Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Revival at Thruxton

 I broke a habit today, a habit I've had since 1998. I didn't go to Castle Combe for the season opening Easter meeting! I love the place come rain or shine (more shine would be nice) but looking down the program of races and seeing a few Minis and the clubs own championships, then comparing it to Thruxton's Easter Revival, a host of HSCC races there was no contest. Blue skies and sunshine saw me all the way to the fastest circuit in the UK, sadly it was -2°C at the time and barely got above zero all day

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The event was a based on the Formula 2 events that ran in the late 1960s, the program themed around that with single seater, sportscar and touring cars. As ever I got in nice and early so I could have a nose around the paddock. Like at Combe, the paddock is open and friendly, drivers and mechanics happy to natter and let you snap away.

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One of the big selling points of the meet was the HSCC Super Touring series, a new race dedicated to 1990s BTCC cars with classes for earlier and later cars as well. Just finding its feet the grids were never going to be huge, but it was nice to see a couple of Primeras and an Accord, the Honda was a new entry in 1995 when I made my first visit to Thruxton.

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Another reason to go was a driver in the Formula Ford race, a Mr Tiff Needell. In the 70s he had won an Autosport competition, the prize was a Lotus FF. 40 years on he has bought eh car back, restored it to its original livery and was back behind the wheel. I took along his biography and set about stalking him for an autograph. He along with Clarkson formed my childhood automotive viewing. His review of the new McLaren F1 in the 90s is an abiding memory. In a corner of the race school building they'd set up shop, the car looking great and the man happy to sign and briefly chat. His hope for the race "I want to at least finish"

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With my sweep of the paddock complete I decided to take in a bit of qualifying. The circuit is a bit limited for photography with the final chicane and the complex the only real spots, plus you can't walk a full lap which is a pain. First up was the Road Sports and Formula Fords. Tiff was sitting pretty in 9th right up to the last lap when he jumped to 6th, not a bad start.

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Feeling the cold, the sun was still out but the temperature was low and the wind whistles across the track. I set off on a hike to keep warm. The touring cars were being driven hard.

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The last bit of qualifying was for FF2000, the winged bigger brother of FF.

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The lunch time break provided a chance to eat and check out the last remaining cars that appeared in the paddock. More Super Tourers and lots of spannering.

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With a big burger in hand I fought through the crowd to the front at the final chicane, a good spot for kerb leaping and close racing. The Jochen Rindt F2 race was first, the fat slicks from the 1970s and the beginnings of downforce.

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Next up were the Super Tourers, a grid of eight wasn't going to provide spectacular racing, but there was a good tussle from the 1990s.

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Again, needing to warm up I set off to the Complex for the Martini Trophy for 2lt sportscars, big noise and fast cars.

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Back to the Chicane again it was the turn of the Road Sports to come out again.

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The last race I wanted to watch was the Formula Fords. After an aborted start it was frantic racing all the way, first and second pulled out a lead, but third place was a five way fight at times, Mr Needell coming out on top. Slightly better than his prediction of juts finishing!

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With the race over, I did my fan stalker bit and waited by  Parc Ferme, after the long interviews a helmetless Tiff cruised back, clearly over the moon at his third place.

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With the temperatures dropping further I decided to bail out at 5pm, the last few races would be my loss, but I was warm again with the heater running full blast. A brilliant days racing. There are loads more photos from the meet here