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Donington Park, 31st March 2012.

“Motors TV Live Raceday” 2x Non Championship Races

“What a difference a day makes” as the words of an old a song goes and how true of Donington. Friday was warm and sunny but race day Saturday was cold, draughty and overcast ~~ according to Iain Rowley it was officially “Taters”.

Our second race at Donington Park this year produced 23 entries of which 21 arrived and started Free Practice, but sadly 2 cars succumbed to mechanical troubles after only 8 laps of this 15 minute session. Stuart Roach’s Alexis Mk2 dribbled water from inlet & exhaust amid clouds of steam hailing a suspected cracked block, and Ash Waller’s Sadler with the gearbox first motion shaft seized in the crankshaft, meaning that neither of these cars would run again. Duncan Rabagliati’s Alexis HF1 broke a rear wheel bearing, possibly the result of his race at Monza the previous weekend. The lap times were issued for interest only and showed Denis Welch Lotus 22 fastest with 1.18.960, but a portent of things to come was Pete Morton’s Lightning Envoyette only 1 sec slower and just ahead of Michael Hibberd’s Lotus 27. Michael Waller had attended to some suspension adjustments of his PM-Poggi since the previous Donington race and he was far more comfortable in this very attractive & petite car now that it wasn’t trying to get away from him at every change of direction. The other Class A runner Pat Barford’s EFAC-Stanguellini also looked superb and despite its Italianate name the car is fundamentally of French origin with Simca-FIAT engine & Renault suspension but using a modified Stanguellini sports car chassis.

In the Qualifying session Hibberd needed only 5 laps to achieve pole position time 1.18.083 and thus establish his authority, which was never toppled although it was seriously challenged later on in both of the races. Impressively, Jonathon Hughes in the previously Chris Drake Brabham BT6 now repainted in silver-blue from the period Silvio Moser dark green took the 2nd spot, the car under the charge of Mick Moberley. Welch was placed 3rd on the grid and less than 1 sec covered the top three.
The 15 minutes allocated seemed short enough but even so John Truslove found time to bring his Brabham BT6 in for a quick pit stop and the TV cameraman dashed across to capture the moment on live broadcast. Chris Drake’s Elva 300 was fastest Class D2 with 1.21.619 now cured of its brake problems that sent him off the track at Monza the previous weekend. Roach was best of the Class B2 cars now driving the Condor SII which father Keith had used in the Free Practice but kindly vacated so that Stuart got a race, after the Alexis had expired. It was nice to see Phoebe Rolt, herself the 1992 European Historic Single Seater Champion in brother Stuart’s Elva 200, again, on this occasion the only representative for Class C2 and best lap 1.30.701. Barford’s EFAC-Stanguellini ran a 1.33.912 for Class A, and still quite a bit faster than Waller’s improving PM-Poggi.

Iain Rowley, with help of local knowledge, sourced a wheel bearing for Rabagliati’s Alexis but this and the work involved occupied all of the Qualifying period. However because he had run in the Free Practice an amended grid sheet was issued allowing a start from the back of the grid. With the Sadler now dead the Wallers received the Race Director’s blessing of their plan for Ash to drive the PM-Poggi in the first race and Michael to drive it in the second race.

The first race got underway at 3.30pm nearly 30 mins late thanks to the antics of a Caterham race & others previously. The cars were assembled in the pit lane ready to make a green flag lap prior to forming up on the grid but Justin Fleming, plus others, had some difficulty finding grid start places despite the frantic arm waving of grid marshals. There were a reasonable number of grid marshals but perhaps it would have been more effective for them to be trackside rather than leaning through the gaps in the pit wall fence.
When the lights extinguished Fleming made a fishtailing start. His Elva 100 now sporting the very latest in redesigned bullet proof rear hubs maybe giving confidence of a clutch dump start.
Meanwhile Hibberd was up and away with Welch chasing hard followed by Hughes and Morton, but during the opening lap Welch disposed of Hughes and then Morton also passed him to lie 3rd on lap 6. Morton was driving superbly, niftily slipstreaming in the FJ period style on the run down to Redgate and finally got the better of Welch on lap 11 after a good few exchanges during the previous laps.
Drake had got away in fine style quickly passing Steve Jones’ T67, now newly resplendent in its period Jean-Claude Franck livery. Drake continued apace passing Peter Anstiss Lotus 22 on Lap 2 only for Anstiss to repass on lap7. Drake was having none of this and shortly regained the position but then unfortunately threw it all away with a spin on lap 10 which cost him several places.
Meanwhile Roach jumped Alex Morton Ausper T3 at the start and was closing on Jones until he stabilised the gap when it became clear that he could do no more. Rabagliati made a good start from the back of the grid passing A.Waller’s PM-Poggi, Stephen Bulling’s Sadler and also Barford, whilst Bulling himself got past Barford only to lose this advantage on lap 2.
Hibberd, on top form, was never headed during the 12 laps and Morton a very well deserved 2nd with fastest lap 1.17.141 compared to Hibberd’s best of 1.18.241.
Welch came home 3rd merely 0.004 behind P.Morton leaving 4th place to Hughes albeit some 5 secs in arrears. These four being some 30 secs ahead of next man Truslove, who had had a fairly lonely race as did Andrew Turvey who finished 11th still learning all about his ex Richard Attwood Lola 5A after its lengthy and meticulous rebuild from bare chassis. Class winners were Drake D2, Rolt C2, Roach B2, Bulling B1 and Barford A.

During the break before the second race Francesco Baldanza, who last weekend raced his Brabham BT6 at Monza, had a gear ratio changed on his Lotus 22 and Drake’s Elva had similar adjustment made by Malcolm & team. Although the PM-Poggi had run well, though slow, in A.Waller’s hands a decision was made to retire the car. Jarrah Venables, key man at Goodwood, pulled his Nota off track after 5 race laps as a faulty rotor arm caused a serious misfire.

Other than that all seemed pretty quiet on the western front and most of our garages were deserted until warm up began ahead of the second race which started in the original Qualifying grid placing, the two races, although independent, also providing a combined result.

Lights out and once again maestro Hibberd shot away, leading Hughes, whilst Morton nipped past Welch. Hughes missed 3rd gear at Redgate second time around and had a moment. Morton eased through and set off after Hibberd but Welch was compromised loosing a few vital seconds which he was never able to redeem and by lap 4 a recovered Hughes found himself 4 secs adrift. Truslove again was seemingly alone for most of the race and Jones’ poor start cost him several places whilst Drake won the drag race against Anstiss down to Redgate. Roach similarly disposed of A.Morton but lost the place on lap 6 and another place on lap 8 when Jones caught and passed him.
Unfortunately Jones’ fight back came to nought when on the penultimate lap a brake malfunction sent his Cooper clattering across the new high curbs at the Chicane, sustaining some underside car damage. This is the second FJ race in succession at Donington when cars have been damaged on these high curbs, though not caused by pilot error of the actual drivers involved.
The only other DNF was poor Barford whose EFAC-Stanguellini, conscious of Duncan sitting behind in the Alexis, snapped a drive shaft at the start. Marshals reacted instantly and the car was manoeuvred against the pit wall under yellow flags, although well before the leading car came round all was deemed safe and the flags were withdrawn.
Rolt eased past Venables on the first lap but he reversed the positions immediately and then went on to pass Fleming on lap 9. At the start Rabagliati overtook Bulling and on lap 3 he also passed Baldanza, and ultimately he caught and passed Phoebe as well, but an error at the chicane while being lapped by the leaders, gave Phobe too much track to be caught again. Turvey had an untroubled race although he did let Fleming get ahead of him for lap 3 before retaking the place.
Up at the sharp end Morton closed Hibberd to within 0.127 secs on lap7 but the gap then widened to over half a second before he was once again right on Hibberd’s tail. For several laps he put on virtuoso slipstreaming performances on the run down to Redgate, firstly popping out on the outside and then next time round he would try the inside but the very experienced Hibberd was never going to buckle under pressure, even though as they crossed the line to start the last lap Morton was only 0.094 secs behind and even put a front wheel up the inside of Hibberd. There was no small excitement in the Chicane tribune as the cars went out of sight down Craner Curves and in the poor light it was impossible to pick out who was in front on the rise up to Clearways but as they shot out of the Chicane it was Hibberd who took the flag by 0.175 secs from Morton, with Welch now nearly 5 secs behind but himself over 4 secs ahead of Hughes. Class winners Drake D2, Rolt C2, Roach B2 and Bulling B1.

Duncan Rabagliati announced the winners and presented the pots with a special award going for his efforts, to Francesco Baldanza who, being a Swiss national, meant that the race status had had to be enhanced in order to include foreign drivers.
The Combined Result was ~
Winner overall & Class E1, Michael Hibberd, Lotus 27.
 2nd                                        Pete Morton, Lightning-Envoyette, fastest lap 1:17.414
3rd                                         Denis Welch, Lotus 22.
Winner Class D2                   Chris Drake, Elva 300, fastest lap 1:21.351
2nd                                         Alex Morton, Ausper T3.
3rd                                          Jarrah Venables, Nota.
Winner Class C2                   Phoebe Rolt, Elva 200, fastest lap 1:30.331
Winner Class B2                    Stuart Roach, Condor SII, fastest lap 1:22.567
2nd                                          Justin Fleming, Elva 100.
3rd                                           Duncan Rabagliati, Alexis HF1.
Winner Class B1                    Stephen Bulling, Sadler.
Winner Class A                      Pat Barford, EFAC-Stanguellini, fastest lap 1:35.505
 2nd                                         Ash Waller, PM-Poggi.

Peter Jackson, The Cooper Cockpit Correspondent, 5th April 2012.