Title Chase Hots Up at Castle Combe

Title Chase Hots Up at Castle Combe

Having now reached the half-way point of our 2017 season, the PDA treked down to Chippenham in Wiltshire for its second appearance at Castle Combe in two years. A dry track for qualifying and on pole for Class A is the returning James Coleman from Ed Hayes and Richard Avery. In Class B its Matthew Harris, the sole Production driver this weekend, and he was to start from the back of the grid my mutual agreement. In the 924s, Pip Hammond shares the front row with team mate Gavin Johnson and Moluto Motorsport's Ryan Lowry in third. Bernie Printy lands a 924 'career-best' 4th.
Richard Matthews marks his 2017 return in his distintive yellow 924, while 924 Owners' Club chairmain Andrew Pritchard also returns having fixed the extensive damaged sustained at the season opener at Oulton Park - his qualifying pace hampered by a flakey engine, possibly down to fuel issues.

Race 1
The light rain is not of significance as the cars assemble for the first of three races this weekend. Avery makes a fantastic start, spearing through the front row and taking the lead but shortly after, Lawrence has a massive spin and is forced to play catchup.

Hammond is ahead of Lowry in the 924s; meanwhile Coleman pits needing attention.
Hammond is pulling away slightly from Lowry, who loses time going wide at Camp. The front three Boxsters remain close together - Hayes is just holding off Southgate; Lawrence makes a lunge past Porter on his recovery from the spin; Coleman completes a lap only to enter the pits again and retires.

Hayes is now in the lead with Avery and Southgate chasing. Hammond is extending his lead over Lowry but there's a bigger gap back to Johnson in third.

Peart has dropped back behind Matthews and the Class B car of Harris; Mollyneaux battles with Hull for 4th. Printy chases Callender and gets the better of him on the next lap.

Hayes' lead is increasing but Southgate is right on the limit of grip through Camp to stay ahead of Avery. Pritchard retires at Quarry with a strange intermittant fault that later proves very difficult to diagnose.

Avery has dropped back several seconds from Southgate and Hull and Molyneaux will be looking to grab a podium if there's enough time remaining. The front three 924s are also now well spread out.

Lots of black and white flag warnings are being issued now. Lowry's 924 has slowed to a crawl as it enters the pits leaving Johnson to re-take 2nd.

The battle between Hull and Molyneaux continues but they're too far back now to challenge Avery for third, while Hayes extends his lead to 8.5 seconds.

Southgate now lands a 5 second limits infringement penalty but Avery is too far back for that to make a difference at this stage.

Matthews retakes a position from the Class B car through Camp, while Hammond has now lapped Peart.

Printy currently third in the 924s, pulling away from Callender. Archer has caught the Hull and Molyneaux pair as the last lap board is deployed.

So at the flag, Hayes wins from Southgate with Avery third; Lawrence ends up between Hull 4th and Molyneax. Southgate, Porter and Callender all collect track limits penalties, none of which affect placements. Pip Hammond and Gavin Johnson make the PDC Racing team happy with 1st and 2nd, while Bernie Printy lands his first 924 podium with a Class C third.

Avery afterwards blames "maybe a plug getting too hot - something stupid - hopefully" for not being able to cash in on his outstanding start. But later he calls it a day and withdraws with more serious issues suspected. Coleman's retirement is later revealed as down to a clutch problem, but it wasn't until later that the team discover that part of the clutch plate had in fact detached and machined a grove through the wall of the housing. He later departs to fetch a replacement gearbox/diff assembly and his team work into the night to swap them over.

Race 2
Richard Avery appears in a silver 987, qualifying out of session with BMWs in Garry Lawrence's 'spare' car, a possible failed piston and scored bore in his 986's engine ruling out further racing in that car. James Coleman's replacement gearbox is in place but the annoying non-starting problem that led to Andy Pritchard's retirement has many 924 experts' heads being scratched.

As the lights go out, Garry Lawrence stalls on the grid and Southgate storms away into a lead with Hayes giving chase. Coleman is again a very early retirement.

Southgate lands a 10-second penalty for a jumped start. Avery battles the recovered Lawrence, letting Hayes to forge ahead.

Now Southgate is off the circuit and collects lots of grass which has to be removed in a pit visit. Molyneax battles both Archer and Porter.

Hammond stretches his Class C lead with Johnson and Lowry following but not able to touch his margin. In his Production Boxster, Harris is showing a much improved pace, over 1.5 seconds quicker than Race 1 by the flag.

Hull pulls away from the Molyneax/Archer/Porter grouping. Southgate is still playing catchup while Lawrence, on a massive charge after his grid embarrasement has stolen 2nd from Avery in the silver 987.

Nick Hull picks up a track limits penalty so may loose a position after the flag. Hayes extends his lead but Avery continues to chase Lawrence for third. Molyneax, Archer and Porter retain their formation. Avery now attracts a 5-second track limits penalty, giving himself an even bigger job to take 2nd on the podium. Lawrence nonetheless has to close the door to keep Avery at bay.

A mistake means Lawrence now goes wide at quarry, so Avery is gifted the place. Meanwhile Archer has got passed Molyneaux for 5th.

Callender's 924 has conked out after 12 laps but its stranded position means waved yellows at that section.

Into the last lap and Lawrence is closing on Avery and the latter's penalty may lead to a position change by the end.

Hayes takes a comfortable win, Avery crosses the line 2nd with Lawrence third - they both accrued 5-second penalities so in the end didn't swap positions. Nick Hull dropped two places, however, leaving Molyneax to take 4th. Southgate a bit wild through Camp to take 8th.

It's Hammond from Johnson and Lowry in the 924s with Harris completing Race 2 for another Class B win.

Race 3
Jamie Calender and James Coleman both withdraw with suspect bottom-end damage to their engines, and as a result of a serious crash in an earlier race, our final outing of the weekend is both delayed and shortened to 15 minutes. Meanwhile Andy Pritchard has sorted the gremlins in his fuel system and makes it to the grid, which by tradition for a three-race weekend is reverse, with Adam Southgate on pole, and Hugh Peart at the front of the 924s.

Southgate makes a clean start, is away like a rocket and is never challenged. Behind him Richard Avery, Ed Hayes and Garry Lawrence battle for second, with Kevin
Molneaux in the mix too. Nick Hull is initially up there as well, but as with Southgate in Race 2 has an early off and pits to clear the grass out of his intakes.

There is plenty of close racing with quite a few changes of position, but eventually Avery establishes himself in second with Hayes third. In Class B, Matt Harris again showed improved pace ahead of the majority of 924s, but them blots his copybook with a massive spin at Camp Corner, luckily recovering to continue undamaged.

In Class C, Pip Hammond has grabbed the lead from the back of the grid after just half a lap. Ryan Lowry takes second and pulls clear from Gavin Johnson. Again these three end up well spaced out, although Gavin slows towards the end with a steering problem, but still finished P3. Returnee Richard Matthews is P4 after passing Hugh Peart; Hugh and Bernie Printy have a race long dice, with Hugh just keeping Bernie behind at the flag.

Anglesey is the PDA's next venue, for three races on 5th and 6th August.

Words: Chris Valentine and John Broadley; photos: Chris Valentine.


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