|Croix en Ternois BRSCC 26th/27th July 2008|
Rounds seven and eight produced an excellent entry of twenty two cars for our Continental Tour, if you can call the Pas De Calais Continental that is. For many years this part of France was actually part of England so it was entirely fitting that we should join the British Racing and Sports Car Club in this beautiful area just a short distance from Calais, with all its retain appeal. The main difference seemed to be amount of sunshine which gave everyone a new set of racer's excuses to try out; instead of "there's no grip due to the rain", we tried "its too hot, there's no grip!" Another downside to the unusual weather were the number of white legs on display. The ladies' were, of course, well presented and lovely to see but some of the men's were frightening the children. As well as the regular domestic competitors were were joined by some old friends and some new friends. Representing the home team were Patrick Morin in his Cooper, Alanin Ganski in the DB Panhard and Gilbert Lenoir, making a guest appearance in the 850cc Oliveira Special, see right.
For Equipe Sverige, the Coopers of Per Hageman and Olle Linde, a Swebe for Allan Goranson, an Effyh for Rockard plus Hakan in his regular JBS, below.
A nice aspect of the Croix circuit was having a whole paddock area to ourselves, partly due to the split nature of the paddocks at this venue but also due to poor entry from the regular BRSCC classes. While it was nice to be the headline act and have plenty of space for paddock relaxation, it would have been better if there had been more cars to watch in the other races. A positive by product of this was a change of plan, giving us two races on Saturday and a third on Sunday morning. With a qualifying session on the Saturday morning, this meant quite a lot of running in hot conditions and some tired cars and drivers.
Circuits like Croix are often referred to as "technical", which in plainer English means tight and twisty with only one straight in which to collect ones thoughts. With nearly everybody new to the track and little grip in some of the corners, there were plenty of half and full spins and a few over enthusiastic trips into the gravel. The result was two red flags and a disjointed session. Many found their gearing too high especially for the tricky Virage de l'Epingle, critical to a good lap as it leads onto the main straight. The karting technique seemed to work best, throwing the car into each bend and applying enough power to help the rear round. Nigel Ashman and Mike Fowler would share the front row for race one with Roy Hunt in third. Nigel Challis was already showing signs of having a good weekend with fourth. Everyone survived the experience except for the Monaco which had developed cracks in its Topolino wheels and would take no further part in the meeting.
The first race started from a standing start and much of the field were left standing as, with no five second board, most were unprepared when the lights went out. Sharp eyed Gordon Russell stormed though from the third row to lead by several cars lengths after the first turn with Sandberg's JBS in second, Hakan having started from eleventh on the grid! It took a few laps for normal service to be resumed as Mike and Nigel fought their way to the front with Roy third with followed by Nigel Challis, Neil Hodges and Martin Sheppard in their Coopers and the two French cars of Alanin Ganski and Gilbert Lenoir. Nigel Ashman then made a rare mistake at L'Epingle, spinning and stalling. As a result, the race was red flagged and Nigel prevented from taking the restart. Part 2 was a slightly less chaotic start and quickly became a benefit for Mike Fowler who steadily pulled out a health lead. Roy Hunt sadly went out fairly early with a broken gearbox so it was Alanin's DB which came home second followed closely by Nigel Challis. Neil Hodges was suffering from a misfire but enjoying a good dice with Martin Sheppard. A lap after finally passing Martin, Neil's JAP seized at Virage du Pont resulting in a spin and retirement. Sheppard was left to concentrate on trying to catch Challis and he would finish within a couple of seconds in fourth. Hakan kept up Swedish honours with a fifth, closely followed by Mark Palmer's Cooper.
Classified Finishers Race 1
Just when you don't need a "Costume Malfunction". Mike receives the winner's laurels from Chairman Challis, with Alanin Ganski.
The grid for race one was decided by the results of race one meaning that some of the fastest drivers were starting from the back of the grid. Nigel Ashman, Neil Hodges and Roy Hunt (driving Mike Fowler's Mk V) had all failed to finish so an interesting dice looked likely. A rolling start was used, following the earlier chaos, which proved a little more successful. Unfortunately Roy and Neil both went out early, spoiling the fight and leaving Nigel free to concentrate on the job in hand. He proceeded to drive an almost perfect race, picking off car after car and setting a fastest lap nearly two seconds quicker than anyone else to take a very well deserved win. The rest of the podium looked distinctly blue with Alanin's DB and the Oliviera Special of Gilbert Lenoir. Nigel Challis made another good showing for fourth followed by the Mackson, Gordon being hobbled somewhat by a misfiring JAP. Martin Sheppard brought his Cooper home in another creditable fourth with Per Hageman, representing the Swedes, close behind.
After two hard races and a fraught practice on a hot day, there was a fair amount of fettling to be done before everyone could relax with a cold beer and a paddock barbeque. Fortunately Simon Frost was on hand to assist those with troubles.
Classified Finishers Race 2
The Emeryson of Marek Reichman
Sunday morning brought a some very light and brief rain before the sun appeared and the track began to warm up again. With Nigel Ashman now on pole and Mike Fowler and Neil Hodges at the rear, it looked as though he would have a relaxed time but his opposition would come from a surprising quarter. Simon Frost had borrowed Mark Palmer's Cooper Mk XI and qualified just a few moments before the off. Both he and Mike would make surprising good progress from the rolling start and Simon had reached as high as fifth by the end of the first lap. He picked off the remaining cars over the next nine laps and even overtook Nigel Ashman before a couple of over exuberant moments put him back down to, a still very fine, second. Mike also made smart work of the pack to come home in a comfortable third from Nigel Challis. Gilbert's Oliviera was fifth followed by the Comet, a creditable performance from James Gray who gained more confidence as the weekend progressed.
A relaxed and informal paddock lunch followed after which the drivers and crews made their way towards Calais and home to bed after a most enjoyable weekend. The races were all hard fought throughout the field but good spirits prevailed both on and off the circuit. Who could ask for more than that?
Classified Finishers Race 3
How Barry Ambrose reported the weekend in Motoring News. We're not sure who Steve Frost is, maybe Simon's brother!