500OA 2005 Championship

Circuit Championship 2005
The 500 Owners Association Circuit Championship Trophies are awarded for the overall winner, the best performance by a pre-1952 car (Colin Strang Trophy) and best non production car (Trevellick Trophy).
Final Positions Snetterton Cadwell Park Mallory Park Silverstone Anglesey Anglesey Mallory Park Mallory Park Total
Pos  Driver Car 24th April 12th June 24th July 27/28th Aug 24th Sept 25th Sept 23rd Oct 23rd Oct
1 James Culver Cooper Mk X 6 7 10 10 10 10 47
2 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk V 7 6 7 7 7 7 10 38
3 Bob Culver Cooper Mk VIII 10 1 1 4 1 1 6 7 28
4 John Turner Cooper Mk IX 1 6 1 1 1 10 1 19
5 Steve Jones Cooper Mk IV 1 3 4 4 4 16
6 Simon Frost Cooper Mk V 6 6 1 2 15
7 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII 5 4 4 1 1 1 15
8 Shirley Monro Cooper Mk IV 1 1 1 5 3 1 5 15
9 Geoff Gartside Cooper VIII 3 3 3 5 1 15
10 Nigel Ashman Cooper VI 1 5 3 6 15
11 Simon Diffey Cooper Mk XII 10 1 11
12 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII 4 7 11
13 Marek Reichman Emeryson 4 5 9
14 Mark Palmer Cooper Mk IX 1 1 4 2 8
15 Paul Hewes Cooper Mk VIII 1 1 1 2 1 3 8
16 Roy Hunt Martin 1 6 7
17 Rodney Delves Kieft 1 5 6
18 Richard Utley JBS 4 1 5
19 John Chisholm Arnott 1 1 1 1 1 5
20 Martin Sheppard Cooper Mk XII 1 1 1 1 4
21 Gordon Russell Mackson 1 1 1 1 4
22 Kerry Horan Trenbeth 1 2 1 4
23 David Stevenson Cooper Mk VIII 3 3
24 Roy Wright Dastle 1 1 1 3
25 Hakan Sandberg JBS 1 1 2
26 Graham Murdoch FMS 1 1
Points: 1st 10, 2nd 7, 3rd 6, 4th 5, 5th 4, 6th 3, 7th 2, 8th 1. All cars taking the start receive 1 point. Best 5 results to count.

2005 Review

With a little luck and some hard work, 2005 turned into a vintage season with some of the best grids and more competition than for many years. Several members decided to do step up to the plate and take responsibility for implementing change, the result was a classic racing season, and some clear improvements. We should applaud everyone involved in these initiatives, whether leading them, offering advice or just support.

The first, and most significant change happened before the start of the year. Whilst previous years had offered many opportunities for racers to field their cars, the lack of machinery was leaving grids too thin. The decision was taken to restrict the Championship to just six meetings, and prioritise these rounds. Entrants could be confident that there should be a decent turnout of friends, and we would be able to put on a decent show.

Round 1: Snetterton

The first round did not give a hint of what was to come with just eleven cars, more so when Kerry Horan burnt a piston in qualifying and had to scratch. But absentees missed a cracking race. James Culver was unsurprisingly class of the field, but off the line lost third gear. Whilst still the fastest combination, James would now face a battle back to the front, through six fired-up drivers. Father Bob, and Geoff Gartside made the most of James’ problems to battle for the lead, with Richard Utley and Paul Hewes completing the old brigade, and fighting off the young upstarts Mike Fowler and Neil Hodges. Geoff would drop back, losing power with a lost inlet trumpet, and Paul would retire with a thrown chain, but Mike fought hard to stay with Bob, and in the latter stages fighting off James. Further back, Neil and Richard battled tooth and nail, repeatedly appearing through Coram side-by-side, with Neil finally snatching fourth place on the penultimate lap. But at the front ‘old Man’ Bob scored a fine, well-deserved win.

Two other significant initiatives were tried at Snetterton. 500s have always been temperamental at the start, and Competitions Secretary Bob Culver took the initiative to negotiate a revised procedure. Remarkably, we got all ten cars away reasonably cleanly and with significantly less oil smoke than has been traditional. Suitably encouraged, a similar procedure was used at other meetings and was broadly successful – not only did it mean that more drivers got a decent chance of a race start for their money, but we maintained more cars on track for longer to entertain the spectators (both of them!).

Also Richard Fry made the trek up from Somerset in his motor home, and hosted a barbecue the night before. Friendliness is a key asset of the 500 Paddock, and this was a great idea and should be encouraged and supported by everyone. Keep an eye on the website for details ahead of the 2006 races (and of course please offer to help organise it).

Round 2: Cadwell Park

Always a highlight of the calendar, it was pleasing to see twenty cars turn out, with five debutantes. Although we lost Tim Sage’s Cooper Mk II with a broken gear change, the remaining nineteen made a hugely impressive sight racing down to Coppice for the first time. Mike Fowler had made a blinding start, and John Turner’s attempts to run around the outside of Coppice led to a wild moment as the pack bore down on his sideways car. Over the Mountain for the first time we had a frantic snake of cars, led by Mike, Rodney Delves, Simon Diffey (giving Mark Palmer’s Cooper Mk IX a debut run), John Turner, David LeCoq and James & Bob Culver, with Kerry Horan and Neil Hodges only a fraction behind.

A light, persistent rain began to fall which only served to confuse things even more. Simon Diffey moved to the front, but John Turner was not prepared to cede to the ‘ringer’. David span out and rejoined with the Horan/Hodges tussle, James (crippled by unpredictable brakes) would also make several excursions, and Rodney suffered one of the more bizarre retirements (“stray marker post dislodged chain”). Simon would run out an easy winner after John also span off (joining Paul Hewes, John Chisholm and Martin Sheppard in the traditional “Cadwell Car Park”, this time sited on the Hall Bends), but knew he had been in a tough battle. Mike bent a steering arm, and was unable to fend off a charging James who, despite his problems set a lap time three seconds faster than anyone else.

Impressively, the battles were not just restricted to the front, with most drivers finding a ‘partner’ at some stage of the race. This appeared to be a result of the consolidated series, combined with an overall improvement in reliability and a reduction in losses at the start. It’s always better to have an opponent, rather than trundling around on your own, and it was most encouraging that this trend would continue through the year.

The ‘rookies’ were settling in nicely, with Nigel Challis (Cooper Mk VIII) catching and passing Geoff Gartside for an eventual sixth place, while Nigel Ashman (Cooper Mk VI), Gordon Russell (in the pretty Mackson) and Martin Sheppard (Cooper Mk XII) all running comfortably, only Martin failing to finish.

Round 3: Mallory Park

Round 3 was pre-empted by yet another innovation, the Garden Party held at Charlie Smith’s farm. A chance for the “Uppy-downy” and “Roundy-roundy” boys to get together and show off their cars, as well as many restoration projects. Twenty eight cars made an appearance in various states of preparation, and a lot of useful information was traded (along with a selection of rare components). A fine idea that deserves repeating. Several cars made their way to Mallory for Sunday, where we would see another impressive 17 cars, matched with eight rather fast Juniors. Of the rookies, Nigel Ashman and Martin Sheppard appeared again, with Mark Palmer now taking up driving duties in his Mk IX. The field was also bolstered by long-absent Roy Hunt (Martin) and Marek Reichman (Emeryson), clearing the cobwebs for the Goodwood Revival.

Frustratingly, both Nigel and Martin suffered bent valves in practice, and despite Simon Frost’s best efforts both would have to scratch. Then the long-threatened rain materialised shortly before the race, so it was a pretty miserable grid that formed up on a drenched track. From the start, Mike Fowler made another great start, chased by David LeCoq, Neil Hodges, and Shirley Monro! Several drivers were delayed when John Turner stalled on the line, including Marek and James Culver, yet again facing a fight back. John eventually got going a good half-minute late, and there would begin a quite remarkable drive. David was soon past Mike, with James taking a few more laps to find his way up and through. David would later suffer water ingress (unsurprising in the conditions). John, however, was already onto the tail of the field, only to thump a half-spun Paul Hewes at Gerards. Back on it, he was running several seconds faster than any other 500 and racing through the field.

Marek quickly dealt with Geoff and set off after Neil Hodges (another with water issues). Lining up a move along the pit straight, he spotted at the last moment the diminutive John aiming for a very small gap to make it three abreast. As the mechanics on pit wall took a step back, Marek wisely made space (or “bottled it” as Neil would say) and wait another chance. Further back Shirley and John Chisholm, both finally having their cars working well, were driving impressively, and were having a good tussle with Roy Hunt, whose car was struggling a bit after its long layoff. James won the class from Mike, John Turner, with Marek, Neil and John Chisholm filling the minor paces. It had been another entertaining race from both cockpit and trackside, and there were many bedraggled souls excitedly talking about their race under any available cover.

Round 4: Silverstone

One side effect of the consolidated championship was that we had not joined the 750 Trophy brigade until their sixth round. But when we did it was worth it with sixteen 500s up against an equal number of Sevens to create a packed grid for the August Bank holiday race. James Culver and John Turner launched off at the front, accompanied by the Reliant Special of Dave Brand. Frustratingly, John’s magneto failed on the second lap, but James and Dave would put on a remarkable show that went right to the flag. It was no easier behind them with the field quite literally storming back into the complex. With so much action on-track, it was near impossible to compile a representative report. Close to the front pair Nigel Challis had really got his Cooper hooked up and fought hard with Rodney Delves, Roy Hunt, and a gaggle of Trophy cars. Shirley again had a strong race battling with Gordon Russell, Roy Wright and Mark Palmer, amongst others and there were a number of strong drives.

So at the halfway point of the season, James Culver led the championship with 34 points. Mike Fowler was a surprising, but justified second with 20 points, then Bob Culver (16) and Neil Hodges (14). We had delivered 64 entrants in four races, and an impressive 41 finishers. And importantly, almost everyone was getting good racing on track.

Goodwood Revival Meeting

After two years away, the 500s were back in the Earl of March Trophy. And quite frankly, we put on a great show. Not only was the race as good as anything else out there, but everyone really hustled in the Paddock: fielding serious enquiries, making time to talk to interested spectators, letting people have their photos taken in the cars (although it was noticed that while Geoff Gartside got the children, Neil Hodges always seemed to get the pretty girls in short skirts…), and always looking the part. Everyone can be proud of their effort. It’s just a pity the press didn’t seem to notice. Still, we have lots of evidence to justify a return in 2006.

On track, David LeCoq may have won at a canter after John Turner retired, but yet again there were battles through the field. Rodney Delves, Richard Utley and American Skip Streets, in his  Staride, inches apart for the entire race in the fight for second place. Peter Kumlin really hustled the Effyh. Neil Hodges put in an astonishing drive that ultimately netted fourth place. In fact it was even better than the race report suggested – a photograph seen after the report was filed shows him deep back in the rear half of the grid after a dismal start. And Geoff Gartside, frustrated behind Mike Fowler for several laps came back to form once he was clear. Equally Gordon Russell (who also ran in the bike races) continued to extract more and more from the Mackson. Reflecting another positive trend for the season, a record-equalling nineteen of the thirty starters survived to the chequered flag, and all in (broadly) rude health.

Rounds 5 & 6: Anglesey

The traditional wildcard meeting this year took the drivers to the pretty circuit on the cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea. The remoteness of the venue, and the late announcement of Goodwood barging into the schedule just a week earlier, led to deep concern that we would only deliver a handful of entries. So eleven cars  for the two races was a pleasant surprise in the circumstance. The friendly circuit management arranged some reconnaissance laps for early arrivals, and the “Youth Recruitment Programme” got Andrew Turner some track time in both Dad’s and Shirley’s cars.

Both races proved eventful, gaining us the meeting headline in Autosport (a significant improvement on the usual one sentence). James Culver made life difficult for himself with a brace of poor starts and had to fight his way past John Turner, Mike Fowler and a rapid Simon Frost. That both races ended with the same result of James from Mike and Simon, and John retiring, understates the quality of the racing, and all competitors considered it a good meeting. Word has it that the meeting may be held earlier next year, and with a degree of planning and encouragement we should turn out a full grid. It would be foolish to restrict ourselves to the traditional, accessible venues, and an annual, two-race, long weekend package with the requisite ‘social’ would seem to be the ideal solution.

Rounds 7 & 8: Mallory Park

Tradition again brought us back to Mallory for the season finale, this time for another double portion of 750 Trophy races. James had already secured the Championship, and Mike looked secure for runner-up, but third pace was still up for grabs, and there was the small matter of revenge for our defeat at Silverstone.

James had to miss the meeting, but sixteen 500s dominated the 28-car entry, very satisfying for so late an event. Race 1 was a classic, the best of the season. John Turner took the race-long fight to Trophy man David Brand, only to be pipped on the line by one tenth of a second. Mike Fowler, Simon Frost and Bob Culver, with a brace of Trophy cars, fought equally hard over fourth place, while Nigel Ashman hustled his way from the back row for eleventh. This was particularly impressive as he lost half of his gearstick.

Two races in one day proved a hurdle too far, and the second race was something of a letdown. There had been five engine failures in the first race, and whilst three of these cars reached the grid for the second race, none were properly bedded in and problems ensued. John Turner picked up his battle with David Brand, but retired, and the rest of the race was disappointingly processional. Only Bob Culver put on a display, just failing to hold off Roger Rowe for fourth, and so confirming his third place in the Championship. Still, that we criticise what would have been a typical race in previous years only reinforces how far expectations have risen this season.

An Old Year Ends

So we have to look back on a vintage racing year for the Association. After a slow start, grids were noticeably improved, and it is encouraging that this was consistently so. In previous years the “hard core” group comprised just five racers who could be relied on to turn out at almost every race. By the end of the year, that figure was more like a dozen, perhaps more, and that is probably the most positive sign of all. We've also welcomed several new competitors, and it was pleasing to see that most of these look like joining the ranks of the regulars. Maintaining a stream of new blood is vital to nurturing the Championship and every one of you has contributed to the action and the spirit.

Report by Richard Hodges