Speedfest Report

The annual American Speedfest at Brands Hatch is now in its 11th year. As usual our Intermarque Silhouettes were temporarily renames “Speedfest Silhouettes” just for this meeting.
Qualifying saw an interesting battle for pole position between leading senior driver Paul Knight and multi race winner Malcolm Blackman. In the end it was the white Vauxhall Tigra of Knight which topped the timesheets, just 0.099 of a second quicker than Blackman. Danny Russell surprised everyone with a sterling effort to be third quickest in his grey Tigra, just edging out Gavin Bristow in his yellow version. Fifth quickest was Colin Smith in his Ginetta, with Philip Blackford lining up alongside in his newly acquired Tigra. Chris Ayling had found another engine for his Tigra and lined up 7th with Volker Timm joining him on row 4 with his Audi TT. Sean Pooley is getting to grips with his VW Corrado and posted the 9th quickest time, with Jon Price completing the top ten.
It was good to see Paul Cocksedge returning, this time in a Vauxhall Tigra from the Colin Smith team. Baz Johnson had the Pontiac qualify 12th followed by Stephen Phillips (Fiesta) and Gary Deal (Tigra). Lining up at the rear of the field would be Ray Harris (back out in his Ginetta) who suffered a broken exhaust. Then came Russell Humphrey (misfire due to a battery issue in his Tigra). Finally there was Mick Robertson who had a crank sensor issue.
The rolling start saw Knight take the initial lead, but by lap two Blackman was in front as the sped along Copper Straight. Unfortunately there was a yellow flag zone, as Robertson had ground to a halt on the first lap with a repeat of the crank sensor wire problem. The overtake would have a bearing on the final result. Undeterred the two leaders put on a good display of fast close racing. In third place it was Colin Smith initially, with Danny Russell in fourth. However, one driver really on the move was Ray Harris. By lap 3 he was fifth and a lap later fourth. It took a couple of laps to pass Smith and then Harris set his sights on the two leaders. Gradually he closed the gap, so that by lap 15 it was a three way battle. Sadly it all went a bit wrong as they went into Clearways on lap 16. It was side to side contact which unfortunately resulted in Harris spinning back to fifth. Meanwhile Blackman crossed the line first with Knight close behind, but the win was taken away from Malcolm by the earlier yellow flag infringement. So Knight was promoted to first with Smith holding off Russell for second, as Harris took fourth. Russell Humphrey made good progress up to 6th, as Keith White held off a determined Blackford.
Baz Johnson was a bit lonely in 8th as he edged clear of Pooley, whilst Phillips rounded out the top ten. Deal completed the finishers in 11th, as Ayling retired just before the end. Price and Cocksedge were also pit visitors, whilst Bristow had a couple of off course excursions and pulled in on lap 8. Poor Volker Timm was unable to start his Audi and he also found that his van had locked itself with the keys inside it.
The grid draw for race two saw Blackford on pole position with White alongside. The initial getaway looked to be OK, although Blackford had a grassy moment exiting Druids. However, at the start of lap two it all went wrong at Paddock bend. It appeared that Pooley got a bit sideways and was unfortunately collected by Phillips. The unsighted Timm also got involved, as all three cars plunged into the gravel trap. Immediately a red flag was shown, so that the three drivers could be rescued. Luckily there were no major injuries, although Phillips went to the medical centre for a quick check over.
A complete re-start saw White drive around the outside of Blackford to take the initial lead. However, by lap two it was Harris in the lead although most eyes were on Blackman’s rapid progress from last to fifth (also on lap two). Sadly on lap four there was an incident at Clearways, as Humphrey overtook White and Knight went for a diminishing gap on the inside. The inevitable contact also involved the innocent Blackman, whose car was momentarily air borne. The red Tigra trickled into the pits, but the other two were stuck on the edge of the track. The safety car therefore appeared in order to clear things up.
Once the BMW and Tigra were removed racing resumed. Harris controlled the pace well and soon had a two second gap to Smith. Humphrey put pressure on Colin, but was unable to find a way past. Further back a grassy moment for Bristow exiting Druids dropped him behind Russell and Blackford. The drama continued right up to the chequered flag, although the podium finishers were all safe, as Russell crossed the finish line his engine blew spectacularly. This resulted in an oil fire, as he brought the car to a fiery halt at Paddock bend. Blackford just hung onto fifth from Bristow, which earnt Philip the Hoosier driver of the meeting award. Into 7th came Robertson who got the better of Ayling, with Johnson and Cocksedge completing the finishers. Neither Price nor Deal managed to start due to car issues.
Following a post-race inquiry it was deemed that Knight was disqualified for the incident at Clearways, although he was a non-finisher any way. The series now has a six week break before the next round at Snetterton.

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