News of a Motor Racing Legends Race Meeting at the home of post-war British motor racing, Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, to fill the void of two planned late-season European events – was music to race-starved competitors’ ears. The race day programme also featured two one-hour races, the first for 1950s Sports Racing Cars for the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy and Stirling Moss Trophy – the second, a Touring car race for the Historic Touring Car Challenge and Tony Dron Trophy with U2TC and Sixties Turing Car Challenge grids.
ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB WOODCOTE TROPHY & STIRLING MOSS TROPHY
“It’s like riding a wild tiger on wet lino. And that’s in the dry,” is how Chris Milner described driving his ex-Mike Anthony Lister-Chevrolet Costin to pro co-driver Nigel Greensall, who converted the car owner’s promising start to victory in Motor Racing Legends’ 1950s sports car seasonal finale – “I kept them [the leaders] in sight, then Nigel wove his magic,” said the delighted Milner.
The battle up front was epic between Greensall and Andrew Robertson Smith, finishing super impressive E-type graduate Mark Donnor’s Jaguar-powered Lister Costin on a track left treacherous by overnight rain, exacerbated by low ambient temperature and little wind. Midlander Greensall reeled the Scot in with a devastating series of best laps and for several tours the slippery-bodied dark blue machines danced within a few cars’ lengths of each other.
Greensall eventually seized his opportunity when Smith slithered wide out of the tricky right-left-right-left Becketts complex and he unleashed Chevrolet Corvette V8 power to grunt ahead on the Hangar Straight just over three laps from home. “I was getting wheel spin in top gear, it was brilliant,” grinned Nigel, who placed his steed expertly thereafter to stem counter-attacks. Andrew didn’t give up as they continued to pick off lapped cars, but there was nowhere to make any potential move stick. He finished a fifth of a second behind his bellowing rival at the chequered flag.
Former Porsche Carrera Cup UK champion Mark Cole finished brilliant third on his first experience of JRP Racing’s 1956 Lotus-Climax 11, powered by a 1460cc Coventry-Climax FWB engine. Maximising the little blue carpet slipper’s cornering ability to keep larger-engined machines at bay ‘Coley’ finished ahead of Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy winners Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Jaguar T38) and Germany Rudi Friedrichs in his Jaguar C-type, a superb New Zealand-built evocation of the works drum-braked ’51 Le Mans winner. Aviator Steve Boultbee Brooks was classified sixth, the last driver to cover the full distance in his glorious Jaguar D-type.
Race in detail:
Donnor growled ahead as the opening one-hour race of the day got underway, with Cole clinging on in the Lotus and Friedrichs going with them. Milner, Spiers and Wakeman led the chase initially, with Brooks, Justin Maeers, Pochciol (slipping back), Dalglish, Reed and Mahmoud chasing.
Friedrichs climbed to second on lap two and Spiers displaced Cole to go third next time round, although the four leaders remained tightly bunched. As did pursuers Milner, Maeers and Wakeman as Justin wriggled to the head of the trio. Spiers deposed Woodcote pacesetter Friedrichs at Club, only to lose out as Cole out braked them both audaciously to regain second.
Both Donor and Cole made their mandatory pit stops just after the window opened, having completed nine laps. Friedrichs stopped at the end of his 10th, Maeers taking over the lead from Spiers and Wakeman as Milner relayed Greensall just before half-way on TSL’s clocks. Dalglish locked-up and spun at Vale, but quickly recovered his composure and continued.
Once Maeers had put his lad into bat and Needell had relieved Spiers on successive laps, the pit stagger unwound restoring the swoopy-bodied Listers – now in the command of Smith and Greensall – to the top of the lap charts. Andrew had survived a half-spin at Vale (“it’s very easy to lock the rear brakes in these conditions”) but he still had an advantage of more than 11 seconds with a third of the race remaining.
Greensall, who loves a pursuit, threw caution to the breeze, braking later and using the Chevy engine’s torque in a higher gear to restrict wheel spin as he eroded the deficit to Smith. Down it continued to come with five fastest laps in six – 9.5s, 6.9s, 7.3s (through traffic), 6.2s and 5s – then, with a magnificent effort and the leader stuck behind an XK mid-Club, Nigel pounced. Once ahead he could win the straight-line drag races, but even his rival’s final salvo which stood as the race’s best lap the order remained.
Class winner Cole was a gallant third ahead of Friedrichs on the road, but when a stop-go penalty served by Blakeney-Edwards for a short stop was expunged as a timing glitch, Wakeman/PBE were confirmed as fourth and Woodcote Trophy victors, in front of Rudi. Needell guided Spiers’ black Lister home sixth ahead of Brooks, third of the Woodcote contestants.
A lap down, Hanson howled Pochciol’s C-type back to eighth, clear of Moss division topper Maeers Jr who pipped Dalglish. Hartogs and Burnett, hustling Birch’s Elite into a fine 12th, were next home, ahead of Audi, Woodcote class winners Snowdon, Abecassis and Ugo, then the Halusa Maserati. The final split winner was the Bond/Gray Lister-Bristol, which covered 20 laps. The only retirement was Clarkson’s Lister, its “cooking” Jaguar engine having started to smoke ominously in right-handed bends.
HISTORIC TOURING CAR CHALLENGE & TONY DRON TROPHY with U2TC and STCC
“That was a proper race. I think we changed places five times on one lap,” said David Tomlin after winning a sensational scrap with fellow Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 pilot Mark Wright in the Historic Touring Car Challenge & Tony Dron Trophy seasonal finale at Silverstone on October 25. Eleven weeks previously at Thruxton, Tomlin was hospitalised after fuel vapour ignited in his Thierry Boutsen/Batibouw tribute car’s boot compartment, tore through the cockpit and inflicted facial burns. A first victory on his comeback was as popular with rivals as it was hard-earned. “What a wonderful way to get me going for next year.”
Clearly undaunted by his experience in Hampshire, Tomlin – who also races Formula 2, sports racing and GT cars, and rallies – was on superb form. Having calmly out braked Julian Thomas’ pole-sitting Kaliber RS500 on the damp inside line into the tight left-handed corner at Vale for the lead on lap two, he got together with earlier-stopper Wright’s sister car after the mandatory pit stops. Then the fun really began.
“I was very careful with the brakes, a limiting factor in these cars, and had one eye on temperatures, but was only running my second turbo boost setting, so 500bhp rather than 575bhp, and running out of revs on the Hangar Straight with a short diff! The front left tyre is shot, but winning was an unexpected bonus.”
Wright, was equally happy afterwards. “It’s the first time it’s done an hour and while it’s out of brakes – I was having to pump the pedal about 10 times by the end – I’m ecstatic to have finished.” Thomas’ co-driver Calum Lockie made it an RS500 clean-sweep, but suggested that the ex-Guy Edwards/Andy Rouse machine needs more sorting. “It’s hopping like mad in slow-to-medium speed corners, thus slow out onto the straights which isn’t ideal,” said the Scot.
Fastest lap was set by fourth-placed finisher Ric Wood in the surviving Nissan Skyline R-32. Fifth and first Capri, following Steve Dance’s retirement, was the ex-Vince Woodman Broadspeed-built Ford GAA V6-powered car of Richard Kent/Chris Ward, despite a brief stop to address overheating. Other strong class-winning performances were posted by Greg Caton/David Shaw (in Tim Swadkin’s Escort-BDG) who had to start from the back of the grid, and Ken and Tim Clarke’s ex-Steve Soper Hepolite Rover Vitesse.
The Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 contest was won by John Spiers/Tiff Needell (Hermetite Capri) from the Esso version of George Pochciol/James Hanson by 19 seconds. In U2TC Shaun Balfe and Lotus Cortina debutant Tom Ashton prevailed over the similar machine of Irishmen Paddy Shovlin/David Dickenson by a similar margin. The result completed an unforgettable weekend for Chinese GT Championship regular Ashton.
Race in detail:
Thomas bellowed off pole to lead from the rolling start, pursued by Tomlin and the sonorous Capris of Dance and fast-starter Kent. By the end of the opening lap Bryant Sr remained fifth, but Garrad’s Nissan crawled into the pits. “I had a misfire on the warm-up lap, then the rear diff failed,” rued Simon who quickly changed into civvies and spectated from the balcony overlooking Vale and Club corners.
Drivers making notable progress included Rover warriors Wakeman (up four places to sixth in the green-nosed machine) and Ken Clarke (who advanced from 15th to seventh), Wood from 23rd to 10th and Caton who screamed the open-piped Escort from the very back to 12th. Gordon’s Alfasud was reported to have had a moment at Copse – half way round the lap from The Wing start point – while Blanckley’s Dolly visited the gravel at Vale but escaped. Spiers led fellow sixth row starter Pochciol Jr in the TDT category after a forceful getaway.
Tomlin seized the lead from Thomas into Vale on lap 2, diving down the inside on a far from dry track and making the pass look easy, despite having to tighten his entry to the second gear left. Wood and Caton were up to fifth and sixth inside three circuits, which advanced again when Kent dived into the pits next time round with overheating. A strip of tape was ripped from the radiator grille and the magnificent blue and white Capri was back on his way.
Clarke guided his sharp-sounding [courtesy of a TWR fishtail exhaust] Rover past Wakeman, but Fred was out shortly afterwards with transmission failure. Wright had already made it a bewinged Sierra top three when he passed Dance on lap four, then chased down Thomas. Julian ceded second when he skated straight-on into the gravel at Vale on lap eight, but succeeded in clawing his way out via the waterlogged greensward at the cost of a few seconds.
First of the top 10 to make a scheduled stop was Grahame Bryant, who installed Olly in the Paperchase-liveried Capri as the window opened at 20 minutes. Clark put his son in to the Hepolite Rover next time round and Blanckley was busily climbing the lap charts after his early excursion. Pochciol was back ahead of Spiers in their Group 1 Capri dice and Balfe was going clear in U2TC.
When Tomlin pitted after 11 laps Wright grabbed the initiative, more than nine seconds ahead of Thomas. Dance and Wood were third and fourth, with Tomlin back to fifth and getting up to speed when as Kent and Caton passed the baton to Ward and Shaw respectively. The mass stops at the sharp end came on lap 13 when Wright, Dance and Wood peeled in, but Thomas continued, back ahead for two laps until Lockie entered the fray, quickly discovering that he wouldn’t be improving on third.
Wright and Tomlin then engaged in the race’s pivotal duel, Mark eking as much as 4.2 seconds’ advantage before David countered, having conserved his ammunition more carefully for the final push. Tomlin boxed Wright behind Needell’s class-leading Capri mid-Club to go ahead, but Wright barrelled back up the inside into Abbey seconds later. “He was locking wheels everywhere, but we exchanged places several times. It was great fun,” said Tomlin. Once in daylight David pulled away rapidly. His rival, out of brakes but under no threat from Lockie’s ill-handling machine, was 27 seconds behind at the chequer!”
Wood had a very lonely opening half of the race, but set fastest lap of 2:15.686 (97.11mph) – fully 11 seconds inside the pole time – en route to fourth, inherited when Dance retired two laps from the finish. The Capris of Kent/Ward and the Bryants were classified fifth and sixth, a lap down, but at the head of the HT2C class. HT2B honours fell to Caton/Shaw after an excellent run to seventh ahead of rivals Coyne/Mann. Wrigley wrestled the big Jag home ninth, short of anchors and the front air dam which Paul Pochciol had planed off over a kerb during his stint. The Clarkes’ Rover completed the top 10, another car to have stopped with overheating, addressed with a quick coolant top-up.
Behind Gomm and Blanckley, Spiers and super-sideways Needell claimed the Tony Dron Trophy prize, almost 20 seconds clear of George Pochciol/Hanson, making up ground towards the end. Lotus Cortinas locked-out the U2TC podium, Balfe and newcomer Ashton 19 seconds ahead of Shovlin/Dickenson who clawed past Marcus Jewell on the final lap after a long chase. Gordon’s Alfasud and both Minis finished, Evans and Reichman separated by the Pattle/Burton Cortina.
ROYAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB HISTORIC TOURIST TROPHY THREE-HOUR RACE
The focus of the three-hour race was a Team competition comprising of a member from each class of the four classes across the field and thus all eyes were on the prize of the illustrious Historic Tourist Trophy; a stunning silver piece which had been specially commissioned by the Royal Automobile Club for the race. In all eleven teams were entered, with Class 1 Sports Car Racers in hot demand.
Bright sunshine reigned as the pace car peeled into the pit lane at Vale, unleashing the 58 three-hour starters, although dark clouds were looming ominously. Having threaded their way through the bottleneck before Club corner drivers opened their throttles in a crescendo of revs. Crossing the timing line at 13.53hrs the cars made a magnificent sight as they stampeded towards Abbey. Thomas led from Jordan and Wills, with Jon Minshaw’s grey Jaguar fourth, pursued by Littlejohn and Cottingham’s thunderous Tojeiro after the initial sort-out.
Gary Pearson, starting Friedrichs’ C-type, went missing on lap 2 when its engine dropped a valve. As he was towed back down the internal road which links the National and International circuits, conjoined in the 3.606-mile GP layout, brother John retired the gunmetal E-type Gary was to have taken over knowing that his back pain wouldn’t allow him to complete his planned 45 minute stint.
Jones’ Elan, Walton’s MGB, Wrigley’s E-type and Cannell’s smoky Corvette were also casualties inside the first 10 laps. Tordoff’s Falcon fell soon afterwards, as did the Toj after just 11 tours with a rod through the side of its Jaguar engine while running fourth. At least the younger Cottingham had a Cobra drive to look forward to.
Minshaw had pitted in the interim, thinking something had broken on his Jaguar as it was sliding around more than usual. The Valley Motor Sport guys found nothing awry, save for a dent in the left front wing, putting it down to the first time Jon had run on the narrower L-section Dunlop tyres (the stipulated tyre choice for the race) for ages. Thus it was decided to make this the first of two mandatory five-minute stops and send Jack Minshaw back into the race. The car ran like a train thereafter.
No enduro is won in its opening stages and although Wills jostled past Jordan to run second as a few drops of rain intensified into a shower, Thomas was circulating metronomically out front, picking off traffic carefully as he lapped single cars and gaggles left, right and centre. As a rainbow backlit first Abbey, then lingered over Stowe, the order settled for the longer haul.
Behind Thomas, Wills and Jordan, Littlejohn, Olly Bryant, Short flying in Goldsmith’s Aston, the duelling Jags of Donnor and Kent led the Elans of Willis and Reichman. The DK Engineering Cobra, the E-types of McCaig and Spiers, plus Audi and Wakeman’s Cobras ran in close company, with Maeers hustling his Cooper Monaco and homing in on the larger capacity GTs.
The phase of a race before the first mainstream scheduled pitstops tends to be one of stability and consolidation, but as the track began to dry again Jordan blasted past Wills. Then Andy showed what he could do, ratcheting up the pressure and devouring the nine second deficit to Julian. Within two laps it was halved, then halved again, and for five glorious laps the Cobras ran as one. Jordan got alongside – once they traversed Stowe abreast, AJ twitching on the outside – but he could not breach Thomas’ defences.
Having also tried on the outside of Chapel Curve, leading onto the Hangar Straight, Jordan dived for the pits on lap 25, relaying car owner Willmott. Thomas and Wills, second again, made their driver change three laps later – under a short safety car interlude for the retrieval of an Elan which had conked-out. Lockie and David Clark took up the cudgels. In the interim, Short had stopped from fifth, then Littlejohn, Bryant, and Elan battlers Willis and Reichman, the last unlapped runners, came in from third to sixth respectively next time round. Spiers led the Jaguar brigade, having usurped McCaig before the Scot pitted.
At the mid-way point, team ‘Six Pack’ comprising of Gregor Fisken and Marino Franchitti’s Jaguar E-type, Justin Maeers and Charlie Martin’s Cooper Monaco and Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards’s AC Cobra, but ‘Ecurie CCC’ were looming strong bolstered by the consistently strong performance of the Wills/Clark Lotus XV.
After several frustrating laps the green flag ended a longer caution period. Lockie attacked immediately, pulling clear of Evans who had Willmott and David Clark bearing down on him, lapping as one. Ward and Wilds led the chase, pursued by Andrew Smith in Donnor’s aubergine Jag, Grahame Bryant’s Cobra and the Elans of Becker and Jöbstl, reunited on track. Bryant Sr’s short stint appeared to consolidate GPG 4C’s position although a stop-and-go penalty was imposed for a pit infringement.
Once the track was clear Lockie stretched his advantage over Willmott, still acclimatising to his new steed, with a series of fastest laps, although the leader did have a big moment into Becketts as he pushed on to give Thomas a handsome cushion over rivals. By lap 40 Calum had plumped it out to almost 30 seconds, with Chris Ward third ahead of Clark, Littlejohn and Wilds, equi-distant with 10 seconds separating them. When he stopped at the end of lap 54, their lead was effectively two laps plus, with the five-minute stagger to be factored-in, and this saw them pull away safe to the flag.
“Julian gave me the car from the lead but my first lap was a flipping wake-up call,” grinned Lockie. “There was no grip at all with fluids and rubber down. Those were among the slipperiest conditions I’ve ever experienced, so it was great that I could hand back to Julian to win.
Chris Ward had gone second when Wilmott put Jordan back in to finish on lap 44, but when Chris made his matching final stop the Cobra regained the place. “The oil pressure light had been coming on under braking, so we topped the oil up,” explained Ward. When Thomas resumed he still had a minute and a half in hand, which he maintained more than comfortably to the chequered flag. Jordan, Kent, Olly Bryant (after serving a second penalty), the Minshaw family’s Jaguar and Littlejohn in the Elan which – but for stops – had led class 3 throughout, all finished on the lead lap, the Bryants and Minshaws despite strategies revised on the hoof. Jordan enjoyed his second outing in the Cobra a week after Goodwood, particularly his full-blooded early duel with Thomas. “The Daytona is a bit more stable [than ours], but when it drizzled it was great fun to race with Julian,” said the 2013 British Touring Car champion.
Pre-’61 Class 1 winners Wills/Clark brought their Lotus home seventh, one lap adrift, chased by Goldsmith’s Aston, Donnor’s E-type and the Cook/Cottingham Cobra which covered the same distance to complete the top 10 finishers. Griffiths brought the Clark Jag back 11th, ahead of the Haddon and Lynn duo’s Elan which they found exceptionally tricky on the L-section tyres. Fifteenth on the road behind the Cobras of Audi/Hall and Wakeman/PBE, Willis and Jöbstl claimed third in the competitive class 3 with the latter’s Elan.
A late stop dropped the hard-worked Maeers/Martin Cooper from the top six down the order to 19th, still second in class 1, clear of the Wenmans’ well-driven Morgan. After four hours of running (plus qualifying) during the day Justin, Charlie and their crew certainly relished their beers. The Hanson and Pochiol family Jaguar team’s solid run was rewarded with class 2 victory and 20th overall. Just a lap behind the division winners, the big Healeys of Harris/Wilmoth and Mountford and the family Rawles duly claimed second and third in class, 68 seconds apart at the flag.
Although not a specific sub-class, the pale green Ford Falcon of Chester/Ward was the first Touring Car to finish in 23rd place, with the heavier Coyne/Mann Mustang barely a minute behind, two laps clear of the Kjallgren/Cooke Mustang.
Rivals Franchitti/Fisken had looked strong for honours before Gregor’s Jag’s fan belt broke. With coolant pumping out they parked after 52 laps to save the engine and this saw Team ‘Six Pack’ fall by the wayside. ‘Ecurie Triple C’ pounced for the win with the Wills/Clark Lotus 15 (that finished an impressive seventh overall and won Class 1), Le Blanc/Chris Milner Austin Healey 3000 and Ford Mustang of Georg Kjallgren and Jeremy Cooke. The team were thrilled to be the first victors of the impressive silver wear. ‘Six Pack’ wound up in second place and ‘The Premium Bonds’ comprising of a Morgan, Lotus Elan 26R and Jaguar E-type were third.
The spirit in the pits afterwards was testament to a superb new event set to become an annual fixture on the Motor Racing Legends portfolio by universal consent.
Words: Marcus Pye
All images: Jeff Bloxham