by Kerry Dunlop
Rockingham’s track layout is part-oval, rather like a Marmite jar. And drivers tend to love it or loathe it – just like Marmite! That meant that quite a few drivers who usually race with the club chose to stay away, which was a pity, because more categories had to be amalgamated and grids appeared sadly depleted. But despite that there was some excellent racing to be found, particularly among the pre ’83 racers who definitely deserve a Dicers of the Day award.
Pre ’83 and Pre ’66 – Race 1: Qualifying gave us a clue as to the possible outcome with Stephen Primett on pole followed by Steve Cripps, Mark Cholerton and Mark Osborne. So that’s three Escorts for just one Dolly – lucky lady! Osborne’s Triumph made by far the best start from the second row and led into the first turn, chased by Cripps, Primett and Cholerton, but Primett was on a charge and soon made it through to the front. “I had quite a speed advantage coming off the banking which meant I could outbrake them afterwards” explained the pony-tailed pilot. Meanwhile Cripps set about attacking Osborne, kicking out the tail of the Escort as he did so. Then Cholerton decided to join the party and the trio battled for several laps before Osborne eased away to finish second, nine seconds behind Primett. “I didn’t want to throw it into the wall” said Mark pragmatically. Cripps pulled away from Cholerton to finish third, while Simon Jeffs and his Golf GTI finished fifth. Pre ’66 winner Alan Greenhalgh made the most of his power advantage, especially as his mighty V8 Falcon thundered around the banking, so he left the rather breathless Minis of Andy Messham and Neil Bray to finish second and third after a brilliant battle. Class winners: Alan Wilshire (2.8 Capri), Messham, Allan Weyman (Camaro), Luc Wilson (Austin A40), Michael Loveland (Hillman Imp).
Race 2: Once again Osborne made the best start, but Primett’s prodigious pace on the banking soon carried him through to the front with Osborne in hot pursuit, despite occasional gear selection problems. Behind them there was a titanic tussle between Cripps and Cholerton which became ever more desperate as the race wore on. The situation was only resolved as they came up to lap Allan Weyman’s Chevrolet on the approach to the chicane. Cholerton opted for the outside line while Cripps dived down the inside. Both Escorts arrived with sheets of tyre smoke pouring from the front wheels as Steve understeered wide of the apex and Mark took to the grass to avoid him. “I had to go for it” said Cripps “otherwise Allan would probably have blocked me as he moved over for Mark.” Anyway, that left Cripps with several lengths over his rival as he raced on to third place. Once again Jeffs chased them home, followed by Alan Wilshire in one of Malcolm Best’s Capris. Greenhalgh led the pre ‘66s all the way despite a ten-second penalty for a false start which left him with an advantage of only eleven seconds over Messham and Bray. Class winners: Wilshire, Messham, Weyman, Wilson, Loveland.
Pre ’93, ’03 and ’05 – Race 1: Although Ian Bower’s BMW led throughout the first race he had to fend off a determined challenge from Steve Barden (Civic) who was never more than a few lengths behind. Don Hughes held third place initially, but his Peugeot 306 failed to complete the first lap. That left Ross Craig (Civic) in an apparently secure third place until his awning-sharer, Luke Allen wound up his Civic and charged past Simon Ward’s Astra and then pipped Craig to the final (virtual) podium place. But there was a surprise twist to the tale when on the last lap Bower picked up a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits which place him second overall although he still won the ’93 category ahead of Ward. And to round off the Barden’s celebrations Anna beat Neil Bray in the Clio battle for the ‘05 win. Class winners: Bower, Ward, Gail Hill (Jaguar XJS), Andrew Sheraton (BMW 325i), Anna Barden.
Race 2: Once again Bower made the best start, chased by Barden and Craig, but after seven laps the leading BMW was unable to maintain its pace and so Barden slipped past and went on to take his second win of the day. Bower kept going and was able to salvage second place overall (and first of the ‘93s) ahead of Allen who had found a way past Craig on lap 3. Eleventh overall was sufficient for Anna Barden to notch up her double in the ‘05 category. Simon Ward started in fourth place but after five laps his Astra ended up in the wall, badly damaged. Fortunately the driver was ok. Class winners: Bower, Sheraton, Hill, Anna Barden.
Classic Thunder and BOSS – Race 1: It is sad to relate that there were only four CT starters and six BOSS so the grid looked decidedly depleted. But that wouldn’t have worried Dave Cockell who claimed pole position with his potent Escort, now with a new engine after his expensive blow-up at Mallory. Dale Gent was able to complete only one lap before his Subaru’s brakes locked on, but that was still good enough for the second row, behind the smart Astra of Matthew Booth who had barely recovered from a nasty bout of glandular fever. Cockell led the opening lap until the big Scooby surged past and went on to win by eight seconds. Booth remained a solid third throughout and finished well clear of the first Blue Oval runner, Piers Grange (Escort) who now lies second in the series after his fine performances in the last two meetings. Malcom Wise (Sierra Cosworth) was the best of the rest. Class winners: Booth, Grange, Wise.
Race 2: Dale Gent led for less than a lap before he was forced to retire when his Subaru’s stoppers seized again. Booth took over in the lead for four laps until Cockell found a way past and went on to win by ten seconds. Once again Grange was the best of the BOSS boys in third place. Wise, Tom Abbott (Capri) and Ralph Higson (Escort RS200) rounded out the top six. Only seven cars finished. Class winners: Booth, Grange, Wise.