Driving his ex-works/Briggs Cunningham 1955 Jaguar D-type with customary panache, Gary Pearson narrowly won Motor Racing Legends’ first Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy race of the 2016 season, at the sixth Donington Historic Festival on May 1. With one eye on the mirrors to keep the Cooper-Jaguar T38 of American Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards behind, Pearson’s margin of victory was 2.807s after a busy hour on track amid a glorious 27-car pack.
Pearson and the Cooper-Jaguar, fielded under Tommy Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour banner in period, had headed the practice times the previous afternoon. Gary’s 1m23.474s (85.35mph) pole setter 0.265s quicker than his rivals’ best. Third and fourth on the grid, the two-litre Bristol-powered Lotus X (ex-Mike Anthony) of Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne and Cooper T24/25 of John Ure/Nick Wigley (Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook bolide) outpaced Ben Eastick’s misbehaving D-type, the Aston Martins of Mark Midgley/Chris Woodgate (DB3) and Steve Boultbee Brooks (ex-Kangaroo Stable DB3S) and Rudi Friedrichs’ Jaguar C-type.
A quartet of Austin-Healeys were closely-grouped in the leading sports racers’ wake, the fabled 100S models of John Young/Derek Hood and Karsten Le Blanc split by 0.008s with Mike Thorne/Sarah Bennett-Baggs (100M) on their heels and Jonathan Abecassis’ 100/4 – shared by recent Goodwood sensation Richard Woolmer – just over the 1m30s mark. Among many intriguing cars in the field, Martyn Corfield’s Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, Paul Griffin’s Connaught ALSR ‘streamliner’ and Matthew Holme’s Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS caught enthusiasts’ eyes.
The race result unusually mirrored practice order at the sharp end, with Pearson and Blakeney-Edwards a lap clear of Bourne and Wigley who finished 4.298s apart at the chequered flag. Friedrichs improved to fifth, ahead of Midgley/Woodgate and Dutchman Adrian van der Kroft in his full-bodied Cooper-Bristol T20/23. The top 10 was rounded out by Chris Jolly’s Aston Martin DB2, Swede Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus’ Healey 100M and Corfield’s burbling Frazer Nash.