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Round 7 UK Championships - Brands Hatch 4th-5th July 2009


Last year’s Superprix meeting on the wonderful Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit will be remembered as one of the high-spots of the Golden Jubilee year with three stand-alone races forming the main element of Saturday’s racing. This year Formula Junior had to be content with a “Millers Oils” round on Sunday.  Following a week of very hot and humid weather in southern England, it was something of a relief to find race day was blessed with a cooling breeze and some light cloud, keeping temperatures bearable for both people and cars. 

An excellent 41 entries were received, including Continental visitors Lars-Göran Sjöberg (Swebe-Cooper) and Jan Biekens (Stanguellini) and Babasan in the Foglietti, flying in from Japan for his first European meeting of the year. Of these 35 practiced, David Hall (BMC Mk2) having a head gasket go in Friday testing. One very unfortunate non-starter was Michael Hibberd who badly injured his foot in a paddock accident on Saturday.  Continuing his form this year, fastest was Jon Milicevic (Cooper T59) with a time of 1’42.653”. This was an amazing 2.5 seconds quicker than next man Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22), with Sam Wilson (T59) 0.7” slower. Wilson had some dramas when he was delayed in assembly area at the start of practice when it was noted that his car had incorrect number. This was hastily adjusted with black gaffer tape and he completed 6 laps but his number was illegible to the time keepers who didn’t issue his lap times. Eventually this was resolved if not entirely amicably and revised practice & grid sheet were issued later giving him 3rd on the grid. Next up were Mark Woodhouse (20/22), Chris Drake (Elva 300) and Steve Smith (T59). Drake was obviously fastest in Class D, John Hutchison (Lotus 18) led Class C, Jack Woodhouse (Elva 100) and Gordon Wright (Stanguellini) were the quickest in the other two classes. James Murray (Lola 5A) who went off on his outlap, but joined the grid at the rear, whilst Justin Fleming (Elva 100), having set a quick 14th fastest practice time, had to pull out of the race after valiantly stripping the diff, but time was against him.

The race was the penultimate one on a busy card, scheduled for 17.25, thus allowing our esteemed leader DCPR to arrive from a family commitment that had meant no orange Alexis on the grid. As it happened, two major shunts and consequent red flags in the Orwell Supersports race saw the programme running late. However race director Graham White did well to recover time so that the FJs started only ten minutes late, albeit reduced from the original 20 minutes to 15 mins. 

Milicevic got a good start, unlike Sam Wilson who made his seemingly habitual poor getaway when the engine “bogged down”, so the order into Paddock Bend was Milicevic, Hibberd, Woodhouse, Smith, Drake and only then Wilson. All the cars successfully completed the opening bends without incident and at the end of lap one Wilson had passed Drake and each of the leaders fairly evenly spaced, about 0.5” to the next man. On lap two Woodhouse closed right up to Hibberd’s tail and Sam Wilson had gained another spot at the expense of Steve Smith.

Jon Milicevic continued to pull away, opening a commanding lead by lap 5. Mark Woodhouse was still worrying Andrew Hibberd whilst Wilson was catching the pair of them. On lap 7 Sam overtook both Mark and Andrew, gaining second on the run down the start/finish straight into Paddock Bend. Further back there was a good battle for sixth between Drake, Simon Ham (Brabham BT2) and Richard Smeeton (Lotus 22), whilst Jack Woodhouse was just holding off Crispian Besley for front-engined honours, both being visibly quick through Paddock. Just after half-distance Jack spun on the oil. Crispian gained the class lead but on the next tour Jack did a stunning move under braking for Paddock to regain it, thereafter gradually opening a small gap, while Bill Grimshaw (Moorland) spoilt an otherwise unblemished run by following Jack’s example and lost nearly a lap before he could restart.

Nine laps were achieved in the allotted time and, in reality, ex-Caterham driver Jon Milicevic had dominated the race, winning by a comfortable 12 seconds, with a best lap 1.2” quicker than anyone else. By the flag Sam Wilson had pulled two seconds clear of Hibberd and Mark Woodhouse, who crossed the line side by side after an enjoyable scrap. Steve Smith was a lonely fifth, 20 seconds back, making it a very good day for the Cooper-ists. Chris Drake was sixth and Class D winner, just holding off James Murray, up from the back of the grid. Class C went to John Hutchison although both Jeremy Deeley (Cooper T52) and Lars-Göran Sjöberg had being going well – Lars-Göran did a brilliant overtaking manoeuvre into Paddock on one occasion, although later he was to pull off at Hawthorns dropping oil.  As mentioned, Class B belonged again to Jack Woodhouse, but one of the drives of the day was from Andrew Tart, bringing the Bond home for the first time under its new ownership, that’s of its first Period driver, Jon Goddard-Watts, and under the watchful eye of the full Team Bond.  The Bond’s other period driver, Chris Featherstone was making his debut in the ex Bill Grimshaw, Paul Dixon Gemini blue Mk II, now in new black and silver colours. Chris was pleased to finish, despite oil seeping onto the clutch plate.  Jan Biekens won the Fiat-engined battle.

Following our precedent last year of making the Saturday a special celebration, this year FJ’s “younger brother” the 1000cc Formula 3 Association featured, with a huge turn out of “screamers” for the Peter Hanson Trophy, run as a part of the HSCC Classic Racing Cars event. No less that 31 cars were listed in the programme, plus a further eight on display in the paddock, including rarities such as the ex- Svenharry Åkesson Swedish Spider, the ex-Offenstadt Pygmee, the ex Martini MW3 of Debien Dominique and the  Jomo Mk 3. This was almost certainly the largest number of such cars since the formula ended in 1970. A number of “period” drivers were at Brands, including David Berry, Tony Trimmer, Harry Stiller, Bev Bond and John Miles. There was also a lunch time parade, although it seemed a pity that this was but a single lap and the commentator did not seem to have any briefing notes, so spectators were left wondering who they were seeing – a shame. As for the race, the Trophy went to François Derossi (B17) who was third overall. Some way back a splendid battle for second went to F3 regular Jürg Tobler (B17) who moved up from 15th on lap one to snatch the place from Nigel Bancroft (B17) on the last lap, Nigel having had an earlier duel with “period” racer Ferdinand Gustafson, in the same BT18 that he has owned for forty-five years,  until he ended in the gravel only two laps from the end. Bob Egginton was the only Junior to take part in this race with his Britannia and in practice had the scary experience of taking Paddock in neutral, skittering round the outside of the tarmac, JUST keeping out of the gravel, but he ran well to finish harmfree in the race.

Richard Page