June 23, 2024


Cool & Filtered news from the worlds of RC Racing

Final Report – BRCA Round 2 Herts

Round 2 of the 2024 BRCA 1/10th EP Offroad National Championships took place at Herts Nitro Model Club near the town of Ware in Hertfordshire – about 40 minutes north of London – on the weekend of May 18/19. It is the first time that the series has been hosted by the club, although they are regulars in the 1/8th Nitro Series. The venue is expansive with covered pitting, 3 track areas, model shop, café and restaurant – they have thought of everything! One of the club officials was able to tell me that the cost of running the whole place was covered by the practice fees alone and that race fees can go straight to improving the facilities – quite impressive. There is evidence of ongoing improvement as a new concrete raft had been poured behind the current drivers stand to facilitate a new, more permanent, one – perhaps later this year. 

It was a not so bright but early start on the Saturday morning for the 2wd portion of the meeting. The forecast was for possible rain in the morning with a front passing through at midday and a return to brighter skies in the afternoon. There were a few spits of rain just before practice, but thankfully it stayed dry as the rain showers passed to the south of venue. The few drops of rain were enough to keep the sand at bay for now whilst the drivers took their practice. You could see rooster tails of sand from the car’s tyres under power and the level of abrasion was high and likely to get higher as the track dried. But that was not the driver’s biggest problem. The track is quite bumpy and attacking it hard will only result in a crash – and almost every driver crashed at some point in practice – nobody having clean runs. The leading drivers who we are used to seeing attack at 100%, now looked reserved and cautious. That paid off large dividends and a slow approach led to fast times.

Tommy Hall was fastest out of the blocks in 2wd practice putting his experience and smooth style to use in the initially loose-ish conditions. It took him no time to learn where he could and couldn’t push. Neil Cragg going second, also looking really fast and William Venables 3rd putting all that trade-mark smoothness to use. It was evident straight away that being smooth and controlled was going to be the order of the day on the bumpy circuit and those who charged too hard paid the price.

2wd Qualifying became a display of who could get closest to the edge without falling. You could see drivers trying to restrain themselves and concentrate on being smooth and consistent. Ben Smith emerged as the driver who could hit the balance point just right as he completely dominated 2wd qualifying. The popular up and coming driver has been lingering at the back of A Finals for a while now, but his recent increased support from Schumacher seems to have bolstered his performances. He was one of only two drivers to make it onto 13 laps and consistently took his 4 x TQ’s by about 0.5 to 1.0 seconds – not a lot, but enough. The other driver with extreme pace was Tommy Hall. Tommy could sometimes screw down a faster lap than Ben but couldn’t match the consistency. Tommy did enough to secure second place on the grid behind Ben. Josh Holdsworth did enough to go third overall, but it was widely concurred that his 100% attack style might not suit a close combat A Final. The extreme track surface helped some of the quick locals into the A Final. You still have to be able to drive at pace to achieve an A Final, so just being local won’t guarantee it, and we’ve seen these drivers on the fringe of the A Final elsewhere. Hopefully more to come. Well done to Yasir Mughal, Matt Drewett and Oliver Nattress. Ed Callan, who is regular A Finalist displaced to BQ.

Overall 2wd Qualifying points

2WD A Final Leg 1 got off to a fast start – there was no allowance given to settle in.  Off the line, Smith got away clean as Hall in 2nd place wheelied off the line and ran wide allowing Holdsworth through and only just managing to fend Cragg off.  Smith put his experience to use and dictated the pace at the front allowing the chasing pack to draw close, but not close enough to build a challenge for the lead. On lap 3, Smith appeared to defy the laws of physics though the chicane in the centre of the track coming down off the banking suddenly gapping the field as Holdsworth made a mistake and was collected by Tommy Hall. This gave Ben Smith a significant lead with only a minute’s worth of racing done. Tommy Hall made his own unforced error later in the lap to nearly fall into the clutches of Neil Cragg again but got away with it – more advantage to Smith. Over the next 6 laps, Hall and Cragg pushed hard to catch Smith. On one of the laps, Hall reduced the deficit by over one second!. With 90 seconds to go, it looked like we may have a battle developing before Hall once again crashed at the same point as his last accident and somehow once again managed to stop Neil Cragg coming through. Smith with a large lead restored now led the field with the chasing pack of Tommy Hall, Neil Cragg and Jamie Hall in pursuit. Smith was able to keep a clear focus and pilot Immaculately all the way to the finishing line. Leg result – Smith, T Hall, Cragg.

Once again Smith got off to a smooth and controlled start for 2wd A Final Leg 2. After a couple of laps, Tommy Hall was applying the pressure, but Smith was coping nicely and keeping all doors shut. It became very apparent after a few laps that Smith knew where the grip was, or rather where the sand was not as on the occasions where Hall broke off the clean line to try and pass he was hampered by a lack of grip and stability. There looked to be very little chance of passing unless Smith made a mistake. With two minutes down, Tommy Hall made his own mistake on the double in the middle right of the track putting his car into a cartwheel and eventually settling on its roof. This allowed Smith away and Lee Martin and Neil Cragg through. Then to add insult to injury, a recovering Hall was collected by a hard-charging Josh Holdsworth dropping Hall another two places to sixth. Lee Martin’s tenancy of second place was short lived when he bounced across the hose on the tabletop before the straight allowing Cragg through to second. Cragg pushed hard for the proceeding couple of laps to catch Smith, but an accident coming off the banking allowed Smith a huge lead and let Martin and Holdsworth through. The order stood till Smith crossed the line for a victory lap – final order: Smith, Martin, Cragg.

Congratulations to Ben Smith not only on the win, but also total domination – 6 wins from 6 races. Ben decided to run in Leg 3 to see if he could join the 7 from 7 club which to best of anyone’s knowledge is only occupied by Lee Martin, Neil Cragg and Craig Drescher. The best running streak ever coming from Lee Martin who managed to go unbeaten for 15 rounds of consecutive racing a few years ago.

Smith led 2wd A Final Leg 3 away just as he had done twice before. With a couple of laps down the landing off the left side tabletop caught out Tommy Hall for the third time in these Final races. The car cartwheeling its way down the lane with a hurried marshal trying to predict its path. That allowed Josh Holdsworth through to second as Hall recovered to third. Then a lap later the first mistake of the weekend for Ben Smith – he just tipped a hose on a fast chicane and spun his car around letting Holdsworth through. A further lap on, Smith had caught up with Holdsworth and made a move however he moved out onto a sandy area and couldn’t close the move and was unlucky to concede a place to Tommy Hall. Shortly after, as promised, Ben pulled off to one side and let the field pass. He had nothing left to prove and joining the 7 from 7 club was just not important enough. Josh Holdsworth continued to lead for a couple of laps before oversteering at an apex and getting trapped by the hose – Hall, Cragg & Martin all getting through and that was the finishing order of the final Leg.

It was not Smith’s day to join the 7 from 7 club, but another chance may come again soon. He put in a marvellous overall performance and really showed that he has matured as a very competent field leader. We all observe with interest to see if he can put in a challenge for the overall title.

With 2wd done, the HNMC crew got to work building a whole new track layout for 4wd. It took them a few hours and many were surprised as to how different a layout could be set up given the same jumps and feature were used. The sand was scooped up from where it collected during 2wd and was brushed back in – impressive work!.

Sunday morning started with drivers briefing in dull and cool conditions, however sunshine was expected later in the day. Practice kicked off at 8am sharp and after two rounds of most people trying to just rewrite their brains to accept the new track layout it was Tommy Hall who set the pace. Tommy looked really smooth, his car looking stable with lots of forward drive out of the corners. His apex speed may have been slightly slower than his closest rivals but his exit speed and precision more than made up for it. Lee Martin was second fastest over two consecutive laps with Jamie Hall third.

Tommy Hall consolidated his table topper in practice to go fastest in 4wd Round 1 of qualifying as his main rivals were all making unscheduled excursions off track. Lee Martin looked dangerous in second some four seconds behind with two costly errors. Neil Cragg was running on a similar pace in third with 2wd winner Ben Smith there or there abouts as well. Lee Martin improved on his Round 1 time by 5 seconds to take TQ in round 2 just pipping Tommy by a second with Cragg coming third. Things were closely packed at the top of the table and nobody who could predict who would emerge on pole position. Lee Martin claimed his second TQ in 4wd Round 3 on a very similar time to Round 2. His run was not clear, just a bit clearer than everyone else. This time it was Ben Smith going second fastest, three seconds adrift and Thomas Phipps going third. Phipps looked fast all weekend and was showing enough pace to run in with the household names at the front – well done to him. The battle for TQ came down to Round 4. Lee Martin had two TQ runs so far to Tommy’s one, so all eyes were on Tommy to see what he could do. The crowd was not disappointed. Tommy Hall put in a blistering and clean run to shave four seconds of the fastest time of the day and secure pole position. It is a mark of someone special when they can take it up a gear whilst under pressure. Cragg went second in round to secure third on the grid, just behind Lee Martin.

4wd A Final Leg 1 was led away by Tommy Hall at pace!. He had already stretched a noticeable lead after only half a lap.  Over the next couple of laps, Hall further extended his lead as Martin and Cragg battled for second with the chasing pack a little further behind. Then with 90 seconds done a combination of a slow lap from Hall and a turbo lap from Martin and Cragg put the three lead cars together to do battle. The characteristic of Hall’s car had changed. He had gone from lock-in handling to loose at the rear. Earlier in the day, Lee Martin had mentioned that the rear tyres were going off after a minute of racing and that tyre management was important at this track. It looks like Hall had taken too much from the tyres over the first few laps and was now dealing with a reduced handling car. Out of the lead three cars, the most dangerous looked to be Cragg in third. He had taken it easy during the start of the race and his car looked to be behaving itself as Hall and Martin looked ragged. With a minute to go, Cragg made an error coming onto the straight allowing Hall and Martin to break away and also allowing Ben Smith through into third. Coming off the straight Smith looked a bit wayward and Cragg was able to fire his car up the inside and they climbed the bank and retake the position. Up front, Lee Martin was making a good challenge for Tommy Hall’s lead. He made an attempt to get by but was denied. He tried to setup a final lap move, but an error saw his car facing the hose at an apex. The marshal managing to get him off the hose in time to save second place. Leg 1 result: T Hall, Martin, Smith.

The second leg of the 4wd A Final started just as Leg 1 ended – lots of pace, lots of pressure. Tommy Hall led them away with Lee Martin leading the chase behind him. Everything was going well till Tommy got a bad bounce coming down off the banked hairpin and had to check up over the proceeding tabletop. This gave Lee Martin the chance to jump up Tommy’s inside and beat him to the following hairpin, taking the lead. Lee landed with hardly any space to spare as Tommy had started to close the door and there was brief contact causing the latter’s car to go up on two wheels. Cragg also getting through added insult to injury.  A procession of the top six cars all came down the straight for the first time in very close proximity.

There was a feeling of impending disaster as that many cars cannot occupy that little space. The first move was by Tommy Hall in third who attempted to pass Neil Cragg over the roller on the right-hand side leading up the banking for the first time. The move was legitimate as Cragg had run wide on the exit of the step-up step-down, but Craggs attempt to close the door on Hall was too late and too aggressive causing contact and Hall’s car to spin into oncoming traffic. Hall losing four places which is a very hard thing to recover from at this level of competition – Cragg magically getting away with it and remaining in second place. Things settle down then for a couple of laps with Tommy working his way back through the field. Lee Martin was out front and had stabilised a one-two second lead over Cragg. Martin was the next to get a bad bounce causing his car to wheelie off the centre right angle tabletop – the car cartwheeling up the banking with Cragg not sure to go left or right before committing to left and taking the lead – Martin requiring the Marshal just in time to rejoin ahead of Ben Smith. Cragg with a bit of room to breathe was able to put in some fast laps. He increased the gap to Lee Martin by a few tenth – Martin having to work hard to fend off Smith and Pugh. Cragg extended his lead to 3.5 seconds with thirty seconds remaining before his pace started to slow slightly – his car noticeably less punchy and fast – and the gap to Martin was shrinking rapidly. The finish tone rang and Cragg crossed the line before the order could change but there was an unanswered question as to why Cragg was 1.5 seconds slower than Martin on that last lap. Finishing order: Cragg, Martin, Smith.

4wd A Final Leg 3 started just like the other two – pacey! Tommy Hall was on a mission and pushing on at the front of the field and by the end of the first lap, he and Lee Martin had pulled out a small gap on Cragg who was leading the chasing pack. At the start of the third lap, Hall’s car barrel rolled when landing off the step-up step-down letting Martin through, however on the immediately proceeding roller, Martin himself crashed restoring Hall’s lead and letting Cragg through to second. A lap further on and another error from Martin at the same point – his car really squirming around under power and looking to have not enough bite – thankfully no further places lost. Over the following couple of laps though the middle section of the race, Hall set into controlling the pace with Cragg and Martin close behind looking for opportunities. The battle further intensified, and all of the lead three cars were struggling for grip which made the situation even harder. Then out of nowhere, Neil Cragg’s car lost drive – was this the same issue as Leg 2? – which let the remainder of the field through – Martin now free to chase Hall for the lead. Martin put in a valiant effort and applied as much pressure as possible, but Hall kept a cool head and brought his car through for the Leg and overall win. Leg 3 result: T Hall, Martin, Smith.

Congratulation to Tommy Hall, another super performance under immense pressure. This win could develop into a winning streak and possibly a championship at the end of the year.

The Rudebits “Star of the Day” recipients at this round of the series did something that many would never do even with infinite resources and hundreds of hours of practice – they both made their first Championship A Finals. 14-year-old Oliver Nattress in 2wd and Lady racer Harley Eldridge in 4wd. Harley is the first female racer to qualify into the A Final in over thirty years and the BRCA is particular proud that one of the fastest women in the world as part of their series.

Yasir Mughal and Matt Drewett joined Nattress in the 2wd A Final for the first time.

Congratulations to the Harrison and the organising committee at Herts for a hosting another fine national event and we look forward to the next round at Stotfold on June 8/9.