Thruxton Thriller: Race Report

Updated: May 12

Our second event of 2021 produced memorable racing in (mostly) dry conditions, at the UK's fastest circuit.

Marc Peters manages to capture the atmosphere beautifully in this highlights video, we think this is his best yet, do you agree?

CSCC official photographer, David Stallard captured every qualifying and race session in time order, please view and buy his photos (you have 4000 to choose from!). All the photos used in this report are of course courtesy of David.

Saturday 1st (Modern Series):

Sunday 2nd (mostly Classic Series):

Marcus Pye has described the action he saw from the control tower, producing this meeting report for your interest, together with a number of reports from your respective Series Representative and finally a few comments by the CSCC office team in italics.

Scroll down to find your series report.

Marcus Pye: Three weeks after Oulton Park’s season-opener, our sixth straight visit to Britain’s fastest circuit did not attract competitors in previous years’ numbers. Doubtless running behind closed doors and without families in attendance, for the full social experience, as the COVID19 situation appears to improve, spoils it for many. Nonetheless, the variety of cars, renowned camaraderie and quality of racing, remained across the Thruxton Thriller’s 13-race programme, making it a Bank Holiday weekend to savour.

A brisk wind greeted the multitude, as the paddock began to fill on Friday. An extraordinary spectacle on Saturday was the arrival of Martin Reynolds’ artic, from which was craned a portable workshop, garaging one of his #27 Fords and serviced accommodation to onlookers’ amazement. A fine showcase for Martin’s MRC Modular construction business. Superb yes, but there will be no space for this in future paddocks, sorry Martin!

Despite the ever-moving threat of rain on the aerodrome west of Andover, Saturday dawned bright and sunny. The 2.356-mile perimeter track, unchanged since it first hosted champion drivers in 1968, looked a picture, with grass now colouring the vast earth banks formed round the outside of the revered Church corner during lockdown last year.

Saturday’s racing commenced with the first of two Verum Builders Open Series races. Unfortunately contact in the initial scramble to Allard corner rendered fast starter Adam Howarth’s BMW M3 immobile and brought out red flags. Series sponsor Rob Hardy watched this unfold from the pit exit, having elected to start his Porsche Boxster there with a clutch problem.

Jack Layton (E46 M3) - who started from pole, his 1:23.050s best lap 0.152s quicker than local ace Jamie Sturges in his SEAT Leon TCR, with Dominic Malone’s ex-Andy Priaulx E90 M3 WTCC on their heels - won it from Sturges and David Gardner’s E46 M3. Max Petch (Ginetta G50) and David Trigg (3.5-litre Toyota-powered Lotus Exige V6 Cup) emerged from a busy train to finish next. David Harvey’s unusual high-winged Lotus 340R ran fourth before conking out at the chicane.

Sturges beat Chris Wills in the Gardner BMW when the Verum Builders Open contenders re-emerged for race 2, but Bryan Bransom slipped his orange E36 M3 past Malone’s monster on the final lap to claim third in Gardner’s wake. Trigg and Dave Griffin (Coca-Cola E36 M3) completed the top six.

Ramair Filters boss, Sturges, from the neighbouring village of Kimpton, a four-time Thruxton winner over the past two seasons, had another great day, increasing his tally to seven during the course of the afternoon. He won the attrition-riven Liqui Moly Slicks Series race in his VW Golf TCR, then added the second Open and New Millennium spoils back in the hot SEAT.

Jamie’s victories reminded seasoned circuit goers of late bakery boss John Burbidge - from the hamlet of Fox, near Amport, with a distant view over the circuit - whose Modsports exploits in a hairy Jaguar E-type made him one of Thruxton’s first local heroes in the ’70s.

Back to the Liqui Moly Slicks Series, the mighty turbocharged two-wheel-drive Nissan Skyline GT-R GT3 of Richard Wheeler/Danny Harrison sat on pole with a staggering 1:14.268 (114.20mph) lap, barely four seconds outside Formula 2 and F5000 single-seater records of yore. A languid 180 degree spin into the pit entrance during qualifying ended in a Russ Swift-like parallel park! Having sizzled to the front after warming its tyres Wheeler retired with transmission problems, as did four others (some out of fuel), leaving only Sturges, Chris Everill’s gruff Chevrolet V8-engined Ginetta G55 and Bransom running.

The forecast monsoon arrived during the Liqui Moly New Millennium race, in which Sturges sploshed ever further clear of the Beemers of Matthew Sanders/Layton and Gardner/Mills. Andrew Rath’s Lotus Europa - which had been caught up in the opener’s start melée - Paul Boulton’s Nissan 370Z and Dylan Popovic’s Ginetta G50 chased the saloons home.

A 30 second pit-stop penalty for winning at Oulton Park focussed BMW Mini Cooper S R53 driver Charlie Newton-Darby in the Motorsport School Turbo Tin Tops set, but he negated it and still won by 20 seconds from Will Powell’s Motus One Renault Clio. CND’s reward will be a minute’s deficit at Donington! Keith Issatt (BMW Mini Clubman) survived a couple of splutters out of the chicane to finish third, pursued by the Ford Fiesta ST of Lisa Selby/Toby Harris. Best of the Mr Tyre Motorsport Puma quartet was Gary Jones in fifth, ahead of Simon Evans who topped the Mazda RX-8 rotary class.

The first seven or 8 minutes of Gary Jones onboard video are worth watching, showing that you don't need a large budget to have fun. His Mr Tyre Motorsport Puma Cup car mixes with and overtakes other Pumas, RX-8 Trophies and the odd Motorsports School Turbo Tin Tops car too, going on to win his series.

Quickest in Gold Arts Magnificent Sevens qualifying, Stephen Nuttall took a five place drop for his Oulton victory. When early leader Stephen James spun at Campbell and was collected by Rich Webb the ochre-hued CSCC Ford Focus safety car was deployed. That Nuttall - penalised for jumping the start - and pursuer Ben Simonds didn’t stop with the vast majority, did not pay off, but Nuttall subsequently retired. Second qualifier Tim Davis beat Jonny and Christian Pittard to the chequer, with last year’s surprise winner John Cutmore (Spire-Suzuki RB-7) fourth, breaking the Caterham stranglehold.

Group 1 victory was taken by Alan Cooper, by just 0.179 seconds, from brother Kevin Cooper, not bad after 40 minutes of racing! Both drove Caterham 310R.

Wow, you'll need to be sitting down to watch the first two laps of action with Christian Pittard.

Undeterred by his door - savaged in a first corner knock with Doug Simmen’s E36 M3 which spun - flying 50 feet into the air on Woodham Hill, Dave Griffin left Cartek Motorsport Modern Classics rivals standing. A superb battle raged in his wake however. In the drive of the afternoon, Alan Thompson overtook the TVR Tuscan Challenge cars of Stuart Daburn (carrying a 15 second success penalty from Oulton) and Matt Holben on the final lap to land a brilliantly opportunistic second in the iridescent green E36 M3. Back in the pack Ben Sharich and his smart Ford SVT Mustang Cobra both appeared to enjoy their CSCC taster, lapping three seconds quicker than in qualifying.

Cartek Motorsport Modern Classics Driver Representative, John Baker continues the story:

Well, for our second race of the season you certainly provided a cracking race.

Dave Griffin put his E36 M3 on pole, followed by Daburn in his Tuscan, Simmen/Jones in 3rd, with Alan Thompson 4th in respective BMWs. Alex Taylor, in his RX-7 was 5th, with Holben in his Tuscan rounding out the top six.

The Hamilton’s in their Ginetta's were the only two car team and the Ford Mustang Cobra had its first outing this year, driven by the experienced but 'new to the CSCC' Ben Sharich. Yes, this really is it's factory, road-going silhouette!

We were blessed with brilliant sunshine as the race got underway but unfortunately contact was made between Dave Griffin and Simmen/Jones BMW, as they entered Allards for the first time. The damage appearing to be a dent at first, but unusual angle of contact damaged Griffins drivers door, with a damaged rear end to the Simmen/Jones car.

The cars crossed the line with Griffin leading, Daburn in 2nd and Thompson in third place. This set the tone for the first six laps, up until the pit stop.

The Mustang was purring round, compared to the front runner’s roar. It is a welcome addition to the series.

The Ginetta pairing of Roger and Nick Hamilton started well but Roger ran in to problems on lap 6 and pulled out, so Nick took over on Lap 8, but was 2 laps down by the time the radio call came in and the Clerks kindly allowed him to continue.

The pit stops did little to alter the race running order with Griffin pulling away in his battered BMW. Halfway through the race Griffins car became lighter when the door tore itself away from the bodywork! Not the mod we would recommend.

The race settled down and then the TVR’s of Holben and Daburn battled with Thompson's BMW for the last few laps, with it looking like a TVR was a cert for second.

Alex Taylor was forced to retire with fuel problems and the 122 Porsche 968 of James Alexander also retired.

Griffin won the race, perhaps slightly cooler than usual in the lightweight M3, overcoming his success penalty from Oulton. The fight for second third and fourth went down to the last lap with Alan Thompson bringing his BMW home second, 56 thousandths ahead of Daburn in 3rd who was only .39 second ahead of Holben, a real photo finish.

We now move on to Donington Park at the end of May to hopefully warmer days and nights.

JMC Racing Special Saloons & Modsports, BARC Thruxton staples in the 1970s and ’80s, continue to attract attention for their inventiveness in retrospective form, with Donington GT-type cars and others with modern engines in the mix too. It was great to welcome newcomers to the CSCC throng. Father-and-son David and Jack Gadd’s pristine Millington-powered Ford Escort Mk1s attracted much attention, as did Cornishman Neil Vaughan whose vivid yellow Chevrolet Corvette C3 was previously raced by Tony Browne of Black Cat Engineering in Australia.

Previous quintuple winners Andy Southcott and Ian Hall started favourites, but both hit trouble. Southcott’s Midget-Vauxhall challenge was ended by diff failure in race one, after which evergreen Darrian Wildcat GTR pilot Hall looked to have it sewn up. But Thomas Carey, quick here before, charged his Honda CRX-BDG from the back to beat the septuagenarian. Wayne Crabtree’s Abespeed Ford RS200 clone was third, ahead of Rod Birley (BMW E36 M3), but the Volvo turbo engine in Mike Scott’s ex-Eurocar V6 ‘Vauxhall Cavalier’ popped its head gasket.

Hall’s stretched Rover V8-derived engine “made an awful noise” when he fired it up for the sequel, thus the car was trailered with suspected piston damage. Nonetheless, Ian (a racer since the 1960s) was presented with the Brian Tarrant Trophy, in memory of the local driver who died at Thruxton when he crashed his Austin A40-Chevrolet 50 years ago, in June ’71.

Worried by low oil pressure on the fast sweeps, Carey also withdrew before race two. Southcott, despite a longer spare diff, made light work of catching Crabtree and briefly led, but Wayne harnessed just enough grunt from the Subaru turbo-engined RS200 to claim its maiden victory by 0.369s. Birley was a solid third, ahead of a tremendous tussle in which Malcolm Harding (Escort Mk2) staved off young Jack Gadd, who recorded his first 100mph lap. Behind them Martin Reynolds (Castrol Escort Mk2), Tony Paxman (Escort Mk1), Neil Duke (Anglia 105E-BDG) and Alan Cooper (Nike Imp-Abarth) had a whale of a time scrapping.

The Advantage Motorsport Future Classics grunt-fest saw Bill Lancashire’s deceptively fearsome Morgan Plus 8 fend off his previous TVR Tuscan Challenge car, which Tony Blake finished impressively, having taken over from son Aston at the pit stops. Three-time Thruxton winner Daburn, in his grey TVR, was ousted brilliantly from third, by Matthew Lewis in the family Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, on the final lap.