Croft Results 070811

Croft 7th August 2011

Last year HSCC and Croft circuit put on their inaugural ‘Nostalgia’ Weekend – those who attended from the 500 Club reported back on a great weekend, so with enthusiastic anticipation we drove our way northwards. It was clear that last year’s successes had been developed further, to create larger displays of classic cars, race motorcycles, vintage buses, aircraft, and many military vehicles, all providing a ‘Living History’ of scenes from WW11. A major draw for the ‘500’s’ was the ‘Griffin’ engine, which was proudly started up several times over the weekend. Unfortunately, no matter how much preparation and provision is made for the unexpected, the one thing nobody can control is the weather…. And boy what contrasts!

Those of us who arrived Friday evening, sat outside sharing wine, BBQ, wine, beer, wine….. (or was that just me?), enjoying a relaxed and convivial evening as the sun went down. By Saturday lunchtime, we were experiencing rain, thunder, lightening, and localised flash floods. Practice had been completed, but racing was unable to commence. Many of the promisingly large crowd had disappeared to drier pursuits. Finally a limited programme began at 5.00pm, with racing continuing until 7.00pm when another downpour ended proceedings. Thus three races from the Saturday programme had to be squeezed into an already busy Sunday schedule. The knock on effect was that the 500 F3 race had to be postponed from the original time of 5.30pm, to 6.30pm.

Nigel Ashman hard at it

It was gratifying to see 21 cars in the collecting area ready to go out on track. It was a pity to note that George Shackleton, Martin Shepherd, Neil Hodges, and Pat Barford were not entered. Pat is having the fuel tank made larger in preparation for Mallory Park, but was there feeling more than a little dispirited at not being able to go out and play with the others. As we are all aware Croft along with most race circuits suffers from noise issues, and with some trepidation, each car was duly noise tested as it approached the collecting area. All passed, apart from Gerard Dantan, in his DB racer, one of our French guests. Simon Frost in another of his generous acts of support, rushed off to return with a silencer, but was not allowed to work on the car in the collecting area. However, Gerard, was told he could qualify, providing he did not rev the engine……? Thus he circulated at touring speed, and just qualified. Most of the cars and drivers completed the 15 minutes of allocated practice without too many issues. The usual combatants were at the front end of the qualifying, with Nigel Ashman, Cooper Mk XI, quickest, followed by Richard Ellingworth, Kieft Parker, second fastest. Mere 1000’s of a second separated Mike Fowler, in his beautifully prepared Cooper Mk XI, and Gordon Russell, Mackson, for 3rd and 4th position on the grid, with Darrell Woods, Staride Mk3, not far behind. Martin Garside continues to demonstrate his driving ability in the Cooper Mk8 belonging to Geoff. JB seemed to have the Cousy set up well, placing himself 7th on the grid. Roy Hunt, Martin 500, cut short his practice, due to the carburettor top ring locating spring breaking. However he managed to fix it after practice, in the time honoured 500 manner: employing loads of cunning and using locking wire in strategic places. Richard Ellingworth claimed that his tyre pressures were too high to qualify any faster, and Croft is not his favourite circuit. While Nigel Ashman, likes Croft as a circuit, enjoys the flow of corners, but finds the final bend, the hairpin very difficult to get right. Darrell Woods, said ‘ his gearing may be a little bit wrong for the final hairpin bend, with first gear too high, and second not pulling properly, otherwise handling ok, maybe increase front tyre pressures… a good circuit!’ Shirley’s comment ‘at long last I think I know the circuit, it’s fine, I’m quite satisfied with the car, it’s handling well…… and I must wear lipstick!. It’s all going as well as it possibly can go.’ Gilbert Lenoir in his Cooper Mk IV struggled to get the car running as it ought to…. and managed to complete 4 laps of practice.

After some frantic fettling by some, while others merely managed a casual wipe down of their car, all the cars were ready to race. Thus we sat around, and waited for the race ….. many of the ladies had time to attend the fashion show demonstrating fashions from the 1940’s, visit many of the vintage clothes stalls, and make some purchases in preparation for the Goodwood Revival, …… and we sat around some more, watched the racing, looked at the military displays, and watched the flying displays, …….. and waited, ….. until the race. Time by now? 6.45pm!!!! We were beginning to consider how to fix some kind of lighting system to the cars! But then, suddenly it was the usual mad scene of cars being pushed started, others by starting machines, and then the trundle down to the collecting area with the usual paraphernalia required to get the 500s onto the grid.

The pack head into Clervaux for the first time; Ashman, Fowler, Ellingworth and Woods

All 21 cars set off for the green flag lap onto the grid. Spectators watched with trepidation as the cars were held on the grid for what seemed like ages, but in fact mere seconds. As the 5 second board was displayed, Hakan Sandberg told me that his JBS saw the board and decided to expire. The marshals quickly got him into the pit lane, and tried to encourage life into the engine – but to no avail. Finally the remaining cars set off, with a flying start for one car located towards the back of the grid. First to approach Clervaux the first right-hander at the end of the start and finish, was Nigel Ashman and Richard Ellingworth, closely followed by Darrell who made a rapid start, overtaking the heavier Mackson belonging to Gordon as it moved sluggishly off the line. The melee midfield indicated that an exciting race was about to unfold. Behind Gordon, a tight group contained Roy Hunt, Brian Joliffe, Martin Gartside, John Turner and Nigel Challis, with JB Jones not far behind. The next group were really mixing it, with John Chisholm, Mark Palmer, Shirley Munro, and Xavier Kingsland, followed by Richard Bishop-Miller, Vernon Williamson, and our French visitors, Charly Rampal, Gerard Dantan and Gilbert Lenoir. As the midfield group accelerated away from Hawthorn Bend and the chicane it looked as if Xavier was trying to ballroom dance with Shirley’s Cooper all the way down the straight. First he pirouetted 360degrees in one direction, and then the other in an effort to attract Shirley’s attention. Shirley told me that he ‘turned round every which way, in front of me’. Xavier told me that he had ‘a brilliant start, overtook loads of people…. I was coming out of the second bend, thinking this is fantastic… and I just ran out of skill. I remember seeing Shirley coming towards me, and we looked at each other eyeball to eyeball…. And I hoped she would avoid me, and I would keep the engine running!’ Fortunately, by the time he stopped being a partner in the car’s pas de deux, he was facing in the correct direction, and able to continue racing, albeit a little more cautiously (?)

The unfortunate Mike Fowler had a very short race, he completed his first lap, with his hand in the air, and returned to pit lane. The gearbox on his immaculate Cooper Mk XI decided not to function as desired…. later he discovered that the problem was neither expensive nor difficult to put right. Gilbert Lenoir also completed only one lap, as his Cooper Mk IV was not running properly and he didn’t want to increase any potential damage by continuing to run the engine for the duration of the race. Nigel was leading the way, but had Richard close behind. Darrell looked really comfortable in third position with the Staride clearly handling well. Shirley had not been phased by her experience with Xavier, and was moving through the field , like a knife through butter…. She caught up John Chisholm, and they had a wonderful battle throughout the remainder of the race, changing positions at all points. In true gentleman-racing fashion, John approached Shirley after the race to congratulate her on her driving skill, and I left them to ‘re-live’ the race. Roy clearly ‘had a moment’ as he lost places within his group, moving from 5th to 9th in one lap. He then worked to get back in touch with them. JB became adrift from the group he was chasing, and created a rather lonely spot for himself in 9th position, with clear track both in front and behind. Richard Ellingworth set a fastest lap as he caught up Nigel. He then made an overtaking manoeuvre on Nigel, and that we, thought may possibly be that…… but no. Nigel was determined not to let Richard get away… and made a devilish manoeuvre as they approached Tower Bend, he tried to out brake and go round the outside of Richard’s Kieft, to regain the lead. Nigel then put in a fastest lap for the race, as he tried to separate himself from Richard. The leaders were by now beginning to catch up with backmarkers, as the leading pair came around the hairpin, one of the invited DB racers, brakes locked up, lost traction and present itself broadside ….. which impacted on racing lines for the leading duo, with grass becoming part of the racing line…. This incident left Nigel in the lead, which was not really challenged again over the remaining 2 laps, as Nigel also put in another new fastest lap for the race. John Turner seemed to have returned to his racing exuberant self, as he carved his way through to 6th position. As he challenged for 5th, on lap 7, he came out of Hawthorn Bend, foot no doubt pushed hard to the floor, his car slowed up, and he pulled off, with his race finished. His son suggested afterwards that John’s Cooper Mk IX had probably bent a valve….

Mark Palmer - Wishart

So, the exciting race finally drew to a close, we witnessed battles throughout the field. I had always understood this to be a ‘non-contact’ sport, but afterwards, overhearing some conversations – I’m not so sure! However, everybody was full of their version of the race, and exchanged stories about the race with each other. When I watch the animated faces of the racers as they chat after a race, it is for me evidence of why we waited until 6.45 to race, and then had a long journey home afterwards….. how else can you enjoy yourself so much? (Answers on a postcard…..)
PS As we left, Nigel was sharing a glass of Pastis with our French friends…. For all I know, he’s still at Croft!!!!

The Harry Schell Cooper of Gilbert Lenoir

 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: Nigel Ashman - Cooper Mk XI-Norton


Invitation Class: Charly Rampal - DB Monomill, Gerard Dantan - DB



DNF: John Turner - Cooper Mk IX-JAP, Gilbert Lenoir - Cooper Mk IV-JAP, Mike Fowler- Cooper Mk XI-Norton, Hakan Sandberg - JBS-Triumph


Points after Round 5


Report by Sally Russell. Photos Carol Woods & Anne Fowler

1 Nigel Ashman Cooper Mk XI-Norton C 16:46 9 1:49.714
2 Richard Ellingworth Parker-Kieft-Norton C 16:49 9 1:50.701
3 Darrell Woods Staride Mk III-Norton B 17:09 9 1:52.273
4 Gordon Russell Mackson-Norton B 17:17 9 1:53.499
5 Brian Joliffe Cooper Mk IX-JAP C 17:32 9 1:54.493
6 Martin Gartside Cooper Mk VIII-Norton C 17::33 9 1:54.541
7 Roy Hunt Martin-Norton B 17:42 9 1:53.009
8 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII-Norton C 17:42 9 1:55.560
9 JB Jones Cousy-Triumph C 18:04 9 1:56.921
10 Shirley Monro Cooper Mk IV-JAP A 18:42 9 2:00.366
11 John Chisholm Arnott-JAP B 18:42 9 2:00.514
12 Mark Palmer Wishart-Norton C 18:53 8 2:02.908
13 Xavier Kingsland Staride Mk III-Norton B 18:54 8 2:02.604
14 Richard Bishop-Miller Cooper Mk II-JAP A 17:25 8 2:07.156
15 Vernon Williamson JP-Vincent B 18:44 8 2:14.719

The winners

Some dressing up