressively designed, with a twin-tube chassis, double wishbones all round, and a six-speed gearbox. If it could be encouraged to run on a full set of Triumph cylinders, it could prove quite a challenger in the early car class. Simon himself would be driving, continuing development, with Gilbert watching on.
In the absence of John Potts, ‘little’ Angus Frost took on driving duties of David Baldock’s car.
Come late morning, most cars made it to the Assembly Area for qualifying on a warm, dry track. Missing were the Frosts, the Cooper piddling out methanol like a naughty puppy, much to the chagrin of the scrutineers, and dad Simon helping to find an acceptable cure before starting the Terigi. Also missing was Gareth Jones’ Cousy.
The remainder, though made it down pit lane and got down to business, a couple of laps to clear the Winter cobwebs (from the car as well as the driver’s head) and then down to business. All things considered, practice seemed to be going well, with most cars showing better reliability than usual (pretty much everyone achieved the mandatory three laps, and even Maurice van der Brempt in the Fillingham “passing Go” a couple of times before parking up. Simon Hewes (in Dad’s later Cooper) also pulled up early, as did Ian Phillips, the Terigi (with a misfire), and the session was curtailed by a red flag, presumably when Angus Frost’s Cooper seized or possibly when Maurice’s Fillingham stopped next to the Armco on the start finish straight right at the exit from the pits.
Normally, for the 500s that would mean the end of the brief session, but with the car(s) quickly removed the session was back on almost before all cars were back in the pits. This was rather fortunate for Gareth, who finally rolled up to Assembly amongst the next batch of racers. Nigel Ashman and a couple of others rushed to get him belted in, and negotiate a way past the marshal to at least make a token effort at completing the minimum laps, only to find there was still a good five minutes on the clock to dial-in and set a decent time.
Unsurprisingly, Steve Jones was fastest, and with heat in the track times were nudging close to the magic 60-seconds, but Darrell in the sister car was under a second behind. Xavier Kingsland and Andrew Turner were looking swift and filling the next second, notably in older cars, Andrew also running a JAP motor.
Back in the Paddock, most work would centre on two of the Frost cars. Dad was hunting for that misfire, while Junior had bigger troubles. The JAP was properly broken and he set about swapping in the spare, which promptly decided it too would only bother firing every two or three goes round.
Martin Sheppard’s Effyh Special has had a good tidy up, all the panels now matching in shape and colour, and had run very reliably through practice. Martin decided to shorten the gearing to keep the Norton on cam a bit more. Ian Phillips quickly realised his Norton was being starved of fuel. Sadly, what looked at first like an easy fix became insurmountable, and Ian would be the second to scratch.
First to go had been chairman Nigel Challis with an excuse from one of the lesser-thumbed pages of “The Racing Driver’s Big Book Of Excuses”:- DNS – Holiday. Due to a bit of a cock-up on the scheduling front, he had paid his entry fee before remembering he had to join SWMBO and embark for a week’s cruise! Still, he deserves credit for turning up for practice anyway, before dumping the Cooper.
Efficient time management by the BRSCC meant the afternoon programme was running well on time for a change, and the cars called to Assembly quarter of an hour early. This was good news for all but the Frosts, who cut it fine to get both cars clear and running and would have appreciated the extra time.
Still, they made it to the start, along with fifteen others. As per the Championship conditions it was to be a rolling start, although calamities began before this. Andrew Turner stalled after a couple of feet. A jack and starter gurney were found to get him going, but in his enthusiasm to get on track and retake his starting slot he shot off with the jack still in tow. Fortunately it flicked clear just as he joined the circuit, and he charged through to the second row before anyone could question that decision.
Last out was Angus Frost, and the JAP motor refused to clear on the formation lap, despite hanging off the back. Angus decided not to risk a second engine and pulled into pit lane before the flag fell.
Steve Jones got away OK, but Darrell slipped back. Xavier was second into Paddock, but third out as a fired-up Andrew went around the outside. Xavier, though had the inside line for Druids and decided it there. Along Bottom Bend Steve had just a small gap to Xavier, with Andrew and Richard de la Roche both in his shadow. Another second back were Darrell, Gordon Russell and Mike Fowler in similarly close company. JB had the JLR unconscionably high up in eighth place (of course, not to suggesting that he in any way exploited the two empty grid slots ahead of him…), albeit already a second down on the lead group.
JB had got the jump on Martin’s Effyh and Mark Riley’s Cooper, and it would take both a couple of laps to reassert themselves. JB was clearly enjoying himself, and no matter how odd the JLR looks in the metal, it was wonderful to see her being grabbed by the scruff of the neck and raced hard – John’s 65” best lap is pretty handy by any measure.
Out front though, Steve was getting a bit concerned. Xavier had finished the first lap right on his tail, and it took a couple of laps to settle in and finally establish a safety margin. In that time Andrew had eased himself onto the tail of the Staride, and made his first attack starting the fourth lap. This was rebuffed, but they would stay tied within about half a second for the next few laps.
This pair had managed to ease a gap from the following four. Darrell managed to come out on top, passing Richard for fourth place on the third time into Paddock Hill, and Gordon following through half a lap later. Mike Fowler, by his own admission a bit rusty (having spent most of 2015 with his Junior), would take longer. Darrell pressed on a bit in a vain attempt to chase the two cars ahead of him, but their speed was impressive, and with backmarkers already coming up he realised the Mackson behind was more of a threat, and slowly scraped a gap of a second or so.
After a couple of feinted attempts, Mike Fowler did pass the JAP-engined Smith turning into Surtees on lap 6, but Richard got a much better run through Clearways, so much so that the JAP out-dragged the Norton from there to Paddock Hill. Richard would hold the place to the flag.
Behind these two, now in eighth place, Martin Sheppard and the Effyh were also looking rather impressive. Unfortunately for him the leaders had got away at the start, but the car looked well-balanced and fast, and was only dropping a half to a second per lap to Richard and Mike ahead. Given the weight of the car, and ballast (his words) it’s looking like a good mid-field racer now, and had the legs of Mark Riley’s Cooper Mk IX.
Another car that looked encouraging was the Terigi. It was still misfiring somewhat, and Simon was complaining of the weight, but it was poised and carried speed well off Bottom Bend into Surtees and beyond. Simon had a slight advantage over Kerry Horan in the comparable Trenberth, though losing most of the time gap he had accumulated when he made space for Xavier and Andrew coming through on the ninth lap, and the misfire worsening at this time.
Gareth Jones had made a cautious start, and trailed his brother by some four seconds. Behind him were Simon Hewes, Steve Jeffords (still getting used to the ex-Hodges Cooper), and the Fillingham, the last named giving up the ghost after four laps, while Simon’s Cooper made it to six.
At half-distance (seven of about 14 planned laps on a timed race), most positions seemed to have settled, although some of the gaps remained too small to relax. Steve Jones now had his comfortable lead, and Xavier got a break when Andrew tripped up lapping Steve Jeffords at Graham Hill Bend, extending the gap to over a second for the first time. Darrell had a similar gap to Gordon in fifth, and Richard was more perhaps concerned with Mike in his mirrors than the Mackson ahead (Mike had pretty much accepted seventh place by then, but Richard wasn’t to know). Broadly behind gaps were stable.
JB had hit a novel problem, and was slipping back into the clutches of his brother. Running without belts in the JLR, he was driving ‘old school’ with the inside hand grabbing the cockpit side. Given the indecent speed he was demanding from the old girl, plus all this manhandling, it’s hardly a surprise that part of the bodywork decided to disembark forthwith. Into a right-hander JB grabbed a handful of loose panelwork, not totally sure whether it was structural or not. Holding it in place somewhat compromised his speed for the rest of the race, enough for his brother to come by, but not enough to actually stop and inspect the damage.
So this was how the race looked to be running out. Andrew Turner was not willing to settle for third, and had one more trick up his sleeve. From a gap of 1 ½” he knuckled down and shaved half a second off over each of the next two laps to be back in the slipstream of the Staride starting the tenth lap. Before he could challenge it all went badly wrong – Andrew got a bit loose through Paddock Hill (due to a white plastic bottle wandering onto the track and clouting him in the helmet) and slid out onto the gravel. The Cooper dug in, barrel-rolled four times, and the belt-less driver was flung out. Impressively, Andrew bounced right up and walked away to the marshals – initial reports are that he had been lucky and was OK. Even the car looked unshaken and merely dusty, at first inspection.
The race was, of course, red-flagged, and with results taken from the ninth lap, Steve Jones once again took the Lewis-Evans Trophy (Steve Lewis-Evans sadly not on hand this year to present it).
Xavier took a fine second place after a very impressive drive, with Darrell inheriting third.
Despite Andrew’s accident, it had been a good start to the season, with a good atmosphere and several reasons to be excited. The JLR, Terigi and Brynfan Tyddyn cars all looked good, and hopefully JB can convince Gareth to make more races this year – a battle between brothers in similarly fast cars could prove entertaining.
Next time out is Oulton Park with the VSCC, which is not to be missed, or the Wiscombe Park climb for those who only need one run to get it right.
Cooper Mk X
Staride Mk 3
Cooper Mk XII
Richard de la Roche
Cooper Mk V
Effyh “Brynfan Tyddyn Special”
Cooper Mk IX
+ 1’ 01.866”
+ 1’ 05.759”
Cooper Mk VIII
Cooper Mk VI
Cooper Mk XI
Maurice van der Brempt
Cooper Mk IV
Cooper Mk VIII
Cooper Mk X
Cooper Mk XII
Fastest Lap: Steve Jones, 1’ 01.278” (70.96mph, 114.20kph)
Race Distance: 15 minutes, curtailed to 9 laps by red flag
Pictures courtesy of Mike Wood and Michel Gosset.