Rockingham Results 170711

Rockingham 17th July 2011

Fifteen cars turned out for the second ever visit to the Rockingham oval. Despite miserable weather last year, feedback had been very positive – unfortunately the forecast this weekend was just as bad. Team Gartside Racing made a welcome return after a year away, with Martin taking over driving duties. Martin was talking down his chances, even though he probably had more experience of the track in his Westfield than anyone. The other entry of note was that, at last, Pat Barford was making his debut behind the wheel. Pat has been a keen supporter of the 500 movement for a few years, restoring a selection of cars, and letting others drive. His mount for the day was equally noteworthy – the Bueb-Arnott he has just repatriated from New Zealand. Ivor bought the car in 1953 and extended the wheelbase with some 8” of extra tubing in the engine bay. Ivor declared the car “almost unspinnable” – a challenge for Pat to work his way up to. The JAP-engined car was being fettled by Simon Frost and is a very tidy little car – and notably meant that more than half the field were non-Coopers.

Richard Ellingworth in the Parker-Kieft. Photo courtesy Graham Holbon

Practice was just about completed before a heavy shower engulfed the track, but things got a bit tricky for one team. The 500s had been directed to the outer Paddock, a good half mile from Assembly. Whilst most fired up the cars and drove them down (Team Ellingworth kindly providing all the pushers and spannermen a lift down in the back of the van), Team Hodges towed the Cooper down. A catalogue of errors and botched tow-start resulted in a broken clutch and lots of shouting. An emergency rebuild was started in the Paddock road. Tempers weren’t helped as the other drivers arrived one-by-one. Presuming the Hodges brothers knew what was going on, they all pulled up alongside, revving their engines and awaiting instructions to join the track! Just the thing you don’t want when you’re under pressure.

Fortunately and with a lot of help, Neil got the Cooper on track, and in fact was able to complete several competitive laps. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Richard Ellingworth fastest, and Mike Fowler making up the front row (the Snetterton debacle traced to nothing but a broken spark plug). Darrell Woods continued to show form with the Staride, only a couple of seconds off Mike. Roy Hunt completed the second row. JB only got one lap in, electrical troubles halting the Cousy, whilst Shirley managed to get lost in the huge pit lane (to be fair, there are so many circuit options it can be difficult to spot the correct piece of concrete for today). Problems were limited and quickly fixed for an early-afternoon race.

Mike Fowler leads Richard Ellingworth and Darrell Woods. Photo courtesy Graham Holbon

We knew there was going to be trouble when we saw a marshal standing on the track with a flag…
But first, against predictions, the weather gradually improved through the day, and it was warm, sunny and dry as the cars made their way to Assembly. All fifteen appeared, but Darrell and Roy’s cars refused to fire. Being push-started, they also blocked to exit to pit lane.

Darrell was back in position by the time Richard brought the field onto the banking, there to meet said marshal, but Roy was still catching up. The marshal’s plan was to indicate where the front row should line up (a reasonable idea), but it was unexpected, and set Richard, Mike and the rest on edge. As he left the track, MotoGP-style, he lowered his flag, someone up front “jumped” and the reaction cascaded down the field followed immediately by everyone hitting the brakes – some rows were three or four wide now, and you could almost hear the starter, wary of avoiding a false start at all costs, thinking “What do I do now?” After a few more seconds, the lights went out and most got going, variously in or out of gear, and so making good or bad starts accordingly. Neil, though was already out, stalling as he finally dropped the clutch. Also slow, and soon departed was JB, continued electrical issues refusing to clear on the out lap.

Mike, though, had made a great start and was already ahead into the banked first turn (and it was notable how good the cars, particularly the later, lower models, looked on the banking). Close on his heels was Richard, with Darrell trying to keep in touch, but already pulling clear of Roy Hunt. As they completed the first lap, Richard was within a car’s length of the midnight blue Cooper and a pass seemed inevitable on the oval section. But a tight line though Turn 1 from Mike closed his options off, and Mike held the advantage through most of the second lap. Richard, though was gaining again, and made the pass heading to the final chicane, second time around. Over the line, Mike was a second adrift, and he was unable to get quite close enough to unsettle Richard. The Parker-Kieft, following practice form, was able to ease away by a second to a second and a half every lap until the end, a worthy winner.

Mike may have been a bit disheartened, but a good run showed the American Mk XI was in fine working order – the absent Mr Ashman should be minded that his sister American car will have stiffer opposition than for some time, next time out. Meanwhile, Darrell showed fine form to take a comfortable third place, though yet again with no-one around he could dice with.

Drive of the day: Shirley Monro Photo courtesy Graham Holbon

Clearly, at the front it was a fairly simple race, with four cars considerably up the track from everyone else. But for the remaining nine cars there was more than enough fighting to compensate. Leading the group, and showing good form again, was Martin Sheppard. Demon starts (perhaps by not stopping in the startline debacle…) from Richard Bishop-Miller and Xavier Kingsland had them in sixth and seventh. Martin Gartside, after a cautious start, had thrown cautious Plan A out the window and was storming up on these two. Xavier was being caught rapidly through the long Gracelands corner and was picked off on the first straight behind the Paddock, into the Tarzan hairpin. A good exit gave him the run on the old Cooper, and he crossed the line in sixth place, some three-four behind Martin S.

Richard and Xavier completed the top eight, and there was a large gap then back to Shirley, now chased by Richard Utley (after a miserable start left him stone last). Kerry Horan was in their shadow, then Mark Palmer and Pat Barford in close company at the rear.

Halfway around Lap 2, Martin G was on the tail of Martin S, and the move was completed on the final straight with a better run out of Tarzan. Frustratingly, Roy was already eleven seconds away and over the horizon, so Martin G had no hare to chase. He knuckled down to get basic experience of the car, in so doing improving on his practice times by a couple of seconds (when most were only shaving tenths) on Lap 3. But on the fourth tour, the rear sprocket came adrift and he coasted into retirement.

Richard Bishop-Miller was driving superbly, and hanging only a few seconds off Martin Sheppard. Xavier followed, and began closing in. On lap three he made the pass, but almost immediately pulled off the track. The move, though, had pushed Richard back into the sights of Shirley, who was ahead of an ailing Richard Utley. At this, it was as if a light went on, and Shirley was inspired. For once, the car was a match for her, and firing cleanly on all one cylinder, she set off after the earlier Cooper. RBM made the task a bit easier, by promptly finding a trail of Castrol R to spin on early in the fourth lap, but the little turquoise car looked and sounded purposeful and fast. She quickly pulled away from the battles behind, and even began closing on the silver machine of Martin Sheppard. Martin in turn was beginning to suffer from a slight misfire, particularly costing him on the long oval section. An eight-second margin promptly dropped to four, then on lap 6 Shirley homed in. Exiting the final chicane onto the banking, Martin went high, Shirley low. The low-down grunt of the JAP easily outgunned a stammering Norton and gravity, and Shirley was into fifth place overall. Martin tried to fight back, but was handicapped by the engine. A brave move at the end of the eighth lap very nearly got the place, but it wasn’t to be – Shirley took a well-deserved fifth place, and Martin sixth.

But there’s more. Richard B-M’s spin had also allowed Kerry through, and Richard set off in pursuit. A few seconds further back, Mark Palmer was getting into a rhythm, now moving clear of debutant Pat, and running just ahead of the other lime green car of Richard Utley. Pat was just starting to drift off the back, particularly as he lost his ‘pilot’ car ahead, but was setting perfectly respectable (and remarkably consistent for a rookie) 2’ 08” laps.

Familiar car, different helmet. Martin takes over the Garside family Cooper. Photo courtesy Graham Holbon.

So at the end of Lap 4, Kerry held seventh place from the recovering RBM, only to return the favour by finding the same patch of oil and spinning down a place. The net effect was that Kerry trailed by just a couple of seconds (although with Utley and Palmer much closer), and he set off again, catching and passing the Cooper on Lap 7. There followed another spin – on the same oil – dropping him into the clutches of Mark Palmer, and in so doing leaving a fog of methanol for Richard B-M to blind himself on (and in the moment, bite down and crack a tooth!). Richard U was on his tail and running well again. They crossed the line side by side to start the final lap, Utley below Bishop-Miller, and with the power and the line. He would sneak seventh at the flag, chased by the other Richard. Meanwhile on the final tour, Mark Palmer got the run on Kerry and took ninth.

Which leaves Pat Barford. Lapped by Richard Ellingworth on lap seven of nine, his main target now was to bring the car home in one piece. The Arnott is fitted with quite a small fuel tank, and “500-guru” Simon had decided to eliminate the small gravity-feed tank for simplicity. Inevitably, then, the JAP motor stuttered on his final lap. Out of the final chicane it choked and almost died. It just crested the rise onto the banked final corner. Pat held the car right on the bottom of the apron and showed the Right Stuff, rocking violently to urge her the last few feet to take the flag to the cheers of all.

So whilst a smaller entry than recently, we still put on a good show. The lead battle was not as strong as we have seen, but from fifth all the way backwards, there were battles and stories to be told, the stars being Shirley and Pat. Next race is the Croft Historic Festival, which is well worth the trip for both the circuit and the event (as those who attended the inaugural event last year will confirm). We have French guests, and it’s a good chance to dust off your Goodwood duds (and see Geoff Gartside trying to blag a ride in a tank!). So book early, and hope to see you there.

 Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Class Time Laps Best

Fastest Lap

Class A: Shirley Monro - Cooper Mk IV-JAP

Class B: Darrell Woods-Staride Mk III-Norton

Class C: Richard Ellingworth - Parker-Kieft

JAP: Shirley Monro - Cooper Mk IV-JAP


DNF: Martin Gartside - Cooper Mk VIII-Norton, Xavier Kingsland - Staride-Norton, JB Jones - Cousy-Triumph, Neil Hodges - Cooper Mk VIII-JAP


Points after Round 4


Photos Graham Holbon & Mike Wood Words: Richard Hodges

1 Richard Ellingworth Parker-Kieft-Norton C 16:53 9 1:48.092
2 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk XI-Norton C 16:58 9 1:49.410
3 Darrell Woods Staride Mk III-Norton B 17:04 9 1:50.607
4 Roy Hunt Martin-Norton B 17:19 9 1:51.237
5 Shirley Monro Cooper Mk IV-JAP A 18:15 9 1:57.780
6 Martin Sheppard Cooper Mk XII-Norton C 18:17 9 1:58.474
7 Richard Utley JBS-Norton B 18:39 9 2:00..152
8 Richard Bishop-Miller Cooper Mk II-JAP A 18:43 9 1:59.580
9 Mark Palmer Wishart Mk II-Norton C 18:48 9 2:02.474
10 Kerry Horan Trenberth-Vincent B 18:49 9 1:59.804
11 Pat Barford Arnott-JAP D 17:34 8 2:05.379

Perhaps the start technique helped Shirley. Photo Mike Wood