New Zealander Roger Wills almost landed a famous Stirling Moss Trophy victory at the Silverstone Classic, driving Lotus 15 #609 in which compatriots Bruce McLaren and Syd Jensen raced for fabled British entrant John Coombs in Goodwood’s 1958 World Sportscar Championship-deciding Tourist Trophy enduro – Moss’ triumph in which secured the crown for Aston Martin. Sticking front brake callipers slowed the combo mid-race however, handing Pre-’61 gold to Chris Ward, saddling a JD Classics Lister-Jaguar Knobbly as opposed to last year’s winning Costin derivative.
Despite a five second time penalty for exceeding circuit limits – “Tony didn’t tell me he’d received a warning when I took over” – Will Nuthall powered the Wood family’s Lister past the ailing Lotus to wrest second from Wills with a couple of laps to spare. Roger salvaged an SMT5 class-winning third, ahead of Michael Gans’ sister car. Best of the small capacity finishers were Ben Adams (Lola Mk1) and Malcolm Harrison/Patrick Watts (Rejo Mk3) in seventh and eighth places respectively.
Wills set the pace in Friday qualifying, stopping after six laps having posted a superb 2m23.332s (91.41mph) lap of the 3.63-mile Historic Grand Prix course in the two-litre Coventry-Climax FPF-motivated machine prepared by Richard Purves. The Kiwi’s confidence was not misplaced, for Ward took the Lister – its 3.8-litre engine snorting air into its carburettors through distinctive warthog-like nostrils in the bonnet – round almost a second slower to join him on the front row with a stout 2:24.301.
Two more Listers circulated within 0.648s of Silverstone’s former chief circuit instructor, raising the prospect of a power struggle in Saturday’s race. Andrew Robertson Smith/James Cottingham bagged P3 in the immaculately-coiffed Mark Gibbon’s Chevrolet-powered Knobbly, a tenth quicker than rapid returnees Tony Wood/Will Nuthall managed in Barry Wood’s Jaguar-engined version.
American Michael Gans (ex-Roy Pierpoint Lotus 15), the outstanding Ben Adams – wringing every ounce of performance from the ex-Tom Hart/Dickie Le Strange Metcalfe/Rupert Glydon Lola Mk1 BR32 with its 1216cc Climax FWE engine and drum brakes to record a splendid 2:26.666 – and Richard Kent/Gary Pearson (Lister-Jaguar Costin) were well in touch. Best of the rear-engined brigade, eighth quickest, were Justin Maeers/Charlie Martin in the former’s two-litre FPF-motivated Cooper T49 Monaco, shadowed by John Spiers’ Lister-Jaguar Knobbly.
The ever-tenacious ex-works/Peter Gammon Lola Mk1 Prototype of Jersey-based Keith Ahlers and preparer Billy Bellinger rounded out the top 10 on 2:28.079, heading a very competitive gaggle of cars embroiling a couple of series debutants. Scottish veteran Sandy Watson enlisted former GT ace Andrew Kirkaldy to share his newly-acquired Lotus 11, debuted at the Le Mans Classic – John Gray’s pride and joy for decades, now subtly reliveried in metallic blue. Malcolm Paul’s 11, the bare aluminium bodied chassis 336 fresh from an 18-month restoration, was racing for the first time since the mid-1960s. “The ‘new’ unused Dunlop tyres it came on were invoiced in Pounds, Shillings and Pence in 1968,” said Malcolm.
“We were surprised by its pace straight out of the box,” said vastly-experienced co-driver Rick Bourne, who recorded a promising 2:29.878 in just three laps, good enough for 14th place. Then came the Watson/Kirkaldy Lotus, brothers Andrew and Simon Smith in the former’s ex-Tony Marsh Cooper T49 Monaco and evergreen 78-year-old Robs Lamplough’s ex-Allan Ross Lola Mk1 BY2, in which crew chief (and quintuple Historic Formula Ford champion) Neil Fowler set the Q time.
Old pals Malcolm Harrison and Patrick Watts in the former’s Rod Easterling and Jim Osborn-built Rejo Mk3, the SMT3 class leader, headed the midfield pack in which four seconds covered more than a third of the 39-car entry. Gregory de Prins’ Rejo Mk4 was a tad slower than Ben Mitchell’s best in Jason Yates’ Lotus 11 at its sharp end. Three two-litre Cooper Monacos were in the mix, the ex-Hap Sharp example of ‘Dithers’ and ‘Cannelloni’ (Hawker Racing chief Tony Ditheridge and Barry Cannell) ahead of Roger Whiteside/Tom Shrimpton and Paul Griffin’s ex-Jack Brabham machine. Also in there were the finned Willment-Climax with Charles Gillett/Steve Smith aboard, the Lotus 15s of American Mike Malone and Richard Cook/Harvey Stanley (the ex-David Cooke car subsequently withdrawn), plus the Lotus 11s of Andrea Stortoni/Richard Postins and Serge Kriknoff which sandwiched the bellowing Kurtis-Chevrolet of Chris Keen/Richard McAlpine.
Plenty more Lotuses formed the majority behind them, although one of the hot pre-race favourites; Olly Bryant’s 15 was withdrawn with a sump issue. Costas Michael’s flat-bodied ‘Corgi Toy’ car headed the 11s, clear of Sri Lankan-American Harin de Silva’s ex-Team Lotus/Innes Ireland Le Mans version and the streamliner of French pere-et-fils Jacques and Julien Naveau. New Zealand-based Yorkshireman Lee Dwyer’s ill-starred Lotus-Consul Mk4 ‘Slingford Special’ managed but three laps but wasn’t slowest.
Television commitments precluded ex-F1 Ensign driver Tiff Needell from pushing Tom Harris’ Lister-Jaguar Knobbly up the order, thus the owner soloed, starting in the company of Stefan Ziegler’s version, into which Martin Stretton was drafted, the Rod Barrett/Jay Shepherd D-type [doubling-up with the RAC Woodcote Trophy set], John Burton’s pretty Alton Jaguar and the well-used XK150 fixed head coupe of Marc Gordon. Belgian lawyer Marc Valvekens’ Lola Mk1 was unusually far down the order, while Ralf Emmerling shared his Elva Mk5 with Porsche-turned Cooper man Robi Bernberg as regular partner Phil Hooper was indisposed in France.
Determined to outsprint his gruntier rivals, Wills bolted at the rolling start, exploiting his Lotus 15’s balance and agility to break away while the Lister men patiently waited for their front Dunlop tyre temperatures to reach their optimum before pushing. Roger was 4.6 seconds ahead of Ward and Wood within three laps, but Gans – late into his car having buzzed his Elite’s engine in the preceding Pre-’63 GT race – gifted fourth to Cottingham when he ran wide at Village on lap 2. Cottingham dived inside Wood at Woodcote, completing his move to gain third before Copse. His tenure was brief, for Tony regained it with a lunge into Loop before V8 power told again.
Ward, who chiselled Wills’ lead back from seven seconds to around 5.5 with some swift lappery, made his pit stop at nine and a half laps, promoting Cottingham and Gans to second and third, ahead of Kirkaldy and Adams, strategically running longer. Fowler matched them initially, before Andrew Guy Smith’s bigger rear-engined Cooper split the tiddlers up. Kent had handed his bright blue Lister to Pearson on the same lap as the pacesetters, when Stretton relayed Ziegler after an enjoyable chase through the field to seventh. Cannell had also made up ground in the red Cooper before putting owner Ditheridge in. Smith and Bourne were out before the pit window opened, the latter when his Lotus’ throttle linkage jammed at the pedal end, terminating a promising debut borne out by best class lap of 2:27.814 (88.64mph).
Gans’ bold attempt to round Cottingham at Luffield presaged a pass which put the white Lotus 15s first and second, albeit separated on track. Wills and Gans duly made their stops on lap 13, 22 seconds apart, whereupon much attention was focused on Roger’s front brakes. Kirkaldy led as the pitstop stagger unwound, but Wills came out almost five seconds behind Ward, who took the lead for the first time when Kirkaldy came in at three-quarters’ distance.
With Wills clearly hobbled by brake problems – evidenced when he shot down the escape road approaching Club – he was easier prey for Nuthall, but winner Ward was 5.930s up the road when the chequered flag flew. “The boys worked hard and improved the car between practice and the race,” said Chris after his second successive SMT victory at the Silverstone Classic. For Wills, third was a case of what might have been, but his Lotus’ speed was well proven as the crafty Kiwi’s 2:23.712s (91.17mph) fastest lap attested.
Gans, Robertson Smith and Pearson (in for Cottingham and Kent respectively) completed the top six. The Lister-Chevvy wrestlers attracted a 30 second penalty as their transponder was still not triggering MST’s timing system, but the five seconds they won back when Kent/Pearson were penalised for straying out of bounds once too often, netted them fifth by 4.412s.
Adams landed SMT1 honours by 45 seconds from Ahlers/Bellinger, with Stretton/Ziegler ninth and the last car on the lead lap. Class winners Harrison/Watts and Postins/Stortoni finished 3.5s apart, ahead of Kriknoff by a similar margin. The competitive nature of the field saw the 10th to 18th placed finishers on 19 laps. Among them London-based Cypriot Costas Michael had made up 13 places over his qualifying position to finish 15th in his Lotus 11, while Harris (Lister) and Burton (Alton-Jaguar) had gained 10 apiece.