A Weekend at the HSRCA’s 2020 Spring Festival in a Lotus Elite

Ashton at the 2020 HSRCA Spring Festival

Thanks to Ashton Roskill

Over the weekend of 31st October to the 1st of November I took the elite down to the HSRCA Spring Festival to spend a sporadically-soggy weekend amongst an eclectic collection of historic sports and racing cars.

The event was delayed from its original August date, which clearly had the effect of increasing everyone’s desire for a weekend on the track, and the turnout was fantastic. It was also enormously varied, and it was an absolute delight to see so many lovely shiny cars of so many different vintages and varieties.

David Reid in Greg Mackie’s 1958 Cooper Porsche

The organisers had done a great job of getting decent fields of many classes, and to my delight I was entered in JKL (rather than S), along with a wonderful selection of various streamliners and open wheelers of the 1950s, including, among others, David Reid piloting Greg Mackie’s 1958 Cooper Porsche.

So all that was left to sort out was a fine weekend of sunny dry racing… Er, no.

It rained on Friday night. In fact I think it more apt to say it deluged.

So Saturday morning, as we drove out to the circuit through low-scudding clouds and sheets of rain, I was immensely thankful that Garth had put my “wets” in the van – actually just my 15” rims (48 spoke slightly alarmingly) and some three year-old Pirelli Cinturato road tyres. What I had completely failed to prepare for was the rivers running down the hill, across the track, through the pits, and out onto the road.

Ashton at the 2020 HSRCA Spring Festival

After a quick run back into town for an essential upgrade

We unpacked the van, my car, and the trailer as quickly as we could manage between the squalls, brushed the worst of the floods out of the garage, and set ourselves up.

Some joker in the organising committee decided that JKL could go out first for qualifying, so on the button of 9, there we were lined up in the dummy grid, rain sheeting down, the inside of the helmet and windscreen steaming up nicely – and that was with a roof. The poor chaps in the open wheelers and streamliners were lucky if someone kind brought them a brolly.

So qualifying was a bit hit and miss, almost literally, as without rain lights, the cars were largely invisible in the spray. But somehow I managed to post the fastest time for the class, which, you guessed it, meant I was on pole for race one.

Race 1 at the 2020 HSRCA Spring Festival

In the thick of things during the start of race one

I promptly threw that away with a terrible standing start – too many revs, cold tyres, and a wet track meant I sat and span while the car behind me (Warwick McBean in the Lolus) snuck through, and the Rennmax BN1 next to me with Noel Bryen at the wheel shot off. That was the last I saw of Noel, but I did manage to claw back second from Warwick.
Which meant that for race two I was in second spot.

Ashton at the 2020 HSRCA Spring Festival

Learning from race one, not only did I not spin the wheels, but I was able to shut the door on Warwick by slotting straight in behind Noel on the inside line into turn two, where there was still a river running across the corner. Into which Noel unfortunately came on the gas a bit soon in and span, letting me through and, apparently, holding everyone else up. I gathered everything up and made a hasty retreat from the chaos behind me (no damage done I’m pleased to report) and managed to put enough space between me and the following pack that they were unable to catch me. So it was that the Elite and I won our first race.

Race three saw Noel get his usual rocket-ship start, and this time he avoided the (by now) stream (rather than river) on turn two, only for us to see a black flag with 63 on it a lap or two later – somehow he had been pinged for noise. So I won a second race.

Nick Mansell in the Hamilton 1500

Nick Mansell in the Hamilton 1500

Race four had Nick Mansell next to me at front of the grid. Nick had a great start, getting in front of me before turn two, and holding me at arms length for most of the first lap. I managed to squeak past on the back straight, and got a decent drive out of the hairpin to enable me to keep him behind me by turn two, where the Elite’s fantastic handling really shows its value up through three, four, five and down through the fish hook.

Ashton at the 2020 HSRCA Spring Festival

Race five had us mixed up with the Formula Vees, with Dan Bando and Don Grieveson from SA in their Vees in front of me (I think there should have been two more in front of them, but they obviously didn’t fancy a mixed race). Dan and Don got great starts (there’s a pattern emerging here) and although I managed to sneak past Dan on the way up the hill, Don made himself suitably wide to prevent me wanting to get too close until we got to the back straight. Nick was also charging hard until he suddenly smelt fuel, and pulled up to find a banjo lose on one of the carbs.

Dan Bando in the Elfin NG Formula Vee

Dan Bando in the Elfin NG Formula Vee

All up, a fantastic weekend of gentlemanly and gentlewomanly racing, great company, and terrible weather (well, changeable anyway). A huge thank you to the organising committee, to Garth Repair & Restoration Services for his tireless work on the car and to everyone whose company we enjoyed. Looking forward to doing it all again at the Summer Festival at the end of this month.

For more on the HSRCA and its events, head to their website at hsrca.com. Their full coverage of the weekend can also be found on their site here.

Story thanks to Ashton Roskill

Ashton at the 2020 HSRCA Spring Festival

Ashton & Garth enjoying a picnic on Sunday

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