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Howell & Quaife do it again!!

Sun 19th October 2008

The ''Super Duo'' of Gareth Howell and Phil Quaife once again took a resounding win in their If Motorsport JS49, but were kept well on their toes by the Norma of Lee Atkins / Rob Garofall who finished less than 3 seconds away after 127 laps of racing at Silverstone!

Qualifying was once again a close knit affair with just 4 tenths of a second separating the top three. Garofall cemented Pole Position mid-session, but Howell chased him down to get within 2 tenths to claim 2nd, with Sean Balfe stealing 3rd from Dunn in the closing moments. Nick Padmore was disappointed to finish 5th - having contended the top slot in the early running – and the top 6 was rounded off by Charlie Hollings in the Pilbeam. At the start, the grid order remained the same with series newcomer (and former Radical Champion) Atkins leading into Copse with Howell close behind and Derbyshire (partnering Balfe) ahead of Gates (partnering Dunn).

Howell made his move on Atkins on lap 2 to take a lead they would never relinquish. Derbyshire was clearly the quicker of the 2 Norma’s at this stage too and made a move on Atkins around the outside of Copse and braving it side by side through Maggots to take 2nd, but went too fast into Becketts, ran wide & dropped back to 7th and allowing Gates into 3rd.

Running 4th in the Pilbeam was another series newcomer Miles Hulford (partnering Hollings) who led a train of cars including the Juno’s of Chris Bialan (partnering Graham Fennymore) Ryan Hooker (partnering with Simon Pullan who was substituting for the unwell Sarah Reader) and Derbyshire.

Howell gradually eased the gap to Atkins at around 1 second per lap with Gates running well with the pro’s in the opening session, showing his improvement as a driver through the year.

The man on the move though was the recovering Derbyshire who soon disposed of Hooker, Bialan and Hulford. Once free he set about closing the gap to Gates and by lap 23 was right on his tail. Gates held his line for a good number of laps but ultimately couldn’t contain Derbyshire and the Norma was back through into 3rd.

At the front, Howell had a fright at the Abbey hairpin and avoiding a spinning car, spun himself losing 10 seconds in the process, but he recomposed himself and got back into his stride. Despite a flat spotted rear he started to pull the gap back out to Atkins once again.

The order stayed the same for a while, but Dan Gibson - returning in the newly acquired Bicknell with his Father Paul – had found his stride and was closing on Gates. He made the move at Priory but Gates didn’t see him coming & the pair had a glancing blow but continued with Gibson up to 4th. Shortly afterwards the Derbyshire / Balfe Norma returned to the pit lane and out of the race with a gear selection problem leaving Gibson running 3rd in his first prototype race for a good while.

After the pitstops, the order remained the same except Dunn moved into 3rd after the Gibson pairing were delayed with a tyre change and the Atkins / Garofall Norma losing a chunk of time. With Garofall now at the wheel of the Norma, he set about the seemingly insurmountable task of catching the leader Quaife who had nearly an 80 second advantage. At first the gap came down a few tenths here and there, but once into his stride Garofall was taking 2 seconds a lap out of the Ligier. Such was his pace that he set the fastest lap of the race well after 3 quarters distance on very worn tyres.

Dunn meanwhile was suffering from bad understeer, partly caused by a damaged splitter and was being reeled in by Simon Pullan who was in turn being caught by the fellow Juno of Graham Fennymore. The gap came down to just under 4 seconds, but Dunn upped his pace by changing a few lines, stabilising the gap and then pulling it back out. He gave himself a fright with 10 minutes remaining though as he went off at Becketts across the grass and was lucky to reach the tarmac before the gravel and rejoined, albeit with radiators full of grass leading to rising water temperatures and a few anxious moments before the end of the race “The marshall’s looked a bit bored, so I thought they could do with some excitement” said Dunn, relieved at getting away with it.

Into the last 10 minutes of the race, Garofall had got the gap to under 20 seconds and was still taking chunks of time out of time out of Quaife. However, he simply ran out of time and finished the race 2.9 seconds away.

Quaife though felt he had the gap under control and who could argue with him – having done the same at Croft two weeks earlier.

So it was Howell/Quaife (Ligier) from Atkins/Garofall (Norma), Dunn/Gates (Ligier) took their first podium of the year and celebrated like it was a win. The top 6 was rounded out by Hooker/Pullan (Juno), Bialan/Fennymore (Juno) and the CN2 Ligier of Tony Freeman/Phil Hall running faultlessly all race on it’s first outing and setting competitive times in the process.

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