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Quaife Motorsport News Saloons Championship race report,
Brands Hatch, 28th March 2016

By Adam Grant
Photos: Rafal Biniszewski

QMN Saloons The Quaife Motorsport News had two days at Brands Hatch. With qualifying on Sunday afternoon, following a morning practice session. Class A has seen an influx of new cars and returning drivers. Most of the attention focused on Dale Gent’s revamped Subaru Impreza, which has had a lot of money spent on it. The Mitsubishi of Andrew MacKenzie looked more standard as did the Renault Clio of J.J.Ross. Qualifying bore fruit for Gent, who secured pole position by almost a second from last year’s champion Rod Birley. Malcolm Wise headed up row two, with Craig Shepherd alongside in his supercharged Ford Fiesta. James Ross was next with the class B Clio of Tony Skelton alongside.

QMN Saloons The rolling start saw Birley just edge into Paddock Bend first. At Druids, Shepherd looped his Fiesta in a lurid spin but quickly recovered. The next four laps saw a tense battle between the Ford and Subaru, as they set a blistering pace leaving Wise in their wake. Then on lap five Gent suddenly slowed after an oil pressure sensor told the engine to shut down. Birley was already ten seconds in front of Wise and maintained this advantage to the chequered flag. The battle for third place initially featured Skelton until he retired on lap 7. Then Laurie Grant moved his class C BMW to the fore, only to be shuffled back by an impressive Stephen Dann in his VW Golf which now resides in class A. With Dan Cowan retiring his Sierra RS500 on lap 9 the race seemed to be settling down. However, the charging Craig Shepherd had a massive off going into Paddock Bend. The white Fiesta cleared the gravel bed and hit the tyre wall hard. It was suspected that brake failure was the issue. The race was red flagged and the result declared.

QMN Saloons Gent, Skelton and Cowan all fixed their cars for race two, but had to start from the rear of the grid. Again the car in second spot made the best start, so Wise led through Paddock Bend but then twitched wide. Birley drew alongside and the pair appeared to exchange some paint going into Druids. Meanwhile the unfortunate Dann had upended his Golf in the gravel bed, which prompted the safety car to join in. After all the excitement Laurie Grant emerged ahead of the pack with Birley second. On the re-start Rod edged past the BMW, but by lap 8 Gent was through to second and closing fast, setting a new lap record in 49.4 seconds. Consistantly two seconds a lap faster than the black Ford brought the Subaru into contention by lap 12. What happened next is always going to have two views, suffice to say Gent powered alongside Birley, who held his line, but there was contact. The clerk of the course deemed it a racing incident and certainly there appeared to be no malice from either party. Somehow the Subaru stayed out of the gravel and the Escort continued with a damaged wheel.

QMN Saloons Further back the battle for third, which then became second, again saw a variety of contestants. Grant held the position initially until Luke Reade nipped past, then the powerful turbo cars of Dan Cowan and Wise came on the scene. Cowan eventually claimed the runner up spot, but only just from Wise and Reade. Skelton came through for class B honours, with Woods-Dean again winning class D from Bill Richards. Class E was the preserve of Andy Pipe in both races. JJ Ross won the driver of the day award with Adam Mew taking the best prepared car prize. Malcolm Wise was awarded the MN subscription prize for his charge in race two.

Certainly Gent’s car has raised a few eyebrows and it will be interesting to see if others follow his radical example.

Next Race Meeting:

See you in 2019

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