Rockingham: Oct 1st (Rounds 13 and 14 of BARC’s VTEC Challenge)
Well, the season has flown by and the last two rounds of the 2011 VTEC Challenge took place at the purpose built circuit of “Rockingham” in Northamptonshire.
2011 marks the 10 year anniversary of the circuit that lays claim to being “Europe’s Fastest Racing Circuit”, which is due to the yet unbeaten lap record for the 1.5 mile oval set on the 22nd September 2001. Tony Kanaan piloted his Ford/Lola Champ Car around the banked circuit in a time of 24.719 seconds at an average speed of 215.397mph.
I think it’s fair to say, I don’t think any of the VTC drivers would be getting near those figures!
On Saturday 1st October, rounds 13 and 14 were held on the circuits popular “International Super Sports Car Circuit” and as ever the action promised to be thick and fast.
The most commonly used configuration combines long straights, sweeping high-speed bends and a lower speed, highly technical infield section that would allow the less powerful machinery to close up the gap.
For the final round, the series boasted a varied grid of competitors, with the welcome addition of Peter Dixon in the “Tuner class”.
Using Rockingham as an introduction to the VTEC Challenge, Peter was expected to be on the pace of the front running “Tuner” Class entrant Kris Dunlop, and Richard Voaden in his group “A” Integra, who has been the one to beat all season long.
It was a welcome return to the fold for Andy Smith and his “vtecdirect.com” Accord Type R, and Gareth Broadbent in his B18 CRX, who has sat out recent rounds due to a recent “Baby Boom” in the Broadbent house hold. (Congratulations to Gareth & Family)
01 – Andy Smith – Accord Type R (A)
03 – Tim Blowers – DC5 Integra 2000cc (B)
10 – Gareth Broadbent – CRX B18 (B)
11 – Dave Roberts – CRX (D)
24 – Rich Voaden – DC2 Integra 2200 (A)
64 – Rich Chilton – DC2 1800cc (C)
67 – Peter Dixon – Civic VT B16A (Invitation)
70 – Kris Dunlop – EG K20 Civic (T)
98 – Mark Chese – Civic Type R (EP3) (B)
For the majority of drivers, Rockingham would be a new challenge, and with the daunting prospect of racing alongside the high concrete barriers that run around the perimeter of the circuit into “Turn 1”, it promised to be a test of man and metal.
Qualifying began just before 10am, and the conditions were perfect. The glorious “Indian Summer” that the country had been experiencing in the run up to the weekend had stayed with us, and the sun was shining down on a busy paddock.
With the cars called forward from their respective garages, the stream of Honda’s were led onto track by “R-Motions” Kris Dunlop in the “Tuner” class DX Civic.
All to soon the heat began to take its toll on both cars and drivers, with the temperatures rising into the 30’s, meaning the tyres began to struggle for grip, resulting in some very tail happy Honda’s on the infields tight sections.
Despite his best efforts, Dunlop would have to settle for 2nd place on the grid, as Voaden pipped him to pole by 0.339 sec, and the dark horse “Dixon” rounded out the top 3.
Pole: Rich Voaden – 1.34.982
2nd: Kris Dunlop – 1.35.321
3rd: Peter Dixon – 1.36.272
After following the safety car for the green flag lap, the drivers were positioned in their grid slot and counting down the seconds to the off. With the 5 second board shown, the engine revs rose in anticipation, and with the red lights out, everyone was clean away.
On the outside of Voaden, Dunlop got the “R-Motion” Civic rolling to avoid wheel spin before slotting home 2nd gear and using the torque of the K20 to pull him ahead of Voaden and around the outside of “Turn 1”.
Mark Chese in his Civic Type R made a fantastic start, and came through the pack from 5th to pass Gareth and Peter to take 3rdplace before Peter came back up the inside into “Deene” and retook the position.
Turning into the infield part of the course, everyone got through cleanly, although Robert’s in the CRX did kick up a dust cloud as he took to the grass on the outside of the corner.
Dunlop was now starting to pull out a bit of a lead over Voaden, but the driver from “Performance Autoworks” wasn’t going to give up just yet, and fought back to keep the Civic within contention.
Coming into “Tarzan”, Kris ran wide and Voaden looked up the inside for a way through to “Brook”, but Dunlop saw the threat and accelerated away to hold position. Constantly Dunlop was on the defensive against Voaden, who was looking for the smallest of opportunities, but despite a valiant effort he was unable to find a way past Dunlop.
A later diagnosed split drive shaft gaiter had thrown oil all over the brakes, rendering them useless, which led Voaden to ease up and bring the car home instead of risking a DNF from a mistake in the heat of catching the leader.
Sat comfortably in 3rd place, Peter Dixon and his Civic were on a charge, but a low final drive meant he was bouncing off the rev limiter on the fast outer sector of the circuit, which allowed the battling duo of Dunlop and Voaden to continually put more distance between themselves and Civic driver from Bishop Aukland.
Broadbent in the red CRX, who had recovered from a less than perfect start, began to close on Chese, and within a couple of laps, has overhauled the Civic, but is unable to put any great distance between them. Coming into “Brook” on lap 9, both drivers held their position, and the result was two cars into “Brook” doesn’t go. Although the resulting incident was a light rub, Gareth decided to retire due to an unknown vibration coming from the car.
Rich Chilton in his Class “C” Integra and Andy Smith in his Class “A” Accord were having a close fought battle throughout the race, with the lighter and nimbler Integra worrying the series “heavyweight” on some of the tighter infield sections, but Smith was able to hold off the Integra and put some distance between them on the “oval” section.
Dave Roberts and Tim Blowers diced for position early on, until Roberts managed to find his grove, and pulled out a lead on Tim, who has moved to group B for the final rounds after installing the Yokohama control tyre of the series.
With Voaden dropping back, Dunlop crossed the line 13 seconds ahead for his 2nd race win of the series.
1st: Kris Dunlop – 1.34.645
2nd: Richard Voaden – 1.34.992
3rd: Peter Dixon – 1.35.375
Class wins were awarded to: Kris Dunlop, Rich Voaden, Mark Chese, Rich Chilton and Dave Roberts
With some remedial work required on Rich Voadens Integra, Marks Civic and Gareth’s CRX, the VTC drivers and organisers got stuck in to ensure everyone was back out for race 2.
With Dixon starting from the back row of the grid at his request, the rest of the drivers lined up in their 1st race finishing positions, set to do it all again.
Gareth’s CRX was fully repaired and had taken his position on the back row alongside Dixon.
Dunlop on pole was now on the inside of the grid, with Rich above him and looking to turn the tables on the silver Civic and its driver.
With the race underway, the sound of the VTEC’s echoed around the bowl at Rockingham, as they all screamed away from the line.
Dunlop put paid to Voaden’s plans as again he hooked up perfectly and took off into a lead.
Dixon had shot through from the back row to take Gareth, Tim and Mark before “Denne”.
Into the infield and Gareth and Peter began a race long battle, that saw position swap back and forth, but ended around lap 8 when the Civic driver passed the slower looking CRX around “Turn 1” to take 3rd place.
Mark Chese in the Civic was struggling with a blowing exhaust which was robbing him of some of the Type R’s power. However, he was able to climb up the field to close the gap on the duo of Dixon and Broadbent by the end of the race.
Rich Chilton and Andy Smith were having a repeat performance of race 1 with Chilton eventually crossing the line on the bumper of Andy’s Accord. A great testament to both driver’s skill and respect for one another, as on more than one occasion they wanted the same piece of track!
Dave Roberts pulled away from Tim in the DC5 Integra, and both drivers ran a trouble free race, even if a way back from the leading trio.
Not putting a wheel wrong, Dunlop pulled away from 2nd place Voaden, who on this occasion could find no answer to the pace of the Civic.
So making this his “hat-trick” Dunlop crossed the line to take the win and wrap up the season in the best possible way.
1st: Kris Dunlop – 1.34.304
2nd: Rich Voaden – 1.34.815
3rd: Peter Dixon – 1.35.846
Class wins were awarded to: Kris Dunlop, Rich Voaden, Mark Chese, Gareth Broadbent and Dave Roberts
The inaugural season of the VTEC Challenge has come to a close, so if you’re thinking of racing a Honda, or want to know more, drop onto www.VTECChallenge.co.uk and get the low down on what the VTEC is all about.
With registrations for 2012 opening soon, there is already a buzz about what next year will bring.
Words: Jonathan Fletcher
Pictures: Lindsey Bridger