The long winter draws to a close and once again the sound of racing engines fills the air as with a sense of expectancy competitors in the Lackford Engineering Midget and Sprite Challenge unloaded their machines to start another season at Donington Park. There are changes of car for some, winter improvements for others but that friendly competitive spirit pervaded the early morning paddock as people renewed their acquaintances.
There were 19 competitors for this round, not bad for a season opener and as mentioned in my season preview article the main changes are in Class A with Stephen Collier in the ex Dunkley car, resplendent in a mainly orange re spray. Stephen Watkins is a returnee and Richard Bridge has a new contender. Richard Wildman was racing Dave Weston’s Peter May car here, the perennial Ed Reeve was once again embarking on another season and Stephen Pegram was entered.
Class B saw Andy Southcott’s Lenham, Peter Kennerley in a now blue Midget, Carl Chadwick in the ex Wildman/May car and a name from the past Michael Chalk in the car raced by Richard Perry last season. Class D had Jon Simpson, Tom Walker and Dean Stanton whilst Class E saw Pippa Cow, Paul Campfield, Richard Homer, Ian Burgin, Dave Morrison and John Collinson all with unchanged cars other than the usual winter fettling and tidy up. Scoop’s scoop of the day is that Dave Morrison was to complete a deal to buy the ex Graeme Adams car..watch this space!
Qualifying got under way and after the cobwebs were shaken off everyone settled down to set a time. Colliers car proved to be as fast as it was last season, soon setting a pole time almost a second quicker than Watkins although that fight for pole came to a premature end when Watkins car sprung an oil cooler leak, spewing oil out, causing a spin and ending Steve’s day.
Wildman was getting used to a Class A again and set third fastest time ahead of a flying Southcott in his class B car. Reeve came next ahead of Campfield, by far the fastest class E runner at this point. Young Bridge was next up ahead of Kennerley, Pegram and Chadwick, these four covered by just under a second which promised well for the race.
Morrison was next ahead of Cow who felt she wasn’t quite in the game just yet, ahead of Burgin, Collinson, Chalk getting back into it, Stanton, Walker, Homer and Simpson who felt his car was down on power.
The Paddock in the interval had Simpson’s crew changing his differential in the hope it was under geared, Collinson was adjusting his brakes reckoning there was a lot more in the car. Walker was sorting out a lack of fuel pressure and Campfield was bleeding brakes. Other than the usual checks there was nothing major to report.
Late afternoon the grid lined up for the start of our race, there was a gap on the front row where Watkins would have been, Simpson’s car was ominously showing signs of oil smoke. Walker was spinning his wheels, presumably warming his tyres and then with a minimum delay the lights went out and the race was away.
Into Redgate Collier went into the lead followed by Wildman and Southcott, by the time they got to the chicane at the end of that lap Collier was already a couple of lengths clear of Wildman with a similar gap to Southcott and the rest led by Campfield who had started well, he was closely followed by Reeve, Bridge, Kennerley and Morrison who had started well from the sixth row.
Behind Morrison were Cow, Pegram, Burgin, Collinson, Chadwick, Stanton and Chalk. There was a gap to Walker, Simpson and Homer completing the order.
By the second lap the two at the front were pulling clear but it was Bridge who was making progress and was up to third ahead of Campfield. Southcott having fallen into the clutches of a group led by Reeve, Kennerley and Morrison with Cow and Pegram tagged on. Further back there was another little fight with Collinson, Chalk and Burgin then a gap to Chadwick, Stanton and Walker then another gap to Simpson and Homer. Each of these battles would deplete with Collinson getting bogged down in the gravel but not after a terrific fight with Burgin, Walker with an electrical issue and Simpson with that smoking engine proving terminal. Although each of these battles ran for several laps.
Meanwhile the leaders continued to pull away but at the chicane Kennerley made a bold move to get ahead of Reeve and Campfield, hitting the rumble strips hard on the entrance which pitched his car up on two wheels almost to the point of no return before dropping back onto four wheels and carrying on unabated. It really did look as though it was going over and I have no idea how it didn’t!
Reeve managed to get ahead of Kennerley in all of this and despite spirited efforts from the latter held off until the end actually passing Bridge to hold on to third.
By now Southcott was battling with Campfield and Morrison who had got ahead but Southcott was presumably struggling with a brake issue as he went straight on through the gravel at the Chicane on a couple of successive occasions but he still stayed ahead of Cow at the end. We lost Pegram to an engine issue.
Morrison was now with Cow and these two would battle to the end, swapping places with Morrison looking like he had the place until the last corner with the drag to the line going in Pippa’s favour. Dave did tell me later that he had an issue with the steering column breaking loose, a little disconcerting to say the least.
At the flag it was Collier with a comfortable lead from Wildman who were both well clear of Reeve. Kennerley finished fourth and gets my driver of the race, not least because of his antics at the Chicane but also his new class B lap record. A splendid fifth was Bridge from Campfield and Southcott, after a troubled drive from all accounts. Cow finished ahead of Morrison by the narrowest of margins. Chadwick finished next from Burgin, Chalk, Stanton and Homer. Fourteen finishers but with some great racing throughout the field the season looks promising. We also got a new lap record from Collier…great stuff!