April 26th Celtic Motorsport Festival
Highlights- The sight and sound of Ron Cummings & Bob Wright and their Arrows Judd V10s will be one of my all time memories of racing at Pembrey. 1998 Celtic Motorsport Festival Gallery
On a tremendous day for the WRDA and for Welsh racing, the Celtic Motorsport Festival was a celebration of 15 years of hard work, and WRDA members put in a maximum effort to get their cars to the grid. After a week or more of rain, divine intervention was needed and I prayed to God for a sunny weekend. The big man upstairs duly arranged for the sun to shine! The meeting was run under the banner of our friends at the Aston Martin Owners Club, who stepped in after we were let down by our original partners. Having attracted a quality grid of the Ford of Ireland Zetec Championship for a double round, and the new Irish Strikers (for Srtikers read Caterham clones), we were able to add TV coverage. The whole event, including the TV coverage, which had to be paid for, was funded by the European Community Regional Fund and the Interreg programme. Suffice to say, without this input we would have not been able to fund the meeting and arrange the TV coverage without charging a substantial entry fee. As it was we were able to arrange a Gala day and keep entry fees to the minimum.
In the Welsh Championship Alvin Powell was back with his car now sorted after it was given a makeover by Andy Rouses crew, but he must have passed his bad luck on, as Matt Mandersons Darrian never moved from the paddock, and Terry Browns car was soon back on the trailer after a very public mechanical failure. (Just the time you dont want to see a camera!) Gareth Davies was also struggling to get his car running and with Graham Cole falling foul of the officials, Peter Dark & Mike Shaw were the only Darrians to make an impression. Indeed Peter made quite an impression by winning both Welsh rounds at a canter, as well as finishing the handicap race first on the road. 3 Starts - 3 wins! It doesnt get much better than that. Mike also made an impression, but not maybe in the way he intended, as he was captured on Martin Davies rear facing camera getting well crossed up under braking! Mikes distinctive car is now part of the opening sequence to the BBC Wales Magazine show on Saturday afternoon a 5.25 p.m every week!
First off on the race programme however, was the first of 2 races for the Irish Formula Ford Zetec Championship.
The action wasnt long starting, and incidents at Hatchets and Spitfires left broken cars scattered about the circuit and bought the race to an end after less than 400 yards! The restart saw even more mayhem, but the race continued until unlucky lap 13. Leader Phillip Kehoe had been holding off schoolboy sensation Neil Shanahan but Kehoe ran wide at Brooklands and then chopped Shanahan as he sought to take advantage of the situation. The cars touched and Kehoe did a slow barrel roll to exit the race on his helmet. (Another clip for the TV!) With the driver trapped there was no option but to end the race, and the lucky Kehoe took the win with the result declared at 12 laps.
Welsh Championship Round 4
Next up was the first of 2 Welsh Championship races but they had a hard act to follow. Indeed after Alvin made a hash of his start and Peter made good his escape, the race seemed to settle into a pattern. Although Alvin eventually managed to make his way up to second place, a late burst from Peter, who set the fastest lap on the last lap, made sure he was never in a position to challenge for the lead. Keith Butcher & Mike Shaw staged one of the closest finishes in 3rd & 4th, whilst Martin Davies headed Nigel Jones and Jeremy Pope, and Scottish visitor Bob Wright in a Cosworth quartet in 5th, 6th , 7th & 8th places. Mark Chandler took the Class C honours after fighting off the challenge of Class sponsor Jonathon Williams and his Rover Gti, who at least gave Mark a fright, and his closest race of the year! Nigel Bowen (in his other car) had a close finish holding off the Rover Gti trio of Clive Hayes, Larry, & Rhodri. Graham Cole, Paul Townsend and Sean Jones were doomed to retire, but Granville Williams unfortunately never made it to the start.
With excellent races for the Monoposto Championship, the Irish Strykers and Ladies race (won by Cindy Pearce in the car she shares with Clive Hayes), it was time for the Gemini Celtic Superprix and the wailing Arrows. However it all started to go wrong as soon as the lights changed. Bob Wrights car failed to start and whilst Ron Cummings gave us show he only lasted 2 laps before a radiator hose blew off and sent the flying Arrows into a wild spin on the outside of Honda curve! Ron managed to keep the car from spearing across into the amrco and brought it to a safe halt after a heart stopping moment that made for great television (and a final clip for the BBC Wales Magazine!). However the departure left Eddie McLurg to fend off Robin Dawe and his Vauxhall Lotus, but Dawe slipped by and hung on, despite a mighty charge from Eddie, to win by only .02 of a second!
Only 15 out of the 20 original starters made it through to the second round of the Irish Formula Ford Zetec Championship, and after a calmer race Neil Shanahan held off Chris Paul by just under a second, who set the fastest lap in both races, with his quickest lap being 58.65 seconds.
Welsh Championship Round 5
16 starters lined up for the second Welsh race, and the question was will Alvin get off to a better start and give Peter a hard time? The answer was, that he made a worse one and narrowly missed a nasty encounter with the barriers on the outside of Dibeni as he went off backwards on cold tyres! Keith settled into 2nd place and although Alvin eventually made his way up to 3rd the others "were long gone" as the TV commentary confirmed. Nigel Jones left the fray early on after his newly painted Sierra with a host of problems, narrowly missing Mark Chandler, as the green machine went straight on at the approach to Hatchets with a broken diff! Paul Townsend, Graham Cole, and Martin Davies were the other retirements. In the race Clive Hayes and Larry Phillips were the only drivers to stage a close finish, as there were large distances between most of the other finishers. Mark & Jeremy Pope took their classes again.
Castle Combe regular and Caerlon resident Andrew Harris won the Formula Ford v Monokent race, and after applying the handicap Irish driver Owen Doran won the Wales v Ireland v Ladies Sports & Saloon team race. Diplomatically, the Irish team won, with the Ladies team 2nd.
Despite the early delays we finished the 9 race programme on time, a triumph that owed so much to so many people, drivers, marshals, administrators, cameramen. For Peter Hughes the director, the work was about to start. Having been involved with the project for almost 6 months if you had asked at the time I probably would not have been in favour of repeating the task, but having thought about it and watched the TV coverage, well, OK lets do it again some time, but maybe not too frequently.
Mondello Park Sunday - May 17th Round 6 Irish Superprix and Celtic Challenge
At this stage in the 1998 Welsh Championship, 3 wins from 4 races had hoisted defending Peter Dark into contention at the top of the points table, but drivers Mark Chandler and Jeremy Pope were the early points leaders after mopping up their classes with ease. Round 6 was on the new sinuous 2.5 mile International circuit at Mondello Park in County Kildare in Ireland, and with the Boss Formula One cars putting on a show the event attracted about 7000 paying customers, and several thousand, who didnt pay! As well as a round of our championship also on the bill was an International Team Challenge featuring teams from Wales, & England against the local Irish team. The regular Mondello tourists from the Welsh Championship (for whom were we able to arrange substantial funding, including support from the Sports Council of Wales via the Welsh Association of Motor Clubs) were joined by drivers from the English based Sports Racing and GT Championship (mainly for replicas and kit cars). However Terry Brown was in the wars again with another spectacular engine blow up and a nasty fire in testing. With the circuit now 2.5miles long it was just as well that it all happened towards the end of the lap, and near the pits, otherwise the outcome could have been even worse. Mike Shaw gave Gareth Davies a run out in his Renault Clio. Gareth joined Mike, Mark Chandler, Granville Williams, Clive Hayes, Peter Dark and Alvin Powell on the grid. When the lights changed it was Cheng Lim from the English series who had a major hand in the outcome of the Welsh race. Chinese gentleman Cheng driving his RAM Cobra replica took advantage of another poor start from Alvin to catapult past Peter Dark into the lead. With the giant Cobra on Yokohama road race tyres it wasnt going to last but Cheng was spectacular whilst his tyres lasted, and Peter couldnt seem to find a way past initially. However the delay gave Alvin the chance to get into a rhythm and by lap 2 he was right on Peters tail and despite a dusty moment on the track edge he was in the right place to take advantage as Chengs tyres finally lost grip and pitched him into a spin. With Peter blocked in, Alvin shot by into the lead and then spent the next 4 laps fending off Peter in one of the better races of the year. Mike Shaw also made his way past Cheng to finish 3rd and thereby sew up the Team Award for the WRDA in the Celtic team challenge. Mark Chandler won his class to keep his 100% record, ahead of Granville and Clive Hayes. Gareth made it to the finish to score a class win in Signrite Class B.
|The Celtic Motorsport Challenges were supported by the European Community via the European Regional Development Fund and the Interreg Programme|
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