The weekend of the 15th and 16th June 2019 took the 750 Motor Club to the picturesque Welsh coastline of the island of Anglesey. The gusty, narrow and fast Anglesey circuit would be the first time that the Armed Forces Race Challenge (AFRC) visit the circuit. For most in the paddock, a long drive had presented itself in the days surrounding the weekend.
The Royal Navy Royal Marines Car Racing Team arrived at the circuit with their range of established cars and drivers. The striking blue, green and red gazebos situated on mass in the centre of the paddock could be seen from most points of the circuit, utilising a quantity of the paddock whilst perhaps unnerving their Armed Forces rivals.
The weekend would begin early on the Saturday for the participants of the AFRC, with one short practice and qualifying session. For most, this would be the first time behind the wheel on the Welsh circuit. However, after a mere couple of laps, disaster quite literally struck for the #69 Ford Fiesta of Rich Beaumont. On the back-straight, the fastest stretch of the coastal circuit, the lightweight bonnet ripped itself away from the car at around 100mph- impacting and shattering the windscreen and damaging the roof. Once the car had arrived back in the paddock, it was fairly obvious that the car was out for the day. The bonnet could be reused, once returned by a marshal, but the screen would need replacing- being a remote location, a long drive for a repair fulfilled the remaining hours of the day for Rich. For good measure, a hole in the exhaust also had to be sealed during the afternoon.
Elsewhere in Qualifying, Steve “Hutch” Hutchings was disqualified for passing a car under a yellow flag but was permitted to start the first race at the back of the grid. Arguably, the penalty did not seem to be justified as the slowing car in question turned out to have a mechanical issue and, frustratingly, the penalty could not possibly be overturned in time. Every other RNRM car completed Qualifying without any notable incident. The highest placed RNRM driver was Adam Dewis in 9th, followed by Stirling 14th, Keith 15th and Hutch in 27th. Lewis Pemble’s Mini unfortunately had a transponder issue meaning timings were not officially recorded – but he did qualify for Race 1.
Round 3 (Race 1 of the weekend) of the AFRC would take place on Saturday afternoon with all RNRM cars starting the race, minus Rich Beaumont. The race would very soon be one to forget. The Vauxhall Astra of Adam Dewis suffered a sheared driveshaft at the start almost immediately, very similarly to an identical issue at Brands Hatch- obviously an ongoing issue that needs to be resolved before the next meeting. This meant a quick retirement for him.
In addition to that, Stirling’s Vauxhall Astra began leaking oil onto hot engine parts halfway through the race, resulting in a large plume of smoke temporarily engulfing Parc Ferme after pulling off the circuit. Lewis Pemble’s Mini retired with a throttle issue, which was later diagnosed as a seized EGR and broken vacuum hoses. The scale of the issues with the Mini sadly meant that rest of the weekend’s racing would be missed entirely for Lewis.
Keith Attwood thankfully finished the race in 11th but not without contact with an Army Motorsport car, which affected the Mini R53’s wheel alignment. Hutch, in the Peugeot 106 had a fuelling issue which saw him have to reduce speed towards the end of the race, but he still came a respectable 16th. It was a torrid race for the team with only two official RNRM cars making it to the chequered flag. However, the RNRM Veteran Mark Inman, driving the invincible Vauxhall VX220, perhaps unsurprisingly won the race with an astonishing 28 second gap.
Sunday would begin with the whole team having had time to forget the dramas of the previous day. All cars were fixed and freshly polished… that is, apart from the green Mini driven by Lewis Pemble, who had no choice but to miss the day’s racing due to the car’s throttle issue. Race 2 would be the final race of the weekend that counted towards the AFRC championship standings, so a good result for all drivers would be essential after the day before’s disastrous race. However, there was an almost immediate retirement a lap or so after the start. As a precaution, Stirling drove his Astra straight into the pits and out of the race. No damage had been done but smoke could be seen from under the bonnet, this time, residual oil had stuck in some lagging that was burning off.
However, the team had reason to be happier with the results of this race, with twice as many RNRM cars finishing the race. Unsurprisingly, the Veteran Inman won with a similarly enormous gap of 25 seconds. Adam crossed the line in 8th followed by Keith in 10th, Hutch was in 12th and Beaumont finished in 21st, with the newly repaired bonnet and fresh windscreen. Notably, the only retirement for the team was Stirling alongside Lewis Pemble who also did not finish, due to not being able to begin the race.
Late Sunday Afternoon at the Anglesey Circuit would play host to a non-championship event of the Armed Forces Championship- the ‘Handicap Race.’ In which, all competitors’ best lap time from the Sunday Morning Race would be taken and used to calculate the gaps in which the cars are released from the pit exit at the beginning of the race. The hope is that every car would be close together at the chequered flag, meaning that all drivers must deliver their absolute best to be in with a hope of winning. This also meant that Rich in the Fiesta would be one of the first to start and Mark Inman would be last to start.
After a few laps, Hutch was forced to retire with a loss of pressure to the clutch master cylinder in the Peugeot 106. Inman carved through the field, executing 41 overtakes in just 25 minutes – but he needed 43 to take 1st and so had to settle for 3rd. Keith was 6th with Stirling directly behind. Rich Beaumont unbelievably finished 9th, a stark contrast to the dramas of the previous day. However, this race had not come completely without problems for him- most notably, the window falling out from the drivers side of the Fiesta- but nothing that can’t be fixed. Adam completed the race in 10th. That meant that all the RNRM cars that finished the race, finished in the Top 10. Overall, the complete opposite to Race 1 of the weekend.
A weekend of highs and lows for the RNRM Car Racing Team, with breakdowns and mechanical failures hampering the team’s capacity to put cars on track and finish races. With a handful of determination allowed most competitors to overcome major problems and still race. With team captain Keith and his steadfast Mini now 6th in the championship standings (the highest placed RNRM driver), the rest of the team will need to put some hours in in the garage to try and improve their reliability and give overall team performance the boost it needs! Next up is Donington Park in early September.