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Quaife Motorsport News Saloons race report,
Snetterton, 1st October 2016

By Adam Grant
Photos: Rafal Biniszewski

QMN Saloons The only away day of the year saw the QMN saloons travel to Snetterton in Norfolk. As part of the MG car club meeting, both rounds took place on the shorter 200 circuit. A good class A entry saw the powerful cars stretch their legs on the two long straights, so it was no surprise to see them occupy the top five positions on the time sheet. Dale Gent continued his form by taking pole position with Rod Birley 0.7 of a second behind. Malcolm Wise lined up third, another 0.7 behind with Alex Sidwell fourth in his mighty Holden Commodore. Dan Cowan was fifth with Paul Nevill sixth in his class B Ford Escort Mk.2. Andy Banham was seventh, followed by Graham Crowhurst, championship leader and best class C runner Laurie Grant and Liam Dalton. The Renault Clios of Nick Wall and Tony Skelton occupied row six, with the third Clio of Jamie Vanns heading class E in 16th. Sadly the smart Mini of Kenny Hunt was a non-starter due to engine issues, but everybody else was ready for race one.

QMN Saloons As the cars took to the grid they were all on dry weather tyres. Under threatening skies, light rain began to fall, but the field set off behind the safety car. A good start saw Gent lead away with Birley tucking into second. Dale was pulling away at a steady rate, whilst Wise dropped away dramatically in third. Clearly the damp track was slowing the pace as Sidwell slipped from fourth to fifth on lap 3 then had a spin which dropped him to 9th a lap later. At the front Birley closed on Gent around the corners, but lost out markedly on the straights. The Subaru had amazing traction out of Murrays and always had the upper hand. Meanwhile Dan Cowan popped up into fourth and closed in on Wise, until a time consuming spin on lap 8. This was followed by a bigger off course excursion a lap later and instant retirement. So Liam Dalton now occupied fourth with his Mitsubishi, finding traction whilst others were struggling. Likewise Banham moved up to fifth with Wall a very impressive sixth. Crowhurst headed class B, with Skelton unable to mount a serious challenge.

QMN Saloons Despite a big effort from Birley on the final lap coming around Coram, Gent had enough power to keep the Escort behind, winning by 1.1 seconds. To be fair it was the best contest these two have had for a long time. Third nearly 42 seconds behind was Wise, followed by Dalton and Banham. Clearly four wheel drive was an added benefit in the tricky conditions. Wall was superb in sixth, taking class C honours, followed by Crowhurst (winning class B), then came Skelton and Sidwell. Tim Sandhu completed the top ten in his Escort Cosworth, followed by the Sapphire of Wesley Mott, Grant and Nevill. Unfortunately Nevill had a sideways moment going through Coram and was collected hard by Crowhurst. The damage actually broke part of the roll cage in the venerable Mk.2 Escort, which meant he could not compete in race two. David Cowan steered his BMW to 14th, followed by class E winner Vanns. Mark Cripps, Steve Dann and pit stopper Dave Charlton completed the finishers.

The second race was much later in the day, and the track was still quite wet after heavy showers. Most drivers opted for wet weather tyres, although Grant went for an intermediate pattern. Again Gent charged away at the front, whilst Birley came under attack from Wise. Going around Coram on lap two Wise made a brave move, but literally came unstuck as he lost traction and spun wildly across the grass. Luckily the run off is now extensive and no damage was incurred. In fact Malcolm came back on still in third, albeit 13 seconds further back. Dalton was holding fourth, but soon lost out to Crowhurst and then Sidwell. Alex was going well despite the wet conditions and only having two wheel drive. Sadly it went awry on lap 8 with a time consuming spin. He eventually finished tenth, the last unlapped runner.

QMN Saloons With no battle for the lead, as Birley was suffering a gear change problem, the attention focused on whether Wise could catch the black Escort. At one stage it looked possible, but in the end the gap was just under three seconds. Crowhurst took fourth and class B honours, with Dalton holding off a closing Skelton. Mott moved through to an impressive seventh, which earnt him the driver of the day award. Wall again triumphed in class C as he came home 8th, followed by a charging Dave Charlton who certainly went better in this race. With Sidwell 10th, David Cowan took third in class B, just in front of class E winner Vanns. Cripps got the better of team mate Grant, with Steve Dann having a lonely run in his wife’s VW Golf to take 15th. The troubled Martyn Scott and Sandhu completed the finishers after we lost Banham and Cowan (broken gearbox).

The best prepared car award went to Dalton with his smart Mitsubishi Evo. Meanwhile the calculators were busy working out the championship points situation. Birley had a slightly better day than Grant and therefore took the overall lead, but only just. Both have now won their respective classes, subject to any technical checks. Likewise Vanns has wrapped up class E, whilst class B is between Skelton and Crowhurst. Brands Hatch on November 6th will be the decider.

Next Race Meeting:

See you in 2019

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Lewis Smith
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