I rolled into the Clanfield car park at about 8:15 to quite a shock. Clanfield's been suffering falling numbers for a while now, for a number of reasons. Now with a new club committee in place there was promise of changes and improvements, and based on the number of drivers present yesterday I have to say things are moving in the right direction. I really hope that the club can maintain this momentum as the track's naturally contoured layout is right up there with the best in the country. It also takes an incredible amount of work to maintain as it's an all dirt layout, which is always going to suffer given the harsh weather that comes with the winter. The surface yesterday was certainly starting to suffer, and in truth could do with a good roll, but was certainly good enough to race on, and after all this is off-road! I'm sure the committee will be sorting a roller soon, and the track will be right back up there where it belongs.
Several big name drivers were in attendance, including Jon Hazzlewood with his Nemo Racing/Agama outfit. They rolled up in style with the Nemo support bus, and were joined by recent Bren Ralls, now running Agama after his recent departure from the XRay team. Tommy Chung was running his regular Kyosho, and Marc 'Jaf' Jakka was running the 1/8th Durango buggy.
Rob 'Hollywood' Rasey graced us with his presence to assist Grant Fribbins running JQ Products THE Car. An a shock move local hot-shoe Jon Wolfe had also jumped ship, again from XRay to Agama, so Jamie Kerr had to endure much ribbing through the day as we speculated on his future car choice.
The Associated Truggy HQ for the day (plus an Xray interloper)
After setting up the gazebo, and making space for fellow Associated runners Mark 'Byrners' Byrne and Paul 'Berky' Berkinshaw plus X-Ray buggy racer James 'Young-un' Kerr it was out for some practice. Byrners was going well as always, and my set-up seemed OK as well, but I was catching way too many ruts which was tipping the truck. The red compound Hot Bodies tyres were working well however, so they'd be staying on for the day. Back on the pit table some extra negative camber was dialed into the rear to try and alleviate the tendency to flip, and out we went to qualify (or clean the track for the buggy boys if you prefer...).
John Wolfe's new Agama buggy
The round went well, if not stunningly and I ended with a third. OK, but not an 8 lapper. The tipping was better, but the rear end was hopping all over the shop through some of the choppier sections. I was also trying to re-adjust to driving nitro on a large track after weeks of 10th racing. Chatting to Byrners the decision was made to stand up the rear shocks, inside hole on the arm, outer on the tower. That should give a more linear feel, and hopefully calm the hopping.
One of the benefits to the increased turn out was that more heats of qualifying could be run (one truggy, four buggy), so the usual mad thrash was avoided. Set-up changes could be made easily, and there was plenty of time to socialise, wonder around and take photos.
Round two qualifying was considerably better than round one, with me ending second to Byrners and James Tatlow in third. The only downside was that for some reason the BBK software shortened the round to three minutes. The truggy was now feeling pretty good in the tough conditions, and my driving was calming down.
Rob 'Hollywood' Rasey was present to support Fribbers with THE Car
A little more rear camber was dialled in for round three, and in the round the truck felt awesome. Third again was a fair reward, although I was gutted to be .98 of a second short of scoring 8 laps. Oh well, there's always next time I guess. One thing that was becoming obvious was that the track was evolving massively between rounds, both drying and smoothing out in some sections whilst simultaneously blowing out in others. Line choice was getting critical.
I left the truggy alone for round four, and got another third place, but was 13 seconds slower than round three. The truggy just felt less consistent and planted, plus the driver just made too many mistakes. Oh well, I'd line up third in the final, with Byrners TQ'ing followed by JT. Adam Bailey would be behind, with a hole where Simon Hunter's Kyosho should have been behind that, and Berky coming off the sixth spot.
The start of the final descended into chaos, with neither starter or pit men being able to hear the PA. As a result Lee 'Tortoise' Warren was late starting me, and I was dead last through the first corner. I'd recovered to third by the end of lap one, but didn't have the pace to worry the leaders. I ran a 10 minute strategy to the first stop to check the Alpha S852 was still up for the job (it was), but splashed and dashed three minutes from the end as I had a safe margin from Adam, and at the end of the season point make prizes! Lee did a cracking job and was well on the ball, despite his lack of recent practice(!).
Positions stayed set through the race, with Byrners leaning JT across the line by about 1.5 seconds, me in third two laps down an Adam behind me by a further two laps. Berky went out at mid-race, a high speed meeting between his front offside corner and a solid post proving terminal. Third was about what I expected given the competition, but I'm disappointed not to have run the top two a closer race.
Truggy podium (l-r James Tatlow, Matk Byrne and me)
As I haven't yet mastered driving and photography at the same time, I lent my camera to Lei, Lionel's better half for the truggy final, you can see here photos in the gallery below. She's promised to dress more appropriately next time so she can explore the track more fully.
I didn't get the chance to watch much of the buggy action, as I was distracted my caching up with a few people I hadn't seen for a while, but what I was looked like some class action. In the end Losi driver Rich Barton took the win from Tommy Chung with Jon Wolfe mastering his new ride for third place.
A final buggies (l-r Tommy Chung, Rich Barton and Jon Wolfe)
All in all a cracking days racing, it's great to see Clanfield getting back to where it used to be. Here's hoping it can be maintained. A big thanks to the committee, Chris for running race control, Nora for the endless supply of coffee and everyone who made the day what it was.
Link to full results (courtesy of Clanfield RC Club).