VTEC Challenge does Croft 2016

Jonathan F

Nov 29, 2010
Croft: September 10th/11th 2016

(Rounds 11 and 12 of BRSCC Honda VTEC Challenge)

For rounds 11 & 12 of the Honda “VTEC Challenge”, the series and drivers headed to Croft in North Yorkshire.

The series has had a bit of a break since last being here, but with the circuit being a favourite of many it was good to have it back on the calendar.

Being their local track, the “Red Arrows” of Peter Dixon and Jeff Cooper were back again to challenge for the top slot and returning to the series was another local driver in the shape of Paul Donkin, back at the helm of the TDi North prepared EP3 Civic.

Having retired from race 2 last time out at Anglesey, Martyn Kemp was back behind the wheel of his Civic and looking for a change in fortune.

It was also great to see the likes of James Tracey, Mark Bennett and Pete Dunmore return to the grid after missing out the last event.



15 – Tony Markham – EP3 Civic Type R – Production

19 – James Tracey - DC2 Integra - Production

25 – Adam Jones – EP3 Civic Type R – Super Tuner

39 – Rob Burkinshaw – DC5 Integra – Tuner

45 – Mark Bennett – S2000 – Tuner

46 – Pete Dunmore - EP3 Civic Type R – Production

49 – Jeff Cooper – CRX – Super Tuner

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

67 – Peter Dixon – CRX – Super Tuner

73 – Stu King – DC2 Integra - Tuner

666 – Paul Donkin – EP3 Civic Type R – Production


Whilst the majority of the UK was subjected to torrential rain, the track at Croft was bathed in glorious sunshine and as Saturday drew to a close, the drivers prepared themselves for qualifying, which was the last track action of the day, ahead of both races on Sunday.

With all drivers on track and it was Peter Dixon setting the early pace, in fact setting the pole time on only lap 2!

Jeff Cooper and Rob Burkinshaw swapped 2nd place throughout the session, with Cooper eventually locking out the front row in the second CRX, 37/1000th separating the pair.

Donkin was to take the highest place “Production” class position, having pushed the Civic as hard as he dared.

Trouble looked to be in store for Mark Bennett as he was to be flagged for an oil leak and returned to the paddock to investigate.


Kemp in the Civic was off the pace expected for the supercharged Civic, but thankfully it was quickly traced to an intercooler pipe that had come adrift, letting the boost escape.

Pole: Peter Dixon

2nd: Jeff Cooper

3rd: Rob Burkinshaw

Back in the paddock and attention turned to Mark’s S2000 to try and understand what the issue was.

A look under the bonnet led to the discovery that oil was leaking from the timing chain tensioner. Although a quick fix was carried out, this wasn’t sufficient and so the VTEC paddock sprang into action to carry out a proper repair.

With the car back together, the engine sprang back to life minus the leak. All was good!

Race 1:

With a late start at Croft due to local noise restrictions, track action didn’t get underway until midday.

Having taken part in the armed force’s race at Rockingham with Daz Smee at the wheel on Saturday, James Tracey then headed up to Croft to take part in the VTC. With the need to still qualify, James went out with the NSSC for 3 laps, before coming back into the paddock to do the final prep for the first race.

With race time approaching, drivers finished their pre-race rituals (usually consisting of a trip to the loos!), suited up and headed to the assembly area.

Released from the assembly area, all drivers made their way around the track to take up their grid slots.

Dixon took up position on pole, with Cooper alongside and Burkinshaw in 3rd. King lined up alongside Burkinshaw, making it a “Super Tuner” 1, 2 and a “Tuner” 3, 4.

With the marshals cleared from the grid, focus was on the lighting gantry. With the red lights on, all drivers readied themselves for the start of the race.

With lights out, Cooper from the outside of row 1 got the better start and began the charge down to Clervaux with Dixon doing likewise.


Unfortunately for both King and Tracey, gear issues saw them both struggle off the line, unable to select 2nd gear and as a result dropped back.

Donkin was the main beneficiary, moving up from 7th to 5th ahead of Jones and onto the boot lid of Bennett.

With both King and Tracey recovering, they set about coming back up the field.

Pace over the opening laps was frantic, as Cooper had to fend off Dixon at every opportunity and Burkinshaw lurking in 3rd place, although the pace of the two CRX’s seemed to have the better of the DC5 at Croft.


Bennett sat relatively comfortable in 4th, but was soon feeling the heat from Donkin, with the red Civic filling the mirrors of the S2000 and looking to capitalise at any opportunity. Unfortunately for Donkin, whilst pushing Bennett for 4th a trip into the corn field ensued, however he was able to return to the track to 6th place.

Tracey began his comeback, looking to finish race 1 mid-table to allow for a better race 2. With some committed driving, Tracey was soon up to 8th place and 2nd in “Production” class after overtaking Tony Markham and Pete Dunmore.

It was then Kemp who was ahead of Tracey on the road and whilst the Civic had the speed on the straights, the Integra was able to take some distance out of the gap through the corners, eventually taking the 7th place as Martyn ran wide.

Brake issues saw Jones skip through the gravel at Clervaux and re-join, but unfortunately was not so lucky the second time around and he found himself beached and a DNF in race 1.


Despite the immense pressure from Dixon, Cooper held 1st place for race distance and crossed the line with a healthy 5 second margin between them at the chequered flag.

Untroubled in 3rd, Burkinshaw took the remaining podium position, with Bennett in 4th and King a close 5th after his troubled start.

Tracey was set for a 2nd in class when the gearbox cried enough on the final lap, coasting to a retirement following a great race.

Kemp brought his Civic home in one piece ahead of Dunmore and Markham, all three having a great race in front of the crowds at Croft’s final race event of the season.

1st Jeff Cooper

2nd Peter Dixon

3rd Rob Burkinshaw

Class wins were awarded to:

(P) – Paul Donkin

(T) – Rob Burkinshaw

(ST) – Jeff Cooper

Fastest lap: Jeff Cooper 1.34.253 on lap 2 of 13 (New Lap Record)

Before we could even get back to the paddock, drama unfolded as Dixon’s CRX locked in gear whilst sat in Parc Ferme. A swiftly placed trolley jack saw the car man-handled into the paddock for an investigation.

With everyone else safely back in the paddock, drivers began to inspect their cars and carry out any necessary repairs.

For Tracey and Dixon, neither of their cars would take any further part in proceedings, both suffering with irreparable gearbox issues and relegated to their trailers. A disappointing end to the day for both drivers as they were both destined to put on a good show in race 2.

For Adam Jones, there was the need to check everything over following his off, bleed the brakes and a small matter of removing several kilos of gravel!

Race 2:

Race two was to be the penultimate race of the day and thankfully the weather had remained kind as the drivers ran around to carry out those last minute jobs before heading to the assembly area.

With the mandatory green flag lap completed, grid slots were taken in readiness for the start of race 2.

Although it was Cooper that retained the lead off the line, the superior RWD traction of Bennetts S2000, saw the driver from Dorset accelerate into the lead as the pack charged down to Clervaux.

Still holding his track positon though, saw Cooper retain the inside line into turn 1 and as the lead cars exited “Hawthorn” Burkinshaw was up to 2nd.

With everyone cleanly through the opening lap, the racing continued to excite as Burkinshaw clung to Cooper and both began to distance themselves from the chasing pack.

Bennett and Donkin were once again embroiled in an epic race long battle, with the Civic having its neck wrung to stay in contention! The break Donkin was looking for came when the pair exited the chicane on the far side of the circuit and Bennett had difficulty getting gears.

With this being all the encouragement Donkin needed, the pair powered down to “Tower” side by side, with Donkin emerging ahead. Far from being over, Bennett continued to push, but was unable capitalise with the clock ticking down, crossing the line 18/1000th of a second apart!


With Donkin and Bennett holding each other up as they battled for position, King had closed up and joined the party. However, looking to challenge for overall position on the penultimate lap saw King make an error at Clervaux as his tyres struggled for grip, resulting in the Integra sliding off track and beaching in the gravel.

Starting from the back of the grid, Jones set to work and began to pick off those ahead and was soon up to 5th place and looking to climb further when disaster struck.

Coming through “Barcroft” for reasons yet unknown, the rear of the Civic stepped out, resulting in Adam taking to the grass sideways at over 100mph! The car picked up speed as it slid over the grass and crossed the track between “Sunny In” and “Sunny Out”. The fact that Adam selected a gear and continued to race after a potentially life changing incident in itself was amazing, however the fact that he crossed the track directly in front of a hard charging Mark Bennett and missed him by inches is unfathomable.

1st Jeff Cooper

2nd Rob Burkinshaw

3rd Paul Donkin

Class wins were awarded to:

(P) – Paul Donkin

(T) – Rob Burkinshaw

(ST) – Jeff Cooper

Fastest lap: Jeff Cooper 1.34.938 on lap 2 of 13


Another great couple of days with the VTEC Challenge with fantastic racing and great support throughout the paddock for those in need.

Once again, a huge thanks goes out to every single person that took the time and effort to attend the race meet.

In recognition of his efforts to get to Croft, having a great race in spite of his DNF, as well as being there whenever anything is asked of him, the “Spirit of VTEC” award went to James Tracey.

Thanks go out to the series sponsors: Toyo Tires, Competition Clutch, Dream Automotive, Performance Autoworks, Eurospec, TDi North, Simulator Racing, Honda Nation and MOTORV8 MEDIA for their continued support.

The series heads to Donington Park next on the 16th of October for the season finale and we hope to see you there.

Words: Jonathan Fletcher

Pictures: Lindsey Fletcher & Jonathan Fletcher