For Nick and Harry Whale, standing triumphantly atop the Donington Historic Festival podium after a faultless Historic Touring Car Challenge victory in the Auto Trader BMW M3 E30 which Nick raced in 1990-’91 was an emotional moment and completed what Silverstone Auctions boss Nick described as a “circle of life. We have photographs of Harry sitting in the car here in 1990, aged six months, so to be up here with him after a fantastic drive is very special. It was really down to him and the Jordan Racing Team for bringing our performance to the next level.”
Whale Sr underplayed his role in the success, for working with 2013 BTCC champion Andy Jordan he had found valuable time in the car. “I’ve not been good with [interpreting] data, but since Andy has driven the M3 and explained things it’s no longer raw info but stuff I can appreciate. Concentrating on the two places I was much slower than him – Redgate and the Chicane – has transformed my driving.” The evidence is on the clock for Nick scorched clear before handing over to Harry.
Another capable family team, Mark Smith and son Arran Moulton-Smith of Amspeed brought their Bigazzi team M3 – also powered by a 2.5-litre DTM spec engine – home second, taking the chequered flag 36.597s seconds later, ahead of its period driver Steve Soper and Chris Ward in the 2017-winning Tom Walkinshaw Racing Bastos Rover. Patrick Watts did a fine job, overcoming a one-minute soloists’ pit-stop to win the concurrent Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 race after a “very stressful but enjoyable” run in his Frank & Jeans Ford Capri, repaired since its knock at Goodwood.
BMWs spanning three eras locked-out seven of the top 10 qualifying positions on Friday, with the M3 E30s of the Whales and Smith/Moulton-Smith heading off Soper/Ward. The ace in the pack was Harry’s pole time of 1m15.840s (93.94mph), but the team’s closest rivals were but 0.292s adrift, with the snorting V8 Rover within a second of P1.
David Tomlin’s Klaus Ludwig tribute Ford Escort RS1800 lined-up fourth, its two-litre Cosworth BDG engine wailing in harmony with the straight-sixes in Eric Mestdagh’s wonderful BMW 3.0 CSL – resplendent in Marabout livery as raced by fellow Belgians Jean Xhenceval and Fredy Grainal in the early ’70s – and shapely 635 CSi of double FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 champion Nick Padmore, making his series debut as an invitation entry.
Another welcome newcomer was the Rover SD1 of Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney Edwards, giving the fun-loving pair a choice of chain-drive to slicks across all four MRL disciplines. The Anglo American combo did well to qualify seventh, the last team inside 80 seconds, with the BMW M3s of Tom Andrew and father-and-son Roger and Jack Stanford, the 635 of Shane Bland/Andre d’Cruze, Rick Wood’s mighty but troubled Ford Capri (with BTCC star Adam Morgan due to share) and the Goffs’ Sierra Cosworth RS500 blanketed in the 1m20s.
Invitee Alex Thistlethwayte’s ex-Martin Thomas Chevrolet Camaro headed the next group, in close company with the Jaguar XJ12C of Paul Pochciol/James Hanson (fresh from restoration and short on mileage), Jersey-based Richard Hope’s BMW 635, plus the hard-charging Tony Dron Trophy set leading Triplex Rover SD1 of Adam Brindle/Nigel Greensall and Ford Capri 3.0S of multiple race and rally champion Patrick Watts’ Capri.
Next of the TDT contenders, well in contention, were John Spiers (Hermetite Capri) and Jim Morris/Tom Shephard in the immaculately-turned out Morris Vulcan VW Golf GTi raced in period by Jim’s dad John. Preparer John Danby’s interesting HTC Toyota Corolla, currently an invitation entry, split them.
The second half of the 39-car field was long on variety. Notable entries included the BDG-motivated Ford Escort RS1600 Mk1 of Terry Caton and veteran engine-builder Tim Swadkin (a faithful recreation of Spaniard Rafael Barrios’ Garvey Sherry car of the early ’70s), Mark Burnett’s swift Mini 1275GT, the John Young/Phil Perryman Volvo 242 Turbo, a brace of wailing Alfa Romeo GTV6s, Tom Pead’s BMW 1600Ti and the Triumph Dolomite Sprints of Ken and Tim Clarke – with father and son sharing both, an exercise in pit strategy!
e RS500’s turbocharged engine overnight and returned so that seasoned hotshoe Dave Coyne (commuting from Silverstone, where he was also competing) would get a shot.
Thirty four survivors formed Saturday’s diverse and colourful grid, but Nick Whale was certainly not hanging around as the red lights went out for the 60 minute race. Starting smartly as befits his sprint and hillclimb roots as a lad he shot clear of Smith, the fast-starting Mestdagh (on a mission in the white and red ‘Batmobile’), Tomlin, Soper and Wood, with the Stanfords, Hanson, Padmore, Wakeman, Thistlethwaite and Bland leading his pursuers.
Tim Clarke’s Dolomite was out inside a lap – so much for the eagerly anticipated pit-stop ballet – and was soon joined in retirement by Burnett’s Mini, the Strachan Rover and the Faberge Brut Capri of Ludo Lindsay/Greg Caton. Ric Wood screamed his Capri-GAA V6 up to second before pitting with horrible noises emanating from under its bonnet. “It started misfiring; I think its broken the crank,” was his diagnosis.
Out front Nick Whale had relayed Harry at the earliest opportunity, one-third distance. “I found my groove and drove absolutely flat out, doing my best to deliver the car in the lead.” Young Harry did not put a wheel wrong as he clawed his way back to the top of the lap chart on lap 23, after Smith and Mestdagh had made routine stops from the lead on successive laps.
The Coyne/Wright Sierra had sizzled through the field, Dave’s 1:15.548 (94.30mph) best standing as fastest lap but, long out of brakes, succumbed to fuel pressure issues after 28 laps. Clutch problems accounted for the promising Wakeman/PBE Rover mid-race. Tomlin’s Escort was flying, but a 10 second penalty for exceeding track limits dropped it back before a late retirement with a punctured front tyre.
Whale, with a comfortable cushion over his pursuers, could afford to throttle back to secure a fine victory. Moulton-Smith survived a huge spin in the Craner Curves en route to second ahead of the Soper/Ward Rover, a suspension imbalance and braking issues in which sapped both drivers’ confidence. Mestdagh, whose gallant CSL finished on the winners’ lap, and Bland/d’Cruze finshed strongly in fourth and fifth. Thistlethwayte, without a pit crew, amazed onlookers by timing his own stop then rumbling back into the fray. Sixth rewarded his spirit.
Watts, whose Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 gold was good enough also for seventh overall, took the chequer only 27 seconds ahead of the Rover of Brindle (delighted with his first race in a year) and Greensall, with the Morris/Shephard Golf just nine seconds behind. In their wake the imposing V12 Jaguar, Steve Jones’ BMW M3 and Trackmaster Capri of Skid Scarborough/Peter Ratcliff flashed over the line within two seconds.
Words: Marcus Pye – Photographs : Jeff Bloxham and Dave Brassington