Brands Hatch Race Report

Brands Hatch Is a “Dangerous Circuit”

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Brands Hatch hosted rounds 3 & 4 of the 5Club MX5 Cup series. An increased grid of 27 cars took to the Kent circuit on Saturday 26th April.
Once again the series attracted some more new faces as well as a couple of seasoned MX5 racers. One of whom stood out from the rest.
Brian ‘Dangerous’ Chandler has never won an MX5 racing series/championship but he certainly proved he has ‘the minerals’ to do so as he put on a superb display of skill and speed even when the odds were against him…..

Qualifying
April showers were defiantly in the air at the start of qualifying with most of the 27 drivers electing a wet set-up.

The appalling session lasting 15 minutes saw little change at the top. Pole went to Brian ‘Dangerous’ Chandler with Donington winner Will Blackwell-Chambers and Jack Sycamore occupying the top 3 slots respectively.

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Dangerous Brian and Will B-C were the only drivers to set a sub 1.08 lap time.

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Just behind them the battle for 4th place on the grid was fierce with Chris Lovett, Gary ‘The Huff’ Hufford, James Rodgers, Andy Coombs and Matt ‘The Beard’ Short all separated by just under 1 second.

Kevin Dengate and Thomas Pughe rounded out the top 10.

Donington top 10 finisher Sam ‘Gandy’ Gendy was suffering with an engine misfire and only managed to take 14th spot on the grid behind new comer Nigel Garrett, but ahead of Canadian Andrew Caird and Stephen ‘Craggy’ Craggs.

The conditions were greasy to say the least and were proving difficult for some of the less experienced drivers. None the less, the entire field qualified within a few seconds of each other. Testimony of the closeness and competitiveness of the series.

Race 1
The racing line was dry but off line was still very slippery as the drivers lined up for race 1. Due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control there was no green flag lap which meant that the competitors would have no chance to test the water and find where the grip was.

The lights went out and Dangerous Brian made a textbook getaway but Will B-C stuck with him and Lovett jumped Jack Sycamore to take 3rd place while James Rodgers moved up into 4th. But the best start of the race had to go to car 16 of John Powell who made his way from 24th up to 15th by the end of the lap 1.
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Will B-C got in front of Dangerous for a brief spell coming out of Clearways by was demoted back into 2nd by the start of the second lap. Will B-C was tucked up behind Dangerous Brian for a few laps and the two of them got their heads down and began to put in clear fast laps and pull away from the squabbling pack behind.

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Craggy had his head down too and was pressuring Matt ‘The Beard’ Short and Chris Lovett hard. This pressure paid off and a mistake from Matt Short meant that Craggy managed to squeeze past with Rodgers, The Huff, and Coombs in hot pursuit. Gandy had made fair progress considering his engine wasn’t 100% and was now pushing Matt ‘The Beard’ Short to take 8th place.

By lap 6 Dangerous Brian had pulled a 2 second gap on Will B-C who in turn had a 7 second gap back to Gary ‘The Huff’ Hufford after he managed to slip past Craggy and Chris Lovett 1 lap earlier.

The Flying Kiwi Paul Monteith was having a busy race in 10th place and was now closing in on Gandy who was still trying to pass Matt Short but now had his mirrors full of Monteith.
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The leaders were now some 10 seconds clear of 3rd place man Hufford as they completed lap 9. An epic battle for 10th place was taking place further down the field with Kevin Dengate, Thomas Pughe, Nigel Garrett and Daniel Stewart all within 0.8 of a second of each other.

As the track continued to dry and with the tyres now past their optimum, lap times fell slightly. It then appeared that Dangerous Brian made an uncharacteristic error allowing Will B-C to significantly close the gap to just over 1 second and Hufford was within 4 seconds of the leading pair.

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Coombs was now under major pressure from Craggy who had a hard charging Gandy on his tail. The 3 of them half a second of each other but neither Craggy nor Gandy could pull a move on Andy Coombs who had the widest MX5 in Kent at this point in the race.

The chequered flag fell after 15 minutes of fast and furious racing. Chandler, Will B-C and Hufford took podium honours. James Rodgers managed to hold off Lovett for 4th and in a repeat of race 1 from Donington 3 weeks ago, Coombs, Craggy and Gandy took 6th, 7th and 8th places respectively with Paul ‘The Fliying Kiwi’ Monteith and Matt ‘The Beard’ Short rounding out the top ten.

Race 2
Prior to the start of race 2, a technical infringement meant that Dangerous Brian Chandler and Will Blackwell-Chambers were handed an 8 place grid penalty which they both willingly accepted. This meant that Gary Hufford who finished 3rd in race 1, would start from Pole with everyone else who finished in the top 8 in race 1 now moving forward 2 places for the start of race 2.

As the lights went out it was James Rodgers who made the best start capitalising on The Huffs poor getaway. As they decended into Padock Hill bend Brian Chandler was up into 4th place already, making a determined effort to negate his starting position and by the time he exited Graham Hill (the 2nd corner) he was in 2nd position as Hufford lost another place to slip into 3rd.
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Stephen ‘Craggy’ Craggs had made another great start and was in 4th place. Will B-C wasn’t able to make it to the sharp end of the field quite as quickly as Chandler as he was stuck in 5th place and fighting with a very ‘elbows out’ Andy Coombs. Craggy wasn’t going to make it easy for him either.

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As they hit the straight to complete lap 2, Brian Chandler passed James Rodgers to take the lead. As soon as Rodgers was relegated into 2nd he had a charging Hufford filling his mirrors eager to take advantage of the gap the Chandler made on the inside as he past. At the same point on the track Will B-C seized the moment to make a gutsy but clean pass on Craggy to move into 4th.

At the start of lap 5 just behind Craggy was the freight train of Coombs, Gandy, Lovett who had slipped to 8th from 3rd on the grid, Matt ‘The Beard’ Short and the Flying Kiwi Paul Monteith. These 6 cars rounded out the top 10 and were separated by just 2 seconds. This battle continued with several brave and nail bitting moments all the way until lap 8. Again showing just how competitive this 1 Make series really is.

There were battles all the way down the field. Daniel Stewart who started the race in 12th hadn’t made the best of starts was down in 17th and was busy defending from the shuffling quartet of Jack Sycamore who’d started last, Thomas Pughe, the returning Grant Williamson and Darren Shepsman. Just behind Shepsman, Nick Le Doyen was keeping a frustrated Simon ‘woody’ Woods at bay.
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Hufford was doing all he could to catch Dangerous Brian who was 5 seconds clear of the 2nd place man and James Rodgers was demonstrating some superb defensive driving to keep Will B-C in 4th place. Grant Williamson showed he wasn’t there just to make up the numbers as he moved up from 17th to 13th place in just 1 lap.

On lap 10 Hufford made a small mistake at the top of paddock hill which allowed Rodgers the inside line but Will B-C masterfully dived inside both drivers to slip by, and move up to 2nd. It only took The Huff a few corners to take 3rd place back from Rodgers and latch onto the back of Will B-C.
Chandler now had an impressive 9 second lead over Will B-C. But Hufford was being kept honest by Rodgers who was less than 0.5 seconds away from him.

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Meanwhile the Lovett had passed Craggy to take 5th place and Gandy had passed Coombs to take 7th. Gandy was pushing Craggy hard once again and made a slightly ambitious move down the inside into Graham Hill bend which resulted in some contact with Craggy’s driver’s door but Craggy kept his foot in and didn’t crumble under Sam ‘Gandy’ Gendy’s pressure.

Sadly on lap 12 Matt ‘The Beard’ Short went wide through Padock Hill bend and beached himself in the gravel trap. Due to his car being in an unsafe position the race was Red Flagged and results were taken from 1 lap previous.

Brian Chandler took the double ahead of Will B-C and Hufford. Rodgers took 4th while Lovett Craggy and Gandy who were separated by only 0.3 seconds took 5th, 6th and 7th respectively.

The top 10 were completed by Andy Coombs, Paul Monteith and Kevin Dengate.

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Rounds 5 & 6 take place at the Wiltshire circuit of Castle Combe on Saturday the 14th of June.

Words: The Mobile Journalist
Pictures: John Rees (www.jrphoto.co)
Pictures: Jonathan Elsey (www.jonelseyphotography.photoshelter.com)

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