The St. Cross Electronics Mono Championship launched in some style, with top media billing and the luxury of the Brands Hatch garages, courtesy of MSVR. Almost 50 Monoposto competitors arrived at Brands amid a springtime heatwave to enjoy a weekend of spectacular and close racing at the season opener.
In Mono Classic Chris Anstruther in the Bowman started well and took the class pole, but various problems over the weekend meant the car’s promise never properly materialised. Jared Wood and Jim Timms however both signalled that they were on the pace from the get go, and both went on to post brilliant results over the weekend. Jim took a bit of ribbing because he featured prominently on the Race Programme cover, but actually the car looked great! Terry Clark was another competitor with a new mount, in this case the ex Andy Woolley Reynard F3. This was another car to start to show significant pace as the weekend progressed.
Mono 1600 saw the first pole for 2011 SUNBAC runner-up Mat Jordan, after Nigel Davers Van Diemen pitted with a fireball raging behind the drivers head – giving Team Fern Racing a weekend of hard work to get the car sorted and running properly again. It’s certainly worth mentioning that the pit lane marshals did a first class job of dealing with this emergency – 11 out of 10 for that one – and thank you guys! Third on the class grid went to Luke Rosewell in his debut race, the young ex-karter coming to grips with his FF1600 Ray with the help of a ratio change from Team Avit. He did well to pip the both Dave Parkinson and Eddie Guest for the place.
The second Mono grid followed straight onto track. The new MotoMono class immediately showed what a great competition is in prospect this year, with Marc Fortune just shading pole by 0.04 seconds (his Jedi sporting a very smart new paint scheme) from Dave Conner’s Jedi and by 0.09 seconds from Adrian Wright’s GEM. This was an unbelievably close situation for a season starter, and behind these three came Jason Timms’ Speads, Christian Parkers’ Sewell and Geoff Fern’s JKS who were all right on it as well.
The sharp end of Mono 1800 was also glinting in the sun. Ewen Sergison’s Swift took the pole from Jeremy Timms Mygale, both of these expert competitors already looking set for a season of vintage competition. They were clear of the pair of more “standard” Formula Ford Zetecs in the hands of John Whitbourn and Julian Hoskins, the former just holding the upper hand in this duel for most of the weekend. Behind them came Michael Dale and Mary Whittaker in closely matched Van Diemen FF2000s. Unfortunately major misfortune befell new driver Harry Rootes in a very smart Formula Vauxhall Junior when he had a classic Paddock Bend turn-in accident, similar in style to the one which Darren Freeman had last year. This one was really quite heavy though and the car wasn’t going to be doing much more afterwards. Fortunately Harry wasn’t hurt.
Once the race proper got under way the initial laps were spectacular, with Malcolm Scott holding off Robbie Watts, and just behind Richard Purcell and Tony Bishop contesting third place. The third/fourth dice was only resolved near the end when Richard dropped the Dallara with a harmless but terminal spin at Clearways, but he’d done enough to show that he will be a real factor this year. Tony took a well deserved third, his quickest lap and Richard’s being within 0.002 seconds off each other. Meanwhile the Scott/Watts dice was as close as you can get without touching and certainly gripped everyone’s attention. It was eventually resolved when Robbie read a lapping situation at Clearways fractionally earlier than Malcolm, and managed to freight-train round the outside into a lead he wasn’t to lose – it was an exhilarating start to the year. All of this saw Toni Impieri’s Renault move into fourth in the class, staying ahead of Peter Venn’s Dallara which had taken advantage of the start confusion to get back into the fray and run some useful laps, this also netting the Modense Group Driver of the Day Award for Peter. Russ Giles new car ran into engine problems which curtailed further running, and neither Lou Watts’ nor Mike Hatton’s Vauxhalls made it to the chequered flag.
Amid all this excitement Mono Classic 2000 had dramas of its own. Jared Wood took the class win in his Formula Vauxhall with an outstanding drive, collecting fourth overall in the process. Chris Anstruther looked to have run well, having rid the Bowman of its practice misfire, but unfortunately he fell foul of the post-race ride height block, when the front floor gave way presumably after the pounding cars get through the exit of Paddock bend. This let cover-model Jim Timms into second, from Simon Lonnergan who was also having a very competitive showing.
Nigel Davers led Mono 1600 initially in his Van Diemen which had required extensive plastic surgery to repair its burns, but the car succumbed to its injuries after only 4 laps and in fact nearly caught fire again. This meant Dave Parkinson took the class win with a smooth drive, having improved on his practice best lap by more than 1.5 seconds, from Mat Jordan and Luke Rosewell, who continued to show pace bringing the Ray home ahead of Eddie Guest’s familiar Lola, and new driver Adrian Heath who was settling in well into another Team Fern Racing Vauxhall.
The first three laps of the MotoMono/1800 race saw Marc Fortune, Dave Connor, Adrian Wright and Jason Timms all in contention for the lead. Then there was a sort out at Druids when Adrian Wright dived through into second, but then got nipped into a spin on the apex which involved Dave Connor and Christian Parker who both sustained enough damage to end their races. Meanwhile the lead battle raged on between Jason and Marc, and it looked to be going Jason’s way as he built a small cushion. However Marc reeled him back in and took a lead he wasn’t to loose with an excellent move at Clearways, with Adrian Wright recovering to a chaste third. Geoff Ferns Hayabusa powered JKS had held a strong third for much of the race but fell back to fourth, running for almost half the race with the left front wheel only held on by the calliper/disk – very scary – and a similar problem afflicted it on Sunday as well. In Mono 1800 there was a ferocious duel between Ewen Sergison and Jeremy Timms; the latter just holding sway until a moment lapping a tail ender at Clearways saw him get tripped into a quick spin, and Ewen was away and clear. Such was the pace that both cars were under Peter Bragg’s lap record. The FF Zetec discussion, and third place, was taken by John Whitbourn, barely a second ahead of circuit specialist Julian Hoskins. Jedi driver Craig Hurran was surprised to find himself Euro-Controls Driver of the Day as well as fifth in MotoMono.
In Mono 1600 Nigel Davers car held up long enough to get onto the class pole before expiring again, with Mat Jordan holding off Dave Parkinson for the second slot. Luke Roswell was in trouble with an overheating car and only managed a couple of laps.
Both Dave Connor and Christian Parker and their teams had to work at it to get their cars repaired for the Sunday MotoMono qualifier. This was headed by Marc Fortune who was the only one to break into the 47s. However the next five were only separated by around a second so it was likely to be quite tense come the race. In Mono 1800 Jeremy Timms had his head down and was just clear of Ewen Sergison, with Mono returnee Amnon Needham making good run into third slot in his Van Diemen FF2000 ahead of the Whitbourn/Hoskins Zetec duo.
Chris Anstruther’s difficult weekend culminated in the Bowman blowing out a core plug and suffering the indignity of being sprayed with extinguishant when it pitted wreathed in smoke. Jared Wood couldn’t capitalise on his Class pole when both rear rockers on the Vauxhall folded up, and this meant Jim Timms took an excellent win: it was a weekend for him to saviour really. Simon Lonnergan came through to second, and his second good result of the weekend. Terry Clark was another whose persistence with a new car paid off when he took the third podium place in Classic in the new Reynard.
Both Nigel Davers’ and Luke Rosewell’s team were working frantically pre-race to get their Mono 1600 cars operational after their respective practice problems. Nigel faired better, and this time the car held together to take the win from Dave Parkinson and Mat Jordan. After literally a last-second repair was completed by the team (including rebuilding the top end of the engine), Luke had to join the race from the pit lane, and then encountered more problems, although he did make it to the finish and the all-important licence signature.
Once Jason Timms had stalled at the start and lost a massive amount of ground, Marc Fortune needed to make some distance from a very determined Dave Connor in the MotoMono encounter, and this proved to be difficult until Dave’s clutch let go, leaving the car with almost no drive. It was the end of a very promising but ultimately frustrating weekend for Dave, but it left Marc with an unassailable lead over Adrian Wright and Geoff Fern, from a recovering Jason Timms. Fifth went to Christian Parker’s Seward, the team doing well to rebuild a complete front corner overnight to restore the car to full health.
Despite trying everything to stay ahead, Jeremy Timms just couldn’t hold off Ewen Sergison in the very competitive Mono 1800 class Once past, Ewen was able to pull away to his second win of the weekend. Third went to Amnon Needham’s FF2000, which did well to get well clear of the remaining Zetecs.
So the 2012 season has got underway in dramatic style, and all the signs are that despite the economic doom and gloom, Mono is set for an excellent year. The next two rounds in the St. Cross Electronics Mono Championship at Donington Park are less than a month away, and a 50+ entry list is expected. Be there or be square!
Terry Clark, European Aviation Reynard 903
Mat Jordan & Luke Rosewell
Tony Bishop leads Richard Purcell
Peter Venn in front of Malcolm Scott
Chris Chandler leads Marcus Sheard
Christian Parker, Sewell
Chris Anstruther, Bowman
Steven Connor, RF82
All pictures Norwich Photo