Driving their Costin-bodied Lister-Jaguar together for the first time, Rotterdam-based father-and-son David and Olivier Hart blitzed the Lister Motor Company-supported Stirling Moss Trophy race at the Spa Six Hours event on September 28. A combination of speed and tactics on a wet track won the day, Hart Senior stopping early from the lead to bring 20-year-old Junior’s lightning reflexes into play.
As before on the majestic 4.352-mile Francorchamps circuit, the youngster’s superlative car control in an unfamiliar bolide left vastly more experienced rivals floundering. Will Nuthall finished Tony Wood’s Lister-Jaguar Knobbly strongly, seizing second from early leader Roger Wills (Lotus-Climax 15) on the penultimate lap. Poleman Oliver Bryant in another 2-litre 15 nursed it home, its handling awry following an unfortunate knock in practice.
In the concurrent Woodcote Trophy Pre-1956 contest, Gary Pearson hauled Brazilian Carlos Monteverde’s white ex-Border Reivers/Jim Clark Jaguar D-type back to the head of the rankings, where he had qualified it 13th overall behind the cream of the Pre-’61 machinery. But Pearson had to work hard to overhaul Tim Llewellyn’s 6.6-litre Cadillac V8-engined Allard J2, handed over in the lead by son Oliver. Barely five seconds split them at the chequer, with the Maserati 300S of Spain’s Guillermo Fierro and British preparer Steve Hart third in the EFG Private Bank-supported race.
A mighty 50-car field set out for qualifying on Friday, of which 48 would start Saturday’s 61-minute race. Already sidelined, very sadly, was the Ward family’s Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar XK120 which suffered a heavy crash in testing. One of the pre-race favourites got little further, Jon Minshaw’s Lister-Jaguar Knobbly – which double British Touring Car champion Gordon Shedden had been slated to share – succumbing to a blown engine at Les Combes third time round. One of several Belgians in the pack, Gregory de Prins’ Rejo had already conked out, at the summit of Raidillon, but was fit for the race.
Bryant set the best Q time for the second successive season, a solid 2m50.350s just over a second shy of last year’s mark. This was a remarkable achievement since Niamh Wood spun father-in-law Tony’s RGS Atalanta-Jaguar at Pouhon on her second lap and collected the Lotus. Olly limped back to the pits where its buckled aluminium body was prised off a rear wheel, then set the time. Post practice, a oil leak from its differential was traced to a cracked casing, which Clive Robinson [a mechanic for the Belgian Racing Team VDS F5000 and Can-Am effort in period] stripped out and mag welded to get him into the race.
Fresh from his Sussex Trophy victory at Goodwood a fortnight previously, New Zealander Wills was second quickest, 1.585s adrift of Bryant, driving his white ex-John Coombs 15, the ex-Bruce McLaren and Roy Salvadori car fettled by Richard Purves. Richard Kent and McLaren GT racer Joe Osborne were P3 in the former’s Lister-Jaguar Costin on 2:53.283 with a third Lotus 15, the ex-Roy Pierpoint machine of American Michael Gans, but 0.038s slower.
Listers claimed the next three places, the Harts having outrun Wood/Nuthall and Martin ‘Dangermouse’ Stretton sharing Swiss Stefan Ziegler’s Knobbly. The top 10 was rounded out by the Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Jaguar T38 of Californian Fred Wakeman and prep team chief Pat Blakeney-Edwards – the previous Woodcote Trophy victors running in SMT with its later 3.8-litre XK engine as opposed to the original spec 3.4 – 2018 runners-up Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger (Lola-Climax Mk1) and the Lister-Chevrolet Costin of Chris Milner/Nigel Greensall, trailered thereafter with a mechanical failure.
Cumbrian dentist Andrew Smith thus moved up the order in his class-leading two-litre Cooper Monaco T49, with Martin O’Connell the last man under three minutes in Sandy Watson’s Lotus 11, previously owned for decades by John Gray who was present to see it perform. Woodcote Trophy pacesetter Pearson was next on 3:00.524, shadowed by the late-built Lister-Jaguar Knobblies of Peter Ratcliff – previously a Spa devotee in Caterhams – and John Spiers, split by Brazilan Bernardo Hartogs’ Lotus 15. Swiss Serge Kriknoff’s pretty Lotus 11 streamliner was close behind.
The glorious Maserati 300S of Fierro/Hart sat second of the Woodcoteers in 18th place, their 3:04.180 at the head of a tight pack comprising Belgian Eric Mestdagh’s Lotus 15 (shared by Elva regular Louis Zurstrassen), the ex-Mike Anthony Lotus-Bristol 10 of Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne – third of the Woodcote posse – Irishman Niall McFadden’s Lister-Jaguar Knobbly and the smoother Costin-bodied version of Dutchman Hans Hugenholtz/Nicky Pastorelli, Tony Ditheridge/Barry Cannell (Cooper Monaco) and Martin Hunt/Andrew Hall (HWM-Jaguar).
The big Allard-Cadillac V8s of the Llewellyns and Till Bechtolsheimer were together in mid-grid, towering over the finned Jaguar D-type of Ben Eastick/Karl Jones, back at Spa after breaks of 10 and six years respectively. The top 30 was completed by the Aston Martin DB2 of David Reed/Peter Snowdon – batting above its weight in this company – and Belgian Lotus duo Guy Peeters (15) and Erik Staes (11).
Robi Bernberg/Paul Ugo (Cooper T39 ‘Bobtail’) and Olivier Blanpain (Cooper Monaco) were ahead of Canadian stalwarts Bob Francis/John Thompson, who qualified their Allard J2 and Jaguar XK120 back-to-back. Ralf Emmerling/Phil Hooper (Elva MkV), Chris Jolly (DB2), local man Olivier Gonzalez (Lotus 11) and Nicolas Bert/Tim Motte (Jaguar C-type) were also in touch.
Marc Gordon/Read Gomm (Jaguar XK140 FHC), Belgian Tom de Gres (Lotus 11 S2 Le Mans), David Stanley (Austin-Healey 100 LM) were next, followed by the Frazer Nashes of David Graus/Diogo Ferrao (Targa Florio) and Thomas Ward (Le Mans Replica) which were less than a second apart. Portuguese crew Joao Mira-Gomes/Fernando Campos Ferreira (XK140 FHC) and Guy Verhofstadt – the former Belgian prime minister, now chair of the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group – back at the wheel of his Elva MkIII, completed the qualifiers.
Following heavy overnight rain, Saturday dawned showery, but the ambient temperature was still in the mid-teens so while the drivers could not relax for a second it didn’t feel unpleasant for support teams as 48 cars formed the grid. After a lap behind a safety car, Wills made the best of the rolling start to lead David Hart, Bryant, Stretton, Tony Wood, Kent, Gans, Bellinger, O’Connell and Ratcliff initially.
Hart powered ahead on lap three and immediately began to extend a gap back to Wills and Stretton. As Bryant’s tyres reached working temperature he quickly realised that his Lotus’ handling was impaired, legacy of the practice incident. “It was understeering, diff-related, so I had to let the others go and concentrate on bringing it home. Very disappointing,” he said.
Stretton wasted little time in hunting down Wills and immediately ate into Hart’s advantage. This was the cue for David to make his pit stop early, after seven circuits, to let his feisty lad get to grips with the Lister. Martin would go long before installing car owner Ziegler, thus he held sway out front for a further four laps, stopping at two-thirds’ distance. Prior to that, Wills and Bryant had been within 11 seconds, but Roger, Olly, O’Connell and Bellinger dived in together, after 10 laps. Nuthall had been in Wood’s Lister for a lap when soloist Wills and his rivals’ co-drivers resumed.
Now the pattern of the race truly emerged, with young Hart – immediately lapping with supreme confidence, quicker than the established stars ahead of him – now comfortably 27 seconds clear of Ziegler, who was being caught by Wills and Bryant, with Osborne, Ratcliff and Gans in the chase. Nuthall blatted past Wills on the penultimate lap, seizing second place in a crescendo of straight-six induction roar, but there was no catching Olivier Hart. The Vliegende Hollander was an impressive 47 seconds clear at the chequered flag.
One of only four drivers in the top 10 to set best laps as the circuit began to dry, Olivier’s ultimate mark of 3:29.199 (74.87mph), four laps into his devastating 10-lap stint, was three and a half seconds quicker than Nuthall recorded on the final circuit. First time out in the Lister, his is a remarkable natural talent, one which fully merits the wonderful machinery at his disposal. The tousle-haired youngster, who as one observer pointed out could double for the young Mike Hawthorn in a biopic, can go a long way in modern racing.
Wills and the hobbled Bryant finished third and fourth in their Lotuses, ahead of Osborne, Ziegler, “Ratters” and Gans who remained on the lead lap. Next back, ninth overall and a lap down, was Woodcote Trophy winner Gary Pearson! He set about bringing Carlos Monteverde’s famous short-nosed D-type back up the order with gusto, having taken its helm at the earliest opportunity in what has become a well-drilled ritual for Pearsons Engineering.
Following a relentless pursuit – always one of his hallmarks – Gary had annulled the Llewellyns’ hard-earned divisional lead on the penultimate lap. The contrast between Malcolm Sayer’s curvaceously sleek monocoque-tubbed aerodyne and Sydney Allard’s ladder-framed cycle-winged blunderbuss with its throbbing American V8 engine might have been stark but the British-built cars did their jobs similarly as a scant five second difference at the chequer attested.
The diminutive Lola Mk1 prototype of Bellinger/Ahlers and dayglo-nosed Lotus 11 of O’Connell/Watson finished 11th and 12th overall, four seconds apart, pursued by Smith’s rear-engined Cooper and its younger Jaguar-motivated stablemate (in which Mike Grant Peterkin had subbed capably for the indisposed Wakeman alongside PB-E), split by the Mestdagh/Zurstrassen Lotus. The snarling Cooper-Jaguar finished 15th overall, with Peeters’ Lotus and the beautiful Maserati of Fierro/Hart in tow.
Well-matched, Guillermo and Steve had conducted the Maser splendidly to land third in the Woodcote Cup competition, three places ahead of Eastick and Jones with McFadden and de Prins (who wound his Rejo up well) between them. Fifth in the earlier classification were Hunt and Hall, who rode out a spin in the HWM, with Bechtolsheimer sixth. Reed/Snowdon (on the same lap as Monteverde/Pearson) in the Aston, Bourne/Paul, Miles Griffiths – from the back in a little Kieft which had wilted in qualifying – and Bernberg/Ugo completed the top 10.