Sizzling Snetterton 750MC Meeting

The 750 Motor Club began their busy run of summer meetings at a sweltering sunny Snetterton with an exciting 20-race programme – which featured plenty of excellent racing and many exhausted racing drivers.

A brilliant 50-strong Club Enduro race kept interest right to the end of 56 laps in what was possibly the most exciting race for the category yet. Alan Henderson dominated the opening hour in his Lotus Elise S2 after passing Matthew Hampson, whose BMW E46 M3 started from pole position. Rob Baker charged up to second from sixth on the grid by lap two in his Seat Leon, however, was unable to match Henderson’s pace and fell nearly thirty seconds behind. The only Safety Car of the race was called for near to half distance when Adam Howarth’s E36 M3 stopped at the Bomb Hole.

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Both leaders took to the pits at the same time and when they returned to the track the race had restarted but now Swift, replacing Baker, only 5 seconds behind the leader. The Elise faltered with a temporary misfire allowing Swift to burst into the lead. An exceptional battle broke out between the pair, in vastly different cars with advantages at different parts of the circuit. After a five-lap ding-dong battle Swift made a mistake at Riches, outbraking himself on lap 33 which allowed Henderson back in front. 

Henderson pulled out a twenty second lead again but with less than ten laps to go drama struck as a misfire hit the Elise once more, allowing Swift to chase him back down. Swift caught Henderson on lap 54 and with less than five minutes on the clock of the 125-minute race he eased his Seat into the lead to continue the unbeaten run this season for the Area Motorsport duo. This victory also means they have provisionally claimed class A championship honours already.

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The battle between the rest behind was good too with the Seats of Matthew Wallis and William Casswell taking their turns in third position in the opening half. Andy Schulz, who took over from Hampson, prior to the Safety Car had a big chase of over a minute to do but was impressively fast coming through from seventh. He grabbed third from Brad Kaylor, replacing Casswell, with four laps to go. Paul and Luke Browes took fifth in the E46 M3 GTR after the Wallis brothers had to retire. Chris Boardman was mighty in Howarth’s car, although many laps down, broke Phil Keen’s three-year lap record.

Phil Drybrough (Porsche Boxster) and Mark Grice (Volkswagen Golf) battled for class B honours at the start, but both were hit with mechanical issues allowing Luke Handley’s Golf to win but only by 13 seconds from a charging Rob Boston, who came back from over a 90 second deficit in Peter Mansfield’s Lotus Elise S2. Maurizio Siglio and Adriano Mederios took third in the Elise 111R. Rory Baptiste led at the start in class C in his BMW E46 330i but lost out in the pit stops. That allowed John Langridge and Alex Miller’s Mazda MX5 to win by 45 seconds from a recovering Baptiste. Nick Dougill and John Munro’s MX5 finished third.

No Locost race was won by more than one tenth of a second and on all three occasions involved Martin West and Craig Land in the race to the line. All three encounters were typical Locost thrillers on the Snetterton Circuit. The opening race was restarted after the Agostini hairpin was coated in fluid, causing a lot of drivers to leave the circuit. However, on the restart a two-car battle broke out with West narrowly beating Land and became the first driver to win two races this season. Shaun Brame was the best of the rest in third – ahead of a battlepack headed by erstwhile championship leader Andrew Tait.

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Saturday afternoons encounter featured a five-car battle for the honours and at the flag they were all separated by less than two thirds of a second. Land came out on top this time, with West and Tait almost inseparable behind. The three were classified by a smaller winning margin than the earlier race. Simon Walker-Hansell and Clark were close behind. Brame and Todd Boucher were next, who both had their best weekends in the formula yet.

Sundays race arguably the best of all with a seven-car battle for the lead for much of the seven-lap thriller. Walker-Hansell and Tait were eliminated from the battle on lap five when it turned out five-wide into Riches did not work out. They both recovered quickly though. It was the closest winning margin between Land and West – with the former behind classified ahead by 0.01 seconds, almost impossible to tell apart visually. Brame took another podium, after leading the race at times, with George Grice and Clark behind – all within a second of the winner. Tait recovered to sixth ahead of Geoff Peek, who started from the back.

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Much like Locost, the Formula Vee Championship provided some brilliantly close slipstream races. Craig Pollard’s Bears GAC and James Harridge’s Maverick headed Saturday’s encounter initially – both trading positions in the toe. Daniel Hands was able to draft past them both spectacularly in the AHS Dominator. His car slowed at Wilson hairpin on lap four and Pollard had to take avoiding action. That left Harridge free to take the win with Pollard chasing behind. Ian Buxton (GAC Daghorn) narrowly beat Peter Belsey (Spyder Mk2) in the battle for third. There was a huge scarp behind, which contained as many as ten cars at one point. Tim Probert came out of top in the end with his Storm fractions ahead of Andrew Cooper’s GAC.

Race two saw another three-car lead battle with the story in the first half being Hands drafting into the lead into Brundle only for Harridge to sweep around in the outside at Riches in a full commitment overtake. Pollard kept a watching brief for a while but a touch with the back of Harridge’s car eliminated him. On the penultimate lap Hands and Harridge touched at the end of the Bentley Straight, with Harridge spinning out. Buxton had an easier run to third this time with Belsey fourth again but only after Cooper retired on the final lap. Peter Studer raced well to fifth aboard the TCR Challenger, while Vaughn Jones took a best result of sixth in his Storm.

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Snetterton was treated to two of the most exciting Sports 1000 races for some time. The opener saw Ryan Yarrow’s Spire chasing Victor Neumann’s Mittell, with the two never separated by more than a couple of car lengths. On the penultimate lap Yarrow managed to urge his car alongside his rival on the exit of Oggies and took the lead into Williams. The pair finished four tenths apart. Richard Miles’ Spire battled for third for most of the race but had to retire near the end, which helped to allow Michael Root’s Mittell to take third. Colin Chapman impressed in his new GT320S to take a clear fourth. Colin Spicer was the best of the rest beating Carl Austen – both in Spires.

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Sunday’s race saw Roots burst into the lead at the start with Yarrow and Neumann in hot pursuit. Neumann initially found his way ahead of Yarrow and then passed his team-mate. A lap later though a mistake at Hamilton meant Roots was able to slipstream back passed into Brundle and would not lose the lead again. The two Mittells were separated by a quarter of a second at the flag in Root’s second win of the year. Yarrow followed closely behind in third. Chapman took fourth again with Austen much closer this time and Matthew Minett was not far behind in sixth, taking his Spire to his best result in the category. 

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Shaun Traynor made the most of a poor start in a restarted opening race for the Toyota MR2 Championship. He beat Aaron Cooke off the line and was never headed again in the battle of the former champions now in Mk3 Roadsters. Paul Cook fought his way through to third and the best class B Mk2 after initially starting ninth. He headed Darren Aldworth and Ben Rowe at the flag. Leigh Brown was impressive in the initial start running third but ended sixth. Cam Walton was the star of the race starting from the back of a 42-strong field to finish seventh. 

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Cooke started better in race two and was never challenged to win. Cook was chased into an error which allowed Nick Williamson through to second. He was able to keep Traynor at bay though to complete the podium. Rowe and Walton completed the top six this time after a big spin for Brown at Hamilton on the opening lap. Gareth Baxter and Nathan Harrison claimed class A victories in their Mk1s.  

John Munro dominated the 45-minute Roadsports race in his first experience of a Lotus Elise S2. Leon Bidgway fought his way into second place in the opening stint aboard his Lotus Exige but struggled to pull away after the pitstop handing the place to Matthew Weymouth’s BMW E36 M3. He beat Andy Marston’s E46 M3 and Bidgway dropped to sixth overall behind the class B lead battle.

Phil Dryburgh won class B in his Porsche Boxster after a race-long chase from Lewis Rose, who handed his Honda Civic over to Cam Walton in the second half. They finished just four tenths shy of Dryburgh with Andy Baylie’s Civic taking third. Rory Baptiste took the class C honours in his BMW E46 330i by 2.4 seconds from Matt Creed’s Renault Clio, which was chased across the line by Jonathan Packer’s Civic. Douglas Inglis won class D with his Mazda MX5 Mk2 after passing Charlie Cole’s BMW Compact near the end, who relayed Gordon MacMillan. Matthew Footman’s Ford Puma was third.

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Paul Cook eased his BMW E46 M3 to two wins in the Armed Forces Race Challenge, which returned after a 21-month hiatus, despite electing to start from the pits in race two. His team-mate Wayne Lewis finished on the road second twice in a similar car but was not timed in race two for continuing to have no transponder. Ray Honeybone’s Renault Clio Cup finished third twice, second in the results in race two with Mark White (Honda Civic) completing the podium. Honeybone, Jonathan Candler (Peugeot 306) and Peter Dilnot (Ginetta G40) were all double class winners.

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Adam Shepherd was untroubled in the Type-R Trophy as Lee Deegan was unable to match his pace but still brought home two second place finishes. Luke Rosewell completed the podium both times. Mark Balmer finished fourth in race one but fell behind Joe Jessup and Matt Digby in race two. They finished behind him in the earlier encounter.

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An unfortunate sizable incident at the start of the opening Alfa Romeo Championship encounter between the 156s of Gethin Llewellyn and Andrew Bourke meant there was not much of a race. Thankfully, Sunday’s race ran incident-free. Nevertheless, Barry McMahon eased to two more victory in his 156 Touring Car. George Osborne (75) won both Power Trophy races in second overall. Scott Austin (155) took third in the opener and looked set for second in race two before a puncture ended his race, promoting Tom Hill (GT) to third. Richard Ford (156) won the Twin Spark Cup twice.

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Richard Prior dominated the scratch race for the Historic 750 Formula Series, smashing the lap record in the JGS 3. Martin Depper (Centaur Mk14) passed John Village (Village V2) on the final lap by just 0.14 seconds at the chequered flag. They inherited the battle for second when Tim Sage had to retire the Mallock U2 Mk4. Bill Cowley gave the Warren its best result in his debut with the car in fourth. Simon Dedman was the best of a trio of 500cc Formula Three cars to win class D with the Cooper Norton Mk10. Simon Gallon’s Pigsty Special won the supercharged Austin 7 class, while Charlie Plain-Jones in the Cowley Special continues his unbeaten run in class A. Gerry Fincham (DNC Mk5) won the handicap by 7 seconds from Dedman and Plain-Jones.

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James Coleman took the first stand-alone All Porsche Trophy victory in his Cayman. He was chased by the similar car of Jonathan Evans in the opening half of the race. However, a slower stop to hand over to Toby Barlow dropped their car to third. That allowed Coleman to ease to a 17-second victory over Adam Southgate’s Boxster and Evans/Barlow took third. Jon and Christian Walker won class 2 in their Boxster S by 2.5 seconds to the similar car of Matthew Kyle-Henney. Rob Hardy’s 944 won class 3 in a battle of the front-engine cars while Karl Rossin and Sam Callahan won class 4 for the 924s.

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