Fresh from another successful sale at the annual Classic event, Silverstone Auctions founder Nick Whale and his son Harry reprised their accomplished 2016 Historic Touring Car Challenge race victory in senior’s pristine AutoTrader BMW E30 M3, his 1991 BTCC mount. Another close-knit father-and-son combo, Mark Smith and Arran Moulton-Smith, screamed their ex-Steve Soper M3 to second place, the latter winding the Schnitzer/Warsteiner machine up to good effect in the later stages.
The opening skirmishes of Sunday’s colourful showpiece wowed the crowds as Nick Whale fought with the more powerful 5.3-litre Jaguar XJ12C ‘Broadspeed replica’ of James Hanson (another BTCC veteran) and CNC Heads boss Ric Wood in his sonorous 3.4-litre Ford Capri GAA V6 evocation. All three led as they shook off Steve Dance’s Capri RS2600, Smith, David Tomlin’s Klaus Ludwig tribute Ford Escort-BDG and the very original Mk1 version of Ben Gill.
Whale made his mandatory stop first, installing Harry who – having recorded the time which earned them pole position – did a sterling job in converting hisfather’s strong start to victory, as he did at the season-opening Donington Historic Festival. “There’s life in the old dog yet,” bubbled Nick after another near perfect team performance in the Jordan Racing Team prepared “bimmer.” Moulton-Smith, head of the Brackley-based Amspeed team, crossed the line 5.361s behind Harry Whale, with Thruxton winner Wood third, driving solo.
Maintaining the family fun tradition of Motor Racing Legends grids, Grahame and Olly Bryant won the concurrent Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 contest and finishing 12th overall in their Richard Lloyd Simoniz 5.7-litre Chevrolet Camaro Z28. The American V8 flew in the latter’s hands, outrunning the 3.5-litre Rover SD1 of Adam Brindle/Nigel Greensall and three-litre Capris of John Spiers and Patrick Watts, yet another competitor with the BTCC on a long and illustrious CV.
Returning to the Classic after a year’s sabbatical, the HTCC’s sensational 47-car entry was long on quality, embracing original machinery spanning the 1970s-1990s and newly-built cars reflecting the specifications of those which raced in the period. An unexpected FIA/MSA circuit licence issue, which broke only in the run-up to Thursday’s test day, saw this grid among those switched to the current 3.66-mile Grand Prix circuit with the tighter left-handed Vale corner preceding Club, as opposed to the Historic version with its eased sweeping approach on which returnees previously competed.
Not that this revelation deterred Harry Whale. His 2m21.605s (93.06mph) best shot in Friday’s half-hour qualifying session was 2.4s inside Mark Smith’s 2016 pole [2:24.020] on the ‘quicker’ layout. Racelogic founder Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie’s 2:24.095 in the former’s sensationally turned-out Rouse Sport Kaliber Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 – former F1 driver Guy Edwards’ team car, raced once at Silverstone by team boss Andy Rouse in period – bagged second. Hanson in Paul Pochciol’s mighty Jaguar and Smith/Moulton-Smith were within half a second, raising the prospect of a tough race on Sunday.
With current BTCC ace Adam Morgan abroad, Wood went solo in his late-model Capri as did Dance in his replica of the earlier shaped period GRAB RS2600. Split by less than half a second they shared row three, although Mark Wright took his Sierra RS500 [to have been shared again by ex-F3000 racer Dave Coyne] back home after the session with continued engine problems. Tomlin thus moved up in his Escort Mk2, previously Wright’s, on the second anniversary of his debut in it. Roger and Jack Stanford’s BMW M3 E30 and the Sierra RS500 of Paul Linfoot and Welsh BTCC veteran Karl Jones rounded out the top 10.
Much interest surrounded the UK debut of Ben Gill’s Escort Mk1, one of two bought by the resourceful Carlo Facetti from Ralph Broad in 1972 and tested here before being delivered to the renowned Terzi prepshop in Italy. Rediscovered as a well preserved but Group 5-ised shell, the car was restored by David Didcock and looked fantastic in original Jolly Club livery with a Jondel-built BDG under its bonnet. Gill, who has previously raced it in Europe, qualified 11th on 2:29.099, 2.6 seconds shy of class rival Tomlin.
A couple of seconds separated Gill from next qualifier Tom Houlbrook, whose Japanese-liveried BMW E30 M3’s mirrors were filled with a quartet of V8 monsters of increasing capacity. Rover Vitesses bookended them – TWR engineer Ken Clarke’s ex-Steve Soper Hepolite car and the ex-Dennis Leech version of Chris and Charlie Williams sandwiched the Bryant Chevrolet Camaro and Belgian Marc Devis’ thuggish American Motors Javelin. Seasoned Silverstone racegoers remember its first owner David Howes (the Eaton Bray, Dunstable, AMC dealer, who sold it to Devis) racing in major events and club races in the 1970s.
Malcolm Harding’s Zakspeed Castrol RS1800 evocation, MRL commercial partner EFG Bank’s racing emissary Robert Crofton in his Samurai Datsun 240Z and the Brindle/Greensall Rover SD1 were tightly packed ahead of Steve Jones’ M3 and Andrew Bruce’s SD1, shared with ’91 BTCC champion Tim Harvey. The Rovers were second and third in the Tony Dron Trophy classification. Les Ely’s elderly but effective BMW 2000 was driven hard by its owner and Ford Anglia 105E ace Neil Wood to outpace Spiers’ Capri.
Jim Morris and preparation ace Tom Shephard occupied the fulcrum point of the field in their class-leading Morris Vulcan VW Golf GTI (Jim’s father John’s period racer) with Watts’ Capri, the burly South African Rover SD1 of Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and Australian Bill Cutler’s splendid BMW M535i close behind. Spa Six Hours winner of yore David Clark’s Bastos Chevrolet Camaro, co-driven by Ben Shuckburgh, was also taken round inside 2m40s.
A host of Capris was in the next batch, Chris Keen’s the first of them. Touring car veteran Jeff Allam – a promising Special Saloon racer with a Vauxhall Viva GT in his youth, 45 years ago – was back in Duncan McKay’s Castrol Capri, which narrowly outpaced New Zealander Scott O’Donnell’s, into which FIA Historic F1 champion Michael Lyons was drafted. Among the Ford V6s were the unusual BMW 320 of Mike Luck and Clubmans ace Alex Champkin, Martin Overington/Guy Stevens and Peter Mallett/Iain Rowley in big Rovers, the feisty Mini 1275GTs of Jason Brooks/Michael Caine (the 2012 British GT champion) and Mark Burnett, plus Mark Roberts’ Datapost Ford Fiesta.
A rorty trio of Alfa Romeos coloured the tail end of the field, the GTV6s of Wolverhampton marque dealers Ian and Frank Guest and Paul Clayson heading off the 105-shaped 2000 GTV of Glynn Allen and spannerman Darren Roberts. In their midst were Mark Wilson’s VW Golf GTI, the Capri of Anthony Galliers-Pratt/Ben Cussons and the troubled Rover SD1 of Stuart Hall/Mike Wrigley.
Sunday’s grid comprised an impressive 46 starters and Hanson wasted no time in unleashing the big Jaguar, hurtling past the front row BMW M3s and squeezing ahead into the right-handed Abbey corner. Ironically, Thomas’ challenge in the bewinged Kaliber Sierra RS500 turbocar fizzled out on the opening circuit, to the local entrepreneur’s disappointment, but did not detract from the race.
For several laps the contrasting exhaust notes of the V12 Jag, Nick Whale’s rasping four-cylinder BMW and Wood’s shrill V6 Capri melded into one as they traded places. Whale snatched the lead from Hanson round the outside into Loop where Wood wriggled past James on the exit, only to be outgunned on the Wellington Straight where the combatants dived into Brooklands three abreast on one occasion.
When their order shook itself out, Whale asserted himself in front before putting rapid son Harry into bat on the eighth lap. Mark Smith had the same idea, stopping a few seconds later from fourth place for his lad Arran to jump in. Dance, Tomlin – with a drive through penalty for a jump start hanging over him, Stanford and Gill led the chase.
Wood made his stop a lap after Whale’s, and Dance next time round with only Hanson ahead. With Harry Whale already seventh, James maximised his stint before Jaguar owner Pochciol took over on lap 11, pitting ahead of the M3s of Stanford and Houlbrook. No easy drive, the big Jaguar slipped down the order thereafter, as Whale Jr and Moulton-Smith ran first and second. Pursued by Wood, Dance and Tomlin.
In his efforts to repel Dance, Tomlin survived a massive grassy spin into Stowe. With his Escort’s front left tyre blown after it slewed sideways – somehow he didn’t spin – David managed to crawl back to the pits for a replacement, then with only a tattered nose spoiler as evidence of the drama continued as if nothing had happened!
As the chequered flag halted proceedings a couple of minutes before the allocated 50 were up, Whale, Moulton-Smith and Wood (class winners all) claimed the podium places, pursued by Wood, Houlbrook and the impressive Gill, who also headed his division. Pochciol brought the XJ12C home seventh ahead of Devis, Jones in Linfoot’s RS500 and Roger Stanford. All covered the full distance.
Words: MAWP, Photos: JEP and Dave Brassington