Brands Hatch 14 Nov 2021 meeting report by Lee Sutton

The final rounds of the three CMMCS series took place at Brands Hatch on Sunday 14 November.

First on track were the Avon Tyres intermarque silhouettes, with a good turnout of 19 cars. Missing was Richard Smith who unfortunately suffered a nasty accident a few days earlier, whilst driving a tractor. Everyone wishes him a speedy recovery. Qualifying saw Danny Hunn adapt to the slippery conditions best. The Scrapco Fiesta had wet weather tyres which certainly helped, as did Pat Kiely who took his Tigra to second quickest time. Malcolm Blackman braved it out on slick tyres, but still managed to be third quickest, albeit 2.5 seconds further back. Steve Burrows lined up fourth in his Tigra, followed by an impressive Tom Hutchins having an outing in Ricky Hunn junior’s Mazda RX8. Dave York was next up, with Chris Ayling leading the senior brigade. Lewis Smith was a bit disappointed to be 8th, whilst Philip Young was quite happy with ninth. Rounding out the top ten was John Steward, who really goes well when it gets wet. Missing from the meeting was Mike Thurley who had tested positive for Covid, get well soon Mike.

The first race was on a slightly drier track, but it was still a lottery with regard to tyre choice. Danny Hunn stayed on wet tyres as did Kiely, whilst Blackburn went slicks one side and wets the other. Burrows meanwhile opted for slicks all round. So who made the right choice? In reality the track favoured all of them at different stages. Blackman snatched the lead from the start, with Hunn hanging on in second and Kiely in third. Although this is how they stayed, it was in fact a close lead battle. Malcolm used his experience to hold the middle line, whilst Danny looked for a gap on the inside then the outside. A couple of times he drew alongside exiting Clearways, but never quite made it. On lap 6 there was a safety car period as Lewis Smith had spun the Mercedes and got beached at Surtees.

The lead battle re-joined on lap 9 after the caution was withdrawn, whilst York remained in fourth place from Ray Harris and the slick shod Burrows. Then it was Danny and Colin Smith pursued by Young. With the first three circulating at an even pace, attention moved to Burrows who suddenly found his tyres were switching on. He quickly passed Harris and despite setting fastest lap could not quite catch York. Danny Smith then usurped Harris, but Ray reversed the move on the final lap to claim sixth. Colin Smith claimed 8th as Phil Spinks made a late charge up to 9th also taking the RJ Smith senior spoils. Nigel Beardsmore had a good run to complete the top ten in his Mercedes, as Mick Robertson also got past Young to take 11th. Mr Cheese finally settled for 12th, followed by Warren Farazmand, a subdued Reuben Taylor, Jon Price, John Steward and Chris Ayling.

Race two saw the first seven finishers from race one reversed for the grid. This meant Danny Smith was on pole position, but somehow he got pinged 10 seconds for a “false start”. This was a shame as he drove a very good race to finish 5th on the road, but the penalty dropped him to 7th. Meanwhile Burrows immediately powered into the lead and steadily pulled away from York, who was going well in his grey Tigra. Harris was initially third, but the Ginetta driver seemed strangely out of sorts and he gradually slipped back as the race went on. By lap five Blackman was up to the third, still being shadowed by Hunn. Yet again their battle went all the way to the chequered flag, with their lap times being almost identical. Harris looked like he would hang onto 5th spot, but a late charge from back row starter Lewis Smith saw him nip through on the final lap also taking the fastest lap time. This earnt him the driver of the race award.

With Danny Smith classified 7th, it was Phil Spinks (despite a wayward windscreen wiper) who took 8th overall and the senior honours. Robertson drove well to claim 9th (and second senior home) with Kiely rounding out the top ten. Young was just half a second back in 11th, pursued home by Steward a further 0.7 of a second in arrears. Tom Hutchins claimed 13th, having missed the first race due to a clutch problem, as Ayling, Taylor, Farazmand and Price completed the finishers. The only retirements were Colin Smith and Nigel Beardsmore.

The series has had a good year and Avon tyres are continuing their well-received support. Next year will see a couple of “new” venues added to the calendar, plus their highlight will again be the American speedfest. The live streaming of events has proved popular, and certainly increased public awareness.

The combined BMR super saloons and tin tops also rounded off their season. The mixed track conditions threw up its usual variables and giant killing acts, which always adds interest to these races. Claiming pole position was Rod Birley in his familiar Escort WRC, the only driver to get below one minute. Alongside him (for the second time this year) was leading tin top runner Chris Bassett. The Peugeot driver certainly seemed at home on the slippery track. Third would be Nick Sutton in his four wheel drive Mitsubishi with Vic Hope next up in his tin top Honda Civic. Nick Wall lined up fifth in his invitation class Renault Clio with Steve Dann (VW Scirroco) alongside. Peter Seldon was best of the BMW runners in 7th with his class D E36, then it was the two Hondas of Dave Hutchins and returnee Neal Gardiner. Ronan Bradley was tenth in his class B BMW, then came two more Hondas for Garry Barlow and Colin Tester.

Just as the field gridded up for their first race it started to rain. With virtually everyone on dry weather tyres, the clerk of the course made the wise decision to abandon the start. Ten minutes were given to the teams to swap tyres. Two rolling laps gave the drivers a chance to see what the conditions were like. From the off Birley headed the pack into Paddock Bend, with Dann slipping into second making up four places on the first lap. Bassett held onto third until Sutton squeezed past on lap 3 just as the safety car appeared.  This was because Seldon had a quick spin and unfortunately collected Bradley, who then came to a stop at the edge of the track. Birley saw his six second lead disappear as Dann closed in, whilst Bassett reappeared in third as he and Sutton reversed their positions to avoid a penalty. Wall was next, closely pursued by Gardiner and Hutchins.

The race settled down a bit, as Dann was matching the pace of the leader. Sutton got back into third for one lap, then Wall got better traction and pulled clear. As Bassett slipped back into the clutches of Hutchins, a good battle ensued along with Gardiner. Eventually Hutchins got the tin top lead on lap nine, as Bassett fended off Gardiner. One man really on the move was Martyn Scott, from 21st on the grid he made it all the way up to fifth. Shadowing him, after his spin, was Seldon who recovered to take sixth. Ken Angel thought he had got the better of Tester to take class T1 honours, but an infringement in the second race nullified this result. Ian Seale took class TP honours outpacing the dicing Richard Sanders and Chris Burley, whilst Angelo Massonetto took T3 honours. At the front Birley held off Dann by just under a second, with Wall taking a creditable third from Sutton.

Race two was the eagerly anticipated race into the dark. By the time the cars set off on their rolling lap it was very gloomy, so headlights were clearly required. Birley again led the pack away with Sutton blasting into second. The white Mitsubishi had more suitable wet weather tyres this time and was clearly on a mission. A mid-week engine rebuild had also found some extra power, so an interesting contest was in prospect. The two four wheel drive cars soon pulled away from Dann and Wall, as they made a terrific sight in the darkening conditions. A couple of times Sutton appeared to draw alongside Birley, but the black Escort just seemed to occupy the right piece of tarmac. On lap 8 Mark Williams spun his Renault Clio at Druids, unfortunately it refused to re-start so the safety car was deployed. As the clock ticked down it started to look like the race would end under a caution. However, quick work by the marshals and recovery team meant a one lap dash was on the cards. With the leader setting the pace up to the green flag at the startline, it was very surprising to see Sutton rush past into the lead a hundred or so metres too soon. Nick didn’t ease up and rushed round the final lap to take the chequered flag. Birley crossed the line second, somewhat bemused. The clerk of the course soon reversed the top two positions, as Sutton was hit with a time penalty for his over eager re-start. Birley thus got his 700th win to add to his impressive tally.

Dann (class B winner) and Wall had to lap Angel once they past the safety line, to claim third and fourth. Bassett looked much happier this time, as he took fifth overall and first tin top, closely pursued by Bradley and Seldon (who won class D again). Scott was next on the road, but he also had a minor indiscretion and took a time penalty, which meant that Mark Cripps was the class C winner in the ex-Kenny Hunt and Steve Dann VW Golf. Hutchins claimed tenth overall, and second tin top home, just holding off Vic Hope. Tester took T1 honours in Gideon September’s Honda, as Angel was excluded for going the wrong side of Williams’s stranded car. Gardiner was 13th, with Barlow next up. The first lapped finisher was Nick Lunn in 15th  whilst Sanders got the better of Seale this time for the TP class. Burley and Massonetto completed the finishers, with Jacques Whitehead and Paul Watson both retiring their BMWs. Steve Dann was awarded the driver of the day award, a worthy recipient considering the many car issues he has had previously.

It has been a good season for the saloons, even with amalgamated grids. Some of the tin tops have had outstanding results against their potentially faster super saloons. It has helped keep the costs down and most drivers can expect a financial rebate soon, as will the intermarque brigade. Five different drivers have taken outright race wins in the supers, which is good to see.

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