For the first time ever the CSCC visited the heady heights of Scotland, for what turned out to be a brilliant meeting: happy people, mostly dry weather, challenging layouts and not a Midge to be seen.
Now that we're mid-way through our summer break between race meetings, we can draw breath and look back to the beginning of July. In contrast to Donington, Knockhill proved to be one of the smallest member turn-outs, what a difference a month and a border crossing makes.
Let's begin with some of the finest photographs in motorsport, with David Stallard making the trek up from Essex, just to capture your best BTCC kerb-hopping antics.
Clockwise, day 1 photos are here, in time order: https://www.davidstallardphotography.com/ClassicSportsCarClubCSCC/CSCC-2021/CSCC-Knockhill-03-July-21/
Anti-clockwise, day 2 can be viewed and purchased here: https://www.davidstallardphotography.com/ClassicSportsCarClubCSCC/CSCC-2021/CSCC-Knockhill-04-July-21/
Marc Peters was all set to attend our original date in May, but when it was moved to July it sadly clashed with a prior arrangement. In his place we arranged for the local Knockhill-based media team, lead by Duncan Vincent, to take over our social media feeds and film the event. Thank you to Speedclad Ltd. for the financial support towards the edited race highlights that we will share with you in the near future.
In the meantime we have a short teaser video:
There have been some fantastic individual race reports from members within our many Facebook groups. If you are not already following your series' group, please click on each of our series web pages and you will find a Facebook link towards the bottom of the page. Go and read some of the drivers accounts and enjoy their onboard videos: https://www.classicsportscarclub.co.uk/series
Full race results can be found on the SMART Timing website: http://www.smart-timing.co.uk/
Click on results 2021, then Knockhill, then the relevant CSCC day.
Even before the track action formally began, we received great news, with CSCC Committee members and long term co-drivers, Lisa Selby and Toby Harris eloping to Gretna Green, ending their many years of living together! Congratulations to the happy couple, with extra respect earned by coinciding the wedding with a race meeting.
For those members living north of the border, this was a welcome local event for a change. As for the rest of us, it was a bit of a drive, for those in the South East it was further than Spa! Some got their heads down and did the journey in one stint, discovering that the traffic fortunately thins dramatically once north of Liverpool/Manchester/Sheffield. Others, the office team included, broke the journey into two smaller parts. All agreed it was well worth the small effort.
When the CSCC team arrived at the circuit before lunch on Friday, the sunny test sessions were in full swing. All the talk was on who preferred which direction, with opinion just marginally favouring the reverse direction. This debate would continue throughout the meeting in fact and for those in two-driver teams, allowed each to race on their favourite.
Gold Arts Magnificent Sevens driver Tim Davis had early bad luck, with a damaged car in testing. New-to-the-CSCC Carl Exton kindly offered him a co-drive for the races.
A small meeting has its advantages, such as plenty of space in both tarmac paddocks and more of a holiday atmosphere, with drivers mingling and helping each other out more than ever. More than 90 drivers and officials participated in the complimentary dinner on the Saturday night. The words 'friendly' and 'welcoming' were often heard, with it being apparent that the circuit team and volunteers really wanted us there. This hospitality is something we also find when we visit Thruxton, it really makes a difference.
The evening track walk was popular on Friday, with a pleasant, if faint waft of BBQ apparent as the walkers neared the pits. Team JMC Racing took this a step further on Saturday, with a BBQ fog emerging from their awning, perhaps a pre-planned defence had the Midges appeared? It did smell delicious gentlemen.
Without the benefit of a scribe at the circuit, and with the officials all busy working, we regret that we have no race reports, except for the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties and Advantage Motorsport Future Classics. Instead, here are a few random observations from the meeting whilst we wait for the video highlights in the next few weeks.
Looking at the lap charts for qualifying, it was telling how many drivers set their fastest lap in the final few minutes of qualifying. Even among those who tested, it was clear that it takes time to unlock Knockhill's nuances.
Father and son, Mark and Lewis Alexander-Williams endured all sorts of mechanical dramas. Broken components, welding required and even a part-split cambelt, that just managed to hold on for three steady qualifying laps each, before a replacement belt was sourced and fitted. At one point it looked like half the Tin Tops grid was around the stricken Saxo, to offer help.
At the end of day one, Shaun Ely put out a Facebook request for a tool to fix his gear lever. I think he must have had about 8 offers from people across all series, remarkable. The story ended well, with Shaun finishing second overall in the Co-ordSport Tin Tops race on Sunday, his highest overall finish and possibly the best for a Peugeot 205 too?
Martin Addison went 'full Touring Car', getting air that Cleland would have been proud of. David Stallard feared that this might take its toll on the rapid Peugeot 106. After a strong 2nd place finish in Saturday's race, a DNF was to follow in race 2.
Garry Barlow/Danny Cassar's Integra transmission dramas continued, although I'm sure their usually reliable Integra will return. Good to see that Garry took the opportunity to explore the country after the event.
Dylan Popovic is an upbeat character, who loves experiencing these different circuits, after racing for years in Castle Combe's local Championship. Sadly, whilst away his business was broken into, agonisingly he had to endure watching the break-in live, through the CCTV feed on his phone! We hope the police and insurance look after you and that they catch those responsible. Despite this nightmare, Dylan, his Ginetta G50 and team stayed on, ultimately taking his first ever outright win in the Liqui Moly New Millennium category, fantastic.
Despite the undulating, unfamiliar nature of the track, driving standards remained high throughout with the wide track-width facilitating overtaking. The Judicial Clerks Office was quiet for much of both days, with premature overtaking before the control line the main cause of penalty. A compliment to members driving standards, showing respect to each other and the gravel.
One of the clubs most loyal members, John Leslie (Reliant Sabre 6), was beaming after a superb battle with Steve Chapman (Triumph TR4) and others, in the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties Group 2 race. Having taken part in more than 100 CSCC races since 2008, John ranked this as one of his favourite meetings, praising the circuit, the thrilling races and the friendly local volunteers and staff.
The Gold Arts Magnificent Sevens drew the short straw this time. Racing last and also enduring heavy, aquaplaning rain on Saturday. It was looking hopeful that they might defy the forecast and have a dry second race. Alas no, it rained midway through and didn't stop, giving them a thorough soaking whilst packing up. When the track was dry, the front-row were lapping in the 51's, astonishing and not far off some of the heavily modified local monsters that compete on slicks and wings.
Adams & Page Swinging Sixties
Once again, it is necessary to rely on my informants for all the news at Knockhill, as we felt it was advisable not to travel to Scotland – very disappointing. It was certainly our loss, as all the drivers enjoyed their week-end racing in opposite directions, round the same track, on consecutive days. Group 1 and Group 2 were split at this Meeting with Group 2 sharing the race with the Classic K Series.
SATURDAY – CLOCKWISE, GROUP 1
There were 20 cars out for the dry Qualifying session and, early in the session, the MG Midget of father-and-daughter team of Abigail and Ian Whitt took pole position. As others got the hang of the track, they slipped a little, to fifth. Richard Merrell (Alfa Romeo Guilia) was on pole by nearly 1 second, from Simon Benoy’s Hillman Imp. Third was the Austin Healey Sprite of Marcus Fellowes & Alisdair Bowie, followed by the 2-car team of Philip Stader & Mike Henney in a Turner Alexander and an MG Midget respectively. The timings were close, just 2.5 seconds covered the cars from second to twelfth positions.
By the time the race started, the weather had turned on the taps and rain fell. When the lights went out, it was Benoy in the rear-engined Imp who made a great start, as did the Richard Rowlands & Alan Hassell Ford Cortina, which went from 8th to 3rd place on the first lap. Sadly, the pole position man, Merrell, was only able to complete 7 laps at what was once his local track, before retiring and unable to take part in Sunday’s racing too.
Further down the field there were some excellent scraps taking place. Particularly exciting was the one between the Minis of Scottish guest David Robb and Tony Hunting, the latter co-driving with guest driver Joseph Ritchie. The two cars traded places several times and seemed to go ever faster as the track became wetter! The Mini of Hunting & Ritchie had a scary moment towards the end of the race, when the car very nearly spun, due to the driver trying to make the de-mister work and “losing it". The driver was looking out of the side window as it continued sliding along the track, somehow all was well and only 6-seconds were lost.
Meanwhile, Benoy was out in front and showing how well the little Imp could go. At the chequered flag he was nearly 30-seconds ahead of Robb (Mini), who was closely followed by the Mini of Hunting & Ritchie.
The inclement weather was certainly a problem for those in closed cars. Abigail Whitt said, after the race, that, not only was car misted up, they had not put their wet (road) Yokohama tyres on. So finishing in 6th place was a good result.
There were nine Group 2 cars in this combined grid with Mintex Classic K cars. Early on in qualifying it was Mark Campbell (TR5) who was putting in the fastest times and he kept pole position for the whole session. Beside Campbell on the grid was the stunning Jaguar XK120 of Darren McWhirter, which was 1.5 seconds slower. The second row comprised Jon Ellison & Mark Parsley in the TR6. Alongside them was the Lotus Elan of Donald Laird & Keiron Baillie. Under 3 seconds covered the top 7 cars, so it looked like close racing would follow!
CSCC Director David Smitheram and Donald Laird had competed at Knockhill a fortnight before. This extra practice certainly seemed to help Donald's lap times, having never previously raced 'wrong way round' at his local track.
From “lights-out” it was Mark Campbell who took the lead, closely followed by Darren McWhirter’s XK120. However, on the second lap, there were yellow flags because Jon Wolfe’s Classic K Lotus Elan had stopped with electrical problems. The clear-up took 5 laps.
Behind the two leaders there was much swapping of places, once racing got back underway. This mainly featured the TR6s of David McDonald and Ellison & Parsley, with the Lotus Elan of Laird & Baillie and the Datsun 240Z of Dean Halsey also in the mix. Unfortunately, Ellison & Parsley had to retire towards the end of the race.
After the pit-stops, Campbell lost 1st place to McWhirter, as a result of Mark's 20-second winner’s penalty, which he had “earned” for his win at Oulton Park earlier in the year.
The chase took place, but when the chequered flag came out, it was McWhirter in the Jaguar XK120 who took it. Campbell crossed the line in 2nd place, with Laird & Baillie 3rd, McDonald 4th and Halsey 5th. Sadly for McWhirter, his pit-stop had been about half a second too short and so he picked up a time penalty. This gave Campbell the win and therefore a second winner’s penalty! However McWhirter was far enough ahead of the remainder of the field to take a well-deserved 2nd overall.
SUNDAY – ANTI-CLOCKWISE
This session required the drivers to learn the circuit in the anti-clockwise direction, which, because of the “up and down” nature of the circuit, makes it a very different proposition to the clockwise format. The downhill approach to the left-handed Taylor hairpin after the start/finish line is particularly challenging, with a little hump, just about where the braking point is.
At the start of the session, Ian & Abigail Whitt’s MG Midget assumed provisional pole position. Meanwhile Simon Benoy, fresh from his win on Saturday, was struggling with an oil leak from his Hillman Imp. Benoy brought the car into the pits and for a while, there was a very concerned looking driver examining the engine. It was found to be an issue with the dipstick not fitted correctly. With this fixed, Simon headed out onto the track again and immediately became the fastest car on track, taking pole position once again from the Whitt's.
There were several incidents in this session, the Austin Healey Sprite of Justin Potter executed a perfect 360-degree spin at the exit of Duffus and carried on. Hunting & Ritchie were not so lucky, when they found the gravel at the exit of Taylors, ending up parked against the barriers, thereby losing the last 10 minutes of practice.
So, the grid for the race comprised: Benoy on pole (with a 20-second penalty for his win on Saturday) with Marcus Fellows and son-in-law Alisdair Bowie (Austin Healey Sprite) beside him. On the second row, it was Abigail & Ian Whitt (MG Midget) and Richard Rowlands & Alan Hassell in the Ford Cortina.
What a tremendous start by Abigail Whitt! She stormed into the lead, but was unable to keep the Imp behind her and, by the end of the first lap, the Imp had passed her, demoting her to 2nd place. After 3 more laps the Cortina of Rowlands & Hassell also squeezed past the Midget, to take 2nd place. One lap later the Cortina slipped past the Imp to gain the lead. Then, on the next lap the Midget passed the Imp, only to lose the place on the very next lap – all exciting stuff ! Two laps later the race became even more interesting for Abigail, when the bonnet catch came loose, meaning that she had to call into the pits unexpectedly to fix it. Fortunately the “pit-window” had just opened, which prompted an early driver change. Probably due to the impromptu visit to the pits, the timing of the stop was misjudged and the Whitts incurred a penalty for being just over a second too short.
Everyone had been hoping for another close race between the Minis of Robb and Hunting & Ritchie; but, sadly, Robb had to stop after only 2 laps. Unfortunately the other Mini also failed on lap 13, causing the Safety Car to be deployed. It remained out for 4 laps, which allowed the cars to close up.
When racing re-started, the Midget was in the lead, followed by the Imp and the Cortina. Then began a continuation of the excitement of the beginning of the race, between the Midget and the Imp. The Cortina dropped back, to leave 1st & 2nd places to be fought out in front of it. The race for the lead continued until the end of the race, with Ian Whitt taking the chequered flag, very closely followed by Simon Benoy. The best lap times of these two cars were within one-tenth of a second of each other, making for a brilliant spectacle. Unfortunately the Whitt’s afore-mentioned pit-stop penalty robbed them of the win, but their car was far enough ahead of the Cortina to retain 2nd place. Benoy had done particularly well, being so close to Whitt, considering that he had served a 20-second winner’s penalty.
After starting qualifying on a damp track, the sun began to shine and the drivers could explore how the track felt in the anti-clockwise direction.
Jon Ellison & Mark Parsley were able to practice in the TR6, after having to retire from Saturday’s race and they achieved 4th on the grid, beside Dean Halsey in the Datsun 240Z who had been putting in quick laps all session. Once again, it was Mark Campbell in the TR5 who took pole position, although he had a big, scary spin with 10 minutes of the session to go; but, he continued and went even faster! Alongside Campbell was the Lotus Elan of Donald Laird & Keiron Baillie.
What a race it was! Probably one of the best all week-end. Campbell started the race knowing he had a 40-second success penalty, which meant that he had a lot of work to do after the pit stop if he wanted to win.
There was drama on the first corner, when the TR6 of Ellison & Parsley hit the side of the Halsey Datsun. Fortunately both cars were able to continue, with Halsey in third and Ellison in fourth place. Campbell was secure in the lead, a position which he held until the pit-stops.
All through the race, there were entertaining battles throughout the field. David McDonald (TR6) swapped places several times with the Jaguar XK120 of Darren McWhirter. John Leslie in the Reliant Sabre 6 was enjoying a close duel with Joe Ward in the TVR Grantura.
The race continued to get better! After the pit-stops, Campbell re-joined in third place behind McDonald and Halsey. He quickly passed McDonald and then had the task of catching Halsey. As the remaining race time reduced so did the gap between the leaders – with 5 minutes to go the gap was about 5 seconds. As Campbell’s best lap time was just over a second better than Halsey’s, the result was far from certain. It really did go down to the line – 3.5 minutes to go and the gap was 2.5 seconds and coming down all the time.
With 1.5 minutes left, the gap was 0.24 seconds – could it get any closer? At the start of the last lap, Campbell managed to get past Halsey at the Hairpin and then both cars had to negotiate “traffic” and, finally, at the line, it was Campbell who triumphed by just 0.39 seconds with Halsey level with Campbell’s door! David McDonald was 3rd, followed by the Elan of Laird & Baillie.
Vicki Cairns CSCC Committee Member
Thank you all who braved the nose bleeds and thin air to join the Advantage Motorsport Future Classics at the wonderful Knockhill Circuit in Fife. Having now walked the track in both directions, I can well see how the blind crests, heavy braking and quick sweepers made for a great weekend's racing.
Qualifying Race 1 - Having got used to the interesting timing and results setup they run north of the border, I can tell you that #56 John Hammersley and Adam Brown in the Vauxhall Astra GTE put in a great lap, to qualify on pole position, in a nip and tuck battle with #79 Mark Chilton. Chilton brought the wonderful sounding Porsche 928 out of hibernation, whilst the Nissan's engine is rebuilt. Speaking of Nissan's, #111 Jason and Louise Kennedy's Skyline GTR R32 was just behind in third, in a tightly-packed grid on Knockhill's short 1.3 mile lap. #144 Willy Toye headed up the 70's field in the white Triumph TR8 with #148 Robin Benn qualifying second. Local Scotsman Willy had lobbied us for years to travel north of the border, we were glad to see him return from Asia to be able to take part.