For us, Time Attack just continues to get better & better, with each round that passes, the more and more we look forward to the next and wonder just what we are going to do when it’s all over for another year! The latter we will work out at the end of September, but for now we’re just loving the spectacle that is Time Attack and it’s seeming that each round out does the previous one! As always, the first part of our roundup of the best of the action starts with the Pro, Pro 2WD & the Club Pro classes.
Brands Hatch seems to have attracted the interest of a few extra cars amongst the classes with 4 One Hit Wonder or ‘OHW’ entries listed amongst the Pro classes. In the overall Pro class we saw a name synonymous with high performance tuning, and it’s likely you will have heard of Ron Kiddell of RK Tuning fame, who brought his fantastic R32 GTR along in the striking Motul livery. The Club Pro class received its 5th Evo in the form of the wild Brad Sheehan and the Pro 2WD class added a pair of stunning RWD machines with the Hoffmans Motorsport Lotus Europa driven by Chris Randall, and another car added to the Eurospec camp was the RX7 of Steve Putt. Dave Jackson’s Focus has been eagerly anticipated since the very beginning of the season, and finally the WRC spec Focus was shared around the social media sites a few days before, and would be out showing us what it can do for the first time!
The final car to add to the list was another RX7, listed as a full season entrant for 2012 we finally get to see Phil Collard’s Mazda, after missing both Cadwell & Knockhill rounds he would be set to try and make up the points. A spot of sad news for the Pro competition as the Ameon Racing Evo driven by Rob Cowling has now been withdrawn from the championship, you may recall our coverage of the team’s year last season and it appears the bad luck has followed Rob into the new season and he has decided to call time on this year’s efforts. We hope to see him back in one form or another very soon!
On with the action! Now, I’m not going to bat on about the weather, but last year, every time we went near a racetrack, we got burnt, this year it seems we can’t go near one without getting soaked right through, so to say the track conditions would play an interesting part throughout the day’s proceedings would be a massive understatement! First up we have warmup, not a great deal can be gained from this session, many of the teams and drivers use the session to shake down the cars, check boost levels, make suspension adjustments, check tyre pressures, grip levels and for some learn or re-learn the track! That’s not to say there isn’t a certain amount of trying going on, these are Time Attack drivers and the only place they would like to be at the end of the session is at the top of the timesheets!
Marcus Webster in the Midlands Performance R32 was the initial pacesetter, on a track that was certainly damp, but had dried out a touch towards the closing of the session he posted a time of 56.1seconds. The remainder of the top 5 were all in the Pro class, with Gareth Lloyd, Ron Kiddell, Gavin Renshaw & the Metro of Mark Pollard all dipping below the minute mark. Chris Randall settled straight in to the event, posting the fastest Pro 2WD time although Gordon Wright, whom we were expecting to see in a Darrian rather than his Skyline, was not far behind. Club Pro drivers started exactly as they meant to go on, with Neil Robertson leading the charge, although the gap between his Evo, Walter Morris’ Skyline, Steve Peel’s Evo & Scott Robson’s Impreza was a mere 0.126 seconds!
Rain showers in between sessions had made the practice session a dice rolling event; were the clouds above getting ready to deposit more rain, or would the track dry out some more and add to the grip levels that had been helped by the Civic Cup & Pick-up truck support action? Gavin Renshaw in the NR Autosport seemed to find the most grip, posting his quickest time on the first flying lap and only completing a couple more before returning to the pits, his time was almost enough to win the session, but a later flyer from Gareth Lloyd put him on the top spot as the chequered flag was shown. Randall made further progress in the Lotus, finishing the session 3rd overall, and after missing the warm-up we finally got to see Steve Putt’s RX7 in action, dropping himself 3rd in the Pro 2WD class. David Leigh in the Leon had remained in the pits for both the wet sessions, whilst a very frustrated Romain Levesque, who had a perfectly repaired and modified front end after his huge off at Knockhill, was struggling to get the tyres on the front of the CRX to grip on the slippery tarmac, resulting in a time way down the board.
Robertson remained the man to beat in Club Pro, his time giving him over 2.5secs breathing space from Robson & Peel. Brad Sheenhan kept the wet Brands Hatch crowd entertained as the OHW driver had really mastered the 4 wheel drift, with lashings of right foot to keep the car pointing in the right direction on all but one occasion, when his wild driving style saw him make a bumpy trip onto the grass at the exit of the Graham Hill Bend. A few other drivers had minor adventures on and off the circuit, Warren Kelly got the Escort sideways, Gordon Wright was showing some fabulous car control sliding his Skyline and Phil Collard and Steve Putt both had their hands full with the lairy back ends of the RX7s.
After a dinner break, the support series of racing, a slowing down of the showers and a much drier track, it was time to rack up the first points of the day in the qualifying session, we were even graced with the Sun’s presence, which gave us all a real opportunity to see what these cars are capable of doing round the Kent Circuit! It’s fair to say that in the dry it really gave a few drivers that chance to shine, Marcus Webster has as close as you like to 1000bhp in his R32 Skyline, so without having to tiptoe around in the wet it’s safe to say he owned the dry session, running a 49.7 second lap round the Indy circuit, which for comparisons sake, would have put Marcus 18th on the Grid for this year’s opening BTCC race, I think that shows just how quick these Time Attack Cars can be, and also just how fast a BTCC spec race car is!
Marcus’ closest challenger in the Pro class was of course Mr Gavin Renshaw, who was a second off the pace, although the pair were split by the amazing Europa of Chris Randall, we really hope we get to see this car in action again in Time Attack! Mark Pollard & Duncan Graham scrapped it out for the 3rd Pro spot, with Pollard just pipping the BC Racing Impreza by a shade under 0.04secs! Steve Peel, who if you recall stepped straight up from Club class after Cadwell, topped the Club Pro list followed by the Exige of Jamie Wilson, who had issues with grip in the earlier, wetter sessions with the pair of them running 4th & 5th overall. 3 drivers who didn’t enjoy the dry session were Kiddell, whose Skyline had looked a little smokey in the previous sessions, seemed to run into problems and only managed 3 laps before making its way to the pits and calling it a day.
Red flags came on 2 occasions in this session; the first was for Gareth Lloyd who failed to put in a time at all, after pulling off quite violently at Graham Hill Bend with a very smokey Evo and that would end the day for the Bob Moore racing team. Wright had been going well, making good steady progress up the leaderboard in previous sessions, but the second red flag of the day was brought out as Gordon also fell victim at Graham Hill bend, loosing control of the skyline and shunting it into the barriers on the n/s of the car, breaking his front suspension and some minor bodywork and any chance of a final performance. Obviously we should report that Gordon is fine, so we hope this will hurry along the arrival of the Darrian into the championship!
The final was always going to be an interesting affair, with Lloyd’s Evo now out of action it would be a straight fight between the Midlands Performance Skyline of Webster, and the NR Autosport Evo of Renshaw. The other drivers were there or there abouts and certainly in with a shout if these 2 were to slip up, or slip off, but you have to be a brave man to have bet against Marcus or Gavin winning the session. However, this is Time Attack, and always expect the unexpected and literally 10 mins before the session went green, the heavens opened, meaning a mass scramble for wet tyres. As the session opened, Randall lead the cars round in his Europa. By this time the track was very greasy and although not soaked, grip would clearly be an issue.
It took Gavin 3 laps to post his best time, making the most of the driest spell as the rain continued to fall, it’s a great tactic to have and Gavin & the team really have it down to a fine art, getting the lap in early whilst the track is clear, then either returning to the pits, sitting and waiting or staying out to add to the traffic and be ready should anyone go faster. Fortunately for the team, no one did, Marcus got within 200ths of a second of Gavin’s time but the rain hampered the Skyline’s performance and despite the monster tyres and 4WD system, the 1000bhp R32 was playing a constant game of loosing grip with the tarmac.
Third overall was an incredible performance from the Pro 2WD OHW of Chris Randall, I think there is more to this car & driver than meets the eye, so will definitely be keeping an eye out in future events! The Metro took third in Pro, a full 2 seconds clear of Duncan Graham. In the championship, it was Gerry Atkinson who found enough grip to win the Pro 2WD class, his Leon Supacopa seems to have undergone some more visual work as well as constantly improving the speed of the car, Romain Levesque who I’m sure will be cursing the rain was a worthy runner up, and it should be noted that Fibreworx do not need to repair the front end of his CRX for the first time this season! Phil Collard’s debut in the RX7 was rewarded with the final spot on the Pro 2WD podium, and that Mazda really is a stunning car, definitely one to have a look round.
The Club Pro battle was intense, and somewhat confusing as, when the chequered flag went out, my Mobile TSL timing app had Dave Jackson down as the winner in his freshly built Ford Focus, yet at the presentation the SVA Imports Evo of Neil Robertson was awarded the win. Maybe it’s because Dave has switched to a OHW after missing the opening 2 rounds, something I need to investigate further! Both guys drove brilliantly in the rain, the first outing for the Focus proved it has the pace and the gap between the 2 drivers was a miniscule 0.088secs. Scott Robson continues his quest for the top spot with another cracking drive in the RA Motorsport Developments Impreza, not sure what changes the guys have been making but not only does it work, it also sounds more ‘Impreza-ry’ if that makes sense? Andy Barbour made it a double podium for the NR Autosport team, pipping Peel and Morris to the places although both drivers received awards for fastest Evo & Skyline of the day in their class respectively.
Next stop for these guys is Anglesey, and the double header! Another notorious weather spot as well as the challenge of keeping the car going for 2 days work, and 2 differing track layouts, this one is really going to set up a grandstand finish at Snetterton in September so you will be a fool to miss it! Top action from Brands Hatch, despite the British Summer getting involved!
Words – Ollie // Pictures – Ollie & Chris