Mallory Park 14th October 2007
Report by Tony Webb

click to enlargeThis was our usual traditional last race of the season trophy meeting which dawned with just a hint of early morning mist and that autumn chill. However as the morning wore on the sun came out and the weather was to favour us for the rest of the day. Practice created the usual scurry of activity as cars were prepared for this the final race, with I am glad to report a healthy grid of twenty one cars, as many had rallied to Nigel's call to make a good last show before closing the season.

One or two of the regulars were still absent for various reasons, Cheng still building his secret weapon for next year, Nick Taylor's car was still not finally back together although Ian did say that they could have rushed it and possibly got it together but in view of the recent expensive costs of engine blow up's decided to let common sense prevail, so it will be next season before Nick takes up the battle again. John Dickson was apparently enjoying himself at Spa so another missing Cobra, Andy Lambert still lamenting the cost of his Cobra engine rebuild (and the three hungry mouths he has had to give priority to this year), but should be with us next season. In addition there were some others that for valid reasons were forced into taking a back seat this year, all of whom were missed at this the final race.

Our practice was delayed for just a few minutes as someone in the previous grid had deposited a trail of oil through the latter part of Gerrards onto the back straight. This was duly dusted with cement and the track cleared for our guys to go out. It was evident that early on the drivers were mindful of the place where the oil had gone down and were taking no risks, but gradually getting into the job of setting a time.

click to enlarge It didn't take too long for Andy Hiley running in the Invitation Class in the Taydec Mk2 to start putting in some strong laps and go on to set himself up for pole. The usual gaggle of Crossle's started to speed the pace up with Gwyn Pollard and Gary Wilson laying claim to their places at the front of the grid in 2nd and 3rd closely followed by Mike Walker. Then came Clint and Mark Jordan splitting Ken Culverwell's Mamba and the remaining Crossle's and then the remainder of the field. A good effort from John Suckling and Adam Wilkinson put them in 10th and 11th and they being the first of the class D runners ahead of the guys from class C.

Then just when you thought it was safe to call it a day the inevitable happened and the spectre of the oil trail reared its head. Michael Shoobridge had been circulating well in the Elan and told me later he was feeling everything was going well. So well that with 12 laps under his belt decided to do just one more when disaster. Coming out of Gerrards on this final tour he got onto the oil to which the car responded by putting its wheels on the grass which created the slide that put him into the tyre wall. Fortunately Michael got out of the car with little more than a good shaking up, but the car was not so fortunate.

Practice over most people retired to the hospitality suite overlooking the start line to enjoy the comfort of some decent seats and the delicious variety of food that had been organised. This end of the season gesture has become a feature of our race year and with such good food and company the room quickly filled up with our drivers and their families and guests. There were all the usual stories and reminiscences of daring do and who's doing what and where that filled the time up to the start of our race.

For the race the sun deserted us although it was still quite bright, and so the cars lined up, missing was The Elan and also Andy Todd whose clutch had given up more or less as he came in from practice. As the lights changed it was Taydec away with the Crossle's in hot pursuit. As Roger Donnan entered Gerrards for the first time his car suddenly swapped ends and finished up on the grass on the outside of the corner forcing Richard Abels in his E-type and John Suckling in his Taydec to take avoiding action. Richard was lucky to continue as he had put both rear wheels in the gravel.

It was not long before the D type of Jerry Knight, who had been going better than in practice, pulled off after six laps with clutch problems. The following lap saw Ken Culverwell's Mamba pull off the circuit after mixing it with the Crossle's. Things then started to settle with Andy Hiley making the running at the front and Clint and Mark Jordan doing their best to break up the Crossle's. There were numerous battles going on down the field with some spirited driving from Roger Donnan and Adam Wilkinson in the little Westfield 11. These two cars seemed to be well suited to the nature of the Mallory layout.

click to enlargeTim Falce was also putting on a show doing battle with Graham Paddick for around 6 laps; Tim's effort could be best seen at the Hairpin he was virtually swapping paint as he drifted around the apex with more than a hint of sideways in determined mood to get past which he finally did whilst going into Gerrards. Despite this valiant effort on lap 14 he had to give it best as the radiator header tank could take no more and decided to let its contents out literally giving Tim an early shower. But this sort of close racing ran throughout the field as the leaders started to infiltrate the back markers. The short nature of Mallory of course brings this situation around fairly quickly especially when you add in the speed differential of around 18 miles an hour between the fastest and slowest cars.

click to enlargeUp front meanwhile, Gary Wilson was showing some of the skills honed over many seasons, driving the Crossle and taking the fight to the Cobras. Clint to keep things in check until lap 19 when his Cobra cried enough and he retired. Seeing two Taydec's in the same race these days is quite unusual, which it seemed also gave John Suckling a desire not to let Andy Hiley take all the glory, John keeping his Taydec in front of the mainly Class C Jaguars and putting up fastest lap in Class D just a second quicker than Adam. Tim Burnett was close behind John followed by Graham Paddick, local legend John Arnold and Richard Hobden in his immaculate Revival D-type.

With about twenty minutes of the half hour race gone it suddenly came over the tannoy that one of the cars had caught fire at the hairpin and as we looked across towards that end of the circuit the pall of smoke could be seen rising. With the race red flagged we waited to hear who was involved, after a few moments the announcement clarified that it was the Hawk Stratos of Roger Donnan that was on fire. The cars by now had managed to filter down to the grid and were waiting for further instruction. It was decided that the race had gone long enough for the organisers to declare the race over with twenty three laps completed by the leaders.

After a short while we saw the Stratos being towed back to the paddock looking from the outside as though there was nothing wrong. It transpired that one of the drive shaft gaiters had caught fire possibly after the cv joint had overheated causing Roger to spin but with the ability to park it in the portable chicane just after the hairpin where the Fire Marshalls had duly dealt with the fire. In fact the car looked as though it had suffered little damage apart from the fire damage drive shaft and gaiter apart from the liberal coating of extinguisher powder that covered most of the engine. Thankfully Roger was OK although rather despondent, not just because it had put paid to a rather fine and probably satisfying drive but he like Michael Shoobridge had decided time had come to sell the car in favour of a new mount for next year

It does make you wonder whether our cars do sometimes have a sixth sense about these things don't you think?

So onto the prize giving and what a turnout of people, the room was full and buzzing with chatter, as everyone waited the announcements. Nigel firstly introduced us to our two special guests, Zoe Rudder, daughter of Jane and Gabriella Clinkard whose late father Tony was a stalwart of the series for many years. Gabriella had come along to meet some of the people who had raced alongside her father in our series hoping to learn more about his exploits and meet some of his friends.

Although Andy Hiley had won the race on the track, as an Invited guest he unfortunately was not eligible for the rather fine trophy that was on offer, this was awarded to a rather happy looking Mark Jordan who had managed to keep his car ahead of Gary Wilson with only 0.65 secs separating them at the red flag. Instead Andy Hiley was awarded the very special and may I say handsome looking SRGT umbrella that will serve to remind him of the friendly banter he received from the assembled audience.

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Trophies were handed out to all the class winners and runners up and then the other special trophies were also awarded to the much surprised Gary Wilson Jerry Knight and Nick Ledger, all receiving light hearted ribbing and well deserved applause for their efforts on the day and during the year. Being the last race of the season it seemed as though some of the recipients took a special delight in their achievements, not least of which was John Arnold and his wife who were presented with the Special Tea cosy Award for services in the field after a small fire involving a toaster whilst brewing tea at Spa had destroyed their old one.

Finally Graham Paddick asked everyone present to stand and raise a glass to "Lost Friends, Peter Rudder, Tony Clinkard and Stefan Gilboy", which was duly done.

Nigel duly thanked everyone for attending and as a final point reminded all that we have two teams in The Birkett 6 Hour Race at Silverstone on the 27th October. In addition to our own SR&GTC team The Grunties who have the responsibility of maintaining family honour having won last year, but also a second team made up of Crossle's from within our ranks. Both teams will be sharing a garage and as always our ladies have again stepped forward and will be making sure that the teams and all the helpers will be fed and watered with a gastronomic feast, the likes of which some of us believe comes as second nature to them.

All in all a good day and a fitting end to the 2007 season and it should be said with a fair eye to next year when many of our drivers that have been absent this year are set to return and as we understand it so new drivers that have been contacting us with a view to taking up the challenge next season.

My final paragraph is devoted to those who have worked in the background all year to keep us racing, tirelessly Nigel, the Jane's, Barbara, Tim Falce and the others have again put in hours of work and help that most of us do not see. So to all of you from all of us a very big thank you.

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