A Double Win
A Double Win at the 2016 Castle Combe Autumn Classic
by Jack Rawles (October 2016)
It has taken me a couple of days to let the weekend settle in….
I was travelling to Castle Combe on Friday evening knowing that Saturday was definitely going to be wet. This is the point that I should mention that I had never driven a Healey in the wet. Taming 280bhp and cross ply tyres on a wet track is scary enough at a track like Silverstone but Castle Combe Circuit has no run off at all, as some unfortunately came to find out…..
For some reason on Saturday morning I was not fazed by the damp conditions, in fact I was looking forward to it. I was always very quick in the wet and had my best results in the rain when racing Ginetta Juniors.
Qualifying was very competitive. I spent most of the session finding grip and pushing as hard as I could in the wet conditions. I then decided to pit half way through the session as I felt comfortable with the car and I also knew that the quickest time would come at the end of the session as the rain had now stopped.
I was sitting 4th overall when I decided to go back out. I managed to get up to 2nd overall with the first flying lap, with two more laps to go before qualifying ended, I put the car into pole position by over a second. I was very pleased!
Race 1 was a qualifying race for the grid position of race 2. I knew that a solid result was important to give me a good grid position for race 2. The track was now partly dry and the other drivers who had been testing in the dry earlier in the week had the upper hand. I launched the Healey off the line and accelerated towards quarry corner. Jack Chatham managed to get ahead and at his home circuit, local knowledge helped. Jack Chatham pulled a gap while I was defending from Julian Bronson, Mike Thorne and recovering David Grace. I couldn’t believe it when the heavens opened at the end of lap 3, literally soaking the track in a matter of minutes. I was able to catch and pass Jack Chatham to take the lead. I maintained the gap until the finish to win the first race.
Race 2 was upon us. It had been raining hard, which favored me but I needed a good result to make everything worthwhile.
I lined up in pole position again. I had a good launch. Myself, David Grace and Oliver Chatham controlled the wheel spin in the slippery conditions. David Grace, multiple British Hill Climb Champion, knows how to get a car off the line well. I slotted into 3rd place. I needed to drive sensibly, a lunge could cost me the race. I needed to wait for the time to come. I ran behind the other 2 cars for 3 laps until I felt I was quick enough to get past and pull away. I made a move into camp corner and slotted past Oliver Chatham and then carried the speed up the hill and over took David Grace into quarry corner. I had managed to pull a gap from the pair but it was not long until Oliver Chatham was past David Grace and chasing me down.
I was hindered when the radiator blew coolant out of the cap, through the bonnet vents and onto the windscreen, which was smeared by the wipers. The rain had stopped and I had no windscreen washers. I could hardly see where I was going. Oliver Chatham was right on my boot lid for the last 3 laps. I have never been so relieved and overjoyed to see the chequered flag.
Motorsport Magazine wrote “Top drive on a day that should have played to the patience and guile of the older racers came from 19 year old Jack Rawles, who handled his father’s Austin Healey 3000 in the way God intended: with arm fulls of opposite lock on the wet and slippery track. On his way to sealing the Healey Driver International crown Rawles won both Healey races by slender margins as marque aces Oliver Chatham and David Grace pressed hard”
I am thrilled to be the 2016 Healey Driver International Champion and the winner of the Alan Cameron Memorial Race at the 2016 Castle Combe Autumn Classic. Alan Cameron loved a hat or two, so in his memory I also got presented with a silly hat award. I actually quite like the hat and it will be displayed with my trophies and maybe sometimes worn too. I am also the first person to beat David Grace in a number of years ending his amazing winning streak, sorry about that David….
My last race of the year will be at Portimao in David Grace’s Austin Healey 3000 at the end of October 2016. This just leaves me to say a big thank you to A Head 4 Healeys and all my private sponsors, it is most appreciated.
Just a bit of onboard footage to complete my Blog:-
This article also featured in December 2016 – Revcounter Magazine – The official Journal of The Austin Healey Club