Snetterton CSCC Results 170406

John Cooper Trophy Snetterton 17th April 2006
Easter Monday brought us to a cool and windy Snetterton for the John Cooper Memorial Trophy. After the progress of last year, an entry of at least fourteen cars could have been expected. So it was very disappointing to see just ten entries for the traditional season starter.

It was good to see James Holland back on the circuits in his ex-Bob Gerard Mk VIII. James has completed a major restoration of the car with John Furlong, and the result is quite superb. James has opted for an original, low roll hoop, which combined with the flat springs and a lovely, accurate colour scheme has produced a sleek, pretty car that is almost in ex-factory condition (the Styrofoam cup used as a choke should really be paper, James!). All ten cars got away for practice cleanly, but John Turner was in after one lap with a loss of compression, apparently a loose head. Simon Frost made running repairs so John could splutter around to complete the necessary laps. After two laps Paul Hewes (pushing hard, and in the yellow Mk VIII) disappeared with a melted piston. Then Mike Fowler lost his silencer and pulled up, exhaust problems becoming something of a Snetterton tradition for Mike.

 To complete the woe, Neil Hodges’ Cooper began spluttering. This was a continuation of his problems at Brands Hatch, which had been assumed to have been down to just not putting enough fuel into the tank. Post-practice inspection revealed that the fuel pump was not delivering adequate flow, and as the tank emptied the loss of pressure head would take the supply below critical. Of the remaining six, the returning Culvers also had problems. 2005 Champion James was motoring carefully to run in a rebuilt motor, but a badly unbalanced wheel made the car almost un-drivable. Father Bob had a similar problem, but was able to drive through it. Snetterton is Bob’s ‘trick’ circuit (having won the Memorial Trophy last year), and he would set a very impressive pole lap of 1’ 39”. Roy Hunt (Martin) would line up beside Bob with Nigel Ashman (Cooper Mk V) and Gordon Russell's Mackson forming the second row.

Gordon was also competing in the classic bike races on the card, and bailed early to be ready for his first race. James Holland ran in the Mk VIII steadily and set a respectable 1’ 49”. Which left us with a very interesting grid, propped up by James C, John and Neil, who would all be looking to make major progress from the off. A long gap until race time enabled John and Paul to drop in new engines (with help from visitors Simon Frost, Jules Reichman and Susan Hatley), while Neil tinkered with his fuel pump, and picked up a couple of other issues. Team Culver went searching for an on-site tyre supplier who could balance their wheels, but had to resort to guesswork and prayer.

Bob led the ten cars around on the now standard formation lap and all ten cars were cleanly away from the grid. Roy got the jump on pole-man Bob to lead the first lap by a fraction. Over the line for the first time, this pair led the trio of Nigel Ashman, James Culver (making a superb getaway) and Mike Fowler by two seconds. Another second back were Gordon, John and Neil. A slight mistake from Gordon at the chicane left him exposed and across the line John dived to the left for the pass. Neil, however had other ideas, went to the right and took both of them heading into Riches. Paul and James Holland followed a second further back.

James Holland in the Bob Gerard/Henry Taylor Cooper.

Neil was on a flier and immediately set about closing the gap to Mike. Then things got interesting. Nigel, passed by James on the run down Revett Straight, tried to follow his through the Esses and overcooked it. The car span through 180 degrees in the second part of the Esses and came to a very abrupt halt. Which came as something of a surprise to Mike, who was mere feet behind. Face-to-face, both drivers were convinced that this was ‘the big one’ and it took a mighty effort from Mike to throw the car to the inside and just avoid Nigel. So it was perhaps fortunate that Nigel didn’t notice Neil barrelling in from behind. He had, by his own admission, already over-committed to the first part of the Esses, and was already aiming to cut across the grass – right where Nigel was now headed! Neil had a grassy excursion and dropped back behind the Mackson.

Meanwhile the remainder of the field, partly blinded by the bridge, took emergency measures to avoid Nigel’s parked Cooper and scramble back on track. But the excitement was still not over for the second lap. At the (appropriately named) Russell Bend, Gordon was covering another attack from Neil, with John just behind. A stab at the accelerator between apexes unfortunately jammed the throttle wide open, and the car rotated to a halt right on the exit kerb. Neil scraped through and John took a grassy detour. John, however was already experiencing a stuttering (traced to the magneto later), and got no response as he hit the accelerator. So three cars were out after just two laps. At the front, James had forced past his father, and by the end of the third lap was close on Roy. Bob ran about a second back from this pair, and the three had a healthy lead from the cars delayed in the incidents. Mike was fourth, and about five seconds ahead of Neil.

Mike Fowler's Mk V

 Then Paul and James Holland were in close company an further ten seconds back. James Culver found a way past Roy on the fourth lap, and would presumably motor away. Roy hadn’t read the script though, and hung on gamely. James was noticeably slow exiting Russell, perhaps choosing a higher gear, and Roy in fact pulled alongside across the finishing line fifth time around. James would just hang on into Riches, and from there would gradually eke out a lead that would reach seven seconds by the end of the ten laps. Bob in turn could not quite hang on to the pair ahead, and would finish five seconds off Roy.

Further back, Neil was still pushing hard, setting a new personal best, and closing in on Mike Fowler. But eighth time around, the fuel pump problems returned. A misfire appeared and would worsen, despite weaving on the straights to try to collect more fuel from the tank. With about 15 seconds lead over Paul, Neil pushed on, keen just to get a finish.

In fact Paul had his own fuel problems and was struggling to close the gap. On the ninth lap it was down to six seconds, but Neil’s car sounded mighty unhealthy, and did not look capable of completing the final lap (and he was not too encouraged by a faulty signal from his pit crew indicating two more laps before the time limit was reached). Paul duly motored past for fifth place, and Neil just brought the yellow Mk VIII to the flag in sixth. James Holland completed the finishers. His green Mk VIII had been running comfortably, and he was staying close to Paul, but on the fifth lap his JAP motor bent a valve and James did well to nurse the car home with almost no compression.

So two races in, we have still had a pair of exciting races. Last year’s rookies Gordon Russell and Nigel Ashman have both made strides forward bolstered the challenge at the front end of the midfield pack. It is also pleasing to see that both can now be considered regulars. Gordon, in fact leads the circuit championship by a single point from James Culver. Mike Fowler's consistent race in his Mk V gave him a win, on adjusted times, for the Gentleman Drivers Award

James Culver leads Roy Hunt and Bob

Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Time Laps Best Fastest lap: James Culver 1:35.95

DNF: Nigel Ashman - Cooper Mk VI, John Turner - Cooper Mk IX, Gordon Russell  - Mackson


Championship Positions

1 James Culver Cooper Mk X 16:24 10 1:35.95
2 Roy Hunt Martin 16:32 10 1:37.22
3 Bob Culver Cooper Mk VIII 16:37 10 1:38.27
4 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk V 17:02 10 1:40.65
5 Paul Hewes Cooper Mk VIII 17:53 10 1:44.25
6 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII 17:55 10 1:39.81
7 James Holland Cooper Mk VIII 18:24 10 1:44.79
Gentleman Drivers Award

Pos Name Car

Gentleman drivers award standings 

Race Report by Richard Hodges. Photos courtesy of Susan Hatley.

Next round is the flagship VSCC Cadwell Park meeting on the 21st of May. After a slow start, we hope to see a good turnout, and a challenge from our Northern friends who have missed the early races. If you are planning to attend, please drop the webmaster an email, and we will try to post a race preview on the website.

1 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk V
2 Roy Hunt Martin
3 Bob Culver Cooper Mk VIII
4 James Culver Cooper Mk X
5 Paul Hewes Cooper Mk VIII
6 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII
7 James Holland Cooper Mk VIII