As I drove from my campsite in the picturesque town of Malmesbury, and on through the small hamlet of Tiddleywink (what a great name!) the weather looked ok with just a few remaining damp patches after early morning rain. I thought about the drivers I was about to meet in the paddock and imagined them all looking at the sky hoping the dry but grey start would remain unchanged for the rest of the day. Sadly, it wasn’t to be!
Driving quickly on fast circuits in the wet requires a mix of total concentration, smoothness and the ability to read and respond to the movement of the car you are feeling through the seat of your pants if you are to avoid an unplanned visit to the scenery!
Castle Combe is certainly fast, the circuit offering long straights, tricky corners and several chicanes that are crucial to get right if a winning time is to be had. The 12 strong Porsche Speed Championship field were to be last class in each of the timed runs. The other cars had moved what water they could but frankly with nearly constant rain during the day it was always going to be wet/very wet when our folk rolled onto the start line for the single practice run.
We had four runners in the P4 class, the Cristols, Ian and Adam in their Boxster, Martin Leech in the 911E and Stephen Jory in his modified 3.0 944. Different car and driver combinations on a sopping wet track and yet just 1.28 seconds split the top three. Stephen and Martin were driving modified cars but Adam was using a road legal model and it was soon clear that the softer setup of the road cars was going to be a factor. Martin was quickest after practice in a time of 87.26 seconds.
We welcomed Jon Baldock to the P3 class for the first time this year. Jon explained he had driven the Combe circuit before and was using a modified Boxster for the championship. Jon had a spin at the 1st chicane. Wayne Eason was similarly delayed in his Boxster but Geraint Evans held it all together to end practice ahead by quite a margin and in a time of 89.44 seconds.
Speed events are all about bettering the last time, and while the drivers compete for points based on positions in class at the end of events, during them it’s the clock they are really battling. Hence as Simon Carr lined up his road legal P2 Cayman for his practice run he focussed on putting together a smooth run without time lost in correcting the car. He did a fine job of that coming back in a time of 89.44 seconds.
The P1 cars have a lot of power, and power has to be driven of course. This wasn’t one of those “go for it” days with cars like these. Andy Fagan tried hard but span and carried on more than once resulting in a longer than aimed for time. Tim Barber and David Hilton sharing the GT3 kept the big beast in line to end the practice session in second and third position but it was Howard Cressey, also in a fully road legal car, who was the quickest P1 driver after practice with a very collected and swift run of 86.86 seconds
There were three timed runs, well actually four were on offer, as long as there were not too many incidents on track, but as our championship counted only the first three our drivers resisted the temptation to go out for a fourth run.
The rain had been coming and going during the morning but was just becoming fixed for the day when the cars approached the line for the first timed scoring runs. Standing water was in evidence but at least now the drivers had that all important ‘feel’ of the wet surfaces an the patches of deeper water and could attack the course accordingly.
I always found driving in the wet a bit of both good and bad. Bad in that it was a nervous time waiting to go out and of course a bit unpredictable once you got going, but good and often ultimately really enjoyable because of the feeling you get from being fully committed and thinking of nothing else and of course the satisfaction you get from overcoming the conditions and sharing the story with your pals back in the paddock.
What really struck me as I watched the cars going out was how the drivers seemed to have
re-set their approach quickly to get the best from the cars despite the near constant rain. Times were quicker for the first scoring run in most cases and then got quicker again with each subsequent run completed.
In P4 Ian Cristol in the road legal Boxster S lopped ten seconds from his personal best by the end of the third scoring run. Adam, also in the road going Boxster S , drove with real confidence and ended the day in second place in the P4 class in a belting time of 83.09 seconds, pipping Stephen Jory for third in his 944. Winning the class in a great time of 81.41 seconds was Martin Leach in his 911E. It was great to see Martin going so well, especially as the previous owner of the car and a past championship driver had come along to watch the event!
Jon Baldock had staked his claim early with a leading time of 84.58 seconds for his first scoring run, but his final run time improved significantly to a very quick 81.87 seconds, taking the P3 class win with his Boxster ahead of Wayne Eason in second and Geraint Evans in third with the 911 Carrera 3.0.
Running alone in P2 as he was it would have been understandable if Simon Carr had driven his road going Cayman at a more sedate pace taking no chances. Not a bit of it! Simon was consistently quick across all of the scoring timed runs culminating in a time of just 81.52 seconds, sixth fastest of all the Porsche Championship cars running that day.
The P1 cars, with all their power and speed potential bucked and kicked as they launched from the start line at the paddock exit and on to the main Combe straight and the scary Quarry corner. Henry Cressey ended the day just 1.75 seconds (times adjusted for slicks) behind David Hilton in the GT3 who took third place in class with a time of 79.10 seconds. David was another driver who had consistently reduced his times run by run regardless of the worsening state of the track.
This year one of the closest rivalries has been between Tim Barber in the slick shod GT3 he shares with David Hilton, and the also slick equipped Boxster driven by Andy Fagan. Andy started his scoring runs with the quickest time of any of the Porsches of 77.99 seconds and was looking hard to beat. However, a slip in the second run gave some encouragement .to Tim who was at that point several seconds quicker. But in a brilliant last effort Andy managed a class winning time of 73.49 seconds, just 0.11 seconds quicker than Tim (after slick time adjustment).
It was genuinely exiting watching the day unfold, even allowing for the water running down my back and doing its best to short out my camera! We saw some great driving and the championship is nicely on the boil as we head into the final 4 rounds. Why not come along and watch the action?
The Classes Class Points/Leaders
P1 360+bhp P1 Tim Barber 120.78
P2 281-360bhp P2 Ian Wadsworth 114.04
P3 220-280bhp P3 Geraint Evans 154.94
P4 up to 220bhp P4 Stephen Jory 155.41
26/27th August Snetterton Sprint
3rd September Brands Hatch Sprint
16th September Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb
Want to try your hand at a speed event but looking for a way that is easy to try with no obligation to carry on if it’s not for you? Well look no further, a ‘taster’ event on a great Historic Hillclimb is available !
Porsche Club GB are pleased to have been granted access to a Prescott Hillclimb event on 24th September 2023 where you can drive your road car up the hill. For more details on how to book and take part in this great event click here
Report by Simon Wilson