Driving the ex-Wolfgang von Trips/Phil Hill North American Racing Team Ferrari 246S for the first time, and with typically exuberant verve, the versatile Sam Hancock brilliantly beat very strong Lister-mounted opposition to win the 2016 Silverstone Classic’s Stirling Moss Trophy race, emulating Gregor Fisken’s feat in the same sublimely-balanced car last year.
Delighted with the invitation to race the wonderful 1960 barchetta – victorious in major historic events the skilled hands of Tony Dron and Bobby Verdon-Roe down the years – Hancock did well to qualify fourth in the Friday session, within a second of Gary Pearson’s 2m24.198s (90.86mph) pole marker on the demanding 3.63-mile track. “I think it’s got the BVR ‘huge bollocks’ set-up on it, but I haven’t found the right supplement yet,” grinned Sam on stepping out.
Scot Jamie McIntyre posted a time just 0.006s slower than Pearson – left to go solo in the family Lister-Jaguar Knobbly as its cockpit ergonomics were too uncomfortable for brother John’s bad back – at the wheel of Mark Lewis’ late-built 5.4-litre Chevrolet Corvette-engined Knobbly clone, with Tony Wood/Will Nuthall a close-up third in Barry Wood’s Jaguar-motivated Knobbly.
Oliver Bryant in the swiftest of the agile two-litre Lotus 15s and Richard Kent (Lister-Jaguar Costin) joined Hancock in the ‘25s.’ Also inside 2m30s were Paul Woolley – in one of six rear-engined Cooper T49 Monacos which comprised a fifth of the 30-car field – Dion Kremer (in the Lotus 15 shared with sprightly octogenarian father Gabriel), the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Lola Mk1 Prototype, Darren McWhirter’s Tojeiro-Jaguar and the ex-Jim Clark Lister-Jaguar ‘flat-iron’ of Steve Boultbee Brooks.
The sleek Lotus XI Le Mans of Surrey timber merchant Philip Champion and Sam Stretton was hot on their heels and shared row six of the grid with the Lister-Jaguar of Sam Thomas/Martin O’Connell on paper, but the latter pairing non-started. That promoted the Cooper Monacos of Lebanese crew Tarek Mahmoud/Gregoire Audi and Justin Maeers and ballsy debutant Charlie Martin, the Lister-Chevrolet sanction model of Rob Newall/Mark Gibbon and Rejo Mk3 of Malcolm Harrison/Patrick Watts.
Further down, Belgium’s Gregory de Prins handled his later Rejo, moustachioed German Ralf Emmerling shared his Elva Mk5 with French-domiciled Brit Phil Hooper and Jason Yates had Joe Twyman sharing the Lotus XI ‘Custard-Climax.’ Two more Lister-Jaguars graced the entry, Hans Hübner’s and the Equipe National Belge example of Chris Lunn. The Mike Todd/Johnny Thorne Austin-Healey 3000 led the invitees, but Peter Stohrmann Sr/Jr’s Lotus XI was withdrawn pre-race, sad to see after they’d brought it from Germany.
Pearson made the best start when the red lights went out to start Saturday morning’s 50-minute race, but Wood and Hancock matched him initially, with Bryant forging his way into the mix with the nimble Climax FPF-engined Lotus. Kent outgrunted Bryant on lap two to go fourth as Hancock howled past Wood at Maggotts Curve, then steeled himself to challenge Pearson for the lead. Kremer ran sixth early on, with Lewis finding his equilibrium having slipped to seventh, ahead of Bellinger, Woolley and Boultbee Brooks.
The spectacle of five cars gunning for the lead was awesome, but Hancock made his move into Stowe on lap three and was mortified to snap sideways on oil – evacuated from the engine of Robi Bernberg’s Cooper T39 – and tap Pearson’s British Racing Green Lister. “I really must find Gary to apologise,” said Sam later. Worsening oversteer and a vibration sent Pearson scurrying for the pits suspecting a punctured left rear tyre, but nothing obvious was found. “It’s a high-speed circuit, so best to have a look.” After one further exploratory lap the car was retired.
Without his principal, rival Hancock was uncatchable, try as Bryant – headlights ablaze as he scythed through traffic endeavouring to build a comfort zone for father Grahame – Kent and Wood did, Oliver and setting fastest lap in the process. Lewis and Bellinger (whose bravado briefly inched the diminutive Lola’s nose ahead in The Loop) pitted after 10 circuits, leaving sparring partner Kremer out to maximise his stint.
The battle of the race was raging behind Dion, with Maeers, Mahmoud and Le Blanc slugging it out in their rear-engined Coopers. While none of them could match Woolley, who finished seventh, having completed the full 20 laps, their co-drivers eagerly picked up the cudgels, Audi beating the impressive Martin (more used to hillclimbing a terrifyingly skittish featherweight GN/Morgan-JAP concoction) to 10th by a tad under three seconds.