RACE REPORTS BIRLEY TAKES LANDMARK WIN AS HART AND PORTER SHINE
MALLORY PARK: BRSCC PLUM PUDDING BY IAN SOWMAN
Rod Birley claimed what could be the 600th victory of his impressive 44-year racing career during the annual Plum Pudding event at Mallory Park.
The West Kingsdown ace – who took his first win at Cadwell Park in 1973 at the wheel of a Hillman Imp – placed his entry promptly to secure pole position for the first part of the Saloon Car double-header. However, his Ford Escort WRC developed a vibration during practice, and Rich Hockley (Honda Civic) surged past the temporarily discombobulated Birley to lead at Shaw’s Corner on lap one.
Birley retrieved the lead at Lake Esses on the next lap, and David Matthias made it an Escort one-two shortly afterwards – only for his differential to fail. Hockley was also ruled out on lap five when the fuel tank strap snapped, a legacy of a grassy moment at the Esses on lap four, when Steven Barnard (who had crashed in practice) charged through to third in his Audi TT silhouette.
Barnard seemed to have the measure of Birley and began to reel him in, but then lost impetus and was eventually defeated by more than eight seconds. Birley reckoned that this completed his sixth century of wins across circuit and oval races, but others were less sure. “We put it on Facebook,” he said, “but someone commented that there was a result in 2014 that might have been changed, so we need to look at that.”
Peter Felix (VW Golf) completed the podium after a superb fight with Brett Lidsey, which was resolved when the latter negotiated Stebbe Straight on the grass with three laps remaining. Graham
Crowhurst climbed from row 11 to fifth in his BMW M3, while Mike Webb (Ford Focus) completed the top six.
The result of the second encounter was declared after just a couple of laps following two race-stopping incidents. The first came when Alan Forster (MG ZR), on pole for the reversed-grid contest, spun in front of most of the pack at Gerard’s Bend. Several cars were damaged, and Joe Thompson’s Mini Se7en was stranded. The restart was three laps old when Nik Barton lost control of his VW Golf – which he had collected only weeks earlier – at Devil’s Elbow, rolling after the car dug into the gravel. Hockley was classified as the winner from Geoff Conner (Renault Clio 172) and Mike Ritchie (Honda Integra).
Ray Rowan was using the Sports Car races as a run-out for the ex-hillclimb Pilbeam Mp43-hart he has been rebuilding for the past three years, but he nevertheless stormed into the lead at Gerard’s Bend from row three of the grid. Dave Porter (Radical SR3) recovered from a slow start to claim second on lap three, then passed Rowan on Kirkby Straight on lap nine. There was contact between the pair at the hairpin shortly afterwards, however, which led to Porter retiring with CV joint failure and Rowan calling into the pits. Philip Hart therefore took the win in his Mallock Mk16 from the Caterhams of Jason Gale and Chris Aubrey.
Rowan missed race two but Porter returned, and pushed hard from the rear of the grid to claim the lead on lap four. Gale had led the early stages, but Hart followed Porter to take second.