MOTOR RACING: Revving up for the start at Combe
THE Castle Combe circuit's 2014 season gets under way on Easter Monday (April 21) and, as last year, the opening meeting will run in memory of the late Howard Strawford, the man who rescued the Wiltshire track from oblivion and who died last year.
With a late Easter and therefore a little longer than usual to prepare, the teams and drivers in the circuit's own championships are more anxious than ever to commence battle and put some points on the scoreboard.
Likely to be a 'Howard's Day' favourite is the Castle Combe Formula Ford 1600 championship, in association with Drive South West, which is shaping up to be as competitive as ever.
For the Chippenham-based Riadro Racing squad, their somewhat surprise championship title last year for Adam Higgins has given them the impetus to aim even higher, perhaps to equal or beat the amazing record of team principal Bob Higgins.
Three titles in a row from 1981 were achieved before Adam was born, so there are still plenty of opportunities for the Higgins family to make history.
That could also be in the form of a class title for Burnham on Sea's Richard Higgins, who will again be a force in class B, for the less sophisticated pre-1995 built cars, in his Van Diemen RF94.
They face a formidable opposition, not the least of which is the Kevin Mills Racing team.
Owner Mills is also a multiple champion and went on to lead his team to six driver crowns.
But with the last being in 2010, the Gloucester-based outfit will continue to hurt until they can be back at the top.
Some very near misses since the last crown make them as hungry as ever and there is no shortage of talent on board this year.
Ashley Crossey from Flax Bourton and Roger Orgee from Langford are joined by Coventry's Nathan Ward.
Yet another title-winning team, Motorsport Events, is every bit as able and hungry to add to its achievements.
Team boss and driver Ed Moore, from Melksham, has the 2004 and 2007 trophies in his cabinet and, with the reinvigorated form his Van Diemen JL013K showed at the end of 2013, could well be the dark horse of 2014.
The Castle Combe Saloon Car Championship has a new sponsor, 'On-Pole High Performance Consultancy', the business of one of its long standing drivers and former champions, Russell Poynter-Brown, from Compton Martin.
He will be out again this year in his faithful Vauxhall Corsa, run by the impressive 'Interceptor Racing Team' in class D.
In recent years, the title has gone to a car from one of the lower capacity classes, so it will be interesting to see if any of the bigger saloons can come up trumps this season.
While the mainly turbocharged machines in Class A are likely to be out front, the possibility of picking up equal points in the smaller classes gives everyone an equal chance.
Standing out as the only father and son competing against each other in the same class are Kevin Bird from Ditcheat in his BMW 130i and Charles Hyde-Andrews-Bird from Shepton Mallet in a Renault Megane.
As well as each other, they face considerable class A opposition, including Calne's Tony Hutchings, a former champion, in his Audi TT, Swindon's Julian Ellison in his Astra Turbo, Keynsham's John Barnard in his now more powerful example and a three-car Grant Motorsport team comprising Bath-based Angus Gorringe and Dave Scaramanga in VW Sciroccos and new driver Paul Perry, from Chilcompton, in a Fiat Coupe.
Bristol's Mark Wyatt, the lap record holder, is always a threat in his under 2 litre class B Astra, which is in a class of its own when the stars are aligned. The Peugeot 206 of former champion, Tony Dolley from Bridgwater, should be a contender too.
Class C opens up victory possibilities for the likes of Bath's Guy Parr in the Fiesta and Chippenham's Martin Chivers in the MG ZR, as last year's champion Corsham's Will Di Claudio is running customer cars such as Barnard's Astra.
There's a big change to Sports and GT racing at Castle Combe, with the true 'Sports Racing' cars getting their own six-round series supported by www.performance-cars.net. This is where the fastest cars are likely to be witnessed, with lots of Radicals chasing Mike Roberts in the ADR Sports Prototype.
Meanwhile, the highly modified saloon and sports car based machines have their natural home in the Sports and GT Championship in association with Blast Events/Bristol Gas Supplies.
Bath's Gorringe stays busy with a new TVR Sagaris, whilst Blagdon's Doug Watson hopes to have tamed his mighty BMW M6 coupe.
Former saloon car championship protagonists, Ilsa Cox and Barry Squibb, resume battle in their SEAT Leon Cupra and Mitsubishi Evo 9 respectively, while Caterham drivers likely to be in close contest are Tim Woodman, from Westbury on Trym, and Keith Dunn, from Droitwich.
The visiting Mini Se7ens and Miglias are crowd pleasers having been coming to the circuit since 1967.
The Se7ens is the UK's longest running one-make motor racing championship having been introduced in 1966 as Formula Mini 7with 850cc engines, later increased to 1000cc.
Howard's Day will witness the 250th race win by a Mini, with each championship having two races. Making his debut in the faster Miglias is Pill's Sam Summerhayes who has already shone in his Mini at Combe in other races and should therefore be a contender in his car now adapted to the Miglia reg's.
The MG Owners Club race sees a wide variety of the marque's models, which celebrate their 90th anniversary in 2014. Competing in two 15-minute races are plenty of MGBs, a few Midgets, lots of MG ZRs (see how they compare with those in the circuit's saloon car championship) and MGFs in their own classes.
Next Monday's action starts at 8.35am with qualifying, racing getting under way from 12.35pm.
Admission prices are £15 for Adults and £10 for OAPs,while accompanied children U16 are admitted free. Paddock Transfer is free if the tickets are booked in advance.
For further information, visit the Castle Combe Racing Club online at ccracingclub.co.uk, facebook.com/CastleCombeCircuit, or @castlecombeuk.
REPORTS, REACTION & PICTURES FROM CASTLE COMBE'S OPENING MEETING OF THE SEASON NEXT WEEK AT GAZETTEANDHERALD.CO.UK/SPORT AND WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT AND IN NEXT WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD AND WILTSHIRE TIMES