The Club Challenge has changed in recent years. It was never the intention but Club Challenge has transitioned organically from an entry-level opportunity to a collection of fiercely-contested classes filled with keen privateers, all pushing their cars to outer limits of the Club Challenge rule book. The result is that Club class times are dropping. Fast. We thought that all the Club Challenge lap records were in danger at Brands Hatch, and so it proved.
Club 4WD Challenge
New Club 4WD Lap Record!
Damien Bradley’s name has appeared at the top of the Club 4WD time sheets at every round since we were last at Brands Hatch in November 2014. He won that day too, and at the first ever Night Attack the same evening. But he didn’t take home the lap record. This weekend, he did.
Last year Damien set a 52.3, missing out on the lap record by just 0.1s! So he admits his aim for this weekend was a sub-52s lap. During a gentle warm-up session, Damien noticed a small engine misfire. It was still there in Practice, so after his first flying lap (on low boost), he was surprised to look down at his AIMS dash and see he had recorded a 50.982 – a new Club 4WD record! Over a second faster than his previous best.
Unfortunately that was as fast as he would go. After changing his spark plugs to cure the misfire and topping the tank up with Torco fuel for full boost, Damien couldn’t find his way through the traffic for a clean lap. Even so, he set a 51.068 to qualify in first place before managing a 52.076 in the final before his gearbox stuck in fifth gear, forcing his retirement. He could only look on from the side of the track as Simon Grffiths chased down his time. Even so, Damien’s time was good enough for second place in the final. He now has a 5 point lead in the Championship table and a new lap record. It’s a shame we didn’t see what he could do on full-boost with a clear run but 50.982 is still an amazing time on road-legal tyres.
Simon arrived at Brands Hatch with some new fuel for his immaculate Lancer Evo III. Simon reckons he was around 200bhp down on power compared to Damien Bradley at Snetterton, translating to a 15-20mph deficit through the speed traps! So at Brands Hatch Simon made the switch from regular Shell V-Power super unleaded to Sunoco 260 GT 109, allowing him to turn up the boost for more power – a power upgrade facilitated by Nick at NR Autosport.
Unfortunately the combination of the extra power, combined with the grip provided by Simon’s Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyres showed a dangerous drop in oil pressure, even with a heavily baffled sump. A dry-sump upgrade has since been planned but at Brands Hatch the only thing Simon could do to protect his engine was to turn the boost down – it was still running 1.8bar (26psi) for around 570bhp!
Simon pushed Damien close in qualifying, setting his fastest time to grab second place (51.562) – before chasing down top stop in the final with a 51.843. So not only was Simon fast but he was consistent too. With a total of 14 hard-earned points from Brands and more developments on the way, expect a strong finish to the year from Simon in the race for the Club 4WD Championship title.
Maltese driver Josef flew into Gatwick on Friday especially for this Time Attack weekend. He did brilliantly considering he had never driven around Brands Hatch before! Josef started the day by taking it easy. He didn’t even have his lap timer switched on, so was surprised to pull in at the end of the warm up to find he had set a 53.705 on his 10th lap around the track. To put that into context it’s only 1.5 seconds slower than the previous Club 4WD lap record! During the day Josef had problems with a blowing up-pipe but even so he managed to post a 52.738 in qualifying and then his fastest time of the day in the final, a 52.577. Josef finished in third place in both points-scoring sessions and was one of the few drivers that got faster as the day progressed.
As a Single Round Entry, Logan Black is not eligible to score Championship points. He is perfectly entitled to upset the status quo however, and that’s exactly what he did at Brands Hatch. Logan was quick early on, being second fastest car in Club 4WD in the practice session and featuring high up on the speed trap tables. So his car is clearly fast and Logan knows how to drive it. Later in the day Logan switched from his usual Toyo tyres to a brand new, wider set of rubber – and didn’t get the new grip he was expecting. Even so, Logan set a 52.932 in qualifying and ended the day with his fastest lap, a 52.604, in the final.
Club RWD veteran Umar Masood admits he has a new mental approach this year, and it shows. Fresh from a maximum points score at Snetterton last time out, Umar hit Brands Hatch with everything his RotaryMotion-supported FD3S Mazda RX-7 had. He was pipped to second place in qualifying with both drivers in the late 53s (Umar’s best in qualifying was a 53.996). However, when the final arrived with the bulk of the points up for grabs, Umar pushed himself to go faster. The result was an improvement of over a second (52.790), and the top step of the podium. This was also the fifth fastest time set overall in the Club final, and the fastest time by a 2WD Club Challenge driver all day! An impressive performance.
[SRE] Thomas Everill : Lotus Exige
If previous lap records and podiums are anything to by, Brands Hatch really suits Lotus drivers. That’s probably because it rewards handling balance over lots of power. That said, the driver still has to pilot the car around the circuit and attack that infamous Paddock Hill bend – which is exactly what Exige driver Tom Everill did. A Single Round Entry ineligable for Championship points, that didn’t stop Tom from immediately laying his marker down in Club RWD with a stonking 53.560 in the morning warm up session! He was also into the 53s in both qualifying and the final, with best times of 53.742 and 53.837 respectively. A brilliant Time Attack debut.
Simon Roberts : Noble M12 GTO
Simon Roberts slowly would up his Noble M12 GTO during the two morning sessions, setting a best of 56.031 in the warm up followed by a 55.962 in practice. When qualifying came he would up the turbos, took a couple of brave pills and attacked the track. His reward was an impressive 53.707 that earned him first place in qualifying and the maximum 5 points. Unfortunately, Simon might have taken a few too many brave pills because half way though the next session he went straight on at Druids and into the gravel! As his confidence grew, Simon had carried more speed through Paddock Hill each lap and had simply arrived at Druids a lot faster than he had done previously. Still, he was recovered by the marshalls and with 10 minutes left in the final he managed to compose himself for one last attack. He ended up with a 53.739 on his last flying lap, good enough for second place and 9 points. Those points have put Simon joint top of the Club RWD points table with Umar Masood in the RX-7. It should be a good fight between the pair next time out, at Oulton Park on July 11th.
It’s great to see another Mazda RX-7 in the Club RWD Challenge. James Pinkerton was the third fastest RWD Challenge driver in both qualifying (55.580) and the final (54.545) – setting his fastest time of the day halfway though the final session.
Even a minor ‘off’ couldn’t stop Anthony Woo enjoying his day at Brands Hatch. Anthony’s car is effectively a new build so he’s very much in the process of getting comfortable in the car, sorting the alignment and generally coping with any new-car niggles that pop up. A car with lots of potential for future events, Anthony set his fastest time of the day during the final session, suggesting he’s getting faster with every lap.
James is still finding his RWD feet after running a naturally-aspirated FD2 Honda Civic last year. His VR Dyno Tuning Nissan 350Z is definitely a work-in-progress and he’s pushing hard to catch his Club RWD rivals. Surprisingly, James set his fastest time of the day during the morning practice session – managing a 57.307 in qualifying followed by a best of 58.458 in the busy final session.
New Club FWD Lap Record!
We suggested Dan Clark was one to watch in our Event Preview. He proved us right and then some. The Vauxhall Astra driver thrashed the old lap record by over a second in the final session of the day, but it wasn’t easy. Dan had some new tyres for the event which he hoped would give him a significant drop in lap time. As it happened, the new tyres didn’t work out and he struggled first with a vibration from the front and then an overall lack of grip. He set a 53.668 in the warm up without any of his dash functions working. Then with that fixed he set a 53.372 in Practice, the fastest in Club FWD – despite a trip through the gravel that ripped off his rear diffuser! He was clearly trying hard. When the points-paying sessions came, Dan went out in qualifying and still struggled to find the right balance. His best was a 53.652, third in Club FWD. A re-think was needed. Dan took the gamble of fitting his old tyres for the final. Some adjustments were made to the anti-roll bars and spoiler angle, along with a change in tyre pressures. The changes would make or break his event. On his sixth lap in the final, Dan set his fastest time of the day (52.800) – a new Club FWD Challenge lap record. Dan now sits clear of the field at the top of the Club FWD Challenge points table. The question is, with a couple of circuits coming up that Dan has never driven before, can he keep his place and take home the title at the end of the year?
If Neil Wrenn needed a reward for his hard work over the winter, he got it at Brands Hatch. In fact, it was reward for a week of work to get his engine repaired in time to even be there at Brands. He may have finished on the second step of the podium at Brands Hatch but that’s only because the class of 2015 are going so fast! A banker by day, Neil burned the midnight oil over winter to transform his Civic for this year, resulting in a new aero package and colour-scheme. Under the bonnet is a home-built and turbocharged hybrid B-series, mainly comprised of B20 and B18 bits. Neil has much wider tyres on the front this year and they are clearly helping as Neil went out and broke the old Club FWD lap record in the very first session of the day, topping the overall Club Challenge time sheets in that session too! His 52.951 was an astonishing way to start the day. Unfortunately a fault start motor kept Neil out of the next session, and with a combination of traffic and a track that appeared to be getting slower as the day progressed (perhaps because of the rubber laid down during the drift demos?) – this would stay Neil’s best lap time. He qualified in second place with a 53.311, before grabbing the second step on the podium with a 53.200 in the final. An excellent round for Neil, who is getting faster as the season progresses.
You might think Martyn Henry’s Vauxhall Astra only ever had three wheels on the track at one time, if you’d only seen the photos of him in action at Brands Hatch. Or sometimes two. Marty was clearly pushing himself and his car to the very limits of grip and sometimes beyond. Trips onto the grass were balanced with raw speed and Martyn clocked the fastest time in qualifying, a 53.009 for the maximum 5 points. It was so close to a 52-second lap. Could he manage one in the final? Sadly, Martyn went a touch slower in the final with a 53.533 – earning him third place and 8 points. It’s a shame he couldn’t join the other two in the 52s but it was still a very impressive display from Martyn. To put his lap times into perspective, both his points-scoring laps were quicker than the Club FWD lap record at the start of the day – a 53.890 set by Romain Levesque in a Honda CRX back in 2011! Interestingly, the top three all left Brands Hatch with 13 points. So Martyn find himself level with Neil Wrenn and just one point ahead of Marc Donnelly at the half-way stage. Bring on Oulton!
Another driver who managed to beat the previous Club FWD lap record on the day. Marc Donnelly usually goes well at Brands Hatch. To be fair, our reigning Club FWD double-champion is quick everywhere! His fastest time of the day (a 53.530 set in Practice) is made even more impressive by the gearbox issues he faced. The problem involved failing gearbox mounts, resulting in a lot of movement and forcing Marc to steer one-handed while he wrestled with the gear-lever! Somehow he managed 4th place in both qualifying and the final with consistent lap times – 53.794 and 53.628 respectively. The car is already being sorted and Marc will want to forget Brands and look forward to Oulton Park on July 11th, when he’ll have the luxury of steering with both hands.
It’s old and it has a smaller engine compared to it’s rivals, so there’s no way Darren Spooner and his Spoox Motorsport Peugeot 205 should have been able to close in on the old lap record. But he did. That’s despite a few minor niggles on the day caused by the age of some of the components. Darren has since started development of a few new parts to cure the problem, including their own clutch pedal pivot (the old aftermarket one sheared in half at Brands!) and aux pulleys. The bottom line with all this is that Darren heads to Oulton Park knowing he can drive the car hard, which always does. This is backed up by the fact Darren set his fastest time of the day on his last flying lap of the day. As always, flat-out until the finish.
Paul Waddington’s Honda Civic doesn’t have a turbo, so it was interesting to see how his well-sorted K-swapped Civic compared at Brands. The truth is he ended up a little way behind them, but he was the fastest of the naturally-aspirated cars in Club FWD, which is a nice accolade to have earned. Paul set a 55.710 in qualifying and a 55.786 in the final, so he was really consistent. Paul will have a set of TDi North camshafts in place for Oulton Park, so we’ll wait and see if that helps him close the gap to the turbocharged front-runners.
Nigel Brown was the fastest Single Round Entry in Club FWD at Brands Hatch, despite a few ‘issues’. He was clearly pushing the limits as the battle-scars and missing headlight in the photo indicate. Still, he kept going and had a trophy for the fastest S.R.E in the final to show for it. The surprising thing is that Nigel later discovered the boost controller attached to his turbo conversion was not switched on, so it was only running wastegate pressure. In simple terms that means he was missing around 10psi of boost and a lot of power! So it’s fair to say Nigel could have gone even faster. Let’s hope he returns and puts that right next we’re at Brands Hatch.
Michael pushed Nigel close in the battle to be fastest Single Round Entry in the final session. His best of 55.885 was just 0.107 seconds slower! Those are the fine margins in Time Attack. Hopefully Michael will be back to take home a trophy of his own.
David Ward was the fastest Club FWD Single Round Entry in the first three sessions of the day; 57.298 in the warm up, 56.455 in practice and 56.108 in qualifying. He looked odds-on to be quickest S.R.E in the final but when his rivals increased their speed dramatically, David went marginally slower with a best of 56.425. He ended up third fastest S.R.E in Club FWD after spending most of the day in the 56-second range in his EG Civic.
With a new engine and gearbox but no testing, it was going to be an interesting day for Jeff Alden and the Book Club Racing team. Their day started with a big cloud of smoke! Thankfully it wasn’t from the engine but was instead the front wheels rubbing on the bodywork. It turned out the car was running a bit too low for the big compressions that Brands provides. Even with that issue, Jeff had already gone faster than his previous best by setting a 58.487 in the warm up. Jeff improved his times all day, ending up with a 57.004 in qualifying, followed by a 56.333 in the final. That’s 2.5 seconds faster than his personal best at the start of the day. It’s great to see Jeff making progress in the Saab-powered Astra. It’s already evolved lots since the near-standard road car he started out with in Time Attack. Jeff admits he went for an aggressive suspension setup that was great over the kerbs but a bit unstable round the bends. With a bit more time to dial the car in properly, Jeff reckons he could dip into the 54s. Great to see the progression. All trophies and lap records aside, pushing yourself and developing your car to go faster is what Time Attack is all about.
Jonathan Morris is one of 7 drivers who ended the Brands Hatch event covered by just over a second. That’s how close Time Attack has become this year, especially Club FWD. It’s the biggest and arguably most competitive class this year. Jonathan has an extra level of difficulty to contend with, as one of the few naturally-aspirated entrants taking the fight to the turbo guys. Thankfully he has a Burton Power engine screaming away under the bonnet, and as Jonathan and his team tweaked the suspension, the times kept dropping at Brands. He set a 56.789 in qualifying before topping that with a 56.663 in the final. So you can see from these lap times how consistent Jonathan was. With some more time and suspension setup, we’re confident Jonathan could go even faster.
Dan is another driver that improved as the day progressed in his Renault Megane. His best in qualifying was a 57.624 but he went even faster in the final, with a 56.812. Dan is currently level on points with Jonathan Morris and Adrian Daniel in the overall points table.
Adrian’s Astra has grown a pair of neat canards to go with the splitter on the front. Unfortunately he didn’t really get the chance to test them out after an off at Paddock Hill bend wrecked much of the setup. Adrian managed to get the car going again but ultimately had to retire from the final after the engine oil temperature went through the roof and he couldn’t get it down again, even after several slow laps. With so many cars on track looking for space, Adrian reluctantly retired the car. A selfless act that will have been appreciated by his fellow drivers.
In the nicest possible way, the Giovinazzo brothers are crazy! They didn’t have time to repair the gearbox in their self-turbocharged twin-spark Alfa Romeo 155, but they made the journey to Brands Hatch regardless. This means they ran all day with only 1st, 3rd and 5th gears!
To catch up on the current 2015 UK Time Attack Championship standings, click here
Our next event is at Oulton Park on Saturday July 11th. You can buy discounted tickets here
It’s not racing.. it’s TIME ATTACK!