“If only everything in life was as reliable as… a Golf”
Even though the Championship was already ours having led from the first race, there was no way that Jamie and the team wouldn’t give it everything at the final round of the Castle Combe Championships. With 7 wins from 8 races so far, the total points tally from another win would be immense. The day also promised a finale with the annual Sports V Saloons race where all the normal competitors from all but the Formula Ford grid (sorry guys, but it would be carnage) join in for one mad 20 minute scramble to the last chequered flag of the year.
Qualifying for the GT Championship was hardly necessary, we could have all written the grid down beforehand with everyone performing to the script, but the opportunity to dial in the car for the surprisingly warm track was still welcome. Jamie secured 5th to take the rolling start from the favoured inside line alongside the fast starting Westfield Aero.
The Sports V Saloon qualifying was always going to be interesting, with Class A saloon cars trying to harness over 500hp and Class D cars running 10-15 seconds a lap down. Getting to the front was the key and so we led out onto the track at the start of the session, set a slow first lap to warm the tyres a little and bunch the field behind and then banzai!! A rolling lap of 1:08:6 across laps 2 and 3 was 0.2 up on our own lap record and was followed by a 1:08:7 on lap 4, before we started to catch the back markers and determined that would be enough for pole, with little more to be gained and a lot to be lost on the crowded track.
A few hours of sunbathing later, the grid formed for the GT finale, and as with qualifying the race went to the form book. An early tussle between Jamie and Alan Hamilton’s Westfield Aero lasted a lap following which the field spread out. However, attrition started to affect the more highly tuned and highly strung cars and first the 800hp Evo of Bradley John slowed and was passed. Having been served the black and white naughty boy flag for abusing the track limits, Jamie’s pace dropped a little but then the 2.3 turbo silhouette Tigra of Ollie Bull began dropping off the pace and back towards the ultra-reliable Golf.
With a lap to go Jamie could smell blood, and with the 2nd place Evo now running on three cylinders an outright podium looked possible but in the end transpired to be just out of reach.
The final victory lap of the circuit in the winners’ car with the Championship flag aloft was a fitting end to the race and the season followed by the traditional Ice creams for driver 99 and the whole team.
Now for the fun bit of the day… With pole position alongside the Westfield, a rolling start and the promise of Nigel Mustill in his Nissan GTR starting from the back and beasting his way through the field the Sports V Saloons should have been a hoot. Then the GTR didn’t show, the Westfield withdrew and the front row was suddenly looking a bit lonely and vulnerable with the immensely powerful Audi TT of Alex Kite and equally fast Astra of Adam Prebble sitting menacingly on the 2nd row.
The GT cars always enjoy the luxury of a rolling start (due to fragile clutches in many big GTs) and the drivers get to anticipate how early they can gun the motor and release the car, so as the lights went out Jamie was already building speed and led through Folly, but as the 2 metre wide Golf tried to carve through the air up the straight to Avon Rise, the extra 200hp of the more slender saloons showed and they shot past into the lead (recording almost 15mph more it was reported later).
But the Golf gets its pace from late braking, high corner speed and immense traction and within half a lap Jamie had made a move on Prebble into the 2nd chicane forcing an error on the exit and he was through. Now chasing down the insanely powerful Audi TT, the Golf’s increased speed through Camp corner onto the long start finish straight negated the Audi’s power advantage and as Kite braked wide and late for Quarry the Jamie was deep into the apex and through. The rest of the race was an exercise in tyre management and lappery, and by the end we had passed all but the Audi. A great deal of credit goes to the other saloons in the race who put on a great show with some excellent racing while still managing to let the front runners through safely.
So that’s almost it, this season we’ve “been there, done that and (finally) got the T shirt”.
We’ve still got Thruxton to go in the Seat this weekend, so if you’re in the area come and enjoy some really fast action, and you can even enjoy a 5 lap white knuckle ride in the Seat TCR at Castle Combe by coming along to the Supercar Saturday Charity day on 26th October in aid of the Stroke Association. Come early, there’s a queue forming already!
As the season draws to a close, we must thank all of the Marshals who give up their weekends and bake in the sunshine for hours on end so that we can race safely, and an extra special mention to Melanie Sykes whose classic Boddingtons Ice Cream van advert inspired our race number!