Brands Hatch :: :: May 12th and 13th
Luke Caudle took his first win of the season in his Excelr8 Motorsport Seat Leon, but a clutch problem robbed him of his second success of the weekend. Joe Girling’s Courtenay Sport Astra picked up the pieces and made it a double win in the third and final race.
Girling’s Astra edged out the Excelr8 Seat’s of Duckman and Caudle to secure pole for Saturday’s race, with Caudle heading the second row, from Maurice Hayden’s Renault Megane. Hayden having lost part of the session due to a wiring problem.
Antony Williams’ Megane had Steve Johnson’s Astra sharing row three and Sarah Franklin’s Abarth was solo on row four initially, after Keith Issatt withdrew his Volvo C30. “It wasn’t worth racing it until we have sorted a few problems out,” he said.
Stewart Calder had qualified his Astra out of session, but joined the back of the grid too.
RACE ONE ::
Girling had the lead from the start as Duckman and Caudle started an early duel for second, leaving Hayden in fourth relatively solo by the end of the first lap.
Johnson soon started to consolidate fifth too, which left Williams chasing Calder for sixth, followed by unopposed class B runner Franklin.
“I could see that Luke was all over Gary, which did me a favour of course,” said Girling. But on lap eight Caudle finally broke the deadlock, “I had a bad start and was fourth, I got Maurice at Druids on the first lap and then did the same with Gary around the outside,” Caudle explained. A lap later an indentical move gave him the lead and left Girling trying to defend second. “That was three overtakes, all indentical,” he said proudly.
“I knew once Luke got past Gary I would be in trouble and I was,” admitted Girling. He managed to keep Duckman at bay for one lap before running wide at Graham Hill Bend.”I had been in the worst position, wanting to attack Joe but defend from Luke,” Duckman replied.
Caudle continued to increase his lead over the remaining distance and took his first win in the championship by over three seconds, with Duckman taking second by a similar margin from Girling.
Fourth place remained in Hayden’s hands from the opening lap, “I could see them in front and I could see them behind, but couldn’t close the gap,” he said. Johnson had been fairly lonely in fifth until the closing laps when Calder closed in. “I had stayed with Maurice for a while, but my lack of circuit knowledge and cooking the tyres allowed Stewart to catch me. He tried a few moves at Paddock, but I held the inside,” he said.
Calder’s challenge faltered on the final laps when his car was overheating severely, which lost him sixth to Williams on the last lap. “I had the original diff in still, but it felt good and we are getting as much as we can out of the car,” said the Excelr8 chief. Franklin also survived, albeit two laps down.
Result: 1 Luke Caudle (Seat Leon) 23 laps in 20m 34.437s (81.02mph); 2 Gary Duckman (Seat Leon) +3.371s; 3 Joe Girling (Vauxhall Astra VXR) +4.180s; 4 Maurice Hayden (Renault Megane); 5 Steve Johnson (Vauxhall Astra VXR); 6 Antony Williams (Renault Megane); 7 Stewart Calder (Vauxhall Astra VXR); 8 Sarah Franklin (Fiat Abarth); no other starters. Fastest Lap: Caudle 52.777s (82.39mph).
RACE TWO ::
With Caudle taking up pole, he had the early advantage into Paddock and was able to maximise his position when Duckman spun on the exit. “I have to admit when I saw Gary spin, I thought brilliant,” Caudle admitted. “I had to spin or hit Luke, so I came off the throttle as I would have understeered into him. Then I was forced to pit as I had buckled a wheel,” Duckman explained.
Hayden was second, from Girling, Johnson, Calder, Williams and Franklin, but as they crossed the line to finish lap two, Girling nosed ahead of Hayden as they both tried to stay in touch with Caudle.
For a while Hayden stayed close in third, but then a wrong gear at Graham Hill Bend allowed to Johnson to pass. “I was in fourth,” Hayden admitted. “I thought that had happened as it seemed far too easy,” added Johnson.
Back at the front Girling had started to mount a challenge for the lead, but Caudle responded by increasing his advantage. “I still couldn’t catch him, although I was good in the corners,” said Girling.
But on the 19th of what became a 23 lap race, Caudle suddenly peeled off at Graham Hill Bend, “the clutch had gone,” he said. A pipe had come off and caused the breakage of the clutch spring, but it put him out of the race and handed victory to Girling. “It was shame for Luke, I would have rather beaten him properly,” said Girling.
On the same lap as Caudle’s demise, Johnson lost out to an aggressive attack from Hayden into Paddock, which damaged the Astra’s rear wheel and took the mirror off. “He caught me again when my tyres started to go off, so it’s a battle scarred third now,” said Johnson. “Brilliant start, I was in the wrong gear when Steve got me so when I had the chance to get him back I had to go for it,” Hayden replied.
Williams came home a fairly solitary fourth, the brake pedal went after eight laps and I had to let them come back, but learned a lot,” he said. With Calder having retired early, Franklin was fifth, which secured her pole for the finale, and Duckman sixth. “We had worked six hours on the car, a new headgasket and it lasted four laps, before the red light was on and coolant was on the rear tyres,” Calder concluded.
Result: 1 Girling 23 laps in 20m 37.412s (80.82mph); 2 Hayden +19.330s; 3 Johnson; 4 Williams; 5 Franklin; 6 Duckman; no other finishers. Fastest Lap: Girling 52.944s (82.12mph).
RACE THREE ::
The reverse grid didn’t last long, but it gave Williams and Hayden their moments of glory. Williams led the way until Surtees on the second lap, when Hayden took charge, with Girling, Duckman and Caudle all following him through before the exit of Clark Curve.
Hayden held his lead as Girling had his hands full with Duckman and Caudle, but by the end of lap four it was a four car train for the lead. Caudle had nosed ahead of Duckman through Clearways, but Duckman responded immediately and went back in front on the inside of Paddock.
With Girling again given respite as the Seats fought among themselves, he was able to concentrate on his own lead challenge. It was side by side through Graham Hill Bend on lap eight, but Hayden held it on the exit, as Duckman and Caudle took McLaren side by side but still held station on the exit too. “I had been at 90 degrees through Paddock on the first lap and held them off as long as I could, just keeping it tight and making them find their own way by,” said Hayden.
Girling finally made it by as they past the pits to complete lap 10, with Duckman following at Paddock lap later, and Caudle third into Surtees. “I just drove it into the ground. It was win or break it, but I was cautious at Paddock, as I remembered my crash there last year,” said Girling.
Although Duckman closed in for the lead he finally made his move on the last lap, but went wide at Graham Hill Bend. “It was a good race but I could do nothing more. Joe was very defensive, but excellent,” said Duckman.
So Girling made it win number two for the weekend with 0.781secs in hand over Duckman, with Caudle a distant third. “I just hadn’t got the front end grip, we altered the rear but I think we did it too much and it was hard to get the power down,” Caudle explained.
Once he had been forced to give way, Hayden ran solo to fourth and Johnson held fifth from lap 12, after taking Williams through Surtees. Franklin once again completed the finishers. “I think Antony and I stuck with them as long as we could see them, but the tyres went again and I understeered through Clearways,” Johnson explained. “It had been good to lead and see nothing in front, maybe I should have stayed on it more,” Williams added.
Result: 1 Girling 23 laps in 20m38.210s (80.77mph); 2 Duckman +0.781s; 3 Caudle +0.350s; 4 Hayden; 5 Johnson; 6 Williams; 7 Franklin; no other starters. Fastest Lap: Duckman 52.879s (82.23mph).
Published by Peter Scherer for BARC Dunlop Production Touring Car Trophy, May 13, 2012.