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Silverstone GP: Classic Report

Just over two weeks ago, on Sunday 28th May, the Adams & Page Swinging 60s and Mintex Classic K series' enjoyed races on the superb Silverstone Grand Prix layout.

Full results for the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties race are here, whilst Mintex Classic K results are here.


Official CSCC photographer, David Stallard, kindly made the journey just to capture our two race series. Please view and buy his photos here. His photos are in time order, as always, with both qualifying sessions followed by the races.


Marcus Pye was at the event enjoying the action, here is his race report.


Fresh from winning the opening round of the Lurani Trophy Historic Formula Junior Championship at Hockenheim in a Lotus 22, young hotshoe Horatio Fitz-Simon jumped ship to an Elan 26R and added Mintex Classic K and Adams & Page Swinging Sixties victories to his growing CV at Silverstone last Sunday, May 28. On the 3.63-mile Historic Grand Prix circuit - the F1 layout with the approach to Club corner eased - both well-supported races were among the highlights of the HSCC’s International Trophy retrospective, in the venue’s 75th anniversary year.

The FIA Pre-1966 Mintex Classic K field was out first, 34 competitors heading out for qualifying on a sunny morning. Alas, poor Ernst Luthi’s 1961 TVR Grantura Mk2A was soon in trouble, a blown head gasket (a repeat of Friday’s testing failure thwarting the CCK team’s remedial efforts) forcing the Australian to trailer it after just one lap, although thankfully the rare Derrington cylinder head was undamaged. The younger Mk3 versions of David Thompson/Jon Wolfe, Joe Ward and Martin Stowe were going well though, gridding 15th, 21st and 26th respectively.

At the sharp end, Lotus Elan drivers locked out the front row, 23-year-old club debutant Horatio Fitz-Simon claiming pole, having switched from Avon tyres - on which he’d won the GT section of Saturday’s HSCC Guards Trophy race - to the regulation Dunlops, which he much preferred. “The Elan needs to be quite loose, or else it struggles to rotate. I was struggling with understeer [the previous day], but even on two-year-old Dunlops with several meetings on them the car was transformed. I was instantly 1.2 seconds quicker,” he related, having cut a best lap of 2m26.422s (89.47mph).


Driving Mark Halstead’s re-shelled Elan for the first time, and several years after his last run in one, Dan Eagling managed 2:29.410 on his only flying lap, before a rear wheel came loose passing the old Heritage pits at Woodcote. Fortuitously he was able to pull off on the inside of Copse, where marshals obligingly pushed the car back into the pits, whereupon Lifetime Racing’s crew effected a quick fix and sent Halstead on his way.


Christian Douglas wound up a class-leading third quickest on 2:33.272 in one of three hulking TVR Griffith V8s, with the similar cars of Jamie Boot 1.5s adrift in fifth and Matt Holben - normally seen in a Tuscan Challenge car - eighth. Elans separated the trio, East Anglian father-and-daughter John and Amber Dickson fourth, clear of Stephen Reece and Ian McDonald in his Frank Costin-bodied version. Allen Tice/Chris Conoley (Marcos-Volvo ‘RB211’) and Luke Wos, going great guns in the Wosp Performance Turner Mk2 to be 0.001s slower, completed the top 10. Wos’ 2:36.913 (83.49mph) headed the Granturas by several seconds in class E.

Brian Lambert’s one-litre Ford-powered Ginetta G4, the only H runner and a perennial giant-slayer, sat 11th on 2:40.653 (81.55mph), fractionally quicker than the ex-Barry Sewell Marcos-Volvo of Roger Watton/Clive Wood and the rapid Mini Cooper S of ‘Belle Stars’ Tina Cooper/Aimee Watts whose 2:41.274 (81.23mph) topped the Touring Car classification in 13th place overall. Fellow Mini racers Paul Ogborn with spannerman Steve Rideout and dad-and-lass Rob and Francesca Roodhouse in their ex-Roy Alderslade JRT-built example were 10 seconds adrift as they acclimatised to their machines and the circuit. Ian and John Fraser’s Alan Mann Racing-liveried Lotus Cortina sat on P22.


Quickest of 13 MGB Roadsters - in which some crews were taking advantage of a recce for the MG and Triumph 100 event at Silverstone a fortnight later - were Yorkshiremen Andrew Tate/Rob Griffiths in 14th on 2:42.575 (80.58mph). Closest pursuers Gavin Crawford and Will Linley qualified 0.625s apart, chased by the Thompsons, the inaugural Guards Trophy champion of 2007 Martin Richardson and Tom Woodcock, all in the 2:45s. The sole Triumph, Steve Chapman’s lime junket-hued TR4, sat pretty much in the middle of the B brigade, in the company of Ward and the Fraser family.


Thirty cars came under starters’ orders at 1520 and Fitz-Simon was clearly waiting for nobody. Horatio out-accelerated Halstead off the line and extended a whopping 6.99 second advantage over the opening lap, a margin aided by Mark locking-up dramatically at Stowe to the detriment of his Elan’s tyres. The wasabi-green TVR V8s of Douglas and Boot snorted through third and fourth, with Tice’s Marcos, McDonald and Reece in their contrasting Elans, Holben, Wos and John Dickson rounding out the top 10. Tina Cooper was quickly into her stride, making up a couple of places to sit 11th, ahead of Brian Lambert and MGB pacemaker Linley.

Fitz-Simon had a lead of 31 seconds when Halstead made his mandatory stop after five laps, the window having opened 10 minutes into the 40. Eagling’s stint lasted but two and a half laps before he parked on the approach to the Wing pits. “I don’t know whether the vibration from the flat-spotted tyres had anything to do with it, but the bonnet parted company as I arrived in the braking area for Stowe at 120mph, ripping the brackets out of the shell. I wouldn’t have been too worried, but the throttle cables were attached to the brackets, so I was left with nothing.” Already out, alas, were Mike Henney’s MGB, the Roodhouse and Ogborn Minis and Watton’s Marcos. The MGBs of David Eales and Linley lasted a lap longer.


When Fitz-Simon made his stop, after nine laps, so far ahead of Boot, Douglas - both already into their second stints - Conoley (in for Tice), the shadowing Holben and Reece was he, that he could have slackened his pace, not that he did so conspicuously, as he was enjoying himself. Horatio thus rattled the last seven laps off, finishing more than a minute and a half before Boot, in turn 45s clear of Douglas, with Tice/Conoley and Holben also classified on the lead lap. Jamie was quickest through the Hangar Straight speed trap at 138.3mph incidentally, compared to Douglas’ 135.8mph and HF-S’ 132.6mph. Eagling (125.2mph) and Horatio both bettered Boot on the Wellington Straight, while Douglas’ 115.3mph topped Eagling, Boot and Holben over the timing line at Woodcote.

Reece finished sixth, ahead of class-winning Driver of the Day Wos, and Lambert, with Ward and Gavin Crawford - who sportingly shared his car with Tom Woodcock, whose car was sidelined in qualifying - in the first of the MGBs 10th. Amber Dickson brought the family Elan home 11th, ahead of the Thompson/Wolfe Grantura and the Bs of Tate/Griffiths (whose 32.266s penalty for a short pit stop(,) cost them class victory), Richardson and Chris Thompson which took the chequered-flag nose to tail, having traded places in the closing stages. Simon Skentlebury/ Mark Prutton were only nine seconds adrift at the close.


The impressive Cooper/Watts combo earned Touring Car gold, a minute ahead of the Frasers’ Cortina, young Aimee having cut a superb 2m39.771s (82.00mph) best lap, 1.5s inside her morning best. The MGBs of Ian and Tom Hibberd, Jeremy Ling/David Waterhouse and Barbara Lambert also took the flag, but Chapman and McDonald were late fallers. Winner Fitz-Simon set fastest lap in 2:28.566s (88.18mph), just shy of his pole time crafted on a much cooler circuit.

 

While some competitors could relax and grab the personal coolant of choice, those doubling-up in the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties race had around 40 minutes to turn their cars round. All but three of the 55 cars which qualified were released from the assembly area overlooked by the British Racing Drivers’ Club pavilion for another 40 minutes of action on what was a glorious summery afternoon, fanned by a fairly brisk easterly breeze.


Following 30 minutes to set the grid’s order, the front row had a familiar ring to it, albeit with Halstead/Eagling on pole, courtesy of Dan’s 2:23.123s (91.54mph) in Mark’s 1760cc Ford twin-cam powered Ginetta G4. Fitz-Simon was 2.198s down on 2:25.321, despite having found a couple of seconds over his Classic K best as he attuned to the primrose Elan’s dynamics on Dunlop tyres. Jon Wolfe’s ballistic five-litre TVR Tuscan, class rival Ray Barrow’s 5.7-litre Chevrolet Camaro up from the south coast and Steve Hodges’ in his impudent Lotus 7 S2 also broke the 2:30 barrier.


James Hughes qualified an astonishing sixth in his Briggs Cunningham-eque liveried Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite. “The GP circuit is phenomenal,” said the Chester golf pro whose 2:31.399 shaded Jamie Boot’s Much Marcle Garage-prepared TVR ‘Griff’ and Nick King’s beautiful Aston Martin DB4. Second of the Sprites was Ian Burgin’s black example, embroiled in the 33s with Stephen Pickering’s Sunbeam Tiger, local men Steve and Jack Smith’s MGA and East Anglian Ford fanatic Martin Reynolds in his fast-improving Mustang Mach 1.

Geoff Bryan’s early-shaped TVR Griffith 200, Ian Staines’ Midget and Jonathan Crayston’s Lotus Elan qualified next. Then came a tightly-packed quintet comprising the Datsun 240Zs of Dean Halsey and Dave Roberts, split by Charles Tippet and daughter Claire Norman’s BMW 2002Ti - immaculate again following its unfortunate Thruxton startline prang - Connor Kay’s MG Midget and John Moon’s sleek Lenham-bodied Sprite.


Just outside the top 20 sat Vaughn Winter/Clive Tonge’s Mini - a tribute to Vaughn’s late uncle Jack Winter and cousin Phil, the 1970s’ Special Saloon ace teen lost too soon in an RTA - in the company of veteran Tim Cairns’ Frogeye Sprite, Richard Merrell’s rorty Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT and the quickest Triumph TR6 with Dave McDonald and Bailey Frost next up. Barry and Rupert Ashdown’s Elan ‘Kermit’ broke and was withdrawn, promoting F5000 Lola-to-Clubmans Phantom racer Steve Chaplin and son Adam (Midget) and the Triumphs of Graham Wilson (TR6) and Neil Howe (TR4), separated by the Turner Mk1 of Simon Watling/Shaun Haddrell.


Triple HSCC Historic Touring Car champion Simon Benoy made another pilgrimage from the northeast with his Hillman Imp and claimed P30. Flying Dutchman Marc Kniese almost matched Simon’s time in his orange-topped Mini, but outran John and Ian Fraser in their Lotus Cortina. Quickest of three pretty Sebring Sprites was former single-seater racer Anthony Binnington’s, pursued by Julian Howe’s MGB GT and, John Leslie’s Reliant Sabre 6 with its straight-six Ford Zephyr/Zodiac engine, Martin Barrow/Tony Absolom’s Jaguar E-type and the grey Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV of vet Ben Brain and Jeremy Thomas.


A multiplicity of BMC products surrounded Steve Adams’ Triumph Spitfire, the Cortina GT of Richard Rowlands/Alan Hassell, Gary Lyon’s Alfa and Adrian Vincent’s Alpina BMW in the next gaggle. Birthday boy David Cornwallis was enjoying his omnipresent Radio Caroline BMW 1600Ti, but found it short of puff on the long straights. Sadly the Fairthorpe Electron Minor of Simon and Thomas Tunnard didn’t record a time and was withdrawn, leaving Cornwallis at the back.

The pattern of Fitz-Simon’s second victory of the afternoon - which took him 16 seconds fewer to complete the same 16 lap duration, and saw him stop nine laps in again - spoke volumes for his speed and consistency. Closest rival Wolfe made up more than 35 seconds in the pit phase, with no minimum stationary requirement in this race, but Horatio had to fight tooth and nail until the chequered flag to first catch, then overcome his rival. The last four laps were mesmeric, indeed onlookers may not see a more thrilling climax to a race this season.

Both were incredibly fortunate, however, because an incident at the first corner could so easily have taken them out. Wolfe blasted out of the blocks at the rolling start and running close to the pit wall on the right hand side of the track, thundered inside Halstead’s Ginetta. Unsighted in tiny mirrors Mark braked later, turned towards the apex and caught the TVR’s front quarter with his car’s flank. The G4 spun, centrifugal force twizzling it back across the track, narrowly missing Fitz-Simon’s Elan.


Wolfe found himself out of road on the outside of Copse and took a wide arc, albeit not as wide as Barrow carrying more speed in the Baldwin Chevrolet tribute Camaro, before rejoining behind Taylor’s silver TVR with Crayston’s Elan in tow. Unfazed, Jon gobbled up cars at every opportunity - King notably at Club and Reynolds on the inside of Abbey - completing the lap sixth, 9.573s behind leader Fitz-Simon. Horatio led by 1.940s over TSL’s stripe, with Hodges, Pickering - from 10th on the grid - Boot and Barrow next through the beam. Reynolds, from P14, lay seventh ahead of Jack Smith’s MGA, Taylor, James Hughes, Burgin and Staines. Meanwhile, Halstead limped back to the pits with scuffed bodywork and retired.


Hodges, who managed to avoid the drama, ran second until his routine stop at six laps, one more than Wolfe who had overtaken Barrow and Pickering to go third on lap two. Leader Fitz-Simon dived in coolly after nine circuits, then found himself behind Wolfe whose slick pit phase presented a victory chance. Jon was surprised to find himself 10 seconds ahead of Horatio on the road - explained by stops of 52.590s and 1m25.173s respectively - but the young Elan driver redoubled his efforts and hounded downthe big banger in the course of four laps. The ensuing battle was epic.


Quicker through the corners, with tyre-squeal replacing the screech of brakes, HF-S ambushed Wolfe mid-Club, lost out under acceleration on the Hamilton straight, then repassed the TVR round the outside at Abbey. Delayed when he caught the ongoing scrap between Tonge and Kniese, Horatio was powerless to prevent Jon slugging past him and the Minis in front of the Wing pits, but rounded the V8 in the middle element of Becketts. Inevitably, Wolfe thundered past again seconds later on the Hangar Straight, but Horatio’s audacious passes on the outside of Stowe, Club and Abbey on the final lap trumped grunt to take the chequered flag for the second time in a memorable afternoon. “The TVR didn’t want to stop or turn right at the end, but it was fantastic fun. He drove brilliantly,” said Jon, magnanimous in defeat.


Barrow, quickest over the first of three circuit sectors, from the timing line after Woodcote to three-quarters of the way down the Hangar Straight - where Taylor’s lighter TVR pulled 144.9mph, 2.2mph more than the Camaro - finished a strong third. Barrow took the flag 20 seconds after Wolfe, whose 136.3mph was best through the Wellington Straight speed trap (12.3mph better than the Chevy), but Ray’s 121.7mph over the finish line was unmatched. Horatio set fastest lap making his early escape, his 2:26.994 (89.13mph). Taylor’s 2:29.514 on the penultimate lap pipped Wolfe’s by 0.365s!


Hodges, King and Taylor completed the top six, Geoff having grabbed his place from Halsey’s Brock Racing Enterprises-liveried Datsun on the final lap, after a long chase. The Smiths’ gallant MGA was classified eighth, ahead of Boot who had Moon’s red Lenham Sprite in his mirrors at the close. Having enjoyed Thruxton, Moon was more confident at Silverstone, climbing 10 places to be named Driver of the Day. “Last time I raced the Sprite here I left the circuit in an ambulance after a fiery exit at Becketts. It’s taken seven years to get the car back where it was, so I’m delighted,” he said.


Top Touring Car was the Tippet/Norman BMW in 11th, ahead of Richard Perry after a superb climb from 38th on the grid following a troubled practice - and Wilson in the first Triumph TR6. Poor Martin Reynolds - whose Mustang was third fastest through each speed trap - ascended from 12th to fifth before his pit stop, but was meatball-flagged erroneously because it was thought a HANS strap was not placed correctly, thus 14th was a disappointing result. The rapid Frost brought McDonald’s TR6 in 15th ahead of Burgin’s scuttling Sprite, the last car to cover the winner’s distance.


A lap down, Merrell’s Alfa headed the dueling Minis of Kniese and Tonge, soloist Marc having passed Clive four laps into his stint, following Winter’s quicker start. The Spridgets of the Chaplins, Kay and Cairns were next up, Tim having deposed Neil Howe three laps from home as 42 of the 52 starters were classified as finishers.

Among the retirements the most frustrating was Hughes’ with a split oil filter seal on lap four. Roberts’ was the most bizarre, for - having forgotten to switch its cooling pump on amid the first lap melee - he was sprayed by his Datsun's gearbox oil at Club. Crayston’s was more dramatic. In a touch of deja-vu, Jon’s Elan’s bonnet popped up on the Hangar Straight, obscuring his view of Stowe, then detached on lap 12. He pulled off near Club and marshals repatriated the barely damaged panel to the paddock.

Marcus Pye


Next up, please get your entries in now for Anglesey, we look forward to seeing you there.

 

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