Motor Racing Legends ran races from all four of its series at the first ever Donington Historic Festival on 30 April and 1 May – a spectacularly successful event that attracted 12,000 people through the gates to enjoy two days of action in non-stop sunshine.
Mad Jack highlights included Peter Neumark’s fabulous ex-‘Phi-Phi’ Etancelin Alfa 8C Monza, which seemed a real contender for victory until a mistake near the end left Alex Ames, in John Ruston’s Alta Sports, to take the chequered flag. Further down the field, the sparring Bentleys of Stuart and James Morley were another major attraction, once the brothers had taken over from their father and grandfather, respectively.The very first race of the Festival was Motor Racing Legends’ own ‘Mad Jack’ – a brand new grid, supported by eCar insurance, which aims to get pre-War cars back at the heart of historic motorsport. And nowhere could be better than Donington Park, with the natural amphitheatre of its infield, to demonstrate what a fabulous spectator sport pre-War racing can be. “On a circuit as demanding and interesting as Donington,” points out Duncan Wiltshire, “you don’t need the cars to be going a million miles an hour for the crowds to get swept up in the action. We feel that this exciting and close-fought race has done a lot to reinvigorate pre-War racing in the minds of spectators, and we hope to see a lot more of it in the future.”
The second Motor Racing Legends race of the weekend was the prestigious Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy, supported by EFG Private Bank, continuing the tradition of packed grids of absolutely top-class pre-56 sports-racers, all running to period spec. While the anticipated battle between the D-types of Laidlaw/Hadfield and Lindsay/Wakeman was scuppered when the latter failed on lap 10 – leaving Irvine Laidlaw and Simon Hadfield to take a very clear-cut victory – there was much excitement at the spectacular second place achieved by Stephen Bond’s Lister Bristol ‘Flat Iron’; followed by two Maserati A6 GCSs (and a third A6 GCS in eighth place).
Sunday saw 30 cars take the start of the Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-61 sports cars, supported by JD Classics, with the front-runners setting some crackingly quick laptimes. Quickest of all was the Maserati Birdcage of Alan and Jason Minshaw, but a technical problem saw Jason pit on lap 30 and not re-emerge. Probably the most thrilling battle of the race, however, was between the Lister Knobbly of Jon Minshaw/Martin Stretton, and the Ferrari 246S of Bobby Verdon-Roe. For the first 12 laps, there was almost nothing between them – and most of the time they were less than two-tenths of a second apart. Then, sadly, a puncture forced the Lister out of contention and although it returned to the track, it was too late to manage more than a (very creditable) fifth. Verdon-Roe then romped home to a decisive win, with the ever-competitive Richard Attwood in second, at the wheel of the famous, 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1 – and Adrian Van Der Kroft and Alasdair McCaig doing brilliantly to get on the third step of the podium with their Cooper T49.
And finally to the last race of the Festival, the first-ever JD Classics Challenge – and a small but top-quality grid of Groups 1 and 2, and Group A Touring Cars from 1972-85. The field included two BMW 2002s, treating spectators to some wheel-to-wheel action and more than one detour into the gravel, plus the attention-grabbing BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ of Allen Tice and Chris Conoley – not to mention the reappearance of the JD Classics-owned ‘Big Sam’, the famous Datsun 240Z. But leading the field and winning the first-ever JDCC race was the Ford RS 1800 of Mark Wright – followed by the second-placed Ford Capri of Paul Pochciol and Mike Wrigley. “We’ve planted the acorn for this series,” says Duncan Wiltshire, “and we have great hopes for the future, as more and more owners recommission the Touring Cars with provenance which are currently sitting idle.”