A classic Lister-Jaguar confrontation undoubtedly made the first Stirling Moss Trophy pre-1961 sportscar race of the season, on Monday, May 4, one of the highlights of the fifth Donington Historic Festival.
Following almost an hour of superlative high-speed motoring the Demon Tweeks Knobbly of Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen beat Chris Ward in the JD Classics Costin-bodied version to the chequered flag by less than 19 seconds, putting a marker down for this year’s Brian Lister Cup.
Oliver Bryant claimed first blood, however, topping the morning’s qualifying order with a fine 1m19.320s (89.81mph) lap in his two-litre Lotus 15. Minshaw/Keen were a scant 0.428s shy, with Bobby Verdon-Roe third, sharing the Tim Samways-run NART Ferrari 246S Dino with Gregor Fisken. Tony Wood/Will Nuthall gridded fourth with the former’s Lister-Jaguar Knobbly, restored to pristine condition by IN Racing following its whack at Goodwood six weeks earlier.
Soloists Ward and Richard Kent (Lister-Jaguar Costin) were next up, pursued by a quartet of yapping Climax-engined hounds in the order of Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger in the gleaming 1216cc Lola Mk1 Prototype then the Lotuses of Dion and Gabriel Kremer (17, also FWE-powered), and the 1500cc FWB-motivated type 11 streamliners of Philip Champion/Sam Stretton and Scots Laurence and Tim Jacobsen. The Kremers had entered their ex-works/Peter Horsman two-litre Lotus 15, but head gasket failure in testing forced the late substitution.
No fewer than five Cooper T49 Monacos – a record in recent years – graced the 25-car field, newcomer Karsten Le Blanc shading Paul Woolley/Richard Shaw for 11th on the grid with the Mahmoud brothers (Tarek and Galal), Mark Piercy (destined not to start) and veterans Tony Ditheridge/Barry Cannell in the chase.
Splitting the pretty Monacos were Stephen Bond, debuting his Lister-Jaguar Knobbly with ex-single-seater racer Ross Curnow (son of former Mini ace and BTCC racer Alan), the diminutive Cooper T39 Bobtail of Jeremy Cooke/Mike Dowd, the Malcolm Harrison/Nick Adcock Rejo Mk3 and Louis Zurstrassen’s smart front-engined Elva MkV.
Simon Edwards’ Rejo Mk4 and the ‘Latvian’ Elva MkV of Ralf Emmerling/Phil Hooper were also inside 1m30s, separated by Hans Hübner’s Lister Knobbly, as were the Cooper ‘Bob’ of Robi Bernberg/Paul Ugo and the finned Willment of Frazer Nash chain-gangers Charlie Gillett/Steve Smith. A single GT car, Marc Gorden’s Jaguar XK120, joined the fun.
Start driver Grahame Bryant was never going to match his lad’s pace, thus the green Lotus was gobbled up by the pack in the opening laps, with the prospect of an early changeover and Ollie climbing the lap charts in spectacular style. The race did not disappoint. Minshaw and Ward established their contrasting Listers in front, and while Chris skittered past Jon into Redgate on lap 8 he bored in too deep and lost out on the exit.
Fisken and Wood led the pursuit while trying to repel the tenacious Dion Kremer and Bellinger. The younger Kremer had a whale of a time baiting the Ferrari, even inching ahead before power told. After Minshaw pitted from the lead, relaying young British GT partner Keen, Ward took the Great Circle Route through the gravel bed on lap 24, but he clawed his way out with the crucial loss of 10 or more seconds. “My foot slipped off the brake onto the throttle,” he rued. That moment effectively cemented the race’s destiny.
After Fisken (with a huge grin) sent Verdon-Roe on his way and Nuthall took over from Wood, Kremer and Bellinger were charging round together, exploiting the zippy handling of their little roller skates as they humbled many more powerful cars. Dion – last to stop in the 40th minute – actually led overall before sprightly 79-year-old dad Gabriel jumped in to the Lotus.
Bryant Jr, meanwhile, was bounding along. He relieved Nuthall of fourth four laps from the close, crossing the line 2.5 seconds ahead as SM4 winner, although catching Verdon-Roe was a bridge too far. The Ferrari remained on the same lap as the leading duo. Ahlers completed hotshoe preparer Bellinger’s work, their brilliant fifth earning SM1 drum-braked honours, three laps clear of Cooke/Dowd’s white Cooper.
The fight for small-capacity disc-braked glory was packed with intrigue to the last. Presented with a lead of more than a lap, Kremer Sr was losing between 10-14 seconds per 1.97-mile circuit, thus was reeled in by both Tim Jacobsen and Stretton. The blue and red Lotuses ambushed the green one seconds apart, with Stretton homing in on Jacobsen. Once together, their short fight ended when they collided at the Roberts Chicane on the penultimate lap.
As Kremer sailed serenely past to win the class, and finish seventh overall to the delight of car fettler Andrew Tart’s team, Stretton dived for the pits to check a dented tail before resuming, but Jacobsen remained stranded with a dinged nose. Sam finished 19 seconds behind Gabriel, having repassed the Lebanese-driven Cooper of the Mahmouds with the Willment just six seconds adrift after a strong run. Edwards won the SM3 class from the second Rejo by a minute.