Group C tops the bill at Silverstone Classic Powered by the AA

| 23 Jul 2012

The tantalising prospect of Gareth Evans’ Mercedes-Benz C9 going head-to-head with Nicolas Minassian in a Peugeot 905 in Saturday’s Historic Group C race at the Silverstone Classic sadly wasn’t to be after a problem with the French car’s clutch. Rupert Clevely’s crew had the engine and gearbox out of his 905 three times, to no avail.

Evans took a comfortable win in the twilight first race, though a determined Roger Wills kept him in sight for the first half of the 30-minute contest in one of three Lancia LC2s. “It’s a fantastic car to race,” enthused Wills. “And the three Martini cars looked great – they haven’t been together since the ’80s.”

“It’s always an honour to drive the Mercedes,” said Evans. “It is mighty, but I’m quite gentle with it – and it’s quite gentle with me.” He had to work harder for victory in race two, though, and set the weekend’s fastest lap after an epic scrap with the evocative Jägermeister Porsche 962 that Herve Regout had put on pole in Friday’s wet practice. Belgian Regout was pipped for second by Minassian, who made up for the previous night’s disappointment with a guest-drive in Clevely’s Lancia.

Other double winners over the weekend included the Tyrrell 009 of Bill Coombs, who just beat his regular GP Masters rival Steve Hartley’s Arrows A4 in Sunday’s Daily Express International Trophy. Michael Lyons had established a strong lead in the first race, but had nowhere to go when the Arrows of Philip Hall spun directly in front of him. The youngster pressurised the leading pair in race two – briefly taking second at one point – but settled for third in the end.

Tireless Kiwi Wills – who contested many of the weekend’s races – took two wins in the HGPCA pre-’61 front-engined GP cars, part of a superb Lotus 16 1-2-3 in fact, while Jason Minshaw’s Brabham BT4 was victorious in the equivalent group for rear-engined pre-’66 single-seaters. “The car went really well,” said Minshaw. “It’s the first time that we’ve had it out for three years.”

Alex Buncombe made up for his frustrating Le Mans Classic weekend by winning the Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-’61 sports cars, sharing an increasingly smoky Lister-Jaguar Costin with Chris Ward. “It was oil from the overflow falling on to the exhaust,” explained Buncombe. “The same thing happened during practice so weren’t unduly worried, and Chris kept his eye on the oil-pressure gauge after he took over.”

Behind them had been a battle royal, with seven cars contesting the other podium places. After a nip-and-tuck tussle – and a demon-quick changeover – the Cooper Monaco of father-and-son duo Graeme and James Dodd finally snatched second from the dazzling polished ally Lotus 15 of brothers Ewan and Jamie McIntyre. “That was one of the best dices I’ve had for a long time, with good, clean racing,” said a chuffed Ewan afterwards. “We must have changed places eight or nine times.”

Buncombe also took a brace of victories in the E-type Challenge, winning Sunday’s race – the last of the weekend – by 15 seconds from Gregor Fisken.

There was plenty to keep tin-top fans happy, too, with a huge – and hugely varied – field for the Fujifilm Touring Car Trophy. The blisteringly quick 2-litre Super Touring Cars clearly had the grip and handling edge – and locked out the podium places on both days – but they struggled to pass the awesome pack of Ford Sierra RS500s down the straights. Rick Pearson’s Nissan Primera won from the Vauxhall Cavalier of Frank Wrathall and Richard Hawken’s Primera, while further down the field the Cossies renewed old rivalries with BMW E30 M3s and it was great to see Tom Pochcoil’s UFO-liveried Capri going head-to-head with Chris Scragg’s glorious Jaguar XJ12C.

An epic 50-car-plus grid for Saturday’s 50-minute Alan Mann Trophy for Under 2 Litre Touring Cars featured an army of more than 20 Lotus Cortinas. Sean McInerney drove solo to land the laurels from the Cortina of Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield and the Banks brothers Andrew and Max in an Alfa Giulia Sprint GTA. Just 2 seconds separated the top three at the grandstand finish after much of the race had been run behind a safety car when one of the Fords rolled.

More than 1000 entries – spanning sports cars, GTs, saloons, single-seaters and sports-prototypes – contested the 24 races over the packed weekend. According to organiser Nick Wigley: “There were so many highlights with fantastic racing, amazing parades, the birth of AA World and a new record crowd.”

There was plenty to see away from the track, too, with 70 car club displays around the infield, and we’ve loaded a few photos of them into a library on our Facebook page here.