Chris Ward is no stranger to the top of Motor Racing Legends’ Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy (Pre-1956) and Stirling Moss Trophy (Pre-1961) Sports Car podiums at Francorchamps with Jaguars and derivatives, thus a straightforward Lister-Jaguar victory after the fleetest Lotus 15s retired from the Spa Six Hours showcase was not new.
In the 60th anniversary of Eric Broadley’s Lola Cars’ foundation, was a brilliant second place overall for the game little Mk1 Prototype in the skilled hands of preparer James ‘Billy’ Bellinger and Keith Ahlers, was talk of the paddock though. Third, after another stirring performance, were Cooper T49 Monaco duo Justin Maeers/Charlie Martin after Martin Stretton/Stefan Ziegler (Lister-Jaguar), just ahead on the road at the chequered flag, received a five second penalty for exceeding track limits.
Blakeney Motorsport bagged a one-two in the concurrent Woodcote Trophy contest, Californian Fred Wakeman and British team boss Patrick Blakeney-Edwards guiding their Cooper-Jaguar T38 home ahead of Martin Hunt/Andrew Hall’s HWM-Jaguar with Rick Bourne/Malcolm Paul a solid third in their two-litre Lotus-Bristol 10.
The two-litre Lotuses of Oliver Bryant and New Zealander Roger Wills – the latter’s compatriots Bruce McLaren and Syd Jensen’s 1958 Goodwood Tourist Trophy car, with a fresh Crosthwaite & Gardiner Climax FPF engine – locked-out the front row of the big grid in qualifying. Bryant’s 2m49.113s (92.64mph) best was a scant 0.436s better than Wills’ mark on the 4.35-mile circuit, Roger’s quicker one having been annulled for exceeding track limits. That Olly was quickest of all through the Kemmel speed trap at 137mph reflected its siting, after the 3.8-litre Lister-Jaguars’ braking points, before Les Combes.
Ward gridded third, well in touch on 2:50.681, with fellow Lister-Jaguar Knobbly drivers Tony Wood/Will Nuthall and Stefan Ziegler/Martin Stretton heading off the smoother Costin-bodied version of Richard Kent and TV Top Gear presenter Chris Harris.
Ahlers and Bellinger were an outstanding seventh on 2:55.665s (89.16mph) in the polished aluminium-bodied Lola, the light weight and razor sharp handling of which offset its 1220cc Coventry-Climax FWE engine’s relative lack of horsepower. As in period, Colin Chapman’s rival Lotus marque was in close attendance, Andrew Kirkaldy winding Sandy Watson’s tailfinned 11 up to be 0.556s slower.
The Maeers/Martin Cooper Monaco was ninth, sharing row five with top WT qualifiers Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (ex-Tommy Sopwith Cooper-Jaguar T38) 10th overall on 2:57.428 (88.29mph). Behind them, four more Lotus 11s – in the hands of Philip Champion/Sam Stretton, Serge Kriknoff, Andrea Stortoni/Richard Postins and leading Belgian Guy Peeters respectively – surrounded John Spiers’ late-built Lister-Jaguar Knobbly.
There was plenty of miscellany in the thick of the classy field, in which Tony Ditheridge/Barry Cannell (ex-Hap Sharp Cooper T49 Monaco), Chris Keen/Richard McAlpine (Kurtis-Chevrolet 500S), Richard Wilson/Martin Stretton (ex-Jim Hall/Carroll Shelby Maserati 300S), local man Gregory de Prins (Rejo MkIV) and – fresh from his Freddie March Memorial Trophy win at Goodwood and second WT contender – Martin ‘Ted 7’ Hunt, sharing his ex-Tony Gaze Kangaroo Stable HWM-Jaguar VPA9 with Andrew Hall, completed the top 20.
Versatile Historic Formula Ford ace Ben Mitchell put far eastern commuter Jason Yates’ Lotus 11 ‘Custard Climax’ next up, ahead of three strong Stirling Moss Trophy crews. Charming Spaniard Guillermo Fierro’s Maserati 300S (co-driven by preparer Steve Hart) pipped Steve Boultbee-Brooks/Andrew Smith (Jaguar D-type XKD558, now back to original spec having had a big American V8 shoehorned into its engine bay in the ’60s) with the ex-Mike Anthony Lotus-Bristol X of Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne for company.
Olivier Blanpain’s Cooper Monaco, Till Bechtolsheimer’s Allard-Cadillac J2 – destined not to start – and the Austin-Healey of Crispin Harris/James Wilmoth were next, with the D-type of Rod Barrett/Jay Shepherd at the mid-point of the qualifying order, fractionally quicker than Louis Zurstrassen’s Elva MkV. Lebanese pairing Tarek Mahmoud/Cyrille Bustros (Cooper Monaco), the Allard J2 of Tim Llewellyn (shared for the first time by fellow Bentley racer Clive Morley after a slug of brave pills), Rudi Friedrich’s tool room copy Jaguar C-type and the Aston Martin DB2 of David Reed/Peter Snowdon were also inside 3m10s.
The ex-Tony Crook cycle-winged Cooper-Bristol of John Ure/Nick Wigley outpaced the Paul Pochciol/James Hanson C-type and closely-matched Cooper T39 Bobtail of Robi Bernberg/Paul Ugo ahead of Tom Harris’ Lister-Jaguar Knobbly, the C-type of Belgians Tim Motte and Nicolas Bert of (HW Alta-Jaguar fame) and the Elva MkV of French-domiciled German Ralf Emmerling, missing hospitalised long-time co-driver Phil Hooper’s input.
Belgian Tom de Gres’ Lotus 11 lined-up ahead of the Jaguar XKs of Marc Gordon (150) and Steve and Josh Ward (120), with the ex-Tom Kyffin envelope-bodied Equipe Devone Cooper-Bristol of another dad-and-lad, Chris and Oliver Phillips, in close attendance. Brussels bar owner Erik Staes (Lotus 11) and Chris Jolly (Aston Martin DB2) were right with them, eager to do battle in the race.
The qualifiers were completed by siblings Klara and Jakob Rettenmaier (Maserati A6 GCS), Frenchman Jacques Naveau (Lotus 11), Barry Wood – sharing his RGS-Atalanta with plucky daughter-in-law Niamh – omni-present Portuguese driver Joao Mira-Gomes (XK140), Stephan Koenig’s AC Ace-Bristol and the flat-four Jowett Jupiter of Richard Gane and longtime Jaguar XK racer Kevin Zwolinski.
Carlos Monteverde’s white ex-Jim Clark D-type didn’t post a time due to transponder issues, but would start, with the Lotus 15 of Richard Cooke/Harvey Stanley (stopped by a broken rear suspension mount) and Canadian veterans Bob Francis/John Thompson.
Olly Bryant and Roger Wills in their Lotuses controlled the rolling start but Kent shot his torquier and ultra-slippery Costin-bodied Lister ahead on the Kemmel Straight which climbs from Raidillon, the blind brow after the Eau Rouge compression, all the way to Les Combes which presages the infield section of track which links the original Francorchamps road course’s outward and return legs. By the end of the opening lap though, Ward came through first, with Bryant, Kent, Wills, Stretton (in Ziegler’s Lister at this stage), Tony Wood, high-flying Scot Kirkaldy, Maeers, Bellinger, Cannell, Postins and Spiers filling the top 12. Wakeman led the Woodcoteers from Bourne in the red Lotus-Bristol streamliner.
Out after one lap were the Wards, Blainpain and the luckless Cook, involved in a collision with the Canadian Allard. Brooks (short of brakes), Kirkaldy and Spiers also had early baths. Both Maseratis retired after four laps, which meant that Stretton and Hart would be redundant for the second half of the race.
Bryant had grabbed the lead back on lap two, but couldn’t put more than a couple of seconds’ daylight between himself and Ward who stalked the green Lotus relentlessly, setting fastest lap as Chris made his mandatory pitstop after nine laps. Wills’ white Lotus was dropped into a solitary third, clear of the constantly changing Wood, Kent and Stretton trio over which Richard eventually prevailed. Unbeknown to spectators, Wills’ brake pedal was fading badly, thus he threw in the towel at the stops.
While Bryant stayed out, apparently circulating comfortably, Kent and Wood temporarily graduated to second and third, stopping together on 11 laps. Bellinger and Stretton thus went top, ahead of Peeters and Cannell, with Wakeman, Bourne and Hunt at the head of the Woodcote Trophy order. When Bellinger pitted, from the lead, after 12 laps, cameras scoured the track anxiously for Bryant, whose Lotus expired at Blanchimont. “The car was going beautifully when, without warning, the fuel pressure dropped. I flicked to the other pump but nothing. The dynamo had failed, flattening the battery.”
Thereafter, the race belonged to Chris Ward. A late three lap safety car interlude for the recovery of Mira-Gomes XK140 coupe, which had shed a rear wheel at the final chicane, helped and hindered in equal measure. When the track went live again, Ward only had to rattle off a single lap before the chequered flag flew. He finished 23 seconds ahead of Ahlers in the giant-slaying Lola and Ziegler, who fell to fourth behind Maeers/Martin when timekeepers applied the five second penalty. Peeters and Kriknoff wound up fifth and sixth, still on the lead lap.
As often here before there was no catching the Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Jaguar of Wakeman/Blakeney-Edwards in the fight for Woodcote Trophy honours. The super-competitive pairing finished seventh overall, with closest rivals [and team-mates] Hunt/Hall 10th in the HWM. “Thank heavens the Jag lost a wheel,” puffed Andrew. Between them were Dithers and Nuthall, territorial positions reversed by penalties. Bourne/Paul finished third, with Gary Pearson closing in in Monteverde’s D-type. Friedrichs and Ure/Wigley completed the SMT top six.
Words: MAWP, Photographs: Dave Brassington – (Start shots) & Jeff Bloxham