|Cadwell Park 20th June 2009
Earlier than usual, June brought us to longstanding favourite, the VSCC Cadwell Park meeting. A moderate entry of sixteen cars (and it says something of how we have progressed that sixteen is only moderate) appeared, mainly comprising the series regulars. Mark Palmer would take the helm of the Wishart, now much happier with the handling. Simon Frost transferred to Mike Gilbert’s Cooper Mk IX. Mike was due to race his Riley, but transport problems meant a no-show, more of which later. Most welcome addition was Geoff Gartside, looking much better after recent health problems. Geoff was proudly showing an article in the Grand Prix edition of Autosport, in which Sir Frank Williams recalls cadging lifts off Geoff to visit Silverstone as a youngster. Whilst Frank said “I’ll never forget his name - Geoff Gartside”, when pressed Geoff’s memory was rather less precise - “So, do you remember little Frank, then, Geoff?” “Nawww, Naw”
Elsewhere, Richard Bishop-Miller was struggling with a slipping clutch that eventually burned out as he completed his requisite three laps. Shirley Monro stopped after a couple of laps, soon finding stray metal shavings where they shouldn’t be, and Bill set about fitting their primary “Le Mans” engine. John Jones (Cousy) pulled in with a rough-sounding Triumph, later diagnosed as an unspotted cracked cylinder barrel (which would explain his suggestion that it would run better when cold). Again, with the spare engine in rebuild, he also scratched.
During the wait for racing, it was suggested that a rolling start should be used, and this turned out to be a very wise decision. Mid-way through Race 1, the forecast showers arrived. But this turned to a frustrating drizzle that was unable to wash away copious amounts of Castrol R shed from seven more races of various vintage cars.
Thirteen cars lined up, some in the Assembly Area and some up the entry road making use of the steep drop for push starting. This almost ended in disaster as someone attempted to shut the gate just as Richard Ashcroft and pushers went past the point of no return. Desperate screams just saved the day. It was no less hairy on circuit as Richard Bishop-Miller was barely on the circuit when he spun at Hall Bends, fortunately collecting it and retaking his place in the train. Neil and Mike were bringing the field round at what seemed a snail’s pace - so slowly we at trackside didn’t expect everyone to make it up the Mountain. Although the rain had stopped the track was treacherous. As they rounded Barn for the start, Richard Ashcroft tapped his brakes. Behind, Shirley followed suit, and Richard Bishop-Miller was off again, tapping the bales this time!
Not quite following Indy 500 rules, Neil led the field very slowly up to the line. Whilst Simon chomped at the bit behind him, it was Mike who finally got bored, and crossed the start a length and a half ahead. Neil & Simon tucked in behind, followed at some distance by Richard Ellingworth, Brian Jolliffee, Roy Hunt, Mike Bell and Geoff Gartside. For some reason the JAP engine Cooper was quicker than the Norton along the Park straight allowing Neil to retake the lead going into Park Corner.
After an interminable wait, It was Neil that appeared first at the bottom of the Mountain. He tippy-toed over the Mountain, desperately trying to balance keeping the JAP motor on cam against wheelspin. Mike went with the rather more successful approach of focussing on just one problem - keeping his right foot down and dealing with the wild fishtailing that resulted. Lairy, but effective, and Mike finished the first lap a second ahead of Neil with Simon about two seconds off.
Lap two, and it was Neil ahead again into the Mountain, only for Mike to close the gap up the Mountain. Perhaps remembering his last appearance at a wet Cadwell with Mike’s car (which ended with it stuffed in the barrier), Simon was drifting off the battling pair ever so slightly, but comfortably ahead of Brian, who in turn was moving away from Roy - older, wiser heads opting for a survival strategy. Richard Ellingworth’s came to an end with the gear selector falling apart. Stuck in gear he motored back to the Paddock, followed by Mark Palmer who had spooked himself enough times in that first lap and a half. With the Mk IX already damaged in rain, he decided to keep at least one complete car for Le Mans. Shirley also disappeared at this point.
In sixth place, Richard Ashcroft was now in clear air, although unable to make any progress on Roy. Mike, who may well have had the measure of him, was embroiled in a false battle with Geoff. Hakan was running well further behind, but tail-end Charlie (courtesy of that pre-start excursion) Richard Bishop-Miller was catching. This despite a recalcitrant third gear that required brute force from Richard to make an appearance.
Neil uses the white line, Mike the kerb and others have clearly resorted to the grass, both had more grip than the oil! Photo John Landamore
Except it didn’t. Simon carried just a little too much speed into the treacherous braking for the Hairpin and had a half spin Mike and Neil passed before he could regain the circuit, Fowler taking the win from Hodges by two car lengths. But Frosty hadn't finished for the day, in his haste to hang onto third, he ran wide at Barn, the final corner and collected the hay bales. With the front wheels pointing in totally different directions, he struggeld to the line, fortunately he'd been far enough ahead that Brian was unable to catch him. Roy, Richard A, Mike, Richard B and Hakan all completed the full distance (Richard B most chuffed that, for the first time ever, he had not been lapped). and Geoff completed the top ten.