Every once in a while, it may rain at racing. You would expect this as we are on an island in the North Atlantic. Then a rarer event is that there is some heavy rain which may slow the track all day. And finally, there is the freak event where the rain is torrential and racing is abandoned.

On the weekend of the 5th & 6th of August the BRCA fraternity made its way to TORCH – at Swanmore College, about 20 minutes north-east of Southampton in England’s very south. The track is excellently curated by Steve Brown and his team and the attention to detail is superb. The artificial grass is tidy and consistent and not a single track marking moved all weekend.

Unfortunately, on the Friday as drivers gathered trackside it was becoming apparent from the chat that Saturday was going to be significantly rain affected and possibly wet enough that the meeting could be abandoned. Normally that news would be shrugged off as its generally accepted that you play with the cards you are dealt – but in this case as there was a 2wd Championship to be decided and nobody would want to see the title settled that way.

It was a fresh morning on Saturday as the driver’s arrived trackside. By the time driver’s briefing was called it was drizzling and the skies were very grey. The 1/10th Section Chairman Martin Owen announced that at the minimum we needed two rounds of qualifying to call a result, but this would be a last resort. Championship contender Neil Cragg was the first driver to show pace in round 1 of practice. His time nearly a second a lap quicker than anyone else demonstrating his determination to take the title. The rain ceased and the sun came out for a while for practice round 2 and it was Lee Martin’s turn to show what he could do – Lee going 1.1 seconds a lap quicker than his closes rival.

2wd Qualifying got underway and very few people could be drawn on whether the title would be won by Tommy Hall or by Neil Cragg. One man who couldn’t care less was Lee Martin who continued his practice pace to take Round 1 of 2wd Qualifying with the battle for the title going on directly behind him. The way the points table read was that Tommy needed a TQ and win to beat Neil. The weather become slightly better for Round 2 and Tommy Hall was pushing on. He took Round 2 with Lee Martin backing up his round 1 TQ with a second – leaving him top of the table with two down.

Round 3 was a crucial point in the day. The rain was now falling very heavily, and the track crew were sweeping out the puddles after every race. Lee Martin made an error in his heat to rule out a second TQ, so all eyes were on Tommy Hall. Neil Cragg was first away in the top heat with Tomm and Jamie Hall behind. A costly mistake from Cragg held Tommy up briefly and allowed Jamie to draw up onto the Tommy’s back bumper. For the whole heat the two cars ran very closely – only around a second apart on track. It was clear that there were no team orders as both drivers were giving 100%. Tommy crossed the line first with Jamie only 0.2 of a second behind. This game Jamie the Round TQ and Tommy second. To keep his championship aspirations alive, Tommy would need the Round 4 TQ. But it was not to be as Neil Cragg put in his first perfect run of the day in torrential rain to take Round 4 and meaning that we had four different TQ drivers from four rounds.

Remaining on top of the points table was Lee Martin and he would start the A Finals from Pole. However, Tommy Hall’s title dream was now over – no overall TQ meant that he could not mathematically win the title. This meant that Neil Cragg is the 2023 BRCA 2wd 1/10th Offroad Champion – his 27th title!


Top 10 points after 2wd Qualifying Round 4


There was an organiser’s meeting after qualifying. It was decided as a combination of a flooded track, a significant timing delay and that the final result could not alter the championship result that the meeting would be abandoned at that point with the results from Qualifying would be used to tabulate the final standings. An unfortunate ending to the series, but the majority of racers on the day seemed to agree.

So at that point the 2023 2wd Championship was settled. The winners on the Day – 1st Lee Martin, 2nd Tommy Hall and 3rd Neil Cragg. The Championship goes to Neil Cragg with Tommy Hall 2nd and Lee Martin 3rd.















Overall 2wd Championship Top 10

Sunday morning started off in a very different way. Blue skies and sunshine greeted the drivers as they arrived at the track and the forecast was very promising. There was a bit of fun at the driver’s briefing when Mannie Pannesar showed he was a good sport by settling his wager with Hattie Tames. It had been agreed that the driver with the lower qualifying position at the Euros in Netherlands would attend drivers briefing dressed as dinosaur. So, on queue, we were joined by Mannie Pana-saurus for the briefing.

Practice got underway on a drying track and several of the top driver’s cars looked really good from the get-go. On the initially damp track, Neil Cragg went fastest this plenty of power slides off the end of the straight and out of the hairpins into the jumps. Luke Holdsworth and Lee Martin running on a similar pace. The sun shone directly on the track for an hour or so before the top heats were out again which meant conditions were bone dry. This time Tommy Hall emerged fastest very closely followed by Ben Smith and Neil Cragg. Hall and Smith’s cars looked very good on track – both tracking the long radius corners with ease whilst absorbing the bumps.

4wd Qualifying got underway and even though the rain had stopped the pit area was still a quagmire of mud and puddles. The racing was fast and ferocious from the start with Ben Smith putting in a very near perfect run to take the first TQ of the day just shy of 13 laps. Lee Martin was second and Jamie Hall third – both 2 seconds behind Smith. In round 2, Smith proved it wasn’t a fluke and was the only driver to make it onto 13 laps. This time Jamie Hall went second and Tommy Hall third. Smith now with two TQ runs would need to be beaten twice by the same competitor but on a faster time to be denied Pole Position for the A Finals. There was already talk in the pits as to whether this was going to be Smith’s first National win. Ben Smith’s pace was still there in round 3, however a small mistake let Neil Cragg through to take that TQ. Cragg would need a second TQ in round 4 on a faster time to take Pole. Round 4 was full of action – this time it was Tommy Hall who put in an absolutely perfect run to take the final TQ also on 13 laps. Hall’s TQ puts Smith on Pole Position.


Ben Smith on his way to 4wd Pole Position

Congratulations to both Thomas Phipps and Lewis Hopkins for making their first A Final at Round 6.

4wd A Final leg 1 starting in damp and drizzly conditions. Smith led a procession of cars around for two laps as the drivers became accustomed to the now moist conditions. Tommy Hall in third was the first to falter – over steering at a hairpin and rolling over whilst trying to free himself from the hose. A few seconds later Neil Cragg clipped the hose on the long radius corner shortly after the straight – tumbling across the track but ending up on his wheels. Lee Martin running at pace saw his opportunity to pass the recovering Cragg but collected him instead and rolled off the track. All this action gave Smith a significant lead over Jamie Hall in second, Cragg somehow recovering to third. The race then settled down for a few laps before Jamie Hall rolled onto his rood at the two and half minute mark. Requiring the marshal, there was enough time for Cragg to take up second and Lee Martin third. Jamie rejoining in fourth just ahead of Ben Pugh in fifth. Ben Smith then started to put in many fast and precise laps as his challengers made it hard for themselves by crashing and getting entangled with each other. Lee Martin was the only driver who was running without issue who had the pace to battle Smith but as he was facing a three second disadvantage it looked unlikely. Martin made a valiant effort taking 0.5 seconds out of Smith lap after lap – however Ben Smith had done enough and took the A Final Leg 1 win. Lee Marting was second 0.7 seconds behind, Ben Pugh third.

Lee Martin couldn’t make up the deficit lost in the early stages of 4wd A Final Leg 1

Conditions were somewhat drier for Leg 2 of the 4wd A Final. Paul Worsley paid a visit and was good enough to lay the grid for the start of the race – a task he regularly did when section chairman. The race started fast as the grip was up. Smith leading a train of cars around for the first couple of laps. The action started to heat up on lap three when Smith got a bad bobble on is way into the jump just before race control. He held it well, but it meant that he over did the jump and left a gapping big gap for Neil Cragg to have a go at occupying. Smith was fast to recover and closed the door just at the last moment. The top four cars – Smith, Cragg, Tommy Hall and Lee Martin – were running in very close proximity for several laps. At the two and half minute mark, Cragg jumped the double under the rostrum short and had a champions roll, promoting Tommy Hall to second. Smith then controlled the pace well. Tommy Hall and Neil Cragg drew up to the back of Smith but they didn’t have enough of an advantage to create an opportunity. Smith and Hall went nose to tail till the four and half minute mark when Hall had a champion’s roll at the first corner after the end of the straight. He recovered, but Smith was now away and Hall would have to defend hard against Cragg in third. Another mistake from Tommy Hall let Cragg and Martin through – but the chaotic racing just meant that Smith got further and further ahead. As the finish tone sounded there was cheers and rapturous applause for Ben Smith taking the win and his first BRCA National win. Cragg second, Tommy Hall third and Lee Martin a close fourth.

Having won the 4wd meeting after just two Legs of the A Final, Ben Smith sat out Leg 3 and allowed the other drivers to battle for the remaining podium positions without getting involved. Neil Cragg led the field away from the start and the top four cars ran closely and in qualifying order for the first two and half minutes until Cragg rolled his car on the landing off the right angle tabletop letting both Halls and Martin through. The quartet of drivers all put in several clean laps with any issues until, with a minute to go, Jamie Hall jumps the double short and the car seems to spring into the air after chassis slapping the second jump. Jamie’s car seems to take an age to settle and even at the apex of the right angled tabletop the car was still partially out of control. Lee Martin was up the inside of Jamie Hall when Hall closed the door at the apex prematurely and the two came together, the latter not faring well from the collision and needing the marshal. Tommy Hall pushed on, now with a two second lead, leaving Martin and Cragg to battle closely for the last couple of laps. The racing was close but there were no further passes. Tommy Hall 1st, Lee Martin 2nd, Neil Cragg 3rd.

Tommy Hall on his way to the 4wd Leg 3 win


4wd Podium: 1st Ben Smith, 2nd Lee Martin, 3rd Tommy Hall

One thing that was very evident after the 4wd event is that even though the drivers are very loyal to their relative brands and sponsors, there was a huge feeling of comradery and appreciation for Ben Smith taking is first national win. Congratulations came from everyone and anyone. Well done Ben!

The overall championship was already settled coming to TORCH – Tommy Hall takes the series.

Overall 4wd Series Podium – 1st Tommy Hall, 2nd Lee Martin, 3rd Ben Smith


For 2023 there is a new award from the BRCA. The Paul Worsley trophy will be presented to the driver with the highest combined 2wd and 4wd score. This year it is Tommy Hall.

Tommy Hall receiving his over trophy from Paul Worsley


Overall 4wd Championship Top 10


It has been a superb year for the 1/10th Offroad section of the BRCA. The team that run the events are tight-knit and seem to be able to handle any situation that arises. Congratulations to them too...


[Article by William White @ Raceway One]

[Published by Nikita Finnigan]