Back to Greatness15.07.14 The Stroud club recapture former glory with a brilliant third round.
There was great potential to be fulfilled by the Stroud club ahead of the third round of the Kent Cams/Simpson Race Exhausts British Autograss Series and they produced a brilliant meeting that lived up to the hype, raising the bar for the remaining events.
As we wrote last week, there was much anticipation for the return of what used to be one of the favourite venues and it was a pleasure to return. The venue has retained that special feeling that made it such a nice place to be before, with a great atmosphere, excellent spectator facilities, an organised layout and great attention to detail.
The track too was praised by everybody we spoke to, and held up beautifully to a full weekend of racing. There were a few undulations and it dug out a little in places, but not dangerously so, and it was conducive to some fast spectacular action. As had been the case at Cwmdu, it was necessary to use the water bowser on a regular basis to keep the dust down – though it did still become an issue at times – and it had to drive slowly round the track for maximum effect which was a contributory factor to the majority of the ladies second heats being held until Sunday morning again, as we often had to wait a little too long between races. The warm weather on Saturday meant that if the bowser was towed round too quickly, it would have given the track too light a sprinkling and the water would have dried too quickly. Driving standards were much better too, with significantly less reruns than the first two events, and while there were quite a few stoppages for a variety of reasons, they didn’t feel unnecessary and certainly didn’t add an air of negativity to the event, or add an unacceptable amount of extra time.
While it’s not ideal to have to carry over any of Saturday’s racing to the second day, the quality of the event quickly negated any of the bad feeling that would be felt at some meetings, and the rest of the ladies heats were dispatched with customary efficiency which meant we returned to the usual programme of races just before ten to ten. The rain that came during the early part of the men’s third heats helped enormously; it was heavy enough to recondition the track to an extent and also meant the water bowser wasn’t needed for a while, but not so severe that the quality of the racing was affected. Indeed, one of the best races of the day came during a particularly heavy shower in men’s class one which was won by Adam Jones after a race-long battle, and it was good to see the Mini’s being driven sideways wheel-to-wheel on the slippery track.
Because of the rain shower and the absence of the bowser, the second day went a little quicker, with the finals starting at 1520 after an interval and finishing at 1705; to put that into perspective, the finals hadn’t even started at Cwmdu by this time, and there were more cars present this weekend than at round two. As was expected for a meeting at such a popular venue, there were semi-finals in classes seven and eight again, and it was good to see that the entry list in many classes consisted of a number of the top drivers from the UKAC, some of whom had already raced here for their first round. As a side note, with the UKAC in mind, we heard many people commenting that it was great to hear Kevin Hurdman back on commentary too, lending his usual enthusiasm to classes eight and ten.
You get a feeling early on in a meeting as to what kind of weekend you can expect, and it was clear from the first heat that there was a good team present who understood the way each other worked, and the result of this was a relaxed approach borne from mutual understanding. We heard praise from a few sources about first corner marshal Dave Bennett’s fair, level headed attitude, and also comments about Carl Smith’s effective use of the cameras. It was heartening to hear a number of drivers say that the way the video evidence had been utilised at this meeting, and witnessing the good communication with, and respect for, on track marshals had changed their mind as to its effectiveness and value. It was also encouraging that there were a number of marshals in various positions who were experienced racers themselves, and were therefore able to interpret incidents on track with a deeper understanding. Indeed, it’s always good to see racers marshalling at any event because there will always be a large number of drivers who complain, without ever having stood out to marshal themselves. Of course, not everyone will agree with the decisions that were made, but compared to the first two events there were significantly fewer grievances this weekend for the complaints officer, and certainly the negativity from other meetings on social media was replaced here largely by positive comments on the efforts of the club.
It was a little disappointing that there were no takers for a Champion of Champions race as we haven’t enjoyed a well-supported CofC for many seasons, and even though the plan to have the top two from each class was a little ambitious, it would have been a novel end to the meeting. The finals provided an excellent climax, however, and the early finishing time meant they were played out to a full crowd. For the vast majority to have left in high spirits is indicative of the quality of the event and marked a turning point in the season. Looking to the rest of the series, you could speculate that the standard set here will be continued by the experienced hosts of the final two rounds, too.