It had certainly been a long, long wait since the last round of racing, but that only made the anticipation all the sweeter, and unless you arrived at York early on the Saturday evening prior to Sunday and bank holiday Monday's double header, you had to pit in Barnsley. Clearly everyone was taking the Sunday's racing very seriously, as they were all in bed by midnight ... or maybe they were just a great bunch of mincing fairies.
There were a couple of new faces among the usual suspects - Vix and Pete Smith turned up with their blown '07 Shelby Mustang and a small stately home on wheels, while Dave Mears appeared with his 403-powered red Trans Am and a shonky little tent like the rest of us. Some familiar faces brought new cars out for late-season debuts - Biff had a rather shiny (but not black) Trans Am powered by a 455 Olds, his old (black) SN95 Mustang now in the hands of ex-Viva pilot Rick Swaine, while the Hughes clan shared driving duties of the new 1600cc MR2-based Imp, Dec running in NSCC while Paul drove it in JDM brackets.
Sunday was a lovely day, warm but slightly overcast, but with the pits full of all classes, track time was in high demand. After two rounds of qualifying, Russ's Dutton dominated with a 9.75. Ian Walley, back with a new Dart block after the old one was found to have a nastier gash than Katie Price, was running it in gently with an 11.0, Doug "Uncle Ben" Hague third with 11.8, then James Murray with a 12.4. John Peace was the only one in the 13s with a 13.4, while Biff opened his account with a 14.0. Vix was just behind on 14.1, still using the traction control and no burnout to save the expensive Pirellis, with Sandra Lee in the Land Rover on 14.4. The diesel Landy now features a 4L80E transmission, but in true Land Rover tradition, Jamie has eschewed complex computer controls in favour of a series of rocker switches. Yes, a diesel Land Rover with push-button auto! That's brilliant. The lesser-spotted Lee Openshaw, not seen since May, was back, and feared no ridicule by bolting on a pair of pink front wheels. Why is uncertain, but the ones on the back weren't brown, sadly. He managed a 14.56, a whisker ahead of Steve Gilmour's 14.58, then Andy Errington, on the bottle and rounding out the top half of the ladder with a 14.6.
Shaun Cockroft was along with his handsome little Escort Harrier on 15.0, then Phil Winstanley's Moggy on 15.1, Andy Frear's mighty zombie apocalypse Bronco on 15.2 and Dave Mears with a 15.3, not a bad start for the car's first trip to the strip. Rick was getting the hang of his new steed with a 15.7, then Terry Morgan in the SBF Morris rat-rod on 16.2, and Dave Smith in the big barge Lexus at 16.33. The Hughes' little Imp was getting the hang of the job with a 16.34, Scott in the handsomely-facelifted Pop on 16.4, Nigel's Anglia on 16.9, then Mark Presland rounding out an impressive 22-car ladder with an 18.7. Twenty-two cars... the NSCC was the biggest non-RWYB class of the day!
Round one opened with John Peace taking it easy with a 14.1 against Dave's Lexus on 16.0, while the mid-table match-up of Andy Errington and Shaun Cockroft was decided on the line with a red light from the Escort. Russ ran a stout 10.9 against Mark's 18.9, while Mark's identical twin, Scott, was on the receiving end of a 12.0 from Uncle Ben. Ian Walley had turned up the wick a little, his 10.6 easily covering Nigel's 16.0, then a battle of the British Tin saw Phil's Moggy come unstuck at the hands of Gilly's giant-slayer Cortina, 13.8 to 14.2.
Biff had suffered overheating, puking and an embarrassing leakage in the pit lane during qualifying... Sorry, I should have said Biff's CAR suffered overheating, puking and an embarrassing leakage in the pit lane during qualifying, but was back to cover Terry's 15.6 with his 14.1, while James's almost shiny Cortina ran 13.7 to Dec's 15.9. Lee's pink bits clearly gave him an advantage, shutting Andy's Bronco down 14.5 to 15.6, then Vix rattled off a 14.2 to Rick's 15.7. The first round of eliminations was concluded with Sandra Lee blasting out a 14.1 - I believe a NPB for the diesel Landy - to Dave Mears' 15.3.
Round two followed ... eventually ... and opened with Biff stealing the win from Vix by less than two tenths of a second. Russ was up next on a bye, and usually a bye is an excuse to take it easy and not risk damaging the motor. Russ clearly couldn't give a bucket of steaming monkey dumps for that school of thought, using the solo run to bash out a 9.48 at 138mph.
Doug wasn't dithering, either, his 11.86 polishing off Gilly's 13.7, before John Peace ran 13.1 to Sandra-Lee's 14.4, a NPB for John and the blown Fox notch, though the euphoria would be short-lived.
The Angel of Death made a reappearance in this round. Andrew Errington's calm, sanguine, gentlemanly persona is merely a thin veneer hiding a sadistic scythe-waving maniac from a circle of hell that even Dante never got to find out about. Having caused his opponent to red-light in the first round, he again pushed the hidden button in the Mustang that causes the shit to hit someone ELSE's fan in his pairing against Ian Walley. While Ian was spooling up on the line, taching over 5000rpm on the transbrake, ready for one of his "Houston, we have lift-off" launches, Andrew was cruising off up the track on the way to a 14.99. At some point, he looked in his mirror and uttered the dread incantation, and as Ian released the transbrake button, his tyres gripped, he popped the welds holding his axle tubes into the diff carrier, the pinion went skywards, turned the propshaft into a question mark and bust the tail housing from the gearbox. The Dark Lord was satisfied, and the win light came on in Andrew's lane.
Yet another bitter disappointment for Ian, and another early bath for the Mad Professor and crew.
As you can see, the evil hadn't quite worn off and the car appears to have claimed another victim in the shape of Al Perkins, another soul for the Lord of Darkness.
The quarter finals began with James Murray getting fried by the rice, Doug's stunning 0.51 reaction and 11.9 covering James' 13.2. He claimed a nitrous solenoid failure and returned to the pits, opened the bonnet and pulled out a loose length of broken wire saying "I've found the problem!"
Russ was, prudently, taking it a little easier, his 11.0 still being enough for Biff's 14.5. Rounding out the quarters was another battle of the Mustangs, Andy's SN95 versus John's blown Fox. This time, John won fair and square, 13.4 to 14.9, but the dark prince of the underworld would have his revenge... upon returning to the pits, John's engine was rattling in a rather potentially-terminal fashion. This was a double blow for John as his quarter-final win would have given him a semi-final bye into the final, but rather than risk any part of his rotating assembly getting scared of the dark and doing a runner, he prudently hung up his keys.
The semi finals were a brief affair, with only Doug and Russ showing. Doug again left with a 0.51 reaction, and seemed to have the race in the bag right up until the last few hundred feet when it seemed Russ just nudged the nitrous switch and took the win 11.0 to 11.75. And so, after a big field and a tremendous day's racing, the final would be something of an anti-climax. However, Russ wouldn't let the day end with a whimper, and finished the day with a solo run of 9.45 at 138mph.
Some early-exits from the eliminations elected to make an equally early exit for the evening cruise in order to be back in time for the on-track Cackle for KC, while the rest of us went for a damn fine nosebag at the Barnes Wallis. Upon our return, beers were opened, the bar was opened and the Dixon-Granger family barbecue was in full swing for everyone except James, who had borrowed Gary Leece's van and Derek Beck's trailer off Biff (eh?) to take John and his Mustang home.
It was a real blow to poor John but, as it happened, he missed absolutely sweet FA. Late Sunday night, a few raindrops began falling. By 3am it was raining good and proper, and barely let up for most of Monday. The weather forecast predicted that the rain would be coming down all damn day until teatime, so for the sake of safety, Mr Murty called the day off, refunded everyone their money and let them make a nice early start to dry off at home.
I'm joking, of course. Almost everyone - including everyone on slicks - had packed up and gone way before noon, but there was no official rain-off call. In fact, at 1pm, said Murt got on the Tannoy announcing that "In case you haven't noticed, it's stopped raining and timed runs will begin at 2pm." This was news to all the remaining people, who were left wondering just what this wet stuff still falling out of the sky was if it wasn't rain. But, true to his word, he found half a dozen RWYBers daft enough to run in the pissing rain and sent them off up the track with sidelights and wipers on. It's amazing that the previous evening, dozens of racers had gathered on the track under a glorious sunset to remember one of their own who had died in a tragic racing accident, and here, the following day under leaden skies with a constant rain falling, the track owner was sending cars out to race. It was an insult.
Still, after the half-dozen dimwits (who were doing burnouts before running on a track with standing water on it - what's that all about?) had got tired of running laps, the day was finally called at around 3pm and the remaining hangers-on hit the road homeward.
It seems Uncle Ben has got the 2015 championship all sorted, but there's still a chance Nigel could steal it in the last furlong. With only a couple of cruises and the Hot Rod Drags left for last minute qualifying and points-grabbing before the finals, it's still all to play for in the National Street Car Challenge!