Tag Archives: Jaguar

Boultbee-Brooks Bags Victory Double at Castle Combe Classic

Thankfully, the Castle Combe Autumn Classic did not clash with the Trackrod Rally in 2017 and this was all the incentive I needed to make a first visit to the relatively little used Wiltshire Circuit.  Now in it’s sixth year the 2017 running of the Autumn Classic included 7 excellent races, headlined in many respects by the wonderfully diverse field of machinery taking part in the 1 hour long GT & Sports Car cup; 39 cars doing battle across many different classes around the 1.85 mile circuit a mouth watering prospect if ever there was one!

After a soaking wet morning, the clouds began to lift as midday approached; the damp track proving quite a challenge for the Formula Vintage Pre War Sports Car runners in the first race of the day.  Indeed, the safety car was required as early as lap 2 after Trevor Swete just failed in his attempts to keep his Invicta out of the Camp Corner tyre barrier.

Once the track returned to green however, there was really only going to be one winner; Patrick Blakeney-Edwards putting on a fantastic sideways display as he headed home a Frazer Nash Super Sports 1-2.  Mark Gillies in his Aston Martin had managed to jump both Blakeney-Edwards and the second Frazer Nash of Edward Williams at the re-start (illegally as it turned out) but was back in third by the end of the lap, such was the pace of the eventual front two.  Tim Kneller would in the end round out the podium positions in his Riley TT Sprite following a 30 second penalty for Gillies’ re-start infringement.

After a lengthy break for tyre wall repairs at Camp corner, the second race of the day for the 500cc F3 cars would commence in fully dry conditions.  And whilst Sir John Chisholm had been mighty in the wet to claim pole position he quickly fell behind the leading machines at the race start.  In fact it would be the 2 Starides of Xavier Kingsland and Darrell Woods who would break away from the field; Woods eventually passing Kingsland at Tower on lap 3 before going on to record a comfortable 10 second victory.  Stuart Wright in his Cooper MK11 would round out the podium positions.

Qualifying in very wet conditions had produced a topsy turvy Pre-66 Jaguar grid with Kevin Zwolinski in his XK140 finding himself sharing the front row of the grid with the Jaguar MK2 of Peter Dorlin.  It wasn’t long before the E-types rose to the fore during the race however as Grant Williams lead from Harry Wyndham by the end of lap 2.

In fact Wyndham, after starting on the fifth row of the grid, would find himself in the lead of the race by the end of lap 5 and whilst not able to break away from his local rival, a great performance from Wyndham saw him maintain the lead right up until a red-flag brought the event to a slightly premature end on lap 18.  Chris Milner in another E-type rounded out the podium positions whilst Richard Butterfield claimed the Saloon class win, in his Jaguar MK2, with fifth position overall.

In the John Gross Memorial Race for Aston Martins, Steve Boultbee-Brooks and Martyn Corfield would quickly break away from the rest of the field, with Boultbee-Brooks in his glorious DB3s just having the edge over Corfield’s Frazer Nash as he went on to record a relatively comfortable 5 second victory.  The front two really were in a class of their own however with Chris Woodgate in his DB MK3 almost a lap in arrears as he rounded out the podium positions.

The Formula Junior machines were in their element around the fast Wiltshire circuit and, having won for the first time at Oulton, Benn Tilley would again find himself standing on the top step of the podium.  Following an early safety car, Westie Mitchell in his De Tomaso, had looked a strong candidate for victory as he quickly passed Peter De La Roche and was on the tail on the leader.  A spin at the far end of the circuit put pay to Mitchell’s challenge however leaving Tilley to wrap up another victory in his Lotus 22; 3 seconds to the good of pole sitter Peter De La Roche in the BMC MK2 with Richard Smeeton in his Wainer 63 completing the podium.

Making it’s debut at the Autumn Classic, the 1 hour long, GT & Sports Car Cup centrepiece would be the penultimate race on a busy schedule and again the morning rain produced a somewhat unconventional grid.  Indeed earlier in the day Nigel Greensall had produced a stunning lap to place the GT3 spec E-type shared with Chris Milner on pole position but as anticipated Milner could not keep the higher specification cars behind on a dry track.  Instead it was Philip Walker in his Lotus 15 who lead the early running from 4th row starters Mark Williams in a Cobra and Ben Adams in his Lola MK1.

But after initially breaking away, Walker soon had the chasing two on his tail and sure enough on lap 7 both Williams and Adams had snook by.  Williams’ lead was short lived however as a mix up with a back marker would drop the Cobra pilot back to fourth; thus leaving Ben Adams to develop a reasonable lead before his pitstop.

Tackling the event on his own, Adams would find himself disadvantaged in pitlane (having to endure a 1 minute minimum stop) and this allowed Miles Griffiths, taking over the Lotus 15, to emerge in the lead as the race entered the second half.  In fact, the Chris Wilson/Nigel Williams Cobra had also managed to jump Adams in the stops but Adams’ superior pace soon saw him back in second.  There was absolutely nothing the Lola pilot could do about Griffiths though; the Lotus 15 man now setting the track alight as he and Walker went on to record a very comfortable 53 second victory.  Even without the pitstop disparity, Adams would have struggled to match the pace of Griffiths; second place and top spot in SP1 therefore a great result for the little Lola.

Elsewhere, Mark Williams was able to reel in the ailing Wilson/Williams Cobra to claim GT4 honours with third position overall whilst pole sitter Greensall just managed to hold off a late challenge from Patrick Blakeney-Edwards to claim an excellent fourth and top spot in GT3 for he and Milner.  Malcolm Paul and Rick Bourne meanwhile came out on top of the TVR Grantura battle to claim GT2 top spot with 16th position overall.

In the final event of the day, Steve Boultbee-Brooks would again take his Aston Martin DB3s to victory in the FISCAR Historic Intermarque race.  The win was a little less clear cut on this occasion however as the Aston Pilot was required to fend off not 1 but two very rapid Lotus Elite’s in order to claim top spot.

Indeed the Barry Dye / Richard Fores driven Lotus even had a spell at the front before slowing in the second half of the race.  And despite Boultbee-Brooks emerging from his stop with a healthy lead, he would find the margin evaporate over the remaining laps as Robin Ellis, in the second Elite, closed the gap to just over 3 seconds by the time the chequered flag was waved.  There was no stopping Boultbee-Brooks on the day though; 2 pole positions, 2 fastest laps and 2 victories from the 2 events entered represented a great day in the office!

There were many things to enjoy about my first visit to Castle Combe but what stood out the most was the sheer simplicity of the venue; the uncomplicated nature of the track (essentially just three corners with very limited run-off) creating some of the best racing witnessed all year, viewed from the excellent circuit wide spectator bankings.  It felt like a throw back to my childhood, even more so when the winners were taken on a lap of honour by the open top bus; something which I do not remember seeing in a long time!   I have a feeling this will not have been my final visit to the Wiltshire Circuit.

FULL RESULTS

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)

 

The Old and The New

Having decided against the long trip up north for the Pirelli International rally, a visit to both the Donington Historic Festival and Rockingham’s round of the British GT championship was in order for the May Day bank holiday weekend.

The Donington Historic Festival runs over three days, however it was the Sunday schedule that caught my eye, in part due to the last race of the day being the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  A grid full of classic 60’s and 70’s Le Mans racers made it worth the trip alone.

Arriving at the circuit early gave us plenty of time to look around the multi million pound paddock before heading out around the track.  With the sun starting to appear from behind the clouds It looked like being a great day to show off these stunning machines.

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There were some very well turned out cars on display in the HTCC Touring car race …..

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….. however the first event that particularly caught my attention was the RAC Woodcote Trophy for the pre-56 Sportscars.  The iconic fin of the D type Jaguar makes it one of my favourite Le Mans winners from the past and this 60 minute event contained a couple of well driven examples.

Regular historic pilot Gary Pearson was actually entered in 2 of them which paid dividends when the #7 went out early on.  Fortunately he was able to get back to the pits, take over from Carlos Monteverde in the white #5 and claim second spot on the podium!

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However this formidable pairing could not keep up with the very fast Cooper T38 of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards who claimed the victory by more than 12 seconds.

Some of the best sounding cars of the day were the 2 litre Sportscars in the HSCC Martini Trophy where ex BTCC racer Ian Flux put in a stonking drive from the back of the grid to take a magnificent victory.  Driving the Osella PA3 he didn’t have it all his own way as once getting to the front he was re-passed by the similarly rapid Lola T210 of David Gathercole.  It was looking difficult to pick the eventual winner but unfortunately Gathercole pushed slightly too hard through McLean’s on lap 19, losing the back end and becoming beached in the unforgiving Donington gravel.

The Pre-66 Under 2 litre Touring Car race was yet another highlight with a field full of MK1 Cortina’s, BMW T1800’s, Minis and even the odd Alfa.

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It was in fact the Alfa Sprint GTA of Andrew and Max Banks who would eventually get the better of Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw’s T1800.  The ex Le Mans winner did take an early lead but could not keep the rapid Alfa crew behind for long.  It was a pleasure to watch these machines being man handled around the track; the way they are thrown into the corners with masses of opposite lock is a sight not often seen in modern-day racing.

With the light starting to fade, it was time for the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race.  I absolutely love the fact that the main event was held at this time of day as there is just something about watching racing in the late evening sunshine.

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The throaty roar as the green flag was dropped was phenomenal, bettered only by the sound of a full field of endurance legends, headed up by no less than 7 Lola T70’s, disappearing down the infamous Craner Curves;  Oh to have witnessed these at Le Mans in period.

In actual fact the race didn’t turn out to be that close as ex British GT racer Oliver Bryant showed his class by taking victory by more than a lap in the #14 T70.

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But who cares!  The sight of these 5 Litre Chevy engined powerhouses lapping traffic around the undulating tarmac of Leicestershire’s famous circuit was just fantastic.  My ears were still ringing by the time I was back at base with a beer in hand.  This had been one of the best days racing in a long time.

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A day of modern racing was in order on Bank Holiday Monday with my first ever trip to Rockingham Motor Speedway.  And with the circuit little over an hour away I can’t believe I had never visited before.

The sheer size of the 52,000 seater American Style oval becomes apparent as you arrive; more like a football stadium than a race track.  But what I like most about the place is that it was obviously put together with the fan in mind as the access is second to none.  Silverstone could definitely do with a Rockingham style underground tunnel and being able to watch a race from the top of the pit garages is just great; an experience I had only previously witnessed at Spa.

In fact the only negative of the day was the lack of interest in the support races with the once formidable British F3 championship attracting just 7 entries and disappointingly only 6 cars making the start of the 1 hour Aston Martin GT4 event!

However, the British GT race was the main reason for being there and with 29 cars on the grid it promised to be 2 hours to remember.  The spacious pit walk prior to the race allowed a closer look at both the cars and drivers as the pre-race excitement started to build.

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Marco Attard and Works BMW driver Alexander Sims had carried on their Oulton form by taking a comfortable pole position in the Ecurie Ecosse Z4.  They would start the race as clear favourites for victory and Marco Attard was able to get away in the lead from the off.  Derek Johnston in a similar Z4 would soon get by Mark Patterson’s United Autosports Audi R8 to take second with 2013 champion Andrew Howard following suit in the Aston.

Sir Chris Hoy had made a wild start to the race by ‘out-braking’ himself heading into Deene on the first lap and being lucky to get away with a brush with the wall.  His pace is there for all to see however, and I am pretty sure it won’t be long before he is running much closer to the front.

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Inevitably it wasn’t long before a safety car was required to recover Tania Mann’s Ginetta.  Much of Attard’s early effort to build a lead had therefore been negated as the race returned to green flag conditions.  Soon after the pit window opened and the majority of the contenders for victory pitted with the Ecurie Ecosse BMW’s lead not being of the necessary margin to cope with the Oulton Park success penalty.  Sims would therefore rejoin in fifth behind, the yet to pit, Gary Eastwood’s Ferrari, the similar machine of Richard Lyons and the two Triple 8 Z4’s of Luke Hines and Joe Osborne.

Eastwood staying out in the FF Corse Ferrari turned out to be either a master stroke or, more likely, a lucky break as a second safety car was required to remove John Gaw’s Aston and Morten Don’s Ginetta.  This allowed the Ferrari crew to get Rob Barff strapped in and leave pit road with a 40 second lead over the rest of the field.  Even a drive through for exiting the pit lane while the red light was showing could not stop them taking an 18 second victory.

Behind, Alexander Sims was showing everyone why he was not only the 2008 McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner but also why he is now a factory BMW driver.  He was soon up to second with the pass to take this position being absolutely breathtaking; taking advantage of a backmarker and coming from way back to slip down the inside of Lyons on the entry to Deene.  A pleasure to watch from my now grandstand vantage point.

Other than a close battle between the triple 888 Z4’s, which saw Joe Osborne take a trip across the gravel, not a lot else happened throughout the remaining 40 minutes of the race.  This left Richard Lyons to take third place on the road only to be later handed a ten second penalty for driving standards when Pasin Lathouras was at the wheel.  This would drop them to 7th but promote Luke Hines and Derek Johnston to the final step of the podium.  Behind them Tom Onslow-Cole put in a stellar performance to take 4th in the Strata 21 Aston ahead of the similar machine of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam.  Adam doing a great job in a damaged car.

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Having started on the back row, and being given an early drive through for overtaking under yellow flags, John Dhillon and Aaron Scott put in a great a drive to claim 8th overall in the second AF Corse Ferrari 458.

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The all new Generation Racing Bentley of  Steve Tandy and James Appleby struggled at Rockingham and ended up a lap down in 14th place.  It is however great to see this huge car in British GT and hopefully it will be nearer the sharper end of the grid as the season progresses.

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All this leaves Alexander Sims and Marco Attard sitting pretty at the top of the championship points table.  And with Marco Attard being one of the quicker “Am” drivers this surely now makes them the clear favourites for the 2014 crown …

Full British GT results: Here

Next up it is back to Silverstone for the Blancpain Endurance Series.  I will be cheering on the very British Works Bentleys who will be looking to build on a strong performance at the Monza season opener.