AMOC Entertain at Scorching Snetterton

Snetterton hosted the second AMOC Racing meeting of the season on Saturday July 9th, with four AMOC race series joined by two guests for a strong day’s racing. The meeting saw some classic cars taking wins in the Norfolk sunshine, from the Cooper Monaco of Tom Ditheridge in the 50s Sports Cars race to the rapid Ford Capri of Chris Ward in the guesting MRL Historic Touring Car Challenge.

The AMOC Intermarque Championship field started the day’s race action, and at the start poleman James Hilliard lost out to the Porsche 964 of Rob Hollyman on the run into the first corner. These two set the early pace, Hollyman’s car pulling away out the slower corners and down the straights with the 968 CS of Hilliard closing up in the infield part of the circuit and through the long right-handers at the end of the lap.

Their intriguing battle ended on lap nine when Hilliard pulled off with an engine issue, Hollyman then pitting a lap late for his compulsory stop. Behind, Peter Mangion had got past the BMW M3 of Ed Leigh and took over the lead when Hollyman pitted, while a car on the move was the BMW of Jeremy Cooke which had pitted from sixth after starting at the back of the grid.

Mangion stayed out right until the end of the pit stop window, and was rolling down the pit lane to rejoin as Hollyman and Leigh blasted past to demote him to third. Leigh’s BMW closed in on the flying 964, but in the final laps looked to be struggling for grip giving Hollyman his second Intermarque win in a row, Mangion taking third. Mike Dowd brought the BMW he had taken over from Cooke fourth.

“That was hard,” said Hollyman, “I was being pushed all the way. I hoped for an easy run after James Hilliard pulled off but Ed Leigh was right with me.”

“He drove a good race,” said Leigh, “my tyres were gone right at the end and the Porsche had much better traction.”

The Aston Martin GT Challenge field had a fifty-minute race, the Lotus Evora of Gavan Kershaw initially continuing its domination of Rockingham two weeks ago by opening an early lead, only to pull off on lap five handing the front position to the Porsche 997 GT3 of Mark Smith, with the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of Chris Kemp second.

Rapidly on the move up the order was the Porsche GT3 of Peter Mangion, which was into fourth by lap five from the very back row of the grid and took third from Andy Palmer’s Vantage on lap seven. Mangion then started to reel in Kemp, taking third on lap ten.

Smith was the first of the lead cars to make his compulsory stop, heading pitwards at the end of lap 12, Mangion pitting a lap later. A decision to make a late stop saw the Palmer lead the middle part of the race, but when he pitted to hand over to Matt Becker on lap 15 that out David Cuff, in the 997 GT3 started by Smith, ahead, with Mangion fifteen seconds back and Kemp, first of the Aston Martin runners, third.

In the final laps Cuff kept Mangion at the same distance, with Kemp a secure third and they finished in that order, but there was drama behind. Becker was running in fourth but was reeled in by the Aston Martin of Robert Tinn, taking part in his first race, the fast-moving Chris Murphy and with Tom Black in close attendance. 

Tinn and Murphy went past Becker, but a move from Murphy in the tight infield with three laps to go saw them both on the grass, Black taking advantage to bring his Vantage home fourth, Tinn recovering for fifth.

“That was very satisfying,” said Kemp, who claimed the top step of the podium as first of the Aston Martin runners home. “Snetterton is my favourite track so even though this is only my second race this year I know the car really well and should do well here!”

Robi Bernberg had his Cooper T39 Bobtail on pole for the AMOC 50s Sports Cars and Vredestein Jaguar XK Challenge race, but lost out on the opening lap to the Cooper Monaco of Tony Ditheridge in what proved to the decisive move of the race. 

From then on Ditheridge was able to extend his advantage lap by lap, Bernberg in turn able to keep and keep clear of the Lotus Eleven of James Paterson in third. Ditheridge underlined his pace with a fastest race lap with a lap to go, and took the win from Bernberg and Paterson. 

“To be fair to Robi I have a two-litre car and his is 1500cc,” said Ditheridge. “I had an edge but could always see him back there.”

“I tried to keep him honest,” said Bernberg, “but he seemed to be a little bit further away each lap.”

John Burton was first of the XK Challenge runners home, taking fourth in his Jaguar XK120.

The Innes Ireland Cup closed the day’s race action, and James Hilliard took the lead at the start in his Ginetta G10, the Jaguar E-Type of Martin Melling and Jason Minshaw that was due line up alongside the Ginetta on the front row of the grid missing due to an oil leak in qualifying. 

Martyn Corfield was initially second but the Lotus Elan of Jeremy Cooke was right there and went past on lap two. Four laps in and Hilliard already had a commanding lead, but was still pushing hard and the quickest car on the track.

The leader pitted to hand the Ginetta over to James Guest, Hilliard informing his co-driver that they had just lost second gear. Cooke pitted from first three laps later for Mike Dowd to take over the Elan, Guest blasting past while the Lotus was in the pits and taking the lead again a lap later as Corfied pitted.

Despite his gearbox issue Guest set fastest race lap one tour before the end to emphasise their pace on the way to victory, Dowd bringing the Elan home second with Corfield third and the only other car on the same lap as the leader., 

“I had a lap without second gear,” said Hilliard, “then James had to nurse the car home – and he somehow managed to set fastest lap while doing it.”

“We knew the car was quick but I really just had to use third and fourth gears,” said Guess. “We had an issue at the pitstop when the fuel pump was off, but the race was great fun, I love this car!”

With second place starter Will Penrose missing from the large grid Rob Cull took the opportunity to blast through from row two in his TVR Grantura MK3 and lead poleman Simon Cripps into the first corner in the Equipe GTS race, first of the day’s visiting series. Cull started to ease away, Cripps retiring early and the MGB of David Beresford running second with Max Cawthorn third.

Beresford was the first of the front runners to pit, called in by his team and pitting at the end of lap nine along with Cawthorn, while the leader followed suit a lap later. A safety car for an incident at the first corner broke up the race, picking up cars half a lap away from the leader, and once the order had been restored the field was released for a one lap run to the flag.

Cull, running without front and rear windows after cracking his windscreen in qualifying, pulled clear to take the win from Beresford, Cawthorn taking third in his MGB after holding off the Lotus Elite of Brian Arculus as the two jinked through back markers on the run to the line.

“I got off the line really well,” said Cull, “and then I just wanted to get into a rhythm and make no mistakes. When the safety car came out I wasn’t really sure where it was, but it all worked out and that is my first win since 2009!”

The Motor Racing Legends Historic Touring Car Championship had the glorious Broadspeed Ford Capri of Chris Ward on pole and at the start despite the best efforts of Steve Dance to get alongside into Riches duly took the lead. From then on it was a masterclass by Ward as he lapped seconds quicker than the rest of the field.

Dance had the BMW M3 of Tom Houlbrook in close attendance early on, but what looked to be developing into an entertaining battle as ended on lap five as the BMW slowed with an issue at the rear of the car and pitted. That moved Peter Hallford’s mighty Boss Mustang up to third but Dance was now able to focus on his lap times and eased away from the American car.

Hallford then came under pressure from Tom Andrew’s M3, and the BMW went past when the Mustang was the first of the leaders to pit on lap 10. Andrew pitted on lap 13, with the leader in a lap later followed by dance on lap 15.

Once the leaders had all made their stops and the order had settled Ward was well in command with fellow Capri racer Dance safe in second. Behind, Andrew was back looking for a way past Hallford’s Mustang, an attempt at Agostini on lap 21 seeing him lose ground.

They were back close in the final laps, Andrew taking his M3 past with a lap to go to take the final podium slot behind winner Ward, who lapped the entire field, and Dance.

“I took it easy until halfway and then decided to go for it,” explained Ward. “The car was consistent all the way, but it was good the race ended when it did as although the temperatures were fine we now have a water leak!”

“I pushed as hard as I could but the race was over after the first corner, and I’m pleased with second,” said Dance. “His car was very good and this is really a power circuit but it was still an enjoyable race, although a hot one.”

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