Steve Soper in a E36 BMW, a full Thundersports grid containing both March and McLaren Can-Am machinery, Michael Lyons piloting a Lola T400 and the excellent GT and Sports Car Cup; all good reasons to make the short trip to Donington Park for the end of June Historic Sports Car Club meet.
Sunday was the day of choice and, having made the enormous walk to the pit straight (here’s hoping paddocks will be open by the end of July), was treated to an excellent Classic Formula Ford race to kick off proceedings. With most fully expecting another Cam Jackson victory, we were instead treated to an excellent tussle between the aforementioned Jackson, Henry Chart and Jordan Harrison.
Having just managed to maintain the lead in the early stages Jackson would unfortunately be forced into retirement with gear linkage issues though, thus leaving the way clear for either Harrison or Chart to end Jackson’s early season domination. Chart, in his Van Diemen, looked to just have enough to keep Harrison at bay, however the Lola T540E pilot managed to edge into the lead at the Craner Curves with 3 laps remaining and subsequently take the flag with a mere 0.154 seconds in hand. Formula Ford racing at it’s very best.
It didn’t turn out to be a great day for Jackson who later saw his 100% Historic Formula Ford record fall too following a phenomenal drive by Tom McArthur aboard his Titan MK4. McArthur looked to have lost any chance of victory after losing time in traffic but, after setting fastest lap after fastest lap, managed to toe up to the back of Jackson’s Winkelmann and Horatio Fitz-Simon’s Classic team Merlin and slip past both on the final lap (Fitz-Simon at Redgate and Jackson through Schwantz Curve). A Titan-ic drive from McArthur.
The GT and Sports Car Cup is a personal favourite of mine. The variety of 60’s sports cars achieved through being an invitation only event just cannot be beaten; wonderfully evidenced by Andrew Haddon leading the opening stages of the race in his Lotus Elan with the Cobra 289 of Chris Giles Jnr, Matthew Wrigley piloted E-Type and Fred Wakeman’s Lister Jaguar Coupe just behind.
Whilst the Cobra managed to re-take the lead of the race before the pitstops, it was the Elan, now with Andy Wolfe behind the wheel, which emerged in the lead once the pit window had closed; a lead which the Cobra, now in the hands of Simon Garrad, could do little about, leaving Wolfe to claim victory by a whopping 38 seconds! A now smoking E-type in the hands of Mike Wrigley tried his best to hold onto the final podium step but could not keep historic ace Patrick Blakeney Edwards (Lister Jaguar) at bay as the hour drew to a close.
Further back GT3 class honours went the way of Jeremy Welch and Doug Muirhead with 12th place overall; a great achievement considering they had to swap cars overnight resulting in a back row starting position! With 16th position overall Richard Cook and Richard Tuthill claimed GT2 top spot in their Porsche 911 despite a 5 second penalty for exceeding track limits.
The Dunlop Saloon Car Cup and Historic Touring Car grids were combined for their two races on the day which culminated in a mammoth 36 car grid for race 1. Unsurprisingly both races were affected by Safety Car periods however little could get in the way of Simon Garrad’s Skyline who on best lap times was over 2.5 seconds quicker than second placed Sean Brown’s stunningly turned out RS500.
Fortunately for the rest of the field, Garrad failed to make the grid for race 2 which allowed Soper to make amends for his race 1 trip to the Roberts chicane gravel trap and claim race 2 victory from the back of the DSCC grid!
Mustangs, Minis and Cortinas a plenty graced the Historic Touring Car element of the grid but there was no stopping Dan Williamson (Ford Falcon) who claimed a pair of victories with an incredible 7th and 4th place respective overall finishes. The Cortina’s of Marcus Jewell and Mark Martin would round out the podium positions in both races, each claiming an Appendix K 2 litre class victory a piece.
Is there a better sight than a McLaren M8F powering around Donington Park? Possibly a Michael Lyons piloted F5000 car … A debate for the pub maybe! Dean Forward’s M8F looks particularly stunning in JCB colours and it goes as well as it looks, with Forward claiming a second win of the weekend following Callum Lockie’s enforced retirement; the front bodywork of the March 717 removing itself on the Wheatcroft Straight part way through the race. Behind, Mark Richardson claimed 2 litre honours in his immaculately turned out Lola T290.
Later on the relatively small crowd were treated to a Michael Lyons Masterclass in the 2nd Aurora Trophy race of the weekend. The ridiculously quick Lyons, aboard his Lola T400, managing to lap the entire field in just 20 minutes of racing; a field which included the Chevron’s of Paul Campfield, Martyn Donn and Michael Bletsoe-Brown and March 742 of Mark Dwyer, all far from slow pilots of single seater machinery. A 1.04.63 lap around the Donington Park National Circuit is quicker than anything I have seen for quite some time! A strong argument from the single seater side of the aforementioned pub debate!
Continuing the earlier theme of competitive wingless single seater action, Andrew Hibberd, Jeremy Timms and Benn Simms formed a 3 way battle for victory in the Historic Formula 3 race. A red flag would ultimately shorten a great battle which saw pole sitter Andrew Hibberd just about stave off pressure from Simms and Timms to claim his second victory of the weekend aboard the Brabham BT18.
Such is the current health of the Historic Formula Ford 2000 championship that a qualifying race is required to reduce the entries down to a maximum 32 starters for the championship race! And the championship race turned into yet another closely fought affair, with Graham Fennymore (Reynard SF81) putting in a stellar defensive drive to take a second race win of the weekend from the Royale of Ian Pearson and Delta of Ben Tilley. Pearson and 2020 champion, Andrew Park, both tried their very best to snatch victory but just could not find a way through, with Park’s final attempt causing him to drop out of the podium positions.
Behind, 70 year old Adrian Reynard himself (the man responsible for half the cars on the grid!) put in a great drive to claim 6th overall in the Championship race following victory in the earlier qualifying event.
30 minute races for both the Historic and 70’s Road Sports had attracted healthy entries. The Elan of John Davison and AC Cobra of Kevin Kivlochan were expected to lock horns in the Historic Road Sports race and the pair got a little too close for comfort at the old hairpin in the early stages which left both cars behind another Elan in the hands of Paul Tooms. Davison was the quickest man in qualifying and this form ultimately carried over to the race as whilst both Davison and Kivlochan were able to re-pass Tooms, the Cobra pilot could do nothing about the pole sitter.
The 70’s Road Sports race turned into a race of 2 halves (Literally) as oil dropped by Greg Thornton’s Ferrari 308 caused a red flag with 10 minutes still left on the clock. Morgans were the car to have on the day though as not even the red flag could get in the way of a Plant one two (William leading home Richard) in their Plus 8’s. Despite ending up in the gravel before the red flag, Jim Dean, in his Lotus Europa, was able to take up third on the restart grid courtesy of count back regulations and ultimately prevented a Morgan lock out of the podium positions by pipping Kevin Kivlochan’s hard top model to 3rd.
It is great to live just 15 minutes from my favourite circuit and with such a full day’s activities it is a good job too as I still found myself out of the house for almost 11 hours! And whilst the weather proved to be dull throughout the racing was far from it. I am not sure I can remember a better day’s racing; not a single race felt like a filler event with close battles throughout. It had been a while since I last witnessed a HSCC meeting but I will certainly attempt to get to a second before the year is out. Mid September at Mallory Park has been firmly pencilled into the diary!