Tag Archives: Historic Racing

May Spring Bank Magic at Mallory Park

Despite living within an hour of Mallory Park I had somehow never managed to visit the smaller of Leicestershire’s two circuits.  And so the Classic Touring Car Racing Club meeting on May Spring Bank Holiday Monday was the perfect opportunity to put right this wrong.

15 minutes sessions, be it qualifying or racing, was the flavour of the day, which was exactly what the doctor ordered around the short 1.35 mile circuit on yet another red hot UK bank holiday weekend!  And after a highly entertaining qualifying session in which pole position changed multiple times it was with great anticipation that the Group 1 pre 83 Touring cars lined up for the first race of the day.

Pole position may have gone the way of 2017 champion Stephen Primett in his MK1 Escort, however it was the more powerful Jaguar XJ12 of David Howard that lead the field into Gerard’s and crucially the Triumph Dolomite Sprint of Mark Osborne that grabbed second (courtesy of superior track position) at the John Cooper Esses.  I say crucially as even though both the Dolomite and Escort eventually found a way passed the ‘big cat’ on lap 3, Primett could not break down the defences of a very finely driven Triumph; thus leaving Osborne to claim an impressive race 1 victory.

And Osborne looked to be well on the way to claiming a second victory when Primett lost time behind the, again, fast starting XJ12 early in race 2.  However a series of fast laps by the reigning champion brought the MK1 right onto the tale of the race 1 winner.  But just as the moderate crowd were anticipating another fantastic duel, an ailing Rover P6 3500 managed to block the Dolomite at the exit of Gerard’s on lap 11 allowing Primett to slip by on the Stebbe Straight.  A win a piece perhaps a fair result on reflection.

The pre 93, 03 and 05 Touring Car grids were combined on the day, with the 30 car grid for race 1 perhaps a little too busy for the short East Midlands circuit.  It was therefore no real surprise that 5 laps of the first race were lost behind a safety car.

It would be pole sitter Ray West at the front of the train when the track returned to green however, having crucially regained the lead at the John Cooper Esses before the safety car halted proceedings.  And the BMW man proved just too quick for the rest of the field at the re-start; West then maintaining a comfortable gap over his rivals to claim race 1 victory.  Behind, Steve Barden’s Honda Civic and Simon Ward’s Astra GTE would round out the podium positions.

West and Barden were also the leading contenders in race 2, before both were handed a 10 second penalty for jump starts.  This only appeared to spur West on however; the 13 second gap over 3rd place at the flag ensuring he took his second win of the weekend by a nett 3 second margin.  Barden on the other hand couldn’t quite build enough of a gap to hold onto second, leaving the Astra of Simon Ward to claim the runner up spot with Barden this time having to settle for third.

A great variety of machinery was on display for the combined Classic Thunder & Blue Oval Series Saloon races but it was the very quick Subaru Impreza of Dale Gent which proved near unbeatable in both events.  With superior cornering speed, the awesome Alfa Romeo 33 of Adrian Hawkins was able to keep pace initially however the Subaru had the edge in traffic.  Gent easily setting fastest lap of the day in race 2 with a mega rapid 47.398.

Of the Blue Oval Series crews it was the 2.3 litre MK2 Escort of Piers Grange who would top the time sheets on both occasions; a 5th and 6th place finish for the long time Ford man representing a good day’s work.

Race 1 for the Pre-66 Touring Cars offered up a classic multi class battle, synonymous with this era of tin top racing, starring the pole sitting Ford Falcon of Alan Greenhalgh, Lotus Cortina of David Hall and a very well turned out Imp in the hands of David Heale.

In fact it was Heale’s Imp which would lead into Gerard’s on lap 1 courtesy of a stonking start from the second row of the grid.  However the sheer straight line speed advantage of the Falcon allowed Greenhalgh to re-claim top spot by the time the cars emerged from Devils elbow.  And despite not being able to break away, the chasing pack couldn’t quite get close enough through the slower parts of the circuit to mount a challenge, leaving Greenhalgh to take a well controlled victory.

The battle behind was far less clear cut however, with Hall’s Cortina losing out to the Mini of Neil Bray at Gerard’s on lap 3 before regaining the position by the end of the lap and then ensuring he would stand on the second step of the podium by grabbing second from the Imp 2 laps later.

With the Falcon a no show in the second race it would be the Imp that had the upper hand in the day’s penultimate event.  Having lost out to Heale again at the start, Hall appeared to be building up to a late charge before falling back in heavy traffic; the more nimble Imp able to take advantage, break the tow, and record a relatively comfortable 5 second victory.  Meanwhile, Neil Bray would eventually find a way passed the Anglia of Michael Sheraton to claim the final podium position in his Mini Cooper.

The Hyundai Coupe Cup was also part of an excellent BARC race day and the competition could not have been closer between the leading three machines of 2017 champion Alex Cursley, Wayne Rockett and Steve Kite.  Kite has been the man to beat in 2018 however and it was he who  leapt into an early race 1 lead before putting in a stellar defensive drive to keep Rockett and pole sitter Cursley at bay; the top 3 drivers covered by just 0.6 seconds as they crossed the line!

With race 1 finishing order dictating the grid for race 2, pole sitter Steve Kite found himself relegated to third by turn 1, with Cursley snatching the lead at the John Cooper Esses.  And whilst Cursley was able to maintain top spot for the remainder of the race, Rockett found himself relegated to third when Kite managed to sneak down the inside at the Shaw’s Hairpin on lap 3.

After such a good day out, especially for the very reasonable admission price of just £13, I won’t be waiting another 30 odd years to make a second visit to the South Leicestershire venue.  Whilst I love the big international meetings there is something about the access of a good old fashioned clubbie that make the events just as appealing.  Throw in some great racing at a circuit where the spectator banks allow upto 90% of the circuit to be viewed at any one time and you have the recipe for a great day out.  I am already looking to shoe horn the Classic Sports Car Club October meeting into my diary!

Glorious Sunshine welcomes MSV to Donington Historic Party

A stroll through the packed recently re-surfaced Donington paddock, in glorious early morning sunshine, before a stonking fry up in the fabulous brand new Garage 39 cafe dispelled any initial disappointment at some key omissions from the 2018 Donington Historic race schedule (FIA F2 & late 60’s Sports prototypes).  A lunch time pint in the same venue’s outdoor seating area confirming my belief that this was a much better use of the space!

This represented my first visit to the Leicestershire circuit since it has been fully MSV’d, and whilst I was slightly sad to find the blue & white circuit colours and traditional toilet huts replaced by respective MSV red & white and pop up blocks, you cannot deny that the future of my favourite UK circuit is in good hands; a visit to one of their other excellent venues proof if ever it were needed.

And, having only managed to slot a Saturday visit into my diary this year, it was pleasing to see that the essentially Motor Racing Legends organised event had managed to shoe horn 10 mostly packed grids into the first race day of the festival which was splendidly lead off by the Pre-61 Formula Juniors.

Unfortunately cut short by a late red flag, the race featured a fantastic duel between the self built U2 of Ray Mallock and the Terrier of Chris Drake;  a battle which would see both men share spells at the front of the field before Drake made the decisive move at Mcleans on lap 11, with Pole sitter Mallock denied one final shot at victory when the aforementioned red flag brought the race to a slightly premature end.

Whilst not containing the lead changes or the depth of field of race 1, the opening Super Touring Car Challenge event of the weekend did provide excitement in the form of former BTCC champion John Cleland taking the battle to regular front runner James Dodd.  But whilst able to close on the leading Honda Accord  through the early and later parts of the race, there was an underlying feeling that Dodd ultimately had things under control.  And so it was no real surprise to see the double 2017 winner again standing on the top step of the podium.  Behind, John Pearson progressed well through the field, passing the BMW M3 of Harry Whale late on to round out the podium positions in his ex Emanuele Pirro Audi A4.

Whale may well have missed out on a podium position in race 2 but would later make up for it in style in the hour long Historic Touring Car Challenge race.  Having taken over from Dad Nick at the first opportunity, Whale the younger would rapidly extend the pole sitting M3’s advantage at the head of the field to take a commanding victory of more than 36 seconds by the end of the event.  A somewhat nostalgic moment for father and son given this was the same car that Harry watched Nick race during the 1990 BTCC season.

The race for the remaining podium positions was far less clear cut however with all parties appearing to struggle in some capacity.  Indeed, the Dave Coyne / Mark Wright piloted RS500 showed strong pace early on, duly setting the fastest lap of the race before suffering with a misfire and braking issues.  The Zakspeed Escort of David Tomlin appeared to be in contention also until dropping back with a 10 second penalty for track limits followed by a potentially linked puncture.

As it was the podium positions were eventually filled with 2 crews who made the best of their issues.  Mark Smith in his M3 had initially proved tough opposition for the similar Whale machine, only for son Aaron Moulton-Smith to drop back to 7th shortly after taking over.  A series of very quick laps late on would however rescue the situation and ensure not only a BMW M3 but also a father and son 1-2.

Last year’s winners Steve Soper and Chris Ward would round out the podium positions.  Soper, in the Bastos Rover, had struggled during the opening part of the race with a bounce at the front end that even JD Classics could not dial out!  The versatile Chris Ward managed to find a way to to drive around the problem however; the podium salvaged probably feeling like a victory given the circumstances!

In what was billed as a Ferrari / Aston Martin battle, it was the Wolfgang Friedrichs / Simon Hadfield piloted DB4GT which claimed the Historic Motor Racing News organised Pre 63 GT victory after the Halusa’s smoking “Breadvan” was forced into retirement in the early part of the race.

Having been installed at the earliest possible opportunity, local man Simon Hadfield still had to battle hard for the win however, passing the far from slow E-Type of James Cottingham and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards Cobra amongst others before going on to record an impressive 26 second victory for the British Marque.

By far the fastest machinery competing at the festival were the F2 and F5000 machines taking part in the Derek Bell Trophy.  In a category where Michael Lyons is rarely challenged let alone beaten Jamie Brashaw put in a great drive aboard his March 73A.  And, whilst it was Lyons who would ultimately cross the line first in his Lola T400,  fastest lap went the way of the Yorkshireman, underlining his competitiveness in this event.  Watching both drivers power out of the Roberts chicane to record sub 1.05 minute lap times was a sight to behold!

Having struggled in the Rover earlier on, Soper was back to his brilliant best in the Under 2 litre Pre-66 Touring Car event; the touring car legend part of a 3 way battle for top spot in his Lotus Cortina.  Indeed both Soper and regular sparring partner Andy Wolfe, in his Cortina, shared the lead before Soper found himself several seconds adrift as the cars emerged from their mid-race pitstops.

By this time however Wolfe was struggling with his brakes and both Soper and, regular winner at Donington, Max Banks were closing in fast.  Unfortunately however a red flag cut short the race by 3 minutes, denying Soper the chance of victory and the crowd of a grandstand finish.

The Woodcote Trophy is always a highlight of the Donington Historic Festival and this year was no exception.  A great variety of cars found themselves at the sharp end of the action, but it was the Gary Pearson piloted D-type which quickly worked it’s way passed the pole sitting Maserati 250S of Richard Wilson to hold a 6 second lead over the Cooper T38 of Fred Wakeman with Carlos Monteverde’s D-Type in third as the pitstop window approached.

Pearson would be the first to stop, allowing brother John to take over the leading D-Type, whilst, without a moments rest, Gary would jump straight into the Monteverde machine just 1 lap later.  Meanwhile the very rapid Martin Stretton was strapped into the Maserati and it wasn’t long before the pole sitting machine was passing John Pearson for second, with Gary Pearson following suit some 10 laps later (bizarrely passing the car which he had started the race in).

At the front of the field however, Wakeman was enjoying a clear run, and courtesy of a string of consistently fast lap times was able to allow Patrick Blakeney-Edwards to emerge from their pitstop with a clear lead that even Stretton and Pearson could do little about.  In fact the T38 was near untouchable on the day, with Wakeman and Blakeney-Edwards going on to record a more than comfortable winning margin of 26 seconds.

After 2 aborted starts, pole sitter Cameron Jackson eventually took command of the Pre-64 Formula Junior race.  The Brabham BT2 pilot just having the edge on his rivals to claim a 2 second victory.  After losing out at the start Jack Woodhouse would snatch 2nd at Hollywood on lap 9 from the similar Lotus 20/22 of Sam Wilson.

The Pre-60 HRDC Touring Greats event was the penultimate of the day and it was no surprise to see regular winners, Andrew and Mike Jordan, emerge as victors in their Austin “GT40”.  There appeared to be a chance of an upset when James Colburn’s well timed pitstop left him leading the safety car train, but it took less than a lap of green flag running for Andrew Jordan to re-take the lead.  Meanwhile Neil Brown would also pass Colburn in the second half of the race to claim second in his Austin A35.

A huge field of largely E-types took to the track for the final race of the day, the Jaguar Classic Challenge for pre-66 machines.  In a grid full of quality (drivers and cars) it was Ben Short who lead much of the early running before slowing in the second half of the race with what turned out to be driver fatigue.

Meanwhile Julian Thomas quickly progressed to second after a string of fastest lap times, only to suffer the set back of a 10 second penalty, resulting from a jump start.  But such was his and co-driver, Callum Lockie’s pace that by the time Short emerged from pit-lane (after his later stop) they would find themselves with a net 6 second lead.

Lockie would then continue the cars strong pace over the remainder of the stint which enabled the Scot to maintain the lead despite a second penalty; this time a drive through for a short pitstop.  There was just no stopping the #92 E-type in the evening sunshine.  Behind, despite suffering in the heat, Ben Short just managed to hold off a fast closing John Pearson, in the Gary Pearson started machine, to claim a well deserved second.

Despite the event being slightly too Touring Car focused for my liking, I had a fantastic day in the, for once, glorious bank holiday sunshine, a welcome change from the single digit temperatures often experienced at this event.    Exciting times are ahead for the Leicestershire circuit, now that MSV are behind the wheel.  I just hope major changes are well off the radar as, from a viewing perspective, Donington remains near perfect.

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

 

Plenty of ‘Hors’power at Oulton’s Gold Cup

After years of attempting to shoe horn the Oulton Park Gold Cup into my schedule, the 2016 rendition would be my first visit to the Cheshire circuit’s finest historic event.  And what a day and year to pick; glorious August Bank Holiday Monday sunshine the perfect conditions to take in 13 (yes thirteen) largely HSCC organised races.  And as a paying spectator on this occasion, £24 represented great value for money with a vast array of car and period military displays nicely complimenting the jam packed circuit schedule.

Whilst the F2 and F5000 cars in the Derek Bell trophy as well as a fine mix of 20th century touring cars were the big draws for me personally, the Gold Cup itself would be awarded to the aggregate winner of two 20 minute races for the HGPCA Pre-66 Grand Prix cars.  And after strong drive in race 1, Peter Horsmann in his Lotus 18/21, carried a 13 second lead into leg 2 of the event which would take place on Monday lunchtime.

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Any thought of another Horsmann whitewash in race 2 however was quickly dismissed when Rod Jolley in his Cooper T45 made the better start and leapt into an early lead.   And whilst few anticipated the class 7b machine keeping the more advanced Lotus behind for long, Jolley put up a great fight; twice holding top spot before Horsmann made the decisive move on lap 6 to take his Lotus 18/21 to victory by a mere 1.1 seconds and claim the infamous Golden trophy.  Sensational racing!

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As always the Historic Formula Fords provided great entertainment in their 2 twenty minute races.  After an opening lap collision in race 1 brought out the red flag it would be Sam Mitchell who claimed victory in the shortened race.  Lying third entering lap 7, the Cheltenham man was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a final lap incident between race leading duo Benn Simms and Callum Grant.

The day would vastly improve for Simms however.  After claiming second in the Rear Engined Formula Junior event, the Jomo JMR 7 pilot would go one better in the second Historic Formula Ford race.  Lying at the back of a lead group of six in the early stages, the Leicestershire man would take an excellent victory; capitalising on the mechanical woes of others whilst throwing in some fantastic overtaking manoeuvres.

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The Historic Touring Cars never fail to catch my eye and whilst Warren Briggs in his Ford Mustang was able to take a couple of dominant victories the battle behind was far less clear cut.  16 year old James Clarke was in many ways the star of the day; consistently the quickest Lotus Cortina pilot, the youngster went on to claim a well deserved second overall in race 2.  It is a rarity for such a young driver to feature in this series; 3rd placed John Avill best summing it up by claiming all his grandchildren were older than the man standing on the second step of the podium!

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The largely 1990’s built machines in the Super Touring Car challenge were in fact the only field of cars that I was fortunate enough to witness racing in period; the very technologically advanced machines bringing back great childhood memories from the spectator bankings of both Donington and Silverstone.

After recording an impressive 7 second race 1 victory, Stewart Whyte was again in a class of his own in Monday’s second race of the weekend.  Not even John Cleland, again re-united with in the Vectra he once professionally campaigned, could stay on terms with his fellow Scotsman; the Honda Accord pilot going on to record another dominant victory.

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In fact double wins were the theme of the weekend as Andrew Park claimed two impressive Formula Ford 2000 victories whilst Mark Dwyer, in his F2 March 742 twice got the better of the F5000 runners in the Derek Bell Trophy.  Meanwhile Andrew Hibberd and Mark Woodhouse would claim double glory in the respective Formula Junior front engined and rear engined events.

Further 20 minute races for the Classic Racing Cars and Classic Clubman machines would round off the days entertainment where John Murphy proved just too strong for Julian Stokes and Mark Charteris was yet again the pick of the Classic Clubman runners; the reigning champion building a winning margin of over 38 seconds by the the time the chequered flag was waved!

In all there was little not to like about our relatively short Bank Holiday Monday trip across the A50.  The Cheshire circuit has long been a personal favourite and seeing some of the best machinery of yesteryear grace the undulating asphalt was a sight to behold.  Viewing is second to none at Oulton, partly as a result of being able to get close to the action without having ones view obstructed by thick catch fencing.  I will make every effort to return in 2017.

FULL RESULTS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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? …

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ….

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

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)