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Trainee Tinkler relays Wolfe to double

It only takes two cars to make a motor race and that was certainly the case as the Under Two Litre Touring Cars of the Pre-1966 era took to Thruxton’s uber-fast sweepers at the Hampshire circuit’s Motorsport Celebration event on June 1-2. Having put his young understudy Ben Tinkler in to bat first in both legs of the double-header, Andy Wolfe stood on the pit wall and enjoyed watching the Formula Ford racer stave off engine builder Neil Brown in epic Ford Lotus Cortina duels before taking over. The versatile Wolfe completed his able team’s mission on both days in a flurry of neatly-controlled drifts as a posse of Cortinas ganged-up on Brown.

New to the Motor Racing Legends stable this year, U2TC made its Thruxton debut with a 10-car field, with a brace of Alfa Romeos – Brazilian Bernardo Hartogs’ GTA shared with Will Nuthall of preparer IN Racing and the Steven Byrne/Jerry Bailey Giulia Sprint GT – and the Austin Mini Cooper S of veterans Peter Baldwin/Graham Churchill preventing a total Lotus Cortina monopoly.

Wolfe set the standard in qualifying, his 1m33.315s best an impressive average of 90.89mph on the 2.356-mile airfield circuit. Brown and Graham Pattle (with Mustang regular Mark Burton co-driving his sage green Cortina) did well to record 1:34.691 and 1:34.807 respectively. Their competitiveness augured well for the races, particularly since John Spiers wasn’t far adrift on 1:35.470.

Less than three tenths separated Hartogs/Nuthall and Baldwin/Churchill in the 36s. The Lotus Cortinas of Desmond Smail/Henry Mann (Alan Mann Racing), John Ure/Nick Wigley set to race the ex-Terry Drury Racing car for the first time having both been unwell at Donington’s season-opener and Richard Bateman were in the chase with the Byrne/Bailey Alfa 0.280s behind “Batman.’    

Saturday’s 40-minute race saw Tinkler – a mechanic at Wolfe Manufacturing – charge the traditionally-liveried car ahead from the start, then place it skilfully to prevent Brown from getting ahead. Once Wolfe was aboard the lead car he extended a slender advantage to more than 18 seconds at the chequered flag. Spectator attention, meanwhile, switched to a fine tussle for third in which Pattle/Burton prevailed over Spiers by 0.742s.

The Baldwin/Churchill Mini was driven superbly to finish an unlapped fifth. At a youthful 78 years of age, Peter’s best lap of 1:35.781 (88.55mph) was less than two seconds from winner Wolfe’s 1:33.793 (90.42mph) as evidence of his multiple championship-winning expertise, accrued over half a century in Alec Issigonis’ iconic cars, from basic spec to a stunning Ford BDA-engined spaceframe version in the 1980s.

Hartogs/Nuthall, Mann/Smail were next past the post, pursued by Bateman and Bailey/Byrne, both crews having circulated a couple of seconds quicker than in practice. Ure, soloing, had progressed from eighth to sixth before retiring with a misfire. At the mandatory stop all seven Cortinas sat line astern in the pit lane, which made quite a sight. The six healthy examples returned to the fray after a minute sitting stationary.

Sunday’s race followed the same pattern, albeit the chase was more intense, embroiling three cars. Brown exhausted everything in his armoury trying to engineer a pass on Tinkler, to no avail. That he tried a little too hard, wagging his Cortina’s tail in lairy fashion as he wrestled it over the kerbs at the chicane, resulted in a five second post-race penalty for exceeding track limits once too often. This costly imposition dropped him to fourth behind Spiers and Burton/Pattle who had fought in his wake throughout. Burton excelled, holding fastest lap, before Wolfe shaded it.

Baldwin/Churchill Mini were again fifth, on the lead lap, although they rued the decision to fit new front tyres which “went off” rapidly on the track which is flat out for half its length – from Segrave corner at the end of the complex to the chicane in a Cooper S. Peter’s best lap of 1:36.357 (88.02mph), set on his second flyer, compared to winner Wolfe’s 1:34.218 (90.02mph). Nuthall really wound Hartogs’ Alfa up, screaming it clear of the Cortinas of Wigley, Mann/Small and Bateman. The Byrne/Bailey Alfa covered 23 laps to complete a 100 per cent finishing rate.