Tin Tops pitstop race at Brands Hatch by Lee Sutton

And now for something completely different. Cycle racing. Well not quite, but Brands Hatch allowed several hundred enthusiastic bicycle riders to ride around the Indy circuit in aid of the local Lions charity. This was on Friday evening and your editor was joined (albeit briefly) by Rod Birley. Several thousand pounds were raised for this local charity.

On Saturday it was our annual pit stop race for the AFR media tin tops. Sadly a few withdrawals after the rigours of the Grand Prix circuit the previous weekend meant we had 16 starters, but an interesting field assembled for the 30 minute event. Qualifying saw Chris Bassett, partnered by Tom Burgess, secure pole position in their class T2 Peugeot. Half a second adrift was another T2 car, namely the Honda Civic of Matt Rowling with a time of 54.628 seconds. Newcomer Jeremy Evans headed up row two in another Honda Civic, but because of an engine regulation he was classified in the invitation class TS. The leading  T1 runner was fourth on the grid, in the shape of Dave Charlton’s Seat Leon. Dave had had a rather slow journey to reach the circuit as his tow vehicle spent most of the time in limp mode. Row three saw the unique Volvo C30 of Adrian Matthews, which had hopefully cured its braking issues from last Saturday, with the Ken Angell/Rod Birley BMW 328i alongside.

Graham Richardson was 7th quickest in his T1 Honda Civic, he was joined by the leading T3 Ford Fiesta of Dominic Ryan. Callum Perfect was pleased to be 9th in his class TH BMW 318Ti and he had Justin Ross for company in his class TP leading Renault Clio. 11th quickest was Angelo Massonetto in his Citroen Saxo, followed by returnee Nick Lunn in his Honda Integra. Next up should have been Alex Baldwin/Richard Skelsey in a Ford Fiesta, but a power steering failure rendered them a non-starter. The grid was completed by the father and son pairing of Ian and James Seale (Ford Fiesta), Jon Wild (Ford Fiesta) and Samuel Haywood (BMW 320i).

The rolling start saw Bassett soon stamp his authority, as he opened up a reasonable lead. Rowling was fairly comfortable in second with Evans slotting into third. Charlton had Matthews snapping at his heels for fourth, whilst Angell had Richardson for close company. Ryan was going well in 8th  pulling away from Perfect, who was soon joined by Massonetto who moved into 9th on lap 3. Richardson squeezed past Angell on lap six, whilst Charlton still held off Matthews in their close battle. The pit window opened after ten minutes and the first to stop for the compulsory 60 seconds was Perfect. At the same time the leading Peugeot ground to a halt on Brabham straight, which triggered several pit stops as teams thought there might be a safety car intervention. Quick work by the marshals avoided this, although Charlton, Matthews, Angell and Massonetto all pitted. Matthews got the jump on Charlton, whilst Birley emerged closer to the white Seat. Most drivers came in on lap 16, which was half distance and once things settled down Rowling had a 7 second lead over Evans. Matthews was now third and Birley got past Charlton going into Graham Hill bend on lap 19 to take 4th. Ryan was now 6th as Richardson had a rather lengthy pit stop falling back to 8th.

On lap 24 Perfect spun into the gravel trap at Paddock bend and this prompted the safety car to appear, whilst the stricken BMW was extricated from the gravel trap. By now there were just four cars on the lead lap, but it did close things up particularly for third position as Birley was now on the boot lid of Matthews. Again the marshals worked swiftly and the green flag appeared with just over two minutes of racing left. Rowling had Charlton as a buffer back to Evans so his position looked secure, but Birley attacked Matthews going onto the outside at Druids hairpin as they squeezed past Massonetto, Ryan and Haywood. Birley emerged in third, which earnt him the driver of the race award, as he also took T1 honours. Meanwhile Rowling took the chequered with Evans 1.7 seconds further back. Birley held onto third from Matthews, with Charlton a lap down in fifth. Ryan was an impressive sixth, winning the T3 class as Richardson recovered to 7th. Lunn was not far behind in 8th but he was only just in front of the Seales, as they took TP honours following the retirement of Ross. Wild, Massonetto and Haywood completed the finishers (with Samuel winning the TH class to the delight of the car owner Wil Arif).

It was good to see the tin tops have their own race and the pit stop element worked well. Their next race will be at Snetteron on October 16th.

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