Epic Formula One battle stars at Silverstone Classic

| 2 Aug 2016

All photos by Jakob Ebrey Photography

The glorious Cosworth DFV era came howling back to thrill the 100,000 crowd as 29 cars contested two FIA Masters F1 races at the Silverstone Classic last weekend. Ollie Hancock was quickest away with his Copersucar Fittipaldi F5A – with an inspired move to take the lead around the outside of Abbey – but he soon came under pressure from poleman Nick Padmore’s Williams FWO7C. Padmore was back in front by Brooklands and made it five straight wins in the series, with the Candy Tyrrell 010 of his close rival Loïc Deman second. 

There were fireworks in race two. Hancock got another flyer, resisting Padmore’s attentions until early on lap two before heading a mesmerising four-car train battling for the podium places. The Fittipaldi looked as it was towing Gregory Thornton’s JPS Lotus 91/5, Demain and Martin Stretton’s Benetton Tyrrell 012 as the high-speed pack snaked its way around the circuit. Deman took a late second from Hancock in third.

Silverstone Auctions’ boss Nick Whale was delighted to win the Historic Touring Challenge in the Auto Trader BMW M3 that he campaigned in period, but with his son Harry now co-driving. “That was fantastic for me,” he said, “That’s my old Touring Car and he used to come here in a pushchair when I was racing it!” Hotshoe journalist Richard Meaden led in the early stages with Grant Tromans’ Ford Capri but Whale junior reeled in the owner after the driver change. David Tomlin was chuffed with third in the Zakspeed Ford Escort that he’d only bought on the Thursday before at the Silverstone Auctions sale.

Two of the most famous names in motorsport went head-to-head for the Can-Am 50 Interserie Challenge. Rob Newall got the jump in race one with his 8.8-litre McLaren M8F, gaining the advantage over the screaming 3-litre Matra MS670 of Rob Hall on pole. Hall shadowed the orange monster all around the fast Northants circuit – even staying with it down the Wellington Straight – but bided his time, looking for chance to nip past with the nimbler machine as the M8F’s tyres went off. He squeezed past at Aintree, they went side-by-side through Brooklands and Hall just about held on. Fittingly, prizes were presented by Jackie Oilver, who won the final Can-Am Championship in 1974.

Hall was out again on the Saturday evening, sharing an earlier MS650 with Andy Willis in the 50-minute Masters Sports Cars contest. Willis conceded that he couldn’t keep with the pace-setting Lola T70 of Chris Ward and Padmore in a Chevron B19, but was first to stop, tagging to Hall who then lapped faster than the leaders, took the lead when they pitted and made it stick to the chequer. Hall made it a hat-trick – and deservedly won the Driver of the Weekend award – with a second victory in the MS670 in Sunday’s Can-Am 50 Interserie contest, the weekend’s last race. 

Fords dominated proceedings in a couple of races on Tin Top Sunday, with an army of Lotus-Cortinas taking on the BMW 1800s and Alfa Giuilas. Steve Soper was hoping for victory – having bought last year’s winning Team Dynamics Cortina from Matt Neal – but it wasn’t to be. Andy Wolfe had qualified fastest with Meaden and they romped away from field to take the flag almost 20 secs ahead. 

Wolfe’s Cortina was also in the thick of it for the Big Engined Touring Cars contest, this time sharing with Michael Gans. Leo Voyazides sprinted in front with his trusty Falcon, but spun after a problem at the Loop, leaving the Mustangs of polesitter Sean McInerney and Craig Davies to slug it out. An epic battle looked on the cards, but McInerney’s car was sidelined leaving Davies ex-Alan Mann notchback well clear. Roger Wills took second with his beautifully turned out Mercury Comet Cyclone, from Gans and Wolfe.

Nathan Kinch’s Lola T92/10 was uncatchable in the Group C finale to Saturday night, as a spectacular sunset brought a touch of La Sarthe to the Northants airfield. The blisteringly quick Judd-powered machine ran rings around the field, leaving its glorious V10 bark echoing around both complexes. Bob Berridge’s Nissan R93 battled for second with Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Jaguar XJR-14 and Katsu Kubota’s R90CK (above, chasing the R93). Berridge walked it from Sunday’s depleted field after the Lola broke.

It went almost to the chequer for the HGPCA Pre-66 GP Cars. John Fairley’s Brabham BT11/19 outpaced the Cooper T53 of poleman Will Nuttall who then fought back and took the lead a few laps in. He ran wide, gifting the lead back to Fairley who returned the compliment by spinning on the last lap and his rival triumphed. Both had a frustrating second day. Fairley didn’t get away from the standing start and was clouted by several other cars, prompting a red flag. Nuttall had the edge on the restart but was passed through Maggotts by the Lotus 18-21 of Peter Horsman who had a clear run to the flag after Nuttall’s Cooper broke a driveshaft on the way out of Stowe.

Racing had kicked off in spectacular fashion on Saturday morning with a huge grid of Historic Formula Juniors, from which Sam Wilson made it three double wins from 2104-’16 at the Classic. He wasn’t able to make a break on Sunday, with a determined challenge from Andrew Hibberd. They slip-streamed each other for the lead in the closing stages but Wilson just made it stick to win by 0.223 secs.

Chris Ward was expected to dominated the 50-minute RAC Woodcote Trophy for Pre-56 Sports Cars with JD Classics’ Cooper T33, but Fred Wakeman got the jump in his T38. Ward was soon in front, but hadn’t counted on quick-changeover specialists Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards, who jumped into the T38 and hounded Ward even down the pitlane. Blakeney-Edwards took the lead with 15 minutes remaining, but Ward never gives up. His persistence paid off with victory after an epic tussle. 

Sam Hancock swapped his usual Lister Knobbly for a victorious solo drive in a Ferrari 246S in the Stirling Moss Trophy for Pre ’61 Sports Cars. He had a brilliant scrap with Oliver and Grahame Bryant’s nimble Lotus 15, which briefly went in front before spinning on oil at Stowe and dropping back to fourth.

Wolfgang Freidrichs and Simon Hadfield landed the laurels in the RAC Tourist Trophy for the second year running in Friedrichs’ Aston Martin DB4 GT, this time in the dry though. Martin and Lukas Halusa made a strong start with their Ferrari 250 ‘Breadvan’, but stopped before the pit window was open and had to come back in, dropping them down the order.

Hadfield was in winning form with another coupé later in the day, the Shelby Daytona Cobra of Leo Voyazides in the International Trophy for Classic GTs. Oli Bryant looked to have the advantage in the family Cobra, but Hadfield chased him down and took the lead with about 5 mins of the 50 remaining.

The weekend’s closest finish came in the first Super Touring contest. Pole-sitter Colin Noble junior won with his Vauxhall Vectra, but he was made to work hard for it by James Dodd’s Honda Accord. “I can’t wait until tomorrow!” Dodd enthused. Sadly, the second race ended in modern BTCC fashion. Noble again had the edge from the start, but Dodd pulled off an excellent manoeuvre to take the lead in the closing stages. They just touched coming into Village before Noble elbowed Dodd off into the last corner and was later excluded from the meeting, which handed the victory to Dodd.

Not all the action took place on the track – click here for a full rundown of the top sellers at the Silverstone Classic auction, including more than £30,000 paid for a 1989 Peugeot 205 GTI