After a long winter break the racing season was upon us and it started as it had finished, cold and wet! Mallory Park was the venue and the healthy entry of 20 cars for this opening round bodes well for another successful championship, once again sponsored by Robin Lackford’s – Lackford Engineering.
The Class A cars had Ed Reeve, Paul Sibley, Stephen Pegram and a returning James Dunkley. Class B runners Dean Stanton, Andy Southcott, Richard Wildman and Andy’s son Christopher Southcott. Class C had Carl Chadwick and Ian Langford with the Healey Class D runners Nigel Lackford, John Bridge, Edward Easton and John Tewson. Tom Walker was entered but was a no show. Finally the Healey Class E group had new champion Paul Campfield, Gil Duffy, Richard Perry, in yet another new car, Andrew Actman, John Hilberry and sponsor Robin Lackford.
Qualifying got underway and it was WET, there was a strong cross wind too which didn’t drop all day and affected cars on the main straight. Sibley looked quick from the off and just failed to post a time under a minute which incidentally shows how slow the track was, at least 5 seconds off for these cars. Southcott was next up with Wildman, these class B runners getting amongst the A cars of Dunkley and Reeve who were next. Wildman completed 3 laps before pulling in with a misfire, caused by the air filter being soaked with water.
Oil flags were out and the track was slippery to say the least, Southcott C was next qualifier with Pegram, Chadwick, Actman and Lackford N up next. Duffy and Langford were ahead of Easton who had the misfortune to roll his car. Going through the long Gerrards bend the car swapped ends, climbed a bank and rolled, leaving Ed to extricate himself from the upturned car. He was shaken but unhurt and managed to laugh about it later in the paddock, he thought he had hit standing water, others blamed the oil. Whatever, poor Ed is going to be out for some time.
Meanwhile, Tewson, Perry, Lackford R, Bridge and Stanton completed the order. Perry was getting the feel of his new mount, Lackford was running in a new engine and Stanton had the same problem as Wildman, a water soaked air filter.
Qualifying ended and with most people having a minimum amount of work to do we all attempted to stay warm until race time came.
The race was due to start at 4 o’clock but delays during the day and then a shunt in the previous race needing barrier repairs delayed proceedings. Eventually 45 minutes late the grid formed for the start.
Green flag lap and then the lights went out to start the race, and this time Sibley shot into the lead instantly, closely followed by Dunkley, Reeve and Campfield who all swamped Southcott out of Gerrards and onto Stebbe Straight although they were all close through the chicane and up to the hairpin where Campfield dived inside Reeve.
Behind these five the order was Pegram, Wildman, Duffy, Chadwick, Hilberry, Perry, Actman, Southcott C., then a gap to Lackford N, Lackford R, Langford, Tewson, Stanton and Bridge.
Positions at the front were the same next lap, but Wildman pulled off into the bike chicane to retire. Further back Southcott C had moved up ahead of Duffy and Actman was on Duffys tail.
There were a couple of group battles forming already with Lackford R now ahead of Langford, Lackford N, Tewson, Stanton all really close.
Up front was getting strung out with Sibley way off in the distance, Dunkley was established in second but Reeve had passed Campfield to take third, Campfields Sprite smoking through the fast left handed Devils Elbow and onto the Pit Straight.
We had by now lost Tewson, and Lackford R pulled up to retire with a bad misfire, three out but still sixteen runners.
Pegram had got ahead of Southcott A although this would be reversed when he had a quick spin at the Esses. Another enjoying his run was Bridge although Stanton was alarmed to have the strong wind blow his door panel off along the main straight, he kept going to the end although he was more concerned about the mirror which went with it leaving him unable to view behind!
The race had settled down when with fourteen minutes on the clock it came to the most bizarre end. A red flag, or rather a red light above the start gantry came on, people slowed with hands in the air, then came flags, some cars pulled into the paddock, others did an extra lap.
Total confusion, and as there was no incident on the track we were baffled, then along came an official to explain and apologise. Apparently someone had leant on the button which controls the red light. With this causing people to slow affecting the race there was no alternative but to bring out the flags, and so ending the race with results being taken from the previous lap. This has to be a first, and in the decades I have been involved in motorsport I certainly have never seen the likes, still it was a source of amusement for all concerned, and with a shortened race, I for one was grateful to get back to some warmth, it was COLD that day!
Oh, the race result! Well, Sibley was half a minute in front at the end, Dunkley a strong but lonely second from a battling Reeve. Campfield held on to fourth despite having been shown the black and orange flag near the end, presumably because of the oil smoke. A lap down came Southcott A, from Pegram and the charging
Perry, Chadwick, Duffy, Southcott C., Hilberry and Actman. Langford and Stanton were a hundredth apart, with Bridge and Lackford N completing the
A great first race, mixed feelings all round with one thing and another, a sad day for Ed Easton but im sure he will be back.
My memorable moment? Nothing to do with the race, but being with Ed when Campfield came over and asked if he could use his sump plug after the qualifying session!!!! Nice one Paul, deepest irony methinks.