Thruxton Historic 2020 Historic Touring Car Challenge With Tony Dron Trophy & Sixties Touring Car Challenge With U2TC Race Report
Sizzling Skyline and gruff Rover V8 win one apiece
The contrast between the most spectacular production-based machinery spanning the 25 years from 1965 to 1990 animated spectators when MRL’s Historic Touring Car Challenge with Tony Dron Trophy and Sixties Touring Car Challenge with U2TC hit the track twice at the Thruxton Historic event, most for the first time this season, and they raced hard. Series backer Ric Wood won Saturday’s soggy opener in his fire-breathing Calsonic tribute Nissan Skyline GT-R, but a broken wheel on Sunday favoured the historic Rover SD1s of Gregor Fisken/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and Ken and Tim Clarke which had battled superbly the previous afternoon.
Dad and lad Sean and Daniel Brown’s immaculate Brown & Geeson Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 claimed pole before conking-out with an ECU problem, its snorting 1m24.267s best an average of 100.65mph for the 2.356 mile Hampshire airfield circuit, the UK’s fastest. Also in the ‘Ton-Up Club’ was Wood, running the blue Skyline on “puppy boost’ for reliability over power. The Stockport engine specialist’s 1:24.531 equated to 100.33mph, which augured well for the first race encounter.
Third quickest, less than a second from pole on 1:25.254, was the big Dave Price Racing-originated Group 2 Rover of Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and sometime Le Mans prototype racer Fisken, new to both car and track. “It’s physical, the steering is heavy and it kicks, but it’s fun to drive,” said the versatile Scot, purveyor of fine motor cars in London. David Tomlin would line up alongside in his RS500-ised Sierra Cossie, a tribute to Belgian Thierry Tassin’s Batibouw car using some period componentry which debuted last season. The Historic F2 racer clocked 1:26.115, but was concerned about engine temperatures on a muggy day.
The ex-Steve Soper Hepolite-backed Group A Rover Vitesse of period crew chief Ken Clarke and son Tim was next up on a competitive 1:28.168, with a third generation of Clarkes helping to run it. A second covered the trio of Ford Capri Mk3 3.0Ss which made the TDT Group 1 running. James Hanson/George Pochciol’s 1:31.709 (92.48mph) in the Esso-liveried example edged former F1 Grand Prix driver Tiff Needell and John Spiers in the latter’s Hermetite car, with rally driver James Slaughter’s left-hand-drive Frank & Jeans version on their tails.
Adrian Miles’s very pretty Escort Mk1 sat ninth on 1:35.213, less than three tenths quicker than the black and silver Andy Rouse/Broadspeed clone Triumph Dolomite Sprint of Patrick Watts and Orlando Lindsay, grandson of The Honourable Patrick who won the first Historic race here in June 1968, driving his Maserati 250F. Watts outpaced Richard Meins’ Bastos Capri by a second for 10th on the grid.
Despite their mechanical disparity, Paul Clayson’s 1982 Alfa Romeo GTV6, the ’65 Austin Cooper S of multiple national Mini champion Peter Baldwin and Graham Churchill and Jonathan Miles’ magnificent ex-Frank Gardner/Richard Attwood ’67 Ford Cortina Mk2 – powered by a screaming 1600cc Richardson FVA F2 engine (effectively half of a period F1 DFV V8) developing 240bhp and red-lined at 10,250rpm – were separated by half a second, all in the 1m37s bracket. HGPCA Brabham racer Barry Cannell, guesting in Peter Mann’s older Lotus Cortina, completed the pack.
In his element on a damp track with four-wheel-drive under his right foot to tame turbo power, Wood led the first race from the start, cautiously pursued by Fisken, Daniel Brown, Ken Clarke and Tomlin on a damp track. As the rain intensified, Tomlin – gaining in confidence with each lap – bustled through to second on lap seven and, with Fisken and Brown observing, set about catching Wood. Tomlin had reduced his deficit to 1.666s next time round, when Brown parked at the chicane with a frazzled wiring loom.
On lap nine Tomlin’s Sierra was out too. Dramatically so, for at Village corner fuel vapour in the boot compartment ignited and a fireball filled the cockpit. Marshals reached David quickly and extricated him with facial burns [perhaps worsened by wearing an open face helmet and balaclava]. He remained chipper and was taken to Salisbury hospital where he spent the next couple of days, before returning home, eager to get back behind the wheel. Following examination by scrutineers his preparation team [which did not build the car] will re-fettle it.
A five lap Safety Car intervention complicated logistically by the pit window being open from the start kept the remaining cars circulating, Cannell having already retired “for a change of underwear” according to the commentators after failing to take the chicane in the Cortina Mk1. Jon Miles also wisely elected to park the Mk2 in conditions alien to its engine’s power delivery.
When the Ford Focus’ flashing lights went out at the end of lap 13, Wood – who had made his mandatory stop a lap later than the majority – gave the Rovers of Tim Clarke and Blakeney-Edwards a lap of glory out front, before sizzling to a 5.8 second victory. Clarke rued missing a gear out of the chicane which allowed PB-E to slither out of his wake and slip the gruntier wider-tyred SD1 past, albeit not before they had run side-by-side through Allard, the Campbell-Cobb-Segrave Complex and out into the sweepers for second in a ballsy display.
Hanson led the Tony Dron Trophy group initially, but Spiers/Needell and Slaughter got the better of Pochciol, finishing fourth, fifth on the lead lap. Pochciol and Meins finished a lap down ahead of the Baldwin/Churchill Mini who were U2TC victors, then the Lindsay (who had a massive spin towards Church) and Watts Dolly, then Adrian Miles’ Escort. Clayson’s Alfa was the final finisher.
Despite a few drop outs on Sunday, the conditions were close to perfect and Wood really got a move on, setting a scorching 1:23.762 (101.25mph) best lap as he rocketed ahead of the Rovers with the Nissan belching longer sheets of flame to signal how hard he was trying. Ric didn’t win, however, for he clobbered the chicane kerbs on lap six and broke a wheel, forcing him to pull off at Allard.
This left the Rover V8s thundering round, although both crews had transmission problems. Blakeney-Edwards struggled to change up from second leaving the chicane on one lap, but soldiered on to victory with the Clarkes 17 seconds behind, minus second gear. Spiers/Needell completed the podium in the TDT-winning Hermetite Capri, chased by hotshoe Hanson – whose 1:30.756 (93.45mph) lap was the class’ best by 1.7s – and Pochiol, then Slaughter, whose mirrors were full of Meins’ red and white Capri at the chequer.
The Miles equipe ran together for a few laps, before Jon screamed his Alan Mann Racing Cortina clear from Adrian’s stripy Escort, which was double-lapped in the closing stages and he came out third overall in the Historic Touring Car Challenge. Lindsay/Watts finished ninth and class winners ahead of Baldwin/Churchill in the lone U2TC Mini, which missed having a gaggle of mates to fight with yet still came close to matching the times of the three more powerful cars ahead of it.