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Ward beats Nuthall in Lister duel

Chris Ward topped a weekend of mixed emotions for Derek Hood’s JD Classics team by claiming a hard-fought Stirling Moss Trophy victory over Will Nuthall in a thrilling Lister-Jaguar duel which raged for the majority of the Pre-1961 sportscar showpiece. Such was the tempo of their encounter, in contrasting Costin and Knobbly-bodied chassis, that not even a one minute penalty – meted out because car owner Barry Wood did not take over from Nuthall at the mandatory pitstops, as declared – or running out of fuel on the final lap could rob the local man of second place. Justin Maeers and Charlie Martin finished a brilliant third in the former’s two-litre Coventry-Climax engined Cooper Monaco.

The top three teams dipped beneath the 80 second barrier in Friday qualifying, Ward’s 1m19.381s (89.75mph) best seizing pole from Nuthall and Oliver Bryant (Lotus 15) with 0.425s blanketing them. A train of six more Listers led the preliminary chase, with the Knobblies of Sam Thomas and double British Touring Car champion Colin Turkington, Phil ‘Burglar’ Bennett and 1980s’ single-seater star Dave Coyne and Brazilian Carlos Monteverde/Gary Pearson completing the first three rows of the 26-car grid.

A pair of sleek Lister-Jaguar Costins filled the next rank, with peripatetic powersledge pedaller Nigel Greensall enjoying Chris Milner’s ex-Mike Anthony/Mike Pendleton car TUF 1 shading 2016 runner-up Richard Kent. Steve Boultbee Brooks’ Flat-Iron styled Lister was in touch, co-driven for the first time by former Formula 3 champion Martin O’Connell, followed by a raft of smaller capacity machines with Maeers/Martin best of the rear-engined brigade in 10th overall.

Barely half a second split Belgian Guy Peeters (Lotus 15), Jack and Billy Bellinger (Lola Mk1 Prototype), Philip Champion/Sam Stretton (Lotus 11 Le Mans) and Paul Woolley, whose Cooper Monaco returned to the paddock sans nose and with a large quantity of gravel in its radiator scoop, which resembled a JCB bucket. Charles Gillett/Steve Smith (Willment-Climax), father and son Chris and Nick Ball (Jaguar D-type) were on their heels in mid-field.

Louis Zurstrassen’s little Elva and the Jason Yates’ Lotus 11 ‘Custard Climax,’ driven hard by versatile Ben Mitchell, were blanketed by 0.003s, with the reliveried ex-Jay Chamberlain/Pat Pigott Lotus 15 of David
Cooke and Max Girardo for company, although Cooke’s car broke its diff. A dash back to Twyman Racing in Potter’s Bar sourced a replacement, albeit with a longer Le Mans ratio, but it took its place on the grid ahead of the sister car of American Mike Malone and Rob Hall and the Hawker Restorations Cooper Monaco of Tony Ditheridge/Barry Cannell.

Hans Hübner’s Lister Knobbly, the familiar Elva Mk5 of handlebar moustached Ralf Emmerling/Phil Hooper, Robi Bernberg/Paul Ugo (Cooper T39 Bobtail) and the Jaguar XKs of Marc Gordon (150) and Steve and Josh Ward (XK120 Ecurie Ecosse) completed the line-up. Half-shaft failure sadly sidelined Chris Keen’s mighty Kurtis-Chevrolet 500S for the weekend. 

Chris Ward and Will Nuthall fired their Listers off at a tremendous rate of knots at the start of Saturday’s race although fellow soloist Olly Bryant kept them in sight before making an early pit visit in his Lotus. That promoted Nigel Greensall to third, ahead of Maeers’ Cooper and Boultbee Brooks’ squarer-cut Lister.

Unable to shake his rival off, Ward made his requisite stop after 16 laps, approximately one-third distance. Nuthall went 20, but instead of Barry Wood taking over he left Will to it, which made for a great race once Greensall and Boultbee Brooks had stopped, returning the runaway pair to the top of the lap charts. Their duel raged for the remainder of the race although onlookers knew of Nuthall’s penalty. While this left Ward untouchable, Will – who set fastest lap in the first half’s skirmish – remained second on corrected times, even when the car conked out passing the exhibition centre on the final lap.

Maeers/Martin were classified a class-winning third, also on 43 laps, ahead of Boultbee Brooks and O’Connell, who skated through the Roberts Chicane’s gravel on his out lap. “I came down the straight and it wouldn’t stop; then it wouldn’t go,” smiled Martin who was soon back up to speed. The Lister Knobblies of Monteverde/Pearson and Thomas/Turkington were next back, a lap apart, with the befinned Gillett/Smith Willment-Climax seventh.

Following the demise of the Bryant and Guy Peeters Lotus 15s, the surviving examples of Cooke/Girardo and Malone, who soloed, finished eighth and 10th, separated by Zurstrassen’s 1216cc Climax FWE-motivated Elva. Although Woolley’s Cooper Monaco T49 was an early retirement, the similar red version of Ditheridge/Cannell reached the chequered flag in 11th, two tours clear of the best of the rest, the Bernberg/Ugo Cooper T39.

Ben Mitchell set times in Yates’ yellow 1500cc Lotus 11 which belied its size. Disappointingly, Milner’s Lister was out well before the end. “It had no brakes from the start, but ran out of fuel and that was tricky,” said team mate Greensall. The Bennett/Coyne Lister Knobbly also encountered brake problems over the weekend, although regular E-type and modern Ferrari handler Dave was excited to be offered the opportunity to share it. Last year’s runner-up Richard Kent was out after a lap with teeth stripped from third gear. 

Photos: John Retter, Jeff Bloxham and Dave Brassington