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Pride of Lyons as famous Ford Sierra RS500 strikes gold

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Michael Lyons demonstrated his intent to win Motor Racing Legends’ Historic Touring Car Challenge showcase at the Silverstone Classic by sizzling New Zealander Peter Sturgeon’s immaculate Eggenberger Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 to pole position in a field containing another six of the 560bhp turbocharged and bewinged Group A monsters. As rivals fell by the wayside, the Historic F1 champion calmly controlled Sunday’s race through two Safety Car interludes to complete his mission.

Craig Davies outlasted the rest of the Sierra ‘Cossies’ in his ex-Chris Hodgetts Brooklyn car to boldly chase Lyons in, but for much of the race Steve Dance’s shrill Ford Capri-GAA V6 was Michael’s closest challenger in the coupe model’s 50th Anniversary year. Dance finished third as fast Fords fill the top six places and Blue Oval racing legend Gordon Spice presented him with a special award for the first Capri home. The Chevrolet Camaro of Graham and Oliver Bryant won the concurrent Tony Dron Trophy race, Olly bounding back after his father was delayed in the first caution period to beat the Capris of George Pochciol/James Hanson, John Spiers and Mike Whitaker in an ex-Spice racer.       

The variety of cars in the colourful field was impressive, from the Fords and BMWs at the sharp end to welcome visitor Matthias Jocher’s VW Golf GTI at the back. Gems included Australian Carey McMahon’s fabulous ex-Tony Longhurst Benson & Hedges Sierra RS500 – which pulled 180mph in setting a qualifying record at Bathurst in 1990 – Geoff Gordon’s Alfasud Sprint, Alex Elliott’s BMW CSL and Chris Scragg’s TWR Jaguar XJS. Attracting much attention was Ric Wood’s latest project, a newly-completed Nissan Skyline R32 turbocar. A replica of a period Calsonic racer, it arrived from Cheshire untested with British Touring Car Championship ace Adam Morgan co-driving, as he does the CNC Heads boss’s Capris.

Sierras locked out seven of the top 10 qualifying places on Friday, when Dave Coyne and Mark Wright might have stayed top on 2m16.233s, but for a leaking fuel rail. As it panned out, Lyons’ 2m14.742s (97.80mph) in the ex-Gianfranco Brancatelli Bastos car proved decisive. Dance’s Capri was third, the first of four cars in the ‘17s’ with BTCC champ Colin Turkington (BMW GB M3 E30), Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie (ex-Guy Edwards/Andy Rouse Kaliber RS500) and the blue Nissan on its heels.

Ian and Max Goff’s white Imberti RS500, Davies’ Sub-Zero Wolf-run red one and McMahon’s ochre were well-matched behind them, with Harry Whale in their midst, soloing in father Nick’s AutoTrader/Silverstone Auctions M3 come raceday. Mark Smith/Arran Moulton-Smith (ex-Steve Soper M3) and the Paul Mensley/Matt Ellis RS500 completed the top dozen, pursued by the iridescent gold Capri of Dutchmen David Hart/Nicky Pastorelli.

In the tight mid-pack David Tomlin – who plans to debut his ex-Thierry Boutsen RS500 at Spa – relied upon his faithful Klaus Ludwig/Europamöbel tribute liveried Escort RS1800 once more and beat Patrick Watts’ Computervision MG Metro Turbo to class pole by 1.639s. Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards saddled the quickest Rover SD1 behind them, chased by Ken and Tim Clarke’s ex-Steve Soper TWR/Hepolite pistons car and the ex-Dennis Leech dayglo-striped version of Chris and Charlie Williams. Till Bechtolheimer’s Metro Turbo sat on the 43-car grid’s fulcrum point meanwhile. 

Engine problems with Ben Gill’s glorious Jolly Club Escort Mk1 – one of two built by Broadspeed for Martino Finotto – forced crew chief David Didcock to drive back to base nearby, and transplant a rally spec BDG into it from another car. Also up against it was the Raceworks team with Gordon’s Alfasud. They worked until 0400 on race day to replace its flat-four powerplant. Heartbreak lay ahead, for it threw a conrod on lap three.

The Bryant’s ex-Richard Lloyd Camaro headed the Tony Dron Trophy competitors, Olly impressed to wring a 2:32.260 (86.54mph) lap from the American monster with the tight Vale chicane. A fleet of Capris formed the chase group with John and Charlie Brown among them for the first time in their ex-Jim McLaughlin Stuart Graham Faberge replica in which they outqualified Ludo Lindsay’s twin.

Elliott’s black BMW looked gorgeous but needed fine-tuning on its first outing, while indefatigable Australian Bill Cutler had more engine problems with his 535i. A trio of Alfa GTVs of 105 and subsequent V6 Alfetta shapes and the little Toyota Corolla 1600GT of John Danby/Simon Watts brought variety.  

Unfortunately the race started under a Safety Car with Scragg’s Jaguar conked-out on the edge of the track at its fastest point, before Stowe. When its yellow lights went out Lyons cunningly backed the queue up through Vale and Club and caught pursuer Wright napping as he floored the white and red Sierra. Consequently Michael enjoyed a big lead at the end of the first proper lap and extended it to more than 10 seconds before stopping as another full course caution was called for Mensley’s RS500, parked backwards in the gravel.

Several cars were out already, Turkington’s BMW engine not pulling more than 8000rpm from the off due to suspected wheel sensor issues. Max Goff had pitted his Sierra with intermittent brake problems and Wood’s Nissan was retired with electrical gremlins. No sooner had Coyne taken over Wright’s RS500 than another fuel leak (from a replacement rail) brought its demise, but the next time Lyons’ lead over Dance was wiped-out was when McMahon spun his Sierra into the kitty litter and needed to be towed out.

Lyons had Dance, Davies and Whale in tow as he powered for home, just the occasional locked brake as he got the tyres up to temperature giving vain hope to pursuers. Davies was sizing up Dance at Becketts on the last lap but as they navigated the lapped Golf through Chapel, Craig was able to hurtle past Steve for second on the Hangar Straight. Pastorelli gained fourth when Whale pulled off on his final approach to The Loop. Lockie was relieved to land fifth having previously survived a hairy spin – caused by a recurring electrical gremlin – which took the Kaliber Sierra close to the barrier after Abbey. Occasionally crawling thereafter, Calum finished eight seconds clear of Tomlin’s screaming Escort-BDG.

Olly Bryant’s long chase of the Capris of first Whitaker (Motorcraft) then Spiers (Hermetite) and Hanson (Esso) was rewarded with Tony Dron Trophy honours after his father’s strong opening stint’s work was undone by the safety cars. “That focussed me and hunting down the Capris added a bit more fun to our weekend,” said Olly.