Falcon Vice-President Neil Bray has
competed in many forms of Motorsport over the years. Back in the 70ís Neil
was a keen Autocrosser in a Mini. Then the Stock Car bug bit and Neil
drove a Formula 2 machine until he had the accident where he lost his arm
at Ipswich. Apart from an interlude autocrossing an Escort Neil has
concentrated on trialling, with the ex-Derek Fleming Primrose and a number
Then a couple of years ago Neilís son Chris started
racing an Escort in the Classic Touring Car Racing Clubs Group 1
championship. His appetite wetted by Chrisís exploits, and a couple of
outings in the car, Neil decided to go racing with his own machine and
acquired a 3 litre Mk 1 Capri that had been prepared for Historic Saloon
The car arrived during the autumn of last year and over
the winter, it was tidied up after 5 years of storage, but otherwise was
mechanically left pretty much as it was apart from a re-spray.
The original plan had been to sort it out at a track day
at Silverstone, but the designated one was cancelled, so the first time
Neil drive the car was at practice at Thruxton on Easter Monday. The car
went well and Neil was fifth on the grid of 21 cars.
Neil got away well and was fourth at the end of the
first lap. Tony Crudgington got by Neil in his Triumph Dolomite Sprint but
disappeared after a couple more circuits. The rest of the race was pretty
uneventful. David Howard won in his Jaguar XJ12, just in front of Nick
Dann in a similar Capri to Neilís and Stephen Primett in his 2 litre
Escort. Neil was around 15 seconds behind this leading group, a long way
in front of the rest of the field. This was a pretty good result for the
first event, especially considering Neil had arrived ďfreshĒ from The
Lands End Trial in Primrose.
There was quite a wait until the next event. A double
header at the CSMA Brands Festival. The twisty nature of the Brands Indy
circuit didnít suit the Capri quite as much as Thruxtonís wide open spaces
and Neil qualified 12th on a grid of 30, close behind last years champion,
Nick Dann in his class leading Capri.
There was carnage on the start when five of the cars
eliminated themselves in a pile up, including Nick Dann. After an
agonising wait the restarted race got away cleanly, with Neil in the
middle of the pack. He had several duels but managed to keep it on the
Island to finish 11th overall and first in Class B.
Three of the cars in Neilís class had been eliminated in
the first lap pile up. Two of them were irreparable but Neil and his team
helped Peter Holton repair his Rover P6 for Sundays race. This was
important as if he didnít make the grid there would only be two starters
in Neilís class and maximum pointís wouldnít be available. Things werenít
so eventful at the Sunday race and Neil finished 11th overall and first in
class again which together with fastest lap put Neil 2nd overall in the
Early June saw the championship circus travel north to
Oulton Park. Quite a few of the regular drivers didnít make the journey,
including last years champion Nick Dann in his Capri. So with only two
starters in class D maximum points werenít available. Neilís rival was
Peter Holton in his Rover P6, now fully repaired after the Brands Hatch
incident. Neil didnít do too well in practice and qualified 12th on the
grid, some six seconds slower than pole sitter Tim Fish in his Chevrolet
Camero, but ahead of Peter Holton. After the usual melee into the first
corner Neil had an uneventful race, coming home comfortably ahead of Peter
Holton in seventh place after no less than six other competitors retired
with mechanical problems.
Before Oulton Neil had been three points behind
championship leader Stephen Primett but pulled back two points when
Stephen only came second to Tony Crudgingtonís Dolomite Sprint. Neither
Stephen nor Neil got fastest lap. So Stephen got 7 points (one for
starting and six for coming second). Neil got 9 points (one for starting
and eight for coming second in a class with two starters). So Neil was now
only one point away from the championship lead. No pressure!
Chris Bray had his first outing of the season at Oulton
and it didnít go very well. There were fuel problems in practice, which he
had to curtail when his exhaust came adrift. Then in the race itself
something horrible happened inside the engine and he retired.
Mallory Park came just a couple of weeks later, on what
must have been the hottest day of the year. Again there was no Nick Dann,
but the class was back to three starters with the addition of former
champion David Thomas in his blue Capri, who was also driving in the Group
The writing was on the wall when David Thomas planted
the Capri firmly on pole, but Neil qualified well in ninth place out of
22, only a couple of seconds behind. Peter Holton was right at the back
having arrived late and only did a couple of laps, putting him right at
the back of the grid. This was a good result for Neil as he had to come in
early when first the Capri went on to five cylinders and then had a small
fire when Neil opened the bonnet. The reason for the fire remained a
mystery but the engine problem was soon traced to a plug lead coming
Back in the paddock Simon Groves had arrived and helped
with the old banger racing trick of cable tying the plug caps in place.
Chris had inserted a substitute engine from a Rally Car but once again hit
problems in practice when the Escort lost all its water after one of the
hoses became detached.
In Neilís race David Thomas disappeared into the
distance in his very fast Capri, which has about 60 brake more than Neilís
machine. Behind there was a real battle in class C and after a couple of
laps Stephen Primett was back in third place, struggling to stay in front
of a hard charging Jason Christie. Unfortunately Jason started to drop
back and Tony Crudgington had to retire his Dolomite Sprint when the rear
suspension came adrift. This gave both Neil and Stephen Primett seven
points, as neither got fastest lap, so Neil is still one point behind in
the championship with 44 points, one behind Stephen and four ahead of
Steve Young from class E in his Mini.
Chris had more bad luck when after a lengthy wait,
because of a bad accident in the previous race, his clutch disintegrated
on the start line and he hurt his finger quite badly when it got trapped
in the adjusting mechanism.
The next race is at Cadwell Park on 17 July and the plan
is for the Capri to go faster and handle better after some very special
attention before its next outing!
FastCounter by bCentral
Published 5 August 2005