|Rockingham 16th October 2011
Following the cancellation of the planned Donington meeting the 500 drivers returned to Rockingham for the last race of the season and a very good turnout of 21 cars.
Star of the day was without doubt Maurice Van Der Brempt who brought the Fillingham for it’s race debut and apart from the usual suspects we were pleased to be joined once more by Pat Barford who was making his return visit to Rockingham having sorted the problems that caused him to miss Mallory. Roy Hunt had done a remarkable job to get the Martin back in one piece after Goodwood and confessed that Pat might not have seen too much of him for the last few weeks! The Richard Ellingworth Parker Kieft has changed hands and new owner Pat Barford asked Nigel Ashman to drive and having diced with the car on a number of occasions Nigel jumped at the chance to try it out. We were also pleased to be joined by Steve Jones making his first appearance in the Cooper since Portimao last year.
Steve shows of his new high tech exhaust. Photo Nigel Ashman
By the end of the session both Nigel Ashman and JB Jones were towed back to the paddock and exchanged the usual friendly hand gestures with each other in the process. Nigel had set the fastest lap of the session on his second lap but his engine died and he would take no further part. JB’s engine was still running but the crank on the drive side had failed and he too would scratch.
The rest of the field returned safely or had less serious issues and the results showed 5 cars all having set a time of 1.58 leading to the promise of an exciting race. These included previous Rockingham winner George Shackleton, Darrel Woods in the Staride, Martin Gartside, Gordon Russell and Steve Jones. George declared himself happy with the car, his choice of sprocket and the track and decided not to mess with the car further before the race. Darrell was mostly happy with his outing but had found the car a little tail happy with the grip a bit unpredictable and had to back off later in the session with suspected brake problems. Gordon also enjoyed himself and liked the extra bends of the new layout although felt that his gearbox was getting tired and planned to fettle before the race. Martin was pleased to find that work on the Cooper handling had paid off and that in particular, left hand bends were better and this obviously was important at Rockingham with it being an anti-clockwise track. Last of the group of five was Steve Jones who was getting back to grips with the car after a year away.
The rest of the field were to be found carrying out the usual repairs and adjustments. Pat Barford was initially happy with the Arnott but later found he had split the fuel tank and it had to be taken out to be repaired by a willing bunch, all of whom seemed to have done the same repair on their own cars at one time or other. Roy found everything to be OK but was taking things steady after the bump at Goodwood. Nigel Challis had enjoyed following Gordon who he reported was taking a line very close to the wall to exploit the Bernoulli principle! Who knew that 500 racing was quietly so technical!? (Readers may like to Google this for a better explanation) Richard Bishop-Miller was taking it steady on his old faithful engine but still managed a brief trip on the grass. Stuart Wright found his clutch to be slipping and would make some adjustments. John Chisholm’s Arnott was coughing and spluttering but John confessed that he might have given the same report after many of his recent outings.
Nigel and Sarah Challis had kindly brought soup with Karen Bishop- Miller bringing desert and so everyone took a break at lunchtime to gather and chat....our thanks to all of them for taking the time and trouble to do this.
Lewis Evans Trophy
It was all change at lap three. Steve continued his progress and had passed Nigel and Mike to lie in 2nd just one second behind Darrell. Nigel and Mike had swapped places but things were very close with only one second covering Steve, Nigel and Mike. Unfortunately on lap three we lost Pat Barford, despite being assured that his fuel tank repair would last for years sadly it lasted only about seven minutes and Pat spun on his own leaking fuel at Tarzan.
Having progressed steadily and smoothly up the grid Steve now seemed to lose his composure and attempted a ragged pass on Darrell at the end of school straight but with the bend fast approaching. It was never going to end well and Steve’s action forced him through a tyre barrier spreading tyres and his exhaust silencer behind him for the others to avoid. Fortunately there were no casualties and Steve emerged ahead but Darrell lost out and was pushed to third with Nigel moving up. Gordon, Mike and George followed close behind and at this mid-way point in the race there were still less than three seconds between first place and 6th.
Steve now gathered his composure, set the fastest lap of the race and built himself a lead that wasn’t troubled from then on. The fun still continued in the rest of the field though and George pushed up to 4th while Gordon slipped back a little and out of the action at the front with Gearbox problems, later explaining that he had been forced to slow, find neutral and set off again to get things working. Lap 6 saw Steve, Nigel and Darrell hold formation but Mike and George were battling hard for fourth place with the lead changing sometimes quite robustly between them a number of times over the next few laps. In the end Mike decided that George had youth on his side and that discretion was the better part of valour but George returned to the paddock somewhat sheepishly and was teased by Messrs Frost and Ashman that Mike was looking for him with a score to settle!
Even at this late stage in the race, the positions were still not settled. Darrell had a push to take back 2nd place from Nigel who was developing a vibration though his steering that caused him to ease off so that a lap later George was able to steal third from him in the closing stages. So it finished with Steve up front, Darrell second and George third...it was an excellent race from start to finish and a fitting end to the season. Mike Bell suffered carb-icing problems and pulled up just yards from the chequered flag. At first he tried to push the car from a seated position but when this wasn’t working he jumped out and pushed the car over the line to gain a well earned 13th place to the cheers of all those gathered on the roof of the pit garages. Biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Maurice on his return to the paddock for achieving the rare feat of finishing his first race in a 500...a wonderful achievement.
To end of the day, trophies were presented in the paddock by Steve Lewis-Evans and Steve’s wife Elaine then joined Chairman Challis in judging the cake competition with Shirley emerging worthy winner! Shirley also takes the JAP Championship and Class A so pretty good end to the season for her. In Class, B Darrell Woods and his Staride already had his class but second was decided by one point. Gordon Russell pipping Roy Hunt. Class C goes to Nigel Ashman, but only on a tie breaker, from Richard Ellingworth with Nigel Challis in third. And so ends another great season of racing. Our thanks to the BRSCC, the Challis’s and Bishop Millers for lunch, Steve and Elaine Lewis Evans and all those who made cakes for the rest of us to eat!