Thunderous grids, tight racing – especially early on with a damp track – an incredible 50-plus E-types dicing like demons, and a searing Group C encounter as the sun dipped below the horizon hallmarked a scintillating day's action at the Silverstone Classic yesterday.
The event kicked off with the Historic Formula Juniors which set the template by turning qualifying on its head when the chequer dropped. Jon Milicevic had qualified his Cooper T59 on pole, with another four cars separating him and eventual winner Sam Wilson in another T59. Setting a time of 20 mins 17.238 secs for his 8 laps, Wilson won from Milicevic, Benn Simms Elva and Denis Welch's Lotus 22. After the race, Wilson said: "There were a couple of spinners in front, it was really slippy in the complex and down at Becketts. It was great fun, I hope the weather is like this tomorrow."
Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw qualified BMW on pole
Alex Furiani and David Fitzsimons were first Alfa Romeo GTA home
With the track drying rapidly, the damp conditions weren't enough to break the Lotus Cortinas' stranglehold in the Under 2-litres Touring Cars class. Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw may have qualified the BMW 1800 TISA on pole with an impressive 2 mins 36 secs, but come the race, the white and sherwood green steam train dominated the field again. Leo Voyazides and the busy Simon Hadfield came home first in 51 mins 56 for 19 laps (including a best of 2 mins 33 secs, almost 2 secs quicker than anyone else), five seconds ahead of Howard Redhouse and Mike Jordan in another Lotus Cortina. Shaw and Oliver were third a further two seconds back with Alex Furiani and David Fitzsimmons the first Alfa Romeo GTA home in 52:19.
John Bennett and Andrew Smith Alfa spins at Copse
Howard Redhouse and Mike Jordan Lotus Cortina was second
The first pole not to get upset was the runaway victory of Carlos Monteverde and Gary Pearson with the Jaguar D-type in the Woodcote Trophy. Having put the superquick Jaguar on pole with a 2 mins 32 secs lap, the pair completed their 19 laps in just 50 mins 24 secs, a full 1 min 22 secs ahead of Derek Hood and Andrew Smith in the Cooper T33. Fred Wakeman and Ludovic Lindsay were third in another D-type, but the race also featured some fascinating and quirky machinery including Stephen Bond putting in an impressive performance in the Lister Bristol Flat Iron, Tony and Barry Wood in the RGS Atalanta and Adam and Joe Singer in the Kurtis 500S.
Pearson and Monteverde were utterly dominant in D-type
Derek Hood and Andrew Smith were a distant second in Cooper mk3
Swiss Arlette Müller drove intriguing Aston Martin DB3 Coupé
Patrick Watts was second in the Big Engined Touring Car Race despite renewed controversy over his driving, but Jason Dodd took the win as Mustangs took the top five places, from a pair of Falcons in a Blue Oval-wash.
Race 5 was the Grand Prix Masters boasting a host of evocative machinery from March, McLaren, Hesketh et al. There was a fair attrition rate, but the chequer was taken by pole-sitter Andy Meyrick (March 761) from Bill Coombs' Tyrrell 009 and the Arrows A4 of Steve Hartley.
Richard Barber's Fittipaldi F5A
Philip Hall's Arrows A3-3
The weekend's busiest driver, Roger Wills, took his first victory in the following raceme the HGPCA pre-'66 Grand Prix Cars event. Starting from second on the grid – to Alasdair McCaig's Cooper T53 which had problems close to the end – Wills pedalled his T51 impressively to win from Enrico Sapggiari's T53 and the Lola Mk4 of Mark Piercy.
Roger Wills dashed to victory in the Cooper T51
Malcolm Ricketts' Lotus 18
Nick Eden (Cooper T45) holds off Richard Parnell (Walker Special GP T10)
A win that proved extremely popular with spectators came in the Gentleman Drivers Pre-'66 GT car showdown, when the McInerneys (Michael and Sean) took their TVR Griffith from fourth on the grid behind a trio of hot Jaguar E-types to a well-deserved triumph for the underdog, finishing ahead of a trio of another habitual winner, the AC Cobra.
McInerneys enjoyed a popular win in the giant-killing TVR Griffith
Simon Orebi Gann drove Morgan SLR
Philip Walker's mastery of the pre-'61 GP car class continued when he took his familiar Lotus 16 from pole to chequer, setting fastest lap in the process and, virtually unchallenged after Eddie McGuire retired his Lotus 16, finishing 10 secs ahead of second-placed Rod Jolley in the Lister-Jaguar Monzanapolis.
Similarly dominant in the Italian Historic and GT Sports Car Cup was Nathan Kinch in the awesome Ferrari 512M, keeping Bobby Verdon-Roe's 412P safely behind him in the race just as he did in practice. The race was almost as movable for the delectable cars lapping the track as it was for the action itself. With everything from Iso Grifos to Abarth-Osella, the wow factor of the 57-car grid was overwhelming.
After the diversion of the "celebrity" race – won easily by the son of Status Quo's Rick Parfitt from chef Heston Blumenthal – the astonishing sight of more than 50 Jaguar E-types in a single grid started to bring the evening's events to a close. In the E-type Challenge, the cars were setting some unfeasibly fast times, not least Jon Minshaw's car which set a sizzling 2 mins 26 secs qualifying time. After some pit-lane heroics and a two-hour gearbox change, Minshaw scorched to part one victory in the E-type Challenge from Desire Wilson and Graeme Dodd (er, also in E-types).
Group C winner Katsu Kubota in the Nissan R90C
Alex Buncombe was second in the Jaguar XJR-9
Despite the music being underway on the stage, it was clear how pleased spectators were to have the Group C racers back by the huge numbers who stayed to watch the late-starting (8.35pm) half-hour thrash. The timing and weather were perfect for the spectacle as the sun dipped over the horizon and eerily lit the cockpits as the ground-hugging beats blasted their way down the new pit-straight lights ablaze. The racing was tight, too, with nine of the 25-strong grid completing 15 laps, headed by Katsu Kubota (Nissan R90C), Alex Buncombe (Jaguar XJR-9) and Gareth Evans (Mercedes-Benz C11). Kubota also set fastest lap with a searing 1 min 54 secs, an 114mph average around the new circuit.
Nick Chester uses all the track in the Spice SE88PMartin O'Connell's Nissan NPTI 90
Historic Formula Junior: 1 Sam Wilson (Cooper T59), 2 Jon Milicevic (Cooper T59), 3 Benn Simms (Elva 200)
Under 2-litre Touring Cars: 1 Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield (Lotus Cortina), 2 Howard Redhouse/Mike Jordan (Lotus Cortina), 3 Jackie Oliver/Richard Shaw (BMW 1800)
Woodcote Trophy: 1 Gary Pearson/Carlos Monteverde (Jaguar D-type), 2 Derek Hood/Andrew Smith (Cooper T33), 3 Fred Wakeman/Ludovic Lindsay (Jaguar D-type)
Big-engined Touring Cars: 1 James Dodd (Ford Mustang), 2 Patrick Watts (Ford Mustang), 3 Henry Mann (Ford Mustang)
Grand Prix Masters: 1 Andy Meyrick (March 761), 2 Bill Coombs (Tyrrell 009), 3 Steve Hartley (Arrows A4)
Pre ’66 Grand Prix Cars: 1 Roger Wills (Cooper T51), 2 Enrico Spaggiari (Cooper T53), 3 Mark Piercy (Lola Mk4)
Gentleman Drivers: 1 Sean McInerney/Mick McInerney (TVR Griffith), 2 Oliver Bryant/Grahame Bryant (AC Cobra), 3 David Hart/Hans Hugenholtz (AC Cobra)
Pre ’61 Grand Prix Cars: 1 Philip Walker Lotus 16), 2 Rod Jolley (Lister Jaguar), 3 Allan Miles (Maserati 250F)
Italian Historic Car Cup: 1 Nathan Kinch (Ferrari 512), 2 Bobby Verdon-Roe (Ferrari 412P), 3 Manfredo Rossi di Montelera (Osella PA1)
Celebrity Challenge: 1 Rick Parfitt Jnr, 2 Heston Blumenthal, 3 Brendan Cole
E-type Challenge: 1 Jon Minshaw, 2 Alex Buncombe, 3 Graeme Dodd
Group C: 1 Katsu Kubota (Nissan RC90). 2 Alex Buncombe (Jaguar XJR9), 3 Gareth Evans (Mercedes C11)