|Rockingham 17th July 2011|
Fifteen cars turned out for the second ever visit to the Rockingham oval. Despite miserable weather last year, feedback had been very positive – unfortunately the forecast this weekend was just as bad. Team Gartside Racing made a welcome return after a year away, with Martin taking over driving duties. Martin was talking down his chances, even though he probably had more experience of the track in his Westfield than anyone. The other entry of note was that, at last, Pat Barford was making his debut behind the wheel. Pat has been a keen supporter of the 500 movement for a few years, restoring a selection of cars, and letting others drive. His mount for the day was equally noteworthy – the Bueb-Arnott he has just repatriated from New Zealand. Ivor bought the car in 1953 and extended the wheelbase with some 8” of extra tubing in the engine bay. Ivor declared the car “almost unspinnable” – a challenge for Pat to work his way up to. The JAP-engined car was being fettled by Simon Frost and is a very tidy little car – and notably meant that more than half the field were non-Coopers.
Clearly, at the front it was a fairly simple race, with four cars considerably up the track from everyone else. But for the remaining nine cars there was more than enough fighting to compensate. Leading the group, and showing good form again, was Martin Sheppard. Demon starts (perhaps by not stopping in the startline debacle…) from Richard Bishop-Miller and Xavier Kingsland had them in sixth and seventh. Martin Gartside, after a cautious start, had thrown cautious Plan A out the window and was storming up on these two. Xavier was being caught rapidly through the long Gracelands corner and was picked off on the first straight behind the Paddock, into the Tarzan hairpin. A good exit gave him the run on the old Cooper, and he crossed the line in sixth place, some three-four behind Martin S.
So at the end of Lap 4, Kerry held seventh place from the recovering RBM, only to return the favour by finding the same patch of oil and spinning down a place. The net effect was that Kerry trailed by just a couple of seconds (although with Utley and Palmer much closer), and he set off again, catching and passing the Cooper on Lap 7. There followed another spin – on the same oil – dropping him into the clutches of Mark Palmer, and in so doing leaving a fog of methanol for Richard B-M to blind himself on (and in the moment, bite down and crack a tooth!). Richard U was on his tail and running well again. They crossed the line side by side to start the final lap, Utley below Bishop-Miller, and with the power and the line. He would sneak seventh at the flag, chased by the other Richard. Meanwhile on the final tour, Mark Palmer got the run on Kerry and took ninth.