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Cheshire Challenge: Oulton Park Race Report, Videos and More.

With the busy Donington Park race meeting following so soon after our one day meeting at Oulton Park, our race reports have been a little delayed. Cast your mind back to 29th August and read on for a race report, results, video and photos.

Full results are available from the TSL event page, including detailed breakdowns of pit-stops and more, by clicking 'view pdf book' underneath the series description.


CSCC's official photographer, David Stallard has all your photos and view and buy here:


Video Wizard, Marc Peters was there to film for you:


On to the race-by-race report, courtesy of journalist Mark Paulson.


A busy summer spell for the Classic Sports Car Club concluded with a bank holiday meeting at Oulton Park, for the Cheshire Challenge.


Following on from the JMC Racing Special Saloons and Modsports’ invitation to join the programme at the circuit’s famous Gold Cup historic event a month earlier, most of the rest of our series were in action. That event’s date change also contributed to our visit to the circuit being later in the year than usual, taking the August Bank Holiday slot usually occupied by the Gold Cup itself.


It made for a packed day on the fast, undulating circuit’s 2.7 miles that sweep through its picturesque setting. On-track activity ran right through from 8.30am to the circuit’s curfew at 6.30pm. Happily, despite an unfortunate startline accident and a handful of smaller incidents, expert work by the marshals and other officials meant that the majority of series were able to run their full 40-minute race distances, or close to it.


The programme opened with the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties Group 2 set for the larger-engined cars and other more potent machinery. The 15-car entry was again supplemented by Group 1 cars, with six crews taking the opportunity for a second race, albeit earlier on the schedule than their primary stanza.


Under early-morning skies, qualifying was held on a drying circuit, with damp patches waiting to catch out the unwary, particularly under the trees. For much of the session, Mark Halstead was fastest in his Ginetta G4 but, having seen son-in-law Tom Giddings go off in his Lotus Elan, he pitted early. With the track continuing to dry, many were going quicker with every tour. Right at the death, Steve Hodges put in a 2m07.777s (75.84mph) lap in his Lotus 7. That was more than 2.5 seconds faster than Halstead, who was eventually relegated to sixth by the Jon Ellison/Mark Parsley Triumph TR6, Jon Crayston’s Lotus Elan S4, Group 1 runner Connor Kay (MG Midget) and Phil Otley’s Reliant Scimitar.

Come the afternoon, conditions were less of a factor for the race, and Halstead was able to make light work of his climb through the order. Wheelspin for Ellison as the lights went out handed Hodges a clear lead while the pack was scattered by eighth-qualifier Mark Campbell’s spin on the approach to the first corner, Old Hall. Thankfully, no-one collected his Triumph TR5, which he gathered together and then pulled off into a safer spot. There was also an off for Crayston at Cascades, the fast left-hander where the circuit turns to follow the lake.

By the end of the opening tour, Hodges had Halstead and Malcolm Johnson’s Lotus Europa on his tail. Hodges cut inside to take the lead exiting Old Hall and built a lead of more than 5s over the next few laps. But his hard work was undone by a spin at Lodge, the right-hander that brings the cars back towards the start-finish straight, on one-quarter distance. Having briefly dropped to third, Halstead was back on Hodges’s tail by the end of the following tour but, after another moment, it took him three more laps to reclaim the lead. The pair pitted together but, despite a slower stop for Halstead, Hodges’s 30s success penalty (for victory at Brands Hatch) was always going to drop him from contention.

Instead, it was the early-stopping Johnson who took up the running, but Halstead was quickly back in front, as his Ginetta outbraked the Europa into the Hislop’s chicane. Halstead pulled clear to win by nearly 13s. A similar margin further back in third, Hodges’s success penalty had proved decisive.


Parsley drove a strong stint to bring the TR6 that Ellison had started home in a class-winning fourth overall, earning himself the commentators’ Driver of the Race award in the process. He demoted Otley’s Scimitar on the penultimate lap although that would prove immaterial when Phil was hit with a 60s penalty for loosening his belts before the Scimitar was stationary at its pitstop.


With Kay dropping out in the closing stages, it left the Chaplins’ MG Midget as the sole Group 1 finisher in ninth overall. Simon Roose’s sonorous Ford Mustang came home 11th overall, the only Class V starter.

 

The Motorsport School Turbo Tin Tops, TrackRoadRace New Millennium and Verum Builders Open Series were combined, to form a huge 37-car field. Naturally, it was the BMWs of the TrackRoadRace New Millennium series that set the ultimate pace. In his World Touring Car Championship E90-shape M3, Dominic Malone pipped Mark Smith’s E36 Evo version to pole position by less than a tenth of a second, his 88.69mph lap the fastest of the day. With the E46s of Matthew Sanders/Jack Layton and Darren Fielding’s GTR version also within a second, and Christian Douglas’s Open Series Ariel Atom snapping at their heels, a close-fought race was in prospect. Douglas’s timing deltas had in fact indicated pole position was on the cards for his lightweight supercharged machine, only for the Honda K20-powered Atom to hit traffic.

Sadly, an unfortunate startline incident denied us the five-way scrap. CSCC: A long gridding up, without a 'delayed start', led to overheating cars that were switched off. Both Malone and Sanders were immobile on the grid when the lights went out, with the VW Scirocco of unsighted Turbo Tin Tops fastest qualifier John Hammersley ploughing into the back of Sanders’s machine. Hammersley himself was collected by Andy Baylie’s Ford Fiesta ST, while Russell Humphrey’s BMW M3 E92 was turned around as others tried to take avoiding action. The race was immediately stopped and Hammersley was briefly attended to by the expert medics, before extricating himself from his Scirocco which, along with Bailey’s Fiesta, bore the brunt of the damage.


After an efficient clean-up operation, the race restarted over a shortened 30-minute distance, minus six cars. Miraculously, Malone was able to take part after his stationary car had been avoided by all. After two green-flag laps behind the safety car, and a slightly messy restart where some drivers appeared to attempt a two-by-two rolling start, Smith and Douglas shot either side of Malone to set the early pace. But when Douglas’s Atom gave up on the Island loop, another safety car was required.

With the clock having started on the green-flag laps, the pit window opened under safety-car conditions and the top three of Smith, Fielding and Malone all pitted at the first opportunity. New Millennium pitstops are a minimum of two minutes, which meant that with Smith and Malone both carrying success penalties – of 20s and 15s respectively – for their Castle Combe results, Fielding emerged (among traffic of those who were yet to stop) with a clear net lead.


The Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Martin Addison – at the end of a busy weekend, having also taken part in the Silverstone Classic – and the Petch brothers’ Ginetta G50 had spells in front during the pitstop sequence. But once the stops had cycled through, Fielding’s purposeful-looking machine had a clear advantage over Smith and Malone, with the leading Turbo Tin Tops runners – who operated a quick-as-you-can pitstop routine – as a buffer. The chasing Bimmers eventually cleared the nippy interlopers to complete an Amspeed 1-2-3, but Smith was still nearly 30s shy of Fielding when the chequered flag was shown slightly early. He may not have had a pitstop handicap, but Fielding had shown strong pace and dealt well with traffic, earning himself the commentators’ Driver of the Race nomination.

The John Hammersley/Nigel Tongue Scirocco and Andy Baylie’s Fiesta were the two fastest qualifiers for The Motorsport School Turbo Tin Tops series. Losing both at the start undoubtedly stripped the race of two potential winners, although both would have had to overcome 30s success penalties.


Instead, Carl Chambers’s immaculately presented Peugeot 208 GTI and the SEAT Leon of Phill Briggs led the category until the pitstop phase. They were chased by the very smart Japanese-import Toyota Starlet of former Toyota MR2 man Josh Brooks, making its first appearance.


Chambers and Briggs also had to serve success penalties though, a full minute in Chambers’s case, having already won twice this season. That handed the initiative to Stephen Berry, whose Mini Cooper S R53’s marginally quicker pitstop allowed him to jump Brooks. The order remained that way until the flag, Berry’s Mini Mafia car triumphing by a scant 2s, as Brooks’s Class E-winning debut impressed commentators Ian Titchmarsh and David Addison enough to earn him the Driver of the Race award.

The Briggnorth Classics SEAT managed to catch and pass Andrew Marson’s Abarth Assetto Corse to claim third overall, and first in Class A, just 13s behind Berry. Marson was fourth and Chambers’s Pugsport Racing 208 fifth, the Class D winner and less than 30s behind the overall winner.


The Verum Builders Open Series segment of the race proved to be an attritional contest. Following Christian Douglas’s demise, Dean Cook’s TVR Sagaris assumed the lead. But the mighty 7-litre Stove Weld Ltd machine also fell by the wayside after only six laps, handing victory to the little Peugeot 206 GTI of James Wilson. The Jaguars of Rodney Frost/Colin Philpott (XJS) and Michael Holt/Chris Boon (XK8) were the only other finishers, the latter having to start a lap down from the pitlane.

 

The Mintex Classic K runners have missed previous editions of the Cheshire Challenge, so a 24-car entry of the FIA Appendix K-spec pre-1966 machinery was brilliant to see. The grunt of Jamie Boot’s 4.-7-litre Ford V8 in his TVR Griffith took him to a clear pole position and was always going to be tough to beat.

Dave Coyne, taking the opening stint in Robert Farrell’s Jaguar E-type, was able to keep Boot honest in the opening laps as Mark Russell’s sister car pulled off with no spark before it had even completed the first tour. Sadly, in a recurrence of the gremlins that had struck it at the Gold Cup a month earlier, the lead Jag’s warning light came on as it began to overheat and the ebullient Coyne was forced to bring it in and park up. Water was leaking out the engine, its source a mystery.

Paul Tooms gamely attempted to hang on in his Lotus Elan GTS, its Lotus Ford Twincam engine barely one third of the capacity of the Windsor lump in Boot’s Griff. He was around 10s back when the pair were among the last to pit and a slow stop for Boot, some 15s more than the minimum, put Tooms in front. While Boot began making inroads into the deficit, the race was cut short by a red flag. But it transpired that Tooms had been a little over-eager in his pitstop, to the tune of 3.8s, with the resultant 33.8s penalty handing victory to the TVR.

Tooms dropped no further than second and had still driven a fine race to win Class A, earning himself the Driver of the Race award in the process. Three quarters of a lap behind Boot, Neil How’s Triumph TR4 took Class C honours in third overall. Sixth overall and Class E winner was the Lotus Cortina of Allan Ross-Jones and Mark Hales, sporting some scars after an unfortunate brush with Mark Halstead’s expiring Lotus Elan 26R in qualifying.


Behind them, a wonderful battle between the MGBs in Class M played out. Martin Richardson led the group in qualifying but Russell Martin headed the five-way scrap in the race. After a brush between the pair after their pitstops, Richardson headed back to the pits where he remained when the red flag flew, and was not classified as a result. Tom Woodcock thus claimed second in class ahead of Mark Prutton in the car started by Simon Skentelbery.

 

The Speedpanel A2 Modern Classics were joined by the Advantage Motorsport Future Classics for their 40-minute thrash.


Anglesey double winner Oliver Smith went fastest in qualifying, improving by more than a second late on to give himself what appeared to be an unrepresentatively large 1.6s margin over Dave Griffin’s similar BMW M3 E36. The pair had been nip and tuck before the Aussie was forced to pull off mid-session with a broken throttle cable.

Third fastest overall was the Future Classics Nissan Skyline GTR R32 of Mark Chilton. After cracking multiple engine blocks on the screaming four-wheel-drive machine in recent times, Chilton was confident that the flexibility of some rubberised engine mounts had finally solved the problem. Joining Chilton on row two was set to be Colin Philpott’s Jaguar XJS from which former MG Owners’ Club champion Andrew Rogerson had extracted a magnificent time, partaking in his first event in the car. Disappointingly, Rogerson wouldn’t get the chance to race as Philpott’s XJS had blown a headgasket as he was preparing to relay Rodney Frost in the Open Series race (necessitating a quick change of plan for the pair to share Frost’s sister Powerbell car in that).

From row three of the grid, Tony Draper’s diminutive Ginetta G20 made the best start as the cars in front initially struggled to get their power down. But they quickly made their extra power count and Griffin jumped his Diet Coke-liveried E36 ahead of Smith’s Evo model, complete with an additional 200cc. Smith got back in front at Cascades, only to run wide and let both Griffin and Chilton through.


A lap later, Chilton hit the front but what was looking set to be a tremendous three-way scrap immediately lost one of its protagonists. Chilton’s front-right tyre failed and fired him off at Cascades. If only it had happened in qualifying, the out-of-luck Porsche Centre Wolverhampton man would rue.


Smith put the pressure on Griffin and moved ahead on the third of 20 laps. The cheery Griffin just did not have an answer thereafter, Smith’s underlying pace and impressive efficiency through traffic carrying him to a 37s victory margin and the Driver of the Race award. Griffin had to make do with Class B honours.


Behind them, Draper’s pace also impressed as he stayed well clear of fellow Ginetta drivers Roger and Nick Hamilton to claim third in Modern Classics and Class D victory. Only the Future Classics series’ quick-as-you-can pitstop regulations prevented him finishing third overall in the race. Michael Blake (TVR Griffith) won Class A in sixth overall.


Chilton’s demise promoted the Marcos Mantula of Matthew Lewis to the head of the Advantage Motorsport Future Classics field. He took a dominant win and was named Driver of the Race, holding off Draper’s Ginetta for third on the road overall.

The BMW 325i E30s of Paul Dolan and Steve Scott-Dunwoodie/David Newnes completed the Future Classics top three, Dolan winning Class C. Darren Clayden’s Porsche 944 won Class B, while Mark Spence’s splendid Mazda RX-7 was the first ‘70s car home, anchored by local specialist Paul Dobson.

 

The Adams & Page Swinging Sixties Group 1 set brought a maiden series win for Connor Kay in the family’s MG Midget. Among a very competitive 39-car field, Kay had qualified fifth behind Sam Polley’s Mini Marcos, Matthew Howell’s Mini, Anglesey double winner Richard Perry (Austin-Healey Sprite) and the Mini Jem of Pete and James Crudgington. The latter pair had worked wonders just to get the Jem on track, after engine trouble in testing.


A terrific start launched Perry between Polley and Howell, into the lead, and he then saw the front-row pair make contact exiting Old Hall in his mirrors. Howell, whose qualifying had been cut short by a loose driveshaft, pulled off at Cascades, while Polley lost several places. Kym Bradshaw’s Midget had also spun at Old Hall, and a safety car was required to effect its recovery.

At the front of the field, Perry led from Kay and Midget-mounted Ian Staines. But when racing resumed, Staines made a bid for the lead at Old Hall. His front left made contact with Perry’s right rear and, while the leader was able to continue for another lap, his Sprite was smoking as its bodywork fouled the tyre and he pulled off on the Lakeside straight. Staines, carrying damage to the left wing of his RG Race Engineering Midget, assumed the lead but a fast-recovering Polley got him under braking at Lodge at the end of lap four to take over, with Kay holding a watching brief in third.


Polley’s chances (like Perry’s and Howell’s) were always likely to be hurt by his impending winner’s penalty. Once the pitstops had played out, a faster stop for Kay had catapulted him ahead of Staines into the lead. Polley caught and passed Staines for second and victory in Class C, but was still 28s behind a delighted Kay when the 40 minutes were up.

Tim Cairn’s Turner Mk2, the Mini of Chris Watkinson and Rob Sinclair in the Midget started by Nik Aveyard completed the top six. Pete Crudgington had a spin in the Jem which contributed to it slipping to ninth at the flag, while another who had been running in the top six was Simon Benoy, before the gearstick in his Hillman Imp snapped off in his hand.


Tom Pead’s BMW 1600 Ti won Class E in 10th overall. Class victory may have gone to father-and-son duo Steve and Jack Smith, but dad Steve missed the pit window, briefly leading as a result, before pulling in to a steamy retirement. Class D honours went to John and Ian Fraser in their Lotus Cortina.

 

A 31-car field of Co-ordsport Tin Tops rounded out the day’s action. In qualifying, Tom Mensley –back in his own Renault Clio 182 for only the second time this season – and Adam Brown (Fives Garage Ford Fiesta ST) were trading top times. That was until Jon Warbuton brought in his VW Golf GTI Mk1 and son Chris proceeded to knock four seconds off his best time!


The Warburtons thus decided that Chris would go solo in the race, so he lined up alongside Brown, with Mensley relegated to third for multiple track limits offences, alongside James Slater’s Honda Civic Type R. Having been passed by Brown off the line, Warburton quickly built a healthy lead of some 10s once back in front.

But a 22s quicker turnaround by the Mensley Motorsport crew put Tom ahead. A series of blisteringly quick laps helped Warburton close the gap but, with Mensley also upping his pace in response, he fell 0.264s short when the chequered flag fell a couple of minutes early with the circuit’s curfew approaching.


But a twist would deny Mensley his first win since September last year. He had left his pitstop too late, coming in just after the window closed, which incurred a 30s penalty. His late-race effort had also pushed the boundaries of track limits too far, earning another 5s penalty. Thus, the results will show that Warburton won by 34.736s over Mensley. The Leicester racer still had another half-minute in hand over Brown, who was carrying a 30s success penalty for his Thruxton win.


The top trio all won their classes, as did Steve Papworth (Honda Civic) in fourth, while the Hondas of Garry Barlow (Integra DC5) and Slater completed the top six.

 

A busy schedule had been completed with relatively little loss of track time, despite the startline accident in particular requiring a significant clear-up operation. And while a handful of instances of other contact is always a few too many, driving standards were largely extremely good, as usual, making for an enjoyable day for all. It all sets us up nicely for a quick turnaround to the extremely popular outing at Donington Park on 10/11 September.

CSCC: We will aim to bring you our Donington Park review within the next 7 days.


 


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