Gary Pearson cemented his position as the most successful Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy competitor at the Silverstone Classic, but the Jaguar D-type ace’s fifth victory in the fixture’s 13-year history was his first driving solo. Gary used his consummate skills to stave off the omni-present Cooper-Jaguar T38 of 2017 and ’14 victors Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards. Martin Stretton and Richard Wilson bagged a fine third in the latter’s svelte ex-Carroll Shelby/Jim Hall Maserati 250S, which led fleetingly during the 50-minute race’s pit-stop phase.
But it was no one-horse race for Pearson. There were a couple of anxious moments for him en route, both involving spilled oil. Californian Wakeman slipped ahead briefly after Gary slewed wide on lubricant dropped at Stowe – “I hit the steering’s lock stops trying to catch it but how it didn’t spin I have no idea” – but the final lap harboured an even more unwelcome surprise. As Pearson powered his ex-works/Briggs Cunningham XKD506 out of the Maggotts/Becketts flick-flack and traversed Chapel Curve onto the Hangar Straight he was confronted with the culmination of a major drama. “First I saw oil and when I followed the slick round to the left brother John [with whom he won in 2012 and ‘13’s first leg] was backwards at the end of it! That took the edge off things.”
HP Tyres boss John Pearson had been running a solid eighth in father John Sr’s short-nosed D-type when a bolt let go causing a con-rod to ventilate his engine’s block. “Dad’s original engine is too precious to race, but this was one loaned by Gary for the Le Mans Classic. We thought it would last another hour but… When it let go there was a mighty bang and the rear end instantly locked solid, sending the car spinning across the track. I said ‘come on John’ and fought it all the way on the grass, but happily it came to a standstill four feet short of the wall. I think I stopped shaking about an hour later!”
Gary Pearson’s 2m29.778s (87.47mph) best lap of the 3.63-mile Historic GP circuit put him on pole in Friday morning’s qualifying session for which 34 cars turned out. With the American’s ex-works Jaguar C-type not quite ready, Wakeman/Blakeney-Edwards wheeled out his faithful Cooper-Jaguar – resplendent in the dark blue warpaint of former BRDC chairman Tommy Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour – and circulated but 0.053s slower for the other front row grid slot.
The less potent class-leading Maserati headed the second rank courtesy of ‘Dangermouse’ Stretton whose 2:31.057 was more than a second quicker than the closely-matched Kangaroo Stable HWM-Jaguar of Martin Hunt/PBE and Jaguar D-type XKD558 in the hands of Steve Boultbee Brooks – also contesting the FIA Masters Historic F1 championship round in his Lotus 81 – sharing with 2012’s Woodcote Trophy second leg winner Andrew Smith.
Simon Hadfield planted Wolfgang Friedrichs’ ex-Peter Whitehead Aston Martin DB3S on P6, clear of the unique RGS Atalanta-Jaguar of Barry and Tony Wood and the Rod Barrett/Jay Shepherd D-type. Behind them, Rudi Friedrichs [unrelated to Wolfgang] in his Jaguar C-type, John Ure and Silverstone Classic promoter Nick Wigley in Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook cycle-winged Cooper-Bristol T24/25 and the similarly-motivated ex-Mike Anthony Lotus X of Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne were locked together in the ‘36s.
Also inside 2m40s, completing a quartet of Bristol straight-six powered cars bunched together, were Malcolm Harrison in his slipper-bodied Cooper T25 and Stephen Bond’s silver Lister flat iron, plus John Pearson’s D-type and the quickest Austin-Healey, Paul and Jonathan Mortimer’s 100M, with a 2:38.764 which marked a tremendous family effort. “Snowy’ Snowdon urged David Reed’s Dubonnet-hued Aston Martin DB2 to 16th on 2:40.496, a whisker ahead of the yellow Ferrari 500 TRC of veteran David Cottingham and late sub Scott Redding at the quality 34-car field’s half-way point.
Jonathan Abecassis – grandson of illustrious HWM marque co-founder George – found his left-hooker Austin-Healey 100/4 in the company of the gruff HWM-Cadillac of lanky Richard Woolmer and James Cottingham (David’s son), with perennial hard-tryer Nick Matthews (100/4), Jason Minshaw/Andy Willis (sharing David Stanley’s A-H 100 Le Mans) and the ex-Tom Kyffin Equipe Devone Cooper-Bristol of dad and lad Chris and Oliver Phillips on their heels.
The ex-Archie Scott Brown Lister-Maserati of Nick Riley was next up, the former Mazda MX-5 racer but hundredths ahead of Steve and Josh Ward’s open Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar XK120 in the Coventry marque’s legendary six-cylinder DOHC engine’s 70th anniversary year. A second Ferrari 500 TRC, Jason Yates’ colourful example – loaned initially to Siro Soraci, then sold to Armando Garcia Cifuentes in Cuba – turned heads as an invitation entry with a howling three-litre V12-engine in place of its original two-litre four-cylinder unit. Versatile Ben Mitchell – the HSCC Historic Formula Ford championship leader – enjoyed adding it to his CV.
Chris Jolly’s Aston Martin DB2 was taken round a couple of seconds quicker than Paul Griffin’s Connaught ALSR 11, raced in period by marque hero Tony Brooks, Les Leston, Archie Scott Brown and Stirling Moss in period. The green streamliner lined up ahead of Nick Brayshaw and BTCC racer Sam Tordoff (A-H 100M) and the Frazer Nash Mille Miglia of Surrey lumberjack Philip Champion and Sam Stretton. Nick Ruddell’s Aston Martin DB2, Marc Gordon’s Jaguar XK140 FHC and Kevin ‘KeKi’ Kivlochan’s AC Ace-Bristol were next. The field was completed by John Cleland’s ex-Tom Candlish/Hugo Shipley/Chris Rea Lotus 6 and Joao Mira-Gomes, Portugal’s ambassador to Germany, with his XK140 FHC.
Quickest into his stride at Sunday’s rolling start, Gary Pearson accelerated his British Racing Green D-type away with typical gusto, opening a 2.6 second advantage over Wakeman on the opening lap of the 50-minute race. Stretton’s scarlet Maserati and Blakeney-Edwards – starting Hunt’s HWM with Fred’s Cooper-Jaguar to finish – led the chase as the multi-marque spectacle unfolded.
Behind them, Boultbee Brooks and Bourne, making up places in the red Lotus-Bristol, headed the rest, with Rudi Friedrichs, Shepherd, Wigley and John Pearson completing the top 10. Wolfgang Friedrichs started his Aston Martin cautiously, slipping back into a comfortable pace which left the combo in the early ‘teens,’ with the time-honoured strategy of putting co-driver Hadfield into bat at the earliest opportunity. Harrison and Woolmer were soon past Wolfgang too as Gary Pearson’s relentless pace split the top six, his advantage stretching to more than four seconds.
Gary’s oily moment at Stowe could have been a turning point, but having deployed all his reflexes to gather the Jag up – where Bourne and Paul Mortimer were caught out – he momentarily lost out to Wakeman when they encountered traffic on lap 8. Fred ran wheel-to-wheel with him thereafter, indeed they entered the Heritage pits [at Woodcote, the opposite end of the circuit to the Classic’s start/finish line] together after ten and a half laps. Pearson exited further ahead and proceeded to ease away from Blakeney-Edwards (out of the square-cut HWM and now into in the more curvaceous Cooper-Jaguar) all the way to the chequer, finishing 5.289s clear.
Wilson made a good fist of keeping his Maserati ahead of Hunt to the flag to seal the final podium place. Hadfield, who had brought the open Aston Martin up from the teens, had just passed Pearson minor when he had his scare at Chapel, but his rise didn’t stop there. Simon gobbled up the couple of seconds’ deficit to Ure and growled past the both the Cooper-Bristol and Rudi Friedrichs’ C-type with which he was enjoying a merry dice to snatch fifth. The trio was blanketed by 1.3 at the close.
Harrison’s Cooper-Bristol was the first lapped finisher in eighth, having won a skirmish with Bond’s Lister-Bristol which finished a minute ahead of the Shepherd/Barrett D-type. A scant two seconds covered the next four however, Cottingham in the thumping HWM having Riley’s Lister-Maserati and the Healey 100Ms of Abecassis and the Mortimers in his wake. Willis and Minshaw’s Healey was next back ahead of the yellow Cottingham/Redding Ferrari and the Phillips Cooper-Bristol. Jolly’s well-conducted Aston Martin DB2 also covered 19 laps.
The Champion/Stretton Frazer Nash was classified 19th ahead of Gordon who pipped the Wards in a tight Jaguar XK finish. Griffin beat Cleland for WT1 class honours, his Connaught stopping the clocks 27 seconds before Cleland’s diminutive Lotus. Kivlochan’s AC Ace split them on the road, but was penalised 30 seconds for not carrying a working timing transponder, having been warned post-qualifying. Ruddell’s Aston and the Yates/Mitchell Ferrari – which ground to a halt with its owner up early on – propped up the finishers.
Among the notable retirements were Bourne, with a noise emanating from the Lotus X’s diff, and the Boultbee Brooks D-type, pulled up by Smith. Reed’s Aston recovered from a wild spin at Abbey with Snowdon up, but succumbed to overheating. Tordoff barely got going in the Porsche, pitting on the opening lap then calling it a day after a couple more.