Croft Results 080810

Croft 8th August 2010

After a seven week break, we returned with something different. Although 500s were first sighted at Croft in 1950, it has been many years since the last visit, certainly all the entrants were required to attend the new boys' briefing. The track could have been designed by a racing school with the way its four straights are entered and exited by every variation of bend, from the hairpin onto the start-finish straight, to the near-flat kink before the Sunny corners. Sitting on a fairly flat plain, as befits a former RAF Bomber Command base, there is just enough profile to make corners that look simple on paper, offer a few surprises. From the cockpit, it proved very suited to 500s - smooth, not too wide, straights not too long, and corners rewarding to the brave. All the drivers were impressed. For the spanner-men and spectators, the circuit has done an great job with grandstands and huge, tidy grass banks giving fine views of most of the circuit. Facilities were good and staff helpful. And, unlike certain higher profile circuits, the bar remained open until after the final race, a feature appreciated later on.

RBM's Mk II followed by Mike Gilbert's Mk IX

The meeting was the Historic Sports Car Club Croft Nostalgia weekend, a curious but fun event. On-track were a range of cars from the fifties, sixties and seventies, whilst off-track were all manner of activities including wartime vehicles, classic cars and dress from Edwardian to hippy. Clearly some of the HSCC boys were treating it as a dress rehearsal for the Goodwood Revival, with white overalls and cravats aplenty, and a very healthy crowd had much to see and do.

It had been hoped that the trip so far North might tempt out a few locals, but whilst a relief for the likes of Shirley Monro and Richard Bishop-Miller, the grid was still dominated by the Southern regulars. Scot Vernon Williamson had planned to bring out the Squanderbug but repairs could not be finished in time and he had to scratch. John Chisholm (also entered in the Formula Junior races) returned with the Arnott, but in all the final entry of a dozen was rather disappointing. The day started rather well for Shirley & Bill, first with information that her father Donald had himself run a 500 at Prescott, then a gent wandering up and telling them that he used to own their Cooper Mk IV, filling in the gaps in the history in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Other visitors included car-less Vernon, Geoff Gartside and John Turner, looking quite well and hoping to make a return to the circuits at the Gold Cup.

Neil chases Daryl, both in Cooper Mk VIIIs


Finally, at noon the full dozen set off for practice. First out of the traps was Darrell Woods, looking for some clear sighting laps to find a racing line. Neil Hodges and Mike Fowler picked up a tow, and seemed to be using Darrell as a guide to follow and improve upon. Some way back, Richard Ellingworth used a similar tactic, shadowing Nigel Ashman as the brace of Kiefts, slowly caught the three Coopers. These two would take the front row, followed as expected by Neil and Mike. But the surprise was Darrell. Inevitably the other two passed him for some clear flying laps, but Darrell stayed with them and took fifth, only half a second off Mike and three from pole. Sixth place went to JB Jones who was most unimpressed to be a full seven seconds slower than Darrell, although still well clear of Nigel Challis and Roy Hunt. Problems were very limited, with Shirley making a precautionary stop, and John’s Arnott creating a small cloud of overflowing methanol - quickly rectified by Simon Frost who managed John and Mike Gilbert’s cars. John however decided to scratch after a successful Junior podium placing, due to commitments elsewhere.

John Chisholm's Arnott enters Clervaux


A low, heavy cloud lifted just before the late afternoon start time, and the eleven remaining cars filtered out from Assembly for the green flag lap in near perfect conditions. Perfect getaways though were in shorter supply. Richard Bishop-Miller was too crafty by half, banking on the promised quick release by the starter and rolling slowly into position with second gear engaged, first having proved somewhat flaky in practice. The release was quick, but not quick enough for him, and a rough start sent him backwards. Not as bad as Neil, who found a box of neutrals as he went for second. By the time he found something usable, he was stone last. Or would have been, if Mike Gilbert had not done much the same.

Best away was Mike, passing Nigel Ashman and attacking leader Richard Ellingworth into the first kink, Clervaux. Behind, Nigel tucked in, hit the brakes and nothing much happened, the car ploughing into the gravel trap and putting the championship leader out. This let Darrell into a most satisfactory third place which he held for nearly ten yards before clipping the kerb which launched him into a spin. Facing the pack, first on him was JB who couldn’t a void giving him a nasty whack that left the Cooper with a bent front upright and the Cousy with a badly torn fibreglass nose.

So before the first trip through the Hawthorn chicane we were down to eight runners. Mike set about harrying Richard into a mistake, whilst a gap had already formed to Nigel Challis, Roy and the rest. Neil had the red mist, passing Shirley out of the second chicane and by the end of the lap he was already all over Nigel’s tail for the final podium position. Nigel defended fiercely, but slightly overcooked it the second time into Tower. Neil moved past on the exit and claimed the line through the Clark Curves. He quickly pulled ahead, but was already ten second off the leaders.

Nigel Challis began drifting back to Roy Hunt who, even by his own standards was having a very quiet day. Contact was made as they went through Tower for the fourth time, and a better exit from the hairpin meant Roy took the place starting Lap 5.

It was Shirley leading the final three, but Mike Gilbert, who has been driving quite well of late, quickly re-passed RBM and was ahead of Shirley by the second lap. Richard was some eight seconds behind Shirley but closing. Despite continuing gear problems, Richard was clearly having a whale of a time, leaning far out of the cockpit and sliding the car in all directions through the final complex. The occasional missed gear hampered progress, but at the end of the fourth lap he sneaked past for seventh place.

Richard Ellingworth and Mike Fowler

Which left just the podium places to be decided. Mike harried Richard, almost getting a shot at the lead when the latter got loose onto the grass out of the hairpin ending the third lap. But the Kieft was showing prodigious acceleration onto the key straights, and Mike’s aggression under braking a cornering could not stop the edging further to safety. Behind, Neil was yoyo-ing from five to seven seconds behind - great bravery through the Barcroft and Sunny sequence taking more than a second from the leaders, but curiously losing as much on the first leg of the circuit from the start to Tower. Eventually, an “all four on the grass” run exit from the hairpin convinced him to be satisfied with third.

And there lay the one disappointment with the race. The large entry at the previous round at Cadwell Park had encouraged battles throughout the field. The smaller entry here (whilst no worse than the other races), further depleted, meant that drivers quickly fell into the order of merit and the race became strung out. The nature of the circuit certainly seemed to encourage dicing, and just a few more cars would have made a much greater spectacle.

Despite this, everyone was most pleased, and full of praise for both circuit and event and in time keen to return (competitors, please make your views known to the CompSec). With a few more entries and a little bit of forward planning, this could be an excellent addition to the calendar. Glass tankards were awarded by commentator and friend of the 500s Marcus Pye and local GT driver Geoff Wilson and a quick beer later everyone packed up and began the long trek home.

 Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Class Time Laps Best

Fastest Lap: Richard Ellingworth - Parker-Kieft-Norton - 1:51.377

DNF: Nigel Ashman - Kieft-Norton, Darrell Woods - Cooper Mk VIII-Norton, JB Jones - Cousy-Triumph

Report by Richard Hodges Photos Carol Woods and Kitty Chisholm

Our thanks the Historic Sports Car Club

Points table

1 Richard Ellingworth Parker-Kieft-Norton C 16:59 9 1:51.377
2 Mike Fowler Cooper Mk XI-Norton C 17:04 9 1:51.487
3 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII-JAP C 17:10 9 1:51.940
4 Roy Hunt Martin-Norton B 17:54 9 1:56.142
5 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII-Norton C 18:08 9 1:58.386
6 Mike Gilbert Cooper Mk IX-Norton C 18:37 9 2:00.605
7 Richard Bishop-Miller Cooper Mk II-JAP A 17:33 8 2:08.311
8 Shirley Monro Cooper Mk IV-JAP A 17:54 8 2:10.692

Some off circuit amusement

Mike doing the pushing, surely shome mistake....