2003 Race dates, reports & results

In 2002 I was second in Class G behind Graham Miller and fourth overall behind Miller, Simon Knowles and Mike Hazelwood - can we improve in 2003? Let's hope so...quite a few changes on the car and a plan to do a couple of races in the Welsh Racing Drivers Championship. My main race engine is back together again and now it's dry sumped, so hopefully no more oil surge problems!

Also, welcome to the new Championship main sponsor - Moss Europe. For 2003 the class structure has altered too, so now I am in Class F - Modified over 3 litres, and with 73 registered competitors for the championship, the racing should be good. The class F entry is as follows:

3 Jon Wolfe 64 Mike Cowing
6 Steve Crane 69 Hugh Davies
42  Hugh Maund 71 Graham Miller
43 Larry Jeram Croft 85 Malcolm Chapman
48 Phil Marsh 86 Colin Pendle
49 Mark Richards 98 Alan Price

TR Register positions after 10 rounds (best 8 scores count):

1st - Graham Miller = 61 + 0 (-0) + 8 (-2) = 67
2nd - Jon Wolfe = 54 + 6 (-1) + 5 (-5) = 59
3rd - Simon Knowles 46 + 0 + 8 =54
4th - Andy Baker 46 + 0 + 6= 52
Click here for full 2003 results as a jpg image

Barry Blakeley (Class A) won the TSSC Championship

2003 Race dates and result synopsis

  Date Circuit Organising Club Grid Result o/a Result class
1 April 5th Silverstone MGCC 3 1st 1st
2 April 12th Donington Park JCC 2 4th 3rd
a May 3rd/4th Spa Francorchamps Invitation   7th (or 2nd) 2nd
3 May 10th Oulton Park MGCC 4 3rd 2nd
4 May 25th Rockingham MGCC 6 d.n.f. d.n.f.
b June 7th Pembrey JCC/WRDA   10th 1st
5 June 8th Pembrey JCC 1 2nd 2nd
c June 28th/29th Monthlery Invitation   cancelled cancelled
d June 26th/29th Mosport VARAC Invitation   postponed postponed
6 July 13th Mallory Park MSCC/BRSCC 3 1st 1st
7 August 2nd Donington Park JEC/BRSCC 1 1st 1st
e August 3rd Donington Park JEC/BRSCC 5 4th 2nd
8 August 17th Snetterton MGCC 1 2nd 2nd
9 August 31st Cadwell Park MGCC 1 1st 1st
10 October 5th Brands Hatch MGCC 3 2nd 2nd
f October 12th Donington Park AMOC 11th 14th 4th

MGCC = MG Car Club, BRSCC = British Racing Sports Car Club, JCC = Jaguar Car Club, VARAC = Vintage Automobile Racing Association of Canada, JEC = Jaguar Enthusiasts Club, MSCC = Morgan Sports Car Club

Points are awarded as follows:
4 or more starters in class - 1st 8, 2nd 6, 3rd 4, 4th 2.
3 starters in class - 1st 6, 2nd 4, 3rd 2.
2 starters in class - 1st 4, 2nd 2.
1 starter in class - 1st 2.
plus 1 point for talking the start and 1 point for fastest lap in class. The Championship is decided on the best 8 results. 

The TSSC has a different points system.

News Bulletin 21st December 2002: Various rule changes have been made across the TR/TSSC championship which affect the Class G cars. I proposed that the cars should be allowed to run with dry sump oil systems and this was accepted at the drivers meeting in November. Another significant change is the alteration of the classes - two of the lower classes have been merged meaning 'Modified Over 3 Litres' has been altered to Class 'F'.

News Bulletin 30th December 2002: The annual refurbishment of the car is going well and the engine is back from the engine builders, CES Power, with its new dry sump system, but that created a couple of installation problems. Firstly the oil pump is situated partially over the nearside engine mount so fairly complex modifications to both the engine mount and subframe were required. Secondly, the front of the dry sump pan is quite deep as it incorporates a casting for the front scavenge pipe union; it fouled the steering rack. The only solutions were to either raise the engine or lower the rack, the latter being the only real sensible option. This required considerable cutting and welding as the rack had to drop about 30mm into the subframe. Some geometry modification was required to reduce bump steer. 'Just' the hydraulics to do now!

News Bulletin 11th February 2003: The annual dinner and awards ceremony took place last weekend and a merry time was had by all. Well done again to Mike Hughes for organising it all. Great hotel by the way if you fancy a nice weekend: the Sketchley Grange at Hinkley in Leicestershire, well worth it.

The down side was that a significant number of people have pulled out of the 2003 Canada trip, so it looks like we'll have to postpone until summer 2004. Sorry chaps but it's just too darn expensive to ship only a couple of cars out.

On the up side, we are now working hard to get the car ready for Silverstone, the final preparation takes ages with loads of details to sort out and a couple of big modifications not complete yet. The dry sump system is not yet fully installed, but is nearly complete with all the unions and hoses now in place with just the tank to fit. I have also changed the front struts from Spax to LEDA to try to get more control over the springs I use. Whilst the Spax TR7 inserts are probably fine for the road, LEDA has a good reputation for race spec units which have a much bigger body diameter and thicker main shaft - it will be interesting to see if they make any difference. It has been quite a job to lower the steering rack, fit the LEDAs and dial out all the bump steer, but we're just about there now.

News Bulletin 3rd March 2003: The engine is now running and the dry sump oil system fully fitted and working. As there is no space under the bonnet, the oil tank is mounted in the boot with Aeroquip hoses running the length of the cabin - I get hot during a race as it is, without central heating in there too!

Winter testing 22nd March at Pembrey: The test day went well - I have registered for the Welsh Racing Drivers Championship and they held an open track day with about 20 cars turning up. With the RV away being serviced it was out with the tents again, made worse by the fact that when we got to the circuit the gates were locked and we had to camp outside on the grass verge.

With our emphasis on checking that everything was working OK, I did about 40 to 50 laps and was pleased with the results - no oil leaks, tyres all working OK and a good workout for my arms and legs!

One thing I have also done is taken the quick rack off - wow, what an improvement. I never did have one on my Spitfire and I'm glad I didn't! Probably more suited to rallying than racing.

News Bulletin 25th March 2003: The Triumph race at Monthlery in France has been cancelled. 


Round 1 - Silverstone

Top 6 grid positions 1. Miller (1:08.137), 2. Knowles (1:08.487), 3. Wolfe (1:08.567), 4. Crane, 5. Jeram-Croft, 6. Maund 
Overall/class result 1st/1st
Top 6 result (class)  1. Wolfe (F), 2. Knowles (E), 3. Baker (D), 4.Thomason (C), 5. Small (D), 6. Maund (F)  
Class F result 1. Wolfe (1:08.077), 2. Maund (1:11.618), no other class F finishers 

After a six-and-a-half months without racing, I was busting to get back on the track again. This year's season has started a month later than usual following the reduction in the number of rounds from 13 to 10; the hope was to boost numbers but there were still only just over 20 cars for the race. As is often the case, my main Class F rival, Graham Miller, left it to the last minute to enter.

Practice Dry, cool and quite bright for the first practice session of the season. My first few laps were fairly conservative with a quick lap near the end to put me third on the grid behind Miller's V8 and Knowles' class E TR6. Fourth place man, Steve Crane hadn't raced for over eighteen months - he sold his Class C Spitfire back in 2001 and, like me, bought a TR7V8 to move himself up into the modified V8 class. He was delighted with his grid position. After the session was over he remarked that he'd never seen so many waved blue flags before and initially had not realised they were for him passing slowing cars!

With thoughts of the Miller/Knowles/Wolfe battles from Croft 2002 ever present, I was apprehensive about the start.

Andy Baker's Class D TR7V8

The Race Drama from the outset and drama at the end. One of the dummy grid marshals noticed that pole man Graham Miller's car still had a BCF (Halon) fire extinguisher fitted. These were finally banned from 1st January this year and his scrutineering ticket was immediately confiscated. It looked like he was out even before the race had begun. Fortunately (for him!) Colin Pendle, the car's owner, managed to get back to the paddock and borrow an MSA compliant AFFF extinguisher for the event and Graham was the last car to join the grid.

Silverstone has a 3-2-3-2 grid formation, so I was positioned on the left side of the front row, with Larry right behind me. I had big wheel spin off the line and baulked Larry who could probably have got by if he'd been more on the ball, but once I had regained grip I was away, right on Graham's tail into Copse (Turn 1) with Simon in my mirrors. 

It's go go go for a TR start...
Go, go, go off the line, Miller, Wolfe, Knowles and Jeram-Croft

Over the next 3 or 4 laps I clung onto Graham's tail lights and the two of us pulled out a couple of second gap from the Knowles and Crane battle for third position. Miller was just starting to break away from me when he pulled up on Club Straight with what subsequently turned out to be fuel pump failure. I wasn't too upset, I was in the lead!

By now we were mixing it with back markers and I was conscious not to let any one of them spoil my day. Simon pulled away a little from Steve Crane who then dumped his V8 into the gravel on the entry to the complex; he was checking his gauges and didn't see the corner come up! There were then eight-or-so laps of Knowles on my tail, sometimes right there, other times a second or so back depending on how we were getting through the traffic. All of a sudden I was stuck behind a bread van (it later turned out to be a Triumph Herald) and it offered Knowles the chance he needed to close up and at the next lapped car (Richard King I think) we went either side and Simon, on the inside, took the lead as we came onto the start-finish straight. I was having none of that and dived down the inside at Copse taking the lead again. 

The 'Last Lap' board was a welcome sight, but not half so welcome as the chequered flag one tour later. Simon was just one car length behind; it was like Castle Combe almost exactly one year previously, all over again.

The drama wasn't quite over however, as I was later hauled to see the clerk of the course for an apparent yellow flag incident, but I was happy to take a rollocking without any race position or championship point penalties - I'd better be more careful at MGCC meetings now as I've probably used up my 'get out of jail free' card.

Other events included Paul Lucas (Class C Spitfire) racing for the first time since suffering a severe hand injury caused by falling off a ladder - I think he was struggling. Dave Thompson suffered a whole day of misfires in his GT6, Nigel 'niginthecar' Gibbins became Nigel 'niginthegravel' Gibbins when his exhaust fell off and Larry Jeram-Croft managed just 2 laps of the race before retiring.

Team Wolfe were there in force too - thanks to everyone that turned up to support me - I think we had about 15 people in the motor home at one point (that's what it felt like anyway). See Alex Moore's photos at www.pbase.com/pingu/silverstone

See full practice times, grid and results under MGCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

All loaded up and ready to roll...

Round 2 - Donington Park

Top 6 grid positions 1.Miller (1:25.172) , 2. Wolfe (1:26.716), 3.Crane (1:27.831) , 4.J-Croft , 5. Thomason, 6. Knowles 
Overall/class result 4th / 3rd
Top 6 result (class) 1. Miller (F) , 2. Knowles (E), 3. Crane (F), 4. Wolfe (F), 5. J-Croft (F), 6. Hazelwood (E)  
Class F result 1. Miller (1:25.358), 2. Crane (1:25.347), 3. Wolfe (1:25.402),  4. J-Croft, 5. Maund 

After the hard graft over the winter and the joy at Silverstone came a bit of a sanity check with a 4th overall at Donington. 

Practice Surprisingly slippery for the first few laps and I spent most of the time circulating on my own, lapping a few of the slower cars and latterly playing tag with Larry Jeram-Croft in his V8. I did have a bit of an odd moment coming through MacLeans when I lost all my engine power and the car just would not rev properly - I thought the engine was dead...in fact I had just selected 5th gear instead of 3rd! It's surprisingly easy to do and not the first time I've done it.

Crane & Wolfe - rivals in Spitfires and now in V8s!

Steve Crane was back on song after his trip to 'Northampton World-of-Gravel' at Silverstone - the noise problem he had experienced was found to be a failed CV joint on the prop shaft. Graham Miller's car was also back to full power with a pair of new injection pumps - bugger.

I was most surprised to see then that I had qualified second on the grid, alongside Mr Miller. Steve Crane was 3rd, Larry was 4th and Hugh Maund in 8th. John Thomason did a great job getting his Spitfire up to 5th slot in front of Simon Knowles.

Andy Vowell suffered the common rear axle failure problem in practice leaving him stranded. The crane had a SWL (Safe Working Load) rating of just 1500Kg so it was essential to ensure Andy was out of the car prior to the lift...  

The Race After the excessive wheel spin of the Silverstone start, I was a little more cautious with the right boot and had a blinding start. I got off the line in front of Graham and Schumachered him into turn 1, Redgate - i.e. pulled straight across in front of him and took the inside line. I lead for the whole of the first lap with Graham snapping at my tail at times, but on lap two it would all change.

Graham pulled a good move on me at Redgate on lap 2 and he just got down on the inside. This is not the fastest line but sets you up for the charge down the Craner curves to the old hairpin. We were door-handle to door-handle down to the old hairpin with me on the left, him on the right, but we didn't so much as graze each other. Graham would have to take the right hander at old hairpin tight and run out wide to keep any speed, so I decided to brake earlier, go in tighter and try to out accelerate Graham from the corner. Too much boot and round I went, sliding gracefully onto the grass letting about eight cars go through. Damn and blast!

Larry took two attempts at avoiding an accident with me but managed successfully to negotiate round my spinning car and disappeared off into the distance. As has happened on many occasions in the past, it was then charge, charge, charge.

I was slightly distracted by seeing Indian Smoke signals being displayed in the distance- they seemed to read - Big Chief Spitting Fire on heap big warpath - it later turned out to be the Royal Navy Triumph Spitfire, HMS Hadfield, making smoke. 

The next 8 laps were a mayhem of passing cars - some were difficult, like John Thomason and Mike Hazelwood; others less so. I took Larry at Redgate - I had noticed in practice he braked earlier than me for this corner and I was able to out do him fairly easily. I was gaining on third placed Steve Crane at about 2 seconds a lap - until he saw me! From that point on, I didn't really gain on him and had to settle for fourth place - but it could have been so much worse!

As an added bonus for Steve Crane, he also got fastest lap of the race.

Andy Vowell demonstrated his immense strength by lifting the car from the recovery truck by using just one hand.

See full practice times, grid and results under JCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

a. Invitation - Spa Francorchamps   Euro Triumph & MG Challenge

Well, what a spectacular track! The place looks completely different from how I imagined it from seeing it on the TV, with far more gradients and slopes than I expected. With plenty of run-off, gravel trap and retaining walls the place did feel relatively safe though especially when compared to Oulton Park and Cadwell!

I had two 'crew' this weekend, Stacky (as ever) and Pete an old friend from University days. We also ferried Graham Miller and his son, Carl over Friday night, arriving very late at the circuit. In fact the circuit was closed for high vehicles and we had to spend the night parked outside the main gates - no big deal when you're in a 30' motor home! We had been having problems getting mobile phone reception in Belgium, but did finally manage to contact Dave Thompson and his companion Gary who joined us for the night. They had travelled out earlier on Friday to grab us some paddock space. Saturday morning did have an early start as the circuit gates were opened at 7, but no-one could have slept through the five-bloke dawn chorus of assorted wind instruments anyway.

Dave had reserved us an excellent spot in the paddock, just at the exit to La Source, meaning we could sit in the motor home and watch the racing in comfort and with some respite from the unsilenced cars! The race card included Historic Formula 1, Group C sportscars and some excellent classic sportscar races. Our car of the day was Allen Lloyd's Lola T70 which sounded awesome! 

Practice. There had been practice and racing on Thursday and Friday too, with a continuing combination of practices and races on Saturday with more races all day Sunday. The day started cool and wet but had brightened up by our practice and we went out onto a completely dry track. I was unusually sensible in practice, following a group of MGBs for 3 laps until I was more-or-less sure where the track went; even when Larry Jeram-Croft went charging by I resisted the temptation to follow!

Once I was sure I knew where the corners were I had a go at speeding up and put in about 5 quick laps, breaking the 3 minute barrier and placing me 8th on the grid which I was pleased with. The race was supposed to be a Triumph/MG challenge but the front of the grid included a Cobra kit car, a Chevrolet Camaro, a Porsche 911, a TVR, a couple of Morgans and a kit Lister! Colin Pendle was 4th on the grid, 2 rows ahead of me for the rolling start which would take place on the run down to Eau Rouge. Larry was the 3rd fastest Triumph and Hugh Maund, 4th.

The Race.  The Camaro was a non-starter so I started in 7th slot. The rules were such that racing started on the green light but overtaking was not to happen until the start-finish line was crossed. What a joke, I was passed by 3 cars between the green lights and the line! Once through Eau Rouge I took a couple of them back on the drag up Kemmel and settled into 8th place. It took me 3 laps to get past a Morgan, the Lister and then the TVR. I was up to 5th, but there was a huge gap to the Porsche in 4th and I had 5 lonely laps trying to catch up, but to no avail. On about lap 7 or 8 I made a big mistake and out-braked myself at the Bus Stop Chicane - trouble is that you can't rejoin the track and have to go through the F1 pits to rejoin the circuit after La Source. By the time I rejoined I was down to bloody 8th again. Bugger! I had no chance of catching them in just 2 laps, although I had a go.

The race ended on 30 minutes plus 1 lap, but the Cobra-like thing had retired on the last lap and I was elevated to 7th overall and 2nd in the Triumph/MG challenge. Colin Pendle drove superbly to finish 2nd overall with a best lap time 4 seconds better than mine. How does the old boy do it? After the race we calculated that the top speed reached on the circuit was 155 mph (248 km/h) on the Kemmel straight - I'm so glad I don't have a speedometer on board. Lap average was 88 mph (140 km/h)

Me and Dave Thompson, post race.

Dave Thompson suffered some oil problems in his GT6 during Saturday's practice, so only completed 4 laps, but after some nifty hose work was OK for the race and was delighted to finish, albeit in 29th.

Larry and Hugh were running fairly close together with Larry taking 9th overall and Hugh 10th; Simon Watson (TR4) made it up to 12th after starting on the back of the 34 car grid after failing to put up a time in practice..

Lap times (Practice) Pendle 2:57.000, Wolfe 2:59.837, J-Croft 3:04.646, Maund 3:07.224, Thompson 3:37.030 Watson - no time

Lap times (Race) Pendle 2:55.813, Wolfe 2:59.310, J-Croft 3:05.607, Maund 3:06.049, Watson 3:06.612 Thompson 3:27.118


Round 3 - Oulton Park

Top 6 grid positions 1.Miller (1:10.133) , 2.Knowles (1:11:009) , 3. Petch (1:11.632), 4. Wolfe (1:12.163), 5. Hughes, 6. Crane 
Overall/class result 3rd / 2nd
Top 6 result/class  1. Miller (F), 2. Knowles (E), 3. Wolfe (F), 4. Crane (F), 5. Petch (E), 6. Lucas (C)  
Class F result 1.Miller (1:09.831), 2. Wolfe (1:10.843), 3. Crane (1:11.475), 4. Maund (1:16.786) 

Rather too soon after Spa for my liking, I could have done with another week off really. However, there we were after a very late arrival at the circuit following a late departure and taking an unusual route. We had also been accosted on the gate by a chap who was very keen to have chat with us about motor cycles, trains and planes whereas we just wanted to get in, get some food and get to sleep. I think hours on your own 'guarding' such an important civil installation must do something to the mind... 

For this meeting, we were using the short, Fosters circuit, which I actually prefer over both the Full and Island configurations, and with 24 cars entered it looked like a close race was on the cards.

Practice. I wasn't feeling 100% as we went out for practice, but it's amazing how the concentration required seems to blow the cobwebs away. I knew I wouldn't be the fastest and anticipated being about 8th on the grid; I just couldn't get the double-apex Druids right-hander correct and kept getting my approach wrong or the turn-in too late. This corner can badly affect the lap time as it leads onto the long straight down to Lodge. Consequently, I was delighted to be 4th on the grid, right alongside occasional racer Chris Petch in his TR5 which was still showing the damage sustained at Mid Ohio nearly a year ago.

We all had a post-practice, eligibility scrutineering check which comprises a ride height check and being weighed. All OK, in fact I could probably shed another 10Kg from the car, which we'll attempt to do by Rockingham.

The Race. Again not feeling too good and happy it was only a '15 minutes plus one lap' race. I had a good initial start from the second row making up quite a lot, but then I couldn't get it into 3rd gear! That cost me. I was deposited back to 4th again, not too bad but I think I could have been 1st or 2nd into Old Hall, but for that. The first couple of laps are always frantic until the race settles down a bit and the cars spread out. I hung onto Chris's tail - he's a very fast but sometimes erratic driver and I knew I just had to wait for an opportunity to present itself so I could get by - his car was all over the place and I felt decidedly uneasy about being behind him! Duly an overtaking opportunity came before the end of the second lap and I sneaked past on the inside at Lodge. 

At the end of lap 2, Simon Knowles was leading with Graham Miller in hot pursuit; they were a few seconds down the road so I set to chasing them. Before too long Miller passed Knowles and began to pull away into the distance and all I could do was try to keep in contact with the pair of them. Between laps 2 and 10 the gap between me and Simon opened out to ten seconds and then closed back down again; I was delighted to finish 3rd, just 1.9 seconds behind Simon.

Elsewhere, there was a good battle between the Spitfires of John Thomason and Paul Lucas, with John spinning out at Druids mid-race after a bit of 'rubbing'. He lost a whole lap rejoining the circuit and finished 4th in his class behind Lucas, Andy Vowell and new GT6 boy, Karl Dandridge. TSSC race coordinator, Nigel 'niginthecar' Gibbins became Nigel 'niginthewall' Gibbins with an almighty crash at the entry to Deer Leap, leaving his Spitfire very bent and looking very sorry for itself. Nigel was OK. Hopefully, Nigel will be able to get hold of a replacement chassis and tub quite quickly and be out again soon. Martyn Adams was a non-starter after developing a terminal misfire during practice.

See full practice times, grid and results under MGCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Round 4 - Rockingham

Top 6 grid positions 1. Lucas (1:20.837), 2. Knowles (1:22.058), 3. Miller (1:22.082), 4. Hazelwood (1:22.647), 5. Thomason , 6. Wolfe 
Overall/class result d.n.f. / d.n.f.
Top 6 result (class)  1. Miller (F), 2. Knowles (E), 3. Hazelwood (E), 4.Petch (E), 5. Thomason (C), 6. Vowell (C)  
Class F result 1.Miller (1:18.492), 2. Jeram-Croft (1:20.956), 3. Crane (1:20.323), 4. Richards (1:23.056)

I have never really done very well at Rockingham, so wasn't too keen on the idea of racing there again - I came away with my worst result of the year so far. Oh dear.

Practice. Very mixed weather for the previous few days and some ominous looking clouds as we went out onto the track as first practice of the day, but already 30 minutes late. The delay was caused by the irony of the breakdown truck breaking down on the way to the circuit! Notably though, there was a huge Triumph turnout of 28 cars - certainly the best this year.

We completed just 2 laps before a light drizzle set in, not much, but enough to drop lap times by over 10 seconds as the surface became incredibly slippery in a very short space of time. I had a slow pirouette onto the grass mid-practice but other than that my session was pretty uneventful. Of the other runners, Phil Marsh (Class F TR7V8) had a massive crash coming out of turn 4 and onto the start/finish straight; he hit the wall at high speed and wiped out the passenger side of his car big time! He was left stranded in the middle of the track, but for some reason the session was not stopped - academic as it happened as the track was so wet it was impossible to put in anything other than a gentle tour round the circuit! On later inspection, we could see an exact Triumph TR7 shaped, blue impact mark on the retaining wall, it's about a foot longer and facing backwards but there it is standing proud!

Post practice, I was amazed to find I was 6th on the grid but not surprised that there was a 26 second difference between the front and back of the grid. I think everyone's best lap was lap 2 or 3, just before the rain came. Paul Lucas was on pole again in his Spitfire (getting to be a reasonably common wet-weather occurrence) with Simon Knowles just a second-or-so slower in 2nd spot.

Unusually, I had a couple of problems to fix after practice - the clutch hose burst on the way back to the paddock but luckily Colin Pendle had a spare and I also changed one of the brake disks which had developed a 'bit' of a crack!

Rockingham is a bizarrely slow track - the infield section is very tight (I think it's a bit Mickey Mouse really) and spoils what could be a great club racing venue and the fast bits are not that fast really as there is a tight chicane at the end of the quite short main straight. It's a great spectating place but not a great driving experience. Average lap speeds are in the low 70's which is 10 mph shy of Mallory and Silverstone.

The Race. Suffice to say I had an excellent start, elevating myself from 6th on the grid to 2nd behind Graham Miller by turn 2 but then threw it all away. I hung onto Miller's tail for a lap-and-a-half and then unceremoniously dumped myself backwards into a gravel trap mid-way through lap 2. I was pretty pissed off with myself at being so stupid. I did it at Donington and got away with it; not here though, I was up to the axles in gravel. Graham Miller went on to win again with Simon Knowles second. Simon must now be clear favourite for winning the 2003 Championship.

On the upside, if the gravel had not been there I'd have smashed the car into the tyres in a big accident, so some comfort if I forced myself to be optimistic about it.

Elsewhere, and even worse than me, pole man Lucas didn't even make it to turn 1, his gear selectors broke sidelining him almost before it all began, leading to an enthralling Class C Spitfire battle between Andy Vowell and John Thomason with the latter just making it across the line first. Steve Crane also threw away an easy 3rd by spinning off all over the place - it must be a Spitfire to TR7V8 conversion thing!

Rockingham 2003. Best forgotten really.

See full practice times, grid and results under MGCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Round 5 - Pembrey

2 Races:    Saturday: Welsh Racing Drivers Association    Sunday: TR Register

Top 6 grid positions 1. Brown, 2. Williams, 3. Williams, 4.Rozhon, 5. Powell, 6. Lloyd 
Overall/class result 10th / 1st
Top 6 result (class)  1. Brown, 2. Williams, 3. Williams, 4.Rozhon, 5. Storey, 6. Thomas  
Class H result 1. Wolfe (1:09.267) , 2. Hughes (1:11.478) , 3. Williams (1:12.593), 4. Allitt (1:15.991)


Top 6 grid positions 1. Wolfe (1:06.839) , 2. Miller (1:07.087) , 3. Thomason (1:09.232) , 4. Crane (1:09.447) , 5. Hughes , 6. Vowell 
Overall/class result 2nd / 2nd
Top 6 result (class)  1. Miller (F), 2. Wolfe (F), 3. Vowell (C), 4.Hughes (E), 5. Small (D), 6 Maund (F).  
Class F result 1. Miller (1:06.707) , 2. Wolfe (1:07.835) , 3. Maund (1:10.414)         Crane:dnf

The half-way point of the TR championship and very mixed weather reports for the weekend which didn't bode too well for my first ever excursion on slicks. The WRDA championship is the closest thing to an 'anything-goes' championship and I was using my 15" wheels with used Eurocar slicks. 

WRDA Practice Right from the start the car felt skittish and it was pretty clear that the tyres weren't getting up to temperature or were too hard with age. I had already been warned by Avon, that Eurocar tyres are quite hard and these, being about 6 years old, were like old leather! To make matters worse, near the end of the session I picked up a puncture on the left rear and spun off onto the infield. Anyway we pondered what to do for some time and decided to run the race with the slicks on the rear and the A032s on the front! The WRDA race was merged with the SEMSEC race which had only attracted 5 cars and they had to start from the back of the grid.

WRDA Race I was gridded in 7th slot right behind a Ford Mondeo touring car. It's actually the car in which Paul Radisich won the touring car world cup in 1994. I had a great start though and elevated myself to 5th by the hairpin - I passed the Mondeo easily, but that's rear-wheel drive for you. The Radicals then flew off into the distance but I had a great dice with Rhys Lloyd in his Honda Civic. He got past me at one stage but I was able to pass him again easily under power. I had a good race and although I finished 10th overall (some of the SEMSEC cars came through) and was delighted to pick up a class win! 

TR Practice After torrential rain overnight we were all expecting a wet, slippery practice but the first two practices dried the track nicely for us and we went out onto washed-clean track. Loads of grip. I was back on the A032r tyres and the improvement was immediate! I came away from practice, certain I would be on pole and I was was delighted to be proved right. I had pipped Miller by about a quarter of a second, but I knew that keeping him behind me for the race would be a different matter, however I was 3 seconds a lap quicker than the previous day...

John Thomason had put his Spitfire on the 3rd slot and Steve Crane in his V8 was 4th. Clive Gimson (Class C GT6) lost his fan belt and cooked his engine for a couple of laps, leading to a failed head gasket and was a disappointed dns.

TR Race I had a cracking start and led the field round the first half-lap when red flags were displayed; Miller, Thomason and Baker didn't notice and went barreling past me, but soon pulled up and 'invited' me back to the front. The flags were due to Martyn Adams who had broken a drive shaft on his Spitfire, pulling off the line. 

This is the second of the 'improved' Canley Classics drive shafts to fail in exactly the same way as the standard ones; Andy Vowell broke one at Mallory Park on the TR Register test day and now this one. They are purported to be stronger but the evidence is not showing this to be the case. Mid-way through my Spitfire racing career I had a pair of EN34 steel halfshafts made and used 4-speed TR7 output flanges and never broke one again...the problem is not the design guys - it's simply that the steel is not strong enough. My lap times from 3 and 4 years ago are still faster than the Spit guys are doing today so it's not that there is now somehow increased loading or stress!!!

NOTE: Martyn's failure later turned out to be a U/J failure, not the drive-shaft, so we'll have to wait and see if the Vowell breakage is repeated. This is actually not an uncommon problem and can be caused by the yoke not being aligned correctly on the shaft causing vibration and catastrophic failure. 

On the restart I wasn't quite so well away but still lead the first lap. Miller muscled by on the second lap and was happy to tuck in behind him. I was easily keeping up with him but didn't control a slide through 'Spitfires' properly and just lost the back end into a gentle spin. That cost me 10 seconds but I kept the gap constant for half-a-dozen or so laps when Miller went off at Honda! I caught up to within 3 seconds as he scrabbled back onto the track but he managed to stay ahead and then put in some quicker times than before his spin. I was happy with 2nd, especially after the Rockingham incident. Andy Vowell came home 3rd after contact with John Thomason who also lost his front spoiler in a grassy moment.

Andy Baker damaged his engine and was a dnf, Steve Crane lost his fan belt and boiled the engine after only 4 laps. V8s are notorious for throwing fan belts and the only way to stop it happening is to really close couple the pulley wheels on the crank, water pump and alternator or use 2 belts. The expensive option is to use a poly-vee belt kit. It's all detailed in my TR7V8 racing book!

See full practice times, grid and results under JCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.


Round 6 - Mallory Park

Top 6 grid positions 1. Knowles (0:53.454) , 2. Miller (0:53.858) , 3. Wolfe (0:54.501) , 4. (0:54.818) , 5. McKenna, 6. Ellison
Overall/class result 1st / 1st
Top 6 result (class)  1. Wolfe (F) , 2. Knowles (E), 3. Miller (F), 4. Jeram-Croft (F), 5. McKenna (E), 6. Andon (E)  
Class F result 1. Wolfe (0:53.755) , 2.Miller (0:53.309) , 3. Jeram-Croft (0:55.458)      Richards:dnf

One of the hottest days of the year and hugely reminiscent of 2002, which had been similarly warm. We were expecting 28 degrees C and we got it, luckily there was a light breeze on race day and it felt marginally cooler than the Saturday.

Not much work done on the car since Pembrey, just a new set of brake pads, which I attempted to bed in around the paddock on Saturday evening, not easy on a largely gravel surface. We also had a bit of Heath-Robinson style repair work to do on the car after it slid off the trailer rather quicker than expected during unloading and the front spoiler got severed in two! A few aluminium tabs, some pop rivets and a waft of Tahiti blue paint later and it wasn't looking too bad at all,

There was a part team-Wolfe contingent of Jo and Chris Sollom in attendance too, thanks for coming guys.

Practice With a full grid there's never too much space on the circuit at Mallory but I found some space and tried some quick laps straight out, resulting in a typical cold-tyre spin at Shaw's on lap 2. The brakes weren't ideal as my bedding process had been of limited success, so I did a lap or so without using the brakes at all to try to cool them off a bit which seemed to work. Unfortunately on my next 'hot' lap, my seat belts came undone under braking for the hairpin and rather than continue (which I did consider) I slowed right down on the back straight and fumbled them back together again for just one more lap before the end of session flags were displayed.

Team FBR were out: Steve Adams first 2003 appearance in his re-engined 1500 Spitfire and Dave Thompson was out in his newly triple-webered GT6 which in practice had excessive cable drag causing difficulties on part throttle; that was fixed for the race however. 

The only other real point of note was the most bizarre scrutineering decision I have ever seen. Richard King's Class A Spitfire was excluded from the meeting for being structurally unsound. The grounds were a tiny (by which I mean about 4mm) rust hole in the corner of the boot floor and a small patch of rust near the front of the driver's foot well. I, or any other driver, could have found plenty of far worse cars in the paddock without too much difficulty; Richard's is in fact one of the strongest Spitfires racing as it has a full steel body shell with all its steel inner panels intact too! Most Spitfires have fibre glass rear wings held on with a dozen or so pop rivets, no inner boot panels and aluminium or glass fibre floors and rear panels.  If you could choose which Spitfire to crash in, it would be Richard's. The scrutineer also refused to be specific about which parts of the car he felt were unsafe and told Richard that no repair undertaken that day would be acceptable!! How can that be right!? Although Richard got a full refund, a lot of people were very upset by the decision.

The Race 3rd on the grid, over a second off Simon Knowles' TR6 on pole and just behind Graham Miller's V8. Miller and I had good starts and we got in front of Simon by Gerrards (turn 1) and I hung onto Graham's tail for 4 or 5 laps with Simon in close pursuit. On lap 5 (ish) the race was red-flagged after two separate accidents. Mike Hazelwood had tapped the back of Mark Richards' V8 and spun him into the Armco on the start-finish straight damaging the drivers side panels car quite extensively. At the same time John Thomason spun coming out of Gerrards at about 80 mph and had a very big impact with the tyre wall on the infield, smashing his car to pieces and sending part of the tyre wall over the banking into the lake. John's car was strewn down the track and we all had to gingerly make our way through the debris. He was unhurt, the car's a write off though.

The restart was gridded in 1st part finishing order, so I was 2nd, alongside Graham. I had a good 1st gear getaway, but baulked 2nd gear letting him into Gerrards first. We then had about 5 laps together with Graham pulling out about 2 seconds advantage and Simon Knowles hanging onto my tail. Then, as luck would have it, Graham slowed slightly and I caught and passed him taking the lead with 5 laps to go. I kept Simon at bay (just) for lap after lap and finally won by just 0.137 seconds! That's the 3rd time I have beaten him to a win by such a small margin.

John Thomason's Spit was very mangled in a big smash on Stebbe straight

Elsewhere the Hadfield cars were circulating well - two really nicely prepared cars, sensibly driven; Jon Ellison's car was a disappointment - he was expecting great things from the new engine, and Steve Adams blew his engine...nothing new there then. Dave MacDonald was the other TR driver of note being about 3 seconds a lap quicker than last year.

Great weather, car was good, excellent trophy, also a big thanks to meeting sponsors, Adams & Page and Yokohama Tyres

See full practice times, grid and results under BRSCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Round 7 - Donington Park

Top 6 grid positions 1. Wolfe (1:23.673), 2.Miller  (1:24.624), 3. Knowles (1:25.601), 4. Davies (1:26.174), 5. McKenna, 6. J-Croft
Overall/class result 1st / 1st
Top 6 result (class)  1. Wolfe (F), 2. Jeram-Croft (F), 3. Davies (F), 4. McKenna (E), 5. Hazelwood (E), 6. Maund (F)   
Class F result 1. Wolfe (0:00.000), 2. Jeram-Croft (0:00.000), 3. Davies (0:00.000), 4. Maund (0:00.000)  


Top 6 grid positions 1. Kershaw/Whight Lotus Elise (1:17.502), 2. Bell. Lotus Elise (1:20.399) , 3. Wellhausen Jaguar Lister (1:21.347) , 4.Garner. Caterham 7 (1:21.724) , 5. Wolfe Triumph TR7 (1:22.392), 6. Boot TVR Griffith (1:23.319) 
Overall/class result 4th / 2nd
Top 6 result (class)  1.Kershaw, 2. Wellhausen, 3. Glover/MacKinnon Elise, 4. Wolfe, 5. Withey Chevrolet Camaro, 6. Boot   
Class result 1 Wellhausen (1:21.716) , 2. Wolfe (1:22.704) , 3. Withey (1:24.942), 4. Boot (1:24.199)  

Rather a Class F domination at Donington with 1st, 2nd and 3rd places after an event packed race. With a proper repair undertaken to the front spoiler the car wasn't looking too bad for this very hot weekend. I had the Triumph race on Saturday with the Sports vs. Saloons challenge on Sunday. Interestingly, Andy Vowell broke another Canley Classics uprated drive shaft while driving down the road to get petrol...it snapped just inboard of the hub. Draw your own conclusions.

Practice After John Thomason's big crash at Mallory three weeks beforehand I had decided to play the practice session quite sensibly and not throw away what could be a reasonable grid and race position. The car was good though and I was determined to have a go back at Graham after our previous race at Donington in the spring where I had fallen off at the old hairpin on lap 2 necessitating a climb back up through the field. I was delighted to see after practice that I was on pole by 0.9 of a second - this lap was actually 0.2 of a second under the outright TR lap record set by Mick Richards some years previously, but I'd have to do it again in the race for it to mean anything.

The Race Off the front of a 22 car grid with a reasonable start on the inside of the track; Miller and I went through Redgate side-by-side, but he sneaked ahead down Craner curves and we both charged up through Schwantz and MacLeans towards Coppice with Miller a couple of lengths ahead. Suddenly Miller pulled over to the side of the track and we all barreled by on the inside. It looked like he had a repeat of his Mallory problem where the engine runs rough for a few seconds costing valuable time. By the end of the first lap I was nearly 3 seconds in the lead with Simon Knowles in the TR6 behind me. Through the old hairpin and Knowles spun off leaving him stranded on the inside of the track - this was beginning to look a bit easier than normal! 

Simon's car was stuck and the quartered black and yellow flags came out at each marshall's point. This is the club racing equivalent of the safety car in F1 - the leader has to slow down and everyone should bunch up behind giving recovery teams some time to remove stricken cars. This gave Larry the opportunity to close right back up and the re-started Miller was up there too having recovered several places already.

I correctly predicted the restart and slowed right down into the Goddards chicane and dropped into 2nd gear. Larry got too close and was almost certainly in 3rd gear as I floored it through and out of the chicane; I was right, green flags were showing and I was away and into Redgate with nearly a 2 second lead already. Over the next 5 laps I cruised round at sight-seeing speed just ensuring I had a good 5 second lead over Larry. I kept a close eye out for anything vaguely yellow appearing behind me in the distance which would have been the trigger to get back on the gas! My best lap was over 2 seconds slower than practice, but there is an adage which says that you should always aim to win at the lowest possible speed.

I won with a comfortable margin over Larry. It was pretty easy but still good.

Elsewhere Hugh Davies had the worst start ever and dropped from 4th on the grid to dead last by the first corner. He had somehow stalled on the grid (a clutch problem I think) and Hugh Maund had to take to the grass to avoid a huge shunt. Hugh D then had an excellent race-long drive back up to 3rd place. 

Graham Miller was up and down the field like a yoyo - not surprisingly he took fastest lap and at one point was up to 3rd when he fell off and had to do it all again! He finished 10th overall but, significantly for me, back in 5th in class F.

Clive Gimson threw his mad-handling GT6 into the gravel at the old hairpin on the last lap and Mike Hughes retired with a squeaky cigarette lighter (or something like that). Simon Knowles' problem had been that his oil pressure relief valve had fallen out, spraying the back left tyre with oil - a very annoying way to go out. New boy Mark Humphries managed just a few laps before the gremlins bit him on the arse. Don't worry Mark, it takes a bit of time to get any car sorted out the way you want it and don't be too disappointed about your lap times either, I think you'll agree now that it's actually harder than it looks. With no Paul Lucas or John Thomason, Andy Vowell took a comfortable Class C win and is looking stronger in the TSSC Championship although Barry Blakely is still ahead in his Class A Spitfire.


Invitation Sports vs Saloons Practice There was loads to do on the car on Saturday night - with a change from road radials to slick crossplies there was a need to alter the front suspension geometry. We had to reduce the front negative camber from 2.5 degrees to just 1 degree, achieved by shortening the lower suspension link and re-tracking the steering. This process takes an hour-or-so and Stacky and I were ably assisted by Chris Sollom (new, additional track-side mechanic?). I also had to fit the long range petrol tank into the boot to be able to run for 30 minutes. At the same time as doing the suspension changes we noticed that the left brake disc had cracked quite badly so that was changed over for a new one too.

I was quite nervous about racing on the new slicks but as soon as I was on the track it was fine; the same feel as the road tyres but at a higher speed. I would estimate about 2 seconds a lap quicker, which may not sound much, but feels much faster. It was a big grid of mixed cars from Lotus Elises to a huge 500 BHP Chevrolet Camaro driven by Bill Withey. Eike Wellhausen was there too in his very rapid knobbly Lister Jaguar. I was stunned to be up to 5th slot on the grid after completing 20 minutes of the 30 minute session, that was enough and I came in.

Invitation Race (30 minutes + compulsory pitstop) I either had a terrible start or everyone else got good ones! By Redgate I had lost about 4 places and was being out dragged by the quicker cars. I set to chasing Withey in the Camaro and reeled him in over a few laps, the trouble was he was leaking petrol by the bucket load and although was black and orange flagged for several laps, just carried on regardless. On about lap 6 I tried to go round him on the outside at MacLeans, got on the spilled petrol and spun off on to the infield grass. Suddenly I was 13th!

I was soon chasing again and by half distance had recovered quite a few places and decided it was time for my mandatory 1 minute pit stop. I came in right behind the Camaro. The boys (Stacky, Dave Thompson and Chris) did a high speed wheel nut and tyre pressure check and Jo passed me a drink - I was frying alive in  there and so was the engine; the engine temp climbed from 100 to 120 degrees C just during the stop! For some reason the pit lane timing marshalls let the Camaro out about 15 seconds before me. Bugger, I'd have to catch him again...

For the next 15 minutes I just drove the car as hard and smoothly as I could and I caught and passed car after car finally catching up with a Jamie Boot's TVR Griffith and the Bill Withey's Camaro which were circulating together. I was up to 6th by now. I passed the TVR with 2 laps to go, but then lost the place again during the next lap after an abortive attempt to pass the Camaro put me onto the grass at Coppice. Half way round the last lap I passed the TVR yet again and moved up on the Camaro. I knew I could outbrake him by a good 50 metres at Goddards and prayed he didn't shut the door on me. I dived down the inside and came out of the chicane first, ahead just enough to beat him to the line to take 4th place behind 2 Lotuses and Eike's Lister. Was I happy? I was.

I was absolutely knackered too and could feel my heart pounding, I was literally soaked in sweat. It was over 50 degrees C in the car and I was completely done in! It took a good 15 minutes to get my breath and composure back once I had returned to the paddock after what was one of the physically hardest races of my life.

Kevan and Diane Hadfield (TSSC Class A Herald, aka 'bread van') had stayed overnight to watch the race, they told me afterwards it was worth it! Thanks to you for being there. 

The TR/TSSC  win elevated me to 2nd in the TR Championship, just 4 points behind Graham and 1 in front of Simon Knowles. It's now mathematically possible for me to win, but it will need some good racing a bit of luck thrown in too.

See full practice times, grid and results under BRSCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Round 8 - Snetterton

Top 6 grid positions 1. Wolfe (1:22.281) , 2. Davies (1:22.436) , 3. Jeram-Croft (1:23.536) , 4. Crane (1:23.936), 5. Baker, 6. Hazelwood 
Overall/class result 2nd / 2nd
Top 6 result (class)  1. Miller (F), 2. Wolfe (F), 3. Jeram-Croft (F), 4. Crane (F), 5. Davies (F), 6. Hazelwood (E)   
Class F result 1. Miller (1:20.707) , 2. Wolfe (1:20.849) , 3. Jeram-Croft (1:22.716), 4. Crane (1:22.672), 5. Davies (1:22.785)  

Snetterton photo montage

There was not much to do on the car at all other than re-set the front suspension geometry from slicks to road-tyre settings. We made a few checks over the car, repositioned the oil tank breather and re-seated one of the oil hoses which was weeping, but that's about all.

Practice A reasonable TR/TSSC turnout for our sole trip to Norfolk for 2003 and I was second car out on the track - Following Donington's problems, Miller/Pendle had been having fun in the week beforehand and had ended up changing their entire ECU, ignition unit and wiring loom setup from Motec to DTA at a cost of a couple of grand! And the car was still not working correctly. Miller only managed 3 laps of practice and was gridded in 9th. Larry J-C was there too as was returnee Alan Price both in V8s.  Steve Crane was also back in his V8 after missing a couple of races through being on holiday; the entire front of the grid was dominated by these cars.

After only a few laps the session was red-flagged after Andy Vowell broke yet another rear half shaft leaving him stranded partially on the track and partially on the infield at turn 2. Alan Price also parked his newly rebuilt and immaculate looking TR7V8 into the barrier and damaged the driver's-side rear wing. Not too bad, but worse was to come. Nigel Gibbins was 'NigInTheCar' again after a good effort to build a race car from a sprint car after his big Oulton crash. Most TR/TSSC cars pass the 10 metre test (i.e look pretty good from 10 metres away) Nigel's...well...err...um, well at least he was there.

I was happy, but not totally surprised to be on pole although the margin was a bit less than I'd have liked, but I knew I could go quicker in the race.

Steve Small's very nice 2.0 litre TR7 - Class D winner. 

The race Not a classic start, but I managed to stay ahead through the first couple of turns, however it wasn't long before Miller was up in my mirrors - the bastards had fixed it. After over a year of abuse, my gearbox was getting tired and it can baulk going up from 2nd to 3rd; it happened coming through Russell for the first time and it gave Miller enough of an opportunity to sneak past. Over the next 4 laps the gearbox got worse and Miller pulled away slightly until the race was red flagged. Alan Price had had an almighty accident on the exit to the bomb-hole (again) and stuck the front of his V8 into the tyre wall at what must have been close to 70 mph. The whole front of the car was a mess. Apparently it was total brake failure.

Until Price's crash, the top seven runners had been TR7V8s, confirming Snetterton's reputation as a power circuit. 

Following the recovery of Alan's car, we were re-gridded in running order, so I was alongside Miller on the front row. I had a bad start again due to my gearbox problems and Larry Jeram-Croft got his V8 between the two of us, but I soon dispatched him under braking into the Esses. I then hung onto Miller's tale for the rest of the race, just smashing the box from gear to gear, I couldn't quite get by cleanly although on a couple of occasions we must have been just a foot or so apart. He held me up several times, but has very good acceleration from slow corners; that was the only place he was quicker than me, but it was enough. He won by just  1.1 seconds.

Elsewhere, there was a good battle for 3rd/4th/5th between V8s of Steve Crane, Larry Jeram-Croft and Hugh Davies, with J-C coming out on top after both Steve and Hugh lost contact after independent grassy moments. Steve Adams was delighted to finish the race after blowing engines in the previous four events, and Steve Crane (4th overall) was happy to record his first ever Snetterton finish!

The gearbox was by now totally shot to bits and almost impossible to change gear when moving slowly. I am tempted to fit a Borg Warner T5 like in Miller's car; it's stronger, has better ratios and a very nice change mechanism, but it's not strictly allowed in the rules. I'll see what I can get this week

Miller's win has not done my championship any good - he even nicked fastest lap by 0.15 seconds. Notably however, Simon Knowles was a no-show, apparently with engine problems so that makes 2nd place a bit easier but still far from certain. Just two two races to go...

See full practice times, grid and results under MGCC on  www.mst-world.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Bruntingthorpe Test

Not a race meeting but a trip to the ex vee-bomber base in Leicestershire to take some photos and blast the car around. It also gave Stacky a chance to have a go at driving for a change. It became almost immediately apparent that the input bearing on the diff had failed so we'd have to swap it for the spare (see Cadwell report) - also the replacement gearbox, whilst being better than the one that broke at Snetterton, was not as good as it could have been. Even so, Stacky and I each hit 170 mph down the runway; completely pointless but jolly good fun...


Round 9 - Cadwell Park

Top 6 grid positions 1. Wolfe (1:44.910) , 2. Miller (1:45.938) , 3. Small (1:48.801) , 4. Crane (1:48.872) , 5. Blake, 6. Hazelwood 
Overall/class result 1st / 1st
Top 6 result (class)  1. Wolfe (F), 2. Blake (D), 3. Hazelwood (E), 4. Vowell (C), 5. Bailey (D), 6. Andon (E)
Class F result 1. Wolfe (1:46.548), no other finishers  

Cadwell photo montage

Good numbers for the race but rather light in Class F, and this I did not need. To have any hope of winning the championship I needed high points scores from Cadwell and Brands Hatch, however there were just 3 class F cars entered, only Miller, Crane and I would be there.

We (Noreen, kids, Stacky, new race-regular Pete and I) arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday for the evening test session which was particularly useful for me as I have never really had a good Cadwell result in the TR and I also needed to test the rear axle! Following the gearbox failure at Snetterton, I found that the input bearing on the rear axle had failed too so we had decided to fit the spare one. The spare is an ex-rally car axle (complete with 4-link mountings) fitted with a Quaife LSD rather than the Salisbury plate slipper fitted in my number 1 axle, and I was interested to find if there was any difference in the way the car behaved. It's not a five minute job to swap axles and the car was finished just an hour before we left home on the Saturday.

Saturday night 21st birthday celebrations for Mark Hadfield went on to the wee hours with the final retirees getting to bed at 2:30 in the morning. It was one of the best social evening we've had and it was good to have so many people turn up for the barbeque and merriment. There was much muttering in the paddock in the morning however as the Brown and Gammons MG crew had left their generator running all bloody night...most anti-social of them. 

Practice I was almost the last car out on the track so really hung back for 3 laps waiting for the field to spread out around the two mile circuit. Once I found some space I began to pick up the speed and began moving though the field at quite a rate. I had a bit of a scary moment overtaking Steve Crane and nearly clipped the back of his car going up the Mountain; we must have come pretty close! Cadwell is the circuit where the speed difference between the Class F and Class A cars is most noticeable; the track is so narrow you almost hold your breath when lapping to make the car a bit less wide! One slight jink to the side by a slower car could easily lead to a massive accident.

The biggest practice drama however, was the news that Miller was out. The car was breathing like a steam train - normally a sign of land failure on one or more pistons. Colin Pendle, the car's owner, decided enough was enough and the car was pulled out. That reduced the class to just 2 cars. An outright win looked quite likely but on just half-points...

Elsewhere, Steve Small thought he'd been missed off the grid sheet until he realised he was 3rd in his TR7 Sprint, ahead of Steve Crane's super-shiny V8. With Miller missing from the grid however, Crane would have the clear track ahead of him, not Small. Andy Vowell's car blew another head gasket and Steve 'dynamite foot' Adams blew another engine. Steve's aim is use up the entire world's supply of Spitfire engines in as expensive a manner as possible and now has a tally of 5 in 6 races I think...not bad going Steve. If he ever offers to build you an engine...err...make sure you keep a dustpan and brush handy.

Nigel 'no t-cut' Gibbins decided his car was just too powerful in practice and decided to dismantle the electronic dizzy for no apparent reason, he then found he couldn't put it back together again and finally refitted the car with points (!!??). It didn't work, he was faster in the race by 0.15 of a second. Try 75 psi in your tyres next time Nigel, or take a plug lead off, it's easier. Karl Dandridge got to the collecting area and realised he had no brake pads left, just the steel backings! A rapid pad change took place. 

The race For pole-man I had a truly crap start and left two huge black lines down the start line, Steve Small even nearly got in front before I got the car into 3rd gear and shot away. I was 4 seconds ahead by the end of lap one and never got challenged for the lead again. My spare gearbox is truly rubbish, I had to drive the whole race holding it in gear when using 3rd - which is a good part of the lap - Park, Chris,  The Gooseneck and Mansfield one-handed every lap. Tired arms by the end. On about lap seven, and right in front of me, Mark Hadfield's Spitfire had the oil filter work loose and he dumped a few litres of engine oil on the Mountain...Steve Small hit it and spun-away an easy 3rd place and I spun in the same place a lap later but got going again. Sensibly the race was red flagged and as we were just about to start the last lap, I was the winner. No chequered flag but still a win, the fourth this year. If Mark wants his oil back, most of it's on the front of my car...mmm nice.

Elsewhere, Steve Crane managed to get up to 2nd place for just half-a-lap before his car just cruised to a halt - he was furious. I decided against giving him a cheery wave as I drove past. I saw him in the paddock later, kicking the car, but it didn't seem to be helping. There was a good race for other places with Tony Blake coming home 2nd, followed by Mike 'If it were not for yellow tape I wouldn't have a car at all' Hazelwood and then Andy Vowell. 

Through to Hall.             Photo: Diane Hadfield

Although Miller was a d.n.s. it doesn't give me the advantage I needed because of the reduced points scored for a low number of starters. Going to the final round I am just 2 points behind Miller on the score board, but if you include count back (dropping your worst 2 scores) I am 5 points adrift. Even if I win at Brands Hatch, I must score 5 or more more than Miller does. If it's a points tie, I think I'd win as I have more 2nd places (as we'd have 5 wins each). 

In other news, Phil Marsh has now sold his wrecked TR7V8 (see Rockingham report) to Tony Blake who has some plans for it. I suspect that's it for Phil, but I think we may well see the car again!

It's all to play for down the Hatch....

See full practice times, grid and results under MGCC on  www.mstworld.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Round 10 - Brands Hatch

Top 6 grid positions 1.Miller  (0:54.447) , 2. Knowles (0:55.500) , 3. Wolfe (0:56.170) , 4. Crane (0:57.145) , 5. Hazelwood, 6. Baker 
Overall/class result 2nd/2nd
Top 6 result (class)  1. Miller (F) , 2. Wolfe(F), 3.Hazelwood (E), 4. Small (D), 5. Baker (D), 6. Knowles (E)   
Class F result 1.Miller (0:54.711) , 2. Wolfe (0:57.087) , 3. Crane (0:57.246)   No other finishers

There was just an outside chance of a championship win at Brands, but it wasn't to be. Miller won by a huge margin (19 seconds) even though I lead the race on two separate occasions. 

On the Saturday night we had been joined in the motorhome by a group from SMI, my sponsors and by Jo and Chris Sollom. We had a very enjoyable evening although those camping on the concrete paddock had less of cosy time...not being able to peg the tent down may have had something to do with it!

Other news is that Larry Jeram-Croft has sold his TR7V8 - hopefully the new owner will venture out with us.

Practice Cool and dry following heavy rain and strong winds overnight and I was confident of being up at the front of the grid. I was last man out (apart from Nigel who had forgotten to put any petrol in) and was able to find some space quite quickly and got myself up to being 2nd fastest, moving through the slower cars relatively easily. Red flags came out when Ralph Jane put his Spitfire in the Gravel at Paddock Hill and we all queued up in the pit lane waiting to be released again. I was one of the first out and in clear space but with Miller right behind me. We had a bit of cat and mouse until I accelerated away. We did a couple of laps together until I lobbed the car into a lazy spin at Clearways. Just after that Simon Knowles took second spot away and I ended up 3rd on the grid. I would have preferred to be alongside Miller but was also ensuring I didn't throw it all away.

Jon 'Engine Problems' Low (Spitfire) had...err..engine problems and was sidelined and Nigel 'NigInTheCar' Gibbins became Nigel 'NigInTheWallAgain' Gibbins when he smote the outside tyre wall at the exit to Druids - quite a feat in itself. His car was badly bent and he did not make the start. Andy Vowell was fastest Class C car and just had to win the class to take the TSSC championship for the first time. Anything less would likely hand the championship to Class A runner, Barry Blakeley.

The Race I had a cracking start (Grommit) and pushed between Miller and Knowles who had bad and terrible starts respectively, and got into the lead. Miller got his brain back into gear and came down the inside at Paddock Hill bend; we went round the corner door-handle to door-handle but Miller came out a nose in front and we touched quite hard. My front right wing contacted his left rear and we both wiggled but stormed on up to Druids. Miller was ahead. The problem was though that the impact had bent the steering rack so although I could turn right OK, it was impossible to turn the steering wheel more than about 60 degrees to the left!. At any other circuit that would have been game-over, but at Brands it's nearly all right-handers with just one power-on left hander so I was able to continue relatively unaffected by using the grunt of the V8 to navigate that one tricky curve. 

Half a lap later there was a full course caution and we all closed up as we passed over the start-finish line for the first time. Andy Vowell was in the gravel at Druids. He might as well have wrapped up the TSSC trophy with brown paper and string and had it couriered to Barry's house.

The caution lasted just three laps and as we came out of Clearways I had dropped back from Miller and I nailed the throttle. The caution was still on but I prayed the green flag would  come out at the last moment - it did. I must have been doing a full 50mph more than Miller and wafted past him into Paddock Hill bend and away to Druids in the lead. Miller got a huge tank-slapper on and dropped a couple of places (I needed him in the gravel really!) before beginning his recovery. 

I was about five seconds in front but Miller caught and passed me after just 1 lap. The power of his engine is incredible, he's no quicker than me through any of the corners and he is not on the power any earlier but he went past easily and pulled away. The rest of my race was largely uneventful - Miller away in front and no-one in my mirrors.

Meanwhile Simon Knowles was having a torrid time getting his TR6 back up the field after his poor start and tangled with Steve Crane at Graham Hill Bend, taking both of them off onto the grass and causing quite severe damage to the side and door of Steve's V8. This gave Mike Hazelwood a clear run to third place. Karl Dandridge picked up a nasty dent in the back of his GT6 (apparently he spun in front of Simon Knowles and Simon couldn't avoid him) and Barry Blakely had some contact with Kevan's bread van.

At the end of the race, the drivers called to see the clerk of the course read like a school register: Me, Miller, Knowles, Crane, Blakeley and Hadfield. No big dramas from the clerk though although there were a few cross faces and some bad language in the air between some of the drivers. Mostly it will blow over.

So, in the end Miller won the TR championship and Blakely won the TSSC one. Roll on TR/TSSC 2004.

See full practice times, grid and results under MGCC on  www.mstworld.com  Download the PDF file for full lap-by-lap details for all the practices and races.

Just one more race to do...

Donington AMOC Intermarque

AMOC Donington photo montage

Not a great result, but OK under the circumstances.

Practice I qualified 11th on the grid, and fastest of the Class B cars in a largely uneventful practice session. The car was moving about quite a bit and I'm not sure we have set the tracking up how it it was before the Brands incident with Graham. Colin Pendle was driving the yellow Miller car and was a row or so behind me on the rolling-start grid.

The race I had a superb start on the inside line - up to 5th by Redgate. A gap just opened up before me and I simply zoomed through it passing a couple of Astons, an AC Cobra, a Porsche and a Chevrolet Camaro. I lost a couple of places that lap and by the end of Lap 2 was about 8th with Pendle some way behind when coming through Goddards there were a few spinners and the race was red-flagged. 

The restart was back in grid order which I didn't quite understand but anyway, I had a less good start and we all barreled down to the Old Hairpin where I got tagged and spun off onto the grass. Dead last (28th) . Bugger. I then drove like loon for 10 minutes back to to 14th, just being beaten by Rowan Atkinson in his Aston Martin Zagato by 0.1 second. It was a good drive but as well as losing an easy looking class win we lost the team prize by just 1 point...oh dear.

Was a good racing day with no damage to the car, but a disappointing result when it looked so good. Rowan signed our copy of Johnny English for us which made the kids day and I had great support from Jo and Chris as well as Team Wolfe - thanks for coming.

That really is it for 2003 and not a single wet race or practice...I will be doing all again (16th year) in 2004!


Thanks to everyone who made this year's effort and success possible. Thanks to Noreen, Howard and Natasha for putting up with it all. Thanks to Martin 'Stacky' Stackpoole the ever-present ace mechanic, Jo and Chris Sollom for their unending support, Dave Thompson, Pete Dunk and everyone else in Team Wolfe who lent a hand.

Also a big thanks to my sponsor, SMI Ltd.

And Greg and John from Competition Engine Services - a superb engine, we never touched it once. Just 1 oil change mid-season and that was it. We never even took the distributor cap off or a plug out...and you can't get better than that!

Thanks to everyone who bought parts or books from me this year
(every penny of it gets sunk into the car and you can feel justifiably part of it)

We'll be doing it all again (for the 16th time) in 2004!


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