Endurance racing was Jaguar’s forté in the 1950s, when Coventry-built C and D-types won the Le Mans 24 hours five times, but its XK engine proved equally adept at powering artisan-made chassis in shorter ‘sprint’ events. Cooper-Jaguars dominated this year’s Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy showcase at the 2016 Silverstone Classic, last year’s victor Chris Ward winning in JD Classics’ ex-Cyril Wick T33 after a thrilling 50 minute race-long tussle with 2014 victors Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards, sharing the former’s ex-Tommy Sopwith Equipe Endeavour T38 once again.
Forty two glorious original cars representing 14 marques of the Pre-1956 era made a superb spectacle on Sunday morning, when Tony Wood – left by father Barry to go solo in the RGA Atalanta, brainchild of Richard Gaylard Shattock, at the eleventh hour – completed a ‘powered by Jaguar’ clean sweep of the podium places. The next five cars home flew Lotus, Maserati, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Allard flags, seventh-placed Rudiger Friedrichs’ C-type the best of the ‘home’ manufacturer’s finishers after local duo John and Gary Pearson’s ex-works/Briggs Cunningham team D-type faded most unusually.
Ward secured pole position in Friday’s qualifying session, the former Silverstone driving centre chief instructor’s 2m30.170s (87.25mph) best lap of the 3.63-mile Historic Grand Prix circuit almost 1.75 seconds quicker than the later Cooper-Jaguar circulated. The Pearson brothers’ finned D-type shared row two of the imposing grid with the ex-Mike Anthony Lotus-Bristol Mk10, a class-leading effort by Rick Bourne/Malcolm Paul.
Till Bechtolsheimer’s mighty Cadillac V8-engined Allard J2 and the glorious ex-Peter Whitehead Aston Martin DB3S of Wolfgang Friedrichs/Simon Hadfield were next up. Martin Stretton qualified Richard Wilson’s Maserati 250S a class-topping seventh, ahead of the HWM of Martin ‘Ted 7’ Hunt – shared with the busy Blakeney-Edwards – the Wood family’s RGS and Patrick Watts’ Allard J2 ‘Blunderbuss.’
Down the order, 1983 Brands Hatch Formula Ford champion Karl Jones was drafted in to co-drive Ben Eastick’s D-type – which stopped after a single lap, before the Welshman could take the wheel. Fortunately stewards permitted him to take the second stint as he’d tested it the previous day. Steve Boultbee Brooks had the Kangaroo Stable Aston Martin DB3S well wound up, while John Ure and Silverstone Classic organiser, Nick Wigley, started a class-leading 16th in a pristine Cooper-Bristol T24/25 built-up by Hawker Restorations using the engine and gearbox from Peter Mann’s ex-Tony Crook chassis, lozenged in Ure’s Monaco practice shunt.
Karsten Le Blanc and Jonathan Abecassis/Richard Woolmer led the strong Austin-Healey brigade from mid-pack, where Katarina Kyvalova (ex-Bertie Bradnack Cooper-Jaguar T33), Steve Stanton/Neil Perkins (Tojeiro) and David Cottingham’s yellow Ferrari 500 TRC also sat. Also notable in the field were the Jaguar XK120 OTS of the ever-smiling Roger Woodbridge and Iain Rowley – who hosted the annual marshals BBQ on Friday evening – Matthew Holme’s gorgeous Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS, the pretty Triumph TR2 of Paul Ziller/Wil Arif and Jonathan Cleland’s ex-Chris Rea Lotus 6.
Lurking at the back, a last-minute arrival from an IN Racing restoration on the eve of the meeting, was the Cooper-Bristol of father-and-son Chris and Oliver Phillips, which reunited a full body with its original chassis for the first time since the mid-1950s. It conked-out after a lap, but after so much effort again was given dispensation to start.
Wakeman made the best start on race day, but Ward used his vast experience to sweep past the American at Becketts and ease away on an oily track, with Stretton and Bourne chasing and Bechtolsheimer and Wood trading fifth place repeatedly in the opening skirmishes. Wakeman achieved his game plan to keep Ward in sight and hand a fit car to Blakeney-Edwards (who started Hunt’s HWM but made an early driver change to be ready) via one of Blakeney Motorsport’s traditionally slick turnarounds. Chris and Fred (whose in-lap was super-rapid) pitted with little between them at 10 laps, but the cars re-joined the track together, with only Stretton, Bourne and Wood ahead of them, albeit yet to stop.
Within three laps PB-E was slipstreaming Ward down the long Hangar Straight and he bravely circumnavigated his rival round the outside of the right-handed Stowe Corner. Chris countered, getting close into Brooklands a lap later, but the traffic fell slightly better for Pat initially, enabling him to eke out a 2.1 second advantage with just under 10 minutes remaining. Then the tide turned. Ward had a pop into Stowe, but on the penultimate lap PB-E found himself stymied behind a phalanx of slower cars onto the Hangar Straight, where the lead was relinquished.
Ward’s cushion to PB-E was a relatively comfortable 3.37 seconds at the chequered flag, having got his clog down again and fishtailed out of Club Corner to celebrate his latest victory. A regular visitor to the top step of the Silverstone Classic rostrum in recent years, Chris was presented with trophies and champagne by Peter Read, Chairman of the Motoring Committee of the Royal Automobile Club.
Wood was more than 90 seconds adrift in the RGS, only seven seconds ahead of Paul’s Lotus, the last of the frontrunners to make the mandatory pit stop following a tremendous opening salvo by long-time Morgan specialist Bourne. Stretton wrung the sole Maserati’s neck before putting owner Wilson in to bat. “It’s a long time since I remember racing with drum brakes,” said Martin, architect of the new combo’s encouraging fifth place finish.
Hadfield was drifting the Aston beautifully and closing inexorably on the smaller-engined Maserati, but, having passed Gary Pearson’s ailing D-type early in his stint – a first, and something of a surprise – deposed Boultbee Brooks’ DB3S, Rudi Friedrichs’ Jag and Bechtolsheimer’s massive Allard in rapid succession to land sixth, 10 seconds behind Wilson. Friedrichs, Bechtolsheimer and Brooks also went the full 19-lap distance.
The Pearsons could only manage 10th, a lap down, Gary reporting that their Jaguar felt flat. “No grip and no grunt,” he smiled afterwards. Wigley/Ure and lad and dad Oliver & Tim Llewellyn’s Allard were close at the flag having lapped within a few tenths of its best time. Abecassis/Woolmer, Eastick/Jones (the latter revelling in his first D-type race) and Le Blanc were next home, pursued by Martin Melling/Rob Hall in the black Aston Martin DB3 in which Peter Collins/Pat Griffith won the inaugural Goodwood Nine Hour enduro of 1952.
John & Charlie Brown (Jaguar C-type), Kyvalova and Chris Jolly – an excellent run in his lofty Aston Martin DB2 spoiled by a short pit stop, the 20 second penalty for which dropped him behind the green Cooper-Jaguar – also completed 18 laps. The Cooper-Bristol of Chris and Oliver Phillips behaved itself to reach the finish, unlike the sister car of Malcolm Harrison/Paul Taft. Watts’ Allard and Holme’s shapely Alfa Romeo were among the others to fall by the wayside.