Lackford Engineering Midget and Sprite Challenge

Round 9 Croft 6/7th August 2016

Words and Pictures by : Phil (Scoop) Broster.

‘e’ mail : phil_scoop@hotmail.co.uk phone : 07912537640

The Croft Nostalgia Weekend on 6th and 7th August continued with a second race in the Lackford Engineering Midget and Sprite Challenge. After the early morning first race we were scheduled to be the closing race of the day. So plenty of time to sort most issues and get a sizeable grid organised.

One of the features of this weekend is the 1940’s theme and it attracts a huge assembly of World War two displays involving vehicles, motorcycles, period military personnel and even a working Sherman tank which patrolled the main paddock strip at regular intervals. The participants certainly throw themselves into this theme with unnerving accuracy, I witnessed an enclave of German uniformed ‘troops’ shouting orders and pointing rifles, presumably deactivated, at the tank on one of its ‘patrols’, all in the interest of theatrical reality I hope. There were also a couple of guys in stunt aircraft who gave breathtaking displays during the couple of days.

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Of course, against this backdrop we had some typically close HSCC races for Classic Saloons, Formula Ford in various guises, Classic Clubman, Sports/GT cars in a Guards Trophy and our very own Midget/Sprite races which the HSCC seem very keen to promote.

And having had our first race it was time to see what had transpired in repair and preparation for the late second race. Well, we had lost Dave Jenkins with clutch, Peter Kennerley and John Hilbery both unable to repair their diff issues, Darren Harman and David Morrison with drive train issues but on the plus side Martin Morris had replaced his drive shaft and Andrew McGee, whilst unable to find a suitable replacement tyre in the paddock, was going to start on his wet weather tyres and call it a day before they were lunched! Everyone else would make it including John Tewson who managed to rearrange his bonnet fixings once again. So we still had 21 starters, a good number for the second race.

The next thing to consider was that the grid was to be formed by the finishing order of the first race which would mix things up a bit with a couple of fast cars, particularly Morris and McGee and possibly Stanton right at the back, with Cow a little closer to the front, but not by much.

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The grid order was Dunkley on pole, Adams, Weston, Collier, Wildman, Day, Lackford R., Southcott, Walker, Bridge, Burgin, Chadwick, Lackford N., Cow, Easton, Tewson, Laskey, Homer, McGee, Morris and Stanton.

We were the last race of the weekend and there was a feel of rain in the air late afternoon but it remained dry as the field filed through on the green flag lap to form on the grid. As the lights flashed to signal the start it was similar to the first race with Adams, Dunkley and Weston taking off as one and battling to the first corner but disaster struck further back as several cars came together with the result that two cars retired on the spot, with others being delayed.

The two cars were Andy Southcott’s, which suffered damage to the front nearside corner, and series sponsor Robin Lackford who came off worse with the complete front end of his car destroyed and serious chassis damage suspected. Fortunately neither driver was seriously hurt other than bruising, and the incident explained the gap in the field as the cars came through to complete the first lap.

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Adams held a tentative lead as Dunkley dived down the inside to challenge with Weston keeping a watching brief. Collier was up to fourth with Day and Walker next up, Morris was flying and was already up to Walker and taking sixth place as they swung through the complex.

There was a gap to Chadwick, Bridge and Cow who had Burgin right with her followed by Stanton making ground, Easton, McGee, Wildman, Lackford N., Tewson, Homer and Laskey.

Adams held that lead for most of the next lap but by the time they came to the complex Dunkley had once again established himself in first place with Adams being closely followed by Weston. Day was looking to pass Collier on the back straight and he would come through in fourth with Morris charging up to fifth. Cow was pushing Bridge and McGee was also making rapid progress already up to Burgin. Chadwick was being pushed by Wildman, unfortunately having a couple of spins to drop him down the field.

On lap three Laskey came through pouring smoke and oil onto the circuit at the hairpin with a comprehensive blow up slowing every body down and effectively stopping any further challenges at that part of the track.

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Meanwhile, Weston had got ahead of Adams and these two would battle and swap places in a close tussle while Day was again experiencing that intermittent electrical problem which would eventually see him retire from that fourth place. Morris was another to be in trouble and was going backwards down the field having made such good progress, it transpired he was stuck in fourth gear.

All this meant that Collier was back to fourth and McGee, rather than retiring on those wet tyres, had the bit between his teeth and was now ahead of Bridge, Walker and Cow in fifth. There was a great dice between Chadwick, Stanton, Lackford N. and Easton at one point but there was more drama on what was the penultimate lap.

Going onto the fast back straight in the distance Adams was ahead of Weston when I suddenly saw the white car slew sideways with the maroon car of Weston right with it, as I said, its fast there and the two disappeared behind trees with me fearing the worst. I saw yellow flags come out but no activity from the rescue crews so maybe it hadn’t ended quite so badly. Weston came through with a bit of front end damage but no Adams. Later in the paddock the two drivers shook hands, it was purely a racing incident but Adams’s car had all four corners badly damaged.

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The flag fell and Dunkley was first with Weston a little delayed but still in second. Collier was a splendid third, this putting him in the overall lead in the championship with just three rounds to go. A delighted McGee was fourth, then came Cow, Walker, Morris, Bridge, Burgin, Stanton, Wildman, Lackford N., Easton, Tewson, Chadwick and Homer.

The incidents and damaged machinery cast a bit of a cloud over the whole weekend and being the last cars in the paddock it seemed a lonely place. All concerned were phlegmatic although there are one or two doubts over people seeing the rest of the season out.

Next round, the wonderful Oulton Park, hopefully it will be well attended, let’s see what happens.