Celebrating daredevil aviator and racer Richard ‘Mad Jack’ Shuttleworth, winner of the inaugural Donington Grand Prix of 1935 in his Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3), Motor Racing Legends’ annual showcase for pre-War cars drew a wonderfully diverse range of 27 automobiles at the sixth Donington Historic Festival. From the Halusa family stable’s sensational Zagato-bodied Alfa 8C 2300 and Bugatti T35C to roustabout Frazer Nashes, Monday’s race rewarded spectators with some of the Bank Holiday weekend’s highlights.
The chain-gang Nashes invariably bat above their weight in the most intrepid hands, thus is was no surprise to see the 1928 Meadows-engined Super Sports model of last year’s winners Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards start from pole with a fine 1m32.744s (76.82mph) qualifying shot. Sam Stretton sat alongside in a 1936 Alta, representing Geoffrey Taylor’s enterprise in Surrey, with Lukas Halusa’s Bugatti and Ewen Getley’s superbly-driven Bentley 3/4½, Scot Tom McWhirter’s Jaguar SS100 and Rudi Friedrichs’ rorty Alvis Speed 20 SA next up and very closely-matched.
Richard Hudson/Stuart Morley (Bentley) and the Halusa Alfa also lapped under 1m40s, leading a gaggle comprising Invicta, Riley and Talbot marques, plus Jonathan Turner’s 1934 Triumph Dolomite 8. Aston Martin, Lagonda and Morgan were also represented in the 40-minute afternoon race, mercifully blessed with dry conditions after a monsoon of near biblical magnitude earlier in the day.
Lukas Halusa bolted out of the blocks at the start, the Austrian pursed by Germany’s Friedrichs, with Stretton, Californian Wakeman, Getley and McWhirter and the redoubtable Charles Gillett – from 17th on the grid in his blue FN Super Sports, for which BRDC Competitions Secretary and ‘Bentley Belle’ Gillian Carr was waiting expectantly in the pits – tearing through the pack.
As Halusa continued to make hay out front, pulling almost 105mph in his Bugatti on the quickest section of the undulating circuit, Gillett forged his way past Wakeman into third. Alas the strain was too great for his steed which went lame after 10 laps, leaving Friedrichs and Wakeman to engage Halusa in combat. Rudi forged his Alvis ahead for three laps before making his mandatory pit stop. Blakeney-Edwards, was already up to speed after taking over from Wakeman – setting the race’s fastest lap, 1m33.317s (77.23mph) on his second flyer – and shot clear for a 10 second victory over Friedrichs.
Stretton and Halusa were third and fourth, Sam having reversed their order on the final lap after a long chase. McWhirter also went the full distance, with Getley, Martin Halusa’s Alfa, the Bentley of Clive and James Morley, Historic Formula Junior ace Chris ‘Muttley’ Chilcott’s Frazer Nash Fast Tourer and former rally champion Richard Iliffe’s Riley Kestrel Sports completing the top 10. Duncan Wiltshire was out of luck, his Bentley hobbled by magneto problems and out after two laps.