Humble Pye: the voice of club racing
WOW! COULD THERE HAVE BEEN A BETTER CLIMAX to Formula Ford’s 50th anniversary season than the annual Walter Hayes Trophy extravaganza at Silverstone, support for which now eclipses the traditional British Racing and Sports Car Club Festival at Brands Hatch? I don’t believe so.
Not only was the action on the National Circuit (which provided sensational racing at last month’s Historic Sports Car Club Championship Finals) breathtaking, but the sheer range and eclecticism of machinery – including mighty Le Mans Prototypes and an intriguing Volvo S60 (see below) caricature – was unparalleled too.
After a miserably wet Saturday, which enabled the quickest Historic FF racers to outrun modern hardware in compliant pre-1972 chassis powered by the same venerable Ford Kent engines, Sunday’s conditions were considerably more pleasant and favoured more modern kit. All as it should be, of course, but with an enthusiastic spectator turnout basking in bright sunshine and Weber carburettors gulping crisp, cold autumn air, the competition was faster and yet more furious.
With three-time WHT victor and reigning Brands Hatch Festival winner Joey Foster out of the equation early in the final, the Castle Combe posse covered itself in glory. Both newly crowned number one Josh Fisher and his closest rival, last month’s Carnival winner Michael Moyers, would have been deserved victors, but with strong home support Moyers found the edge in a Kevin Mills Racing Spectrum – by the skin of his teeth!
At the podium presentation it was difficult to tell who was more emotional, Michael or dad Pete, universally known as ‘Ferret,’ who has masterminded the preparation of Silverstone’s school car fleet for decades.
Fisher, son of triple Combe Special GT champ Brian, was magnanimous in defeat and hid his disappointment well. Third in the WHT on three previous occasions (brother Felix also bagged bronze in 2009) Fisher had set a new personal best, and praised his great adversary’s hard-won triumph.
As an impartial bystander, my only regret over the final was that when there was a spectacular incident at Brooklands the race was not red-flagged. The first semi-final had been stopped for a serious impact at the exit of that corner.
This time none of the drivers was stuck in an immobile car, but with groups of marshals tending three disabled machines spread over perhaps 50 metres (one minus a wheel, another with a buckled corner) a stoppage would have created a safer environment than waved yellow flags with the field arriving every minute or so. Time for a restart of decent length was never an issue.
The dedicated Historic FF race, which also embraced the pre-’82 Classic set, was epic. The fight between HFF protagonists Callum Grant, Michael Mallock, Ben Mitchell and Richard Tarling, with CFF’S Mike Gardner in on the act, was one of the greatest contests I’ve ever witnessed.
Frantic slipstreaming on the Wellington Straight presaged heart-stopping ‘bomb-bursts’ as four cars approached Brooklands abreast. Tarling’s brilliantly engineered victory befitted this year’s champion, but Mallock and Mitchell – in my Jimmy’s Iced Coffee Merlyn Mk20, engine emboldened since Brands Hatch in July – finished within 0.196s.