CASTLE COOMBE 2011 NIPPON CHALLENGE
The day started gloomy and still with a fine drizzle wetting everything in sight, Drivers tentatively lined up for morning practice as a slippery Castle Coombe circuit awaited. Visibility was so bad that all most drivers could see was a small red glow from rain lights around 10 m in front with spray blocking out peripheral vision. During this session there were many casualties including Subarus,MR2s ,and even Hondas. Paul Hughes in the Buddyclub DC5 ran into the back of team mate Paul Cowland at the chicane and retired with only one timed lap ,Cowlands Civic Cup car went on to set P1 in Civic cup and 5th on the grid overall. Surprise of the day was young Charlotte Burridge in her GT150 MR2 Qualifying in 6th place overall in front of many Super GTs. Eventually the wet session finished with Vaughan Fletcher on pole position by less than a second from Yaser Almaghrbi in the Daihatsu Chirade and Elliot Dunmore in the Celica GT.
Lights out and a very wet race saw Hughes shoot up the inside with two wheels on the grass picking up 4 places by the first corner, Vaughan Fletcher shot off into the mist followed by Yaser but Allit crashed at the end of lap 2 closely followed by Middleton at the beginning of lap 3 bringing the Safety car out on lap 5 . The restart was lap 7 with a clear track and flying start most top guns set their fastest lap on the last lap, Movers and Shakers were Stuart Hutchinson making the most of a bad grid position and shooting up from 8th to 2nd Taking the GT250 Trophy and Paul Hughes with an impressive climb from 19th place on the grid to 11th and winning GT300 class.
At the flag it was Vaughan Fletcher 4 seconds ahead of Hutchinson followed by Yaser and Elliot Dunmore in 4th taking the GT200 honours. Paul Cowland won the Civic Cup from Rich Hockley and Mike Hamlett.
The track was still wet but the rain had stopped, some chose dry tyres some stayed on wets. As the lights went out it was a replay of the first race as Hughes DC5 stormed up the inside to take another 4 places into the first bend, Fletcher got a fantastic start and was 50 yards ahead by the second corner, Adam Lockwoods luck ran out again as he retired on the 2nd lap
As the race developed the track dried and the grip improved, some wet shod drivers like Cowland struggled for rear grip and looked to be having his own drifting competition ,meanwhile the pace got faster and closer with Mclennan and Hughes swapping places a few times with Andy finally pulling two car lengths on Hughes but throwing it all away on the penultimate lap as he took to the grass trying to out brake Yaser into 3rd position, Hughes tried to capitalise on this and also caught Yaser on the last lap but didn't try the risky last corner lunge ,Instead Hughes choosing to Follow Yaser over the line 0.5 seconds later to consolidate a double GT300 win, GT200 was again won by Elliot Dunmore, first race rain obviously slowed Fletcher, as this time he romped away as it dried, to finish 38 seconds in front of everyone, Hutchinson follower through to take GT250 and Again the most exciting race in the field was the Civic Cup lads who battled and swapped places all race eventually arriving at the last corner three abreast, It could all very nearly have ended in tears as Cowland, Hockley, and Ainsworth rounded the last corner door to door, the sprint to the line all revolved around corner exit speed and the first three cars crossed the line side by side with only 6 tenths covering all three, BTCC can't match that !!
Civic Cup and Nippon Challenge Mallory Park 18th of September 2011,
As the day broke the weather looked ominous, clouds swirled but the track was dry with a cool breeze. Qualifying started with a tentative search for grip, most cars staying above one minute for the first few laps, then as the pace hotted up we saw Andy Harvey lay down the first salvo with a 57.6 quickly followed on the next lap by Paul Hughes with a 56.2, by lap 4 Andy Mclennan joined the party with a 56.6 only to be pushed back by Harvey on the same lap by a 56.1. Hughes dropped back and slowed up for clean air as the front runners tripped over each other. On lap 8 and in clear air Paul Hughes stormed past the line with a blistering 53.3 a full 2 seconds faster than any other car on track, Harvey tried to respond but his best was 54.6 ,Sadly Andy Mclennan spectacularly exited in a cloud of white smoke with gearbox bowel syndrome handing Q3 to Kevin Middleton in the Subaru with a 55.0. Civic Cup cars lined up with Rich Hockley on row 3 with a very respectable 55.6 followed closely by Newbie Nick Chatburn and Mike Hamlett.
As the lights went out Hughes in the Buddyclub DC5 road demo car got everything right and exited Gerrards in front of Harvey, but Harvey pilled on the pressure and Hughes out braked himself at the hairpin letting Harvey into the lead, Harvey tried to defend but for 3+ laps Hughes put him under immense pressure as the two car steam train charged on nearly touching, On lap 4 Harvey made the mistake out braking himself into Gerrards and going off to rejoining back in 7th position handing the lead back to Paul Hughes who seemingly sat back to slam in 8 consecutive laps in the 54's,cementing the win from Adam Lockwood 3 seconds adrift and a Ruffled Andy Harvey in 3rd. Richard Hockley in the Civic Cup battle was storming away with the lead and by lap 7 was over 10 seconds in front of the next Cup Car, but door banging all the way with rival team Stoner Racing, followed by Nick Chatburn and Mike Hamlett and Dave Payling in a door to door Civic Cup Battle which raged on for the whole race, Eventually Rich Hockley got the better of Stoner and made it stick followed by Nick Chatburn and Mike Hamlett making up the Civic Cup podium. Bad loser Harvey lodged a complaint with the stewards claiming Hughes tagged him off but photographic evidence emerged to say otherwise .Race two fireworks were expected.....
As the cars formed up on the grid a Huge black cloud crept over with that eerily chilling wind that warns of imminent danger, The heavens opened and the lights went out. The pack surged towards Gerrards and as expected Harvey ran into the back of Hughes without braking, there was other contact within the pack and the race was red flagged on the first lap. The cars formed up again and another two sighting laps were ordered, the rain got heavier and visibility was impossible so the cars were held on the grid for almost 10 minutes, pole position Hughes called the start marshal and warning him of Harveys conduct and sure enough when the lights went out sore loser Harvey pulled alongside the DC5 and side swiped it into the pit wall, the race was treacherous to say the least and with front bumper trailing under the front wheel Hughes struggled to handle the car, Adam Lockwood consistently lapped at 1.01 and won the shortened 7 lap race, followed by Chappell and Harvey.
The Civic Cup was Hockleys to lose as he shot off into a 5 second lead on the first lap only to throw it all away on lap 2 going off at Gerrards, leaving Stewart Hutchinson and Nick Chatburn to slog it out for the early lead but that didn't last long either as Hutchinson had his own moment on lap 4 putting him to the back of the Civic Cup Pack. The closest battle was for 2nd and 3rd as Mike Hamlett and Dave Payling ran within half a second of each other for most of the race and given the front runners mistakes lapped up the podium honours finishing 2nd and 3rd behind Nick Chatburn, who put in a very respectable show finishing only 26 seconds behind the overall winning Super GT class car.