Snetterton Results 110611

Snetterton 11th June 2011

The season continued with another remarkable turnout for Round three at the new Snetterton layout. Although Shirley Monro, Martin Sheppard and David Stevenson were unable to attend, twenty three cars did appear. Most welcome guest was Charles McCabe back on tour from the States and driving “the last Cooper” – Lex DuPont’s Mk XIII. The other debutant was Mike Fowler’s Mk XI – another American chassis, and finished in a very fetching midnight blue. Mike Gilbert had his Mk IX repainted in a similar forest green and had added a yellow stripe for good measure. The race was to be for the Jim Russell Trophy, a new award to celebrate the local 500 legend. Jim was in attendance with some of his old cars, and spending much time with Duncan Rabagliati.

Our first run on the redeveloped Snetterton circuit was to be on the full ‘300’ International course. A lengthy infield section begins with a tight hairpin at Sears, where formerly there was a rapid right hand corner onto the Revett Straight. What looks on paper to be a bland series of short straights and uniform-radius corners turned out to be anything but, and everyone was impressed whilst simultaneously unsure of the optimum line. The other major change was the Coram-Russell combination at the end of the lap – where the old Coram was a hang-in-there ninety degree onto a short straight for heavy braking into the tight right-left of Russell, now it continued in a tightening, falling 180 with variable camber, leaving Russell (oddly renamed Murray) as a more open simple left-hander. Opinions were mixed on this, but that may be down to even more uncertainty about the optimum line (a spying mission to watch Mark Hales in the headline 3-hour race only partially helped). Both faster and earlier than the old chicane, this meant cars were arriving at first corner Riches at a significantly higher speed, which took some recalibrating. Elsewhere, MotorSport Vision continues to improve the lot of the club racer, with a new back section of the Paddock formalised, and promptly claimed for the 500s so most competitors were together.

Who are you looking at? Charles McCabe, over from the US, with his Mk XIII. Photo Kitty Chisholm

With drought orders announced locally the day before, it was inevitable that rain was expected, but it held off right through the day, waiting for the Formula Junior crews racing on the Sunday (John Chisholm doubling up with his Arnott and Gemini). With a few hiccups, everyone was soon out for a twenty minutes of practice. Times were pretty much as one would expect with the ‘usual suspects’ getting on with it and quickly finding a limit, while others took more time to learn which way the circuit went. Against recent form, it was Nigel Ashman ahead of Richard Ellingworth for the front row. Seven seconds behind these (on a long lap), Neil Hodges headed the next group over Gordon Russell, George Shackleton and Rodney Delves. Within striking distance were both Darrell Woods (the Staride looking a bit loose on some corners) and Nigel Challis, whilst David Lecoq and Roy Hunt took their more relaxed approach to qualifying to make up the fifth row (but still only a few seconds from Neil and Gordon).

Surprisingly missing from this group was Mike Fowler – although the Norton was straight out of his Mk V, it was giving no power and he failed to complete a lap. Similarly, James Holland’s Mk VIII failed (likely magneto problems) and Paul Hewes’’ Mk XI dipped in through the back entrance to the Paddock (definitely magneto). Xavier Kingsland staggered through his requisite 3 three laps with an awful misfire.

Happiest of all, though, was probably John Chisholm. With Simon Frost’s touch, the car has been showing a semblance of reliability of late, and Simon’s aborted run at Donington had convinced he and John to experiment with the handling. New springs (effectively swapping front and rear spring rates) had in John’s words “transformed the car” and he was at last showing some of his Formula Junior form, only a couple of seconds off Roy Hunt’s time. A note should also be made of Mike Bell’s run – the team have had a frustrating time of late and whilst practice was quite anonymous he led the rest of the pack in 12th place.

Time was quite limited before a lunchtime race, so those that needed it needed to crack on (although in retrospect one has to wonder why as no one came out better than before). Mike Fowler struggled to find a cause for his flat engine, but rolled out for the start in hope. James tracked his problem to a condenser, but didn’t have time to fix it and scratched. Ditto Xavier, whose misfire turned out to be much more terminal when shrapnel was found in the cylinder head. Neil tinkered with his clutch, while Mike Bell (having been told off for spraying methanol) tinkered with float bowls.

What was he looking at? Richard Utley in the JBS. Photo Kitty Chisholm

Nigel Ashman led the pack around on a very leisurely sighting lap, which was good news for Roy and George who had great difficulty firing in the Assembly Area but were still able to take up position (it was also appreciated by all the pushers, who had time to reach their new viewing spot on Agostini’s Mountain). Being HSCC, the start was an "almost" rolling, the first two rows were virtually stationary as the lights changed while later rows still had momentum so twenty-one car made their way up Senna straight, pretty much as one.

Whilst everyone got away, rather disappointingly we lost four cars on the opening lap. When Mike Fowler, who had courteously held back sighting lap, put pedal to the metal, the Norton refused and he barely crossed the line before pulling in. Paul Hewes likewise failed to complete a lap. Richard Utley had one of the more bizarre failures – a small leak was spotted in Assembly from the fuel tank, but by race start it must have been a torrent as the tank was empty. Hakan Sandberg in the JBS-Triumph made a decent start, only to suffer brake failure at Agostini corner, spinning out and ignominiously rolling slowly backwards across an acre of run-off before gently grazing the tyre wall. A similar fate awaited Gordon, who was in the midst of the pack on the first lap, only to have a moment at Williams (rejoining the Revett Straight) when the brake pedal went to the floor and he coasted back to the pits.

The revised end to Coram and into the new Murray's lead to many adventures. Charles McCabe leads David Whiteside and Mike Gilbert while John Chisholm tries his luck down the inside. This battle would continue to the end Photo: Kitty Chisholm

So we were already five down, one of the worst opening laps for some years. But at least with this year’s grids we still had sixteen cars running. From the flag, Nigel clearly had the run on Richard’s Kieft. Wary, though, that Richard can take a lap or so to get into his stride (as at Donington), Nigel kept his head down and focussed on smooth fast laps. In a reversal of form, he quickly established a five-second gap and eased away at a second or two thereafter. Any hopes Richard had of catching were stymied as the Kieft’s carburettor began to fall apart and he began to fall back towards the chasing pack. And that pretty much summarises the first two places on the podium. Nigel would win by some 17 seconds, whilst Richard took runner-up spot just six seconds ahead as measured (and as things turned out it could have been much worse).

The first pack, though was where the excitement was. From third on the grid, Neil made swamped by the Nortons and dropped to eleventh. His tinkering with the clutch hadn’t worked either, and he was already nursing it in a couple of spots. Beneficiary was Rodney who took third from the start and held it through the first lap. Throughout, he was under pressure from George, and off Russell/Murray George edged alongside. A move looked on at Riches but just as quickly the JAP motor quit completely and George coasted into retirement barely over the start line.

So over the line this group comprised Rodney, a coasting George, then Nigel Challis, a fast-staring Roy, Darrell, David Lecoq and Neil, covered by about five seconds. Fireworks were pretty much guaranteed. But first we should note another interesting group was forming. About ten seconds behind, David Whiteside had made a good start and was effectively in ninth place. In quick succession behind were Kerry Horan, Mike Gilbert, Charles McCabe, Mark Palmer and John Chisholm.

Last man through was poor old Mike Bell. Having tweaked his float bowls, the carburettor was now struggling to deliver enough fuel, particularly on the long right handers of which there are several – not least the extended Coram. When by rights he should have been in the battle ahead, he staggered on in the hope of at least seeing the flag. Sadly at the fifth time of asking, Coram was too much, the JAP choked and died and he rolled off towards the piggery. Another frustrating day for Team Bell, and one hopes that they can catch some luck and take up their rightful position in the pack.

Most attention was now on the battle for third place. Rodney looked fairly comfortable, a second or more ahead of Nigel (going well) who had a similar advantage over Roy. Roy, though had no such security, as David, Darrell and Neil were less line astern more splayed out across the track in his mirrors. David had found his way past Darrell up at Sear, and Neil had got a nose ahead, but a slight hesitation for the clutch handed the advantage back to Darrell. Neil got the exit onto the Revett Straight, but as the Staride’s Norton wound itself up it looked like Darrell would reassert his position. But it was the Norton that seemed to run out of puff at the bridge (or perhaps he did not have the confidence on the brakes). Either way, Neil led through the Bombhole. Ahead, David was lining up through Coram for a go at Roy. As Roy hugged the inside curb to open out Russell, David dived down the middle of the track for the text book overtaking line – a block pass on Roy, but opening the radius to maintain speed along Senna Straight and hopefully cover Roy. Neither of them were expecting Neil to appear in the Cooper-sized lane on the inside of Russell.

They were three-abreast on the entry to Russell, with Darrell close behind trying to choose who to tail up the straight – if indeed any of them made it through the corner. Well they did, Neil briefly up to fifth, but Roy reclaiming it on the drag to Riches and David wondering what just happened. It took him another corner to get back past. Despite this, they had closed up on Nigel Challis, who in turn was now on top of Rodney. Out through the Bombhole to Coram Nigel passed Rodney for third. Immediately behind, the group bundled into Russell side-by-side. This time, Roy decided to make the move to the inside, but the tricky combination of gradient, camber and curvature was pushing the envelope just too far. The Martin locked up and snapped right – unfortunately at a point when everyone else wanted to go left. Mercifully there was no contact with machine or barrier, but Roy was gone.

Roy Hunt exits, stage left. Photo Kitty Chisholm

Biggest beneficiary of all this was David. Slightly baulked, Rodney was easy pickings up to the flag, and at Sear he passed Nigel for third, Through the fourth lap he eked it out to just a car’s length but thereafter could look forwards and would moved out to a couple of seconds. Into Agostini he still had nothing, from Nigel, Rodney, Darrell (who had passed Neil again on the previous lap) and Neil, who promptly retook the Staride through Hamilton. Again onto Revett the Staride wound itself up only to be caught out under braking at the bridge. Indeed this time Neil not only held position but leapfrogged the Kieft. On lap 5 Neil passed Nigel for fourth under braking for Agostini. Darrell also had a go, but got badly out of shape when he missed a gear letting Rodney back past. Rodney was in fact struggling to see where he was going, having collected a film of oil on his visor from one of the cars ahead. He was easy prey for Darrell, who set off one more time after Nigel. By this stage there was about a second between each of the cars, from 3rd to 7th.

Focus though has to be given to the other group. David Whiteside still led, but was coming under pressure from Mike Gilbert and (with increasing enthusiasm) Charles McCabe. Kerry Horan was close behind and looking more racy than for some time, and catching was John Chisholm. Mark Palmer was drifting off, though still comfortably faster than the ailing Bell Cooper.

Felt close....... Challis leads Hodges and Delves through Murray's. Photo Kitty Chisholm

Kerry was having great fun but was slightly confused that he was struggling to keep up. It was only once back in the Paddock that marshals explained that the bungee cord springs at the rear had given up the ghost, and he had been three-wheeling though the corners with one rear wheel hanging on its stops. Kerry finished some eleven seconds off the pack, but at least happy with how the race had gone and making it to the end for once.

Of the remainder Charles looked the raciest. It took a while, but on lap 3 he passed Mike and quickly closed down the 3-second lead David held. He passed on the Revett Straight and held eighth position to the end, but not without David having several goes back and not dropping more than a second behind. Mike in turn caught David, but a moment dropped him back. This gave John the chance to attack. He passed Mike on lap 5 but Mike returned the favour before crossing the line. John later discovered that his floats had sunk, costing him speed on the straights (which just made him even more confident that they finally have a grasp on the Arnott).

Mike still led as they started Lap 7 (of an expected eight), but at Palmer, the first corner of the new loop, the Cooper snapped around in front of John Chisholm. It clattered backwards into the barrier at considerable speed, maintaining a 500 tradition of trashing Dr Palmer’s circuit upgrades at first visit, but somewhat less conducive to Mike’s health. The car rattled along the Armco before rolling back onto the track and trundling slowly down towards the medical post at Agostini corner (confusing many of us, who thought the engine had just failed), and as they recognised that Mike was in some distress the red flag was quickly shown.

Mike was removed to the Medical Centre, but fortunately given the OK. He returned to the Paddock before everyone had packed up, shaken but basically sound. By chance his wife was attending so he wouldn’t have to drive home. The car was rather clattered although it looked basically sound – as evidence of how hard the impact was, Mike had managed to completely split one of the cast Cooper wheels. Because of the red flag, results were taken from Lap 6, which ironically meant Mike regained tenth place from John. Otherwise, positions were pretty much fixed, although Richard Ellingworth would probably be relieved if he knew how quickly David Lecoq & Co. were catching at the end.

Nigel Ashman avoids the fun with a great drive for the win Photo Kitty Chisholm.

 Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Class Time Laps Best

Fastest Lap

Class B: Darrell Woods-Staride Mk III-Norton

Class C: Nigel Ashman - Cooper Mk XI-Norton

JAP: Neil Hodges - Cooper Mk VIII-JAP


DNF: Mike Bell - Cooper Mk XI-JAP, Roy Hunt - Martin-Norton, George Shackleton - Cooper Mk VI-JAP, Gordon Russell - Mackson-Norton, Richard Utley - JBS-Norton, Mike Fowler-Cooper Mk XI-Norton, Hakan Sandberg- JBS-Triumph, Paul Hewes - Cooper Mk XI-JAP


Points after Round 3


Photos by Kitty Chisholm

Our thanks to the HSCC

1 Nigel Ashman Cooper Mk XI-Norton C 15:42 6 2:35.63
2 Richard Ellingworth Parker-Kieft-Norton C 15:59 6 2:37.82
3 Dave Lecoq Petty-Norton C 16:06 6 2:37.49
4 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII-JAP C 16:09 6 2:38.30
5 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII-Norton C 16:11 6 2:40.25
6 Darrell Woods Staride Mk III-Norton B 16:12 6 2:38.58
7 Rodney Delves Kieft-Norton B 16:17 6 2:41.59
8 Charles McCabe Cooper Mk XIII-Norton C 17:07 6 2:47.22
9 David Whiteside Cooper Mk VII B 17:07 6 2:47.66
10 Mike Gilbert Cooper Mk IX-Norton C 17:10 6 2:47.55
11 John Chisholm Arnott-JAP B 17:11 6 2:47.29
12 Kerry Horan Trenberth-Vincent B 17:22 6 2:50.35
13 Mark Palmer Wishart-Norton C 17:40 6 2:53.33

Busy at Agostini; Delves, Shackleton, Challis, Woods, Hunt, Lecoq and Hodges. Photo Mike Wood

Richard still leads the championship both overall and in class C, but now by just three points. Darrell is looking a good bet in Class B after another good drive, and especially if Mike Fowler is moving to the Cooper Mk XI. The Staride looks to need a little more stability, but Darrell is starting to establish himself in that forward group (as is Nigel Challis). Equally pleasing is the coming together of a nice midfield group around David Whiteside. Nell now has a ten point lead in the Turner Trophy, helped by George's mechanical maladies. All any of our drivers can really ask is some close but fair racing and we got that in spades, pretty much everyone involved in the fun!

George looking good. Photo Kitty Chisholm