Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards reprised their 2014 victory in the most prestigious Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy race of the season at Silverstone on July 29, receiving the superb trophy from Peter Read representing the club after another fast and consistent display in the Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Jaguar T38.
Back where the competition was inaugurated in 2006 – when Nigel Webb and Gary Pearson emerged victorious in the former’s Jaguar D-type – Pearson was, as always, a major force and landed pole position in another XKD. BRDC member Gary and brother John were slowed by a misfire however, thus slipped to third behind last year’s winning Cooper-Jaguar T33 – restored to immaculate by Derek Hood’s JD Classics crew following its bang at May’s Donington Historic Festival – in which Chris Ward was rejoined by 2012 second leg victor Andrew Smith.
The superlative Pre-1956 Sports Car entry numbered 43 cars, one more than 2016’s, showcasing a splendid 16 marques. Much attention was focused on the ex-works Archie Scott Brown Lister-Maserati BHL1 – unseen in the UK for many a year – which JD Classics had repatriated from the USA, replete with an ungainly roll hoop, and entrusted to the vastly experienced John Young. Also in the magical miscellany, as a post-period invitee, was Paul Hogan’s Triumph TR3S prototype, one of two built to contest the ’59 Le Mans 24 Hours, with Chris Ryan up.
Gary Pearson set the pace in Friday’s preliminaries, proving Malcolm Sayer’s offset finned D-type aerodynamics by pulling 148.1mph on the long Hangar Straight en route to an impressive 2m29.525s (87.62mph) pole. But the Anglo-American combo of Blakeney-Edwards/Wakeman (2:29.664) and Ward/Smith (2:29.839) also lapped the 2.63 mile Historic Grand Prix circuit inside the psychological 150 second barrier. That the top three teams were split by 0.314s presented the tantalising prospect of a very competitive Sunday race.
Ben Eastick – winner here in 2007 and ’08 with the late Neil Cunningham – was again sharing his faithful Jaguar D-type with Welshman Karl Jones, the peak on his white open face helmet black striped in tribute to his hero Tom Pryce. They gridded fourth on 2:34.118 with Rick Bourne/Malcolm Paul (Lotus-Bristol 10), Martin Stretton in Richard Wilson’s Maserati 250S, father-and-son Barry and Tony Wood (RGS Atalanta-Jaguar) and James and David Cottingham (Ferrari 500 TRC), class leaders all, within a quarter of a second.
Martin Hunt/Andrew Hall (HWM-Jaguar) and Oliver and Tim Llewellyn (Allard-Cadillac J2) completed the top 10, with John Ure and Silverstone Classic organiser Nick Wigley on their heels in Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook Cooper-Bristol one-and-a-half seater. Also well inside 2:40 were the Swiss team of Urs and Arlette Muller (Aston Martin DB3S), Young in the Lister-Maserati – the fruits of four laps before its throttle jammed open – Timothy Mahapatra/Harvey Stanley (D-type) and Nigel Webb/Andy Wallace in the former’s long-serving Jaguar C-type.
The Maserati 300S of Spaniard Guillermo Fierro and its British preparer Steve Hart was well-matched with the omni-present 1952 Goodwood Nine Hours-winning Aston Martin DB3 of Martin Melling and newly-elected BRDC member Rob Hall, with the Rod Barrett/Jay Shepherd D-type and Rudi Friedrichs’ C-type half a second apart in their wake.
Less than 35 miles from their birthplace in Warwick, a veritable gang of Austin-Healeys was next up. Quickest of the quintet was Oliver Harris’ 100, into which Jeremy Welch had been drafted to share with ’60s F3 racer Mike Knight. Jonathan Abecassis – grandson of HWM co-founder George – ran them closest in his left hooker 100/4, in which he was joined by talented youngster Richard Woolmer. Paul and Jonathan Mortimer (100M), Nick Matthews (100/4) and Andy Willis/Jason Minshaw crewing David Stanley’s 100 Le Mans were on their heels.
John and Charlie Brown’s Jaguar C-type, Surrey timber merchant Philip Champion’s Frazer Nash Mille Miglia co-driven as usual by Sam Stretton and Katarina Kyvalova’s ex-Bertie Bradnack Cooper-Jaguar T33 were locked together in the 2:44s, pursued by Martyn Corfield’s FN Le Mans, Steve and Josh Ward’s Ecurie Ecosse XK120 and Chris Jolly, conducting his Aston Martin DB2 ‘PUM’ with customary vim, unusually far ahead of regular sparring partner Nick Ruddell’s DB2/4.
Further down Graham Robson/Asher Smith Robson and Lebanese duo Tarek Mahmoud/Gregoire Audi were in A-H 100M, separated by Chris and Olly Phillips in the attractive ex-Tom Kyffin Equipe Devone envelope-bodied Cooper-Bristol and welcome returnee Paul Griffin, piloting his ex-Les Leston Connaught ALSR streamliner in the W1 class which also harboured John Cleland’s Lotus Mk6 and Nigel Batchelor’s troubled Cooper-MG which failed to complete a lap.
The other divisional leader was the very special Triumph TR3S of Chris Ryan, shadowed by the Aston Martin-esque Gomm Jaguar XK140 special of class rival Simon Diffey. Last of the Healeys was the 100M of Robert Rawe/Mark Midgley. The field was completed by the Jaguar XK140 of Spaniards Carlos Martinez de Campos/Jose de los Milagros, whose programmed twin of Paul Chase-Gardener morphed into an AM DB2 – which erupted into flames before reaching the track on raceday – and Richard Wilson’s glorious Talbot Lago T26.
Heavy overnight rain had given way to bright sunshine by the time the 42 runners took the rolling start, from which local hero Gary Pearson shot clear of Wakeman and Smith, with the chasing pack led by the smaller-engined machines of Stretton and Bourne, already engaged in combat. Eastick squandered his early sixth with an uncharacteristic spin on lap two, but was soon back under way with the loss of around 10 places.
Behind the leader the Cooper-Jaguar battle for second got a bit too tight as matching dents in the silver T33’s left front wing and the dark blue T38’s right rear corner attested. Smith and Wakeman raced on regardless, Fred’s deficit to Pearson stabilising at around three seconds. Ruddell’s Aston had fallen before Wilson retired the Talbot on lap 5. Champion’s Nash slowed suddenly and retired, most unusually, seven laps in.
Meanwhile the gap from first to second had halved as first Pearson, then Wakeman encountered traffic, often in gaggles, during lappery. Fred made his mandatory stop at 10½ laps (half-distance, plus the run back to the Heritage Pits, at the opposite end of the circuit to the timing line after Club corner, adjacent to the F1 Wing Pits) relaying Blakeney-Edwards to chase down the BRG D-type. First of the leaders to stop was Smith, after eight tours, thus Ward was already up to speed.
All was not well in the Pearson camp, however, for a misfire had begun to compromise Gary’s top speed. “We think it’s the ignition,” he explained afterwards. “I normally let the engine pull 6200rpm on the long straights but it started to falter at five eight to six and eventually we were left with five two.” Gary stayed out to the end of the pit window before handing the problem to brother John on lap 14, but the car clearly could no longer outrun the similarly-powered Coopers from Surbiton.
Defence was futile, thus Blakeney-Edwards and Ward duly howled past the ailing D-type on laps 16 and 17 respectively, to land first and second 20 seconds apart. The T38’s quickest lap was recorded by PB-E in the closing stages, but the ‘aero-tweaked’ T33’s best was set by Smith on his first flier. Neither matched Gary Pearson’s 2:30.776 (86.90mph) mark in the opening stages.
Last of the late-stoppers Bourne – who led for a lap as the pitstop stagger unwound – handed the ex-Mike Anthony Lotus-Bristol streamliner to owner Paul who landed the W3A class win in dramatic fashion. With Young hounding him down in the fleet Lister-Maserati, Malcolm gyrated at Club three laps from home. He picked himself up rapidly and with Young getting more than a whiff of a debut victory held on to cross the finish line a scant 0.695s ahead of his rival.
Hall in Hunt’s burly HWM, outran the Llewellyns’ Allard for W4 class victory, finishing sixth ahead of Wilson in the W3-winning Maserati started by Stretton. Jones, pressing on in Eastick’s Jag, grabbed eighth place from Ure in the ever-remarkable Cooper-Bristol which dominated W2. They were the last competitors to go the full distance.
The thudding Allard finished 10th overall, clear of Friedrichs’ Jag, the Cottingham’s yellow Ferrari, Barrett/Shepherd’s D-type and Abecassis/Woolmer in the top Healey. Best of the Astons was the white and blue DB3S which Arlette Muller finished for her father in 14th place, two ahead of the black Melling/Hall DB3 with the Willis/Minshaw Healey and Brown family C-type.
Griffin won W1 in the Connaught, from Batchelor’s rejuvenated Cooper-MG. Diffey headed the Invitation section in the Gomm Jaguar, a lap ahead of the Triumph TR3S. Thirty three of the 42 starters took the chequered flag although Hart missed out having skated off into the gravel at Copse in the Maserati 300S after a tussle with Tim Llewellyn and Friedrichs. Also in retirement with deranged suspension was the RGS in which Barry Wood took a clonk at Maggotts on his out lap.