VTEC Challenge does Castle Combe - Race Day

Jonathan F

Nov 29, 2010
Castle Combe: July 18th/19th 2015

(Rounds 7 and 8 of BRSCC Honda VTEC Challenge)

It’s mid July and we are already half way through the season. For rounds 7 & 8 the series found itself back where this year kicked off, when the VTEC Challenge was at Castle Combe for a track day/launch event in February.

Following a great season so far, the event at Castle Combe marked the mid way point of our year’s racing which was celebrated with another bumper turn out.


04 – Luke Biel – EK4 Civic – Tuner

10 – Matt Walker – EK9 Civic Type R - Tuner

14 - Daz Smee – DC2 Integra – Production

15 – Tony Markham – EP3 Civic Type R – Production

20 – Craig Smith - DC2 Integra – Production

31 – Phil Wright – Accord Type R – Production

39 – Rob Burkinshaw – DC5 Integra – Tuner

46 – Peter Dunmore - EP3 Civic Type R – Production

55 – Peter Venn – DC2 Integra - Tuner

66 – Paula Webb - EP3 Civic Type R – Production

67 – Marc Kemp – EP3 Civic Type R – Super Tuner

68 – Martyn Kemp – EP3 Civic Type R – Super Tuner

73 – Stu King - DC2 Integra – Production

77 – Dan Ludlow – FN2 Civic Type R – Super Tuner

99 – Matt Le - DC2 Integra – Production

100 - Will Watkin – EP3 Civic Type R – Tuner

666 – Neil Holden - EP3 Civic Type R – Production

It was great to see so many drivers returning to the series for the event at Castle Combe and even more so another increase in entries.

Having missed his driving duties at Snetterton, Neil Holden was back behind the wheel of the HOT/TDi North Civic and would be looking to resume his battles with fellow “Production” class racer Stu King.

Peter Venn was also back out in his rebuilt Integra having missed a few events due to other driving commitments elsewhere.


Matt Walker was returning with his K20 engined EK9 and with local knowledge, would be one to watch.

Another local racer (Dan Ludlow) was making his maiden appearance in the series this year, having raced with us previously in 2013. A huge off at Thruxton that year resulted in an extensive rebuild, which has only recently been completed. A lap time at Combe of 1.14 in the recent Dave Allan endurance race hinted at the car’s performance.

Craig Smith’s DC2 had been on the receiving end of some TLC following running issues last time out at Snetterton. A new distributor has been fitted, hopefully curing the problems.

Matt Le and Daz Smee were also back behind the wheel of their Integra’s having both handed the driving duties to someone else at the last round at Snetterton.

Being the local circuit of Honda’s production facility in Swindon, it was great to have 3 members (past & present) of “Synchro Motorsport” racing at Combe. “Synchro Motorsport” was founded in 1994, as a club team for Honda employees to use motorsport in order to gain product knowledge, experience and expertise.

Phil Wight, Peter Venn and Dan Ludlow have all paid a huge part in the team over the years and have gone on to race across Europe in various disciplines.


It’s at the Castle Combe circuit that the annual “Dave Allan” memorial event takes place, to honour the memory of one of the founding members of “Synchro Motorsport” who was tragically killed whilst testing for Honda in 2012.

With drivers arriving from Friday onwards, our allotted paddock space soon filled up and the build up to race day began.


With a late morning slot for qualifying, the VTC entries collected in the assembly area before heading out into the Wiltshire countryside.

With the sunshine beating down, the temperatures inside the cars soon began to rise and the drivers were grateful when the cars were finally called forward to head out on track.

After a couple of laps, drivers soon begun to push on and work on setting their fastest lap time.

Proving their local knowledge to be a useful “edge” both Walker and Ludlow began putting in increasingly quicker lap times, with Walker emerging the victor to take 3rd on the grid, with Ludlow in 4th.

Showing his stronghold on the “Production” class, Wright set the fastest class time, ahead of some of the more powerful entries, with the likes of King and Le showing their intent on the class victory come race time, with Le showing an impressive turn of speed.

Super Tuner entrant Marc Kemp was still getting used to his Civic, but despite his relative inexperience with the car still set the fastest lap to secure pole. However a broken driveshaft hampered any further improvements in what was an otherwise successful session.

The DC5 of Burkinshaw was charging hard following it’s rebuild after Snetterton, but with the new suspension still sat back in the workshop, the less than perfect set up was still delivering the goods as he qualified in 2nd place.

Putting in one of her best qualifying performances to date, Paula Webb proved the benefit that comes from extra seat time and qualified 5th in class from 9.

With the rest of the grid completing the session, everyone returned safely to the paddock.

Pole: Marc Kemp

2nd: Rob Burkinshaw

3rd: Matt Walker

Race 1:

With the sun still beating down, the drivers were called to the assembly area where the marshals directed them to their allocated grid positions.

When the time was upon them, all drivers joined the track under the famous “Avon Bridge” at Combe and took their places.

Once all of the cars were in place, the flag marshal at the rear of the grid waved the green flag to indicate all was ok and the 5 second board was shown.

With green flag lap out of the way, all drivers re-took their positions and waited for the off.

Before the lights had gone out completely, a number of the lead drivers went to set off, but realising their mistake quickly stopped. In the meantime, the lights had now gone out and the race was underway.

Whilst Burkinshaw hooked up cleanly, Kemp bogged down and found himself going backwards through the grid before the engine sprang into life and proceeded to propel him back toward the front and the disappearing Integra of Burkinshaw.

Biel in the EK Civic had to brake hard to avoid rear ending a car in front but in doing so blocked the path of Webb, which as a result sent her backwards through the grid undoing all of her hard work in qualifying.

With the rest of the grid underway, the battles quickly began to unfold.


Kemp soon clawed his way back up to second place and was then on the rear bumper of Burkinshaw and looking for a way through. Great defensive driving by Burkinshaw meant the lead wasn’t going to be handed back on a plate, but after leading the first lap, as the pair headed up “Avon Rise” the ex BTCC Civic was able to make a clean pass to take the lead and from there the win.

Burkinshaw remained untroubled in 2nd place, but kept up his pace lap after lap just in case any issues befell the race leader.

Having a monumental tussle for 3rd place was the local pairing of Ludlow and Walker. With Ludlow out in front to start, the pair pulled away from the chasing pack with Walker following in the tyre tracks of the much newer Civic.

Close on the tail of Walker came Wright who had retained the Production class lead over the course of the first lap. However coming along “Dean Straight” and into “Camp”, Matt Le (who had made up a couple of places at the start) in the Integra went for the inside line and a late braking overtake move to take 5th place. However, Wright continued to stay in contention with Le, whilst at the same time defending lap after lap from the Super Tuner EP3 of Martyn Kemp.

Unfortunately for King his race was short lived, as an electrical issue sidelined his Integra after just two laps, leaving the Gloucestershire based driver to watch the race unfold from the sidelines.

Venn in another DC2 Integra also retired from the race after only a few laps as engine issues left the car down on performance.

Will Watkin and Luke Biel in two “Tuner” Civics from different decades, raced close together for all 12 laps, with Watkin taking 3rd in class at the time of the chequered flag having opened up a gap of over 16 seconds following an off track excursion by Biel.


Neil Holden in the TDi North/HOT EP3 showed no drop off in speed having missed out Snetterton taking 3rd in class behind fellow Production racers Wright and Le.

Craig Smith looked to be having a better run of luck than of late, as his Integra began making up places and climbing to 9th place before beginning to loose power during the closing few laps which resulted in a disappointing end to his race.

Martyn Kemp’s supercharged Civic was beginning to make headway through the pack from his qualifying position of 6th, using the extra grunt along the circuit’s straights.

Unfortunately on one occasion on the run into “Quarry” the Civic under-steered off track and despite his best efforts ended up striking the tyre wall and the resulting damage caused his retirement.

Both Daz Smee and Pete Dunmore ran trouble free races, lapping consistently within a fraction of each other.

Despite the problematic start, Webb fought race long with fellow production class Civic racer Tony Markham with Webb closing all the way to the flag.

1st Marc Kemp

2nd Rob Burkinshaw

3rd Matthew Walker

Class wins were awarded to:

(P) – Phil Wright

(T) – Rob Burkinshaw

(ST) – Marc Kemp

Fastest lap: Marc Kemp 1.14.904 on lap 2 of 12

With Martyn’s Civic recovered to the paddock, the car was inspected to assess the damage.

The team at Panic Link Motorsport set about straightening out the front wing, pull out the front panel and patching up the remains of the front bumper. In addition to this a new windscreen was sourced locally and a mobile fitter was drafted in to fit it.

With the parts replaced, bodywork straightened out and the tracking/alignment redone by Rob and Andrew Burkinshaw the car was ready to take part in race 2, where he would start from the back of the grid.

Craig Smith set about trying to rectify the cars poor running, even to the extent of putting out a plea via FaceBook for a set of alternative injectors!

With everything possible checked or changed, only race time would show if he had cured the fault.

Stuart King also took advantage of living relatively locally to head home and get the parts needed to secure his place on the grid for race 2.

Not happy with his car’s performance and not wanting to risk any further damage, Peter Venn decided to retire from any further part of the weekends events. Hopefully his issues will be resolved and we’ll see him out soon.

Race 2:

Looking to get a better getaway for race 2, Kemp sat on pole following his win in race 1, with Burkinshaw alongside.

Knowing the Integra of Burkinshaw can make ballistic launches, it would be down to Kemp to try and stay ahead when the lights went out.

With all cars lined up on the grid, a few drops of rain began to fall, but fortunately they amounted to nothing more than that.

The start of race 2 was delayed whilst the crew at Castle Combe rebuilt some safety barriers after a Fiesta decided to pay them a visit!

Once the repairs had been completed, all cars took part in the customary green flag lap to allow a bit of heat to be built up in the tyres and brakes.

Craig Smith pitted at the end of green flag lap with continued electrical gremlins causing the car to misfire badly. Not wishing to cause a problem on the start line, Craig decided that coming in and starting from the end of the pit lane was the wiser option.

With the rest of the grid in place, the countdown to the start began. As the red lights lit up one by one, the engine revs and anticipation began to rise.

With everything running in slow motion as the last few seconds ticked down, the calm before the storm descended.

As the lights went out, it all snaps back into real time as tyres scrabble for traction and engines scream in protest towards the redline and the charge down to “Avon Rise” begins.

Straight away, it looked as though Marc had the same trouble as the previous day’s race and bogged down off the line, however as the pack swarmed around him it was apparent the problem was more serious this time around.

Narrowly avoiding being punted from behind, the Civic sat stricken in the middle of the grid, unable to get going.

Marshall’s quickly pushed the car off of the track and out of harms way. (A broken driveshaft was later found to be the cause of Marc’s retirement)

Not knowing the fate of Kemp’s Civic and expecting to see him come charging through the pack at any moment, Burkinshaw proceeded to push on in an attempt to open up a lead that he could defend when Marc reappeared in his mirrors. Fortunately for Rob, the Civic never materialised and he continued to lead from lights to flag to take the win and set the day’s fastest lap.

Behind Rob, all the action unfolded as drivers fought for class and overall spoils.

Suffering at the start line, Walker lost out as Ludlow, Wright and Le benefited. Although unable to close up on Burkinshaw, Ludlow led the chasing pack. In a repeat move from race 1 on the first time through Camp, Le went to the inside of Wright, but this time the Accord and the Integra ended up coming into contact with each other and Le ending up off track at the exit of Camp.

Making huge leaps through the field, King showed his overnight repairs were a success, ending up in 6th place before the end of lap 1! Walker too began to recover from a less than perfect start and was hunting down 3rd place after two laps.


Starting from the pit lane, Smith was unable to complete a lap at race pace and again retired the Integra out on track.

Swapping overall positions for race 2, Watkin and Holden pushed each other for the entire race, with the Tuner class EP3 emerging ahead and taking 3rd place in class.


Walker continued to push his little Civic to the limit in the process of closing in on Ludlow and persistence paid off and at half race distance was able to take 2nd place and then pull out a 4 second gap over Ludlow.


Le began to chase down 4th place Ludlow, who now had to watch his mirrors as the DC2 closed in. Unfortunately for Le an overall podium was to be beyond his reach this time out, despite climbing up to 3rd overall during the race.

Struggling with gear selection from the off, Paula Webb found herself battling again with Tony Markham who was continuing to improve lap times as he familiarised himself with his Civic. However disaster struck on lap 9 as the car lost all power and expired in a cloud of smoke and flames. Thankfully Tony quickly and skilfully got the Civic off track to avoid causing a problem for other drivers.

Having started at the back, Martyn Kemp’s Civic began to climb through the field and was soon battling with Luke Biel. However heat soak began to affect the little EK Civic, blunting the performance a little, allowing Kemp to take position.

For the second time of the weekend, both Smee and Dunmore ran a trouble free race.

With Wright never one to give up, he closed the gap on Le as the race counted down and was able to pass him in the closing seconds. With the move made he looked to be on for another class win, however still fighting for his best finish to date Le fought down to the wire. As the pair entered Camp for the last time, both cars came into contact, with the resulting impact sending Wright wide and narrowly avoiding the tyre wall.

As a result, Le took the class win and 4th place overall.

1st Rob Burkinshaw

2nd Matthew Walker

3rd Dan Ludlow

Class wins were awarded to:

(P) – Matt Le

(T) – Rob Burkinshaw

(ST) – Dan Ludlow

Fastest lap: Rob Burkinshaw 1.16.549 on lap 11 of 12

The “Spirit of VTC” award was presented to Craig Smith for his ”Persistence beats Resistance” approach over the past couple of events. Where it would have been completely understandable for him to throw in the towel after having all the troubles he’s had, he has kept on working and always made the grid. With the car now at Eurospec for some in-depth investigations, hopefully he can come out fighting at Brands.


Big thanks go out to all the drivers taking part this weekend and over previous events. Both Lindsey and I really appreciate your ongoing support.

A huge show of thanks goes out to everyone else that attended and helped to make the day memorable for so many. Both crew to spectators alike, each and every one of you help give this series a camaraderie that is second to none.

Thanks to the series sponsors: Toyo Tires, Competition Clutch, Ultra Racing, Performance Autoworks, Eurospec, Honda’s On Track, 6TWO1, Honda Tuner and MOTORV8 MEDIA for their support.

With a 5 week break now until our next event at Brands Hatch on the 22nd/23rd August, we hope you enjoy the summer and look forward to seeing you all there.

Words: Jonathan Fletcher

Pictures: Lindsey Fletcher & Jonathan Fletcher