Lydden Hill Report

For the first time in two years it was back to Lydden for the Super Saloons and Tin Tops. A combined grid produced 17 cars, which is a reasonable number for a short circuit. Qualifying took place in very wet conditions, so much so that the first two laps took place behind the safety car. Once the field was unleashed it was then a question of getting a clear lap and having the right set up. In the end it was Paul Watson who just edged out Dave Avis (both in BMWs). Third quickest, albeit 2.5 seconds back, was Jacques Whitehead (BMW) with the quickest tin top in the hands of Chris Bassett (Peugeot) lining up fourth. Fifth was Martin Reynolds in his Mk.2 Ford Escort, from Neal Gardiner (Honda Civic). Rod Birley headed row 4 in Phil Bennett’s BMW E90 with James Hunt (BMW) alongside. Martyn Scott (VW Golf) and Sam Haywood (Renault Megane) rounded out the top ten.
Adrian Matthews (Volvo C30) was next up from an on form Ian Seale (Ford Fiesta), then it was Lee Cleugh in his Audi TT. Completing the grid it was Rick Skelsey (BMW 325), Bob Hosier (Seat Leon), Ken Angell (returning with a new engine in his BMW) and Terry Waller (Ford Fiesta).
The first race took place on a completely dry track and saw a storming start from Bassett to challenge Watson for the lead. The No.33 Peugeot soon hit the front as the orange BMW came under pressure from the white version driven by Avis. Unfortunately it all ended when Avis clumped the barrier exiting the Devil’s elbow. The resulting red flag negated the first part. The second instalment saw Bassett lead away with Whitehead jumping into second. These two pulled clear of Watson who had his mirrors full with Reynolds. Gardiner held fifth, from Scott, as Hunt and Birley battled over 7th. On lap 5 Rod got the better of James with a move around the outside of Chesson’s Drift. Meanwhile Whitehead was piling the pressure on Bassett and on lap 7 he momentarily appeared in front only to spin exiting Paddock Bend. The green BMW ended up on the infield, but was unable to re-start.
So Bassett took a momentous win, being the first Tin Top to win outright a combined race with the Super Saloons. Watson got back in front of Reynolds to take second overall (and the class B win), with Gardiner a good fourth in his tin top Honda. Scott was pleased to win class D and take fifth overall, with Birley sixth (winning class A). Hunt (winning class C) just held off Matthews, as Hosier managed the same against Angell (who won class T1). 11th overall went to Lee Cleugh who headed a close group comprising Waller, Haywood and Skelsey. Seale completed the finishers by winning class TP.
Race two was without Avis, broken track rod arm, but Whitehead joined in at the back of the grid. Again it was a race in two halves. The first attempt ended when three cars exited the hairpin and came side by side down hairy hill. A slight movement from Hunt, possibly reacting to Whitehead coming past on his left, saw contact with Hosier. Sadly the Seat crashed into the tyres, scattering them across the track. Part two saw Reynolds make a cracking getaway from row two, and by the end of the first lap he was in the lead from Bassett. The Escort driver then slowly edged clear to take victory. Two years ago Martin was also triumphant, so he clearly likes Lydden. Bassett settled for second, again winning the Tin Tops section.
Meanwhile Watson soon started to struggle with tyre issues. The abrasive surface was taking its toll and the BMW was soon under pressure from Gardiner. However, before Neal could find a way past he was joined by Whitehead. The green BMW soon deposed both Gardiner and Watson to go third. A lap later the Honda was back up to fourth, as Paul fell back into the clutches of Scott and Birley. Again these two easily picked off the ailing BMW, which pulled off a couple of laps later (tyres down to the canvas). As the laps ticked off Hunt’s BMW dropped back with deteriorating grip. This meant that Matthews had an easier run in 7th as Angell took another T1 win in 8th. Haywood went better to claim 9th as Hunt ended up 10th. The finishers were completed by Waller, Skelsey, Cleugh and Seale.
The AFR media Tin Top award went to Haywood, who had a rather challenging day. Whitehead picked up the BMR driver of the day prize, and the Phil Bennett owned BMW (driven by Birley) got the Caesar Electrical best prepared car trophy.

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