|Brands Hatch 13th September 2009
On a busy weekend, with Richard Bishop-Miller representing the 500s at Bo’ness, John Potts & Hakan Sandberg doing likewise at Brighton, and several others preparing for Goodwood the next weekend, a little arm-twisting turned out a dozen cars for the season’s second outing at Brands Hatch.
For a change no car suffered major maladies, and there followed a very long wait for the 6.00pm race start. Handy marshalling got most cars out on track despite a severe shortage of pushers- only Paul Hewes struggling, and he probably set a personal best to reach the grid just in time for the red lights. Less lucky was Richard Ellingworth, whose master switch fell apart at the start, killing the engine and sending into immediate retirement.
The front two both made good starts with Nigel on the inside from the right side pole and Neil slightly quicker due to the slightly better line through Paddock. As they came up the hill to Druids, Neil had a look up the inside but decided to call it a dress rehearsal and followed Nigel down to Graham Hill Bend. They had already put a small gap to Mike (still acclimatising to the Kieft) and Darrell, and Neil decided to have make Nigel work for the win so they were nose to tail through Surtees. Ashman was quite aggressive on the throttle through Clearways, getting side ways and leaving the door open on the inside. With better exit speed, Hodges began to draw alongside at the pit entry but two wheels on the grass persuaded him to tuck back in behind Nigel, he was as surprised as anyone to still be nose-to-tail across the line finishing the first lap. A better exit from Clearways produced the opportunity and some late braking at Druids took Neil through to lead at the end of lap two. Returning to the top straight, Nigel seemed poised to use the Norton power to retake the lead. But forced to take the tighter line, his Cooper twitched in annoyance and Neil was safe for another few hundred yards.
Most eyes were on the great battle at the front. Surely the Ashman/Norton package would overhaul Neil’s JAP, but Neil was doing everything he could to prevent it. This was a classic Norton/JAP battle, Neil looser through the direction changes and using the low-end oomph of the JAP to punch out of the corners, only for the Norton to open up on the upper and lower straights to close back in. On lap 3 both dropped a couple of wheels into the dirt out of Graham Hill Bend, next time around Nigel going for the full four, never more than half a second from the yellow & blue car, but never quite alongside. Fifth time through Paddock, the silver car carried slightly more speed forcing Neil to take the defensive inside line up to Druids. Nigel went to the outside for a braking duel but his Cooper ran out of grip and spun. Once back up to speed, the gap was up to six seconds.
Nigel Ashman cannot be beaten in Class C (post '54) but Neil's win promotes him to second. Gordon Russell will need a second place in the last event to retake the place. Class B ('50-'53) is still undecided but Mike Fowler now leads, courtesy of his win and Richard Ellingworth's retirement. Mike, Richard and Roy Hunt can all still take the class with a good final weekend. Class A ('45-'49) has already gone to Richard Bishop-Miller in his Cooper Mk II. Neil Hodges leads the JAP engine category for the Turner Trophy.