Rounds 7 and 8 of the Armed Forces Race Challenge marks the finale weekend of the official drivers championship results being awarded for the season. The single qualifying session and two races took place over one day at the high speed Snetterton Circuit near Thetford in Norfolk, alongside the usual alternative 750 Motor Club championships. The circuit is somewhat less well known than the previous race meetings’ host, Donington Park. However, beginning as one of Norfolk’s many former RAF airfields, Snetterton has remained a staple of the British racing scene since the 1950s. Today, the circuit is best known as an annual host to the British Touring Car Championship, with its tricky braking zones, long straights and off-camber curves always producing plenty of action.
The Royal Navy Royal Marines Car Racing Team sported two new cars at this event; a Peugeot 206, which returns after competing in the previous season, this time driven by Ed Rayment, and the new BMW 116i Trophy car to be driven by Richie Scott, in preparation for the 12hr Race of Remembrance at Anglesey Circuit later in the year.
This was the first time since 2016, that the AFRC grid would compete at Snetterton, meaning most drivers had never driven the circuit before. The one and only qualifying session took place early in the morning as the second event of the day, so on the wet track there was as yet no dry line on the track. Gareth ‘Stirling’ Moss spectacularly spun off-line in the tricky braking zone for the final corner. No one could improve their lap times as the red flag quickly ensued so most had only completed 3 laps in the treacherous conditions. Keith Attwood qualified in 4th overall and the highest of the RNRM team. Ironically the next best placed driver was Stirling in the Vauxhall Astra, with the red flag somewhat protecting his position in 16th after only completing 2 full laps. Rich Beaumont qualified 18th with rookie Ed Rayment 31st in the Peugeot 206. Adam Dewis’ Vauxhall Astra suffered a technical issue before qualifying started, meaning he would start Race 1 at the rear of the grid similarly to Richie Scott in the BMW.
Lunchtime’s Race 1 took place on a wet and greasy circuit similarly to Qualifying. Attwood withstood the pressure from the second row of the grid to finish where he qualified in 4th after only a 7 lap race (in 18 minutes and 1 lap), such were the conditions hampering the pace. Beaumont climbed to 16th even after a brief spin, incredibly with Adam Dewis close behind in 17th after overtaking a staggering 20 cars in the short lap count. Stirling brought his car back in 18th with Rayment and Scott in 32nd and 35th respectively.
The team would need all the advice they could get, even from fellow club competitors, to make the right choice of tyres for Race 2 in the late afternoon. It is not possible to change tyres during the race and the rain had subsided for most of the afternoon making the track conditions impossible to predict. The overriding choice in the Navy camp was to err on the side of caution on the wet tyres. Having all started the race in order of their fastest laps from the first race, once again Keith Attwood put in a great performance and concluded Race 2 in 5th, even being convinced he had made the wrong tyre choice. The conditions had evidently improved as the race finished with 9 laps completed by the leader due to the quicker lap times the conditions could allow, eventhough a short burst of rain on the way to the grid looked set to be a huge gift to the team. Dewis was 12th, followed by Moss in 18th and Beaumont in 24th, Rayment 32nd and Richie Scott in 34th. The team competed vastly spread out from their teammates but unfortunately being cautious on strategy seemed to really cost the team’s results, and championship points haul.
It would be a long journey from Norfolk for most competitors, however, Keith Attwood could be extremely happy with his performance. A fantastic drive in the extreme conditions saw him finish 1st in Class C for the Snetterton weekend, alongside moving up the Inter Service Championship rankings to 3rd place overall for the entire season. Rich Beaumont could also be pleased with 3rd in the 2019 Novice Trophy.
However, the season is not over yet for the Inter Services ‘Teams’ Championship which can be clinched in the 6hr Birkett Relay Race at Silverstone, where all 750 Motor Club competitors can compete.