The Halfords Midget Challenge
1998 - Review

Gil Duffy Leads 98 Champ Bill
Lancashire Richard Wilman, a succesful 98 season

The 1998 Halfords Midget Challenge started the season at the M.G.C.C. meeting at Cadwell in March and concluded at Mallory Park with the BRSCC in October.

After the usual close racing at a total of 13 races at 10 different circuits, Bill Lancashire came out winner in his Road-going Midget, which took Class C honours. Class B went the way of David Ecob in his Race-Modified Midget whilst Graeme Adams scored most points in Class A, for Fully-Modified cars.

The opening Cadwell round saw the road-going cars out with the MGFs whilst the two Modified classes ran with the GTV8 brigade. As a Midget owner, it was good to see that the quickest Midget was 5 seconds a lap quicker than its MGF counterpart, Lancashire netting pole position. He took the win from Hugh Colman, but behind them a fine three way scrap developed for the places. Martin Lunn held third till lap 4, when Rob Marcus got by, but Tim Hutchinson was determined to make up for his poor start and neatly demoted Lunn on lap 6. He then set off after Marcus, caught and passed him on the next tour, this led to the pair of them swapping places for the next three laps, with Hutchinson being in front just, at the flag, the margin being 0.01 of a second.

Richard Wildman got the Midget pole for the split grid race, which would see the V8s start first, fastest practice lap in Class H was set by Peter Tipper. Wildman won from Peter May and Ted Reeve and it was left for the Class B boys to provide the main excitement. tipper led throughout and having slotted into second, James Hutchinson hoped to do likewise, but Ecob and Richard Perry had other ideas. Ecob was up to second on lap 5, but Hutchinson fought back and got in front again. The pair swapped places over the next three tours, then on lap 5 Perry decided he wanted a piece of the action and passed Hutchinson for third in class. He briefly made it to second but at the line had to give best to Ecob by 1.2 seconds.

The Steve Everitt Memorial Trophy was up for grabs at Brands in September and as usual, the Class A boys put on a race of which Steve would have approved. Lawrence Cutler and Adams, who used to race against Steve, were joined by Wild man in a hectic, three way dice for the lead, which lasted for the whole 12 laps. Pole man Adams came out the winner from Wildman and Cutler, just half a second covering all three of them at the flag, that's what you call a close race!

Cutler had been conspicuous in his absence for most of the season, struggling to rebuild his car which was totalled at the same event in 1997. Having just got it ready in time to put it on the rolling road, the Thursday prior to the race, his gearbox let go on the rollers and he had to burn yet more midnight oil to rebuild that in time for Sunday. The Class B dice was not quite so close, with pole setter James Hutchinson, leading till lap 3 when Perry got his Frogeye in front, managing to take victory by one and a half seconds. Colman beat Marcus for honours in the Road- going Class, which saw local driver Shaun Rainford put his Sprite harmlessly on its side. Both of the racing weeklies adjudged the Midget race the most exciting of the day.

Wildman has really got to grips with his car and as at Brands, again shared the front row with Adams at Mallory. James Hutchinson and Colman set fastest practice times in the other two classes. Come the race, whilst Adams pulled out an early lead he was not to relinquish, Wildman, May and Reeve disputed the places. After 12 laps of close racing, Wildman was second by 0.05 seconds from May and Reeve. Gil Duffy and Jon Paul Ivy disputed the lead of the Race Modified class till lap 4, when tipper made it up to second, next tour he hit the front, then retired. Jon Paul kept t he lead till the last lap when Duffy got by to take the flag, Tipper having the small consolation of setting the fastest lap. Colman had an untroubled win in the Road-going Class leading home Bob Walker and Krissey Duffy.

The Challenge continues to be a family orientated series: Gil Duffy and his daughter established a first at the Anglesey round in August, by winning their respective classes. Brothers Jim and Tim Hutchinson have got father David involved and he now races in Class B, whilst Richard Connell shares his Sprite with his father Tony who drives it in the Abingdon Classic Cup races at the M.G.C.C. rounds. Having backed Class B driver Richard Perry for a couple of seasons, Classic Cars of Kent boss, Shaun Rainford, has built himself a Road-going car, which he debuted this season. Not content with representation in two classes they bought David Paige's Fully Modified Midget and Workshop manager Graham Smeeton is now racing it in Class A, well a sort of family. Lets hope next year, they don't all bend them on the same day or Graham and the boys will be a bit busy! This years Bridgestone Trophies, awarded for spirit of the race in the Road-going Class, went to Graham Kennedy, Ian Whiff, Paul Cook, Antonio Bertini, Martin Lunn, Simon Polly, Robert Marcus, Bob Walker, Shaun Rainford, Tim Hutchinson and Krissey Duffy.

The season's top points scores were:

That concludes another year of close racing on the track and great camaraderie in the paddock. Look out for more of the same in '99. Thank you to series sponsors Halfords and Bridgestone Tyres, Championship Co-ordinator Larry Quinn and the marshals and officials at all the circuits we visited this year.

John Baggot
Saftey Fast January 1999

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