The Castle Combe Circuit’s biggest race weekend of the year, the Dunlop Great and British Racing Festival, sees three fiercely contested local championships lining up alongside some of the best national races over the weekend of July 19 and 20.
Some perennial crowd favourites, such as five races for everyiteration of Mini, complement the circuit’s home grown offerings, where the grids are full to bursting and the competition between the West Country drivers healthier than ever.
The man making most of the impact in two of those championships is Bridgwater’s Josh Fisher. A former British Formula 3 pilot, Fisher is having a busy year, contesting both the Melton Concrete Products Formula Ford 1600 Championship and, for the first time, the savesometax.co.uk Castle Combe Special GT Championship.
At the last round in May, Josh made a little history at Castle Combe by winning both races, the Special GT victory particularly commendable given his 2 litre Mantis Supersport runs in Class B and in theory should be outclassed. Clearly, the wet conditions played into Fisher’s hands and on a dry track he will have his work cut out to beat the likes of Bath’s Guy Woodward, making his 2008 debut in the Class A Jade, complete with new Chrysler engine. Even more difficult to beat will be championship leader, Shane Marshall from Westbury, also Jade powered.
Like all the Castle Combe championships, the points positions are very tight, Fisher leading his class and only three off Marshall for the overall title. Although it’s probably a little too early in the season to contemplate, it’s not inconceivable Fisher could become the first man to win both the Formula Ford and GT championships in the same year.
Others trying their best to ensure he doesn’t, include Trowbridge’s Mark Funnell, another wet weather maestro in his Lotus Exige and just one point behind Nick Williamson for the lead of class C. Castle Combe’s Keith Sprules is in an identical situation with Stuart Dixon for Class D, Sprules’s Ferrari beating the Caterham last time.
Meanwhile, in the Formula Fords, Fisher has almost maximum scored this year in his Mygale, his arch rival, Ed Moore from Bradford On Avon, taking one point from him for fastest lap at the second round in his Van Diemen. Intriguingly, Fisher’s closest rival for the overall lead is his own younger brother! Felix has also proved to be something of a super star this year, winning his class at the last round and taking second overall, just a second behind Josh. Like his brother, Felix has won his class each time out, his only shortfall being his lack of a fastest lap. His race craft has been stunning though and he has already proved capable of leading outright. Expect another close family battle at Sunday’s race.
A potential challenger who could upset the whole perspective of the championship is Nelson Rowe from Wotton Under Edge, in a Van Diemen RF99. Rowe established his credentials with some mighty performances in his classic Crossle FF1600, so his rivals are wondering how quick he could be with modern equipment.
In reality, he may find the more sophisticated car takes a while to develop, this being the case with the likes of Bratton’s Ben Norton in the Spectrum and Castle Combe’s Andrew Jones in the Ray. Chippenham’s Adam Higgins, son of former quadruple champion, Bob, has also taken a while to get his Class A Van Diemen sorted, showing that newer is not necessarily quicker - not ’out of the box’ anyway.
A new star emerged in the last round of the National Mobile Windscreens Saloon Car championship. The most challenging conditions saw Jason Cooper, the 19 year old son of Castle Combe Formula Ford team owner, Alan, qualifying his relatively unmodified Fiesta an incredible 4th overall on the rain soaked day, dropping just one place in the race to take 5th. Not only did the youngster annihilate his class opposition, but many others in far more sophisticated machinery.
His performance leaves him a strong 3rd overall in the standings, but realistically, dry weather will bring joint championship leaders Will Di Claudio from Chippenham and Bristol’s Mark Wyatt back into contention again.
Another to benefit from the rain was reigning champ’ Tony Hutchings from Calne, his new Class B Audi TT running to 4th overall and a class victory.
In Class C, the Peugeot 205 GTi refuses to die, Bristol’s David Kift being the latest to extract the most from one, Weston Super Mare’s Alex Ferguson back with his example.
Staying with saloon cars, the Dunlop Motorsport News Saloon Car Championship has local driver and circuit Racing School instructor, Richard Brent from Bishop Sutton, as points leader, his brother, Phil in the same class and also 205 GTi mounted. Portishead sends two noteworthy entrants, namely Keith Butcher in his Nissan Primera Supertourer and Tim Maddocks in his Honda Civic Type R, also appearing in the circuit’s saloon car championship. Chilcompton’s Mike Edgell is one of the Mini men in Class E.
Speaking of Mini’s, the legendary Se7ens and Miglias appear on Sunday afternoon, Gloucester’s Owen Stinchcombe and Yate’s Matt Thompson in the former and Neil Robins from Gloucester in the latter. The Mini Challenge, for the latest cars, has three 20-minute races over both days
The hugely successful Radical sports cars also have lots of exposure with two races on Saturday afternoon for the Club Cup and two 50 minute races on Sunday for the UK Cup. Stroud’s Andrew Ferguson and Nigel Redwood share an SR3 in the UK Cup.
Completing the packed two days are races for the BARC Westfield Sports Car Championship and the Dunlop Sportmaxx Cup, which is the official feeder series to HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, and features a variety of ‘Hot Hatches’, including the potent Vauxhall Astra VXR’s, run by current BTCC Championship leading team ‘VX Racing’.
The weekend gets under way on Saturday with qualifying from 08-45, racing from 14-40. Sunday starts with a single National Mobile Windscreens Saloons qualifying session at 8-45 with racing from 09-15 till mid-day. The Dunlop grid walk runs from 12-25 to 13-20, the afternoon’s racing re-starting at 13-30.
Admission prices on Saturday are £8 for adults, with OAPs £4 and children and Paddock transfer free. Sunday’s charges are £15 for adults, OAPs
£7.50 with accompanied Children under 16’s Free of Charge. Paddock Transfer is only £2.50, or free on all advance bookings. An advance two day pass is available for £20, OAPs paying only £10.
More information available on-line at www.castlecombecircuit.co.uk built by Racecar