The season finale of the thrilling Time Attack series took place at Snetterton Park on Sunday 10th October. The 4 previous rounds had produced a variety of winners in each of the classes, meaning there was still everything to play for in this final round.
With two wins apiece, Steve Guglielmi in his Audi powered Exige and Gareth Lloyd in the Car Planet Racing EVO were racing for glory in the Pro class. Exchanging fastest laps throughout the day, Lloyd’s dayglo orange EVO ultimately took the honours in a battle that kept the large and enthusiastic crowd enthralled.
Such is the popularity of the Time Attack series, that competitors in the Club challenge have to be split into two groups, even on the long and very fast circuit that is Snetterton Park. This ensures that all drivers have a fair chance of setting their best lap times without encountering heavy traffic.
Walter Morris in his Nissan Skyline set the early pace, with several 1’16 laps with a best of 1’16.326, followed closely by 4WD championship leader Scott Robson’s Impreza with an impressive 1’16.552 almost two seconds ahead of championship rival Fiona Kindness in her Track Scotland Skyline who could only manage 4th best time. Still with a mathematical chance of winning, Warren Kelly in his Ford RS Cosworth was a second behind Robson in third, with a 1’17.595.
In the Front Wheel Drive class, Romain Levesque put in a stunning lap time of 1’19.053 in the Buddy Club Honda CRX, over 4 seconds faster than next closest rival Nigel Bown in his distinctive yellow mini.
With a series of consistent 1’19 laps throughout the session, Daniel Gannon in his left hand drive M3 headed the RWD leader board, setting his best of 1’19.248 at the end of the session. Title favourite Mark Pollard in the Metro 6R4 could only manage 3rd best behind Jeff Mileham’s Elise with a 1’20.426
In Club Pro 4WD, Russ Paton showed great promise for the point scoring afternoon sessions, with a blistering 1’15.743, over a second ahead of fellow EVO competitor Richard Jones in the Launch Motorsport prepared car. Title contenders Kev Horsley and Paul Doyle were well down the leaderboard, perhaps preserving their cars for the afternoon runs.
In Pro class, Steve Guglielmi lead the way with the first sub ’12 lap of the day with a 1’11.833 beating Gareth Lloyd‘s 1’12.005. Both drivers were keeping their cards close to their chests, with neither completing more than 3 laps during the 15 minute session to give too much away to the opposition. James Nicholls showed his intentions with two laps in the 12′s, with a best of 1’12.827 being more than 6/10ths quicker than Gavin Renshaw in the Lateral Performance Impreza (1’13.432)
The tension in the pit lane over lunch time was higher than normal, with the whole season resting on the next two sessions. Normally calm and relaxed drivers were clearly showing signs of nerves, pacing around their garage and endlessly double checking all the nuts and bolts on their cars.
First out for the point scoring qualifcation runs were the club class cars, and Warren Kelly was immediately on the pace putting in an early 1’16.876 on his third lap which ultimately proved the fastest of the session. Fiona Kindness improved again over her morning lap times as she became more familiar with the demanding Snetterton track with a best of 1’17.487 set on her 6th of 11 laps during the 15 minute session. Disaster struck the morning pace setters though, with Walter Morris suffering engine problems in his Skyline, and championship leader Scott Robson suffering a piston failure on his out-lap, bringing a sad end to his championship aspirations. This guaranteed Fee the 4WD championship, as long as she did at least one timed lap in the final.
In the normally aspirated RWD class, Daniel Gannon qualified in first place with his best lap of 1’19.096 bettering Mark Pollard’s 1’19.140 and setting up a thrilling shoot out for the final podium of the year.
In the Forced Induction RWD class, Mathew Webb in the Mazda RX7 who has improved with each round, recorded a stunning 1’18.206 lap time to qualify in first place ahead of Gordon Wright’s Skyline GTST 1’19.426 and Ronnie Amis in the carbon bodied Sierra Cosworth on 1’21.888
Romain Levesque continued his dominance of the Forced Induction FWD class with another sub ’20 lap time of 1’19.278 putting him at the top of the qualification times, comfortably ahead of David Ward (1’22.143) in his Mini Cooper S, and Ollie Clark in his Zetec powered fiesta (1’23.629). Missing from his usual place at the top of the Forced Induction FWD times was Bo Nielsen, who was also suffering from engine problems.
In Club Pro class (4WD), Kev Horsley with his new engine, did just enough to get into the final with a time of 1’17.548 being significantly slower than class leaders Paul Doyle in The Badger with a 1’14.748, and Marcus Webster in the wide bodied Skyline (1’15.577).
In the new Club Pro RWD class, Jamie Wilson qualified first with a spectacular 1’14.752, ahead of the much higher powered Toyota Supras of Steve Linton (1’15.820) and Paul Whiffin (1’16.381).
The session was held up, after Robin Duxbury’s immaculately prepared EVO suffered a transmission failure at Russell’s Chicane, blocking the track and necessitating a red flag whilst the car was loaded onto the recovery truck with Robin in the boot to help balance the weight.
With the Pro class cars now running full boost for the first time, their morning times were quickly blitzed, with Steve Guglielmi first dropping down in to the ’10s with a 1’10.550, only to have his time bettered by Gareth Lloyd in the EVO with a 1’09.727. Gavin Renshaw surprised quite a few by qualifying third with a 1’11.968, ahead of James Nicholl’s best 1’12.518. This set the scene for a scintillating final round a few hours later!
Club Challenge Finals
With the 4WD title apparently in the bag, Fiona Kindness simply needed to complete a single timed lap in the final to ensure victory. However, the drama was far from over, as unbeknown to Fiona her car refused to start resulting in a last minute panic to find the cause. The problem was quickly idenitifed as broken spark plugs and fellow Skyline competitor Marcus Webster came to the rescue with a spare set of plugs for the 6 cylinder engine, and Fiona’s car started cleanly much to the relief of her team.
With her time of 1’18.604 in the bag after only her 3rd lap and the championship secured, Fiona then set about chasing class leader Warren Kelly, and improved with a 1’17.425 later in the session. This wasn’t enough to earn the top podium position from Kelly though, who again lead the class in style with a 1’16.040, as the one hit wonder entry of Rob Cowling (1’15.568) didn’t count towards the championship points and podium positions.
In the normally aspirated RWD class, Jeff Mileham in the small Lotus Elise took the top honours for the first time this season, with an excellent time of 1’18.638 beating both title contenders Mark Pollard (1’18.751) and Daniel Gannon (1’18.796).
In the forced Induction RWD class, Mathew Webb again proved untouchable. With his RX7 looking and sounding resplendent on track, Mat recorded a time of 1’18.285 some 2 seconds ahead of Gordon Wright who recorded his best result of the season. His Skyline GTST affectionatly known as PAW was taking part in it’s final Time Attack event, as he has a new car under development for next season. With a best time of 1’21.651, a very popular third place on the day went to Ronnie Amis, in his Sierra Cosworth.
In the class for Forced Induction FWD cars, Romain Levesque continued the dominant form shown all day, and upped his game to take first place with a 1’18.936. Romain’s winning margin on the day was a comfortable two seconds over David Ward’s Mini Cooper S (1’20.916), with Nigel Brown’s mini taking third with a 1’22.235 and unfortunately blowing his engine in the process. Bo Neilsen borrowed an almost standard VXR for the final session in an attempt to secure some points and ensure him the championship title. Amazingly he managed 5th place overall, with a time of 1’24.956.
Pro and Club Pro Finals
With the club sessions over, and the championship positions decided, the scene was set for the much anticipated showdown between Gareth Lloyd and Steve Guglielmi. It was apparent from the first hot lap, that both meant business. Lloyd took an early lead with a strong 1’09.192 which looked like being enough to take the honours, as Guglielmi could only muster a 1’09.969. However, Gugliemi returned to the track later in the session to try and better his and Lloyd’s earlier time, and did so in style with 1’09.032. However, Llloyd was close behind him on the track, and perhaps spurred on by the speed of the Audi powered Exige ahead of him, Gareth Lloyd managed to pull out a lap time 1’08.704. With the pressure now off, Lloyd then cemented his lead at the end of the session with an astounding lap time of 1’08.299 on road legal Toyo R888 tyres. To put this into perspective, the current BTCC lap record set on slick tyres is some 3 seconds slower!
Gavin Renshaw took his second podium place of the season in the Lateral Performance banana with a time of 1’11.163, ahead of James Nicholls 1’12.010.
In the 4WD Club Pro class, championship leader Kevin Horsley just needed a steady run to assure him of some points and the overall title, and he secured this with a time 1’14.229 in his first outing. Championship secured, Kev went back out again in his Scoobyclinic Impreza, and improved to 1’13.905 – still mindful of the new engine that had only been in the car less than 48 hours! This lap time still wasn’t enough to threaten first place, as Paul Doyle pulled out his best performance of the year from his Impreza to record a time of 1’11.581 which would have almost been enough to get a podium position in the ultra competitive Pro class. This fantastic result was enough to secure 2nd place overall in the championship behind Horsley, with Simon Deaton earning third place in his pink japdna EVO thanks to a string of consistantly quick performances throughout the year.
In the Club Pro RWD class, it was another unbelieveably close result between the two Whifbitz Supras of Steven Linton and Paul Whiffin, and the lighter, more nimble Exige of Jamie Wilson. It was Linton who came out on top this time around, with a time of 1’14.787, less than 4/100ths ahead of Wilson with 1’14.824 and Whiffin’s 1’15.833. It was Wilson who took championship honours, thanks to his blistering performances earlier in the season.
The full results from the Snetterton Park event can be found by clicking here
With the sun setting quickly at Snetterton Park, the podium ceremonies were the first event all day to run behind schedule, due to the impressive amount of silverware and champagne prepared for the winners!
With all the pressures of the season behind them now, the drivers could relax and enjoy their final battles of the season with their victory champagne:
Words: John Stewart
Images: Flat Out Photography