A year in the making, Steve Dance’s beautifully-prepared and driven Ford Capri outran – and outlasted – the superstars and their exotica to win the Historic Touring Car Challenge for Pre-’86 Touring Cars on Monday, May 4, the final day of the fifth Donington Historic Festival.
Steve Soper qualified JD Classics’ TWR Bastos Rover Vitesse on pole position, his stout 1m16.931s (92.60mph) lap almost 3.5 seconds quicker than Dance’s best, with the sizzling Computervision MG Metro Turbo of Patrick Watts/Nick Swift and Ric Wood’s spectacular big-winged Cologne Capri replica closely matched in their wake.
Canadian Pete Hallford’s rumbling Ford Mustang should have gridded fifth, but did not survive practice, leaving the Zakspeed Escort clone of Tony Paxman/Andy Pyke without a playmate on row three. Jonathan White’s vivid blue Gitanes Rover Vitesse (co-driven by ace instructor John Bussell) and the UFO Jeans tribute Capri II of Tom Pochciol were next up, ahead of the BMWs of Allen Tice/Chris Conoley (2002) and Les Ely (2000).
The attractive 15-car field was completed by Paul Pochciol’s less highly-developed Esso Capri shared by Historic F1 Williams FW07 driver Mike Wrigley, the ‘Samurai’ Datsun 240Z of event sponsor EFG’s Robert Crofton and the Capris of Mark Smith/Eddie McGuire and Historic Group C racers Duncan McKay/Robin Ward which sandwiched Tom Pead’s orange BMW 1600Ti and the 105-shaped Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV of Glynn Allen and preparer Darren Roberts.
Soper growled away from the rest in the sharp-sounding Rover but headed pitward after four laps to report its oil light flashing, leaving Wood leading from Dance and Pyke. Mechanics glugged more lubricant into the Vitesse’s V8 and the combo resumed 13th. Steve progressed impressively to fifth, setting a 1m17.099s (92.40mph) best lap before parking it near McLeans.
Wood had already retired his brakeless Capri and Paxman had run into gearbox problems as Dance continued on his merry way. Pochciol had passed Watts’ little Metro and had his stripey Capri up to second by lap 11. When BMC A-series engine wizard Swift replaced Watts his target was to catch Pochciol, a task which he set about with customary gusto.
With Dance enjoying a clear run to a 63 second victory, Swift ate into Pochciol’s advantage, wringing ever quicker lap times from the wheezing turbocar until their bests matched. Throughout the final lap Nick closed in, but an opportunist lunge into the chicane went wrong. With wheels locked the Metro clonked the Capri’s rear wheelarch, leaving a souvenir in its rim, snapped left and spun to a halt.
Pochciol was flicked off line but calmly picked himself up to claim second. After the podium ceremony, the hirsute black-suited figure of Swift was seen running in to the pits, to applause from the grandstand. He embraced Pochciol and sincere apologies were sportingly accepted. “I’m here to try,” said Nick, and that he had certainly done. The car was still classified third.
Wrigley/Pochciol Sr, Tice/Conoley and Ely completed the top six. Bussell had White’s Rover singing towards the end, closing to within 14 seconds of the seventh-placed Smith/McGuire Capri. The great-looking but hobbled Pyke/Paxman Escort was next home, ahead of the evenly-matched Alfa and Pead’s BMW which took the chequer together.