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O’Connell Walks On Water as Legends Reign at Silverstone

Classic Silverstone 2021 Motor Racing Legends Race Report

        by Marcus Pye


Andrew Coles @agr_andrew


It’s been a two year wait for Britain’s largest and longest-established Historic festival to return, and it’s been rebranded Classic Silverstone in the interim, but the postponed 30th anniversary edition delivered the goods on July 30-August 1. Motor Racing Legends competitors subscribed to a third of the 15 grids, bringing cars spanning the broadest spectrum of eras, encapsulating models from 1924 to 1993.

The imposing Motor Racing Legends social hub dominated the Heritage Paddock, where the large marquee provided competitors, teams and guests with welcome shelter from the rain (torrential at times), superb catering by Abbots on all three days and a convivial venue for post-race prize givings on Saturday and Sunday. A big thank you to everybody whose hard work in the build-up and on event made this possible.

While the fickle summer weather did its best to spoil proceedings, rendering much of Friday qualifying a lottery, spirits remained undampened. Motorsport UK’s re-sanctioning of the Historic version of the 3.63-mile Grand Prix circuit, with ‘softened’ sweeping approach to Club Corner – as opposed to the stop-start current one – was a popular development particularly so among the Pre-War Sports Car competitors, the first MRL series to hit the track a fortnight after Lewis Hamilton’s British GP victory.

Andrew Coles @agr_andrew


Thirty five cars was an impressive turnout for the BRDC 500 retrospective, a flashback to the heady days of Hugh Locke-King’s monumental Brooklands speedbowl and first run at Silverstone in 2004.

Seemingly oblivious to the soggy conditions, the tail-wagging 1928 Frazer Nash TT Replica of Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards set a stunning pace, their 3m01.792s (72.06mph) best secured pole position, a whopping 9.314s clear of Clive Morley’s Bentley 3/4 1/2). Putting JAP V-twin power down via a single rear wheel intrepid Morgan Super Aero tamer Sue Darbyshire bagged third, 0.555s shy of the Bentley, overlooked by the supercharged Lea Francis Hyper of Mike Grant Peterkin/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards.

Ewen Getley’s Bentley, shared with former F1 engineer and ground-breaking motorcycle creator Dr Robin Tuluie, was joined on row three by Till Bechtolsheimer in his exquisite ex-works Talbot-Lago T150C, four times a Le Mans 24 hours starter. Gareth Burnett/Richard Bradley gridded their Alta seventh, ahead of Michael Birch’s Talbot AV105. Bugatti T35B-mounted Martin Halusa and father-and-daughter Richard and Tania Pilkington (Talbot-Lago T26 SS) rounded out the top 10.

Rileys, Aston Martins galore, the Triumph Dolomite of Jonathan Turner and Royal Automobile Club Chairman Ben Cussons, Invicta, Jaguar SS100 and a host of Bentleys – including our leader Duncan Wiltshire’s splendid blue example, into which young hotshoe Olivier Llewellyn was drafted – completed the evocative field.

Saturday’s early morning drizzle had largely been cleared by the Formula Junior pack by the time the competitors headed out onto the track. Lap times fell accordingly, indeed Wakeman set the race’s best – 2m48.482s (77.76mph) – on lap three as he made his escape. Pursuer Burnett retired the Alta after two tours, promoting Morley, Birch, Tuluie and Jim Dean, reveling in fellow Lotus Europa racer Stephen Skipworth’s Aston Martin Monoposto Speed Model which he started 14th. Darbyshire lay sixth, but was gradually overpowered as the surface harbored more grip.         

Birch glided his green Talbot through to second before Morley made his mandatory stop, but so far ahead was the Nash that it remained ahead when Blakeney-Edwards took over after nine and a half laps. By then Getley’s Bentley had usurped Dean from a fine fourth. Meanwhile Pilkington – a veteran of 1990’s inaugural Silverstone Classic – had overtaken Bechtolsheimer and was embroiled in a squabble over sixth with Alan Middleton’s ex-Richard Seaman/Dudley Folland Aston Martin ‘Red Dragon’ and Darbyshire, having shaken off Alexander Hewitson’s Riley 12/4 TT.

When the chequered flag was waved, Wakeman/PB-E were almost 34 seconds clear of Birch, with top Bentley boys Morley and Getley/ Tuluie a solid third and fourth. Skipworth/ Dean and the Pilkingtons earned fifth and sixth, Tania having kept Middleton and Bechtolsheimer behind. James Morley (Bentley 3/4) and Hewitson completed the top 10, with the gallant Darbyshire/Ewan Cameron, Richard Hudson/Stuart Morley (Bentley), Stephen Archer (Aston Martin Ulster) and Halusa’s Bug also on the lead lap. Impressively, only four cars fell by the wayside.

Jeff Bloxham

Jeff Bloxham


With the prestigious Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy title at stake, evoking memories of Stirling Moss, Innes Ireland and Graham Hill’s Ferrari victories at Goodwood, it could almost have been pre-ordained that the only Prancing Horse in the Pre-’63 Gran Turismo miscellany would emerge victorious after 50 minutes of hard racing. If that was so, Lukas Halusa waited until the last lap to seize the advantage in the unique 250 GT Breadvan built for Venetian Count Volpi’s Scuderia SSS, but crossed the finish line with Harvey Stanley filling his mirrors in the DK Engineering Jaguar E-type started by James Cottingham.

The prodigiously talented Sam Hancock planted Irishman Niall McFadden’s E-type on pole with a 2m50.626s (76.78mph) charge in a wet qualifying session where traction was an elusive commodity. Dad and lad Jon and Jack Minshaw and Cottingham/Stanley made it a Jaguar 1-2-3 on Friday, the Minshaws a mere 0.283s shy of Hancock’s target. Martin Hunt/Pat Blakeney-Edwards were a close-up fourth in the former’s unpainted AC Cobra, chased by the E-types of David Gooding (its time clocked by coach Nigel Greensall) and John Clark/Miles Griffiths, the Scot’s a fixed head coupe.

Halusa sat seventh in the snarling V12 Ferrari, outrunning Speedmaster’s James Hanson in Paul Pochciol’s Jaguar, Alex Bell/Julian Thomas in the best-placed Austin-Healey 3000 with the Guy Ziser/Oli Webb E-type in 10th place. Behind Andrews, Hayden and Hibberd in 12th were Jaguar’s 1998 World Sportscar Champion and ’90 Le Mans winner Martin Brundle, sharing Gary Pearson’s E-type. Gregor Fisken and Chris Ward in the Scot’s example had their best four lap times expunged for exceeding track limits, thus were bumped to 13th.

Also inside three minutes were the big Healeys of Doug Muirhead/Jeremy Welch, Mark Holme and Dutchmen Christiaen van Lanschot/Karsten Le Blanc (DD 300), split by Les Goble’s silver Aston Martin DB4. And, remarkably, the zippy 1216cc Coventry-Climax FWE-engined Lotus Elites of pro Craig Dolby and 2000 Sydney Olympics shot John Davison, a triple HSCC Guards Trophy champion in his Elan 26R.

Variety was provided by the hulking 5.4-litre Chevrolet Corvette of novelist Peter James and Alan Letts, former BTCC ace Sam Tordoff (JCT 600 Porsche 356), Nigel Winchester’s AC Cobra and Kevin Kivlochan’s newly-acquired Morgan+4 ‘Choc Ices’ – stunningly restored to Peter Marten/Richard Shepherd-Barron’s ’61 Goodwood TT livery by Richard Walbyoff’s locally-based equipe. Two Alfa Romeos took on the Elites among the tiddlers: Nicholas James/Oliver Gibson’s ’57 SVZ and American Sharon Adelman’s ’62 Giulietta SZ, co-driven by Hall & Hall’s Andy Willis.

The race, which Cottingham, Halusa and Greensall led initially, chased by Jack Minshaw, was unfortunately shaped by two safety car interludes which reunited the field. Both were triggered by stranded Healeys, the first when Theo Hunt’s conked out in a tricky position on the exit of Club was quickly sorted by marshals. The second had greater repercussions since the fabled van Lanschot/Le Blanc car dropped oil and expired at Abbey. Among those to spin on the slug trail was Jon Minshaw, who clawed his way out of the kitty litter. When the pace car was withdrawn after four painfully slow laps – during which Pearson’s oil pressure flagged, denying Brundle his fun – there was only time for two more.

Gooding, who restarted too cautiously by his own admission, and Pochciol fell prey to Halusa and class winner Stanley who finished 0.965s apart. Fisken/Ward, Hunt/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (who both pressed on hard to atone for Martin’s early spin, assisted by the full-course cautions), Holme and Goble made it five marques in the top six – an appropriate period showcase. Davison moved up to 13th overall, beating the Marc Gordon/Nick Finburgh Elite by six seconds in the smallest capacity class. Halusa left fastest lap at 2m27.994 (88.52mph), while the ninth placed Cobra of Winchester’s 136.3mph through the Hangar Straight speed trap was only matched by the Minshaws’ E-type.                   


Andrew Coles @agr_andrew

Jeff Bloxham



Rain has always been a great leveler in racing, rewarding talented drivers capable of wringing the most from cars which might not get a look-in given perfect conditions. Martin O’Connell’s ability has never been in doubt, thus when Saturday evening was wet and slippery a giant-slaying Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy and Stirling Moss Trophy performance in Sandy Watson’s 1460cc Coventry-Climax FWB-engined Lotus 11 was always on the cards. To the chagrin of the Lister-Jaguar posse it panned out that way, O’Connell scoring an unprecedented victory over UK-domiciled New Zealander Roger Wills was also able to out-handle them in his two-litre Lotus 15.

A titanic three-way battle for Woodcote Trophy honours was the greatest in the prestigious Pre-’56 contest’s history. Resolved only with a dramatic place change on the final lap it also resulted in a resounding win for Gregor Fisken’s 1955 HWM-Jaguar, John Heath’s ’56 Mille Miglia entry started brilliantly by the redoubtable Martin Stretton. Having been overtaken by Mike Grant Peterkin in Martin Hunt’s squarer-cut HWM-Jag and its Cooper-Jaguar T38 team-mate in which Patrick Blakeney-Edwards had supplanted Fred Wakeman, Gregor dug deep to snatch gold. The trio was blanketed by less than a second when the chequered flag fell at 21.00hrs as darkness drew its veil over “The Home of British Motor Racing”.

Motorsport UK’s agreement to an increased grid size for the race saw 58 cars on track in Friday’s wet qualifying session. Among them were Martin and Lukas Halusa’s Jaguar D-type OKV 1 – in which 1953 Le Mans winners Tony Rolt/Duncan Hamilton finished a strong second behind the Ferrari of Froilan Gonzalez/Maurice Trintignant in ’54 – the Sielecki family from Argentina with their Maserati A6GCS and Aston Martin DB2 (the latter shared by Eddie Williams), compatriot Carlos Miguens’ Cooper-Jaguar and newcomer Max Sowerby in his Allard J2.

Sam Hancock (Lister-Jaguar Knobbly) snared pole position, his 2m45.375s (79.22mph) best lap a scant 0.284s quicker than Wills’ in the ex-John Coombs Lotus in which Bruce McLaren contested the ’58 TT at Goodwood. Gary Pearson and Alex Brundle in another Lister Knobbly were also within a second of the pace, chased by Richard Bradley in Michael Birch’s ex-Team Lotus 15, Rob Smith/Chris Ward (sharing Steve Osborne’s Maldon Salt Lister) and James Cottingham/Harvey Stanley in the Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro-Jaguar. The Lotuses of Stefan Jōbstl/Andy Willis (15) and O’Connell, Woodcote Trophy leader Richard Wilson/Martin Stretton (Maserati 250S) on 2m52.479s (75.96mph). The ‘flat-iron’ bodied Lister-Jaguar of James Thorpe/Phil Quaife completed the top 10.

The Woodcote chase was led by James Hanson/Paul Pochciol (Jaguar C-type), Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards, Fisken/Stretton, Hunt/Grant Peterkin and Till Bechtolsheimer (Allard J2). Steve Boultbee Brooks’ early Jaguar D-type was next up, with O’Connell alongside in case Lotus owner Watson elected to take a stint in his 11. Bunched with them were Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook Cooper-Bristol T24/25 in the hands of John Ure and Classic co-promoter Nick Wigley, Rudi Friedrichs’ C-type and the well-driven Austin-Healey 100/4s of Nicholas Harris and Nick Matthews.

At its best in the opening laps of the race, the track was slightly quicker, fast-starter Wills cutting its best lap on his first flyer from the rolling start with Ward, Bradley and Hancock in pursuit. Wakeman spun at Brooklands and had to watch the world go by before he could rejoin safely, but was immediately back into his stride. Less fortunate was Brooks, who clonked the inside wall exiting Stowe in his D-type. O’Connell would now be concentrating on the Lotus and signalled his intent by climbing to fourth inside four laps. Not long after a two-lap safety car coincided with the pit window opening – and Stretton handing over to Fisken – Bradley pitted, thus Martin was leading.

With grip scarce and Ward now chasing second-placed Wills it soon became apparent that O’Connell was uncatchable. “It was a master class in car control,” said Roger as ahead of him the little blue streamliner shimmied over the standing water and headed for the chequer. Pearson almost caught third-placed Smith, while Stanley remained comfortably clear of Tiff Needell in John Spiers’ Lister Knobbly and the Jöbstl/Willis Lotus 15.

Woodcote Trophy winners Stretton/Fisken finished a superb eighth overall, Hancock’s Lister splitting the HWM from rivals Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and Hunt/Grant Peterkin. Anchoring Wilson’s Maserati, Stretton also landed fourth in the group, ahead of Friedrichs and John Young/Nigel Webb in another Jaguar C-type.   

Andrew Coles @agr_andrew

Jeff Bloxham


With rain falling again on Sunday morning, and intensifying as the high-octane Historic Touring Car Challenge race evolved, third qualifiers Mark Wright and Dave Coyne dominated a colourful 52-car entry to win the Adrian Flux Trophy in Wright’s Motorcraft Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500. Conditions weren’t quite as gruesomely slippery as they had been for qualifying, in which the winged ‘Cossies’ locked out the top three grid places. David Tomlin Paul Mensley/Matthew Ellis and Wright/Coyne were blanketed by 0.963s, trumping Simon Garrad’s Nissan Skyline GT R32.

‘Fireball’ Tomlin’s effort was an extraordinary one for his Thierry Boutsen Batibouw tribute car was badly damaged in a pre-season testing crash and required major surgery. “Three weeks from bare shell to pole,” smiled a bleary-eyed Pete Johnston whose Raceworks team has long prepared David’s diverse cars. His 2m25.463s (90.06mph) set a standard beyond even Andy Middlehurst who gridded Jonathan Bailey’s original Skyline fifth, ahead of the RS500s of Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie, Sean and Dan Brown, Graeme and James Dodd (the sister Rouse Sport Kaliber machine to Thomas’) and Craig Davies/Steve Soper, split by Steve Dance’s shrill Ford Capri-GAA.

Behind the similar V6 Capris of Adrian Willmott/Mark Farmer and Richard Kent/Chris Ward (Broadspeed), Darren Fielding and David Cuff were best of the BMW E30 M3 quintet. Ken and Tim Clarke’s ex-Soper Hepolite Rover SDI was another class leader, chased by the ex-Dennis Leech version of Chris and Charlie Williams and Richard Meins debuting the TWR Jaguar XJS V12 which he witnessed European Touring Car champion Tom Walkinshaw winning the ’84 Macau GP Guia race, then in JPS livery. Simon Alexander’s Chris Greenwood-built Group 2 BMW 3.0 CSL was out for the first time, ending the MGB veteran’s sabbatical.

Ford Capri 3.0Ss headed the Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 pack, James Hanson/George Pochciol on 2m48.861s (77.58mph) and Marcus Jewell/Ben Clucas outpacing Grahame and Olly Bryant’s Chevrolet Camaro, ‘Lad-and-Dad Fred and Bill Shepherd’s Ford Boss Mustang and the Hermetite Capri of John Spiers/Tiff Needell. Niall McFadden’s Mini Cooper S topped the U2TC Pre-’66 set.

At Sunday’s race start Mensley set off like a scalded cat as the quality field accelerated out of Club onto the Hamilton Straight to lead. Garrad’s Nissan had the RS500s of Tomlin, Thomas and Wright ganging up behind at the end of lap one. Dance’s Weisberg tools tribute Capri was next, ahead of the Sierras of Sean Brown, Dodd Sr and Davies. Wright was on a charge – his 152.8mph speed trap figure on the Hangar Straight the race’s best –  and went ahead when Mensley spun through 540 degrees exiting Club at half-distance. Thereafter there was no catching the white Cossie, which Coyne took over on lap 14.

Garrad and Mensley had been first of the leaders to make their stops, promoting Dance to second, having howled free of Tomlin, Brown and Thomas. Soloist Steve, Julian and Craig pitted together, advantaging Kent, Cuff and Tim Clarke, soon to put dad Ken in to bat. Tomlin was struggling with handing issues, meanwhile, traced to a slow puncture at a second stop. With no spare wet he retired, albeit delighted with the pace of his rejuvenated machine.

Behind winners Wright/Coyne, with a cushion of 51 seconds at the chequered flag, Class winner Dance was more than chuffed with second, aware that Soper was closing on him in the Davies’ ex-Chris Hodgetts RS500. Garrad was fourth ahead of Kent/Ward and BMW M3 split winner Cuff, whose well-matched rivals Fielding and Houlbrook were divided by the Farmer/Willmott Capri in a tight finish. The Clarkes’ yellow Rover and Ben Gill’s raucous Ford Escort-BDA were also group victors.

The Tony Dron Trophy contest has twists and turns aplenty, Clucas eventually bringing Jewell’s Capri V6 through to win from the Morris/Shephard Scirocco and Jack and John Young’s Chevrolet Camaro which had been the early hare. Hanson/Pochciol, Spiers/Needell and sportscar convert Robert Oldershaw’s Rover rounded out the top six. In conditions which favoured Minis, Cooper S veteran Graham Churchill saw off Neil Brown’s Lotus Cortina by seven seconds among the Pre-’66 U2TC runners. 

Andrew Coles @agr_andrew

Andrew Coles @agr_andrew


The straight six Jaguar XK engined yowl of 43 E-types on track for the model’s eagerly-awaited 60th Anniversary race stirred the souls of all onlookers, not just the marque faithful. That Sunday morning’s showcase saw moral victor Ben Mitchell and runner-up Danny Winstanley denied by a post-red flag anomaly not covered in the Motorsport UK’s regulations – the ‘Blue Book’ – was regrettable. The breakaway duo, who had driven Fixed Head Coupes brilliantly on a wet track, and chaser Miles Griffiths (in John Clark’s roadster) were feted on the prizegiving podium. When the result was declared however, counted back a lap per the statute, the big trophy went to Jon Minshaw. Last to stop, Jon was leading for the first time at that point, but had missed the pit window by a tiny margin. The resultant 30 second penalty left him 33 seconds clear of Mitchell.

Nigel Greensall qualified Jonathon Hughes’ car on pole with a last lap 2m47.916s (78.02mph) shot in Friday Afternoon’s rain. Gary Pearson, Mitchell – in Stuart Hamilton’s car, the ex-Simon Watney/Paul Webb Modsports racer rebuilt to homologated trim by Nigel Morris’ Valley Motor Sport crew, for the first time – Minshaw, Richard Kent/Chris Ward and Griffiths headed Greensall’s pursuers, with former Caterham racer Winstanley seventh. Jaguar’s 1988 World Sportscar champion and ’90 Le Mans winner Martin Brundle and son Alex were 11th in the factory’s new Lightweight series’ development car, prepared by Pearsons Engineering.  

Class leaders were Alex Buncombe in Bob Neville’s immaculate car, who shaded Martin Stretton, and father-and-son Grahame and Alan Bull in their familiar orange coupe.

When the start lights went out Greensall led initially, chased by Mitchell, Alex Brundle and Winstanley who supplanted Minshaw, as did Gary Pearson next time round. With many drivers struggling to see through steamed-up windscreens, Mitchell, Greensall and Winstanley took up the cudgels, fishtailing their cars beautifully out of Luffield. There were moments galore on the glistening track, but the Mitchell/Greensall duel was defused when Nigel and pursuer Winstanley stopped at the Woodcote pits eight and a half laps in. Ben pitted next time round, with the majority of the field.

That left only Minshaw and Spiers to come in, which the former did from the lead on lap 11, crossing the pit-in timing line moments after the window closed. Spiers continued unabated. When Alan Bull spun off at Maggotts and was parked facing oncoming traffic adjacent to the wall, red flags flew with 76% of the programmed duration completed. Spiers was ahead – albeit excluded for not making his mandatory stop – with Mitchell, Winstanley and the charging Griffiths the apparent podium trio. Buncombe and Mark Russell/Tony Jardine were clear class victors.  

Jeff Bloxham

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