Alex Osborne proved the man to beat at a sunny Silverstone, converting his pole position into a lights to flag win in the opening round of this years championship.
18 cars lined up for qualifying including returnees Martin Mansell, Tony Richardson and Richard Gilmour. Osborne had only finished rebuilding his Mallock Mk30PR the night before, but went out and secured pole by 0.030s over Howard Payne's Mk20. "There was a bit of understeer, but it felt good and there were no spins," said Alex. Payne had to make a hasty pitstop during the session. " I spun at Brooklands and pitted as my new front tyre had a puncture," he said.
"The car was brilliant," said Guy Parr after securing third on the grid. Alongside Paul Freeman recounted problems for his Ardmore early into the session. "It was stuck in second gear so it lost be quite a lot of time," he explained. "It was my first time in the car since last years Birkett," said Peter Richings after qualifying his Mallock Mk27SE EBX fifth, just ahead of Mike Evans' Mk20. "I suppose it was alright really, I used all the grass and run offs and I still wasn't quick enough," he reckoned. Adrian Lester's Mk35 was sporting new bodywork on its way to seventh on the grid. "It's my evo bodywork, brand new and hardly tested as we lost an engine when we went to Snetterton to test. It seems very promising though," he explained. Alongside was Paul Gibson in his brand new Mk30. "We tested last Thursday in the wet but otherwise I haven't been in the car," he said.
Qualifying in ninth was the first of the returnees. Tony Richardson has decided to hire a Mallock Mk30 on a race by race basis, having last raced Clubmans over seven years ago. "My last race was in 2002 when I raced my Tyrrell in the Boss Championship. This season I just want to pick and play," he said. Sharing the fifth row with Richardson was Marcus Bicknell with the ex Guy Woodward Mallock Mk27 EBX. "I think it will be faster than my old car but I had a problem with the front shockers," he explained.
Down in 11th defending champion Barry Webb had to open his rarely used book of excuses, the wing setting and tyres were two that were on offer. Adrian Brown's Mk18B was just behind, having only finished his winter rebuild on the Thursday prior. "Well I brought everything back I went out with, so it must be OK," he reckoned.
Des Andrews found the Complex especially difficult, "or was it just me," he asked. After 15 years out Martin Mansell was back with Marcus Bicknell's Mk26. "I hired the car and did one test at Snetterton. I am going to do a couple of races just to see how it goes," he explained.
Row eight was headed by Gareth Salter's Mallock with Jamie Champkin's Phantom. "It was overheating then there was a big cloud of smoke on the Club Straight, so it was time to turn off," said Jamie.
Peter Burnham pitted early after spotting a bald patch on one of his tyres. "It still didn't make any difference to my grid position," he joked. Completing the grid was former Formula 1300 Champion Richard Gilmour who has bought back his title winning Mallock for his years championship, his first time out for five years.
All 18 cars survived qualifying and lined up for the 14 lap race. As the lights went out Osborne led Freeman and Evans into Copse, before Evans snatched second through Maggotts and started to push for the lead. Payne also worked his way past Freeman, with Richings and Parr next up. Evans was eager to capitalize on a rare good start and was all over Osborne's car into Copse on lap three. Payne was running solo in third after Freeman fell back, while Richings was the head of a growing train for fifth, with Gibson on the attack after demoting Parr.
Osborne managed to build a small advantage on the next lap, while Gibson and Parr's duel gave Richings a short break. As Osborne's lead started to grow, Evans was slowly being caught by Payne. Richings started to get Freeman in range for a challenge for fourth, he had managed to tow the battling Gibson and Parr along too.
Into Brooklands for the sixth time Richings challenged Freeman but was forced to back off. Parr had more success when he reclaimed fifth from Gibson at Copse. Back at the front Evans had closed slightly again on Osborne, his response to a charge from Payne.
Osborne did enough to take his win but Evans never gave up and was only 0.509s adrift at the flag. "I made a reasonable start then Mike pushed me hard. I had understeer at the Complex, but no spins again," said Alex.
"What a cracking start, I lost a bit of time running wide after fiddling with the brake balance, but that start," beamed Evans.
Payne was happy with his points for third, "they just pulled away from me and I wasn't under threat at all," he concluded. Freeman retained a comfortable fourth, I had a good start so Mike surprised me a bit and that's how Howard then got past at Becketts, " he explained. Parr finally managed to shake off Gibson, enough to take fifth at Brooklands with two laps remaining. Richings saw off Gibson's threat to hold sixth and Lester just kept Webb at bay for eighth, having spent most of the race in formation with Bicknell. "I got bogged down at the start and damaged a splitter on the grass, so it didn't like right hand corners," said Lester. Bicknell was set for a top ten finish until he ran out fuel and saw Mansell and Brown go by. Richardson survived a spin at Brooklands to finish 13th, with Andrews, Salter, Champkin and Gilmour completing the finishers.
Issued by Peter Scherer for the Clubmans Register on April 24th 2006.