Brands Hatch Tin Tops and Super Saloons Report

The final outing of the year at Brands Hatch for all three of our series took place in warm sunshine. A really good combined grid of super saloons and tin tops (30 in total) produced some terrific dicing, which started in qualifying. For most of the session Rod Birley sat on pole position with his BMW E36, but on his final lap Alex Sidwell snatched that away with a time just over half a second quicker. Peter Seldon swapped his usual BMW for a more powerful version, which moved him up to class B. He lined up an impressive third. Returnee Paul Watson put his BMW into fourth spot, narrowly edging out TCR driver Adam Shepherd (who was guesting in Jonathan Bevan’s T2 Honda Integra). Steve Rothery was sixth quickest in his Peugeot 308, followed by Mark Cripps BMW, Chris Bassett (Peugeot 306, second quickest tin top). Paul Restall went well to post the ninth best time in his Sierra Cosworth with Dave Cowan completing the top ten. All the times are displayed here: Saloons Tin Tops Classification (

Race one saw Sidwell head the snarling pack into Paddock bend, with Birley slotting into second and Watson third. A clash between Shepherd and Rothery saw the white Honda retire with a puncture, whilst the fast starting Bassett jumped into fifth spot. As Sidwell edged clear of Birley, Watson held off Seldon until lap 7. The BMWs of Cripps and Cowan had demoted Bassett to 7th, with Martyn  Scott, Sean Fairweather and Jacques Whitehead battling over 8th. At the front Sidwell was making his way through back markers when he had a slip up going through Surtees. In a flash Birley pounced and took the lead, just as Richardson spun in front of him at Clearways. All this drama also allowed Seldon to close up, so we now had a three way battle for the lead. Birley tenaciously clung on for four laps, until the mighty V8 Holden powered past on Brabham straight. Seldon looked for an opportunity to grab second, but Birley just held on as they lapped Bassett (the leading tin top) on the run to the chequered flag.

Further back Watson held on to fourth from a fast closing Cripps, with Cowan winning class C in sixth. Behind Bassett it was Scott who took class D honours, chased home by Whitehead,  after Fairweather had a spin at Surtees and fell behind Matt Rowling (who was second in the tin tops) and Gideon September (T1 winner). In 13th it was Ken Angell who got the better of Adrian Matthews (who won the driver of the race award) with the recovering Richardson chasing the pair of them. Rich Sanders took the all Fiesta TP class following a race long battle with Sam Heywood, as Rick Skelsey got the better of newcomer Russell Hearn (both in BMWs). Completing the finishers were James and Ian Seale plus John Mathew and Angelo Massonetto. The retirement list included Rothery, Steve Dann, Lee Cleugh, Restall and Dave Avis along with Shepherd.

Race two again saw Sidwell lead away, with Birley second and Watson in third. It took Seldon until lap five to usurp the orange BMW and set off after Birley. Just two laps later an audacious dive into Graham Hill bend saw Seldon emerge in second and set his sights on Sidwell. The gap was four seconds and initially it stayed at that, until the leaders encountered lapped traffic. It then fluctuated depending on which part of the circuit they each found slower cars. In the end Sidwell took the victory with Seldon just holding off Birley. All three won their respective classes, with Birley clinching the series title. Watson’s early charge ended on lap 6 with retirement, which allowed Cripps a clear run in fourth. From near the back of the grid Rothery charged through to claim fifth, whilst Cowan settled for 6th also winning class C. All eyes focused on Shepherd who hustled the Bevan Honda towards tin top honours. He reeled in Bassett and momentarily got in front on lap 15. On lap 16 Bassett was back in the lead, then as the two rushed up towards Druids there might have been contact out of sight. Either way Bassett took 7th overall (winning the tin tops) with Shepherd limping home 8th (but winning the driver of the race award). Scott again had Whitehead for company for the whole race, with Fairweather securing 11th. Richardson (winning T1) got the better of Rowling in a Honda battle, as Restall made steady progress to come home 14th.  Matthews had a good race, getting the better of Angell this time, whilst next up was Robert Hosier, who missed race one due to a fuel leak. September slipped back to 18th, as Sanders put Avis and Skelsey between himself and Heywood. Hearn finished on Heywood’s tail, whilst James Seale again beat his father Ian.  Neither Dann nor Cleugh had any better luck as they both retired along with Mayhew, whilst Massonetto was a non-starter.

The crowd seemed to be very appreciative of two competitive races, as the drivers now travel to Snetterton next month for the final encounter of 2023.

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