Six years since a Lotus last won the Silverstone Classic’s Stirling Moss Trophy race the same car and driver, Oliver Bryant, repeated in style at a soggy 2019 edition on July 27. His feat, plus Ewan McIntyre’s earlier double, bring Colin Chapman’s two-litre Coventry-Climax FPF engine lightweights level with Brian Lister’s eponymous Jaguar-powered creations, in both Knobbly and Costin-bodied configurations, to four a piece since the race was first run in 2010. A NART Ferrari 246S took top honours with Gregor Fisken and Sam Hancock up respectively on the other occasions lest we forget.
This year – big fields being crucial to cover rising costs, not least among which is circuit hire – the SMT Pre-’61 cars raced with the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy Pre-’56 combatants, to form a sensational capacity 58-car field on the current 3.66-mile Grand Prix circuit, the Historic version of which (with softened entry to Club) is no longer licensed. Again a past master was to the fore, Gary Pearson – winner of the inaugural race in 2006 – extended his remarkable record to six wins, in a variety of Jaguar D-types. A narrow victory over John Ure/Patrick Watts (ex-Tony Crook Cooper-Bristol T24/25) with brother John starting the family example was the local combo’s third together. Their first, ironically, was in 2013, like Bryant’s on the opposite side of the equation.
Following a heatwave on Thursday, conditions for Friday qualifying were more comfortable. Bryant’s superb 2m26.018s (90.24mph) lap claimed pole by 2.546s from Miles Griffiths, sharing Philip Walker’s lurid orange Lotus 15, thus with fewer laps on his slate. A third example of the North London-built model, American Michael Gans’ white ex-Roy Pierpoint car, sat fourth 0.049s adrift of the Lister-Jaguar Costin of Richard Kent and current factory McLaren GT racer Joe Osborne, the last car under 2m30s. “I’ve only done three timed laps, but it’s an awesome car, really raw, but I love it,” said Osborne. “We’re so spoiled with all the driver aids in today’s sportscars.”
The Lister-Jags of Will Nuthall/Tony Wood (Knobbly) – who would start dad Barry’s RGS Atalanta-Jaguar in the thick of the Woodcoteers – and Dutchman David Hart (Costin) would share row three, ahead of small class leaders Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger (Lola Mk1 Prototype) and former F3 champion Martin O’Connell in Sandy Watson’s Lotus 11. The late-built Lister Knobblies of John Spiers and Peter Ratcliff were split by the 10th placed Cooper-Jaguar T38 of double Silverstone Woodcote Trophy victors Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (now in later SMT spec) with the Pearsons’ D-type and Philip Champion’s Lotus 11 streamliner on their tails.
The Pearsons topped the Woodcote competitors on 2:34.419 for the record, chased by the glorious Maserati 250S of Richard Wilson/Martin Stretton, Martin Hunt’s HWM-Jaguar (which PB-E would start) both in the low 2:36s. Half a second separated a super-competitive chase pack comprising Paul Pochciol/James Hanson (Jaguar C-type), Rick Bourne/Malcolm Paul (Lotus-Bristol 10), Martin Halusa (Maserati 300S), Rudi Friedrichs (C-type) and Ben Eastick/Karl Jones (D-type) in their wake.
Father and son Harindra and Tim de Silva’s Team Lotus 11, Ure/Watts in Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook Cooper-Bristol) were only fractionally slower, with the rumbling Allard-Cadillac J2s of Tim and Oliver Llewellyn and Till Bechtolsheimer for company. Gregor Fisken was to start Fred Wakeman’s C-type ahead of Wolfgang Friedrichs’ ex-Peter Whitehead Aston Martin DB3S, the German partnered by Simon Hadfield as usual.
Among the nuances of the field were the Kurtis-Chevrolet of Chris Keen/Richard McAlpine, the quickest Cooper Monaco T49s of Tony Ditheridge/Barry Cannell and Andrew Smith, sharing with nephew Dan for the first time. Soloists Gregory de Prins (Rejo) and Ben Adams (Lola Mk1) promised more than busy practice results delivered. John Burton’s intriguing Alton Jaguar gave a good account of itself meanwhile, and Nick Matthews (100/4) was quickest of eight Austin-Healeys.
Although it wasn’t destined to race, the extraordinary Cadillac ‘Le Monstre’ recreation of Derek Drinkwater was the centre of paddock attention.
Alas, Saturday dawned wet, but endeavouring to gap the quickest Listers, from which he anticipated stern rivalry, polesitter Bryant was in no mood to hang around. Despite the rain, the Briton charged ahead of Kent and Hart from the rolling start, and held a 6.2 second advantage over the latter inside four laps when the Safety Car appeared as marshals retrieved Kent’s blue Lister which had spun lazily into the gravel on the exit of Luffield a lap earlier. It continued, so Osborne had a go, from 57th, but Walker’s Lotus fell to dead electrics at The Loop on lap six.
Behind Bryant, Hart and Nuthall, O’Connell was loving the rain in the little Lotus 11. Fourth as the caution ended, he traded places with Gans then left Michael behind. When the leaders made their mandatory pit stops – ten and a half laps in, Silverstone’s Heritage Pits being at the opposite end of the track to the Classic start, outside the Wing Building – Nuthall and O’Connell went first and second for a couple of laps until they, too, stopped in the window and Bryant returned to the top of the charts.
The track began to show signs of a drier line mid-race, but while this enabled Hart to close in on Bryant. Olly was fully focussed, however, more concerned about his steed’s reputation for late breakages which has cost several wins in recent years. He need not have worried, for the British Racing Green Lotus ran like clockwork to the chequered flag, the combo landing a 3.032s victory over Hart.
Almost half a minute behind, Tony Wood converted Nuthall’s start to third, with Gans close behind. Spiers and Wakeman/PB-E rounded out the top six, with Ahlers/Bellinger a class-winning seventh, their high-polished Lola 19 seconds clear of rival Adams’ black one, in 10th, with Caterham ace Ratcliff’s Lister chasing. Sandy Watson skittered off into the gravel on the penultimate lap, undoing O’Connell’s spectacular work, thus Champion/Sam Stretton grabbed the S4 class honours in the former’s finned Lotus.
The Lola teams were separated by Woodcote Trophy standouts Gary Pearson (finishing for brother John) and hard-charging Patrick Watts, who hurled the metallic maroon cycle-winged Cooper-Bristol round in tricky conditions, closing to just 3.305s behind the ultra-sleek D-type at flagfall. Dunlop tyre distributor John Pearson was chuffed with the result, which he thought had slipped away. “I’d built a good lead then threw most of it away with a schoolboy error, but managed to hang-on for the ‘secret weapon’ who was waiting in the pits to take over!”
Third in the Woodcote race, Wilson/Stretton finished 12th overall, ahead of a splendid Allard duel in which Tim Llewellyn just hung on to son Oliver’s advantage with Bechtolsheimer’s J2 looming ever larger in his mirrors. Barely a second separated the V8 monsters at the finish. Burton’s shapely Alton-Jaguar – after a great run – the Lotuses of Brazilian Bernardo Hartogs (15) and Sam Stretton and de Prins’ Rejo also went the full distance, as did Rudi Friedrichs’ C-type, 19th overall and sixth in the Woodcote classification. Lapped last time round, the German’s namesake Wolfgang’s Aston Martin, having ascended the order strongly in Hadfield’s hands, came within 0.313s of catching Paul’s Lotus-Bristol behind them.