Ray Dackombe Memorial Trophy Races Silverstone 1/2October
The chance to race on the Silverstone GP Bridge circuit doesn’t
come round that often, especially as part of a big-ticket meeting like
the BritCar 24 hrs. The nomination of the event as this year’s Ray
Dackombe Memorial Trophy added considerable spice, and was very appropriate
on Ray’s favourite circuit. A big Monoposto entry was therefore
expected, but perhaps not as big as the 67 people who initially sent in
entries for the 44 grid places, but everyone who turned out for the event
got a run in both races.
Early arrivals in balmy Thursday weather got a first taste of the slightly stretched organisation when they discovered the Paddock Plan had been unexpectedly changed and we had an infestation of Mazda’s. However there was enough space for the entry, and although it was a long trek for pit crews between the assembly area and pits, this was a bit less than it could have been because we discovered that the assembly area wasn’t where the Final Instructions and the Clerk of the Course said it would be either…
Friday dawned…er…wet and windy and continued to get wetter. It was horrible, and set the scene for a very difficult day’s racing.
With 46 cars venturing out onto a very wet and slippery circuit it didn’t take long for the drama to start. A good and consistent qualifying run was crucial because fastest times set the grid for Race 1 and second fastest set start positions for Race 2. There was quite a rush to get out early and avoid the spray. Most people set their fastest laps on lap 2 or 3, and if you got caught in the traffic you were literally sunk.
Adrian Wright – who has form as a Silverstone wet weather artiste – was the only person into the 2-40’s and took a brilliant pole for Race 1 in the self-designed and built GEM: pure Monoposto. His second fastest was 3 seconds off that and “only” netted him the third grid slot for Race 2 – tut. Neil Harrison looked strong and steady in the Magic Motorsport Dallara with second on the grid for both races, pushing Richard Purcell into second in the Mono 2000 Class. Arty Cameron continued his Croft form and started a meteoric weekend with the overall third slot for Race 1 and pole for Race 2.
Jim Blockley brought out his RT3 and showed his class to the large field
of Mono Classic 2000 qualifiers, beating Nick Anstruther into second slot,
which is no mean feat. However the talking point was Henry Fryer’s
outstanding qualifying run to third in the class: only the second time
he had ever driven the car and on a new circuit. A very impressive debut
indeed for the new Fiamma Rossa Racing Renault.
Down at the hard-luck end of the grid Jeremy Timms was a first lap casualty, clipping a front corner of the Dallara on some solid bit of Silverstone and deranging the steering. He managed to qualify but would start both races from way down the grid, setting the scene for a spectacular pair of drives. Terry Clark had to struggle round for three laps with no effective clutch and Chris Anstruther and Kevin Mason also had major problems, but both got races when the organisers fixed a course car qualification run to get them in. But the real grief was for Tony Cotton, who had a really excellent run to take third grid slot in the very competitive Mono 2000 class, but then became the only serious victim of the conditions when the beautiful green Dallara aquaplaned at full speed off the Hanger Straight: backwards into a very hard wall. Everyone in the paddock felt for him – it certainly could have happened to anyone out there – but the damage was done. Tony was thankfully unscathed but the car will take a bit of time to be refettled.
Overall the very difficult conditions resulted in a very unusual grid, which in turn led to some fascinating racing on both days.
As race time approached it got wetter and wetter. A dozen drivers decided that discretion was the better part of valour: with much better weather forecast for the Saturday they decided to take a rain check, and no-one was criticising them. Meanwhile up in race control the CoC was anxiously staring at both the clock – by now it was getting darker and the meeting was running late – and the bank of track monitors; which showed a glistening river where the track had been earlier.
31 people eventually decided to run – still a very big grid although further reduced after the green flag lap when more people pulled out. In pouring rain as the red lights came on Darren Freeman was making urgent signs, but was he waving or drowning? It turned out he had somehow managed to get his left foot trapped behind the pedals: a very scary predicament. There were a tense few seconds with the red lights on and the field about to launch before the Race Team took a very good decision to delay the start, push the Jedi away to start from the pit lane, and run another green flag lap. But all this did reduce the race time significantly (Darren was very apologetic afterwards!).
From the start it was frankly impossible to see what was happening until the spray cleared a bit. Jim Blockley got briefly into the lead from 4th on the grid, but dropped back to fouth when he got 2 wheels on the very slippy stuff at Copse. We were then treated to an excellent race for the lead between Arty Cameron, Jim and Adrian Wright. Arty admitted to us that he was taken by surprise when Adrian passed him and Jim came alongside. This was only resolved in Arty’s favour on the last of the four laps when Jim got alongside Arty at Vale, but couldn’t make it stick, and Adrian rotated on what turned out to be the last corner of the race, still taking an excellent if frustrated third. This was top class racing in impossible conditions.
Meanwhile Jeremy Timms had felt his way through the spray from 23rd on the grid to fourth, taking the fastest lap of the race and passing Neil Harrison for the Mono 2000 class win on the way, with Richard Purcell losing a good finish when his Dallara refused to continue working underwater. Behind this group Geoff Fern took the first of a good brace of thirds in the very competitive combined Mono 1400/1000 class, ahead of the Mono 1800s of John Whitbourn, Peter Bragg and Malcolm Cook.
Next up Ian Hughes brought Ray’s Agent in to a superb if lonely class win, well ahead of David Parkinson and Joe Venor. Equally impressive was rainmeister Lenny Coleman who produced one of his stunning wet weather drives to net 2nd in Mono Classic, just ahead of Terry Clark whose team had done a great job to replace the clutch seals after practice.
It’s very pleasing to be able to report that despite the truly awful conditions there were no serious incidents in the race. Well done guys!
Saturday dawned cold with blue sky and ground mist, but it wasn’t clear how quickly the sodden track would dry off. Eventually everyone chose slicks except Geoff Fern, which was almost certainly the clever call. This time the grid was packed to capacity with a full 44 starters, a sight which clearly impressed Brian Jones in the commentary box. If Arty Cameron was on the pole then Jeremy Timms must have been in the hole, because his practice disaster had left him right at the back of the huge grid. “Hmmm, it’s a lot of cars to pass” he said looking at the grid sheet beforehand. Right, Jeremy.
Watching 44 single seaters launch into Copse on a greasy track is not
a sight for the faint hearted but it was a clean start. Arty Cameron was
wide awake from the get go and blasted into a lead he was never to be
in danger of losing. He really was on outstanding form all weekend. Behind
him Dax Ward, Jim Blockley, Geoff Fern and Chris Woodhouse disputed the
leading places. Eventually the race lost Jim Blockley with a distressed
engine and Chris W when his battery failed following a water-based charger
malfunction, although the long-awaited new car showed real promise. This
left Nick Anstruther in command of Mono Classic, but in very close company
to Richard Purcell. Jeremy Goodman moved up well from a lowly 25th start
position to take 2nd in Classics, and Kevin Mason had what must be his
best drive of the year to take 3rd in Mono 2000 from the back of the grid.
Judging by the Stowe commentator's descriptions Kevin was trying very
hard indeed… John Whitbourn and Peter Bragg engaged in a race-long
discussion about who was going to take the Mono 1800 win, with Peter winning
the debate after a typically determined drive. Just behind them Kevin
Otway’s recent good form continued and he took 3rd in the big Mono
While all this was going on Arty Cameron was maintaining his position well clear at the front, looking completely untroubled on his way to his second outright win of the weekend; definitely one to remember and very nice to see after the team’s spate of engine trouble. Dax Ward held second after a very good race but was overwhelmed when Jeremy Timms arrived on the scene. Jeremy put in a really impressive drive through the entire field, past Dax and up to 2nd place overall and the Mono 2000 class win. In the process he took overall fastest lap by some 3 seconds, but Arty was just too far ahead to reach in the remaining time, even though the race went to 9 laps. It was a stunning and determined performance by Jeremy. Over the weekend he passed more than 50 cars in the two races, and the next Championship round will be a scorcher.
The tricky conditions produced no less than 14 non finishers. The fate of many of these is unknown to your reporter (who was actually in the main circuit commentary box from where you can see b****r all). Neil Harrison got into trouble and was collected by Geoff Fern giving Mr Dallara's rear wishbone department a spell of overtime, whilst Geoff continued. Henry Fryer and Douglas Mclay ended up in the gravel, someone stomped on Michael Dale’s front wing; and several others pulled off into the pits. In general there didn’t seem to be too much visible damage afterwards.
The Trophy is awarded on the basis of Championship points that would have been scored for class places and fastest laps, although the races were non-Championship. In the event of a points tie the number of class wins and poles are taken into account. When the dust had settled double class pole man and twice overall race winner Arty Cameron missed out because he didn’t get pole or fastest lap in Race 1. Jeremy Timms also had two brilliant drives to his credit, two class wins with fastest laps, but no poles.
This meant that the man who had two class wins, two fastest laps, and
two poles lifted the Ray Dackombe Memorial Trophy for 2010…
The Trophy presentation was an emotional and perfect moment: for Ian & Sara Hughes, for the Monoposto Racing Club, and for Ray. Fantastic.
Pictures by Andrew Cliffe (who lost his big lens to the rain demon in the course of taking these very evocative photos, so the least we can do is buy some copies)
PostScript The sympathy and support I have received after reversing into the wall have confirmed to me that the Monoposto Club and its supporters consists of some of the nicest people you will find in motor racing. No, let me correct that. Some of the nicest people you will find - anywhere. Thanks