Forty nine cars encapsulating 17 marques made the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy race for pre-1956 sportscars a very special spectacle at the Silverstone Classic on July 27. Originally entered for JD Classics’ boss Derek Hood and Andrew Smith, the Cooper-Jaguar T33 was raced by John Young/Chris Ward and started from pole, but the later T38 of London-based Californian Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards galloped through to victory after a bizarre sequence of events tripped the duo’s chief rivals up.
“That was an incredible race,” beamed Wakeman. “With the quality of the cars and quality of the drivers it’s an honour to be here [on the podium], but I was crossing my fingers that it wasn’t going to last another 10 laps.” Blakeney-Edwards was equally ecstatic. “It’s a first for me, but Fred did all the hard work. Big thanks to my Blakeney Motorsport boys for preparing the car faultlessly and Gary Pearson for building the engine.” Forty nine cars encapsulating 17 marques made the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy race for pre-1956 sportscars a very special spectacle at the Silverstone Classic on July 27. Originally entered for JD Classics’ boss Derek Hood and Andrew Smith, the Cooper-Jaguar T33 was raced by John Young/Chris Ward and started from pole, but the later T38 of London-based Californian Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards galloped through to victory after a bizarre sequence of events tripped the duo’s chief rivals up.
With four-fifths of a second in hand over the Cooper-Jaguar in qualifying, and last year’s winners the John and Gary Pearson on their heels in the family Jaguar D-type the scene was set for a cracking race. Especially since the snarling Kurtis-Chrysler of Geraint Owen/Charles Knill-Jones and the Lotus-Bristol 10 of Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne were well in touch on lap times.
Wolfgang Friedrichs/Simon Hadfield (Aston Martin DB3S), Patrick Watts (Allard-Cadillac J2 ‘Blunderbuss’), the D-types of Ben Eastick and Harry Wyndham rounded out the top 10, with Joe Singer’s Kurtis sandwiched between the Jags. Martyn Corfield/Jeremy Welch did well to qualify the former’s Austin-Healey 100/4 11th, comfortably the swiftest of nine representatives of the Warwick marque, including two of the hallowed 100S models.
The plot all began to come unstuck for Young and Pearson’s equipes when the former made a late call to dash into the pits – at the F1 Wing, when all morning session races were based in the old Heritage pitlane entered after Woodcote at the opposite end of the circuit – and his namesake followed him! Finding no reception and the exit gates closed cost them precious time and, as if that wasn’t enough of a penalty, Ward later suffered a puncture in his stint.
While Blakeney-Edwards continued Wakeman’s quick yet mechanically sympathetic work in the leading Cooper, Geraint Owen and Charlie Knill-Jones wrestled with the crowd-pleasing Kurtis, which the Welshman handed over with “tyres completely on fire and brakes non-existent.” Gary Pearson closed relentlessly on the American monster and slithered past imperiously at the Loop to snatch second three laps from home.
Ward had not given up on a podium chance, meanwhile, closing to within 1.5 seconds of third-placed Knill-Jones at the chequer. The D-types of Harry Wyndham and Ben Eastick were next up, while class victor Hadfield split the Allards of Watts and Till Bechtolsheimer after a relentless chase in Friedrichs’ Aston.
Stephen Bond drove his faithful Lister-Bristol ‘Flatiron’ superbly to a two-litre class-winning 10th, a lap clear of Peter Mann’s similarly-engined Cooper T24/25 in the skilled hands of John Ure and Nick Wigley. That the latter had spare mental capacity to race and organise the Silverstone Classic filled fellow competitors with admiration.
Best of the Healeys at the end was Karsten Le Blanc’s 100S in 14th place, while the Halusa brothers’ Maserati 300S, David Cottingham’s glorious Ferrari 500 TRC and Hong Kong-based Paul Griffin’s ex-Stirling Moss/Les Leston Connaught ALSR streamliner attracted attention. No driver was more exciting to watch than Bradley Ellis though, the lanky former British GT champion tricycling the ex-Cliff Davis Tojeiro-Bristol sensationally through the corners before handing it over to owner Simon Arscott.
A shadow was cast over the race meeting with the death of Denis Welch in a pre-66 GP cars race. Denis had competed in the Woodcote Trophy on many occasions as co-driver of Malcolm Verey’s Allard J2 and more recently at this year’s Donington Historic Festival in Malcolm’s Austin-Healey 100. Denis also raced his own Capri Mk1 in Motor Racing Legends’ Historic Touring Car Championship, and was the preparer of Ian Montgomery’s 100M – a regular Woodcote entry. Denis’s son Jeremy is a stalwart co-driver with some of his customers, and his Denis Welch Motorsport team usually has a number of entries in every Woodcote Trophy race. Motor Racing Legends extends its deepest sympathy to Denis’s family, friends and colleagues.