Cars powered by Jaguar XK engines originated in nearby Coventry set the wet qualifying pace for Motor Racing Legends’ Stirling Moss Trophy Pre-1961 Sports Car showpiece at the 25th Anniversary Silverstone Classic, but a Ferrari 246S Dino raced in period by America’s first Formula 1 World Champion Phil Hill – and driven elegantly by modern Le Mans driver Gregor Fisken, purveyor of fine automobiles to the cognoscenti – won the following day’s dry 50-minute race.
Entered for Bobby Verdon-Roe and Nick Leventis (son of the car’s owner), Fisken did not have to think twice about accepting the invitation to tame the svelte Italian temptress solo. Driving conservatively in timed practice the Scot was content to post a competitive lap time in the thick of a group chasing the JD Classics Jaguar D-type of Chris Ward.
Nobody knows Silverstone Historic GP circuit’s contours and nuances as well as its former chief instructor, who found grip on unconventional lines to post a 3m00.239s (72.68mph) pole position lap. “It was very slippery out there,” affirmed Ward who circulated more than three seconds quicker than the Lister-Jaguar Knobblies of Tony Wood/Will Nuthall and Shaun Lynn, father of modern GP2 Series frontrunner Alex.
Another ‘super-sub’ was fourth quickest, 1992 British Touring Car and 2008/’10 Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain champion Tim Harvey soloing in Roger Wills’ diminutive Lotus 17 after the Kiwi broke some ribs while they were trail bike riding together the previous week. Harvey, Fisken and Lister-Jaguar stalwart Gary Pearson – one of three drivers competing at the 25th Anniversary event who won races at the inaugural Christie’s Historic Festival in 1990 – rounded-out the top six.
Behind them on the grid, again tightly grouped, would sit the Laystall-developed Coventry-Climax FPF-engined Lola Mk1 of Rob Hall/Andy Willis, Richard Kent’s swoopy Costin-bodied Lister-Jag (shared by hurtling hack Chris Harris) and Wolfgang Friedrichs’ Aston Martin DBR1/5, a sister car to the 1959 Le Mans winner. Simon Hadfield, endeavouring to replicate his 1990 success [with Michael Schryver in a Ford Lotus Cortina touring car], netted ninth best time, eclipsing the ‘under repair’ Lister of Sams Hancock and Thomas.
Further down an order packed with quality were the ex-Jim Clark ‘flat-iron’ bodied Lister-Jaguar of Steve Boultbee Brooks and Robert Beebee and the Lotus 15 of Ivan Vercourtere (which, in preparer Andy Wolfe’s skilled hands, pipped Dion Kremer’s ex-works 15 by 0.036s!) and Jaguar’s 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours victor Andy Wallace in Nigel Webb’s D-type. Best of the rear-engined challengers, meanwhile, was the Cooper T49 Monaco of Paul Woolley, on Wallace’s heels.
The zippy Lola Mk1 Prototype of Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger and a trio of Rejos – headed by the Mk4 of Belgium’s Gregory de Prins –contrasted with monsters of the calibre of Julian Majzub’s Canadian-built Sadler-Chevrolet Mk3, Tony Bianchi’s Cadillac-engined Allard Farrallac and Roberto Giordanelli’s Dean Van Lines Lister Corvette.
Joining the little Lotuses – of which the streamlined 11s of Laurence and Tim Jacobsen and Philip Champion/Sam Stretton were split by a fifth of a second – Coopers, Elva and Willment entries in the superb 40-car field were three Jaguar XK derivatives. Rob Newall flew in Christopher Scholey’s 120 to qualify 17th in the wet.
Charles Gillett’s Willment-Climax broke in practice, but there was a surprise call-up from buddy Justin Maeers who bought a Cooper Monaco (raced by Ted Williams, Frank Sytner, Simon Hadfield and Graeme Dodd in recent seasons) on impulse at Friday evening’s Silverstone Auctions sale, arranged for it to be scrutineered and joined the fun. Justin’s idea was a tad optimistic and would end in retirement after two laps.
Scot Andrew Smith started the pole-sitting D-type on a bright Saturday morning, but Gary Pearson burst his Lister through from row three to lead from Wood, the fast-starting Kent and Lynn heading the chase. The pack made a magnificent sight as the leaders battled three-abreast into Becketts for the first time, then stretched out through Chapel Curve onto the long Hangar Straight.
Fifth initially, Fisken settled in as Lynn’s ex-John Bekaert Lister slipped back, then pounced on Kent at Village and Wood at Stowe in one satisfying lap to go second. Pearson made his stop on lap 11, but Tim Samways’ crew turned Fisken round very efficiently, helping to clinch the race. Nuthall took over Wood’s Lister and finished a solid third ahead of engineer Andy Willis in the Hall & Hall Lola, Harris in Kent’s bulbous blue Lister and the Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro-Jaguar of James Cottingham/Joe Twyman.
Lynn finished seventh, ahead of Ward, who passed Kremer’s Lotus four laps from home but was unable to shake it off. Woolley – in one of two surviving Cooper Monacos, from the five which started – completed the top 10 ahead of Giordanelli who blasted his Lister V8 from 24th to 11th, passing Harvey’s class-winning Lotus in the closing stages. Wolfe bustled the cream Lotus 15 up to fourth before installing its less experienced owner who came home 13th. Thomas’ Lister and the Majzub/Mark Lewis Sadler were the last to go the full distance.
Retirements included the sole Aston Martin, the engine of which refused to pull cleanly when Hadfield took over, Stephen Bond’s newly-built Lister and the Cooper T39 Bobtail of Jeremy Cooke which had also proved recalcitrant in qualifying.