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Thruxton Historic 2022 - Race Report by Marcus Pye

Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy & Stirling Moss Trophy 

Thruxton Glory For Local Ace Adams

Driving the ex-Tom Hart/Jack Paterson/Dickie Le Strange Metcalfe Lola Mk1 BR-32, the smallest car in the race with its 1216cc Coventry-Climax FWE engine, Ben Adams won the Stirling Moss Trophy 1956-’61 element of Saturday’s Motor Racing Legends’ sportscar race at the Thruxton Historic event’s 2022 edition. Once he’d recovered the places lost at the start local man took six laps to rise from fifth and seize the lead from Peter Ratcliff (Lister-Jaguar Knobbly). The combo was not headed thereafter.

Michael Birch and Gareth Burnett finished a strong second in the former’s ex-Team Lotus/Graham Hill two-litre Climax FPF-powered Lotus XV having outrun Tarek Mahmoud’s Lister-Jaguar Knobbly, which the Lebanese driver’s coach Nigel Greensall qualified on pole and finished with aplomb. Peter Ratcliffe troubled by a sticking oil pressure relief valve in qualifying, nursed his Lister to a lapped fourth, clear of the impressive Stuart Morley, charging in Richard Hudson’s Lister-Chevrolet Knobbly.

Three teams led the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy Pre-’56 contest. Rudi Friedrichs (Jaguar C-type) set the early pace before Ben Eastick/Karl Jones wound Ben’s finned D-type up. But Will Nuthall – deputising for the holidaying Rick Bourne in Malcolm Paul’s ex-Mike Anthony’s two-litre Lotus-Bristol X – devoured the larger engined Jags and come home a splendid fifth overall.

Qualifying

Greeted by a sunny June morning the 1950s’ sports cars were first of the Motor Racing Legends sets on track. Ratcliff’s green and yellow Lister led the runners and riders out, but poor Oliver Bryant’s session was over inside a lap. Having spent countless hours rebuilding Olly’s Lotus XV for the forthcoming Le Mans Classic, former Team VDS Formula 5000 mechanic and Lola factory engineer Clive Robinson was mortified to see it coast into the pits silently at the end of its out lap. After a series of checks it became apparent that the fresh two-litre Climax FPF engine had seized. Game over!

 

“Ratters” set the pace initially, before Adams got into his stride, then Burnett and Greensall supplanted him atop the table, trading quickest laps. Ultimately Nigel posted the best time in Mahmoud’s silver 3.8-litre Lister, his final 1m29.435s (94.83mph) fling on the 2.356-mile airfield perimeter track pipping Gareth’s 1:29.767s in the less powerful but more aerodynamically efficient Lotus. Adams, also a class leader, cut an excellent 1:30.389 (93.83mph) for a promising third overall in the diminutive black Lola.

 

Stuart Morley was clearly enjoying himself in Richard Hudson’s snarling 5.5-litre Chevrolet V8-powered Lister, blasting it round the UK’s fastest circuit in 1:31.416s, which bumped Ratcliff’s straight-six derivative from fourth overall to row three with a best of 1:31.774s. Concerned about Peer’s oil light flickering the Team Leos crew – headed by former Caterham champion Luke Stevens – diagnosed a sticking pressure relief valve and with a lot of effort had it re-fettled for the race.

Sixth, first of the ‘Woodcoteers,’ was Malcolm Paul’s Lotus-Bristol in which Will Nuthall – who had previously raced a Historic Formula Ford and shared Tony Wood’s Lister-Jaguar here, but not sat in this car until the day – unleashed a remarkable sequence of three super-competitive laps. They culminated in a 1:32.517s (91.67mph), right down on regular co-driver Rick Bourne’s best, a revelation doubtless quickly relayed to him in Antigua!

The next two rows both featured Stirling Moss and Woodcote Trophy machinery. Ollie Crosthwaite’s Cooper Monaco T49 – the only rear-engined car in the field, shared with old pal Nick Finburgh – was paired with the long-nosed D-type Jag of Cussons and newly-elected BRDC member Jones, whose best British Saloon Car Championship results were seconds at Thruxton in 1988 and ’89, driving a Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500. Jones’ 1:34.427s lap was 1.9s shy of Nuthall’s Lotus mark, but half a second quicker than Rudi Friedrichs in the C-type evocation, which sat directly behind, alongside Richard Postins’ mid-blue Lotus XI, shown at the 1958 Geneva Motor Show, subsequently used on the road and apparently unraced until this year’s Donington Historic Festival. Nigel Webb’s C-type, the ex-Duncan Hamilton ’52 XKC004 shared with John Young, sat 11th on 1:36.401.

 

The pack was completed by the sprightly 70-year-old Aston Martin DB2 ‘Maureen’ of father and daughter David and Hannah Reed, dad and lad Steve and Josh Ward’s ex-Roy Salvadori Frazer Nash Le Mans Rep, Marc Gordon in a grey Jaguar XK140 FHC (as opposed to his green one) and Paul Griffin’s well-travelled 1500cc Connaught ALSR. First raced by John Coombs in 1954, the Surrey-built streamliner won its class at Montlhery’s Coupe du Salon with Stirling Moss, and at Ibsley – a de-requisitioned RAF airfield near Ringwood, 25 miles from Thruxton – with Les Leston in ’55. It was also raced in period by the recently departed Tony Brooks.

 

Race

 

From the rolling start Ratcliff made the best getaway, leading Birch by 2.7 seconds at the end of the opening lap. Mahmoud came round third ahead of Postins, who peeled his mid-blue Lotus straight into the pits with a prop shaft issue. Remarkably, following remedial work, he returned to the fray a few laps behind, determined to learn more about the car. Adams, swallowed by the beefier pack initially, was next, ahead of Paul, Eastick, Friedrichs, Crosthwaite, Webb, the circumspect Hudson, Reed, Ward, Griffin and Gordon.

As Mahmoud faded Adams picked up momentum, climbing to third on lap two, then relieving Birch of second next time round. Friedrichs hustled his Jaguar C-type past Eastick’s finned D, then deposed Paul for the Woodcote Trophy lead. Rudi made light work of overtaking Mahmoud to sit fourth overall, while Eastick and Crosthwaite overpowered Paul’s red Lotus-Bristol. Adams went to the front on lap six and as dark clouds gathered eked out an advantage of more than 30 seconds within the first half hour.

 

Griffin made his mandatory pit stop a few seconds early, two laps before  Paul and Hudson who tactically relayed Nuthall and Morley after 13 laps. Next time round Greensall leapt aboard Mahmoud’s Lister, which pitted fifth, and David Reed strapped Hannah into the Dubonnet-hued Aston. With raindrops now evident, Eastick put Welshman Jones in after 17 laps and Birch relayed Burnett two circuits later, but soloist Adams completed 24. When he returned to the fray, his cushion to Burnett was 33 seconds.

 

While first and second therefore looked settled, third was not for Ratcliff was being caught rapidly by Greensall. Nigel swept past on lap 27 and while Peter chased him, a spin on Woodham Hill on his penultimate lap saw him lapped before the chequer. Greensall closed to within eight seconds of Burnett at the finish, his sub-pole time fastest lap of 1:28.705 (95.61mph) was within striking distance of Bryant’s Lotus 15 best of 1:28.364 set in Thruxton’s 50th Anniversary Celebration race in 2018.

 

Hudson/Morley climbed to sixth, Stuart’s 1:31.067 best lap 1.8s swifter than Ratcliff’s set early in the race. Burnett’s 1:30.079 and victor Adams’ 1:31.204 were set a lap either side of Greensall’s with fuel loads falling and when the track was at its prime.

 

The Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy battle was tremendous, Friedrichs passing Eastick and Paul in the first three laps to set the pace. Eastick regained second from Paul on lap four, but partner Jones took up the cudgels eagerly and grabbed the lead from Rudi on lap 25. Nuthall was coming up rapidly on the rails though and deposed Friedrich and Jones within two laps of each other en route to a splendid sixth overall. A drive through for the German for a pit infringement left him playing catch-up, during which the two C-types ran together, a lap apart, Young now in Webb’s early factory example. Apart from being 1.7s quicker than Jones,’ Nuthall’s fastest lap of 1:31.204 (92.99mph) was a new best for his gallant steed.

Eastick/Jones finished 26 seconds adrift of the Woodcote race winner, with Friedrichs another nine seconds shy. Behind Crosthwaite/Finburgh from the Moss set, Webb/Young, the Reeds and Griffin completed the top six. The Wards, Gordon and Postins, who soldiered on to the chequer, covering 26 laps, were also classified.

Historic Touring Car Challenge/Tony Dron Trophy

Skylines sizzle over Hampshire’s horizon

Numbers may have been down for the Silverstone Auctions, Ric Wood Motorsport and Lifeline supported Historic Touring Car Challenge’s Tony Dron Trophy Group 1 sub-set at the Thruxton Historic event this year, but the quality was unmistakably there. The fire-breathing spectacle of a trio of Nissan Skylines versus a brace of Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500s entertained spectators, including a record car club turnout, who watched soloist Ric Wood reel in and pass Andy Middlehurst (starting Jonathan Bailey’s sensational ex-Toshio Suzuki/Akira Iida ’93 works car) over the hour.

 

Helping to expunge memories of his fiery exit from the 2020 race, David Tomlin joined them on the podium in his well-driven Batibouw tribute liveried Sierra. Sparring partners Sean and Daniel Brown were closing in towards the end when Dan’s left front tyre punctured in the Brown & Geeson version.

 

In the TDT what looked to be a walkover for former rally driver James Slaughter when Nick Sleep’s ex-Rene Metge French Championship-winning Marlboro Rover Vitesse’s gearbox failed on lap six had a sting in its tail. Slaughter’s Frank & Jeans Capri ground to a halt at the top of Woodham Hill in the final minutes, out of fuel.

 

Qualifying

 

St Helens Nissan dealer and Skyline authority Middlehurst planted Bailey’s emerald green ‘Godzilla’ (as the Japanese supercars were known in period) on pole, cutting a sensational 1m19.931s (106.11mph) lap of Hampshire’s cathedral of speed on his third flyer. Jonathan backed him up with a series of ‘22s,’ within touching distance of the cars which populated the next four grid places.

 

Series supporter Wood’s 1:21.340s in the Calsonic tribute Skyline narrowly headed off the turbocharged Sierras of the Browns (1:21.487) and holiday returnee ‘Fireball’ Tomlin, who had made the 60-mile dash from London’s Heathrow airport and jumped straight aboard to record 1:21.542. Simon Garrad’s late 1:21.598 shot expanded the competitive chase pack.

 

Of huge interest was the debut of Mark Burton and Graham Pattle’s Holden Commodore VL-SS, the ex-Kevin Bartlett/Russell Ingall Bob Forbes Racing GIO Insurance 1990 Bathurst Tooheys 1000 entry one of two imported from Australia and prepared by MRM Motorsport. Describing the car as “very physical,” the Brits wrestled it round in 1:29.871 out of the box. Its sister machine is set to join the HTTC later in the season.

 

Circuit neighbour and welcome invitee Jamie Sturges’ 1:31.853 in his BMW E28 M535i – immaculately presented in Motul tribute livery – headed off the sole E30 M3 of lawyer Nick Bartlett on 1:32.749 and Tony Dron Trophy Group A combatants Sleep/Joel Wykeham and Slaughter on 1:32.918 and 1:33.352s respectively. Dressed in Markus Oestreich/Johnny Cecotto/Fabien Giroix’s period livery Bartlett’s ex-Nigel Moseley/Liz Halliday ‘Beemer’ was hitting the rev limiter (set at 8500rpm) three times per lap incidentally.   

   

 

Race

Middlehurst demonstrated the factory Skyline racer’s prodigious power and four-wheel-drive traction by shooting into the lead from the rolling start, chased initially by Wood and Garrad, who bustled his Ric Wood Motorsport-built example through to third. Garrad seized second on lap two, but Wood sizzled back pat into Allard on lap seven and set off after Andy. Within three laps they were together, indeed as light drizzle descended the pair scorched up Woodham Hill towards the chicane abreast.

Wood went ahead on lap 13, but Middlehurst didn’t let the Cheshire engineer off the hook, engaging in a duel until the blue Nissan made its stop 21 laps in. It was always the game plan for Andy to relay Bailey later, thus he led for another six laps. Out by this time was Garrad, with gearbox failure, leaving Tomlin third post-stop, ahead of the younger Brown, who began to erode his deficit in a strong stint.

As Bailey entered the Fray Wood was bearing down on him and sizzled ahead on the exit Village on lap 28. Next time round though, with one third of the 60 minutes remaining, Ric received a drive through penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed limit. Ironically, the same imposition was meted out to Bailey, thus wiping out any advantage. They served them on successive laps, Ric taking the chequer 9.255s before Jonathan.

Tomlin remained third, for although he was being caught the deflated front tyre stymied Dan Brown. Because the Browns’ car was abandoned in the pit lane it didn’t not cross the timing line, thus was not classified. The Burton/Pattle Holden therefore growled home fourth, despite completing fewer laps, with Sturges 17 seconds adrift and Bartlett the final finisher.     

 

 

Sixties Touring Car Challenge With U2tc

Banks boys land classy Alfa Romeo GTA victory

Brothers Andrew and Maxim Banks prepare some of the finest Alfa Romeos on the planet at the family’s Alfaholics emporium in Clevedon, west of Bristol, and from the moment Andrew gunned their Giulia Sprint GTA away from the rolling start at the Thruxton Historic there was nothing Ford or BMW-mounted opposition could do but chase the Italian stallion. There is little between the Banks’ pace and Max completed their Sunday afternoon drive seven seconds clear of Neil Brown’s rorty Cortina Lotus.

 

When Brown’s old mate Richard Dutton’s Escort twin-cam – the sole non-U2TC runner – spluttered into the pits with a flat battery just after half distance, ending an entertaining duel, Neil found himself a lap clear of young Harry Barton’s neatly-conducted BMW 1800Ti. The Mini Cooper of Chris Pearson and John Johnsen couldn’t match the rest but the duo plugged away, bettering their qualifying time by a second and a half. They were rewarded with sixth place, having enjoyed their weekend’s sport.

 

Qualifying

 

Speed and consistency are important in multi-driver races and the fratelli Banks do it so well. Having bedded their Alfa’s brakes and tyres in carefully, Andrew and Max’s best laps were a mere 0.674s apart, the pole-securing 1m32.095s (95.02mph) for the 2.356-mile circuit one of nine inside closest rival Neil Brown’s 1:33.582 in the swiftest of four Ford Lotus Cortinas. Engine builder Brown posted strong back-up laps too, pushing buddy Richard Dutton back to P3 with 1:34.230 in his Escort Mk1 powered by a similar 1600cc twin-cam unit. Fortec team chief Dutton was super consistent, his top three laps blanketed by 0.06s!

 

Harry Barton made it three marques in the top four with his BMW 1800Ti, his 1:35.779 fractionally beyond reach of Cortina duos Mark Burton/Graham Pattle and Pete Smith/Andy Pardoe on 1:35.848 and 1:35.858 respectively. World renowned race engineer/driver coach Pardoe’s return to racing broke a 21-year hiatus since he competed in a monstrous V10-engined Dodge Viper GTS-R in the American Le Mans Series at Sebring and came 31 years after his last Thruxton outing. Henry Mann/Karl Jones (Alan Mann Racing Lotus Cortina) was close behind on 1:36.640.

The long-travelled Pearson/Johnsen Mini – following a carb set-up by 86-year-old Dave Bogg in Malton, North Yorkshire – may have been missing opposition, but that it was driven skillfully was evidenced by Johnsen’s extraordinary sequence of seven successive laps within 0.61s, ranging from 1:54.136-1:54.746!

 

 

Race

 

Andrew Banks set off with alacrity from the rolling start, opening a lead of 1.868s to Brown, with Dutton in tow, over the first lap. Lapping with metronomic precision in the ‘33s’ – 1:33.046 (91.15mph) the race’s best – Andrew stretched the advantage to over 13 seconds in the course of 20 laps, after which both he and soloist Neil elected to make their mandatory stops. Dutton stayed out a lap longer before diving in, whereupon Max Banks was back ahead, there to stay.

 

Alas the white and red #1 Escort was soon in trouble, being retired when its electrics wilted, causing its fuel pump to stutter. This left Brown ahead of early stopper Barton, then Pattle and Pardoe, whose cars’ order had reversed since opening drivers Smith and Burton had pitted after 17 laps. Jones didn’t get a run in Mann’s Cortina, which lost its clutch with Henry aboard and was wheeled back forlornly into the paddock.

 

Six laps adrift of the third, fourth and fifth place cars, Thruxton debutant Pearson’s pale blue Mini was urged round quicker than in qualifying, co-driver Johnsen getting down to 1:52.560s (75.35mph).

 

    

 

 

Jaguar Classic Challenge/Pre-’63 Gt

 

Wrigley and Wainwright bag Jaguar win

Matt Wrigley and Rob Wainwright emerged victors of Sunday’s Jaguar Classic Challenge race as a much depleted pack contested the Thruxton Historic race. Nobody could have dreamed up a more bizarre script, for while it only takes two cars to make a race three super-competitive E-types made quite a spectacle in the opening stanza, Andy Newall flinging Rhea Sautter’s turquoise ‘Gotcha’ roadster through the chicane to stay ahead of Wrigley and Ben Adams.

 

Adams made his compulsory 60 second stop first, four laps before Newall and Wrigley dived in together. Sautter’s half spin at the chicane on her out lap wasn’t in the plan and enabled Wainwright – winner of the afternoon’s Jochen Rindt Memorial Trophy single-seater race, in which Wrigley finished second – to dart ahead on his first outing in Mike Wrigley’s low-drag coupe which he’d driven for the first time in qualifying.     

 

Ironically, Rob had been signalled to re-join before the jack was lowered after a change of rear tyres, and the engine revs and chirrup of rubber as it hit the ground saw the team handed a stop and go for an unsafe release. They subsequently received another for exceeding the 60kph (36mph) pit lane speed limit, which left Wainwright chasing down Adams. As he caught the roadster approaching the chicane, Adams gyrated and clonked Wainwright’s passenger door. Both continued, but following a third stop to assess damage, Rob finished 33 seconds clear of Adams. Sautter was a lapped third, clear of Jamie Boot (E-type).

 

Les Goble/George Miller (Aston Martin DB4) were the sole Pre-’63 GT starters after diff failure sidelined Australian visitor Robert Ingram’s Lotus Elite during the preliminaries, denying him and preparer Iain Rowley a run. The Aston finished, completing the quintet.

 

 

Qualifying

 

With competitors saving their E-types for a monster grid at the forthcoming Le Mans Classic, just four takes for the Jaguar Classic Challenge was very disappointing. At the end of Sunday’s qualifying session a mere 0.315s blanketed the top three, however, rising hopes of a tough, competitive race.

 

Fresh from his Stirling Moss Trophy victory the previous afternoon, soloist Ben Adams was quickest for most of the half-hour. Despite his roadster still bearing the battle scars of father Peter’s unfortunate Donington prang a month on – the body’s luscious curves were restored, but there was no time for paint – it was mechanically on-song as a best lap of 1m29.815s (94.43mph) on his penultimate circuit attested.

 

Germany’s Rhea Sautter returned with her striking turquoise Gotcha Jag and ran-in freshly rebuilt engine, gearbox and diff before putting Andy Newall in to bat. Briefly quickest, on 1:29.843, the Briton’s mark was toppled four minutes later by Adams, whose best effort shaded it by 0.028s.

Mike Wrigley wasn’t racing his low-drag coupe but invited the vastly experienced Rob Wainwright to share it with son Matt. Wainwright drove the car for the first time in the preliminaries in which they worked down to an excellent 1:30.144. More apposite, was their consistency, a scant 0.308s spanning each driver’s best which augured well for the hour race.

 

Jamie Boot brought two cars to the event for maximum enjoyment, stepping from his raucous wasabi green TVR Griffith on a Saturday grid into his familiar British Racing Green Jaguar which he has saddled for the past decade. Boot was a few seconds adrift of the leading trio, but clear of the Pre-’63 Aston Martin DB4 of George Miller/Les Goble and Australian motor sport tourist Robert Ingram’s pretty Type 14 Lotus Elite, shared with British preparer Iain Rowley, whose late father was JW Automotive’s transporter driver, moving Gulf Ford GT40s and Porsche 917s in period. Having raced at Pau, Silverstone and Zandvoort over previous weekends, the Elite chose Thruxton for its diff to wilt.

 

Race

 

It takes two cars to make a motor race, but on this occasion there were three rorty E-types disputing the lead for the first half. Newall was as flamboyant as the ‘Gotcha’ car’s colour out front, turning into the chicane hard, then dancing it over the left-right kerbing in a series of hops, inside front wheels aloft in turn as the weight transferred, torquey engine rasping as he maximised exit speed for the blast over the timing line towards the deceptively fast Allard corner.

Chasers Adams and Wrigley were on his heels, then swapped order, knowing that Newall was the quicker driver on Sautter’s team thus content to keep Andy in sight to the mandatory stops. Adams pitted first, after 17 laps, four before his rivals who peeled off the track together. As Rhea and Rob clambered into their respective machines all eyes were on the exit. The German left first, followed by the sleek silver coupe in a flurry of wheel spin. After a change of rear tyres, Wrigley had watched the clock tick down and signalled Wainwright to leave before the jack was lowered and fresh rubber hit the deck. Adjudged an unsafe release, the pair were handed a drive through.

 

This imposition might have torpedoed their challenge, but Sautter’s half spin at the chicane on her out lap, before her tyres were back up to temperature, cost her the lead. Adams went second a couple of laps later, whereupon the Newall/Sautter combo’s victory speech looked confined to the glove box. Or was it? When Wainwright served his penalty he was pinged for exceeding the 60kph (36mph) pit speed limit and was recalled from the lead for another drive through. Adams went ahead, but from 10 lengths adrift on resuming, Rob caught him on the run up Woodham Hill into the chicane. Defending, Ben’s car twitched and spun, collecting his rival’s amidships as it gyrated.

 

What could so easily have resulted in both being out on the spot, and a dramatic late change of winner, did not play out that way for they continued, Wainwright taking the chequered flag 33 seconds clear of the recovering Adams, with Sautter a lap behind in third. Boot had a lonely run to fourth, occasionally eclipsing with the Goble/Miller Aston Martin which was in a class of its own.