AFTER a year’s break, Melksham’s Simon Norris returned to the Castle Combe Circuit’s Sports & GT championship with a dominant victory in his powerful Mitsubishi Evo 9 special at the May Day race meeting on Monday.
Starting the specially-built machine from pole position, Norris was tentative away from it, explaining: “There was a driver issue.
"We have launch control but it can have problems so I decided not to use it, ease it off the line and then pick our way through. We also had seven year old slicks, which are very hard and very slippery.”
Norris’s relative lack of grip gave Keith Dunn, from Droitwich, a fighting chance in his Caterham C400, eventually finishing 2.3 seconds adrift.
Some way further back in third was Brinkworth’s Chris Milner, who also admitted to a less than perfect getaway.
"I made a schoolboy error at the start with too much wheel spin,'' he said. ”Then I was over ambitious at Camp, so I just brought it home for third.”
Westbury on Trym’s Tim Woodman took his Caterham 7 to second in class and fourth overall.
After the disappointment of the opening round at Easter when he set pole and led much of the race until his coil failed, poleman Ashley Crossey from Flax Bourton took a classy victory in the circuit’s Formula Ford 1600 race.
The 15-lapper was a cracker and although Crossey led all but one lap, the dicing behind him providing plenty of entertainment for the first ten laps or so.
Langford’s Roger Orgee was one of those in the thick of the action, swopping his eventual second place a number of times with Coventry’s Nathan Ward, until the latter’s second consecutive retirement with a mechanical problem.
Orgee said, “Yeah, Ashley’s retirement was the changing point of the race. And you can see Ash has lots of experience in karting because he’s very hard to overtake.”
Although Yatton Keynell’s Luke Cooper took a brilliant third overall and first in class B in his Swift SC92, his mood was somewhat despondent at the end, as his engine had been overheating and may well now need a major rebuild.
He said: “I really should have come in but I had a safe third and thought I would be able to cool it down but it was a bad decision, as it looks like we’ve screwed the engine.”
A number of drivers did retire however, including Nathan Ward, who had been part of the front running group until his Spectrum developed a mysterious problem for the second race in a row.
Chippenham’s Adam Higgins also had an early end to his day when a pin in the gear linkage of his Van Diemen JL12 came loose, but his brother, Richard from Burnham on Sea, gave the family something to smile about with fourth overall in his identical car.
Melksham’s Ed Moore gave up on the poor handling of his JL13 Van Diemen after three laps.
Crossey’s words at the podium presentation, summed things up perfectly: “I think it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done.”
Emulating the close racing of the Formula Fords were the leading drivers in the circuit’s saloon car championship race.
Making a one-off appearance in the SEAT Leon Cupra of Melksham’s Rob Ballard, was former champion, Gary Prebble, who put the car on pole, despite having never driven it before.
But it was Reading’s Russell Akers in his class A Astra who took the lead and fended off Prebble for the first 13 laps, until his overheating tyres caused him to spin off dramatically on the entry to Quarry.
Prebble was understandably delighted at winning in his friend’s car.
He said: ”It was fantastic and a massive thankyou for Rob. Many people would think it’s crazy letting me drive it and I didn’t want to take a massive risk.
"Russell was very hard work. He lost it going into Quarry under braking. I could see his tyres going off as the race went on.”
Prebble had a further reward, with the Abraham’s Jewellers, ‘Driver of the Day’ award.
Calne’s Tony Hutchings took second place in his Audi TT and also had a ring side seat of the action.
“It was unbelievable, everyone was so quick,'' he said.
"Russell’s tyres were going off and Gary was phenomenal, as soon as he got a gap, he was off, but I’m very happy, championship-wise.”
Once Adrian Slade, from Devizes, had retired from third overall after missing a gear in his class C Peugeot 106 Gti, Chard’s Carl Loader inherited the class win and sixth overall, with Bath’s Guy Parr second in the class and eighth overall in the Fiesta.
Bristol’s Mark Wyatt was off his normal pace but took second in class B in his Astra and fifth overall, behind Bridgwater’s Tony Dolley. Keynsham’s John Barnard had moved up to sixth when he was hit by a back marker, his ‘off’ causing extensive damage to his Astra VXR.
Putting himself in the lead of the championship after being the only man to win his class in the first two races was Bristol’s David Rose, in his VW Lupo.
“The car’s keeping reliable, I just need to keep getting fastest laps, which I didn’t do today,” he said.
The class D fastest lap which eluded him was set by the championship sponsor, Russell Poynter-Brown, from Compton Martin.
Simon Tilling treated the circuit’s Sports Racing series race as a test session for his new and beautiful Ligier JS49, zooming off into the distance and leaving Norman Lackford to head home the rest of the poorly-populated field.
Closing the day, was the ‘Open Sports v Saloons’ race.
Milner, who had already featured well in the Sports & GT race, took pole and led convincingly to the flag.
Bath’s Dave Scaramanga was the top saloon in second place in his VW Vento, with Martin Perry, from Chilcompton, in third with his unique Fiat Coupe.
CASTLE COMBE REPORT, REACTION & PICTURES IN THURSDAY'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES