SportMaxx – Combe 18/19 Jun 09


By John Thorne – Mon, 20 Jul 2009 21:19

Weather was always going to be a feature at this race, the forecast was pretty miserable but very changeable – just about the worst kind of weather for racing, but we had no idea just how important it would be until later in the weekend.
Week end started off pretty well, both the Astras seemed on the pace on the Friday practice day which had one dry session then the rest was monsoon, perfect testing really as the drivers got used to the new Dunlop Direzza tyres for the first time in the wet. Also mean the CSL Cup drivers got a chance to play on Dunlop wet tyres, we’d not had any testing on these at all in preparation for the series as every time we went out last year the sun shone! As I’m banned from the RMA days it did mean I had no wet practice at all, but hey ho.


We knew John was quick in the Friday test and he did a stunning job in qualifying running at the front nearly half a second quicker than everyone else for most of the session, he held on to the end to claim his first pole with us, great news. Stuart was struggling a little with less time in the car but got an excellent 5th on the grid alongside Simon Shaw in the Seat. Abbie had some new competition this weekend in the form of Matt Cherrington in the other Seat and he managed to beat her into second position by nearly a second, Abbie had a race on.


Race 1

The 888 Astras of Clarke and Wallbank got off to a quick start as usual (they run more boost than us) and John settled in behind Wallbank with Stuart having a fight of his own with Shaw. This pretty much contines all race, John eventually gets past Wallbank and spent 7 laps crawling all over the back of Clarke until he eventually harries him into an overly aggressive line over the kerbs damaging the drive shaft boot and putting him out of the race on the last lap, John cruises over the line for his first race win – well done John.


Its always special to get a first win for a driver but it was pretty special with John, he won the Vauxhall Driver of the Year contest, spent a year with 888 but never got a win with them, comes to us and in three races has scored podiums and now his first race win, we’re very proud.


Stuart had a tough race, fighting with a fading Wallbank but not quite getting the space he needed for a clean move so settled for a well earnt 5th. Abbie rose to the challenge, P2 on the grid but got a great start and straight past the Seat to go on to lead the whole race and finish with another win, so for the first time Thorney Motorsport cars lock out the podium – yeeha.


Race 2

Sunday dawned and we knew we were in for a hard day, first it would be sunny then rain so hard that your head hurt then 10 minutes later the sun would come out, you didn’t know if you were coming or going. With limited wet track time and a lack of springs to do much about it we knew we had to compromise on set up on the Astra’s and it showed. We’ve been asking for softer springs for 5 months so it was hardly a surprise but its annoying to be left in this situation, but we made the best of it. Both John and Stuart started reasonably well but the other Astras and the Seat were all much better at getting their power down so Stuart and John  battled on to finish 5th and 6th respectively.


Abbie struggled as well, Cherringtons Seat was just too quick in the conditions so Abbie chased on but settled for a valiant second (its not often she’s off the top spot really) so still a great result albeit tinged with the annoyance that we could’ve done something about it given the parts we had been asking for. Interestingly we then had BARC over to inspect our gearboxes for illegal LSD’s, its interesting as an LSD would be most evident in the wet and we were clearly struggling so its not without a little amusement that that were sealed pending an investigation, oh well, rules are there to be policed and we’ll soon be confirmed as running perfectly legal drive trains.


Race 3

More wet weather and more of the same for us really. John and Stuart battled on for 5th and 6th behind the other Astras and the Seat and Abbie got off to a better start and won her class again. Wallbank had a bit hit and smashed up half of his Astra and Mark Weidner came a cropper with some heavy damage to his Fiesta and new boy Pike in the Mini managed to break half his windows in a couple of incidents, we wish them all well in sorting them out but with 4 weeks until the next race they should be fine.


So what next? Well the Astras clearly need some work to create a winning wet up without compromising their already perfect dry set up but with no support from a supplier we might need to look elsewhere to get what we need. Abbie’s Corsa was not as bad but with 2 more wins, a second place and three fastest laps its hard to want to change the car at all, she has clearly bonded with it nicely so don’t fix what isn’t broken.


Highlight for me was in the CSL Cup race, the heavens opened as we sat in assembly and the whole team had to leap to life to change over three of our CSL Cup cars from slicks to wets, to be sat there in the pitlane watching your crew swarm over all three cars simultaneously and still have the time (and the good sportsmanship) to help another competitor change his wheels over as well – all inside 5 minutes made me very proud, we have a great team at TMS and I think the paddock is starting to see it as well.


Next race is at Croft on 22nd and 23rd of August.


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