The 60th year of Monoposto kicked off at Donington on 14th & 15th April 2018. This meeting saw a rearrangement of the grids with the Moto 1400 cars joining the F3 grid and the Classics moving across to the Moto 1000 grid, a move that worked well over the weekend. Both grids were busy and we were joined by nine new drivers who are starting their first season with Monoposto this year. The Moto 1000 class was exceptionally big with fourteen cars entering that class.
Testing on Thursday saw terrible weather at the track, with cold and wet conditions. But by Saturday we were enjoying hot sunshine all day which continued on into a warm evening. Things changed for Sunday though as it was another chilly day and the rain came in the afternoon.
F3, 2000, FR2000 and Moto 1400 Grid
Qualifying for the F3, 2000, FR2000 and Moto 1400 grid saw a few people experience some early problems. Richard Greening, in his newly rebuilt ‘Leyton House’ Swift, suffered fuel starvation after leaving the assembly area and came to a stop on the inside of the first corner, not managing to complete any qualifying laps. Richard Fores got up to third on the grid on his fourth lap of qualifying but followed that up by parking his Dallara in the tyre wall at the last corner on lap 5, luckily both the car and driver escaped unharmed and Richard stayed third in the times overall. Neil Harrison completed six laps of qualifying, but then he pulled in with engine problems and had to retire from the rest of the weekend. Jason Timms also stopped early in qualifying with a misfire.
Ben Cater and Tony Bishop had a good battle for pole position with Ben taking it by 0.35 seconds over Tony. James Densley was fastest in the FR2000 class and fourth overall, with Richard Crisp just behind him. Kevin Otway was the fastest of the 2000 cars, sitting sixth overall and Jason Timms still managed to be fastest of the Moto 1400 cars even though he had a misfire, but he was down in thirteenth overall on the grid.
As the cars joined the assembly area for the first race, there was a car missing – Richard Fores, who was due to start from third. He had stripped the threads out of the oil pump in qualifying and his mechanics were working hard to fix it to get him out for the race. The rest of the grid left the assembly area as they were putting the car back together and he made it to the pit lane just after the lights went out for race start, so he joined the race but was dead last.
The race got underway cleanly with Ben Cater maintaining his position at the front into the first corner. Bryn Tootell got past Kevin Otway quickly to take the lead of the 2000 class and by the end of the first lap they were separated by Geoff Fern who had come flying through the field from fourteenth and sat seventh by the end of lap one. Tony Gauntlett was second in the Moto 1400 class lying in tenth at the end of lap one, having started seventeenth. Tony maintained this position for a few laps until he retired from the race in a giant plume of white smoke going into the first corner on lap four.
Meanwhile, Richard Fores was steadily making his way through the grid – he was up to ninth by lap three. At the start of lap nine he was up to fifth behind the FR2000 battle of James Densley and Richard Crisp. They had a big gap ahead of them to the leaders – Ben Cater was still in the lead, five seconds clear of Tony Bishop, who was fifteen seconds up the road from James Densley. Unfortunately things changed as Tony suffered a puncture that put him out of the race on lap 10, this elevated James Densley and Richard Crisp to second and third overall. Richard Fores then made short work of getting between the two Formula Renaults, before taking second place overall on lap twelve, earning him the driver of the day accolade.
James Densley managed to maintain third overall in the race but a spin for Richard Crisp on the penultimate lap of the race saw him drop to fifth overall behind Bryn Tootell. Bryn took the 2000 class win with Kevin Otway second and Terry Clark third, in seventh and eighth overall respectively. Kevin took the fastest lap in class though, setting a new lap record. Geoff Fern finished sixth overall, taking the win in the Moto 1400 class. Jason Timms finished second in class but was down in twelfth overall whilst still suffering problems with his car.
The new format for triple header meetings sees the grid for subsequent races being set by the fastest laps in the previous race. This meant that Tony Bishop was still up in second on the grid even though he had suffered a DNF in the first race of the weekend. Kevin Otway also prospered from this system as he was in fourth, three places ahead of Bryn Tootell. Geoff led the Moto 1400 class from eighth on the grid, whilst Jason Timms and Martin Wright lay in fourteenth and seventeenth respectively.
The start of the second race of the weekend for this grid saw drama from the start, Russ Giles spun on the green flag lap which dropped him to the back of the grid and he was not allowed to take up his grid slot. Richard Crisp put his hands up as he had stalled on the grid whilst they were lining up for race start and was pushed off the circuit because he couldn’t restart the car. The decision was taken to run a second green flag lap to make sure the cars didn’t overheat which then meant Russ was able to take up his original grid slot – a rule that perhaps those less technically minded wouldn’t have realised!
As the race started, Richard Crisp was able to start from the pit lane, by the end of the first lap he had made it past five cars and gradually climbed up the grid during the race to finish eighth overall and second in class. Kevin Otway sat between the two Formula Renaults, finishing second in class but again taking the fastest lap. Bryn Tootell won the 2000 class having taken the lead of the class from Kevin on the first lap of the race. In the Moto 1400 class, Jason Timms had eliminated his gremlins from the previous day and was back on form, climbing from fourteenth to ninth on the first lap and taking the class lead from Geoff Fern on lap two. He then continued to climb up the field, eventually taking third overall away from Richard Fores on lap nine.
The fight for the overall lead of the race was a good one, Ben Cater had a good start and pulled out a 4-5 second lead in the first couple of laps, but then his engine died going across the start line. As he checked the dash, it flagged up that the fuel pressure was low and in a moment of desperation, he realised that there was that switch on the dash called “pump 1/pump 2”. After flicking the switch, the engine came back to life but not before Tony Bishop had passed him into the Old Hairpin. Tony maintained the lead for a few laps before Ben got back past on lap seven and retained the lead for the rest of the race with Tony close behind. Tony took the fastest lap though which set a new lap record in the F3 class and also secured him pole for race three of the weekend. Jason Timms was second fastest, which bumped Ben down to third on the grid for the final race. Richard Fores sat fourth with Richard Crisp in fifth, out qualifying James Densley who was in sixth. Kevin Otway was seventh at the head of the 2000 class, with Bryn Tootell behind him in eighth.
The final race for this grid on Sunday afternoon saw another dramatic start, with Richard Fores shooting himself into the pit wall whilst trying to go around Jason Timms who was slow to get away. As Richard had wiped out the entire front left, it wasn’t possible for the marshals to push him off the track, resulting in the safety car being brought out for two laps whilst he was recovered from the start/finish straight. The start had been more successful for others though as Ben Cater got up to second place behind Tony Bishop and James Densley was up to fourth from sixth, with Richard Crisp losing four places before the safety car came out. Bryn Tootell got ahead of Kevin Otway again for the lead of the 2000 race and Russ Giles was up in seventh, but third in the F3 class.
When the race restarted, Tony Bishop maintained the lead ahead of Ben Cater for a lap but then Ben got past on lap four. Tony was close behind and fighting for the lead of the race but unfortunately spun out on the last corner of lap five, getting beached in the gravel and putting an end to his race. This let Ben take the win for the third time of the weekend, but he didn’t run away with it as Jason Timms wasn’t far behind him in second place and the lead of the Moto 1400 class. Russ Giles came in second in the F3 class, with Mike Hatton taking third.
Kevin Otway didn’t fare well on the restart of the race after the safety car, as he had a spin which dropped him down to tenth overall and third in class behind Terry Clark, he got back past Terry on lap five but only managed to get back up as far as sixth by the end of the race, leaving Bryn to take the class win again in fifth overall, eleven seconds clear of Kevin. For much of the race, after Tony dropped out, the top four was made up of a representative from each of the four classes on the grid. Ben Cater was leading in the F3 class with Jason Timms in Moto 1400 second, James Densley was third overall but leading the FR2000 class and Bryn Tootell was fourth overall as the leader of the 2000 class. On the penultimate lap Richard Crisp got past Bryn Tootell for fourth overall, but he didn’t have enough time to catch James who won in the FR2000 class. The driver of the day on Sunday went to Mat Jordan.
Moto 1000, 1800, 1600 and Classic Grid
Qualifying for this grid saw problems early on for Will McAteer, who broke a drive shaft leaving the assembly area, and Matthew Bromage who had a fuel pump issue. Neither of them managed to do a lap in qualifying but they both got the problems fixed in time for the first race that afternoon. Ian Hughes completed qualifying but a mystery oil leak saw him decide to call it a day and go home for fear of causing further damage to his engine. Tom Rawlings, in the Moto 1000 class, qualified on pole on his first time out on track – having only just gained his race licence after stepping up to single seaters from karting and junior rallying. Dean Warren, also in Moto 1000, qualified second with Peter Venn third overall and first for the Classic class. Chris Lord qualified top for the 1800 class and was twelfth overall and Geoff Fern was top for 1600 and seventeenth overall on this huge grid of twenty eight cars.
On the start of the first race, Tom Rawlings was slow away and lost the lead to Dean Warren. Mark Reade also found his way past on the first corner, but Tom immediately fought back and regained the position. Peter Venn dropped back slightly in fourth place overall but quickly caught up to Mark Reade and got past him on the third lap of the race. Tom Rawlings managed to take the lead back from Dean Warren on lap three and he quickly pulled a gap, gaining eight seconds over him by lap eight. Unfortunately, Tom then had gearbox problems which meant he couldn’t select any low gears and Dean started closing up on him, eventually getting past him to take the win on the final lap. Tom did well to bring it home in second place. After the first couple of laps, Peter Venn was racing by himself for most of the race to take third overall and the Classic class win, as well as setting a new lap record for the class. Mark Reade was running in fourth for most of the race until a broken half shaft saw him retire on lap ten. This bumped Nigel Davers up to fourth overall and third in the Moto 1000 class. Mick Kinghorn came fourth in the Moto 1000 class and Dominic Shepherd had a great drive from eleventh to sixth overall and fifth in class.
Peter Whitmore took second in the Classic class with Jared Wood coming in third in class, they held seventh and eighth on the grid overall. Will McAteer and Matthew Bromage drove well from the back of the grid after their qualifying issues to take thirteenth and fourteenth out of twenty two overall, this earned Will the Driver of the Day award. In the 1800 class, Chris Lord didn’t make the race as he suffered a starter motor issue after qualifying top in the class. Phil Davis had a great drive from eighteenth on the grid to finish twelfth overall and taking the class win. Six places behind him was Steven Griffin who came second in class, David Jones and Doug McLay continued their trend from last year and were racing well between them, David was running third in class but had a spin on oil on the last lap which put him out of the race and left Doug to take third in the 1800 class. Geoff Fern came first in the 1600 class and was fifteenth overall with new driver, Seamus Wild, coming second in the 1600 class.
Tom Rawlings had qualified on pole for the second race of the weekend, because of his performance in the Saturday race, but unfortunately couldn’t cure his gearbox issue so had gone home and didn’t take part in the two Sunday races. This promoted Dean Warren to pole with Peter Venn second and Nigel Davers third. Mark Reade had earned fourth on the grid before he’d retired from the race the day before but he was back out thanks to team boss, Paul Heavey, catching a ferry across from Ireland with a half shaft to do an early morning fix on the car so Mark could get back out in the Sunday races.
The start of the race was interesting with Dean Warren getting a bit ahead of himself and setting off before the lights had come on, this caused a bit of confusion and when the lights did come on and then go off some people were quite slow to get away. Nigel Davers notably lost a few places, ending up ninth after the first lap. Conversely, Matthew Bromage had a great opening lap to go from ninth to fourth by the end of lap one and Geoff Fern went flying through the pack to take sixth place by the end of lap one, having started seventeenth! Geoff dropped back on the grid during the race, but still took the class win. Phil Davis had a spin at Redgate on the first lap which dropped him from sixteenth to dead last and Peter Venn lost a place to Mark Reade off the start and then had a spin on the last corner of the first lap which saw him stuck in the gravel and out of the race. Marcus Sheard completed the first lap in seventeenth place but stopped at the end of the pitlane after not being able to select any gears. A safety car was put out for two laps whilst Peter and Marcus were recovered from the track.
Things calmed down a bit after the restart, but there were some great battles happening right through this huge grid. Dean Warren and Mark Reade had a great battle for the lead which lasted for the entire race. Dean finished 0.1 seconds ahead of Mark but, after his ten second penalty was applied for the jump start, the places were reversed. Third in the Moto 1000 class was Nigel Davers who finished fourth on the grid overall having made up lost ground after his poor start. Ahead of him was Classic class winner, Matthew Bromage, who had a great race to take third overall. Jared Wood came second in the Classic class and seventh overall and Peter Whitmore was third in class and eleventh overall.
In the 1800 class, Chris Lord started second to last after not taking the grid in the first race the day before and behind him in twenty fifth place and last was Amnon Needham who was only taking part in the Sunday races. Chris had a phenomenal first lap which took him from twenty fourth place to eighth and five places ahead of Steven Griffin who sat second in class. Chris maintained eighth position and the lead of the 1800 class until the end. Amnon Needham was up to twelfth overall and second in class by the end of lap four, which is where he finished the race. Steven Griffin held third in class for most of the race until Phil Davis came past him whilst making up lost ground from his early spin.
The final race of the weekend saw a few people from the back of the grid drop out because of car troubles and young families to take home which left twenty people to take the grid for the final race. This was good news for Peter Venn who was bumped up five places before the race even began. He was starting at the back due to not setting a lap time before going off in the race earlier in the day. Everybody was on wet tyres as the rain had come about an hour before the race, but the sun started to break through again as they were heading out onto track. Luckily Sunday was quite a cold day so the track didn’t dry out too quickly.
Mark Reade had a great start to the race and immediately pulled away from Dean Warren. Dominic Shepherd stuck with Dean and looked like he might take him round the first corner but Dean managed to fight him off and then start to pull a gap. Mick Kinghorn, Nigel Davers, Chris Lord and Matthew Bromage all headed to the first corner in a tight pack. Mick Kinghorn lost out on the first lap though as he spun on oil at Coppice which dropped him down to second last, just ahead of David Jones who spun on the oil after him. Peter Venn had a great start and gained four places before the first corner, he ended the first lap in tenth place. Chris Lord had done a good job getting into the battle for fourth off the start, as he had come through from ninth on the grid. He finished the first lap in fourth place.
Nigel Davers got past Chris Lord on the second lap for fourth place and then quickly got up past Dominic Shepherd and into third. Dean Warren was struggling for grip in the wet and he started losing places quickly, going from second to fifth by lap four and eventually ending up sixth overall. This put Nigel up into second place and on the tail of Mark Reade. Nigel got past Mark on lap four for the lead of the race and pulled away to eventually finish the race a full twenty seconds ahead of Mark Reade. Chris Lord got past Dominic Shepherd for third place overall on lap six and started closing the gap to Mark Reade, but he was too far behind to challenge for second. Fourth overall went to Peter Venn, who won the Classic class. Having started last, Peter got up to sixth by the end of lap three and had some big gaps to close to get up to fourth. Dominic Shepherd ended up fifth overall and third in class after a very impressive drive in tricky conditions from the novice driver.
Jared Wood finished the race in seventh overall and second in the Classic class and Peter Whitmore came third in class and tenth overall. After his success in the race earlier in the day, Matthew Bromage had a difficult final race. He maintained sixth overall and second in class for a couple of laps, but a spin on lap three left him at the back of the grid. He gained a few places back during the race but only managed fifteenth overall and fourth in class in the end. In the 1800 class, Chris Lord had a dominant class win, Amnon Needham had a good race, coming in second in class and ninth overall and Steven Griffin came third in class. Phil Davis had a good start to the race and had been running second in class, but an off on lap four dropped him right back so he ended up fourth in class and sixteenth overall.
It was a late finish to the weekend, but an exciting last race which was worth waiting for. Thanks as always to all the competitors, teams, officials and marshals for a great weekend!