Cold, rain and gale force winds greeted the competitors who arrived at not so sunny Mallory Park near Leicester for the first outing of the season. A very strong entry for the Formula Junior race saw many familiar and regular competitors starting their new season.

Led as usual by series organiser Duncan Rabagliati and his Alexis, the field also included 2001 Champion Reg Hargrave who as usual was out with his F3 Kieft – immaculate as usual. Up at the front were the traditional fast Lotus men Michael Schryver, Mike Hibberd, Alan Baillie, Neil Daws. Fighting it out with them was Robin Longdon in his very pretty Lola Mk5 and last year’s teenage sensation Edwin Jowsey. Winner of this event last year Simon Armer was also ready to race in his beautifully turned out Cooper. Making a rare series appearance was Simon Hadfield in the pretty Lotus 18 – 998cc and drum brakes were going to be fast around Mallory after all!

Practice and qualifying was eventful to say the least. Held in cold but drying conditions the track was still a little greasy at the start. This soon accounted for the Elva 100 of Robin Lackford who spun coming out of the hairpin and was most unlucky to hit the barrier, ripping a front wheel from its mountings. Red flagged in order to remove his car the session began in earnest. Almost immediately the pattern for the day was set – fast laps and lots of car troubles.

Pole position was taken comfortable by Michael Schryver at 51.73 secs – 1.3 ahead of Edwin Jowsey. The top 10 however were within 2 seconds before a gap opened after that. Yours truly managed 58.5 secs which was pleasing and some 6.5 secs faster than the qualifying time of 2001. The car changes have clearly made a difference. The engine is now running with more power and brakes have more bite and give more confidence and the bigger rear tyres have added much need grip. Despite the time gains 13th on the grid (of 21) was a bit near the back for my liking.

Car trouble was the talk of the paddock however at this early stage. Simon Hadfield’s Lotus had blow a head gasket and was being hastily repaired. Edwin Jowsey’s car had broken a doughnut and smashed the brakes (out for good) and Reg Hargrave had lost his clutch.

The rain set in for the afternoon but had pretty much stopped by the 4pm race start. The track was still greasy when the warm up laps started. My challenge was to beat Len Selby and Derek Walker (both in front) as there was no prospect of catching the fast men with their more modern specification machines and heavier right feet!

Sadly Len Selby never made the start breaking his gear selector leaving the line for the green flag lap. At the lights I made a good start and was immediately up to seventh. I had passed a slow starting Paul Smeeth who soon took the position back at the end of the lap. Immediately on my tail was Derek Walker and there he sat for the duration. Pulling out a gap over the start/finish line he was much faster through the long Gerards bend allowing him make several passing attempts under braking for the Esses. The door stayed firmly closed and I managed to hold him off finally claiming 7th spot. Mike Hibberd retired his Lotus and the unfortunate Reg Hargrave never completed his first lap, the engine mysteriously dying at the first corner.

Overall therefore a good day. Better speed than last year and (so far) the car is reliable. Mallory is not my favourite circuit so I am hoping we can move higher up the grid as the season progresses.


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