There’s one thing in life that you can’t rely on, and that’s the weather. No matter how much planning that you put into an event, you can’t book the Sun. I’ve been part of the Tuition and Track Day at Castle Combe long enough not to complain, as year after year I’ve come away burnt to a crisp from the Sun and wind burn. I’ve even had the event clash with the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and still come away with glorious weather. This date card clash with the Balloon Fiesta was deal again this year. This year however, there was no so such luck.
It poured all night, and I was hopeful that the rain planned may have been early. Nope, it just got worse as the morning past.
I must say though, there doesn’t seem to be anything that dampens the spirits of the drivers who enter the Tuition and Track Day. I had drivers come from all parts of the country. Graham Robinson of the Mini Cooper Register who brings it seems his whole family to take part. A variety of hard-core MCR chaps who camped out at the circuit overnight. Clive and Jason Gilmour from Broadstone in their BMW Z3M. Trevor Hartland and Philip Dawe from across the bridge. Paul Tuttle in his Caterham Superlight from Buckinghamshire. James Keeling in his Clio from Stoke On Trent. Yushan Ng from London in his Ferrari, more about him later.
The Bristol Pegasus Motor Club also made some new friends. This year I have been speaking with the Lancia Motor Club. They have an annual track day at Goodwood and were looking for a second track day event. Four Lancias took part in the event with a few more arriving for encouragement and to check the day out. Mark Innes and Laura Martin drove up from Wadebridge in Cornwall in their 1972 Lancia Fulvia S2 Coupe 1300. They seemed to like Scrutineering, as they kept visiting the area. Finally smiles all round and nice new silencer protruding from the rear of the car. Jonathan Stevenson also arrived in a Fulvia all the way from Harpenden. His was a 1971 blue and yellow race prepared 1600 S2 coupe. Chris Hopkins the club librarian, popped down from Hungerford in a dark blue 1971 Fulvia Coupe 1300. Finally we had Brian Mills who brought his 1989 Lancia Delta HF Turbo ie. These wonderful and rare cars made a great sight and based themselves in an area of the paddock together with a 1978 Lancia Beta 2000 Automatic, a 1992 road and a 1988 race prepared Lancia Delta HF Integrale.
Tim Murray and Mal Allen did a fine job of signing drivers and passengers in, and swapping the signed slips for track tickets. The ‘signing in area’ was mobile at first, as the Tower wasn’t unlocked until 8am, so they set up shop in the Tavern for first arrivals.
Scrutineering had a queue almost back to the Tavern before they opened. Plus a sight that I’ve not seen before, drivers with umbrellas up while driving Westfields!
This year’s event was no exception for a great variety of cars entered. In addition to the normal collection of Minis, Westfields and the like, we had a 100 bhp Fiat Panda, a number of Mitsubishis, a Mercedes CLK 430, a few Clios to name just a few.
The in-car tuition part of the day; a free element of the event which the regular entrants don’t tend to use, was extremely busy with first time visitors. Dave de Costa was in great demand, and was it seemed on an endless loop between the paddock – carrying out one to one briefings to late arrivals – to getting prepared to go out on the track with students. Yushan Ng was the first to queue up his Ferrari 550 Maranello. He wanted to gain knowledge of how to driver such a powerful car at speed. A number of the Lancias and various other cars soon queued up for tuition as well. Dave did say that he and his students did spin more than usual on their trips out.
That seemed to be the theme for the day. It was like if Strictly Come Dancing had come to Castle Combe. The track was extremely greasy, a mixture of weather conditions and previously weeks use. Cars were spinning left, right and centre.
This included a spin on camp corner of the Ferrari on his second run. The people on the paddock witnessed the glossy black super car spin and held their breath, as the remainder of the group shot past as it came to rest on the edge of the track facing the wrong way.
Later in the day, I couldn’t resist this shot…
Mr Ng consulting a map to see which way to go around the circuit!!
With the weather as it was, I was concerned over any lost time between each session. I had a few sessions at the beginning of the day with less than the maximum bunch, but with a quick shout on the loud hailer, the drivers soon got themselves in check.
I spoke with the circuit earlier in the year and had advanced approval for another Hot-Rod Parade at lunchtime. Following the impromptu debut of the parade last year, the circuit and the hot rod drivers really enjoyed the experience. Phil Mitchell and Ian Thomas of the Bristol Hot Rods started to put the word out about this year’s parade. But with the turn in the weather I really didn’t think anyone would attend. At 10:30, we had two lonely hot rods parked in the coned off area, with two disappointed drivers. However, as the weather started to brighten, the number of these fine machines continued to roll in. By noon, we had eleven.
I wanted to ensure that this year I could report back on what hot rods attended. I must confess that I am totally useless at identifying these wonderful cars. So, here we go; we had Phil Mitchell and his bright yellow 1932 Ford Model ‘B’ Coupe. Neil and Carole Thomas in their dark blue 351 BHP ’32 Model ‘B’ Roadster. Reg Hucker’s 1948 V8 rare two door Austin Dorset. John Hall’s 1949 bright red 300 BHP Austin Devon. We had a three Ford Pops included Ian Thomas’s black ’54 Pop, and two blue ’56 Pops. There was also a lovely dark blue with side decals on a 1929 Ford Model ‘A’. John and Lesley Cable’s 1953 nitro powered Fordson van – standing just 50 inches tall. A green 1949 Austin 16 and finally a ’49 Chevy Pickup with adjustable suspension making it a fantastic low rider. Just after lunch we also had Steve Walsh’s Austin A55 van.
I arranged the bunch on the paddock ready for their parade at lunchtime. Due to the fact that it is a parade, the front safety car sets off at a slow pace. With its light a blaze the convoy of eleven set off for a slow, almost plod around the circuit with the Honda circuit safety car in tow.
All was fine until the second lap, the speed was at a minimum, and it was like someone had emptied a giant chip pan on camp corner.
First the ’32 Ford Roadster spun off to the right. With huge blind spots on the car, it took a brave man to rejoin the pack.
Our Judge said “The debut spin, lacked finesse…”
The third lap came around and this time the Austin Dorset kicked out the back to the left, corrected it and lost it the other way.
Our Judge said “A gentle sway turns into a spin with elegance…”
By the time the bunch came around for the fourth lap, it was just comical! Who’s going to go this time? Wait for it… Oh… there goes the ’54 Pop!
Our Judge said “If this was on ice, Robin Cousins would have been proud…”
As the parade came back into the paddock, I spoke with Adrian Fawdington who drove the lead safety car. He said “That was fun… I think someone may have spun”. It seemed that Adrian was almost oblivious to the mayhem behind him. The guy in the rear safety car just had his shaking head in his hands at that point!
The track time continued after lunch with a full session. However just a few sessions in, the race prepared pink Citroen Saxo of Richard Marsh [as I understand] spun at Bobbies and emptied its engine all over Pete Goodman’s brand new white Clio, the exit lane to the paddock and then totally blew his engine just inside the tyre arch. The circuit closed and a team of operatives busied around with spades and buckets of sawdust & concrete. We lost almost half an hour – no one complained about the delay, as they were now all concerned about oil on the track.
A delay like that could put the dampers on drivers getting their four runs, but we pressed on and still managed to get quite a few extra runs in.
Towards the end of the day, the Minis wanted to play together.
With a caption of “You wait all day for an original Mini…. and fourteen come along at once!”
Fourteen fine examples, including Mark 1, 2 and 3 Coopers. All lead by a lovely Innocenti.
As the day came to an end, sods law… the sun came out!
Many thanks to Tim Murray and Mal Allen for their help throughout the day. Bags of thanks to Adrian and Nicki Fawdington and their team of marshals, Dave de Costa for his fabulous tuition and all of the circuit support staff.