American Speedfest Report by Lee Sutton

The American speedfest is one of the most popular meetings of the year at Brands Hatch. This would be the 10th anniversary edition and it certainly did not disappoint.

With hot weather during the week, it was not surprising to see the weather forecast predicting thundery showers. Sure enough as the Avon Tyres/Image Wheels intermarque silhouettes started to leave the assembly area so it started to rain. All bar one of the 23 runners were on slick tyres on the damp but warm track. Somehow everyone managed to slither around without too much drama. Ironically the only wet shod runner did have a trip into the gravel at Clearways, otherwise it was all good. Emerging at the top of the times would be the Smith brothers, as Lewis just edged out Daniel. Returnee Ray Harris was a solid third in his “for sale” Ginetta, followed by Castle Combe regular Russell Humphrey. Colin Smith occupied the inside of row three with leading senior runner Paul Knight alongside. Another driver back for the first time this year was Dave York, who slotted into 7th followed by Mick Robertson. Philip Blackford and Gavin Bristow both put in impressive performances to line up 9th and 10th.  Likewise Warren Farazmand and Scott Aprigliano did well to take 11th and 12th. The rest of the times are listed here:

For a while it looked like the first race might take part on a dry track, but one of the dreaded showers soaked the track just as the cars were being called. Most drivers elected to go on wet weather grooved tyres, but three decided to throw the dice and opt for slicks. The brave warriors were Daniel Smith, Philip Blackford and Ray Harris, it turned out that Ray did not have any wet tyres which somewhat forced his hand.

The rolling start saw Lewis power off into the lead as Daniel struggled and fell back down the pack. Colin Smith soon occupied second spot, but a very optimistic start by Mick Robertson saw him in 3rd but with a penalty soon looming over him. Next up was Humphrey pursued by Knight and York, with Hales looking for a way past. The safety car appeared on lap 5 as Richard Smith had spun into the barrier going up Hailwood’s Hill and was facing the oncoming traffic. Four laps behind the safety car bunched the field up , but Lewis timed the re-start well and continued in the lead. Knight had got up to fourth, before the safety car intervention, and was right behind his senior rival Robertson. Paul made his move approaching Druids and appeared in front as they descended the hill. However, Robertson saw a gap on the inside stuck the nose of his car in and unfortunately there was contact. The race clerks viewed the incident from various angles but nothing was conclusive.

Meanwhile there were other movers and shakers. Having dropped down to 9th Daniel Smith found a small amount of grip as the rain suddenly eased off. He managed to recover to sixth position (after Robertson’s penalty), a feat which earned him the driver of the race award. Hales had made good progress up to 4th, until a time consuming spin on the last lap coming out of Clearways. This dropped him to 12thand promoted York to 3rd.  Fourth place went to Humphrey after a steady drive, with Bristow an impressive 6th.  Taylor moved up to 7th after Robertson was demoted from third to 8th. Russell drove really well to claim ninth, which became pole position for the second race when the commentator drew No.9 from the bag. Rounding out the top ten was the slick shod Harris, who was almost caught by Farazmand. Brian Loram had been going well in 11th until an excursion followed by retirement two laps from home. Behind Hales it was a somewhat surprised Baz Johnson who found himself as the second senior runner to finish.

Keith White had spun to the rear of the field on the first lap. He took a little while to get back into his stride, but clawed his way back to 15th. He was chasing Aprigliano, but Scott kept the red BMW at bay. Next up was newcomer Stephen Phillips in the ex-Danny Hunn Ford Fiesta. Both he and Sean Pooley (in the ex- Jason Hunn VW Corrado) had an entertaining little squabble as they both got to grips with the slippery circuit. Jon Price, Blackford (on slicks) and Chris Ayling completed the finishers, with Colin Smith setting the fastest race lap.

With Russell on pole position he controlled the start well, as Robertson made sure he kept alongside but not in front. Mick soon took the lead at Druids, but Daniel Smith came charging through to head the field by the end of the first lap. He knew that his brother would not be far behind, so he tried to build a gap. Sure enough the white Mercedes was in fourth by lap two and second by lap 3. Could he bridge the 2.3 second gap to his brother. Well he certainly tried, as they both pulled clear of Colin Smith and Humphrey. The gap gradually came down to just under half a second, but had Lewis taken too much out of his tyres. That seemed to be the case as the white Mercedes started to slide around and Daniel kept his nerve to edge clear again. Colin Smith was some way back in third, but clear of Humphrey, as Robertson was coming under pressure from York and Hales.  Ian got past Dave on lap six but then had another spin (again) at Clearways. This dropped him to ninth behind Russell and Bristow. York renewed his efforts to overtake Robertson, which he managed on lap nine.

Harris had made steady progress up to fifth, going much better on the dry track. Unfortunately he pulled off with just a couple of laps to go, so attention switched to Knight. From dead last he picked his way through to challenge his main senior rival Robertson. Sure enough they were together by the last lap, but Mick just held on to take the class win. Overall it was Daniel Smith who took the chequered flag first with Lewis second and Colin third. Humphrey took another good fourth, chased home by York and the recovering Hales. Bristow was an impressive 7th, earning the driver of the race award, with Robertson 8th, followed by Knight and White. Russell drove well to take 11th pursued by Taylor and Blackford. Johnson was next up after Aprigliano had a grassy moment at Surtees bend. Completing the finishers were Price, Phillips and Pooley as both Farazmand and Ayling retired. Loram and Richard Smith were unfortunate non-starters. The best prepared team award went to Interceptor racing (Humphrey and Bristow) with their well turned out Tigras.

Next up it is the Brands Hatch GP circuit on July 8th. Will it be a trio of Smiths again?

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