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Judging by the cold wind blowing at Cadwell Park on Sunday the Clerk of the Weather had obviously let his Car Club membership lapse. The previous day had been so foggy that the 'Test Day' had to be cancelled. The prospects for Sunday were dismal, so much so that Saturday evening found the Clerk of the Course and his assistants in a nearby hostelry, together with a carafe of wine, forming a plan of action in case the racing had to be cancelled. Sunday dawned foggy and for a while it looked as though the prophets of doom had been right. Then the good news, the fog was lifting. The bad news? It was being cleared by a bitter North Easterly blowing across the circuit.
Still it did mean that the racers and officials were happy to get on with the job and practice started only a little behind schedule. In the main it was uneventful, although the track was fairly damp and there had been some resurfacing over the winter which brought the inevitable change of surface just waiting to catch the unsuspecting out. However, there were some notable casualties. During the first practice session for the BCV8's, Warwick Banks had brake failure and made a hefty impression in the tyre wall at Hall Bends, damaging the car to such an extent that he was not able to race later in the day. Dave Ecob in his well turned out Midget managed to blow up his engine which meant that he also had to sit out the days racing.
This was the first 'Main Club' race meeting of the season and two very interesting new cars were out. Don Kettleborough who had taken the "Gaydon Team Spirit MGF" to a maiden victory at Silverstone in the first round of the Anglia Phoenix Challenge the previous weekend, had entered a number of races. The car was built by Rover engineers in their own time using parts developed by Rover Team Sport for the 'One Make' series in Japan and France. Don is a former Mini and Metro racer who, among other things, was Dunlop Metro GTi Champion in 1992 and 1993.
The other car was the M.G. RV8 run by "Team Cowley M.G.", a group of volunteers set up to encourage Cowley employees into motor sport. Got any jobs going? The car itself was the one shown at the Frankfurt Show in 1993 and was converted into a racer at the Essen Techno Classica Show. Drivers for 1996 are Adam Warne, Graham Grove and Roberto Bonassisa who drove the car for its debut at the Silverstone in the BCV8 race.
Both the MGF and RV8 are finished in the traditional red and white colours of the works cars.
The first race comprised two races in one, The Moss Europe BCVB Championship (classes C & D) setting off thirty seconds ahead of the Halfords MG. Midget Challenge(classes A & B). The slippery practice session had produced an interesting and potentially hazardous line up. Peter Hiley in the MGC GT was alone on the front row having qualified in a damp practice, over two seconds faster than any of the V8s. Warwick Banks was missing due to his demise in practice. Behind Hiley were Stewart and Williams, then on the third row was Dave Bearman and Peter Collis. The track was now dry and Hiley was out dragged from the light by the V8s. Bearman shot forward to take advantage of a gap he saw. Then, somewhere 100 or so yards down the track it all went wrong, whether Bearman was held up by a slower cars or whether he was tapped from behind or both, he went off and gave the tyre wall the most resounding side on clout. That part of the tyre wall had looked as though it had been there, undisturbed, for years. The car was severely damaged with wheels pointing in all directions. Luckily Dave was not seriously hurt although the impact must have been really something. It took about an hour to get the tyres and earth back in place again. When racing started again it was over the full 10 laps.
At the re start Hiley was again passed by the V8s of Steve Williams, Tom Stewart and Peter Collis, whose tank taped rear wheel arch bore witness to his involvement in Bearman accident. Williams pulled out a short lead over the battling Stewart and Collis, who in turn dropped Hiley.
Amongst the Midgets David Shannon held pole position. Chris Montague led for the first four laps, then slowed with mechanical failure after setting the fastest lap, allowing Shannon to take the win ahead of David Brooker Barey. In class B, Ian Stagg, Richard Wildman and Kenneth Tempest tussled all through to take the victory.
Race two was another split grid affair, the Drayton Manor Park M.G. Metro Cup running with the T-Register Challenge. Chris Hughes' Metro Turbo took an early lead but fell back into the grasp of the non-turbo cars of Dennis Robinson and George Noble. Robinson passed and pulled away while Noble and Hughes diced to the end. Robinson slowed at the finish but held on to win ahead of Noble, who set fastest lap and Chris Hughes.
Class B runners Malcolm Wiggins and Robert Croft duelled from start to finish, every lap their positions changed. Croft finally crossed the line a third of a second ahead of Wiggins. Wayne Sterling Parker took class A by a similar margin from Glen Bowker.
Paul Smeeth had qualified his TC over eleven seconds faster than any of his T-Register rivals, but nobody told MGA driver Graham Coles. Coles pressed Smeeth hard until they caught a Metro at The Mountain. Smeeth slipped through but Coles was delayed, letting Smeeth pull away to win. Anthony Atkinson's TB was third, ahead of the Road Modified class winning TC of Richard Green.
John Hewitt's Midget held pole for the North West Centre Cockshoot Cup, alongside Andrew Storer in his Sprite. Hewitt led from the start, and when Storer did not complete the first lap Mark Ashworth took up the chase in his MGB. The race was red flagged after two laps when Simon Collins went off at Mansfield in his Midget.
The second part of the race was run over five laps and once again Hewitt led the way, with Paul Greaves dicing with Ashworth for the Runner-up spot. Greaves finished ahead of Ashworth, but when the times were aggregated, Ashworth found he had won. Peter Harrison won the Standard class in his Midget.
The extra red flag delay in race three together with the earlier hold up, now made it impossible for the racing to finish before dark, so the Clerk of the Course took the decision to shorten subsequent races to eight laps. Brian Lambert led Roy McCarthy from the start of the second Moss Europe BCV8 Championship Races this time for classes A and B McCarthy took the lead on the third lap but Lambert chased hard finishing just over one second behind. Andy Holmes led home a tight five-way duel for victory in the Standard division. Graham Grove made his debut in this race driving the RV8. Like his team-mate Adam Warne in the Phoenix race, he had wisely spent practice learning the circuit. Graham qualified in thirteenth spot, but finished the race in eighth.
Unusually in a road going Midget race, front row man Bill Lancashire pulled away to win class C of the Halfords Midget Challengeby sixteen seconds, Peter Hall had a lonely race in second. Conrad Bos had started at the back with a ten second penalty but fought through, only failing by a fraction to take third from Hugh Colman.
Triumph TR6 driver Richard Wright took and early lead in the Goldsmith and Young Thoroughbred Sports Car Race, pursued by the TR4 of Chris Conoley, the MGB driven by Roy McCarthy and Ian Montgomery's E-Type. By lap four Conoley had pulled off and Montgomery was past McCarthy, who was also to retire on the following lap. Whilst all this was going on Howard Brearley, who had started his TVR Tuscan on the eighth row, was charging through the field, his power advantage making up huge distances on the straights.
Wright finished ahead of Montgomery with Brearley making his way up to third place. The MGA of Bob Lines took class B, with Russ Taylor's MGA the first Standard class car home.
The Anglia Phoenix Challengesaw the second outing for the MGF in the hands of Don Kettleborough. Also appearing was the RV8 driven this time by Adam Warne. In pole position was Midget driver John Stopes with Gary Townsend's Midget alongside. Gary had completed practice with his car stuck in gear, his crew having slaved heroically in the intervening time to get it working again.
Stopes made a false start and then only managed one lap. Townsend took his place at the front, closely challenged by the Metro of Tony Howe, with Andrew Talbot's Metro in third. Metro driver and race two winner Dennis Robinson would have finished fourth but for a ten second penalty given for a jumped start, so promoting Kettleborough. Other class winners were Blaine Neves in class B and Midget pilot Marc White in class C.
The programme listed only nine entries for the Allcomers Scratch Race and several of these were hors de combat. Fortunately a healthy number of volunteers stepped forward to fill the breach. Steve Williams' MGB V8 roadster sat alone on the front row, Dave Bearmans' car having been eliminated (that is probably word) in race one. Behind Williams were the MGB GTV8s of Tom Stewart and Malcolm Beer in Peter Cox's car, then came Montgomery's E-Type, Joe Henderson's TR6 and Kettleborough in the MGF. Completing the field was a mixture of Metros, Midgets and Bs. Oh yes and Howard Brearley's TVR was at the back with a ten second penalty.
Williams took the lead, chased by Stewart. In the twilight impressive flames spat from the exhausts of the F and Metros. Once again the TVR devoured everything in sight, coming through to finish third, this time behind Williams and Stewart. Montgomery the Standard class.
So the first M.G.C.C. race meeting of the season ended as the twilight darkened. The marshals put their flags away all those who were still warm enough to move went home.
For so early in the season the day had produced some cracking close racing and all their cars ready in time. Apart from the major incident in race one of the Car Club must be congratulated for another very well run and slick event.
PS Lyn Jeffrey promised warmer weather for Oulton Park.