Euro NASCAR returns to Brands Hatch as Thruxton welcomes British Trucks
Brands Hatch's popular American SpeedFest event - which was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 - made a welcome return last weekend and as usual was headlined by Euro NASCAR. Elsewhere, Castle Combe held a bumper two-day meeting and the British Truck Racing Championship rolled into Thruxton.
Loris Hezemans was living the American Dream at Brands Hatch as he extended his points lead in the Euro NASCAR Series when the championship made its long overdue return to the Kent circuit.
The series headlined the popular American SpeedFest event – back after a COVID-19 induced hiatus in 2020 – with Hezemans entering the meeting having won both races at the opening Valencia round.
His winning ways continued at Brands, but he had to settle for second best in the opener as three-time and reigning champion Alon Day took a lights-to-flag victory aboard his CAAL Racing-run Chevrolet Camaro. The Israeli was never headed in the 38-lap encounter on the Indy Circuit, comfortably beating Hezemans as Nicolo Rocca completed the rostrum.
Hezemans, the 2019 champion, started Sunday’s race from pole courtesy of a fastest lap in the opening contest but, while race one had run caution-free, a number of safety car periods kept the Dutchman on his toes at the two-by-two restarts.
His life was made easier when Day, who had shadowed him throughout, ran wide and through the Paddock Hill gravel on the second restart before spinning at the same spot a lap later and retiring. This promoted Day’s team-mate Gianmarco Ercoli into second as Sebastiaan Bleekemolen took the final podium spot after a superb rise through the order having started eighth. Briton Alex Sedgwick gave the home crowd something to cheer about as he took took fifth in his Camaro having retired from the opening race.
In Euro NASCAR 2, for amateur and gentleman drivers, Advait Deodhar took his maiden win in the category having withstood race-long pressure from Tobias Dauenhauer. The latter made sure of victory in the second race, getting a perfect launch from the outside of the front row to take the lead. Deodhar was second until, with three laps to go, he slid wide at Graham Hill Bend having come under immense pressure from Simon Pilate. Former British Touring Car Championship driver/team owner Shaun Hollamby, appearing in the series again after making his debut in 2019, took sixth and won his class.
Miles Rudman, Legends, Brands Hatch 2021
Photo by: Gary Hawkins
The proverb ‘the cream always rises to the top’ was an apt description of Miles Rudman’s progress in the Legends bouts, as the 2019 champion took three victories across the weekend’s six races, as well as a further two podiums.
Saturday proved to be his most successful day, taking victory in heat one – having got into the lead by the end of the opening lap from fifth – before winning the final after another imperious display from the rear of the field.
He had almost made it a hat-trick, having just been outdragged to the line by Chris Needham for second by 0.052 seconds in heat two, which turned into the battle for the win when on-the-road victor and main title rival John Mickel was disqualified having been deemed at fault for a multi-car crash on a safety car restart.
Rudman won Sunday’s opening heat from Mickel after the race was suspended for a hefty crash along the start/finish straight, before Will Gibson came out on top in the second heat. Mickel ended the weekend with a win in the final, as Rudman once again took another rostrum in second.
Three Bernie’s V8 races produced a trio of winners, with the Aston Martin Vantage of Sam Wilson heading home class A winner James Plant (Austin Healey 106) and Michael Saunders (Ford Escort Mk1 Mexico) in the opener. On a damp track, Saunders produced the goods in race two after a lengthy safety car period followed an opening-lap crash for Simon Lane’s Chevrolet Camaro on the climb towards Druids. Plant came out on top of the partially reversed grid third race, which was held in the dry.
Reigning Pickup Truck champion George Turiccki had another reason to celebrate other than his 30th birthday, as he took victory in the second race, having taken the lead into Druids on lap four of 18. Mark Willis had won earlier.
The on-the-road podium of Steve Burrows, Malcolm Blackman and Lewis Smith were all disqualified from the second Intermarque Silhouettes race after overtaking under yellow flags, handing the win to Ray Harris, while multiple champion Blackman took the spoils in race one.
Castle Combe CCRC: Woolmer’s Courier service delivers fastest in GTS
Richard Woolmer (Elva Courier), Equipe GTS, Castle Combe 2021
Photo by: Steve Jones
Three young drivers at the top of their game, cornering different BMW B-series-engined GT cars of the 1960s beyond the limits of tyre adhesion and retrieving their pendulous tails from outrageous angles, in Sunday’s Equipe GTS race left onlookers agog as a highlight of the Classic and Retro Race Weekend.
That Richard Woolmer had hustled veteran Richard Knight’s Elva Courier from the back of the grid to win was remarkable, but early pacemakers Lee Atkins (TVR Grantura 1800S) and Tom Smith (MGB) put up exceptional fights.
Former single-seater racer Atkins and MG specialist Smith, the first two in Saturday’s stanza (ahead of Neil Merry’s Alfa Romeo GTA), both spun under pressure – at Camp and Quarry respectively – but finished second and third. “That was my first Equipe win,” said Woolmer. “Gap after gap opened up for me [at the start] and the racing between us was incredibly close.”
Jamie Boot’s neatly driven and deliciously sonorous TVR Griffith was unstoppable in Equipe Libre. Behind him, there were powerslides galore in Sunday’s soggy leg as Mark Holme and James Haxton/Jack Rawles reversed Saturday’s order, evoking memories of John Chatham and Stewart Hands wrestling red Healey 3000s here in 1967.
Formula Ford provided the best resident championship action. Oliver White continued his march towards the title, pipping Felix Fisher in the opener. The tables looked to have turned second time out when Fisher – White’s only conqueror this term – pitted with a broken gear linkage, leaving White, Luke Cooper and Ben Mitchell circulating as one. Mitchell led onto the final lap, but White and Cooper imposed themselves to finish 1-2.
Saturday’s superb Classic Touring Car Racing Club Historic Thunder race featured Steve Putt and Andy Wilson flexing 14 litres of V8 muscle. Driving his extraordinary Mazda-Chevrolet RX-7 on the limit, Putt staved off Wilson’s Holden Monaro until the penultimate lap, when one tyre-frying slide too many and broken rockers in his engine’s valve train blunted it. Putt retired on Sunday, when Neil Philpotts sizzled after Wilson, having replaced his short-geared Mitsubishi Starion’s clutch.
Gary Prebble (Honda Civic), Castle Combe 2021
Photo by: Steve Jones
The Prebble brothers won twice apiece, Adam shading Gary in Combe Saloons until the latter’s SEAT hit trouble. Having glued himself to the bootlid of Adam’s Vauxhall Astra turbo in Sunday’s opener, Gary limped home second when a driveshaft popped.
He replaced it, but the rampant Spanish bull’s gearbox mounting failed in race two. Already 2021’s first repeat round winner, Adam thus made it three easily. Points leader James Keepin (MG ZR) maintained his unbeaten class record and was rewarded with second overall, having repassed the rapid Ben Hindle’s Vauxhall Corsa.
Prebble Major’s successes came in the CTCRC’s Pre-93/03 races in which he beat AJ Owen’s newer Honda Civic Type R and the BMW M3s of Kevin Willis and Ian Bower each day. Saturday retiree Don Hughes shot his Peugeot 306 from the back to fifth on Sunday.
The Pre-’66 and ’83 set brought different winners. Denied victory by electrical gremlins on Saturday, former Clubmans racer Mike Luck (BMW E21 320) won Sunday’s entertaining wet salvo, trumping day one winner Simon Jeffs (VW Golf GTI) by 0.280s. Marks Lucock and Osborne scrapped over third in Ford RS2000 and Triumph ‘Dolly’ Sprint respectively.
Whining supercharger akimbo, Tom Robinson won the Jaguar races, but James Ramm’s recovery from a soft barrier-nudging off at Old Paddock to third, rounding Mike Holt (X300) at Camp on the last lap, was Sunday’s talking point. Ramm and Colin Philpott (XJSs) pursued Robinson on Saturday.
Tim Adams qualified his Civic on Combe Hot Hatch pole and blitzed allcomers. Closest rivals Craig Tomkinson (Vauxhall Nova) and race one runner-up Chris Southcott (Peugeot 205) broke their steeds trying to keep up, promoting Mark Wyatt (Vauxhall Astra) and Will Self (205) to the second virtual podium.
Despite a rear tyre deflating on lap three in qualifying, Oliver Bull again dominated the GT races. Tony Bennett (Caterham R300) and Dominic Shepherd, in his rakish Nissan-powered Mitjet Audi clone, went after the Vauxhall Tigra, Shepherd regaining third after a spin at Quarry in race two.
A rare Castle Combe Racing Club Sports Racing event attracted slim support, but Graham Charman aced its wet and drying halves, cutting a 1m05.982s (100.93mph) best lap in the finale in his Juno. Novice Andy Fido (Radical SR3) chased gallantly.
Thruxton BARC: Fantastic four for reigning champion Smith
Ryan Smith, British Truck Racing Championship, Thruxton 2021
Photo by: Ollie Read
The British Truck Racing Championship descended upon Thruxton for the second round of the season, and reigning champion Ryan Smith made the most of the trip to Hampshire, winning four out of the five races held across the weekend.
Smith started the opening race of the weekend from third on the grid, after having a number of lap times good enough for pole deleted due to breaching track limits, but he made his way through the order with relative ease, passing Stuart Oliver for the lead on lap three. He then went on to win the second race of the day, which ended early after Mark Taylor crashed into the tyre wall at the chicane on the seventh lap, causing fluid from his radiator to leak out.
Smith couldn’t maintain his unbeaten run on Sunday, though, with John Newell claiming a fantastic victory in race three. After starting from pole, Newell managed to break clear from the pack early on and, with the rest of the field unable to get back into his slipstream, he built up a gap to finish 6.4 seconds ahead of second-placed Oliver.
Smith then got back to winning ways in the final two races of the afternoon, although race four was cut short when the red flag was brought out in the final few minutes due to a tyre barrier ending up on the circuit after contact.
Jamie Ellwood, Caterham Sigma 150, Thruxton 2021
Photo by: Ollie Read
Jamie Ellwood secured a double podium result in the Caterham Sigma 150 category. He won a chaotic first race, in which Chris Savage had a big crash at the Complex on the opening lap, from seventh on the grid. Savage was clipped by another car coming into the braking zone, and his Caterham rolled onto its side before going completely upside down when the car made it to the gravel trap. It took the marshals several minutes to extract him from the vehicle, but Savage got out without injury and the safety car returned to the pits for a final four-lap dash to the finish.
Ellwood backed up his win with a third place in race three for Sigma 150/Sigma 135 competitors. He led in the early stages, before Jamie Winrow went on to win. Harry Senior won the combined SigMax/Sigma 135 contest, while Winrow’s brother Ben won the combined non-championship affair.
The Mighty Minis were also in action, with Greg Jenkins and Steven Rideout collecting the victories. Jenkins had started on pole for race one, but he fell behind Mark Ditchburn on the opening lap. Shortly after that the safety car was called out for a crash at the chicane and, when the race restarted, Jenkins managed to get the jump on Ditchburn and held on to win by 0.8s over Stuart Coombs.
It was a dominant weekend for Alex Cursley in the Hyundai Coupe Cup. He went fastest in qualifying by more than 0.7s and went on to take lights-to-flag victories in both races, winning the first race by over 13s after second-placed Wayne Rockett was disqualified.
Lydden Hill HRDC: Former rallycross stars battle in Minis
Andrew Jordan & Nathan Heathcote (Mini Cooper S), Lydden Hill 2021
Photo by: Jeff Bloxham
It was perhaps fitting that two drivers who made their names in rallycross should play starring roles at Lydden Hill’s annual Historics On The Hill meeting last Sunday, with Nathan Heathcote and 2013 British Touring Car champion Andrew Jordan at the centre of some great racing.
Prospects for an exciting duel between the pair in the Jack Sears Trophy double-header heightened during qualifying. Both drivers traded fastest laps throughout the session, and it was 2017 British Rallycross champion Heathcote who narrowly grabbed the initiative in his Mini Cooper S, topping the times by just 0.267 seconds.
Jordan, whose extensive knowledge of the track dates back to his days in Junior Minicross, stormed into an early lead in his Austin Mini Cooper S at the start of race one after Heathcote made a sluggish getaway. The positions were reversed by Devil’s Elbow, though, as Heathcote slung his Mini ahead to seize back the initiative.
In typical fashion, current Mini Miglia series leader Jordan continued to push hard, but Heathcote pulled out enough of a gap to avoid having to drive defensively en route to victory. Behind the top two, Dan Lewis brought his Mini home third, while Gerard Buggy took fourth in his Lotus Ford Cortina after muscling ahead of the Austin A40 Speedwell of Richard Postins at North Bend.
Jordan harried Heathcote even harder in the second encounter as they indulged in another close lead tussle. Jordan locked his brakes on a few occasions at Devil’s Elbow in his attempts to force an opening, while Heathcote was grazing the edge of the track in an attempt to maintain his advantage. The battle made for some spectacular viewing, but the order remained unchanged right up to the flag.
James Colburn (Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT), Lydden Hill 2021
Photo by: Jeff Bloxham
Jordan’s father Mike used the same car as his son for the two Allstars races, but Ben Colburn proved unbeatable in his Lenham GT Sprite. A double winner in this event last September, the former Junior Saloon Car champion repeated the feat with two faultless drives. A rapid start helped Jordan Sr claim second in the opener, while Andrew Prill took third in his Pandora SP, having passed the slowing BMW 1800 TiSA of Tom Sharp at Paddock on the third lap.
Fortunes for Prill and former Porsche Supercup racer Sharp were reversed in race two. A slow getaway contributed to Prill falling to fifth in the end result, while Sharp powered through from last to third behind Jordan and the victorious Colburn.
Another driver hoping for better luck was Chris Snowdon in the Classic Alfa Challenge after throttle issues had hampered his efforts in this event in 2020. Armed with a new gearbox in his Alfetta GTV, Snowdon made a blistering start to lead the Giulia Sprint GT of poleman James Colburn into Pilgrims on the opening lap. Colburn regained the advantage at Devil’s Elbow seconds later, before the race was halted following an incident for Frank Horsfield (Giulietta) at Chesson’s Drift.
Snowdon grabbed the lead again at the restart, but hopes of victory disappeared when he was forced to make an unscheduled stop to secure a loose door. He charged back to fourth, while Colburn took the flag from the spectacular Alex Jupe (Alfetta GTV). Colburn won race two from younger brother Ben (1750 Berlina), who had relieved Jupe of second on lap 13 of 17.
Reports by Stefan Mackley, Marcus Pye, Rob Hansford and Mark Libbeter. Photography by Gary Hawkins, Steve Jones, Ollie Read and Jeff Bloxham. Want more reports from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine
Ben Colburn (Lenham Sprite GT), Lydden Hill 2021
Photo by: Jeff Bloxham
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