Neil Benfield Sprint - Lydden Race Circuit - June 23, 2007  
by Tony Beesley  

With rain lashing the country for the week before this event and a none-too-good weather forecast for the Saturday, most turned up fearing the worst with a lot of wet tyres already fitted, and covering the paddock with gazebos appeared to be no.1 priority.

I had phoned the circuit the day before just to check out what I needed to run an in-car video and was told that the phones had only just come back on following a lightening strike and that there was 2 foot of water at Pilgrims!

We needn’t have worried as we were blessed with some nice warm weather for most of the day and we even saw the sun for a lot of it, although it did bucket down on the way home and all the next day. Luck was on our side.

This day was one of the few occasions when us National B South Eastern regulars can mix it with the ‘big boys’ who are competing in the National A SBD British Sprint Championship. They numbered 14 out of the total 96 entrants – and a fearsome looking lot they were too – and their cars!

Had a good chat to Daniel Pickett who came 2nd overall in their championship last season in his ex-Glen Del Medico Jedi against all the big bangers, which was an incredible performance. We have all seen him at Lydden before in his Jedi and he was simply awesome to watch and always took FTD. He bought his Jedi at almost the same time as I got mine, so we had met a few times before. His dad Dennis had lent me a drive shaft to keep me mobile at a Hethel event, so we had some common ground – but not any more! He now has the ex-Roy Lane Pilbeam fitted with an ex-Lotus Formula One 3.5 litre Judd V8 with 600bhp - just a tad different to the Jedi ! Plus a superb motorhome, trailer, etc., etc. Dad has now stopped driving to take up what appears to be a full time job in keeping the Pilbeam running – but its his hobby too and seemed to be relishing in not having quite as much pressure in having to drive the beast too! It’s immaculate and must have had gallons of Autoglym Metal Polish lovingly rubbed into the aluminium bits. Daniel said that it was not much quicker than the Jedi to around 60mph – but from thereon it just kept going ‘very’ (spelt with an F) quick . He was out to beat the lap record, which stood at just over 65 secs. He had done 69’s in his Jedi, so it was on the cards.

The other SBD championship contenders also included another fearsome machine being peddled by father and son – Bill and Matt Oliver. Newer and a more modern design to the Pilbeam, the Olivers had a Gould with a 4L Judd V8 and it was to go head-to-head with the Pilbeam throughout the day. There was also Roy Sims 4L Ralt and a lot of other very quick 2L engined Ralts, Reynards, Van Diemans .. Add to this lot all us local ‘plebs’ I just couldn’t imagine the money tied up in the paddock that day just for us lads to play with our ‘Big Boys Toys’ for several minutes..

Scrutineering was all very civilised for us single seater crowd as we were ‘done’ in situ and everything ran on time. The driver’s meeting only brought up one query concerning which order we ran in as some were confused by the numbering. The SBD Championship lads are issued with permanent numbers for the season, which does not allow for normal numbering to be done on the day.

We simply had to run in alpha class order and then in number sequence within that class. I know its easier keeping tabs on your start time when we are numbered 1 to whatever – it just made us have to think a bit that’s all!

It was good that the National A guys had their own Top 12 Run Off after our 2nd timed runs as it gave us a chance to stop and go and watch these guys in action.

To watch 600+ bhp squirt off the line with bloody great slicks was simply fantastic. It was best not to stand anywhere behind those rear slicks when all that power was unleashed as any stones in their path became bullet-like down the pit lane.

Dan Pickett had a few problems with his gear change and a flat battery on his runs, which spoilt his attack on the outright lap record and his pocket as new baulk rings at £300 a go were needed to correct the problem.

Whilst Dan got down to a 66.18 run Matt Oliver in his 4L Gould simply obliterated the lap record and did an incredible time of 64.54 – over half a second quicker than the lap record. It puts these machines into perspective doesn’t it as at our normal National B meetings FTD is normally around 8 seconds slower!

Did you notice the new timing kit that John Sharp and B19 are very proud of? The start is so important in sprinting and it is comforting to note that with this new kit with its ‘staging’ lights you can be confident that you are starting in exactly the same place each time and those ‘possible’ fractions of a second lost (or gained) by not being as accurately lined up by the start line marshals are a thing of the past. Well done John/B19..and if you feel like training to do some time keeping John would no doubt be dead chuffed so he can come out and play again Oh – and while you are at it – train up the Abindgon Car-nival timekeepers will you(!)

The National A lads didn’t bother with the 3rd timed runs which took place after their Top 12 Run Off so it was left to us regulars to try to emulate those guys – no chance. It was good that we had had that respite to watch them as they actually got the but end of the weather with some rain during their 2nd runs which luckily cleared by the time we got back out.

You have all received the results by the time you read this so I won't go through the whole list, but there are a few I should mention. I felt for Simon Besant and Ray Turner who were really psyched up to try and beat Andrew Silman’s Class C5 Westfield at Lydden for once but their 4.6L V8 Rover engine Westfield gave a serious death rattle in practice so they withdrew. They have a 5L ready to put in – so watch out Andrew next time!

Pure and utter entertainment value must go to that really nice bloke – Darren Brock in his MG Magnette ZA. His dad has had the car from new and when Daren took it on he decided to modify it ‘a bit’. Little did dad know that the old BMC engine was to be replaced by a full race 300 bhp (?) engine out of a Mercedes Touring Car and still with the original brakes, back axle, etc.. !! I think Daren thought he had entered the ‘Neil Benfield Drift Event’ – great stuff.

The EVO boys Kim Adams and John Start had their normal fight, but how about their 1st timed runs which were their fastest ? They both did identical best times at 85.54 ! It went to Kim in the end as his 2nd and 3rd times – although slower than his 1st – were quicker than John’s.
In our own event – the National B – I now know how a lot of you feel to be beaten by a grey haired old fart like me cos I have now been beaten twice this year into 2nd overall by someone a lot older than me – that most amiable Roy Millbank who got so carried away gassing to the Nat A lads in the paddock that he missed his last run. Silly (old) sod!

Talking of old – and I really hope he doesn’t mind me mentioning his age – but 81 years young Ray Heal has been competing in his Mallock, I think he said for 27 years! He spoke to John Sharp before the event saying that he felt he ought not turn up as he had been put in the same class E11 as most of the National A guys and “didn’t want to get in their way”.

He was relieved to be told that he could run at the back and had an enjoyable day even though he had his car in many pieces and back together again during the lunch break to fix a clutch problem.

In my class, E10 we got thrashed by the National A father and son – Andy and Tom Potter in their standard GSX-R engined Jedi. Tom did an incredible 70.72 and finished 5th overall!! Clive Wooster (Sauce) in his 1500 Radical was getting more and more frustrated with his Lydden times as he said that however hard he tries he just can't seem to get it together here. I think it was because he had his T shirt on back-to-front! Good to see Martin Wilks back out again with a new OMS. Well it looks new but that’s Martin and his cleaning/polishing cloths for you!

I came back from my runs to be told by Frank Catt father of Ian in my class, that I was driving like a right plonker and what was I up to? Having now watched all of the video of each of my runs I can now agree with him! I over braked, under braked, missed apexes, got wrong gears, missed gears and generally got it all wrong. But as this was the 1st time I have ever filmed what I do and as my best time was only a smidgen slower than my best at Lydden I have concluded that I must always drive like that and it must just be the car that’s quick – not the driver ! LOL ..

So a big thank you to all the B19 Team on behalf of all us competitors – Neil would have been very proud of how efficiently the day ran and to have his name on all the trophies.

Well done everyone.