For the first time in its history, the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park Estate played host to a competitive motorsport event when the Mini Tour Britannia rally took place there on Friday and Saturday May 9th and 10th. Stuart Scott, along with regular partner Steve Wood, would again be tackling the event in the ex-Richard Lloyd Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and expectations were high after their 2013 Class win and second overall position.
They would be up against an impressive array of cars and drivers, with the main competition coming from four Porsche 911s; in particular the ones driven by Stephen Ratcliffe, Howard Redhouse and Belgium rally ace Glenn Janssens. In addition to the quick Porsches, there was also a Ford GT40 and a Morgan Plus 8 that would offer very stiff competition.
Friday afternoon kicked off with scrutineering, documentation checks and the drivers’ briefing taking place at the iconic Woodcote Park Hotel. The noise test was passed without any issue, resulting in a relaxed meal at the hotel for Steve and Stuart and their two Team Eurotech mechanics, Matt and Sam, who having a weekend away from Touring Cars.
Car were flagged away from the front of the main building at one-minute intervals starting from 8:31am. Stuart and Steve were ready for their 9:31 start and the 28 mile public road drive to Dunsfold Aerodrome, the home for BBC’s Top Gear program.
Dunsfold is the ‘Home of the Harrier’ where the first tethered flights of the P1127 Kestrel took place in October 1960, taking the UK into the forefront of vertical take-off and landing technology. Some 278 Harrier aircraft were assembled at Dunsfold before the site was closed in 2000.
Dunsfold Long Stage SS1 & SS2
The stage used 3.3 miles of the Top Gear Track and included several of the corners featured on the TV program – Crooners, Wilson, Hammerhead, Chicago and Bentley. It is a very technical stage with wide straights which are perfect for the CBT Camaro to stretch its legs.
The biggest challenge to Steve and Stuart would be the narrow chicanes on the main straight and the damp conditions. The first stage was completed in a time of 3:17 minutes, with the second stage going better with a time of 3:01 minutes. Both stages were completed without any drama and they left Dunsfold in fourth place overall and leading Class 6 but still well in touch with the three Porsches ahead.
After Dunsfold there was a 22 mile drive to Brooklands Museum and Mercedes-Benz World.
Mercedes-Benz World SS3 & SS4
This stage was longer than the last time the Mini Tour Britannia visited in 2013. It is very narrow in places and the surface also varies during the stage. There is also a very tight hairpin leading onto the main straight so it is important not to scrub too much speed off, while also bearing in mind that if you run wide there is a solid barrier keeping the cars away from some trees.
The first run over the 1.2 mile stage was completed in 1:29 minutes, exactly the same time as the second run, although by this time the conditions had changed to damp and slippery. These times were good enough for fourth place on the stages and kept the CBT Camaro in fourth place overall and still behind three Porsches.
Lunch was taken before the 41 mile drive back to Dunsfold for two more stages and two special speed-test courses.
For the second visit to Dunsfold just 2.03 miles of the Top Gear Track was used, and in the reverse direction to the two stages earlier in the day. The track was now completely dry and one of the chicanes had been removed, so Stuart and Steve were confident that the course would suit the Camaro better.
Dunsfold Top Gear Stage SS5 & SS6
The first run was completed in 1:49 minutes and had the CBT Camaro in joint second place with the Glenn Janssens Porsche 911 and just five seconds behind the leading Porsche 911 of Howard Redhouse. The second run was completed in a quicker time of 1:46 minutes, but although Stuart and Steve had gone quicker so had the three Porsches and also David McErlain in his very rapid Ford GT40. This left them in fifth place on the stage and also saw them dropping a place to fifth in the overall standings.
In addition to the two special stages there were also four timed speed tests on what couldn’t be called anything other than a short go kart track. These were held on the airport perimeter road and did not suit the big Chevrolet at all. They were too narrow and twisty for the big car to do justice and they achieved a third,12th, sixth and fifth on these timed stages. The CBT Camaro remained in fifth place overall and still leading Class 6 ahead of the Morgan Plus 8 of Roddy Feilden.
From Dunsfold there was a 29-mile drive to Woodcote Park with a regroup at Headley Heath car park for a 40 minute break. Headley Heath was just a few miles from Woodcote Park, but, as the last two stages were being held in the grounds of the estate and members cars had to be moved, the Camaro was held there until it was clear for it to arrive at Woodcote Park. Stuart and Steve were given their departure time, but when they went to leave the started motor had jammed on the Camaro. Other crews helped up push start the heavy car and after a few attempts the engine fired back in to life. These were very worrying times for the CBT boys.
Woodcote Park SS7 & SS8
This stage was a little quirky and tight until the car park area is cleared and then it opened out nicely heading out across the golf course along the Captain’s Drive. The first part needed a lot of care, especially as it was now raining, and the officials had planted big sand bags to create chicanes on the fast Captain’s Drive.
On the first run the CBT duo managed to clip one of the sand bags as the chicane was just too narrow for the big Chevrolet. They ended up with a time of 1.24 minutes and in eighth place, but Steve & Stuart were sure that they had done better on this first run and other leading cars also had been given some very slow stage times. It later transpired that the officials had issues with their timing equipment and this was confirmed when, on the second run, the Camaro managed a time of 1:12 minutes and fourth overall in much damper conditions.
Steve and Stuart were delighted that they had completed the Mini Tour Britannia in fifth place overall and won their class for the fifth year running. It was also such an honour to be part of the first competitive motor event to be held at Woodcote Park.
Steve, Stuart, Matt and Sam then headed to the 19th hole for a well earned drink and to be awarded their First in Class trophy by the legendary Paddy Hopkirk.