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Sub Gillett joins Woodcote winners

The Pre-1956 Sportscar entry numbered a healthy 24 and Blakeney-Edwards topped Saturday’s qualifying time sheets. His fine 1m46.985s (81.87mph) pole lap was two second quicker than the car’s previous best on the challenging 2.43-mile course, which more-or-less follows the undulating outline of the long layout introduced in 1964. Nuthall was another capable understudy, taking Barry and Tony Wood’s place in Richard Gaylord Shattuck’s acronymous Jaguar-powered confection, originally conceived in 1952, and posted 1:48.800. Not far behind was a third 3.4-litre Jaguar XK-powered chassis, Carlos Monteverde’s svelte ex-Jim Clark D-type which Gary Pearson whirled round in 1:49.119.

A trio of rasping two-litre Bristol-engined cars were closely matched in their wake, Malcolm Paul’s magnificently swoopy ex-Mike Anthony Lotus MkX claimed the other second row start slot in long-time co-driver Rick Bourne’s skilled hands. The local ace’s superb 1:50.148 saw off the contrasting Coopers of John Ure/Nick Wigley (Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook cycle-winged T24/25, delightfully dog-eared as ever) and Malcolm Harrison/Patrick Watts (ex-Noddy Coombs/Sopwith envelope-bodied T25) on 1:51.858 and 1:52.017 respectively.

Ben Eastick once again recruited Welshman Franklyn De Karl Jones – the 1983 Formula Ford Champion of Brands and subsequently Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 touring car tamer – to share his Jaguar D-type. The duo qualified seventh on 1:52.355, ahead of Rob Hall going great guns in Martin Melling’s stunning black Aston Martin DB3, Peter Collins and Pat Griffith’s 1952 Goodwood 9 Hours winner, on 1:53.984.

Seventy years after his grandfather George [father of the HWM marque with John Heath] won the opening round of the inaugural RAC British Hillclimb Championship at Bo’ness in Scotland in a Bugatti T59, Jonathan Abecassis proved that racing is in his genes by heading the strong Austin-Healey sub-set with 1:54.545 in his red 100/4. That put him ninth on the grid, with the Jason Minshaw/Andy Willis 100 Le Mans alongside. The top 12 was completed by German Rüdiger Friedrichs’ Jaguar C-type and Martyn Corfield’s Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica Mk2. Buy generic Viagra from India online at high quality guaranteed.

Minshaw/Willis, Friedrichs, Corfield and Dutchman Karsten Le Blanc (Austin-Healey 100S) were blanketed by 0.138s in the 1m56s bracket, with father and son John and Charlie Brown (C-type) and Nick Matthews (Austin-Healey 100/4) within half a second. Sam Stretton joined Philip Champion in the Surrey timber merchant’s glorious Frazer Nash Mille Miglia which was dwarfed by the Aston Martin coupes of Nick Ruddell (DB2/4 Mk1) and Chris Jolly/Steve Farthing (DB2). All three dipped beneath two minutes, Ruddell’s energetic 1:59.603s shading the shared ‘PUM’ by all of 0.055s!

Pauls Mortimer and Woolmer (Austin-Healey 100M), Stephen Bond’s Lister-Bristol ‘Flat Iron’ and the ex-Tom Kyffin Equipe Devone Cooper-Bristol T20 of Chris and Oliver Phillips weren’t far behind. The Jaguars of Steve and Josh Ward (Ecurie Ecosse XK120) and Portuguese stalwart João Mira-Gomes (XK140 FHC) and Nigel Batchelor’s little Cooper-MG T21 rounded out the splendid field.        

With an hour of racing ahead of them all 24 combatants took orders for Sunday afternoon’s rolling start. Gillett made the better front row getaway, narrowly leading Nuthall into the plunging Paddock Hill Bend. After the climb to Druids Bourne shot past Monteverde, the Lotus-Bristol emerging from the hairpin in third place with the white Jaguar, Harrison’s Cooper-Bristol and Eastick’s finned green Jag on his tail. Once into his stride, Ure forged through to fifth on the opening lap, then displaced Monteverde as the order began to shake itself out.

Bourne was clearly a man on a mission for as Nuthall passed Gillett for the lead on lap three he went with Will. Already there was drama out on the Grand Prix loop for as Harrison, demoted to eighth behind Friedrichs on lap two, approached the tight left-handed Stirlings Bend which funnels racers back down the chute towards the Indy circuit, his Cooper-Bristol shed a wheel due to a stub axle failure and tapped the barrier. The safety car was called while marshals efficiently removed it from a vulnerable, blind, position. Behind the BMW coupe, orange roof lights flashing, the crocodile’s sharp end comprised Nuthall, Bourne, Gillett, Ure, Monteverde, Eastick, Friedrichs and the Healeys of Abecassis, Willis and Le Blanc. Corfield was next up, with Matthews, leading Aston rep Jolly, John Brown and Melling on his tail.

The complexion of what should have been a short interlude was changed when leader Nuthall’s RGS threw its left front wheel at Surtees on lap six. “I saw the spinner come off at Paddock,” said follower Bourne. “Quite how the wheel stayed on for a couple of laps I don’t know.” Grateful that it happened at 40mph, not racing speed, Will peeled off harmlessly onto the grass. No sooner was the stricken machine on a flat-bed truck than Monteverde slowed and pulled off 50 metres earlier, behind the pits when his Jaguar’s engine suddenly lost power. The Brazilian’s race was run too, down to a suspected fuel pump failure.

No sooner had the circuit gone green than the pit window opened. Gillett relayed Blakeney-Edwards immediately, leaving Bourne in the lead with Ure, Eastick, Friedrichs, Abecassis and Le Blanc in pursuit as Minshaw took over the MRM team’s Healey from Willis. For 10 glorious laps Bourne exercised the agile Lotus to its maximum, indeed the combo was still ahead as he pitted on lap 18, at the end of the window, exchanging a few encouraging words with owner Paul before he rasped away. “I had a ball and adore that Lotus – it’s so kind of Malcolm to let me drive it – and this circuit,” said Rick later.

Once pit-stop stagger had unwound and Blakeney-Edwards, who had ascended the lap charts inexorably, returned the blue Cooper-Jaguar to the lead he would not relinquish, as a few spots of rain hit his visor. “Rounding Hawthorns I could see a black storm front approaching over the trees at Westfield. While we’ve improved the Cooper-Jaguar’s behaviour in the wet, in which it used to be undriveable, I thought I’d better get on with it.” He duly set back-to-back fastest laps, but the rain came to nothing until the cars were ushered into parc ferme after the finish, whereupon precipitation of biblical magnitude lashed the venue, torrents gushing from the track through the pit wall gates onto the apron.

Paul lay second, 24 seconds adrift at the end of his out lap with 18 minutes remaining. Wigley, having replaced Ure in the maroon Cooper-Bristol’s cockpit, was 17 seconds adrift but set about hounding Malcolm down, aware that renowned Brands expert Jones was now tearing after him in Eastick’s Jaguar. The intermediate splits came down rapidly. As Jones eroded his deficit to Wigley, in turn catching Paul, 12 seconds blanketed them with as many minutes to run. That halved inside two laps and Jones coolly dived past Wigley into Surtees on lap 27. Nick responded and, having seen Karl pass Malcolm for second on the penultimate lap managed to out-fumble them both on the final circuit. With all three straining to maximise their momentum, Jones had to gun the Jaguar to repass the Cooper-Bristol within 100 metres of the chequered flag. Just 0.379s separated the trio on the line. Despite the cars’ diversity, barely a second separated their fastest laps.

Lapped only in the late stages, Abecassis outran Friedrichs to finish fifth, with Rob Hall seventh in Melling’s famous Aston Martin – one place better than he qualified – having passed the Healeys of soloist Le Blanc, Minshaw (on the Dutchman’s tail at the chequer) and Matthews, and Corfield’s speedy Frazer Nash. The Phillips Cooper-Bristol finished 12th ahead of the lofty Astons of Ruddell and Farthing, split by Stretton’s Nash. The Jaguar XKs and Woolmer’s Healey completed the finishers.

A broken throttle linkage hit the Brown family’s C-type soon after Charlie clambered in, a blown head gasket stopped Batchelor’s Cooper-MG and Bond parked his Lister with a misfire.