Friday, 11 July 2014

Number 8 - Rockingham

As this is number 8 it means that we are over halfway there in my tour of mainland motor racing circuits and a visit to Rockingham was in marked contrast to the previous one at Lydden - talk about sublime and ridiculous. If you have never been to Rockingham or know nothing about it then the first few photos will give you a flavour of the place:

The pits and paddock from the main grandstand

Looking left......

...and right from the main grandstand

From the pits

And yes you can spectate from the top tier - and with the luxury of lifts it means that those in wheelchairs can also get great views.

This is the tunnel under the track from the grandstands to the pits - looks like something from a science fiction film and you expect a space ship to go hurtling away from you as the photo flashes to stimulate movement!!

The circuit is on the edge of Corby and you get there via industrial estates and business parks but it is a stunning place and it is just unfortunate that the original idea of attracting Indycars only lasted a couple of years. Now the only cars that use the oval are, I believe, the Pickup Championship while the rest use a combination of the oval and the infield which has been made interesting with a number of gradients unlike Daytona for instance.

One curious, and sometimes, unsettling aspect of Rockingham is sitting in the grandstand and being able to see cars race from left to right, right to left, left to right and right to left all at the same time as the circuit twists and turns through the infield, and with the whole circuit in view it is sometimes difficult to know where to look - like watching 6 lanes of ten-pin bowling at any one time.

There is a small diner in the grandstand and a burger van in the paddock which was not enough to cater for all the entries, the overflow being housed in an outer paddock behind the grandstand with a separate tunnel to access the main paddock and the track.

So what did I go and see? I have been fortunate that, in selecting the circuits to visit by availability rather then taking into account what might be happening, I have seen a variety of classes and Championships so far and this time it was the 750 Motor Club that were hosting a two day event, of which I attended the Sunday, and once again it was a bargain with 13 races for my entry fee of £10 which is a bit better value / race than the meeting happening the same day just down the road at Silverstone. And it was so much quieter with only a few hundred spectators, if that. No crowding and free access everywhere.

The racing was varied with single make classes like the Renault Clio 182s, the Stock Hatches (just one non-Citroen Saxo in the field),  BMW Compacts and Toyota MR2s plus the unique 750 Trophy and Formula 750 cars and a variety of sports cars / kit cars. Since you all know what the single make cars look like I have added below examples of the other classes but it is now possible to see my photographs on Flickr by going to

I should say that not all my photos are there as I still take photos on film as I like to have some in boxes that I can take out and look at but I will scan in some of them if I think they are particularly interesting. In time I may get all my photos digitised but that could take a while! You will find some old Interseries races at Brands Hatch on Flickr at the moment - I digitised these so that I could add them to the database on the Racing Sports Car website -

It is probably easier to describe what the various classes are by quoting from the 750MC website!!

Protech Shocks Sports Specials Championship

Catering for genuine ‘production’ Sports Specials, Kit Cars, Caterhams, & Westfields as well as’ one-off’ road-going two-seater specials, all using production car engines with modifications.Classes are 2000cc Duratec; 1800cc Zetec incorporating Westfield Cup Class and Tiger Zetec's; Roadgoing two-seater specials including one-off Sport Specials/Caterham R300/R400 with power-to-weight ratio up to 340bhp/tonne.

So we have the STM Phoenix of Colin Benham

The Eclipse SM1 of Clive Hudson (one of the leading cars along with its stablemate of Paul Boyd)

The Arrow 2013 of John Moore

The Cyana MX500R of David Roberts (with a Sylva Phoenix behind)

and the MEV MX150R of John Potter, one of a number racing here having been displaced from the Mazda MX5 series.

And then we have

The Disklok RGB Championship

Created in 2001, the Disklok RGB Championship (Road-Going Bike-engined (mainly up to 1000c.c.)cars) is for two-seater cars built to road-going specification and capable of passing an MoT on the day of the event. The cars can be ‘one-off’, converted sports or Sports Specials or one of the many bike-engined Sports Specials.
The dominant car here has become the Spire - there were 8 entered and an example driven by Matthew Higginson won both races with others filling out the podium in both races, but there are a number of 'interesting' designs competing as shown below:

Matthew Higginson's triumphant Spire

The AB Arion of Kevin Bolton

the Genesis RR of Edward Scotney

the BDN S3 of  Bob Mortimer

the svelte Contour of Paul Rogers

and in contrast an interesting take on an AB Sabre from Tim Horverd

especially as this is also down as an AB Sabre!!!

But they make a fine sight lined up in the Assembly Area waiting for their race:

And my final selection for this post is:

750 Trophy

The 750 Motor Club’s ‘Historic’ racing series, for early 750 Formula, Austin 7 specials, 1172cc side-valve front-engined cars, Historic 500cc F3 cars and other historic and classic cars. New cars have to be built within careful guidelines to ensure compatibility.

The last sentence is interesting as the number of totally new designs appearing in the 750 Trophy is limited but Rockingham marked the debut for the Racekits Merlin, though it was the much older Gerrell of Ben Myall which was triumphant coming through the field after a troubled practice. I do not have a photo of either of those cars at the moment but here are a few of the other competitors upholding the traditions of the founding fathers of the 750MC.

Cliff Ringrose in his Rapide:

Michael Harvey in his JB Special

 John Slatter in his Centaur Mk XI which unfortunately for him refused to start

and the fastest car there, which however, did not finish the supercharged Austin 7 of Christian Pederson.

As we head into the second half of the season and of my grand tour it was interesting to see a chart in Autosport this week showing the number of car race meetings being held at British circuits this year: Silverstone tops with 28, followed by Brands Hatch with 25, Snetterton with 23, Oulton Park and Donington with 21 and all the rest with fewer than 10. A number of the other circuits are restricted because of noise so that Thruxton has as few as 5 and Croft just 9. The full list of the rest is: Cadwell Park (10); Anglesey,Croft, Knockhill and Rockingham (9); Castle Combe (8); Kirkistown and Mondello Park (7); Pembrey and Thruxton (5); Lydden Hill (3) and Mallory Park (2 - now that the Boxing Day event has been announced).

This is headed as the "number of meetings" but obviously some meetings have more than one day and so I am not sure if those numbers would be higher if those were counted additionally.

So I now look forward now to the Mallory meeting on 20th July but then I have a break until Knockhill for the BTCC in late August before an intensive final round up with the last 5 circuits being visited in 3 weekends at end of September / beginning October, the final one being Pembrey on 5th October.

However, to save me from getting bored (wife off to visit mother in Scotland) I am off to Castle Combe tomorrow for a repeat visit which I may mention in a future post!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Number 7 - Lydden Hill

It seems to take me about a fortnight to get around to writing a new post for this blog - I guess I do not want to publish too many too close together in case you miss one and only read the newest. Thanks by the way to those who are reading these ramblings from me - hope you like them and that the photographs, especially the older ones, bring back some memories for you if you are old enough to remember them!!

One restraint in planning my programme for this year has been the small number of meetings being held at some of the circuits. I used the Autosport National Racing Calendar to plan my itinerary and that shows just the one meeting at Mallory Park, which is fairly well known, but also it only shows 2 meetings for Lydden Hill - one in October and the one I visited recently - the Truck Fest meeting which had races for 4 car categories. So a total of 8 car races over the weekend, very much the minor partner alongside a number of oval racing categories and a very small field of trucks running 'demo' races - i.e including passenger rides as part of the 'race'. So compared to the18 races over the weekend at Snetterton two weeks previously it was a much reduced bill of fare.

It was pretty quiet on Saturday morning when I arrived about 0930 and paid my entry fee and was told that there were no programmes left!! The chap on the gate had only been given 12!! Mmmm - more on that later.

Lydden of course has a great sloping field with acres of parking but I wanted to go to the paddock and so I parked reasonably close to that side of the field about halfway down the hill in this vast area of field. Before I had even got out of my car somebody had parked right next to me!!! Here is a picture of this taken from the far side of the circuit a little later. My black Suzuki Swift is the left hand of the two cars parked towards the right of the picture and you can see how close the car to the right has parked!! He probably parked in that half of the field for the same reason as me but why so close??

And then a third car joined us

And by the end of the afternoon we had a nice little community going!!

Previous visits to Lydden had been many years in the past when I was living in Essex and it had been a fairly quick trip over the river and it was good to see that it still had a friendly feel about it with easy access pretty much anywhere and of course you can see the majority of the circuit from almost any spot around it, particularly from the grandstands on the outside of the circuit at Hairy Hill (below), except for the dip at Pilgrims where it goes down and behind the bank of the rallycross circuit.

In fact there were 4 circuits in use for the weekend - the full circuit for the cars, the shortened circuit, for the trucks, which cuts out North Bend and comes through the section blocked by the tyres above and the oval which you can see in the background and which was used in both directions!

The following picture shows a couple of trucks powering out of that short link and heading down into Paddock Bend.

My first aim, however, having arrived was to find a programme - and I will admit here that I was eventually given one by one of the people in the meeting office which somebody else had been using because there just did not appear to be any available at all for the public, or if there were they were only released in small batches and thus sold out pretty quickly. I know it must be very difficult to gauge how many programmes to produce and also to judge how many might be needed on the Sunday (when I did not think to see if any were available) but it is always disappointing when you cannot get one. These days it is usually possible to get the timetable and the entry lists from the Internet and I now try to take these with me just in case it is all the information I will have available to me on the day.

The 4 car classes were organised by the BARC SE and were the familiar Cannon Motor Spares Tin Tops, the Quaife - Motorsport News Saloons, the Quaife Intermarque Championship with Avon Tyres and RDJ Smith Machinery (to give it its full title) and a new series called the Sevenesque series being another one for the various Lotus / Caterham 7 / Westfield / Tiger type cars.

In the Tin Tops the Honda Civic of Chris Whiteman (above) was dominant while the variety of models on display was wide - witnessed by a Toyota Starlet (Barnaby Davies) and a Ford Escort (Russell Turner) being his nearest rivals. My favourite was the shocking pink Renault 5 of Oliver Davies - all of these pictured below!!

The Quaife - Motorsport News Saloons were dominated, as more often than not, by Rod Birley in his Escort Cosworth as he racked up another 2 wins. Rod's total of wins is many hundred now and I can remember him many years ago driving a road saloon Hillman Imp at my home track of Ingliston in Scotland - afraid  have no pictures from that time but I seem to recall it was red and cream / white.

The Quaife Intermarque Championship in previous years had a number of classes picking up the odd Caterham racer and even the Birley Escort at times, but this year it is really just the one class for 2.0 litre Hot Rods which are otherwise seen on the oval circuits around Britain. The Vauxhall Tigra body shape seems to be the most popular but there were the odd exceptions in the shape of Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4 and VW Corrado for example. The reigning champion Matt Simpson won the first race with Chris Brockhurst taking the second. Some examples below of these interesting dual-purpose machines.

The Sevenesque cars were - just like Lotus 7s!!! Both races were won by Ian Conibear but because, I suppose, we see these cars everywhere I did not take any pictures - sorry Sevenesque fans but that's the way it happened.

So what of the rest of the day's activities - there was an unusual mix of oval racers ranging from the mighty Belgian-based CAMSO V8s, through Sprint Cars and Hot Rods of various sizes to grass track racers from the SEGTO series and I have popped a selection in below:

The Autograss Hillman Imp of Mick Browne

The Sprint car of  Duncan Panton

The V6 Hot Rod Lexus of Danny Ellis

and the CAMSO V8 of Paul Sweeney - who is British by the way!!

And then there were the trucks!! - not many but they created their own smoke screen so there could have been others hiding in there somewhere!! A few pictures to get the taste.

This one was overheating and so had some panels removed to assist in cooling!

And that was another different type of motor racing weekend ticked off and the next outing would be from one extreme to the other - from Britain's smallest to its potentially largest, but certainly the newest - Rockingham - but that's another story as I pass the half way mark on my tour of the country's motor racing circuits.