Entering the final 10 minutes of Motor Racing Legends’ charismatic two-hour ’50s Sportscar marathon at the eighth Algarve Classic Festival, Greg Caton was on imperious form, in total command on his race debut in Dubai-based South African Leon Price’s Dragon Racing Lotus 15. Under cover of darkness, though, his fortunes suddenly turned. As the blue car’s two-litre Coventry-Climax FPF engine’s fuel pump struggled to pick up the last dozen litres of fuel, it began to suck air in the corners and lap times lengthened. Powerless to defend, Miles Griffiths pounced in Philip Walker’s sister car four laps from home to land a famous victory.
The pair, who had grappled for pole position the previous evening (before the clocks were turned back an hour amid a gloriously warm autumn weekend, in stark contrast to last year’s miserable conditions in Portugal) with the same result after a heady battle, were a lap clear of their rivals at the chequered flag. Third fell to the new, barely run-in, Pearsons Engineering-built Lister-Jaguar Costin of Carlos Monteverde/Gary Pearson, which had James Cottingham bearing down on it in his burly DK Engineering-run Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro-Jaguar.
Quickest in free practice and, by a scant 0.842s in qualifying on the sensational undulating 2.89 mile rodeo ride of a circuit, Griffiths looked to hold the trump card in Walker’s long-owned machine – now resplendent in a vivid orange livery reflecting its early days in the USA. Caton ran him close, despite a throttle linkage issue which cost him a few laps, but Miles pulled out a superb 2m08.554s (80.96mph) best to put P1 beyond Stirling Moss Trophy Pre-’61 rival Greg’s reach.
Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger posted a stunning 2:10.749s in the little 1220cc single-cam Climax FWE-engined Lola Mk1 Prototype – raced by marque founder Eric Broadley (who debuted it at Crystal Palace as a Broadley) in 1958, then sold to Peter Gammon – to sit third on the track which Keith enthusiastically described as “a bit like Oulton Park but with twice the elevation change.” He shared row two with the big ‘Toj’ of Cottingham and Massimiliano ‘Max’ Girardo.
The bold Charlie Martin looked as if he’d just climbed out of a sauna having wrung a superb 2:11.07s out of Justin Maeers’ rear-engined Cooper Monaco. Fifth was their reward, with Dion Kremer sixth in the ex-Ian Walker Racing Lotus 17 Prototype, shared with papa Gabriel. Kremer Jr also set eighth best time – half a second slower than his 17 mark, fractionally behind Monteverde/Pearson – in the family Lotus 15, but withdrew it with diff problems. Co-driver Ben Mitchell was thus co-opted into a threesome in the 17 and would start it [in daylight] given that he hadn’t sat in it to that point.
Aviator Steve Boultbee Brooks had Andrew Robertson Smith sharing his Lister-Jaguar ‘flat iron’ for the first time, a huge privilege and thrill for the Scot as 1963 and ‘65 Formula 1 world champion Jim Clark pedalled BHL 5 to three wins in one day, first time out, at Mallory Park in 1959. They qualified ninth, in the low 2m13s, with Charlie Gillett/Steve Smith half a second adrift in the former’s distinctively-finned Equipa Dilligaff Willment-Climax, which finished third last year in the rain.
Eleventh overall, leading the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy classification, the original cars of the Pre-’56 era, was the ex-Cyril Wick Cooper-Jaguar T33 of Chris Ward and his employer Derek Hood of JD Classics. The later T38 model (ex-Equipe Endeavour/Tommy Sopwith) of Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards was next, less than a fifth of a second slower, with the ex-Jim Hall/Carroll Shelby Maserati 250S of Richard Wilson/Martin Stretton on its heels.
The next trio was diverse, Karsten le Blanc/Nigel Greensall (Austin-Healey 100S), Martin Hunt/Andrew Hall (HWM-Jaguar) and Ralf Emmerling/Phil Hooper (Elva MkV) blanketed by a couple of seconds. The 20-car field was completed by the pristine AC Ace-Bristol of David Cottingham and young Harvey Stanley, the Jaguar XKs of Steve and Josh Ward (open 120) and locals Joao Mira-Gomes/Joao Teves Costa (140 FHC) and the highly-polished Lotus MkVI of John Cleland.
Nineteen cars took the rolling start from which Caton scarpered into a lead of almost two seconds at the end of the opening lap. Walker, Monteverde, Cottingham, Maeers and Mitchell led the peloton, with Ahlers, Boultbee Brooks and Gillett in hot pursuit.
After the opening exchanges the order settled down. Mitchell was thoroughly enjoying the Lotus 17, hurling it round the corners as he climbed to second inside nine laps. Walker, meanwhile, was content to run sixth, staying within striking distance of leader Caton in the two-stop event, behind Cottingham, Maeers and Monteverde, with Gillett chasing.
As the race went on, G-CAT Racing chief Caton, driving solo, continued to build a convincing advantage. Walker, meanwhile, drove a double stint [owners being required to complete at least 50% of the race distance] and was less than gruntled to be handed a drive-through penalty for exceeding the 60kph (37mph) pit lane speed limit. Philip served it before installing Griffiths, who faced a 30-second deficit in the closing stages.
For lap after lap the integer reduced, but it wasn’t until his engine started to splutter that Caton rued the decision not to add a jerry can of fuel at his second stop, without the risk of losing time. Having led brilliantly, the 2002 British National Supersports champion didn’t have the throttle response around the switchback circuit to resist Griffiths’ attack. His rival streaked by in front of the pits on lap 49 and was 22.169s clear when the chequer flew four laps later. Levitra is very expensive, but generic Levitra is cheap. So, I visit Bantuhealth website http://www.bantuhealth.org/levitra-generic-buy/ where I order generic Levitra.
The battle for third went down to the wire. was equally gripping. Despite partner Girardo tripping the pit speed meter, thus presenting him with a drive through, Cottingham growled the Tojeiro-Jaguar after Pearson’s Lister. Urged on by his crew on the pit wall, James finished less than two seconds behind Goodwood’s most successful driver of the modern era.
Gillett/Smith had an excellent run to fifth in the Willment, ahead of the Boultbee Brooks/Smith Lister, running hot with a suspect head gasket. Despite losing its headlights when Gabriel Kremer, 79, was aboard, son Dion whisked the diminutive Lotus home seventh. Ahlers’ Lola was an early casualty, unusually, but Emmerling’s Elva screamed round metronomically to class honours. Maeers/Martin made several stops to refix the Cooper’s undertray, then had alternator problems.
The Woodcote Trophy struggle was essentially between the Cooper-Jaguars, although the T33 – dancing in Ward’s skilled hands – was penalised because Hood’s short second stint didn’t take him over the minimum. Wakeman/Blakeney-Edwards thus added another gold to their haul. The Anglo-American duo finished eighth overall, a lap ahead of class winners le Blanc/Greensall. Hunt/Hall also won their division in the HWM, while Cottingham/Stanley were chuffed with 13th in such company with the AC Ace.
The Ward family and Cleland soldiered to the finish, their personal contest resolved in the former’s favour by under 40 seconds. Less fortunate were Wilson/Stretton who retired the svelte Maserati towards three-quarter distance with fuel pump failure.