Graham Cole wins the 1999 Welsh Championship, but only just.
The Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship, now in its 10th year, has been noted for its close finishes in recent years. In 1996 & 1997 the title was decided in the final race and in 1997 the title was run by one single point. Given that track record it would hard to have a closer finish, but in 1999 that is what happened!
Graham Cole, 1999 Welsh Champion, lives in Caerphilly, works as a Network Designer for BT, a job that takes him all over the country. He keeps fit by playing squash, and his interest is shared with his family with his son is ranked 3rd in Wales.
Alvin Powell, the runner up, lives in Ton Pentre and is the Director of one the countries largest double glazing manufacturers. He keeps fit by playing golf and skiing.
3rd place Clive Hayes lives in St Davids and as part of his action man life style, he works as a SCUBA diving instructor and he is also 2nd Cox on the local Lifeboat.
In the red corner (car) Graham Cole
In the blue corner (oval) Alvin Powell
In the pink - Clive Hayes
Round 1 - Silverstone 20/3/99
With 4 main classes and 11 races, the series started at Silverstone at the Peterborough Motor Clubs annual bash. Graham Cole in his Darrian T90 with a 2.5 Cosworth engine, was the first Welsh finisher and Class D winner. Class A went to Keith Butcher and his new ex-works Cavalier, Class B was won by Sean Jones and his Renault Clio and Clive Hayes won Class C in his Rover 216 Gti.
*Star Race 1Round 2 - Mondello Park 5/4/99
Round 2 featured the annual trip to Mondello Park in Ireland, and saw Alvin Powell join the 1999 series with his Ford Mondeo touring car. Mondello extended the track last year and this years race was on the 2 mile intermediate circuit. Practice was wet but the track was starting to dry out by the time the Welsh race started. Graham Cole went straight into the lead after holding off the fast starting 4wd Sapphire of Martin Davies. Powell took a few laps to get into his stride and once he got by Davies he closed in on Cole. At the end he was only 2.5 seconds behind, being hampered in part by his choice of tyres. Sean Jones and his Renault Clio won Class B again and Clive Hayes won Class C in his Rover 216 Gti again. Later on the Welsh boys took on an Irish team in a Team Challenge Handicap race featuring pit stops! It turned out to be on of the fun highlights of the year with Wales taking the honours in the end.
**Star Race 2 Round 3- Pembrey 18/4/99
Grahams gone, but its a big fight behind him!
Round 3 saw the start of the season at Pembrey on the 18th of April and saw Graham Cole took pole with the help of some super sticky tyres, setting a time of 59.79 secs to become the first Welsh Championship contender to lap Pembrey in under 1 minute! Mike Shaw with his Vauxhall powered Darrian T90 was second and Alvin Powell was 3rd. Granville Williams (Toyota MR2) and Rhodri Jenkins (Honda Civic) were giving Clive Hayes something to think about in Class C and they were both faster in practice. Sean Jones had Class B all to himself. In the race Cole and Shaw battled to a very close finish. Cole took the win by just 4/10ths, but crucially as it turned out, Shaw got the extra point for the fastest lap. Powell was 3rd, but first saloon, and crucially he picked up all the points on offer. Martin Davies fought off Keith Butcher in another close finish for 4th & 5th . Granville Williams triumphed in Class C, from Rhodri Jenkins and Clive Hayes
Round 4 - Pembrey 2/5/99
In Round 4 at Pembrey on 2nd May Darrians occupied the first 3 places with Graham Cole ton pole and Terry Brown and Peter Dark 2nd and 3rd . Alvin Powell was the fastest saloon in 4th place. Sean Jones at last had some opposition in Class B, whilst Rhodri Jenkins was putting some pressure on Clive Hayes. In the race Cole won again but this time Peter Dark was 2nd. Powell triumphed again in Class A, as did Sean Jones, in Class C Rhodri Jenkins beat Clive Hayes, taking the lead as gearbox, engine and tyre troubles plagued Hayes. After 4 rounds the points table showed the Classes beginning to be dominated by Powell, Jones, Hayes and Cole but in the overall championship Cole was leading with 22 points from Powell with 19 and Hayes with 12.
***Star Race 3Round 5 - Pembrey 13/6/99
Round 5 saw one of the turning points of the season
Terry Brown wins the battle; Alvin & Graham tie for the lead of the championship.
Ouch! Graham & Terry tangle whilst lapping Richard Lukins
The Jaguar commentator gave the Welsh Championship a good build up. "The preparation of the cars gives credit to all involved, and the I am always delighted when one of their races is on our programme". This was a race that certainly wasn't going to disappoint him as Terry Brown driving his Darrian T9 won the 5th round of the 1999 Welsh Sports & Saloon Car Championship, after an excellent race with championship leader Graham Cole, accidentally ended on lap 10. Graham took the lead when the lights changed, having set the fastest time in practice (under 60 seconds again at 59.22), and held the lead for 10 laps, although Terry had him under intense pressure. However as they came up to lap newcomer Richard Lukins and his Rover Vitesse with 2 laps to go, Terry went to pass the Rover. However at the same time Graham was lining up to pass the Rover on the same side too and they touched! The back of Grahams T90 took the brunt of the impact, and he was out almost on the spot with substantial damage to the rear wing, tyre and oil coolers. Terry however managed to keep going despite heavy damage to the front bodywork of his car, and although Mike Shaw closed in, he managed to get across the line with 2 seconds to spare. Peter Dark in a Darrian took 3rd place with Alvin Powell 4th in his Ford Mondeo, after an early race contest was resolved in Peters' favour. With Alvin picking up maximum points in the saloon car class, and with Graham only getting one point (for fastest lap), Alvin closed up and there was now a 2 way tie in the championship. Another driver moving up was Clive Hayes from St Davids who put in a stirring drive to finish 5th and win his class, in his 1600 c.c Rover, after fighting his way through a pack of cars disputing the midfield places. Early on Nigel James' RS 20000 lead from Rhodri Jenkins and his Honda, Nigel Bowen (his other car is a Porsche and he was giving the 911 a run out), with Clive close and Elir Morris taking advantage of Class E to make a debut in his rally style Peugot 206 and Granville and his MR2. After much energetic shuffling of places, including some demon dives up the inside of the paddock turn, Clive emerged in 5th, with Nigel James less than a second behind, followed by Elir, Rhodri and Granville. Richard Lukins was 10th just in front of Huw James who was having his first outing in Larrys' old Rover 216. Felix Feuerbach was 12th. Sadly Nigel Bowen had already retired with something wrong in the engine department. Clive Hayes now stands 3rd in the championship. After the race, Richard Lukins loaded his stuff into the back of his race car and drove it home to London! Interpid stuff; we will look forward to seeing Richard out with us again soon! Afterwards Alvin said "I am delighted to be leading the championship, even if its a tie. Its the first time ever. Im glad that Terry is putting pressure on Graham as that is taking pressure off me."
July 4th Mallory Park - Welsh race cancelled after crash mars Mallory Park event.
The Welsh Championship race scheduled to be run at Mallory Park on Sunday was cancelled after a crash in an earlier race damaged the crash barriers and made the track unsafe. In the Morgan race one of the leaders failed to make it around the Devils Elbow, that leads to the start & finish straight and went head on into the armco barrier, having skated across the gravel trap. The impact did more damage to the barrier than the car, and although the driver walked way, the impact had split open the barrier and snapped off a couple of posts. After consultations the stewards suspended the meeting, the verdict was that it would take a days work to repair the damage. Also to be born in mind was the fact that several marshals were injured at the same spot on the previous weekend. Obviously the decision was the right one.
Welsh Sports & Saloon Car Championship Round 7 Pembrey July 24th
A small but select grid formed up for the race after practice. Graham was on pole with a time of 59.47 secs, with Terry next on 60.12. Mike Shaw was 3rd on 61.09, with Alvin next on 62.00. Next was the super new Nissan Primera Keith Butcher, who was looking to keep Alvin on his toes throughout the race, having clocked a time only 3/100ths slower. Keiths Nissan contains so many gadgets & gizmos that Keith freely admitted that he hadnt worked out all of them yet. The car is an ex "Carlos Fanandgo" Team Rosberg car from the Spanish Championship and it came to Keith via Czechoslovikia, with plenty of Czech signwriting, including Budweiser. Sadly the package seemed to come without any samples of the sponsors products. Alongside the Nissan was Nigel JamesRS2000 on 67.64. On the 4th row Clive Hayes and Rhodri Jenkins were tied together. Clive was 7th fastest with 68.18 but Rhodri was only fractionally slower with 68.87. Huw James completed the Welsh runners, with two curiously slow visiting SDI Rovers making up the numbers
The race - 12 lapsOn a very warm and sunny day Graham Cole took the lead as the lights the changed. Behind him Terry Brown and Mike Shaw fought over 2nd place, and this allowed Graham to make his escape, and he drew away to win by over 6 seconds. Mike slipped into 2nd place early on but Terry kept the pressure on throughout the rest of the 12 lap race and was less than a second behind at the end. Behind Terry, Alvin Powell and his Ford Mondeo had a fight on his hands with Keith "Carlos" Butcher. Alvin managed to find some relief when they came up to lap backmarkers, but Keith continued to close in and was only ½ a second behind at the end. We do hope hell do some more races with us as the tasty Nissan certainly adds colour to the series. In 6th place Clive Hayes also continued to keep himself in contention for the championship with a dominant class win in 1600 c.c class, made easier by an awful start from his main rival Rhodri. Clive dueled early on with Nigel James, but Nigel dropped back and finished less than a second ahead of the recovering Jenkins. Huw James finished 9th just ahead of the visiting Rover SDI of Kingsley Marten. After the race Graham said "It was very warm out there, and quite slippery in places. I was lucky enough to get a lead and I could see Mike was giving Terry some grief which allowed me to get a lead and drive smoothly." But Alvin & Cole remain tied at the top of the 1999 Championship after both drivers took maximum points in their respective classes. The next race at Pembrey on Saturday August 14th was part of the prestigious Formula 3 meeting and with the title race deadlocked between Alvin and Graham, with Clive waiting in the wings, the championship was entering an exciting phase.
Round 8 Pembrey 14/8/99 Formula 3 practice day
Clive Hayes took a giant step forwards to put himself into contention at the top of the 1999 Welsh Sports & Saloon Car Championship after a barnstorming performance in the 8th round at Pembrey on Saturday, as one of the smallest grids of current seasons contested the 10 lap race. Alvin Powell decided to take a holiday (this and Silverstone would cost him dearly later). Even so Graham Cole, the current points leader, was fastest in practice but was denied any real opposition, and therefore points, in his class when the engine in Mike Shaws Darrian blew up spectacularly in practice and forced him out of the race. Unhappily for Mike, with holes in the block and sump, it was a painful blow for him; and for the championship as Mike has been one of the most regular competitors over the last few seasons. An easy race victory was therefore on the cards for Graham.. Behind Graham however Clive Hayes, Rhodri Jenkins and visiting driver Jeremy Thomas put on a spirited race for 2nd place, and maximum points in the 1600 c.c class. Jenkins, in his Honda Civic, took the lead early on. Hayes however, who was having the time of his life in his Rover Gti, recovered from a slow start to force his way past Jenkins and Thomas and up into 2nd place after 5 laps. He then kept Graham Cole in sight for the remainder of the race, to notch up a considerable result. At the end of the race Hayes, who also has a strong chance of retaining the Welsh Sprint & Hillclimb Championship, was delighted "It was an excellent result and with only 3 rounds to go I feel I am right in contention".
Round 9 Oulton Park 4/9/99
The 1999 Welsh Sports & Saloon Car Championship will go down to the wire, with the title decided on the last day of the season in October at Pembrey, after the round at Oulton Park failed to resolve the scramble at the top of the points table. Graham Cole, Clive Hayes and Alvin Powell scored well again at the Cheshire circuit. Before the race, Cole was on top of the points table with 32 points, Hayes had 30 and Powell 29, and with 2 races due at Pembrey on October 23/24th and 12 points at stake, the title was still up for grabs. Entry & practice There were a few new faces and some welcome returns in the paddock. It was very nice to see Glynne Jones and his BMW M3 again. Glynne has had trouble with his brain (the one on the car that is) but a change of CPU resulted in a promising practice performance. New faces with nice and familiar looking motor cars included Simon Laumont who joined us with his nice Peugeot 205 Gti, Peirs Grange and Richard Proudlove in Escort RS 2000s, and Howard Bentham and his Lotus Europa. Phil James had a run out in Cheng Lims Ram Cobra and Steve Hall, who raced with us at Pembrey in his nice Fiesta, came across from the Ace series to give us a look at, something the programme claimed was a Skoda. In the end Steve took pole, with Graham Cole, Terry Brown, Alvin Powell, Glynne Jones, Nigel James, Clive Hayes and Sean Jones dotted around the grid. Rhodri Jenkins was suffering after modifications forced on him by the noise judge sapped a lot of the grunt from the engine in his Honda Civic.
The race. 8 laps of the full 2.775 mile circuit.
One of the longest trips away, and one of the longest laps in the country, coincided with one of the hottest days in recent weeks, to produce a real test of stamina for man and machine. For all its twists and turns Oulton Park is a fast circuit. Laps times mark it out as quicker than Donington, almost on a par with Silverstone and only slightly slower than Mallory, (which is the fastest of all). However whether it was the chicanes, the heat, the straights or the corners, the racing was not close for the most part. The Welsh Championship contenders were joined on the grid by the Jaguar XK race including some very fast cars like Larry Kinch and his XJ220. The Jags started some 10 seconds back, which is just as well, as it turned out. However in the early laps the Welsh race settled down with Steve Hall, Graham Cole and Terry Brown following each other. Steve eventually finished over 9 seconds ahead of Graham, but Graham took full points when Steves car was found to be underweight. Terry dropped back to finish 25 seconds back after his tyres turned to jelly! He didnt say what flavour. Phil James came in 4th with Alvin 5th. Alvin suffered a 10 second penalty for jumping the start! After watching his starts for the past couple of seasons with the Mondeo it was hard to believe, but thats what the officials decided. However with Glynne out after 2 laps, Alvin was also having a quiet race. However just to liven things up Nigel James, Simon Lamount and Clive Hayes were putting on an excellent race for 6th place. Nigel held a narrow lead throughout but Simons 205 and Clives 216 were locked in battle throughout. Clive also managed to get by the Peugeot , but Simon kept the pressure on right up to the flag. At the end drivers getting out from the cars looked as if they been in a shower with overalls and T-shirts wringing with sweat. After the points are calculated there was to be a lot more sweating before the championship is decided.
*****Star Race 5The final showdown - Pembrey Sunday October 24th 1999
Graham Cole wins the 1999 Welsh Championship after an exciting showdown
Graham Cole, from Caerphilly driving a Darrian T90 sportscar won the 1999 Welsh Sports & Saloon Championship after rain added another unpredictable element to an exciting final day at Pembrey. The day started with 3 drivers in contention for the title.
After almost 2 seasons without a rainy race, the remnants of Hurricane Irene arrived to lash Pembrey in the early hours of Saturday morning and continued to hammer home the point throughout the day. OK so its wet, I think we got the message. However the rain gave us the opportunity to witness some excellent car control from some of the Welsh Championships most spectacular drivers. Our old friends Andy Abrahams and Roy Tovey and their Mk1 & 2 Escorts, joined us for their once a year workout, and Graham Hollis also appeared for his annual outing. This time Graham was using his old rally RS2000 in hybrid (or mongrel) form with a Cosworth mill installed. Nigel James completed the Escort clan in his always well turned out Mk2 also with Cosworth power.
Along with Glynne Jones and his BMW M3 and Gareth Davies and his Darrian, these were the drivers to watch, each of them apparently involved in a competition to see who could get their car the most sideways! Graham Hollis appeared to be the winner to many observers and when the track was at its wettest he was the fastest of the Escorts getting up to 5th on the grid for race 1. Nigel James got the better time in practice 2, which wasnt quite so wet, getting up to 8th on the grid for the final race of the 99 season.
On pole for both races was Graham Cole, but Alvin Powell was giving it the max to keep Graham under pressure and he was second fastest in both sessions. In session one Keith Butcher was 3rd with Martin Davies 4th. Keith was assisted by Dave Jarman who bought his nice Nissan service transporter/workshop, but unfortunately not his nice new Primera. We will have to wait until next season for that. Joining Graham Hollis on the 3rd row for race 1 was Mark Chandler who was returning from a bruising season in Mini Miglia. On row 4 for race 1 were the Calavier twins of Nigel Bowen and Larry Phillips , who set identical times! Nigel James was joined on row 5 by Clive Hayes the 3rd Championship contender. Andy Abrams was joined on row 6 by Peter Dark who had something odd lurking where his engine used to be! Unfortunately for Peter he had still to get the twin rotor Mazda mill working properly, although he cured it for the second session and was 3rd fastest in that session. Roy Tovey got onto row 7 with Felix Fuerbach who was having a run in his new Fiesta XR2i. Barber/Lukins were on row 8 with the white whale Rover SDI. Was it Barber or was it Lukins? Lukins or Barber? It sounds like a sketch for Reeves and Mortimer. They each got a run out by sharing the car. Gareth Davies was 16th in first practice before improving in the second session, with Huw James and Glynne on the final row. Glynne was another who had problems in practice 1 but improved to 11th in practice 2.
Round 10 - 12 Laps Sunday
The worst of the weather may have passed, but the rain continued to fall in varying degrees throughout the day. So much so, that the paddock announcement that the race had been officially declared a wet race, brought much hollow laughter from the paddock. I mean like there was any doubt! Also there was no doubt that this was going to be one of the greatest final races in the 8 years history of the Championship, and that is how it turned out. To pinch a line from Shakespeare "those who were not here will think themselves accursed". Indeed there was so much action that it was almost impossible to see it all, and this report can only give a brief impression of a wonderful series of races. With 2 of the title contenders were on the front row, the crucial question for Alvin was, just how good or bad a start was he going to get. In the event it wasnt too bad, for although Graham Cole led on the way down to Hatchets, Alvin only one lost place to the fast starting 4wd Sapphire of Martin Davies, as the pack appeared in a cloud of spray. Alvin however was in no mood to hang around and was soon past, to close onto the back of Grahams Darrian, leaving Martin to fight for 3rd place with Keiths Primera. Graham Hollis established himself in 5th with Mark Chandler taking 6th initially. Almost unnoticed at the time, Glynne Jones and Peter Dark failed to make it around the first lap and Nigel Bowen found himself at the back of the field. Both Nigel and Gareth Davies began a spirited climb up the field. With the title fight so close, fastest laps were going to count as much as class wins, and on a day like this no one could be sure who was scoring what, until the results were released. With that in mind Alvin began to put the pressure to Graham and as they came up to lap the first of the backmarkers, he made a tentative lunge for the lead. However Graham held him off, but on a day like this it was clear that backmarkers could play a crucial role. Meanwhile as the race moved into its closing stages Nigel Bowen had made his way up to the bumper of Larry Phillips Cavalier, which was holding 7th place behind Nigel James Escort, and was beginning to give Larry something to think about. Just about then Graham and Alvin hove into view, and as Graham lined up to pass Nigel, Alvin pounced. In a decisive move Alvin thrust the Mondeo onto the inside of Grahams Darrian at the paddock turn. With Graham boxed behind Nigel, Alvin toughed it out on the run down to Brooklands and emerged in the lead; and he pulled away to win by almost 8 seconds. Graham understandably was more circumspect and took his time to get past both Nigel and Larry. Afterwards he said "With the title at stake I wasnt going to take any chances". Alvin wasnt the only driver making hay in the rain and Nigel nipped past Larry, who then responded and there was less than a second between the two Cavaliers at the end. Gareth Davies eventually made his way up to 9th, followed by Clive Hayes in 10th after Mark Chandler had made a "pitstop", which promoted Clive to the lead in Class C. However by the time the ecstatic Alvin had made his way back from his lap of honour, the tale of the times should that Clives title hopes were beginning to fade. The results showed that both Alvin and Graham had scored full point class wins and also the crucial fastest lap points, whereas Clive had missed the fastest lap point by a narrow margin. Afterwards Alvin summed up the problem of visibility for many drivers when he said "From the 2nd lap on the windscreen misted up and I was almost blind! In the end there was only a narrow band I could see through, and I had to crouch down and peer through this little gap".
David Addison - a fan of the Welsh series. David who is a respected commentator was giving the commentary for the final rounds and I asked him for his comments.
"I must see about 100 championships in a season, but I like the variety in the Welsh series. You always have a tremendous mix of cars, and good grids, so you must be doing an awful lot right. You had 2 jolly good races. Some other championships have feeble grids and there is too much racing, where they follow each other, so the Welsh series is very refreshing. There was never a dull moment with something of interest going on, there was always something to talk about. Another thing I like is the way the cars are nicely turned out and I like they way that the boys have retained the original livery on the touring cars. Please put me on the circulation list for your newsletter." Nice thoughts from David, who according to Sue Davies was have to talk so fast to describe the action, that you almost could understand what he was saying!
Round 11 - the Final - 12 laps.
The half time scores showed Graham in the lead from Alvin with Clive dropping away. Whatever the points, this would be the race that would decide the 99 title. At the start this time Graham Cole took the lead from Peter Dark, who had the elastic bands in his engine well wound up. Martin Davies was 3rd with Alvin alongside and then a gap where Keith Butcher might have been, Keith eventually came around after the rest had gone and began to graft to get back up the order. Graham Hollis was 5th followed initially by Mark Chandler. Alvin was in no mood to hang around and he passed Martin and Peter to home in on Graham who he passed under braking for Honda, one of Alvins favourite corners. Once in the lead Alvin seemed to have the race well under control and although Graham kept him in sight, that is all he had to do. Martin slipped into 3rd place whilst Keiths spectacular rise pushed him up to 4th,ahead of Peter Dark. Graham Hollis came in 6th but this time his sideways progress bought him into close proximity to a number of cars. Nigel Bowen retired when a clash with Graham left him with a front wing on the tyre and other damage, whereas Grahams mongrel looked undamaged, or rather you couldnt tell one dent from another. Gareth Davies, Nigel James and Glynne Jones had an entertaining duel and finished 7th, 8th and 9th, once Mark Chandler had dropped back enough to give Clive Hayes the Class C win. Clive was 10th and Mark 11th. Andy Abrams, Felix Fuerbach, Baber/Lukins, and Huw James completed the finishers. Larry Phillips joined Nigel Bowen and Roy Tovey as non finishers.
Count back gives Cole the edge
So Alvin repeated his triumph in the second race but he was unable to overcome Graham Coles early season class win advantage. Both drivers tied on 40 points (after dropped scores) but using the tie breaker, Graham had 9 class wins and Alvin only had 8! It was that close. Afterwards Alvin said "I am glad to win the 2 races and the Class A title but naturally Im disappointed, I would have liked to have won the championship" Graham was given a car horn fanfare from the enthusiastic crowd during his lap of honour with Alvin but afterwards he revealed that the drama wasnt confined to the track "It was very tight and Im pleased to have won the championship, but at one stage I didnt even think Id be there! I took the car to Pembrey on Friday for testing because I wanted to check things over, but after a couple of laps I had trouble getting the right gear. When we checked the gearbox we found that one of the bearings had collapsed! Things got even worse when I found out that no one had any spares, and in fact they had stopped making them! I rang everybody I could think of and on my last call to Mike Shaw, he saved my bacon. It seems that he had an old gearbox that by some mistake, was fitted one of the bearings I needed." In a piece of pure motor racing drama Graham traveled to Abergavenny to get the part and fit it to his gearbox, burning the midnight oil in the process, before returning to Pembrey at the crack of dawn to refit it to his car. "Yes I would have liked to given Alvin a better fight for the 2 races but I wasnt going to take too many chances and push when the championship was at stake. On the last lap I felt good and very relieved. Im very happy to have won" Graham went on to thank his enthusiastic sponsors Western Motors of Caerphilly, Red Dragon Fire Protection, Caerphilly Fibreglass, and Design-a-Sign of Caerphilly who contributed so much to his successful campaign.