Round 13, UK Championship, Thruxton, September 12th 2009
Once again the sun shone on a beautiful group of FJHRA’s finest and we had an exciting and incident free race.
Thruxton circuit in Hampshire is based on an active airfield and is also home to the BARC, but for various reasons we don’t get to run on this very fast track too often so this was an opportunity not to be missed and we had 30 entrants.
The warm sunshine a complete contrast to our visit last year at Easter when there was a shrieking sub-zero gale accompanied by sleet squalls.
The meeting was run by AMOC and in charge was the familiar face of Martin Atak, late of the HSCC, so it was good to renew his acquaintance.
Jon Milicevic was keen to maintain his maximum points scoring momentum in his Cooper T59, the “Fosters Booth Flyer”. However Michael Hibberd in the ‘Langley Lighting’ Lotus 27 was in determined mood to give Jon a really good contest, as was Denis Welch in “Mr.Poo” his cherished Merlyn Mk5/7 and a 3 way contest between these elite drivers looked very exciting.
Sadly “Mr.Poo” lost drive, a clutch failure being most likely, which sidelined Denis after just 3 laps of Qualifying but the “Langley Lightning”, seemingly now cured of fuel starvation problems, took up the challenge and recorded 1:26.669 for 2nd grid place behind Milicevic’s Cooper on 1:26.083. Driver of this Cooper last year was Ben Simms but now racing Stuart Rolt’s drum braked Elva 200; he put up 1:27.476 and 4th place was taken by Simon Armer’s Cooper T59 on1:28.465 to complete row two.
Class D was headed by Chris Drake’s Elva 300 on 1:33.262 and Class B leader was Peter St.Barbe’s Elva 100 on 1:39.036.
Malcolm Cook was very disappointed when his newly built engine burned out several sparking plugs and lost compression in all bar one cylinder and his Lotus 20 (ex John Sykes Lotus 20) took no further part. James Hicks racing the family Caravelle III was also in trouble with the newly built engine breathing out an oil vapour trail, a suspected scavenger pump failure, and despite much work and consultation with Stuart Roach after practice, was permanently withdrawn. Linden Brand also had an engine problem and called in the pits immediately, but continued after much head scratching by his team. Unfortunately the problem persisted and after another lengthy investigatory pit stop during the race he lost so much time that his Lotus 22 wasn’t classified as a finisher. John Boyes had an excursion over the Chicane curbs, which cost him part of the undertray but his Lotus 20 was fit to race, thankfully.
The pit wall at Thruxton is a substantial concrete affair with a partly sloping top, ideal for writing notes & timekeeping. It was clearly designed by someone who knew just what a pit wall should be like and it is also a blessing that it’s still completely devoid of the massive steel fencing which has appeared recently at many other circuits.
Hopefully the “Elf & Safety Jobsworths” will not interfere.
Our race got underway just after 4pm and from a clean start Milicevic came round for the first time with a 50 yard lead over Hibberd who was being pressed by Simms. Armer was passed by Simon Ham’s Brabham BT2 and was unable to regain the place.
Unbeknown to we observers, Hibberd’s Lotus was still suffering fuel surge especially round the everlasting Church Bend and on one lap had to yield to Simms. This caused unbridled euphoria within Simms’ pit crew and also extracted a wry grin from Stuart Rolt whose engines are also in Milicevic’s Cooper, apart from Simms’ Elva and the Caravelle.
Soon, Hibberd shortly retook 2nd place but his underperforming car couldn’t catch Milicevic who romped away to an 11 second win in his own time, lowering his lap time to an astonishing 1:25.942 in the process on lap 3, but easing off thereafter.
Further back notable improvements during the race came from, late enrty, Stuart Tizzard’s Lola Mk2 and from Richard Smeeton’s Lotus 22. It was good to see the always cheerful Simon Hamilton out this season after his gap year rebuilding his Lotus 18 and another with a smile on his face was Geoff O’Nion happy to have rediscovered his form in his Elva 100 and having thoroughly enjoyed a great race long tussle with Hamilton and John Hutchison’s Lotus 18 with John Dowson (Elva 200) and Duncan’s Alexis having been part of this fray, but dropping back as the race progressed. Andrew Wilkinson continued to improve in this, only his 4th race in his Cooper T59 and finished well up, between Andrew Hibberd’s Lotus 22 and Pete Morton’s Lightning Envoyette. Rudolf Ernst (Lotus 22), sad that at the only AMOC meeting for FJ this year, there was no pre war race, nonetheless drove an excellent race, just behind Andrew Taylor, in the Britannia (while the Envoy awaits its winter rebuild) and ahead of a still fragile John Boyes [Lotus 20] recovering from a gardening accident; that’s right John, stick to racing, it’s safer!
Milicevic, Hibberd and Simms were awarded on the elevated podium platform immediately after the race and a while later in the paddock DCPR announced the following Class positions and made awards appropriately.
Winner overall & 1st in Class E, John Milicevic, Cooper T59, 1:25.942.
Second overall & 2nd in Class E, Michael Hibberd, Lotus 27.
Third overall & 1st in Class C, Ben Simms, 1.27.343.
Third in Class E, Simon Ham, Brabham BT2
First in Class D, Chris Drake, Elva 300, 1:31.573.
Second in Class D, Lance Whitehead, Lotus 22.
Third in Class D, Alex Morton, Ausper T3.
Second in Class C, Andrew Taylor, Britannia.
Third in Class C, John Hutchison, Lotus 18.
First in Class B, Stuart Tizzard, Lola Mk2, 1:37.443
Second in Class B, Peter St.Barbe who also collected the 1 litre award.
Third in Class B, Geoff O’Nion.
Sadly neither Derek Walker nor Crispian Besley were present so the nearby ice-cream van did a roaring trade and slurping noises mingled with the usual applause & banter, interspersed by an occasional splosh & muted curse.
Peter Jackson, “The Cooper Cockpit Correspondent”.