Tag Archives: Chris Ward

Smith Stars at Oulton’s Stellar Gold Cup

Already an excellent event, the Oulton Park Gold Cup stepped up yet another gear in 2017 with the addition of both the Historic Touring Car Challenge and FIA Historic F2 International Series.  And, when considering the ultra competitive HSCC Historic Formula Ford and Pre-66 Touring Car championship events featured heavily on the Bank Holiday Monday undercard, the more than respectable crowd were in for a real treat.

The HSCC organised Historic F2 championship appears to have suffered very little from the emergence of Peter Auto’s rival series in 2017 with some 25 cars taking to the Cheshire track over the weekend.  And whilst Darwin Smith dominated proceedings in race 1 to claim victory by 17 seconds, he would have his work cut out in race 2 as the event quickly turned into a two horse race.

Donington winner, Richard Evans is regularly a front runner in this category and on this occasion refused to let the Northern Irishman out of his sights as the two bright yellow machines pulled away from the pack.  But, despite Evans’ best efforts he never really got close enough to challenge; the series returnee, in his formidable March 722, appearing unbeatable around the picturesque parkland circuit as he went on to record his second victory in as many days.  The Gold Cup, awarded to the aggregate winner of the 2 F2 races, just reward for Smith’s utterly brilliant drive.

The Motor Racing Legends organised Historic Touring Car Challenge was a very welcome addition to the Bank Holiday Monday schedule where, for a trial period commencing with the Gold Cup, Group A RS500s have been allowed to join the party.  And whilst Chris Ward claimed pole position for the 50 minute race with a late charge in the JD Classics Rover Vitesse (shared with Steve Soper), it was the Mark Wright piloted RS500 which leapt into an early lead; his pace over the opening laps as he pulled away from Ric Wood’s Capri and the pole sitting Rover possibly the reason why these machines had previously been off the menu!

Having dominated earlier in the season at Donington Park, Soper was not quite able to deliver the same level of performane at Oulton.  Ward on the other hand is rapid everywhere and an early stop to get the ex Silverstone Chief Driving Instructor behind the wheel would pay dividends as Ward found himself in the lead of the race as the mandatory pitstops unwound.

Had it not been for fuel starvation issues, Dave Coyne, in the RS500 started by Wright, may well have challenged for victory.  However the intermittent problem would play havoc throughout the second half of the race with the 1990 Formula Ford Festival winner doing well to salvage fourth 4th with a last lap charge.

As it was, despite suffering a braking issue, Ward was able to take a comfortable victory in the end, with the Capri of Ric Wood and the late stopping M3 E30 of Mark Smith rounding out the podium positions.  This had been a classy drive by the JD Classics man and Soper was the first to acknowledge that Ward was largely to thank for their top step of the podium appearance.

This wasn’t the only touring car action of the day however with the schedule also including 2 historic touring car races for the pre-66 machines as well as a second encounter for the end of millennium Super Tourers.

The Honda Accord is often the car to beat in the HSCC run Super Touring Car Trophy and the second race at Oulton provided no surprise in this respect; Stewart Whyte heading a 1-2 for the Japanese brand to register his second victory of the weekend.  Meanwhile, Gianfranco Brancatelli claimed 6th position overall to take class A honours in the very same RS500 he drove to Spa 24 hour victory in 1989.

Qualifying for the Pre-66 machines saw Ford Falcon pilot, Jack Drury, require just 4 laps to take pole position by a massive 1.4 seconds.  It was to no avail however as a broken oil pump, which cut short his qualifying session, also caused him to miss race 1 whilst the engine was changed!  This left the door open for the smaller engined marques to flourish with James Clarke leading home Richard Belcher to complete a Ford Cortina 1-2 and Jonathan Lewis in his Mini Cooper S registering an excellent third.

The Falcon was fixed for race 2 however and despite having to start from the back of the grid, Drury was in the lead of the race before the end of lap 4; his victory by more than 13 seconds underlining his total dominance of the category on the day.  With such a performance gap, a double race victory should have been a formality and the ex BMW driver will hope his championship push is not impacted by the unfortunate reliability issues experienced in qualifying.

As has often been the case in 2017 a healthy grid of Formula Ford machinery had been gathered for the Oulton Park Gold Cup meeting and it was no surprise to find Richard Tarling and Callum Grant again battling it out for victory.  But whilst overtaking was plentiful at Croft, it was not so easy at Oulton and try as Grant might he could not find a way passed the Janum T2 of Tarling in either race; Tarling again showing his defensive skills to record a double victory despite suffering a broken exhaust in the days first encounter. And whilst Tarling’s two strong results kept him well in the title frame, a distinctly under the weather Grant (2016 champion) all but threw in the towel following another strong points haul for series leader Michael O’Brien.

Benn Tilley put in 2 strong Formula Ford performances to claim creditable 6th and 7th placed finishes but it was the Formula Junior category where the youngster truly excelled; the Lotus 22 pilot going on to record his first and second overall victories in the Silverline backed series as John Fyda and Peter De La Roche, on both occasions, rounded out the podium positions.

In the Second Derek Bell Trophy race of the weekend, a drive train problem with his March 79B denied Andrew Smith the chance of a double win.  Instead, Neil Glover powered his F5000 Chevron B37 to victory as the 2 litre F2 Chevron B27 of Mike Bletsoe-Brown and the March 712 of James King, fresh from his brilliant F2 performance to claim class A honours, rounded out the podium positions.  Behind, Julian Stokes came out on top of the Techno F2 battle to claim Classic Racing Car victory with race 1 winner, Daniel Pyett unfortunately ending the day in the Old Hall barriers.

And last but not least, there looked to be a huge shock on the cards in the Classic Clubmans race as John Harrison lead much of the early running.  Mark Charteris is very rarely beaten in this category however and would not be denied on this occasion either; the Watford man making the crucial pass at Cascades on lap 8 before going on to record a 3.6 second victory.

Was there a better way to spend August Bank Holiday Monday?  I think not.  Having absolutely loved the Gold Cup meeting last year I wasn’t sure it could be bettered.  I was wrong.  Witnessing historic F2 machinery lapping Oulton in sub 1.36 times is something else, as was the sound of many a V8 at full chat in the Historic Touring Car Challenge.  More of the same next year please!

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Ward Stars at 7th Annual Donington Historic

The 2017 running of the Donington Historic Festival also coincided with the 40th anniversary of Donington Park’s re-opening, and fittingly over 450 classic motor racing machines, many with a rich sporting history, had been attracted to the 7th running of the event.  The Leicestershire circuit was in great shape too;  now properly re-grassed and landscaped following the F1 debacle, the infield is at last fully open to the public.  And with the infield bankings providing some of the best spectator viewing in the UK there really was no better place to take in the weekend’s 19 races.

Saturday’s schedule included 10 of the aforementioned races and Historic racing ace, Chris Ward would amazingly find himself standing on the podium’s top step on 3 occasions!  The first of which would come alongside Touring Car Legend, Steve Soper, in the Bastos livieried Rover Vitesse.  But having qualified the British built machine on pole for the 1 hour long Historic Touring Car Challenge, Ward instead jumped into the TWR Jaguar XJ8.  And whilst Soper developed an early lead, Ward set about bringing the big cat towards the front, leading to suggestions that the versatile JD Classics man could in fact appear on the podium twice!  ECU issues would unfortunately negate that prospect but once Ward was aboard the Rover there was only ever going to be one winner; the pairing going on to record a dominant 36 second victory.

A second success would soon follow, this time aboard the stunning Lister Costin in the Stirling Moss Trophy race for Pre-61 Sportscars; a race win which in many respects was his toughest of the day.  In what effectively became a two horse race,  Will Nuthall, in a Lister Knobbly, would sit in the wheel tracks of Ward’s Costin bodied machine for almost the entirety of the one hour race.  However the healthy crowd were robbed of a close finish when Nuthall was dealt a late double blow; first, a one minute time penalty for a late decision to drive solo, and second, by hitting car trouble on the very last lap.  Such was the dominance of the leading two Listers however that Nuthall was still classified in second!

Ward was then at it again in Saturday’s final race of the day; the ex-Silverstone Chief Instructor once again joining Paul Gibson in his continuation Lola T70 MK3 for the 90 minute ‘1000km’ race for pre-73 prototypes.  Whilst the entry was a little on the disappointing side it was more than made up for in terms of quality and the early running was made by the 3  T70 MK3s in the field; Paul Gibson ahead of Leo Voyazides and Chris Beighton.

By lap 29, both Gibson and Voyazides had handed over their respective machines to Chris Ward and Simon Hadfield, with a quicker pit stop for the latter allowing Hadfield to emerge in front.  Ward however was driving like a man possessed and with lap times consistently below the 1.11 marker, was quickly on the tail of Hadfield and into the lead once Beighton had pitted for Greensall on lap 38.  Hadfield is reknowned for his pace in historic machinery but even he could not match the low 1.08s Ward was achieving in clean air, leaving Gibson and Ward to claim victory for the third time in as many years.  What a day this had been for the one time Nissan man!

Once again Touring Cars from latter half of the twentieth century would feature heavily at this years festival and as a result stars such as the aforementioned Steve Soper, Colin Turkington, Adam Morgan, Patrick Watts and Andrew Jordan were all set to compete.

In fact, prior to his success in the Historic Touring Car Challenge, Soper had taken the brand new Team Dynamics built Lotus Cortina to second in the first of two races for pre-66 under 2 litre Touring Cars.  Traditionally the Cortina’s have been no match for the Andrew and Max Banks piloted Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint and even the touring car expertise of Soper could not reverse the fortunes of the popular Ford machine.  As it was the pole sitting Alfa duo were never troubled as they went on to record a 23 second victory.  Soper meanwhile had to fight his way passed the similar Lotus Cortina’s of Andy Wolfe and Oscar Rovelli after a slow pit stop to claim second, while Rovelli went on to snatch third from Wolfe on the finish line!

Sunday’s second race may well have had a similar outcome, in that Andrew and Max Banks recorded yet another victory, however the Cortinas appeared much more competitive on this occasion.  In fact Soper almost made it into the lead at Goddards on lap 2 but would fall back into the clutches of fellow Cortina man, Andy Wolfe after running wide.

A mid race safety car would however allow both Cortina drivers another shot at the leading Alfa and Andy Wolfe would emerge as Banks’ closest challenger at the restart.  But, an unsuccessful attempt for the lead around the outside of the chicane would ultimately allow Banks to escape to victory and Soper to close in and re-take second at Hollywood.   Wolfe was far from finished though and the two Cortinas would swap positions on more than one occasion before Soper eventually claimed his second runner up spot in as many days.

Many of the under 2 litre machines would again take to the track for the final Touring Car race of the weekend, the HRDC ‘Coys’ Trophy; an event again catering for pre-66 machines but this time with no engine capacity restrictions.  And whilst there was no sign of the Banks’ Alfa, the Lotus Cortina pilots would this time have to contend with brutish American muscle in the form Ford’s Falcon and Mustang models.  And it was the pole sitting Ford Falcon in the hands of Jack Drury, fresh from his Donington HSCC HTC success earlier in the month, who would slip in front of Soper as the cars headed for the mandatory mid race pit stops.

Once complete there was nothing to choose between Drury and Soper and expectations were high for a great battle to the finish.  Unfortunately the duel would be short lived however as both cars found themselves on the retirement list courtesy of a collision with a back marker at McLeans.  This left another Cortina in the hands of David Tomlin to take victory from the similar machine of Graham Pattle and the Mustang of Mark Burton.

The Donington Historic Festival also played host to the opening two rounds of the 2017, HSCC organised, Super Touring Car Challenge and it was James Dodd who claimed a brace of commanding victories in his Honda Accord; beating the Alfa Romeo 150 STW of Neil Smith to top spot by 15 seconds in race 1 and the similar Accord of father Graeme by 41 seconds in race 2.

Meanwhile, Mike Jordan, paired with his 2013 BTCC champion son, Andrew, aboard the family run Austin ‘GT’40 recorded a dominant victory in the HRDC Pre-60 Touring Car race.  Despite an early safety car period, the very rapid duo claimed victory by a mammoth 52 seconds over the Butterfield/Dorlin Jaguar MK1.

Whilst it was great to see so many touring cars at the festival it is ultimately the Sports and GT Cars that draw me back year after year.  And pleasingly a jam packed field took to the track for Sunday morning’s 2 hour GT and Sports Car Cup for Pre-66 GT and Pre-63 Sportscars.

Last year Grahame and Oliver Bryant had claimed victory and it wasn’t long before Oliver Bryant had established a healthy lead over the chasing Cobra’s of Robert Bremner and Leo Voyazides and the E-type Jaguar of Carlos Monteverde.  The rules for this race dictate a maximum of 50 minute stints and whilst Oliver Bryant escaped from the pack prior to the enforced stop, Grahame was unlikely to lap at the same speed.  Hadfield and Pearson, subbing for Voyazides and Monteverde respectively meanwhile were the quicker drivers in their pairings and began to quickly close in on the leading Cobra.

A long safety car period, for oil at the chicane, would however dampen the race as a spectacle somewhat; enough time passing for the elder Bryant to be relieved of his duties under the caution period, allowing Bryant the younger to go on and take a comfortable 39 second victory.  The battle behind was far less clear cut however.  Whilst Hadfield had managed to keep Pearson behind, the positions were reversed soon after the second pitstops; the Voyazides Cobra dropping time and two positions with an excursion at McLeans.   Thus ensuring the Monteverde/Pearson and Clark/McCaig E-types would round out the podium positions.

The Pre-War Sports Cars would make a welcome return in 2017 and Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards would quickly establish themselves as the class of the field; the duo going on to record victory by more than 1 lap in their Frazer Nash.  However, the victory may well have been less dominant had fellow front row starter, Sam Stretton, not been forced into retirement in his Alta Sports after just 11 laps.

A day later, Wakeman and Blakeney-Edwards would claim a second victory in the RAC Woodcote Trophy race for Pre-56 Sportscars.  Although Gary Pearson, in a Jaguar D-Typre, lead the opening stages of the race, Fred Wakeman in the Cooper T38 was able to get by at Hollywood on lap 7.  And, with Pearson never re-emerging from his mandatory pitstop, Patrick Blakeney-Edwards was able to go on and record a comfortable victory of more than 1 lap.  The battle for second was fascinating however.  Lying 8th after the mid race pit stops, Simon Hadfield stormed through the field in the Wolfgang Friedrichs Aston Martin DB3S to grab second with just 4 laps remaining!

E-types of various body styles filled the majority of the grid positions in the Jaguar Classic Challenge race and it was Gary Pearson and Ben Short who would battle it out for the lead over the opening stages of the race.  It would have taken some drive to beat Pearson in equal machinery however and as it was the Jaguar expert was able to break away in traffic; eventually taking race victory by 14 seconds.

There was also a nice blend of single seater action across the weekend and a whopping 25 cars made the start of the opening FIA sanctioned Historic Formula 2 race.  Richard Evans had previously claimed pole position by a huge 1.5 seconds in his March 742 and expectation was that he would dominate proceedings in the race.  And whilst a poor start left him fourth behind Mark Dwyer, Daniel Gibson and Frazer Gibney, Evans would find himself at the head of the field by lap 10.  But this appeared to be a race that no-one wanted to win as first Evans and then Dwyer were forced into retirement; the latter pulling off at Redgate with just three laps remaining to leave the way clear for Frazer Gibney to take the most unlikely of victories.

The opening laps of race 2 proved highly entertaining as the rapidly driven cars of Richard Evans, Mark Dwyer and Daniel Gibson all cruised through the field; the grid having been set from the results of race 1.  In fact, such was their pace that by lap 4, Evans, Dwyer and Gibson held the top 3 positions.  But whilst Gibson would again find his Chevron B42 condemned to the retirements list, Evans and Dwyer would, on this occasion, go on to claim the top two steps of the podium, despite the latter suffering from a broken exhaust.  Behind, after a brilliant second in race 1, Robert Simac in his Class A March 712M would put in another superb drive to round out the podium positions.

Elsewhere, John Sykes claimed a double victory in the races for pre-61 Front Engined Formula Junior cars.  The Merlyn MK2 pilot twice getting the better of the Justin Fleming and Robin Longdon piloted Lola MK2’s to record the narrowest of victory margins.

Meanwhile James Murray in his Lola MK5A claimed the first Pre-64 Rear Engined Formula Junior race and John Fyda in his Brabham BT6 claimed the second in what was the final event of an excellent weekend of racing.

What is there not to love about the Donington Historic Festival?  The Coppice tunnel closure and the lack of transmission on 87.7FM for much of Saturday morning were small negatives but these were far outweighted by great racing, fantastic displays (including the ’88 Le mans winning XJR9), and a knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary pairing.  I am already looking forward to 2018!

RESULTS
GALLERY

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Donington Delivers one Helluva Historic Festival

In what has become tradition, May Day bank holiday weekend saw the historic racing community welcomed by Donington Park for the 6th running of the utterly brilliant Donington Historic Festival; this year able to benefit from substantial investment which has brought the famous Leicestershire circuit back to it’s very best.

As is also tradition, the early May bank holiday weekend weather was, shall we say, mixed!  Whilst Saturday was blessed with a sunny start and end to the day, hail and rain showers were a feature of the early afternoon; conditions made more tricky by just how cold it was.  It is not normal to see one’s breath in late April, even in England!

The first race of the weekend, the opening round of the HSCC Historic F2 championship, slotted nicely between showers however.  Where, on a drying track, Andrew Smith in his Formula Atlantic specification March 79B was one of a minority to gamble on slicks; a decision which paid dividends as he recorded a dominant 53 second victory over series newcomer Dean Forward.

HSCC_F2_DHF16

And it was the Warwickshire man who was again first to the chequered flag in Sunday’s second encounter.  After quickly passing the fast starting Forward, Smith was able to build a winning margin of 35 seconds over the ‘3rd gear-less’ March 782, making it a weekend to remember for the Team Gunston March pilot.

HSCC_F2_DHF16R2V2

The Pre 91 Touring car field were not quite so lucky with the weather.  Whilst a dry start allowed the BMW of Mark Smith to take the lead from pole, rain began to fall during the mandatory pit stop window.  And it was during the driver changes that Chris Ward, taking over the Broadspeed Capri from BTCC hero Steve Soper, was able to get the jump on the Mark Smith/David Cuff E30.  And the heavier the rain fell the more comfortable the lead became; Ward putting in a sublime drive in testing conditions to claim the Tony Dron Trophy by over 1 minute.

TonyDronTrophy_DHF16

In fact Ward would carry his strong form into the 2.75 hour, somewhat disappointingly supported, ‘1000km’ Sportscar race.  Again paired with Paul Gibson, the 2015 winners faced a very different challenge if they were to repeat their success.  The cold and damp conditions would not favour their powerful Lola T70 where instead it was the nimble Chevron B8 of Martin O’Connell who was able to take an early lead.

1000km_DHF16

Ward, installed on lap 32, would find himself 3 laps down to the little 2 litre prototype but a succession of fastest lap times on an ever drying track brought the #9 Lola back into contention.  Meanwhile James Littlejohn had been in the sister Gibson car since lap 20 and on lap 77 it was he who finally hunted down and passed the O’Connell piloted B8.

1000km_DHF16_MO

Oliver Bryant had looked best placed to tackle the rogue Chevron having kept his T70 in touching distance throughout the first half of the race.  A very slow pitstop on lap 60 however dropped the #14 machine 5 laps and it would be an uphill struggle from then on in.

1000km_DHF16_OBCharge

And so with the Chevron now struggling to keep pace in the early evening sunshine, the fight for top spot would turn out to be an all family affair with Paul Gibson emerging from the car’s final pit-stop just in front of son Daniel in the #10.  However it was Gibson Senior who managed to maintain the lead over the last 20 or so laps, claiming race victory for a second successive year.  But for a mis-read pit board Gibson Jnr may well have put up a stronger fight.

1000km_DHF16_ChequeredFlag

Bryant meanwhile would fight back to claim a strong third position, ending the race just over 1 minute behind the winners; a story of what might have been given the #14 T70 spent 1.5 minutes longer in pit lane!  P3 honours and fourth overall was just reward for a great drive by Martin O’Connell and Andrew Kirkaldy in the Chevron B8.  Had the rain continued who knows what the outcome would have been!

1000km_DHF16_OB

Sunday’s schedule would feature a further 7 races, in many respects headlined by the 90 minute GT & Sports Car Cup for Pre-66 GT and Pre-63 Sportscars.  Traditionally a battle between Cobra and E-Type it was the Oliver Bryant piloted Cobra who was able to take an early lead from the Julian Thomas and Gary Pearson Jags and the pole sitting similar machine of Leo Voyazides.

Pre66GT_DHF16V2

Both E-types had soon fallen by the wayside however leaving an all Shelby battle up front; Hadfield, installed in the #75 Cobra during an oil enforced safety car period, now finding himself at the head of the field following a quicker turn around during the stops.  However, opting for a short Grahame Bryant stint proved to be key strategically as Bryant junior had almost 30 laps to hunt down the leader.

Pre66GT_DHF16_LV

And sure enough with Voyazides back in the driving seat on lap 45 the deficit was reduced to just 5 seconds with Bryant, clearly on a mission, able to haul his mis-firing Cobra into the lead with a little over 10 minutes remaining.  The retirement of Voyazides shortly after allowing for a comfortable drive to the flag with the now second and third placed Clark/Smith E-Type and Friedrichs/Mallock Aston Martin DP214 over 1 lap in arrears.

Pre66GT_DHF16_Aston

New to the schedule for 2016, the pre-50 Grand Prix cars battling for the Nuvolari Trophy put on a great Display.  Sunday’s dry second race saw Callum Lockie in his Maserati 6CM able to get the better of race 1 winner, Michael Gans, after an almighty scrap between the two.  Gans, in ERA R1B, had fallen to third at the start but was able to take the lead on lap 11 before the vastly experienced Lockie made the decisive overtake just 1 lap later.

Pre50GP_DHF16

The very sideways Pre-66 under 2 litre touring cars never fail to entertain with onlookers eagerly awaiting a good battle between the leading Ford, BMW and Alfa crews.  But whilst BMW were able to take the fight to the Lotus Cortinas in qualifying, all 3 leading 1800s were in trouble with electrical problems before the race had really begun.  This left the the Andrew/Max Banks Alfa to successfully chase down the Fords of Andy Wolfe and Dion Kremer and build a healthy lead over the opening stint of the race.

U2LTRTCS_DHF16

Whilst Wolfe would soon retire, another MK1 Cortina in the hands of Neil Brown had starting making progress.  And once taking over the reigns, Fortec boss, Richard Dutton, carried on Brown’s hard work to close in on Max Banks during the second half of the race; a gutsy charge that left the Ford man just 10 seconds shy of the untouchable Giulia Sprint GTA at the flag.  Meanwhile David Tomlin made it two Fords on the podium, passing Kremer in the pit-stops and managing to hold off the Swiss pilot during the closing stages of the race.

U2LTRTCS_DHF16PT2

The RAC Woodcote Trophy for pre-56 Sportscars was yet another highlight of the weekend, proof if ever it were needed that historic racing is much more than just a demonstration.  Throughout the entire 1 hour duration of the race, Fred Wakeman and later Patrick Blakeney-Edwards tried all they could to get past the D-Type Jaguar of Gary Pearson.  The Cooper Jaguar Type 38 was more than a match for the D-Type but Pearson was immaculate through the traffic and, as Blakeney-Edwards put it, there is no getting past the Northamptonshire man when in that kind of form!

WoodcoteTrophy_DHF16

Colin Turkington made a one off appearance in the HSCC Super Touring Car Trophy race, and the Northern Irishman showed his class by taking third place in the Mark Smith BMW E30.  The older BMW was no match for the Gordon Noble Jnr Vauxhall Vectra or the Stewart Whyte Honda Accord however; with the former able to get the better of regular front runner Whyte on this occasion.

HSCC_STCC_DHF16

Following an article in Motor Sport magazine I was very much looking forward to the final event of the day, the Pre 80 endurance race for Sports racing GT and Touring Cars.  You just cannot beat the sound of a 3 litre DFV formula 1 engine and on this occasion we were blessed with not only the magazine featured Lola T282 of Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield but also the T292 of Michele Liguori.

Pre80End_DHF16

Hadfield had earlier put the Gitanes sponsored T282 on pole with a fantastic 1.05.872 but it was Liguori who beat Voyazides into Redgate, immediately gapping the Greek pilot and leaving him to fight with the Chevron B19 of Martin O’Connell.  Unfortunately, the expected DFV battle never materialised as a coming together between O’Connell and Voyazides at Goddards put the Chevron out of the race and left Voyazides with a broken wheel; the former calling it a racing incident whilst the latter was less diplomatic!

Pre80EndWinners_DHF16

Whilst Liguori was now able to cruise to victory, Voyazides with broken wheel replaced, and later Simon Hadfield were able to drag themselves back up through the field to a phenomenal second place; missing out on victory by just 26 seconds after at one stage being 2 laps down!  The sight and sound of Hadfield taking on the Craner Curves in this glorious machine is one of those memories that will stick around for years to come!  Ever wondered what is missing from modern day racing?  This car sums it up completely!

Pre80End_2nd_DHF16V2

My time at the festival may have been over but the racing continued throughout Monday, where …

David Tomlin piloted his Lotus Cortina to victory in the HRDC ‘Coys Trophy’ whilst Stewart Whyte charged to glory in the second Super Touring Car race.  Callum Lockie, sharing an E-Type with Julian Thomas, continued his excellent weekend by taking the Jaguar Classic Challenge honours.  Chris Ward made it a hat-trick of weekend race victories by taking the Stirling Moss Trophy for Pre-61 Sport Cars.  Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards claimed the Mad Jack for Pre-War Sports Cars victory and last but not least, Andrew and Mike Jordan raced their Austin A40 to top spot in the HRDC Pre-60 Touring Car race.

FULL RESULTS

GALLERY

This had been another fabulous Donington Historic Festival.  The festival and circuit organising team just seem to get it, be it the friendly and welcoming circuit staff, the excellent commentary team, the ability to get touch close to millions of pounds worth of famous racing cars, a fantastic selection of races across the weekend and now the freedom to roam over the entire infield.  And having fond memories of the venue as a child in the late eighties and early nineties it is great to see the circuit in such good shape!  If only the Dunlop Bridge and Spitfire were to make a return …

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Sun Shines on Epic Masters Four Hours

Billed as the perfect antidote to the British Grand Prix, the Donington Masters Festival, headlined by the Masters Four Hours, met all expectations as Roger Wills and James Littlejohn claimed a hard fought victory in their stunning Ford GT40.

OverallWinner_4Hours

The Independence day four hour entry list fittingly included 7 Ford GT40s, the American brand’s answer to Ferrari’s mid-twentieth century Le Mans dominance.  However only 5 managed to make the start, as high temperatures in excess of 25 degrees played a part in both the Bryant’s machine and that of David Cuff and BTCC legend, Steve Soper, failing to take the green flag.

Start_4Hours

And 5 soon became 3 before the first hour had concluded as both the Richard Meins / Steve Farthing and Craig Davies / John Young GT40s were forced into retirement; the latter parking up on the inside of Swantz curve after their GT40 emptied itself of fluid on the run down to the Old Hairpin.  Conversely, the remaining 3 up front were running well, with the #40 of Tony Wood and the Silver Fern liveried machine of Roger Wills dicing for the lead while pole sitter, Jason Wright, held onto third.

As the race entered the second hour however it was New Zealander Roger Wills who had slipped into the lead before making his first of 2 required pitstops during the first safety car period.  Meanwhile, Wood, who had not lost touch with the #5 machine, chose to stay out and re-take the lead of the race

In fact it was 1 hour and 45 minutes into the event before Wood brought the #40 GT40 into pit lane to hand over to Martin Stretton, bringing to an end a monster stint for the Scotsman which had seen him build up an almost 2 lap lead over the rest of the field.  Upwards of 40 degrees was being reported in the cockpit, making Wood’s efforts even more impressive!

But just as things started to look rosy for the white and red Ford, Stretton was back in the pits with oil pressure problems, undoing much of Wood’s hard work and leaving the lead battle between the now much improved green #46 machine of Michael Gans and the new pilot of #5, James Littlejohn.

Gans was quick but Littlejohn had the edge, the 27 year old Warwick man putting in a great drive over the next 15 laps to halve Gans’ lead to 19 seconds before a second safety car was deployed on lap 75.  And with both cars taking the opportunity to make their mandatory second stop, it was Andy Wolfe, now aboard Jason Wright’s #46, who got the better of the safety car timings to gain almost a lap on Roger Wills who had climbed back aboard the #5.

The second half of the race would feature 2 further safety car periods, making it crucial that Wills did not lose a lap to Wolfe.  And whilst Stretton had held the lead until pitting for the third time on lap 91, his lap lead on the rest of the field, whilst nursing a broken exhaust and misfire, was not enough to keep him and Wood in contention; thus leaving a straight fight to finish between Wills and ace historic car preparer, Andy Wolfe.

Having managed to stay on the same lap as his rival, Wills took advantage of the third safety car to sit right behind Wolfe at the restart, the bit now firmly between his teeth as he took the lead of the race on lap 91.  The favour was returned less than ten laps later however following the return to green after a fourth safety car intervention.  This race was well and truly in the balance with just 30 minutes remaining.

FinalChallenge_4Hours

Once in the lead, Wolfe was not able to break the tow, and you just sensed that Wills had something extra in the bag.   As if to prove onlookers right, the vastly experienced historic racer made the decisive overtake on lap 106; Wills then following this up with two consecutive sub 1:45 lap times while Wolfe lost vital seconds with a spin at the Old Hairpin.  As quick as Wolfe had been during the race there was no way back from here, allowing the Wills / Littlejohn piloted GT40 to cruise onto the top step of the podium.

Whilst the powerful GTP class Fords filled the podium positions, Phil Keen and Andrew Haddon brought the glorious AC Cobra home in 4th position overall to claim the GTB class honours.  Having been troubled early on by the E-Type of Marcus Graf Von Oeynhausen-Sierstorpff, the Cobra crew spent the second half of the race in a close battle with the Lotus Elan of David Tomiln and Richard Meaden.

GTBWinners_4Hours

In the end the Cobra had the necessary grunt to get the better of the very well driven Elan in the final hour of the race, while fifth place and top spot in class GTA was just reward for a stunning drive by Tomlin and Meaden.  In fact the final results mask the story of GTA which featured a great battle with the TVR of the Sean and Michael McInerney.  While Tomlin and Meaden showed greater pace as the race went on, it was the TVR who had the upper hand following the second round of pitstops.  However just 3 laps later an unscheduled third stop for the father and son crew effectively ended their challenge for class honours; 6th overall however represented a more than respectable result.

GTAWinners_4Hours

The number #13 Mustang in the touring car class seemed to have class victory in the bag with 1 hour to go; Rupert Cleverly, Simon Garrad and Charles Allison holding a three lap lead over the similar machine of Nicholas Ruddell, Robert Crofton and Nigel Batchelor.  However, disaster struck on lap 90 as the #13 car stopped on track on the run up to Goddards.  Having been helped back to the pits and then fixing the apparent electrical fault with little time loss they appeared back on track for class victory.  Luck was not on their side however as they were back in the pits for good just 10 laps later, gifting class victory to Ruddell, Crofton and Batchelor.

TCAWinners_$hours

With only 15 of the 29 starters taking the chequered flag, this had been a proper test of endurance.  The heat added an extra element for the crews to battle against which made winning the race even more rewarding for Wills and Littlejohn.  I really hope that this event makes a return in 2016 as it would be a great tragedy if the Masters 4 Hours of Donington turned out to be a one off!

Podium_4Hours

MASTERS PRE 66 TOURING CARS

Few motor races are as entertaining as the Pre 66 touring cars where Amercian Muscle in the form of Ford’s Falcon and Mustang are pitched against the smaller engined, yet more nimble, European Mini and Cortina.  In particular, the speed carried through the corners by John Cooper’s finest often defies belief, making them a true match for their more powerful state-side rivals in certain conditions.

TouringCar_start

A dry race-day however gave a clear advantage to the aforementioned muscle but it was Henry Mann, son of racing legend Alan, who managed to get the jump on the front row starting Mercury Cyclone of Roger Wills and the pole sitting Falcon of Rob Hall.  In fact, once into the lead, the Mustang driver never looked back as he went on to record a convincing victory of over 50 seconds.

Mann_TouringCars

The battle behind was far from clear cut however, with 4 hour race winner, Wills, having to fight off the Ford Falcon of Rob Hall and whole host of Minis, Cortinas and Mustangs.  Wills and Hall had been Mann’s closest challengers until the mid-race pit calls, however slow stops for both cars dropped them behind the rapid Minis of Jonathan Lewis and Nick Swift.

By lap 27, Wills and Hall were back in second and third but Wills was clearly struggling to keep the pace; Ben Hall, who had taken over from his father, slipping into second just two laps later.  The podium positions were far from over however as the fast charging number #27 Mustang in the hands of Mike Whittaker was lighting up the track after gearbox problems in qualifying consigned them to the back of the grid.  By lap 30 the Mustang was passed both Minis and into 4th position with just one lap to go.  Could Wills keep the Mustang at bay? …

Mercury_TouringCars

WhittakerMustang_TouringCars

In fact the New Zealander almost managed it but fell just short with a spin at the Melbourne hairpin, allowing Whittaker to claim an unlikely podium spot.  Wills did manage to recover in time to claim fourth however, just in front of the very rapid Minis of Nick Swift and Jonathan Lewis.

Mini_TouringCars

FIA MASTERS HISTORIC SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIP

What is there not to like about a full field of 60’s and 70′ Le Mans racers headed up by no fewer than 6 mighty Lola T70s I ask?  An era of endurance racing that I dearly wish I could have witnessed in period.

In a re-match of the ‘1000km’ event earlier in the year, Simon Hadfield and Leo Voyazides managed to get the better of arch rivals Chris Ward and Paul Gibson to claim pole by 0.274 seconds.  Having ended the May day bank holiday weekend event in the Craner Curves wall following a brush with Gibson, Voyazides will have been delighted to start the 1 hour race from P1.

Hadfield_Sportscar

The leading Lola crews had however decided to split their stronger drivers with Chris Ward managing to build a healthy lead of almost 25 seconds before pitting to allow car owner, Paul Gibson, to take the wheel.  Voyazides meanwhile had done well to stay out of trouble and maintain second place from the fast starting Lola T210 of Martin Stretton, giving the incredibly quick Simon Hadfield every chance of hunting down the #99 Broadley machine.

SportscarStart

In fact Hadfield’s job was made substantially easier by a much quicker pit stop, leaving a gap of just 10 seconds for the preparation maestro to chase down.  Lapping consistently in the 1:35’s and 1:36’s from then on in the win was never in doubt; Hadfield passing Gibson on lap 22 and going on to take victory by over 48 seconds.

Hadfield2_sportscar

Gibon meanwhile appeared to have enough in hand to cruise to second place.  However, having despatched with the Lola T290 of Michael Gans early on in the stint, the Lola T70’s of Andy Wolfe and James Littlejohn set off in hot pursuit of the second place man, setting times which were 2 to 3 seconds a lap quicker than Gibson.

With only a handful of minutes remaining, the seemingly unbridgeable gap had be closed but Gibson appeared to have done just enough.  That is until he spun at Goddard’s on the very last lap allowing the fast charging Andy Wolfe, co-driven by Jason Wright to claim second while James Littlejohn and Daniel Gibson took a well deserved third.  The spin did not cost Gibson too much in the end however as his Broadley Lola was found to be in breach of the regulations, suffering a 45 second penalty as a result.

The penalty for Gibson did however promote the Marko class winning Lola T290 of Michael Gans into fourth position overall, which represented a great drive having beaten several more powerful machines.

Gans_Sportscar

Elsewhere, the Bonnier class victory was claimed by the Chevron B8 crew of Graham Wilson and Mark Hales, while Mark Bates put on a crowd pleasing performance at the wheel of his Porsche 911 to secure top spot in the Pescarolo class.

ChevronB8_Sportscar

GT_Sportscar

I am not sure there is a better track in the UK to showcase the magnificent historic machines of the Masters series.  Having been matched by glorious July weather, a better weekend of Motorsport action I could not have had.  British GP? No thanks, Zandvoort in late August here I come!

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

Historic Racing Round-up – Spring 2015

Historic F1 ace, Michael Lyons, thrills fans at Thruxton while Paul Gibson and Chris Ward fend off late Voyazides challenge to claim coveted Donington Historic Festival ‘1000km’ glory.

LyonsPNG

With today’s technology so impressive that many lines of motorsport have to be ‘pegged back’ I find myself drawn more and more to the historic side of our sport; I would love to have been around to see the thoroughbred racing cars of the 60’s and 70’s in period.  And so with there being no calendar clash between the opening rounds of the WEC and British GT in 2015 I found myself free to make a first visit to Thruxton on Easter Sunday for the HSCC revival meeting.

A packed schedule of races with a more than respectable start time lay in store for day 2 of the revival meeting with the Pre 66 touring car, Derek Bell Trophy and Guards Trophy events particular highlights.  The relaxed start to proceedings providing ample time to wander around the paddock for a closer look at some of the racing stars of yesteryear.

MorganSHARP

The Derek Bell Trophy, aimed at the F2 and F5000 cars of the 70’s saw the Lyons family responsible for 3 of the brutish open wheel delights.  Unfortunately Michael’s Gurney Eagle was not fit to take part in the event, however the HSCC were as brilliantly accomodating as ever and allowed him a run the family owned 1977 Hesketh 308e F1 car instead; oh what a shame (Said no one!)

F5000

It was an absolute pleasure to witness Lyons thrash the 3 litre V8 Cosworth powered machine around the Hampshire track; the huge rear wheels from the period providing massive amounts of grip, which combined with the raw grunt of the Cosworth engine allowed some of the fastest laps in years to be recorded.  As a comparison Lyons managed a 1:07.648 in Saturday’s race whereas the pole lap for the 2015 BTCC meeting was a 1:16.785!

Much debate surrounds the current F1 engines with many wanting a return to V8 power.  Whilst it would be nice to increase the decibel level the scream of the ‘glued to the track’ 2013 V8 formula 1 cars is dull in comparison to this late 70’s Cosworth.

On the day no other car was a match for the Penthouse liveried machine leaving Lyons, the master of historic F1 racing, to take a commanding 49 second victory over the Historic Formula 2 machine of Richard Evans and the Classic Clubmans specification Mallock of Mark Charteris.

The Historic Touring Cars always provide high quality entertainment; the traditional pose of a Lotus Cortina, Austin Mini or BMW 1800Ti being backed into a corner, almost Moto GP like, is something that is rarely seen in modern aero driven racing.  As it was Tim Davies, in his Lotus Cortina, was the class of the field; the Welshman managing to eek out an early lead before going on to take victory by a margin of 8.5 seconds at the chequered flag.  This may not have been the largest field of Touring Cars but the fast flowing nature of the circuit allowed them to be seen at their sideways best.

HistoricTCs

The Guards Trophy runners were split between the GT and Prototypes for the Thruxton meeting.  With the GT cars taking to the track the day before, Easter Sunday visitors were treated to a diverse grid of cars including the fabulous McLaren M1B and several Chevron B8’s.  On the day the nimble 2 litre Chevrons were no match for the Mighty M1B nor the Lenham Spider of Stuart and George Tizzard and while the Tizzards headed for the second step of the podium it was the Bill Coombs / Chris Drake driven McLaren which went on to claim a commanding 28 second victory.

M1B

Elsewhere,  Callum Grant made a late charge to claim Historic FF2000 victory, while Ben Mitchell was able to break away from the field to register a relatively comfortable Historic Formula Ford win. Ian Pearson stood on the top step of the Classic F3 podium while the busy Mark Charteris pedalled his Mallock to victory in the Classic Clubmans race after earlier registering third position in the Derek Bell Trophy.  Meanwhile the 70’s Roadsports race had it all with eventual winner James Dean, in his Lotus Europa, passing the majority of the field to claim victory after an early spin at the Club Chicane; an effort which was warmly appreciated by the knowledgable crowd.

Europa

In just over 2 hours, with the glorious sound of the Hesketh F1 car still rattling around in my head, I was back home and contemplating my next slice of the historic racing action.  The Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix is now a firm entry in my diary and calendar clash permitting I hope to be back at Thruxton in 2016!

THRUXTON GALLERY

 

 

Fast forward 1 month and it was the 2.5 hour ‘1000km’ race for the 1964-71 World Sportscar Championship machines at the Donington Historic Festival which caught my eye; the jewel in the crown of my third visit to the 3 day bank holiday weekend event.

Weatherwise, a bitterly cold wind and low temperatures more akin to March than May was not kind to the opening day spectators.  However the variety of machinery both on display and taking on the fast undulating Donington Park National Circuit was more than enough to keep the moderate crowd entertained.

Unfortunately what had been light rain fall prior to the race start intensified as the cars readied themselves for the green flag; leaving the two Lola T70’s of Chris Ward (#9) and Leo Voyazides (#1), who had qualified on the front row of the grid, facing the daunting task of manhandling their huge Chevy engined prototypes around the damp opening lap.

StartDonington

And after successfully keeping them on the track, it was Chris Ward who managed to build a steady lead over the similar car of Voyazides, with Andrew Kirkaldy third, making a nuisance of himself in the #4 Chevron B8; the smaller engined car being much quicker through the corners but losing out on the long straights.

Further back Anthony Reid and Olly Bryant in their respective McLaren M1C and Lola T70 were making headway after conservative starts; both starting from the back of the grid having not appeared in the earlier qualifying session.  Bryant however was soon on terms with Kirkaldy and Voyazides, passing both at Hollywood before running into car problems coming out of the Old Hairpin; A sticky throttle not what you need in these conditions!  A safety car was required to remove the stricken Lola T70 from the outside of the Schwantz Curve which somewhat nullified the lead built by Ward.

Both leading Lola’s took advantage of the safety car however and made their first of 2 required pitstops; Simon Hadfield taking charge of the #1 Lola and Ward staying aboard the #9.  And so there was little between the cars as the track returned to green with Hadfield fancying his chances of taking the lead.  A spin exiting the Old Hairpin 2 laps later somewhat hampered his progress though leaving the white Lola some 30 seconds adrift.

Nevertheless Hadfield was soon into a rhythm and whilst finding it difficult to eat into Chris Ward’s lead initially, he had managed to cut the gap to 15 seconds by the time the leader made his second pit stop on lap 58.  In fact Hadfield was now flying on the drying track, so much so that Paul Gibson, now in the #9 Lola, dropped two laps back, albeit with the #1 T70 owing a final stop.

Lola

Indeed Hadfield made his final stop on lap 79, with Leo Voyazides climbing back behind the wheel, but such had been Hadfield’s pace in comparison to Gibson that the #1 T70 emerged from pit lane with an almost 1 lap lead over the similar pole sitting car.  But the tables were to turn again with Gibson now having the edge in pace over Leo Voyazides; quickly turning a 1 minute 19 second deficit on lap 80 into a 30 second gap by lap 95 and a less than 3 second margin as they entered lap 102.  And amazingly it was Gibson who was in the lead of the race by the end of the lap.

DonWinners

However Gibson was not able to break the tow and with just a few laps remaining the Greek driver was back on terms and making a move down the outside of the Craner Curves; a move which unfortunately would not pay off, sending the glorious T70 heading for a rather large off and allowing Gibson and Ward to claim the ‘1000km’ race victory.  A somewhat disappointing way to end proceedings but if you ever thought historic racing was merely a demonstration then think again!  Watching these incredible machines power sliding around McLeans in the drying conditions was further proof if needed!

DONINGTON GALLERY

 

 

Yes the weather may have been poor but the event still delivered; the group B rally car and F1 demonstration runs adding further value to the many millions of pounds worth of automotive machinery on display.  I will definitely be back at the Leicestershire track for the Masters Meeting in early July on the fantastic Grand Prix circuit.

Before then though it is the back to the British Historic Rally Championship at the end of May with the Severn Valley Stages followed by the Legends support race at Le Mans in June and the Wolds Trophy HSCC meeting at the awesome Cadwell Park.  Stay tuned for coverage ….

IMAGES

For JPEGS or any other enquiries please get in touch via paul.commons@yahoo.co.uk

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)