Croft circuit, located just outside Darlington in County Durham, has some pretty stringent noise restrictions. As such, the 2CVs were required to have extra exhaust silencer boxes fitted for rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the ECAS 2CVPARTS.COM championship. Round 9 was to be a 2 hour mini-enduro race held outside the normal race day hours, from 6:15pm until 8:15pm, so being quiet and behaving was the order of the day. A difficult challenge!
Time obviously works differently at Croft, as round 9 - the 2 hour enduro - was held on the Saturday evening, before rounds 7 and 8 were held on the Sunday. Sign-on was early on Saturday morning, and with some of the drivers still suffering from nose bleeds from being so far up North (or trying to work out the timetable!), qualifying began for the 2 hour enduro.
Riding high on the back of his performance at Anglesey, Neil Thompson propelled 'Stinky' into pole position for the enduro, with the number 5 car ("Armageddon") of Alec Graham and Matt Hollis coming in 2nd, two tenths of a second adrift. Lien Davis and Peter Rundle, sharing Lien's #93 car claimed third on the grid, just another 71 thousandths behind.
Early in the afternoon, qualifying for the first sprint race (round 7) got under way. Alec Graham took top honours, tailed by Sammie Fritchley (+0.62) and Steve Panas (+0.84). With just a 5 minute interval before qualifying for round 8, there wasn't much time to tinker - just to change drivers in some cases. Alec Graham once again took the top spot for round 8, this time with Nick Paton taking second (+0.02) and Simon Clarke snatching third (+0.40).
Back then to the enduro on Saturday evening, and with Thompson leading the field away from pole, a few groups of cars began to form. Thompson dropped a couple of places, biding his time. This may have been a costly mistake however, as when Paton spun his car at Clervaux corner, Neil had nowhere to go but into the side of it (Video clip)! Paton's car was an instant retirement (blown tyre), which brought out the safety car. Neil managed to get his car back to the pits, but it wasn't a pretty sight - the broken fan was jammed on to the engine, requiring an engine change, costing the team over 20 minutes.
Also having a rough time were Team Gadget - the #2 car of Cowling/Clarke, the #93 car of Davies/Rundle and the #80 car of Bousfield/Panas were regular pit callers, and eventually finished 31, 31 and 13 laps respectively behind the leaders. The final insult being the #80 car disqualified (hotly disputed) for a rule infringement after a misunderstanding.
After 2 hours, the clear winners were Alec Graham and Matt Hollis, taking the win by over 29 seconds. Second place went to Simon Turner, Sammie Fritchley and David O'Keefe, with the #21 Sutcliffe car coming home in 3rd, another 30 seconds back.
Sunday's racing started later, with round 7 - the first of the sprint races. Sammie Fritchley took the lead from pole-sitter Alec Graham early doors, and could not be wrested from the lead. After 10 laps, Sammie took the win by just 8 tenths of a second, with Graham a full 18 seconds clear of 3rd placed Philip Myatt. Alec's consolation was a fastest lap of 2:04.644. No consolation for Wayne Cowling, whose car was again suffering gremlins, finishing 2 laps down.
Round 8 was the last race of the day, and in the evening sun it was 4 drivers battling for the win - Alec Graham (from pole), Simon Clarke (from 3rd), Neil Thompson (from 4th), and Ainslie Bousfield (from 5th). Nick Paton should have started second on the grid, but due to a change of car (his original heavily damaged by the accident in the 2 hour enduro) he was obliged to start from the back of the grid, promoting Thompson and Bousfield by a place each.
With his car misfiring along the back straight, Thompson was very surprised to take the lead of the race on the first lap, but it wasn't long before Clarke asserted himself to lead the field. The order remained Clarke-Thompson-Graham-Bousfield for the next 5 laps, as the group of 4 eased away from the chasing pack.
On lap 6 Graham mounted a charge to the front, and by lap 8 he was leading Clarke, then Thompson, and Bousfield. Although it was close, Graham never lost the lead from then and took the victory by 0.9 of a second, much to his delight! Thompson made a last lap lunge at the hairpin to take 2nd away from Clarke (by 0.7 of a second), and Bousfield tried his hardest - nearly losing it at the complex - before coming 4th, 1.6 seconds down on Clarke.
A fabulous weekend of racing then at Croft circuit, with some teams feeling a little battle weary. Next race is the big one - the 24 hour race at Snetterton.
Full results from Croft available, click here to download