And so to the final formula classic race of the season, at the wide open spaces of the Silverstone International circuit, a far cry from the previous race at the narrow Oulton Park venue. Frustratingly, some of the top runners were again missing from this otherwise excellent 23-car grid. Nicky Paul-Barron (328) and Marco Pullen (328) were back, but this time Gary Culver and Chris Butler were missing, so we were again denied the opportunity of seeing the whole lot fight it out for the win.
Of the 10 races held so far Culver had taken the most wins, three of them, with Nicky P-B on two, but the remaining five all had different winners so it was quite an unpredictable series and we were looking forward to a good race.
It was pretty chilly but dry and sunny for early morning qualifying and the surprise was not only that NP-B had put his Class 3 328 on pole but that he was over a second quicker than the Class 4 328 of Pullen. The next three were close behind with brothers James and Ben Cartwright on row 2 ahead of Dave Tomlin (all in 328s). Then there was a bit of a gap to Chris Rea, having a thoroughly enjoyable time in his re-acquired ‘Alan Mann’ 308 GT4, Peter Moseley with his best qualifying position, and then Club Sec Peter Everingham in his newly acquired ex-Simon Bartholomew 328, looking very different to all the others on account of being white.
Of the likely front-runners Chris Goddard was at the back of the grid in his 308. The engine had refused to run cleanly for the qualifying session, so he took no part in it but was able to run out of session later on and had to start from the back of the grid.
By the time of the 1.30 start temperatures had warmed up a little bit but not by much, and it was still chilly when the cars formed up on the grid, a fine sight as they glinted and gleamed in the bright autumnal sunshine. When the red lights went out Nicky P-B shot out of the pole position and led away into Copse. J. Cartwright had a look up the inside but thought better of it and held back although he and Pullen went through the corner side-by-side.
But as soon as they got to Becketts for the first time things went wrong at the head of the field. Nicky P-B got caught out by cold tyres, freely admitting his error, and started to spin. The closely following Pullen collected him heavily, both cars spinning ahead of the following pack and there were some monumental avoidances. Everyone else squeezed through, although Ben Cartwright had to take to the grass to avoid Pullen’s spinning car, but the two front runners had to retire on the spot with both cars damaged.
All this left James Cartwright with a handy lead as they came round at the end of the first lap, with Rea up in second and Everingham third, from 6th and 8th on the grid! Close behind was Tomlin but then a long gap to Honnor and Nick Cartwright (328) who had also benefited from the first lap kerfuffle. Peter Moseley was 7th ahead of Michael Squire (328) and then, amazingly, came Stuart Anderson in his replica 250 TRC who had started 16th on the grid! He couldn’t believe it himself.....
Ben Cartwright had dropped way down but began a good catch-up chase which had already taken him up to 6th by the third lap, and another on the move was Chris Goddard who had moved from the back of the grid to 8th on the same lap.
But at the front James did not have an easy ride. Having pulled out an initial lead of several seconds he was being hauled in by Tomlin who had quickly got past Everingham once the race settled down, whilst Rea had dropped down to 4th. By lap 3 Tomlin was on Cartwright’s tail and on the fifth lap, having got a good run out of Copse, Tomlin went smoothly past as they headed for Becketts. Behind these two there was a lengthening gap to Everingham, having a very lonely race in 3rd, as was Rea in 4th. But behind them things were much tighter as B.Cartwright inexorably moved forwards but still had Moseley and Honnor chasing him, ahead of another bunch led by Squire and John Swift (308), although the field was spreading out quite noticeably on the long Silverstone track. Somewhere in all of this William Jenkins (308) tangled with Peter Fisk (ex-Hathaway 328) and had to retire in the gravel with a broken wheel, although Fisk was able to carry on with front-end damage only to be disqualified for a yellow-flag infringement.
As the leaders headed into lap 6, the half-way point, it was becoming apparent that Tomlin was not pulling away from James Cartwright and that the latter had found some more speed and was now pressuring the leader, hoping for an error. Sure enough, going into Abbey on the next lap Tomlin locked his brakes and in a flash James was through. Tomlin tried everything to regain his lead, they were nose to tail, but there was no way past and James held on to a well-judged win as he crossed the line less than a tenth of a second ahead!
Evers continued his lonely race in third and was some 20 secs behind at the finish. Rea was in a fine 4th place but then, in his own words, had his ‘usual spin’ which allowed Ben Cartwright to nip through before Rea recovered and continued in 5th. For his excellent catch-up drive Ben was nominated as the ‘Driver of the Day’. Moseley drove cleanly and excellently into 6th place but was being caught at the end by Goddard whose heavily modified 308 is not quite on song yet, but ought to be devastatingly quick when it is. Honnor and Squire were 8th and 9th and rounding off the top ten was John Watts who had hustled his 308 GT4 past a number of cars in the final few laps and just got Swifty on the last lap.
Stuart Anderson in the quirky 250TRC finished in a great 12th overall, and was winner of class 1, and he was followed home by Nick Cartwright who had been struggling with his 328 and its 360 brakes
The battle at the front between James Cartwright and Dave Tomlin had kept everyone enthralled but the race was a little spread out behind. Almost two and a half miles of Silverstone is a big place to fill with cars and it was a great shame that we had lost the quickest two qualifiers on the first lap. And an even bigger shame that Culver, Butler and Taylor weren’t there so that we could have seen a real dust up at the final race of the 2009 season.
Let’s hope they all come back for more next year!
Click here for a slideshow of pics by Simon Cooke & CMDigicams.
Click here for the results.
Next meeting: TBA