924 Championship Down to the Wire in Donington Decider

924 Championship Down to the Wire in Donington Decider

A total of 21 cars entered our last round of the season - the best this year. It was to be Leigh Bowden's first outing in his Class A car converted from B spec, where he'd won that Class championship unchallenged. Richard Avery was to run in Garry Lawrence's spare 987 for his first outing this year and multiple champion Rick Styrin returned for a one off race in the 986 he'd previously raced to the title.

It was to be a championship debut for Classic Stock Hatch racer Gary Campbell in his 924, the race debut for Peter Osgerby in a 924, the return of occasional entrant Jon Jeffery in Linda Warren's 2016 championship winning car as well as the first races of PDA media man Chris Valentine in his Moluto Motorsport-run 924. The Class A championship had already been won by Adam Southgate, but several cars in contention for P2/3, while the 924 Championship was still to be decided between Gavin Johnson and Hugh Peart.

Many of the Boxsters had been out for testing Thursday and Friday and were again finding lap times up to 2 seconds better than last time we visited this circuit. However, Ed Hayes blew his engine and secured the loan of Alex Stockers car for the weekend.

Southgate took the Class A pole by a mere 7 hundredths of a second from Avery. Hayes, Coleman and Styrin were next up - the latter only completing a mere 4 laps.

Gavin Johnson piloted the fastest 924, from David Jones and a pacy Chris Valentine, grabbing a career-best P3 from his final lap. It was however a disastrous qualifying for Peart after his car developed a severe misfire leaving him 7th and a long way off the pace. Gary Campbell's rebuilt Gulf Oils-liveried car only managed 2 laps, but the problem was easily cured - a loose wire.

Race 1 – race of attrition
All remaining 20 runners took the start and although Avery led the race after one lap, he was soon passed by Adam Southgate in car 45 who pulled away into a comfortable lead that would have given him a record equalling 17 wins in a season - until the gear linkage broke after 7 laps making him a non finisher. Ed Hayes took over the lead, but pitted after 12 laps and also retired. Rick Styrin made rapid progress - helped by a very rapid start - but retired in the gravel trap at Redgate after 6 laps when trying to overtake Ed Hayes - to later discover that he too had suffered a gear shift failure.

James Coleman spun out of third place on lap 2, and later pitted before emerging to finish the race and earn some valuable championship points in 14th overall. The lead was fought over by Richard Avery and Gary Lawrence who had started 11th but battled through the field, and they finished 1,2 separated by 4.9 secs. Coming through to P3 was Toby Smales, a place he held to the end winning his first podium for the troubled PIE Performance team. Further back both Andrew Porter and Garry Goodwin both retired with engine failure. The high rate of retirements meant good finishes for midfield runners Leigh Bowden in 4th, Kevin Molyneaux in 5th recovering from an early spin, Kevin Ludford in P6 and Matt Harris in 7.

The 924s featured a battle between Gavin Johnson and David Jones, with Hugh Peart back in 3rd ahving stormed through the pack before Turn 1. Gary Campbell got the better of Chris Valentine in a lively battle for 4th which saw both spinning in formation together at Coppice corner half way through the race. Jon Jeffery retired his down-on-power 924 with engine failure, but Peter Osgerby completed his first ever race in an excellent class 6th and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

Race 2
Only 18 cars made it to the start of Sunday's first race as both Porter and Goodwin's engines couldn't be repaired in time for the final two races. Meanwhile, Jon Jeffery's team (Victoria Garage) made an overnight dash to their base in Blackpool to collect a replacement 924 for him, which duly started at the back of the grid.

Another bright sunny day saw Race 1 winner Richard Avery take an immediate lead, which he held all the way to the flag to take the victory. He was chased closely by Rick Styrin who was less than a second behind on the road at the end, but was subsequently penalised 15 seconds both for jumping the start and for track limit infringements. Despite the penalty and starting on the back of the grid, he still finished just ahead of James Coleman in 3rd who had made good progress through the field, including passing both Garry Lawrence and Kevin Molyneaux on the last lap.

Lawrence finished 10 seconds clear of Molyneaux having run in close company through most of the race. Hayes initially ran with the leading group until forced to pit on lap 12 with more car problems. Southgate made quick progress through from the back and was well in the mix until a spectacular off at the Old Hairpin wiped out most of the car's cooling system, meaning he would take no further part in the weekend's racing.

Further back, Leigh Bowden and Matt Harris enjoyed a spirited dice until a spectacular spin dropped Harris to 15 seconds behind at the flag. Kevin Ludford was the only other Boxster finisher, in 7th after a steady run, while Toby Smales' short-lived luck ran out with retired after yet another engine failure 11 laps in.

In the 924s it was Gavin Johnson's turn for the win: closely following David Jones throughout he eventually got past on the final lap. Hugh Peart again finished 3rd, but battled strongly with the two leaders until losing contact when the group was lapped by Boxsters. He went into the final race still with a chance of season class victory. The remainder of the 924s finished slightly spread out in the order Campbell clear of Chris Valentine, Jon Jeffery and another finish for Peter Osgerby.

Race 3
The number of starters dropped again, down to 16 now as Southgate and Smales couldn't repair their cars for the final race of the season. The usual reverse grid frantic start saw Styrin and Coleman scything through the field and leading the pack after one lap. They cruised away from the rest of the pack and finished under 3 seconds apart at the chequered flag.

Kevin Molyneaux made an excellent start and ran third a few seconds ahead of the rest initially, but was caught by the battling pair of Garry Lawrence and Richard Avery. The place finally fell to Lawrence after Avery pitted just before the end, and Molyneaux dropped away over the last two laps. Hayes again retired to the pits after earlier joining the Avery/Lawrence/Molyneaux battle. It was another good finish for Leigh Bowden in 5th from Matt Harris, while there was a rare retirement for Kevin Ludford after 7 laps.

In the 924s, David Jones won from a hard charging Hugh Peart, while Gavin Johnson had a steady run to the P3 that confirmed his class championship. The remainder finished spread out in the order Campbell – having made a great impression on his championship debut, Jon Jeffery, Chris Valentine and Peter Osgerby completing his hat trick of debut finishes.

Reports on each of the class champions will be posted shortly.

Words: John Broadley; photos: Mike Pollock


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