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Donington Historic Festival 2022 Race Report by Marcus Pye

DONINGTON HISTORIC FESTIVAL 2022 Race Report by Marcus Pye

JAGUAR CLASSIC CHALLENGE

Photo: Jakob Ebrey

Against all odds, double Caterham champion Danny Winstanley and his family DW Motorsport team pulled off a resounding form book upset at the Donington Historic Festival, beating the Jaguar Classic Challenge E-type grandees second time out in a self-built 1963 Fixed Head Coupe. In a remarkable tale of determination over adversity, then stellar driving over the hour, the 29-year-old Lancastrian finished more than 25 seconds clear of Gary Pearson/Alex Brundle. A lap down, Simon Hadfield brought urbane Spaniard Joaquin Folch’s ex-Bruce McLaren lightweight E through to snatch third from Jonathan Mitchell on the final sprint lap, following a safety car interlude.

QUALIFYING: Alex Brundle set the early pace in the dry half-hour qualifying session, holding P1 until Phil Keen countered with a stunning penultimate shot in Jon Minshaw’s similar hard-topped roadster. The factory Lamborghini GT3 racer’s 1m17.703s (91.69mph) lap of the 1.979-mile circuit proved 0.349s swifter than Brundle’s best of 1:18.052.

Winstanley and the Wrigley family, father Mike and son Matt, in their low drag coupe, also lapped inside 80 seconds. That Danny was here was testament to extraordinary tenacity. Gearbox failure while running-in a fresh top spec engine – from the roadster crashed by Charles Gillett in the 2018 Spa Six Hours – which powered the combo’s impressive debut at last year’s wet Silverstone Classic, on a Donington track day three days before the DHF forced a scramble of several hundred miles to get parts, a clutch and crankshaft oil seal. Refettled, the car arrived back on Friday.

John Spiers in his 2021 Thruxton Historic-winning E-type [minus ex-F1 racer Tiff Needell this time] qualified fifth. He was joined in the ‘20s’ by HP Tyres chief and long-time Dunlop supplier John and Gary Pearson, Richard Kent/Ward and Folch/Hadfield who completed row four. Soloist Jonathan Mitchell (another rapid Caterham convert), former short oval National Hot Rod and international truck racer Shane Brereton, Guy Grant and coach Mark Hales, Irishman Niall McFadden and dad-and-lad Tony Best/Charlie Jones-Best clocked 21s in the thick of the competitive pack.

Ben and Peter Adams’ Cunningham tribute-liveried car, Katarina Kyvalova and Rob Hall – who set the Pre-’63 class [D] pole time of 1:22.796 (86.05mph) – local hardy perennial Jamie Boot were next up, ahead of class D chasers Guy Ziser/Chris Ward and Martin Melling/Jason Minshaw, their FHCs a second apart. Germany’s Lucas Bscher, Rick Willmott’s low-drag coupe looking magnificent with longitudinal blue and yellow Ukrainian stripes emphasising its muscular lines were in close company too.

The 24-car field was rounded-out by John Burton/Nick Finburgh’s FHC, Swiss father and son Daniel and Dominique Reinhardt, Marc Gordon/Finburgh in the former’s hooded roadster and another jolly Swiss visitor, Hans-Martin Schneeberger in his C-type, who used the session for extra circuit acclimatisation prior to the RAC Woodcote Trophy race.

RACE: From the rolling start Minshaw out dragged Pearson, but Winstanley had muscled between them by the end of the opening lap. Minshaw looked comfortable as he extended a three second lead over five circuits, with Pearson a further six back, conserving his car for Brundle.

Mike Wrigley led the chasing group initially from John Pearson, before Ward bustled Kent’s blue-roofed car to fourth. The sight of Ward, Pearson (J), Spiers, and Brereton’s iridescent metallic blue car circulating together was splendid as Wrigley slipped back towards Mitchell, Folch, Ben Adams and McFadden, pursued by Pre-’63 leader Jason Minshaw, starting Melling’s classy-looking charcoal-hued FHC. Out after 10 laps were the Reinhardts and Grant, whose steed expired passing the pits.

When Winstanley began to make inroads into Minshaw’s lead, and Jon’s lap times lengthened, there was an inkling that trouble was afoot. This Jon confirmed when they made their mandatory pit stops nose-to-tail after 16 laps. “The exhaust silencer burst, so I eased off for a while, but now the engine is losing power. We’re an injured soldier,” he said having nonetheless sent Keen out to do his best. Winstanley exited ahead and at the end of his out lap was eighth, 2.2s clear of Keen.

Gary Pearson and Ward had relayed Brundle and Kent respectively as soon as the window opened, then waited patiently to jump into their second cars, with John P and Ziser up. Keen was out after 19 laps, pulling off by the pit exit with a broken steering rack mount, to be joined in retirement by Spiers (who did not restart after his stop), Brereton (parked at Schwantz Curve) and Kent who pitted with a repetition of the mysterious oil leak which continues to elude Pearsons’ technicians.

Once John Pearson had sent brother Gary on his way, Mitchell and Adams became the frontrunners, with Winstanley bearing down on them apace, ahead of Jones-Best and McFadden, both yet to stop. Brundle was second of the stoppers, half a minute behind Winstanley, with team mate Gary Pearson looking set for third overall. Hadfield was flying in Folch’s car, meanwhile, but with Matt Wrigley behind still faced a challenge to catch Mitchell, running strongly.

When the pit stagger unwound, Winstanley led by more than 40 seconds from Brundle and continued to pull away as Alex’s machine began to emit puffs of oil smoke. Pearson could doubtless smell it but was not going to catch him when a half-shaft [which doubles as the upper suspension link] broke, forcing retirement at three-quarters’ distance. Mitchell thus moved up to third, with Hadfield (who had taken over in 10th and ever the hungry hunter) eroding his advantage by larger chunks with every lap.

Whether Simon would have caught Jonathan in the time available before the chequered flag conventionally nobody knows, but a sting in the race’s tail at Hollywood altered its complexion. Oil from the diff of John Burton’s E, with finisher Nick Finburgh aboard, sent Marc Gordon’s hooded roadster [which ironically Finburgh had started] collecting team mate Peter Adams’ gruntier car which had been gaining ground, outside to its left.

“The first I knew was seeing a bonnet spinning upside down in the track,” said Hadfield.” Marshals dealt with the drama quickly, but a single lap safety car reduced Winstanley’s 65 second cushion to Brundle to 15 and gave Hadfield and Matt Wrigley, who Simon was unaware was racing him for position, a shot at Mitchell. Having overlapped on the previous lap, when the trio were tied together, Hadfield snatched third at the last gasp. The Wrigleys and McFadden completed the top six. 

In the battle for Pre-’63 honours, Melling wasn’t expected to match co-driver Jason Minshaw’s pace, but Ward converted Ziser’s solid start to victory, and a fine seventh overall. Chris had been handed the car among the earlier stoppers, ahead of Kyvalova who had put Hall in to bat a couple of laps earlier, underpinning their run to second.

SIXTIES TOURING CAR CHALLENGE with U2TC

Photo: Jeff Bloxham

The prospect of two top class Ford Lotus Cortina driver pairings slugging it out with a well-matched Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA over an hour at the Donington Historic Festival, plus Bentley’s 2003 Le Mans winner Guy Smith in the mix, was a mouth-watering one for fans of Pre-1966 Under 2-litre Touring Cars. And it did not disappoint as past masters Rob Hall and Andy Wolfe, partnered by Aston Martin GT racer David Pittard and the versatile Julian Thomas, beat Alfaholics brothers Andrew and Max Banks into third place in Saturday’s Sixties Touring Car Challenge.

QUALIFYING: Debutants Pittard and Thomas were immediately on the pace of past masters Hall and Wolfe – previously U2TC champions together – as expected, but Guy Smith [paired with rally ace turned racer father Peter] and Fratelli Banks were covered by barely half a second in qualifying. Pittard/Hall seized pole position on 1m22.406s (86.45mph), with Wolfe/Thomas a fifth adrift. Guy Smith’s late charge failed to secure his dad a front row start by 0.064s, but they lined-up third alongside the snarling Alfa. Richard Dutton, the sole Sixties Touring Car Challenge entrant in his Escort Mk1 on 1:23.090s, and 13-time British Touring Car Championship race winner Josh Cook, in reigning HSCC champion Mike Gardiner’s Cortina, lapped within 0.818s of P1.

Another seven Cortinas were tightly packed behind them, Jon Minshaw showing another string to his bow by qualifying seventh, ahead of British GT Audi R8 racer Shaun Balfe/Tom Ashton, veteran engine guru Neil Brown, Allan Ross-Jones/Mark Hales, Mark Burton, enthusiastic Irishman Niall McFadden and dad-and-lad Mel and Ollie Streek in the former’s car, with its gear selection issues sorted since an outing at Thruxton the previous weekend.

The Alfa GTAs of Bernardo Hartogs – sharing with preparer Will Nuthall from IN Racing in nearby Nottingham – and William Paul/Harvey Stanley sat 14th and 16th, separated by the red and gold Alan Mann Racing Cortina of Henry Mann and Welshman Karl Jones. Ambitious youngster Harry Barton (BMW 1800Ti), Tim Abbott (Cortina) and Austrian Martin Halusa (GTA) rounded out the pack.

RACE: Dutton made a storming start in the ’69 Escort, which put its power down better than the earlier cars, but pole man Hall staved him off for a lap before Wolfe bustled past for a tilt at the lead next time round. Andy went to the front on lap five, taking Dutton with him, in full view of Andrew Banks, content to conserve his red-lipsticked gunmetal Alfa as the race evolved.

Hall was first to stop on lap 13, just after a two-lap full course caution for the recovery of Halusa’s Alfa, young Pittard joining the fray before Dutton, Gardner, Balfe, Pete Smith and McFadden dived in to the pit lane next time round. Wolfe and Banks continued to circulate together out front, the Cortina only a second ahead as they came in after 18 laps. Minshaw thus took over the lead and kept it – comfortably clear of Burton’s pale green version – until he was the last to pit with 25 laps run.

Thomas then took up the cudgels, but Max Banks closed to within a second of him in the Alfa. Pittard was flying in their wake, meanwhile, and with 10 minutes remaining bridged the gap to make it three for the lead. As the race built to a crescendo David set its third fastest lap in six (1:22.649s; 86.20mph) before outbraving Wolfe on the brakes into Redgate on lap 38 to win by 1.565s. Julian chased as hard as he dared thereafter – setting the team’s best lap one from home – and protected second from Banks.

“What a fantastic race with Andy,” said Hall on the podium. “I’m getting on a little so I thought 20 minutes and I’m in!” Partner Pittard was equally chuffed. “I’ve done a fair bit of Historic racing but it’s my first time in U2TC. I had to earn that one.” Delighted with his “brilliant start,” Wolfe found the pace “unbelievably quick.” Thomas was happy too. “David read it perfectly [when he overtook], but he’s just a little too quick.” Max Banks said that the Alfa “didn’t have much left at the end. We’re possibly a bit better under braking here, but the Cortinas are quicker on corner exits.”   

The exuberant Cook, who collected a 15 second penalty for exceeding track limits, as he endeavored to catch the Alfa, remained fourth, ahead of Dutton and the Smiths. Brown, Minshaw and Balfe/Ashton also remained on the lead lap as all bar Halusa finished.          

ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB WOODCOTE TROPHY & STIRLING MOSS TROPHY

Photo: Jeff Bloxham

In a contest of snarling Jaguar straight-six power versus legendary Lotus agility, Lister drivers claimed five of the top six places in the Stirling Moss Trophy Pre-1961 element of the Donington Historic Festival’s Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy race. With past master Chris Ward as his trump card, John Spiers enjoyed a convincing first Lister victory over Tony Wood’s similar Knobbly, with Will Nuthall/Bernardo Hartogs third in the Brazilian’s ex-works Lotus 15. The Pre-’56 Woodcoteers were led in once again by Californian Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards in the former’s ex-Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Jaguar T38. Jaguar veterans Ben Eastick/Karl Jones (D-type) and Nigel Webb/John Young (C-type) were runners-up.

QUALIFYING: Alex Brundle planted Gary Pearson’s Lister Knobbly on pole, his 1m19.080s (90.09mph) effort half a second beyond Ward’s in Spiers’ 2014 continuation version. Flying Dutchmen David and Olivier Hart’s Costin-bodied derivative was third with the two-litre Coventry-Climax FPF-engined Lotus 15s of Stephan Jöbstl/Andy Willis and Hartogs/Nuthall snapping at its heels, 0.029s apart.

Wood sat sixth, ahead of Michael Birch/Gareth Burnett in another rapid 15, category pacesetters Wakeman/PB-E – on 1:22.927 (85.91mph) and Robi Bernberg/Paul Ugo’s Cooper Monaco T49, motivated by the same engine as the Lotuses, albeit rear-mounted. Richard Hudson/Stuart Morley completed the top 10, their raucous Lister-Chevrolet Knobbly fractions quicker than Peter Ratcliff’s Jaguar version and Ben Adams’ fleet 1216cc Lola-Climax Mk1, winner of Goodwood’s final contemporary era race in July 1966 with Dickie Metcalfe up.

Eastick/Jones, Ollie Crosthwaite/Nick Finburgh (Cooper Monaco T49), Webb/Young and Canadian Ian Dalglish formed the upper end of a strong midfield pack in the company of John Burton’s delightful Alton-Jaguar which preparer Finburgh was also sharing. Woodcote Trophy’s class 3A trio Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne (ex-Mike Anthony Lotus-Bristol 10), Jonathan Abecassis and Paul and Jonathan Mortimer (Austin-Healey 100/4s) were separated by Chris Clarkson’s Lister Knobbly and Nick Ball’s short-nosed Jaguar D-type, both late-built cars.

Ralph Emmerling’s familiar Elva-Climax Mk5, with David Keers-Trafford co-driving, gridded 23rd, in a mixed bunch with Richard Postins (in his recently acquire 1500cc Lotus Eleven), David Reed’s remarkable class-leading 70-year-old Aston Martin DB2 ‘Maureen’ – courtesy of Peter Snowdon’s charge – the mongoose-like Lister-Bristol ‘Flat Iron’ of Stephen Bond and the unique Jaguar XK140-based Gomm Special of Joseph and Jack Willmott. Paul Pochciol’s C-type evocation and Thomas Ward’s Ecurie Ecosse XK120 continued the marque theme.

Chris and Ollie Phillips’ ex-Tom Kyffin Ecurie Devone Cooper-Bristol, Chris Jolly’s Aston Martin DB2 ‘PUM’ and the Maserati 300S of father and daughter Richard and Tania Pilkington – which lost its bonnet – were well-matched ahead of the big 4.9-litre Turner Ardun of Ken Prichard Jones/Nick Crewdson and Josh Ward’s Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica. Marc Gordon’s XK140, Neil Armstrong’s AM DB2/4, Swiss visitor Hans-Martin Schneeberger’s white C-type were tucked in behind them. Simon Evans’ splendid Allard J2-based toolroom copy of the long-missing full-bodied 5.4-litre Chrysler-powered J2X Le Mans car, co-driven by Tom Hardman, and Peter Baker’s Aston Martin DB2 rounded out the quality field.    

RACE: Brundle made the best start, with Spiers and Nuthall in hot pursuit, and by cutting a 1:19.408 (the race’s fastest) was able to open an advantage of 3.5 seconds within four laps before Nuthall began to peg it back. David Hart – enjoying a cat and mouse duel with Burnett – Wood, Ratcliff and Woodcote Trophy pacesetter Wakeman led the early chase.

Having reeled Alex in, Will went ahead on lap 10 and immediately started to pull clear. When Brundle clipped a car returning to the “racing road” at the Old Hairpin on lap 13 his machine sustained light body damage and its scuffed left rear tyre began to lose pressure. There was another unfortunate scrape in the pits when the outgoing Pearson and incoming Spiers – who stopped a lap later behind Nuthall and Wood and ahead of Ratcliff as a safety car was deployed briefly for the retrieval of Evans’ Allard, abandoned at Hollywood – connected. Both Listers continued, Chris Ward’s with a reshaped nose. Hart, yet to stop, was in front.

Hartogs’s Lotus, took up the initiative again when Hart relayed his son, with 25 seconds’ gap back to Ward, who had Wood in his mirrors. ‘Ratters,’ Hart Jr, Pearson and Adams’ little Lola remained on the same lap, with Woodcote leader Blakeney-Edwards, Ugo, Dalglish and Willis now in Jöbstl’s Lotus behind. Burnett/Birch Lotus’ challenge was over though, the gear lever having pulled out after 16 laps, Gareth having intended to run longer. Before installing ‘Barry’ Birch. The Pilkingtons had better luck, their Maser resuming after a gravelly off at Redgate on Tania’s out lap.

Ward took seven laps to erode the deficit to Hartogs, and from that moment the result was never in doubt. The Mortimer Healey had fallen in the meantime, but all eyes were on Wood and Olivier Hart, hounding down the quickest Lotus. Wood grabbed second on lap 30, but after Hart had growled past Hartogs, the Brazilian was reprieved on countback when the race was red-flagged. Schneeberger’s battered C-type lay inverted in the track, supported by its narrow roll hoop, having clattered through the gravel at the chicane. Hans-Martin happily emerged unhurt, grateful to the marshals who extricated him but most apologetic for stopping the race which at just over 75 per cent duration on TSL’s clocks was not restarted.

Behind the Harts, Ratcliff and Brundle/Pearson were fifth and sixth, ahead of Adams in the top tiddler and Bernberg/Ugo after a super race in the best of the Coopers. Ninth overall, Wakeman/Blakeney-Edwards were never headed in the Woodcote Trophy classification. Jöbstl/Willis, class winner Dalglish, Clarkson and Hudson/Morley’s thundering Lister V8, split them from Eastick/Jones and Webb/Young, 7.6 seconds apart at the close. Crosthwaite/Finburgh were next home.

Seventeenth overall, Abecassis – whose distinguished grandfather George raced a single-seater Austin 7 at Donington in 1935 and a 1500cc Alta here in the ’39 British Empire Trophy race – won his class by under eight seconds in his left-hooker Healey, helped by rival Malcolm Paul spinning his Lotus 10 into the chicane having touched the grass.

Bond’s Lister Bristol and Reed/Snowdon in the swiftest of the Aston DB2 trio completed the top 20, with Pochciol’s C-type not far behind. The other unfortunate retirement, incidentally, was the Emmerling/Keers-Trafford Elva with a gaping hole in the side of its Climax engine block. But, after two years on the sidelines, the luxuriantly mustachioed Ralf was still smiling, happy to be racing again.               

‘MAD JACK’ PRE-WAR SPORTSCARS

Photo: Jakob Ebrey

Artisan engineer Geoffrey Taylor’s Alta cars gained a reputation for being fast but capricious in the 1930s, but through years of perseverance and heartbreak Gareth Burnett may have finally debugged John Ruston’s two-litre sports version. ‘The Leprechaun’ proved its pace and reliability in winning the Donington Historic Festival’s traditional Pre-War Sportscar race, named for racer and aviator Richard ‘Mad Jack’ Shuttleworth who won the 1935 Donington Grand Prix in his Alfa Romeo P3. Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards’ Frazer Nash TT Replica/Supersports cried enough in the chase, thus Burnett was joined on the podium by the ecstatic Lukas and Martin Halusa after a spirited tussle, saddling wonderfully historic Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Zagato and Bugatti Type 35B respectively.   

QUALIFYING: Blakeney-Edwards’ 1m32.361s – an average speed of 77.13mph in a 94-year-old bolide! – pipped Burnett and his mere 83-year-old steed to pole position by 0.244s. Michael Birch’s gorgeous bright green Talbot AV105 Brooklands ran them closest, before he broke it, due to “operator error” he shrugged, so withdrew.

That left the Halusas to lead the opposition, son Lukas in the Alfa which finished three successive Mille Miglia road races from 1932-’34 and father Martin a mere 0.105s slower in the supercharged Bugatti in which Emilio Materassi won the 1926 San Sebastian Grand Prix on the streets of the city in northern Spain’s Basque region.

Three hot Bentley 3/4 1/2s were next and extraordinarily closely matched, Chris Hudson/Stuart Morley, Ewen Getley and Clive and James Morley covered by 0.079s between 1:36.465 and 1:36.544! Bo Williams and Tom Hardman’s Bugatti T35B and the ever-intrepid Sue Darbyshire (Morgan Super Aero) completed the top 10, with Oliver Llewellyn also inside 1:40 in his family’s Bentley 3/4 1/2.

Max Sowerby/Marcus Black’s Talbot Lago was on Llewellyn’s heels, while former rally champion Richard Iliffe’s Riley Kestrel Sports and Jock Mackinnon’s Bentley were split by 0.009s, ahead of a quartet of Aston Martins, Edward Bradley’s wonderfully patinated 1500cc Ulster shadowed by the two-litre Speed Models of Robert Blakemore, Richard Lake/Paul Alcock and Paul Chase-Gardener.

Continuing the magical miscellany were Nigel Dowding’s Riley Brooklands, John Burton’s pre-Jaguar SS100, Hugh Apthorp’s Bentley 3/4 1/2, Chris Ball’s Invicta S Type and Richard Frankel’s MG K3 Magnette. Works Aston Martin hero Darren Turner drove Jonathan Lupton’s 1930 AM Team Car and out-qualified the Bentleys of Paul Pochciol and Steve Ward, with the Morgan 4-4 Series 1 Le Mans Special of Sharlie Goddard/Graeme Smith bringing up the rear.

RACE: Burnett shot the Royal Air Force blue Alta out of the blocks at the start, intent on establishing an early lead. His cunning plan appeared to work for he was 3.5 seconds ahead of Lukas Halusa at the end of the first lap and 7.2s up on Wakeman who had snaked past the Alfa next time round. An early stopper after seven laps was Blakemore, whose Aston’s throttle pedal snapped after “a great battle with Bradley,” but his crew effected a repair and he continued a few laps behind the rest.

Gareth had plumped his cushion out to beyond 20 seconds when a safety car was deployed, initially for the retrieval of Apthorp’s Bentley. Fortuitously the pit window had just opened, so the top four were among half the field which pitted immediately. Bentley boys Llewellyn and Getley were among them, but Clive Morley, a few seconds up the road with Darbyshire in tow, lost precious time in the crocodile by waiting another lap.

“That safety car wiped out my lead and with Patrick [B-E] now in the Nash I needed to get a move on,” said Burnett. When Turner’s Aston conked out in a vulnerable position at the Old Hairpin the caution was extended to six laps, which meant a few anxious eyes on water temperature gauges, but at the green the Alta scampered clear again. Having dropped PB-E by more than a second a lap the gap was a comfortable eight seconds and growing when the Nash’s engine failed in the Craner Curves. “We’d really ragged it,” said Wakeman philosophically afterwards.

The Alta ran metronomically to the chequered flag, five laps later, by which time Burnett was towards a minute clear of Lukas Halusa, in turn almost 20s ahead of his father. Darbyshire, crouched low over the three-wheeled Morgan’s steering wheel, did a sensational job of wriggling through the Bentleys to a gallant fourth and a fine reception from onlookers. Llewellyn went the distance as Getley and James Morley were lapped near the end.

Hardman, pacing up and down like an expectant father thinking Williams was never going to stop, finally got his stint in the Bugatti. Fired up, he leapt aboard and promptly set its best laps in bringing it home eighth ahead of Stuart Morley in Hudson’s Bentley and Black, finishing the gruff black Talbot. Iliffe quickly made up for an unusually sluggish start and finished top Riley, 30 seconds clear of Dowding with Burton’s SS100 between them. Chase-Gardener won the Aston Martin battle in 14th, pursued by Lake/Alcock after Bradley retired. Frankel, Pochciol, Ward, Mackinnon – after an early pit call to investigate oil surge – and Goddard/Smith’s Morgan also finished.     

HISTORIC TOURING CAR CHALLENGE & TONY DRON TROPHY

Photo: Jakob Ebrey

Spectators still rave over the raw speed of Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 turbocars in the British Saloon Car Championships of the late 1980s’ Group A era. Those who never witnessed a Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 in full flight with greater power and four-wheel-drive though, had a treat in store when the Historic Touring Car Challenge racers entertained at the Donington Historic Festival. In arguably the best HTTC field yet assembled, Ric Wood’s flame-belching self-built Nissan beat the factory car of Andy Middlehurst/Jonathan Bailey with Julian Thomas’ Sierra best of the four RS500s in third. A Ford took Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 honours though, the Capri 3.0S of Pete and Guy Smith outrunning the Chevrolet Camaro of James Thorpe/Sean McInerney and James Slaughter’s Capri.

QUALIFYING: As the Anglo-Japanese battle’s opening stanza evolved, Stockport engineer Wood in his blue Nissan had the edge over David Tomlin’s Batibouw tribute liveried RS500, securing pole with a 1m12.115s (98.78mph) charge on Sunday morning. Tomlin circulated but 0.185s slower, with St Helens Nissan dealer and Skyline specialist Middlehurst third a further 0.623s behind in Bailey’s fabulous green Kyoseki original. Daniel Brown put dad Sean’s Brown & Geeson RS500 fourth, within a second of Wood, which augured well for the afternoon’s hour-long race.

Rally man Paul Smith recruited Steve Soper to share his RS500, an Andy Rouse-built car originally sold to Japan, and the Touring Car legend qualified it fifth, barely a tenth quicker than Julian Thomas in his works Rouse Sport Kaliber version. The gloriously sonorous 3.4-litre Ford GA V6-powered Capri RS3100s of Richard Kent/Chris Ward and Gary Pearson/Alex Brundle shared row four 0.282s apart, with Simon Garrad’s Nissan from the Wood stable close behind, also in the ‘14s.’

The next five cars gave a taste of Bavaria, with the BMW E30 M3s of dad and lad Mark Smith/Arran Moulton-Smith (sharing a pair of AMSpeed prepared cars, but set to race one avoiding musical chairs at the mandatory pit stops) and Darren Fielding sandwiching the shrill-sounding 3.5-litre straight CSLs of Lukas and Martin Halusa (Alpina tribute-liveried) and Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (Jägermeister), tightly-packed inside 1.6 seconds.

Back in Ford territory, Simon Evans/Joe Twyman’s Brian Muir Wiggins Teape tribute-liveried Capri RS2600, Nick Whale/Ian Guest’s eye-catching ex-Mike Bell Escort RS1600 ‘Lairy Canary’ and the ’70 Boss Mustang of Canadian veteran Pete Hallford and current BTCC hotshoe Josh Cook were shadowed by the BMW CSL of Swiss father and son Daniel and Dominique Reinhardt.

Quickest of the less-developed Group 1 contingent was the Capri V6 of 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Guy Smith and his versatile father, rallyman Pete, on a stout 1:22.057s (86.82mph).  The seven-litre Camaro of Thorpe/McInerney was only a few tenths adrift, with Riorden Welby’s Rover SDI [trailered after practice alas], the Capris of Jonathan White and James Slaughter and Paul Clayson’s Alpilatte-liveried Alfa Romeo GTV6 bringing up the rear.             

RACE: The quality field made a fantastic sight as it hurtled towards Redgate corner from the rolling start, Wood and Tomlin arriving at the deceptively tricky right-hander with Dan Brown, Middlehurst and Thomas three abreast in their mirrors. Brown had muscled ahead by the end of the lap, but the youngster’s moment of glory was brief. No sooner had Wood repassed him than Garrad shot by too, to be followed a lap later by Middlehurst for a Nissan 1-2-3.

Late to the party was Lukas Halusa’s green BMW CSL, the alternator of which failed while it was being warmed-up. The spare required a mod to fit but Lukas set off enthusiastically, only to stop just after the pit exit on lap 2 with an hydraulic issue in the braking system. The paddock gate was only 200 metres away, but required a two-lap safety car interlude to protect the marshals before the circuit went green again. Not long afterwards Garrard was out, reporting a lack of gears, promoting Soper to third with Brundle, Brown and Tomlin admiring the Capri’s exhaust note.

Wakeman and Evans both stopped with misfires, the latter’s crew changing the Capri’s fuel pump to no avail, and Tomlin was also out within 10 laps. In what looked like becoming a race of attrition, Kent’s fresh GAA in the Broadspeed Capri had started to splutter under load. Richard persevered before pitting before half-distance, rather than risk damaging the engine.

As Wood blasted on to victory, the sides of his monster illuminated by sheets of flame on up changes, Middlehurst drove a long stint to shake off the Sierras before car owner Bailey jumped in. Jonathan, a capable Skyline tamer, crossed the finish line 53.7s after Wood, but still 25s clear of Thomas who endured a couple of hairy moments under braking. A lap down, the Browns were fourth, ahead of Soper/Smith and Brundle/Pearson. Having chased down and past Mark Smith in the opening stages, seventh-placed Fielding won the BMW M3 class, repelling Moulton-Smith by four seconds after a protracted duel.

Hallford/Cook and Whale/Guest were classified ninth and 10th ahead of Pete and Guy Smith’s Tony Dron Trophy-winning Capri. “That’s the first time we’ve got it to go really well,” said Pete. Guy, delighted for his dad, was happy too. “I keep retiring, but this historic racing is so much fun.” The Yorkshiremen overhauled the Thorpe/McInerney Eumig Camaro even before the big banger’s crew was penalised for exceeding track limits. The Reinhardts’ BMW CSL was between them at the end, with Slaughter’s Frank & Jeans Capri third of the TDT runners, clear of White and Clayson. 

“I owed it to Jake Hill, who usually co-drives with me, to win today,” said overall winner Wood, who showcased his Skyline to a new generation of fans. Middlehurst found Bailey’s car “bouncing quite badly in the corners, probably down to the tyres,” so backed off to make sure the owner had the opportunity to bring it home. Thomas was relieved when the chequered flag fell. “I could see them in the distance, but left my braking too late a couple of times [arriving at the chicane in clouds of tyre smoke]. I didn’t have anything left,” he smiled.

ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB PALL MALL CUP

Photo: Jeff Bloxham

A perfectly executed tactical call by Jon Minshaw and Nigel Morris’ Valley Motor Sport team to bring Phil Keen in early under a full course caution, plus a superb middle stint by car owner Minshaw relayed a healthy Jaguar E-type to GT racer Phil Keen to complete a magnificent one lap victory in the three-hour RAC Pall Mall Cup race which closed the Donington Historic Festival. Veteran Chris Chiles and son Chris Jr who double-stinted in their Gary Spencer-run Shelby Cobra kept the pacemakers on their toes throughout the 223 miles they completed. Twenty two seconds behind them after 112 laps of the 1.979-mile circuit, Roy Alderslade and 2013 British Saloon Car Champion Andy Jordan finished third in the former’s JRT-built Daytona Cobra Coupe.

The team element of the enduro, for the Royal Automobile Club Pall Mall Cup title, was won by the cosmopolitan combo of Wolfgang Friedrichs/Simon Hadfield (Aston Martin Project 214 evocation), Stephan Jöbstl/Philipp Buhofer/George McDonald (Lotus Elan 26R) and Nikolaus Ditting/Ollie Hancock (AM DB4 GT) who finished seventh, 12th and 15th on scratch respectively.

QUALIFYING: Minshaw/Keen qualified on pole, their 1m18.098s (91.22mph) effort 0.607s quicker than last October’s Silverstone race victors James Cottingham/Max Girardo in the latter’s Lister-Jaguar Costin, with Alderslade/Jordan a mere 0.074s slower. The Chiles Cobra, the sister car of rapid Dutch trio David and Olivier Hart and Nicky Pastorelli and the ultra-low two-litre Elva-BMW GT160 coupe of Michael Birch/Gareth Burnett/Richard Bradley also lapped inside 1m20s, heading off the 26R spec Lotus Elans of Simon Evans/James Littlejohn and former BTCC racer Sam Tordoff and father John from the JCT600 stable.

There was no shortage of variety in the 37-car pack, with three more E-types, the 4.7-litre TVR Griffith of Jonathan Bloohn/Andrew Nunn, a quartet of Austin-Healey 3000s led by Doug Muirhead/Jeremy Welch, Dutchmen Christiaen van Lanschot/Karsten le Blanc and Chris Clarkson/David Smithies/Jack Chatham, among the most potent. Porsche 911s, the Ward family’s Lotus twin-cam powered Ginetta G4R, two competitive TVR Granturas and Lotus Elites, plus MGB and Healey 100M singletons would also make their presence felt.

RACE: The turning point of the race, almost unbelievably, came within its first six laps, when a full course caution was called. Guy Grant had nosedived his TVR Grantura into MSV’s unrelenting tyres – placed to prevent corner-cutting at the chicane – inflicting heavy damage to the car on lap 5. While Grant escaped injury the battered ‘Grannie’ needed removal.

A four-lap hiatus for all but the top 10 enabled marshals and the circuit crew to shift it and reinstate the deterrent and switched-on strategy-savvy teams to call their lead-off drivers in. Given that 85 minutes was the maximum stint length and 170 of the 180 remained, taking the first of two mandatory ‘five minutes stationary’ stops made perfect sense to Jon Minshaw, who took over from Phil Keen as soon as the critical 10 minutes had elapsed. The lure of making up time – if not getting an entirely free stop – had already appealed to Simon Evans, Jeremy Welch, Chris Chiles, Richard Tuthill (starting Guy Ziser’s Porsche 911) and Karsten Le Blanc (Austin-Healey ‘DD300.’ Steve Jones (Elan), Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (in Fred Wakeman’s ex-Derek Ridler LEC Cobra) and Niall McFadden.

Following Keen’s stop after eight laps, Cottingham took up the cudgels in the bulbous Lister, easing away from Pastorelli, Alderslade – soon to be overtaken by Burnett – Richard Cook (Cobra) and Sam Tordoff. Cottingham topped the lap charts until just before half-distance, when he put Girardo in. Pastorelli held second for all bar two of those laps, David Hart clambering aboard the black Cobra after 55 laps, although its Ford V8 needed a hefty shove to restart. That promoted Chiles Jr and Minshaw, who had only recently swapped places. They swept ahead – Jon back ahead of Chris – when the Lister stopped, receiving new left tyres and “a bit of a change of plan,” according to Cottingham.

The lead pair made their second stops at 65 laps, Keen leaping into the silver E-type but Chiles Jr staying in the hot Cobra after a slug of water. Third placed Girardo, Hart and Jordan were a lap down, ahead of Wakeman and Jason Baker in Cook’s Cobra. Bloon’s TVR had fallen to a misfire, to be followed into retirement in the mid-phase by the Reinhardt’s Jag, the Dutch Cobra which wouldn’t restart again at the second stop and was parked by Hart Jr with a serious vibration after a single lap. The Elva wilted after Bradley set its best lap and was looking forward to bringing it to the end with the prospect of a top six placing.

Back out front, Girardo was reeled-in by Jordan, who went ahead three laps before the Lister’s second stop, still endeavoring to give car owner Alderslade as much of a cushion as possible. It was all in vain, since when Paul’s TVR broke its left front stub axle at the chicane and was pulled-up near Redgate, a second safety car was deployed when Keen was on lap 101, having lapped Chiles Jr three circuits previously. The caution was extended five laps, for marshals to move the Ward Ginetta to safety behind the wall on the exit of the Old Hairpin.

Minshaw/Keen, a lap ahead of the Chiles equipe and Alderslade/Jordan, were safe in the podium places when the chequered flag flew 10 minutes early, with Mike Thorne’s Healey 100M beached in the gravel at Redgate having set fire to its brakes, according to marque sage John Chatham. Another lap down, the fourth placed Cook/Baker/Cottingham Cobra also had a lap in hand, but the fights behind them went down to the wire.

The Elans of Evans/Littlejohn and the Tordoff’s finished 6.5 seconds apart in their class struggle and Hadfield in Friedrichs’ Aston was 1.2s ahead of Girardo’s Lister on countback. The Jaguar E-types of Rupert Clevely/Nick Maton/Jack Tetley and Martin Melling/John Burton/Jason Minshaw completed the top 10. Welch/Muirhead, Ditting/Hancock, Phil Quaife/Sean McInerney/James Thorpe (Porsche 911) and Guy Harman/Nick Finburgh (MGB) joined Cottingham/Girardo as winners of multi-car division.     

Also featuring at the 2022 Donington Historic Festival was ‘C1 by Duncan Hamilton ROFGO’ for original factory Group C cars who enjoyed a double header of races. This race was not organized by Motor Racing Legends.

C1 BY DUNCAN HAMILTON ROFGO

Photo: Jakob Ebrey

Spice SE89C-mounted Rob Huff’s sensational battle with Andrew Bentley and Phil Keen in Silk Cut Jaguars in Saturday’s opening leg of the Donington Historic Festival’s C1 by Duncan Hamilton ROFGO feature provided the finest reminder of the Group C fuel formula since its last contemporary visit in 1992. It was certainly a fitting tribute to circuit saviour Tom Wheatcroft (who would have turned 100 a week later), who promoted contemporary races.

Four years after he last drove Richard Meins’ ex-Paul Newman (yes, that one, the American actor, racer and not-for-profit salad dressing king) Applebees car at the Le Mans Classic, 2012 World Touring Car champion Huff built a big lead, but was forced to cut his Chevrolet V8 engine’s revs when a rocker broke, leaving him a cylinder down, then the wailing Jaguar V12s closed in. As Huff staved Bentley off, Keen’s transmission failed and David Hart screamed his shrill 3.5-litre Lola-Judd T92/10 from the category’s final years into third.

QUALIFYING: As 14 sensational cars took to the undulating track on Saturday morning, Martin O’Connell was initially quickest in Marc Devis’ shocking pink Spice SE90C, but Huff landed pole with a superb 1m01.793s (115.29mph) charge in the earlier vivid blue IMSA version, now with a Chevrolet V8 engine in place of its original Oldsmobile unit. Hart cut 1:02.523 for second in the ex-Charles Zwolsman/Cor Euser/Jesus Pareja 3.5-litre Lola – still looking as futuristic as it did when new – with the TWR Jags of Jon Minshaw (XJR-9) and Bentley (ex-Martin Brundle/Johnny Dumfries/Raul Boesel XJR-8) third and fourth. O’Connell/Devis non-started from P5.

Tony Sinclair thus moved up in Grant Reid’s Crowne Racing Obermaier Spice SE90C, Otto Altenbach’s Interserie car. The Porsche 962Cs of Lukas Halusa/Alex Ames and Henry Pearman/Mark Sumpter (ex-Derek Bell/Tiff Needell/JamesWeaver) were next, 0.6s apart, ahead of Mike and Matt Wrigley’s Spice-Chevrolet SE89P. Frenchman Pierre-Brice Mena’s Jo Marquart-designed Argo-Cosworth JM19 and the magnificent Kouros Sauber-Mercedes C8 of Xtec engine builder Paul Knapton brought variety.

Sadly Swede Georg Kjallgren crashed his Courage C26S at the chicane and took no further part, but Jack Fabby’s Group C2 Tiga G286 ran reliably. Electrical gremlins thwarted the ex-Brundle/Michel Ferté 3.5-litre Jaguar XJR-11 turbocar of Olivier Hart/Nicky Pastorelli, but Riedling & Mouser’s support crew did not throw in the towel. Phil Keen’s Porsche 956 was a non-starter, however, thus owner Jon Minshaw switched him to his Jaguar – powered by a strong fresh engine – instead.

RACES: Hart led Saturday’s 40-minute race initially, but Huff blasted past on lap 4 and proceeded to pull away impressively at a second per lap. Once the gap was towards 10 seconds the result appeared sorted. Hart made his pitstop three laps before Huff, and lost another nine seconds on his out lap. This allowed Bentley in Meins’ XJR-8 and Keen in the XJR-9 through to second and third, the latter having set fastest lap at 1:02.471 (114.04mph) shortly after his early stop.

Suddenly it became apparent that the purple and white Jaguars were gaining ground on the leading Spice. “They had more downforce, but I had more grunt until the engine note changed,” said Huff, who cut his revs suspecting a broken rocker or valve spring. I remembered my MGB racing, when this happened often, so backed off.” With time for four more laps on TSL’s clock the trio were together, but somehow Rob held on. “Those last few laps were intense,” he grinned afterwards, having taken the chequer with Bentley 0.835s astern for a resounding team 1-2. Keen’s thoughts of pouncing evaporated when his car’s CWP failed abruptly, stranding it at the old hairpin a lap from home. Hart, Pastorelli/Hart Jr, Halusa and Sinclair completed the top six.

Ten survivors turned out for Sunday’s sequel, minus Huff [not prepared to risk damaging the engine of the Spice, currently for sale] and Keen, but with Martin O’Connell replacing business neighbour Knapton in the bellowing dark blue Sauber. Bentley led initially, before Hart screamed past and led to the stops, by which time light drizzle had added a frisson of endurance racing-type excitement to proceedings. The leaders pitted a lap apart, Bentley first, both under a safety car after Halusa slithered into the tyre wall at Coppice. 

After similar sequences Bentley emerged with a narrow lead over Hart, who cut the best race lap of the weekend – 1:02.347 (114.27mph) – on a damp but drying before the race was stopped with distant pursuer Sinclair’s Spice in the kitty litter, also at Coppice. A lap down, the Wrigleys inherited the place, a lap ahead of Sumpter/Pearman and Mena. Fabby was also classified as the final finisher.

Full results from the meeting are available in Entries and Results on our webiste.

Images are available in the Gallery on the website. 

MAWP