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Lister-Jaguar whitewash in pitch black night race








Proving once again that Lister-Jaguars are the perfect tools for two-hour events, a trio of Knobbly-bodied examples locked out the podium places in Motor Racing Legends’ season-closing 1950s’ Sportscar night race, a popular highlight of the 6th Algarve Classic Festival at Portimao, Portugal, on October 18.

Contemporary Porsche GT racer Jon Minshaw set the early pace before handing his Demon Tweeks Direct car to Rob Hall for the middle stint of the race which started towards an hour later than scheduled, thus ran mainly in darkness. Tony Wood/Will Nuthall pushed them hardest, finishing 70 seconds behind but almost a minute clear of Gary Pearson/Carlos Monteverde.

Miles Griffiths qualified last year’s race winner, Philip Walker’s Lotus 15, on pole position, the youngster’s 2m07.725s best just 0.346s quicker than veteran Martin Stretton managed in Mark Piercy’s Cooper Monaco. Wood/Nuthall were also in the ‘eights,’ chuffed to have shaded Minshaw/Hall and Pearson/Monteverde in their similar Listers.

Dion Kremer was right up there too in the 1220cc Lotus 17, but had the Mark Lewis/Ewan McIntyre Lister-Chevrolet replica and fabled Lola Mk1 prototype of Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger snapping at his heels. Stretton’s second mount, Philip Champion’s Lotus 11 Le Mans streamliner (in which Martin was subbing for brother Sam) and the Elva MkV of Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne filled row five.

Indeed, three of the 12 MkVs built to Elva founder Frank Nichols’ design were in the original 26-car field, Swiss entrant Louis Zurstrassen’s subtly presented example lining up 15th and German Ralf Emmerling’s – resplendent in the racing colours of Latvia! – 19th with French-domiciled Brit Phil Hooper co-driving as usual. The rival Lotus set was completed by the ex-New Zealand 15 of amiable Belgians Guy Peeters/Michel Wanty, incidentally.

Exotica in the pack included Gordon McCulloch’s custard-hued Maserati 200Si (shared with Patrick Blakeney-Edwards), the 300S of Lukas Halusa and Alex (listed rather formally as Alexander, as befits the noble car) Ames, Martin Melling’s ’52 Goodwood Nine Hours-winning Aston Martin DB3 – in which Graeme Dodd replaced the otherwise-engaged Rob Hall – and Till Bechtolsheimer’s gruff Allard-Cadillac J2.

More variety was provided by the ex-Stirling Moss Connaught ALSR of Hong Kong commuter Paul Griffin/Ian Nuthall, the pretty ex-Cliff Davis Tojeiro-Bristol of US-based Simon Arscott and 2007 British GT champion Bradley Ellis (also described by the curiously intransigent timekeepers as E. Bradley and E. Radley during the weekend) and the Willment-Climax of Charles Gillett/Steve Smith hobbled by a top end misfire in practice.  

The GT contingent comprised Paul Chase-Gardener’s Aston Martin DB2 and the Jaguar XKs of Siamak Siassi (which ex-F3 ace Wolfgang Kaufmann qualified 17th), Christopher Scholey/Nick Finburgh and Portuguese racers Joao Mira Gomes and Joao Teves Costa. Unfortunately the ex-Bill Skelly 1949 Lea Francis Special of Robert Spencer did not make the race.

Scheduled for 1755 on Saturday, the ninth and final event of the day finally got under way at 1845, which meant that the 24 starters raced into dusk, which descended rapidly beyond eight laps, and total darkness after 18. Minshaw set off at a great lick, with Pearson, Wood, Piercy, Walker and Kremer forming a train behind the green and yellow Lister until Jon blasted free.

Lewis wasn’t far behind, the engineer/racer settling in nicely with Ahlers, Bechtolsheimer, the Belgian Lotus (soon to retire with engine problems), Champion, McCullough, Zurstrassen, Kaufmann, Griffin and Emmerling in the thick of the pack. Gillett’s finned Willment lasted just a lap before he pulled out, to be joined by the Gomes/Costa Jag and Kremer’s diminutive Lotus in which Dion cut fastest lap before its diff grenaded.

As the wailing straight sixes, bellowing V8s and crisp ‘fours’ continued to circulate, Pearson, Nuthall and Griffiths took turns ahead before half-distance, at which point Miles led Will with Carlos Monteverde and McIntyre, Rob Hall and the super-sleek Champion/Stretton Lotus, which was ahead of a superb battle of wits between the closely-matched tiddlers of Ahlers/Bellinger and Paul/Bourne.

Griffiths was doing a grand job bringing the pole-starting Lotus back up the order when it began to overheat and was eventually withdrawn with a split Cooper ring. Another of the favourites, Piercy’s Monaco, had already fallen with gearbox failure, and Zurstrassen’s Elva was another casualty. The Connaught was still going strongly, meanwhile, its progress delayed only by a stop and go for speeding in the pit lane.

Hall was flying in Minshaw’s Lister mid-race, its ultra-bright front spotlight in stark contrast to barely visible rear lights. For a while, though it appeared to languish down the lap charts after the timing system missed its transponder’s signal. Bizarrely, on lap 32, the timekeepers manually corrected the system, crediting Rob with an under the radar 5.311s lap – an average speed of 1959.78mph for the 2.9-mile circuit!

The team was shown in the lead again within a few tours and Minshaw clambered back aboard for the final 13-lap stint, during which the chasing Wood/Nuthall car matched Jon’s pace. Pearson brought the Monteverde car home third, a lap clear of Lewis/McIntyre who would turn their car round overnight and win the following morning’s GTSCC race over another 120 minutes…

Paul and Bourne outdistanced Ahlers/Bellinger for Class 1 honours and a brilliant fifth place overall after Keith struggled with night visibility, exacerbated by the wide variance of headlight intensity in his mirrors on the undulating track. Class 3 victors Champion/Stretton split them at the chequer, despite a penalty stop.

Bechtolsheimer boldly soloed his Allard to eighth, ahead of the Halusa/Ames Maserati and Ellis, revelling in the Tojeiro in the land of its designer’s forefathers. “I’m surprised you didn’t see me do a YMCA at the finish,” said the extrovert Bradley, arms waving wildly in explanation to his teammate on the podium. In fact, few people could see much at all beyond the tracer beam in the winning car’s radiator duct after a splendid race.

Griffin/Nuthall survived to finish 11th and win Class 5, while Chase-Gardener/Jones beat fellow Aston men Melling/Dodd to Class 2 honours by 75 seconds.