Mallory 750MC Results 221006

Mallory Park  22nd October 2006

After what has seemed a very long season, we came to the traditional season finale at Mallory Park with the 750 Motor Club. And what a great turn out we had, back to the numbers we had in 2005. Sixteen cars arrived in the Paddock, matched by a fine turnout of supporters, plus a couple of potential and definite additions for 2007. For once, James Culver had not already tied up the Championship, and both Mike Fowler and Roy Hunt were in with chances if James should stumble. Though James only needed the one point for starting the race to confirm the title, both drivers were considering picking up tips from one Herr Schumacher, who was facing a similar situation in Brazil…

Of the other regular attendees we saw Nigels Challis and Ashman, John Turner, James Holland Martin Sheppard and Geoff Gartside – proudly displaying sponsorship, having hired his car out for an art gallery exhibition in Harrogate (no, we don't understand either!). Mark Palmer had intended to drive the Murray Rainey Cooper Mk IX but, when work intervened, he kindly loaned the car to Simon Frost. And it was good to see Richard Utley back in the Paddock with his JBS that had only just completed its return journey from Laguna Seca. Hakan Sandberg had the marvellous RJ500 out for a final trip and Graham Murdock appeared again with the FMS. Completing the line-up were three of the four old-new boys we have seen this year; Tony Steele was without Duncan’s Comet but had somehow convinced Merrick Taylor to release his Kieft, making its first non-Revival appearance for many years. Mike Gilbert had completed repairs on his Mk IX after his hefty shunt at Lydden Hill, and Malcolm Bell made his second appearance with the entire family in support. All three have already proved welcome additions to the paddock. It was also good to see a lot of familiar faces who have been absent recently – perhaps tempted by the free lunch, of which more later. Bill Needham and Roy Wright put in appearances, as did our editorial team of Ruth and Susan, plus the usual host of familiar pushers and helpers. The Met. Office had predicted incessant rain from dawn, so it was with some relief that it held off until lunchtime, and all drivers made the most of a dry, if somewhat cool and slippery track. All sixteen 500s were out and running well, to face ten Trophy cars, made up of the usual suspects.

Yes it was wet.....                           

Photo courtesy of Charles White

Front row was a Brand lockout with Nic Grele in third. First surprise was Simon Frost, putting in a very impressive 60 second lap for fourth, and bettering James Culver. Separately, car and driver have shown they are competitive, but it was still something of a surprise to see the combination so close to the front. James had forsaken his usual Mk X to try “Old Man Bob’s” Mk VIII, and quickly determined that it had been running too much rear brake bias. Lining up beside him was rival Mike Fowler, less than a tenth of a second behind – a good time for the conditions, and setting up and interesting possibilities for the race. The second surprise was Nigel Ashman – though the better half of a second behind James and Mike, he out-qualified Roy. Nigel has been progressively moving closer to the front group this year, and having recently (also) diagnosed a rear brake problem, is able to go deeper into the corners.

John Turner was yet again hit with magneto problems, and was just behind Roy despite only a few laps. Then a couple of seconds back was our third, very pleasant surprise – Martin Sheppard with a fine 65s lap. Martin’s tribulations over his two years of 500 ownership have been well-documented, so it was great just to see him finally complete a session without the assistance of the tow truck. That he posted a respectable time for a late-model Cooper, despite a spin, left him with the widest grin we have seen for some time. Martin pointed to having taken the advice of old hands by replacing the rear tyres with much narrower items, which he said had transformed the car. Next up was Tony Steele, the apple green Kieft looking beautiful on the Mallory circuit, followed by James Holland (no major problems), Nigel Challis (loss of spark, then in pumping the accelerator he also stretched the throttle cable) and a rather subdued Geoff Gartside. The reason became clear as Geoff showed off the top half of a gear stick that had snapped on the first lap. He managed to complete six laps forcing the stump, until the exhaust header detached from the engine – he hadn’t been too worried by the noise, but decided to stop when his shoulder got rather hot!

Of the remainder, Richard Utley made a slow start, having been caught out by the very early start, and nursing his Norton up to temperature. Malcolm Bell shaved a couple of seconds off his previous best and was well pleased, his fun finally curtailed by the carburettor coming loose. Graham had burnt his clutch, while Hakan was suffering from a misfire. And Mike Gilbert was very slow out of Assembly and the engine never quite cleared. However, most were happy with their lot, and there were no major problems to resolve.

A nice diversion was a hearty hot lunch, provided by Chairman Nigel Challis, and hosted by Martin Sheppard and his wife from their motor home. This was a great idea, to get everyone chatting, bouncing ideas around, and trading parts. We should try really hard to do something similar at a few more rounds next year. On the subject of parts, Mike Fowler had secured a large stock of army surplus fuel pump service kits (again, don’t ask) and was selling them on at very reasonable prices – the wise will bring a full wallet to the AGM. The lunch would have continued longer, but finally the promised rain arrived, and everyone sought cover. And how it came. In the ninety minutes until race start, the circuit became absolutely sodden – worse even than at the summer Mallory meeting in 2005. Graham Murdock eventually decided it was too dangerous for him, and in retrospect that was perhaps the best decision. At start  up, Geoff realised that his loose exhaust had also melted and seized his throttle cable, and he also would not start.

Graham Murdoch in the FMS

We've heard of getting a getting a tow but this is ridiculous!

Things started to go wrong in the Assembly Area. With cars out of order, and none too keen to bump start on the waterlogged surface, it took some time to get everyone out. Even with additional, very cautious sighting laps cars were spread around the circuit. Several Trophy cars were also missing, and John Turner parked up on the sighting laps, yet again with magneto problems. So the marshals had great trouble getting cars into the correct positions on the grid, having to send some on for another lap. This is not to criticise that rare breed of orange drowned rat, who did a remarkable job to even keep the meeting going in the conditions, but the end result was an extremely long wait on the grid. It was remarkable that only one car stalled (and of course it had to be Martin Sheppard), and fortunate that the race director did not delay the start further.

Finally, the lights went out and nineteen surviving cars headed for Gerards, at a speed that suggested no intention of actually seeing Stebbe Straight. Fastest of all was Mike Fowler, straight to the front and taking a look around Dave Brand for the lead. Dave held on, and as they came around for the first time Dave led from Mike, Simon, Linden Brand and James – thereafter it was impossible to register who was where in the spray. And if it was hard for your reporter to make notes, it was much, much worse for the drivers. Many complained of misted goggles and visors, even those who had prepared with anti-fog systems. Linden Brand struggled around for two laps before retiring with no visibility. Mike had another run for the lead into Gerards, but was thwarted by yellow flags. At the back, Martin Sheppard had got a shove and was running about thirty seconds behind the pack, and not far off a very slow Richard Utley. Richard was another to suffer misted goggles, which was resolved, in a fashion, when the strap broke! In true 500 style Richard drove on holding the goggles in place, which makes his subsequent drive quite astounding.

Second time through, gaps had started to open up, and it became possible to work out who was where. Dave Brand still led from Mike and Simon, and James dived between Linden Brand and the pit wall. Close behind was Nigel Ashman, holding on well to the fastest cars. Roy was already in no man’s land, some seven seconds adrift and four ahead of Tony Steele. There followed a close battle between three Trophy cars, including Paul Grele in the Marsh Grayford Special – normally one of the slowest road going class cars, Paul was revelling in being the only driver with full depth tyre tread. Behind these came Hakan, Nigel Challis and James Holland in close company, Malcolm Bell (running very well and having passed Don Rawson), Mike Gilbert, and then Richard, now pulling away from Martin. By lap 3, the first three 500s were mugging Dave Brand and crossed the line covered by just one second. Mike took the long way round Gerards for the lead, and eked out a small advantage. Richard Utley caught and passed Mike Gilbert, who was again beginning to struggle with a misfire, but would drag the car to the flag just lapped twice by the eventual winner. Hakan also slowed with a slight misfire and dropped behind Nigel Challis.

Hakan leads Graham through the Devil's Elbow.

Wet and dark. Malcolm Bell in his Mk X

James was now into his stride, and on the fourth lap moved ahead of Simon, quickly dispensing also with Dave Brand, and starting the seventh lap he made to dice under Mike. Not quite close enough at Gerards, he tried again later in the lap and assumed the lead. Now back in the thick spray, Mike was unable to hold on and dropped back towards Dave and Simon. The spray was a serious problem for everyone in a group, and combined with misted vision and random aquaplaning, many drivers chose discretion over valour. An honourable mention though should go to Malcolm Bell. Having dispensed with a couple of sickening Trophy cars and Hakan (who eventually retired on lap 6), Malcolm caught and passed James Holland and was beginning to close the six second gap to Nigel. Behind him, Richard Utley was going even faster, passing James on lap six, Malcolm on lap seven, and Nigel Challis on lap nine, just as the leaders came past to lap them all. Not bad for an OAP driving one-handed…

Over the next three laps the lead positions remained the same, James holding a small but comfortable lead over Mike, Dave and Simon, none of whom could get a clear run on the others through the spray. Nigel Ashman was driving alone in a safe fifth place, drifting off the leaders by about a second a lap, and Roy was in a similar situation another twenty seconds back. Roy, though had no way of knowing the Tony Steele was starting to cut into his lead, first in small amounts, but as the target came closer he was taking two or three seconds a lap. Only after the race could Tony report that the Kieft was almost brakeless, which by any standard makes it a fine drive. Lap 10, and Dave Brand decides to step up a gear, passing Mike and crossing the five second gap to James. He was not to get close enough to mount a challenge, although he did manage to set fastest lap by some margin. James continued to push on and in lapping a couple of Trophy cars just before the line, managed to miss the flag entirely and merrily completed another lap. Simon and Mike still had a score to settle. Into Gerards for the final time, Simon saw Mike’s Cooper stepping and sliding through the standing puddles, and decided to take a punt around the outside. In his own words, the Mk IX just planted itself and motored round in a perfect arc. Until the exit, when the back end gradually unstuck, and he slowly pirouetted around. Simon quickly recovered, but was comfortably up the road.

Nigel Ashman came in with another highly creditable fifth overall. Sixth should have been Roy, but on the penultimate lap Tony closed the seven second gap. With no rearwards visibility, the first Roy knew of the danger was when the Kieft appeared to starboard as they passed pit exit. Roy attempted to fight back, but came in half a second behind for seventh. Eighth and ninth went to Paul and Nic Grele, then Richard, just ahead of Nigel Challis. Twelfth should have gone to Malcolm, but in the last couple of laps his JAP motor developed a misfire. Finally with some degree of visibility, James Holland had upped his pace, passing the ailing Malcolm, and catching Nigel quite rapidly. Malcolm nursed the Mk X Cooper in some five seconds off James, and just holding off Don Rawson for thirteenth. Martin Sheppard had plugged away on his own for fourteenth, ruing the late start that would have put him right with Nigel and James. Mike Gilbert completed the 500 finishers, running a reasonably cautious pace and just being lapped a second time by the two leaders.

James finally arrived to collect his laurels and be greeted by an extremely proud father - for once Bob had seen first hand what the rest of us pit wall spectators have known for a while. Yet again a fully deserved championship was in the bag, tied up in the best possible style for a five starts, five wins record. Mike, Roy, Gordon Russell and Bob complete the top five with no position changes from the final round.

Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Time Laps Best Fastest lap: James Culver 1:01.56

DNF: Hakan Sandberg - RJ500, DNS: John Turner - Cooper Mk IX, Graham Murdoch - FMS, Geoff Gartside - Cooper Mk VIII

Our thanks to the 750 Motor Club.

Championship Positions


Race report by Richard Hodges.

Our thanks to Charles White for the photos.

1 James Culver Cooper Mk VIII 15:07 12 1:01.56
2 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk V 15:16 12 1:01.65
3 Simon Frost Cooper Mk IX 15:20 12 1:00.87
4 Nigel Ashman Cooper Mk VI 15:35 12 1:02.58
5 Tony Steele Kieft CK51 16:17 12 1:06.62
6 Roy Hunt Martin 16:18 12 1:02.64
7 Richard Utley JBS 15:34 11 1:08.96
8 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII 15:34 11 1:07.37
9 James Holland Cooper Mk VIII 15:37 11 1:07.05
10 Malcolm Bell Cooper Mk X 15:41 11 1:11.53
11 Martin Sheppard Cooper Mk XII 16:11 11 1:05.12
12 Mike Gilbert Cooper IX 15:10 10 1:12.39

Gentleman Driver's Award

Pos Name Car

Gentleman Driver's Award standings 


1 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk V
2 Nigel Ashman Cooper Mk VI
3 James Culver Cooper
4 Tony Steele Kieft CK 51
5 Simon Frost Cooper Mk IX
6 Roy Hunt Martin
7 Richard Utley JBS
8 James Holland Cooper Mk VIII
9 Malcolm Bell Cooper Mk X
10 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII
11 Mike Gilbert Cooper Mk IX
12 Martin Sheppard Cooper Mk XII

And that is how another season ended. With no sign of the rain easing, all further racing was abandoned, and everyone loaded up their cars as quickly as possible and made their way home. Whilst numbers have been lower than hoped, the quality of the racing has been excellent, perhaps better than in 2005. So now it’s time to fire up the heater in the garage, get the kettle on, and start prepping the car for next season. If all the newcomers appear as promised, and we can get a few of the old hands back, it promises to be a vintage year. Hope to see you at the AGM.

One of the joys of racing with the 750 Motor Club; Two 500s and two Trophy cars battle through the Devil's Elbow.