In the warm summer dusk of Saturday evening, 21st July, a field of pre-1956 sportscars competing in the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy set off into the twilight.
The Silverstone Classic round of the Woodcote Trophy ran as a double-header over the weekend of 20-22 July. First came a 30-minute feature race on the Saturday evening, and then a second 30-minute race on Sunday morning – giving the 45-strong grid of Lotus and Aston Martin, Maserati and Lister, Frazer Nash, Austin-Healey and Allard, plus Jaguar C- and D-type – a full 60 minutes of top-class action on the fabulous Silverstone Grand Prix track.
In Saturday’s evening race, three cars immediately set the pace – led by the Cooper Jaguar of Andrew Smith, which stormed off into the lead with a lap-time that was initially two seconds quicker than anyone else. But things were not so clear-cut for long.
Of the three quickest cars – the no.54 Cooper Jaguar, the no.7 Jaguar D-type of Gary and John Pearson, and the no.60 Jaguar C-type of Nigel Webb and Anthony Reid – only the Cooper Jaguar pairing of Andrew Smith and John Young had opted to put the quickest driver into the car first. So, while Smith sped away into the distance, John Pearson and Nigel Webb hung gamefully onto his coat-tails in the D-type and C-type, with the battle only really commencing after the driver change.
The pit window for the driver change in this half-hour race was between 10 and 20 minutes. On lap 5, after barely 10 minutes, both Pearson and Webb came into the pits to hand over to their quicker team-mates. Andrew Smith, meanwhile, held out for the full 20-minute stint before handing over to John Young.
The sight of Gary Pearson in the D-type chasing the Cooper Jaguar – and managing to sweep past into the lead on lap 10 of 12, to take the chequered flag 10 seconds ahead of the competition – was a delight for spectators, as was Anthony Reid’s best efforts in the C-type. In the end, Reid needed a few more laps than the race allowed and, while he had heroically closed the gap, he had to settle for third place.
Sunday morning dawned warm and bright for the second half of the race, but this time the C-type saw star driver Anthony Reid take the first stint – which meant the crowds were treated to a spectacular 20-minute ding-dong between Reid and the Cooper Jaguar of Andrew Smith. Come the driver change, John Young took over the Cooper Jaguar and Nigel Webb the C-type, only to find that they were up against Gary Pearson in the D-type. As ever, Gary proved fast and determined, but he wasn’t able to catch John Young before the chequered flag. He finished second, ahead of Nigel Webb’s C-type.
When the two race results were combined, it was the Pearson/Pearson D-type that took first place, with the Smith/Young Cooper Jaguar in second and the Webb/Reid C-type in third.