Epic racing thrills the crowds at record Silverstone Classic

| 7 Aug 2017

More than 100,000 spectators swarmed into the Silverstone Classic from 28-30 July. The packed weekend featured 22 car races plus parades including 70 years of TVR and Ferrari. An amazing group of 42 Jaguar XJ220s for the 25th anniversary was led by David Brabham, reunited with the ’93 Le Mans GT class winner that was controversially disqualified, with Tom Walkinshaw’s widow Elizabeth alongside him in the car. The interloper at the back is Justin Law of Jaguar specialist Don Law Racing in their XJ220-powered Transit!

Sam Wilson capped a “dream weekend”, landing the Driver of the Meeting award after taking three wins on the first day. He took another brace in Historic Formula Junior, from Andrew Hibberd each time, followed by victory with the evocative ex-Jim Clark Lotus 18 ‘373’ in the HGPCA Pre ’66 Maserati Trophy. He looked to be on for the double, but lost out after a mesmerising battle, again with John Fairley’s Brabham BT11/19. “That was the best race I’ve had! It’s such an honour to race this car,” enthused Wilson.

Formula Ford continued its 50th-birthday celebrations with two thrilling contests. Race one featured a five-car battle for the lead, with the order changing hands almost corner by corner. Eventual winner Michael O’Brien (94 above) was pursued by Ed Thurston, Benn Tilley, Max Bartell and Callum Grant. They were back for more fun and games first thing on Sunday, when O’Brien’s Merlyn Mk20A again had the edge – just.

The inspired twin grids for the Super Touring Trophy, with the younger machinery leading the Group A cars by 30 seconds, also featured a raft of tintop royalty and a nail-biting finale to race one. Gianfranco Brancatelli, 1985 European Touring Car Champion, was back at the wheel of the Sierra Cosworth in which he won the ’89 Spa 24 Hours. ‘Branca’ rolled back the years, going head-to-head with Mark Wright’s Motorcraft-liveried Ford. The two traded places lap-by-lap for the 20-minute thriller, but Wright made it stick with about a lap to go. Brancatelli made it a win apiece, though, after the damp track caught out his rival the day after. Fittingly, the prizes were presented by Rudi Eggenberger, who prepped the Bastos RS500 in period.

Kiwi Jim Richards, meanwhile, was making his Silverstone debut in Peter Sturgeon’s BMW 635CSi (click here for more). It was the first time that the stunning, JPS-liveried coupé had left Australasia and it deservedly picked up the Stuart Graham Scarf & Goggles Trophy for the car of the weekend, presented by fellow tintop legend Graham (on right, with Richards).

Jason Minshaw (Volvo S40), stormed away from the Super Touring field after his brother Jon (Audi A4) and Graeme Dodd (Honda Accord) had come together from the rolling start. The clutch of Dodd Jnr James’ Accord failed shortly after, but he won comfortably in race two – passing the S40 to take the lead around the outside of Stowe a few laps into the race.

Former Le Mans Series regular Jonathan Kennard made a spectacular debut in FIA Masters F1 with the ex-Riccardo Patrese Warsteiner Arrows A3, setting pole and taking second in race one. Reigning champion Nick Padmore took the chequer – after a couple of demon moves in the Village-Loop complex, prompting spontaneous cheers from the crowd – but had to give best to a determined Michael Lyons (second on grid) the day after.

Gareth Burnett’s famous Talbot 105 ‘GO 52’ this year had the edge over his usual adversaries, the agile – if mostly sideways – Frazer Nash Super Sports of Frederic Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney Edwards. Burnett (just) hung on to take the chequer by 0.162 secs – the weekend’s closest finish.

The duo made up for their disappointment, taking victory after another rapid changeover with their Cooper T38 in the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy for Pre-’56 Sports Cars. They pinched the lead from the Jaguar D-type of the Pearson brothers, Gary and John, who lost second in the closing stages to Chris Ward in JD Classics’ Cooper-Jaguar T33.

Mechanical failures dictated the outcome of Saturday’s race for Under 2 Litre Touring Cars. Andy Wolfe’s usually bombproof Lotus Cortina expired early on while Steve Soper (number 7 above), having fended off he attentions of Mark Sumpter, appeared to be comfortably clear – until he was sidelined by an electrical fault. That left Sumpter’s blue Cortina well clear, after Richard Dutton and Neil Brown lost second with a 45-second penalty for pitlane speeding.

Lukas Halusa suffered the same fate. He’d built a clear advantage with his glorious Ferrari 250GT ‘Breadvan’ in the RAC TT but was given a 45-second penalty for pitlane speeding during the mandatory stops, which demoted him to fifth. An overjoyed Wolfgang Friedrichs and Simon Hadfield inherited the win, to make it a hat-trick for the Aston Martin DP212. 

Conditions had turned grim by the time a depleted field of Group C cars took to the track for Saturday’s finale. Mike Wrigley was quickest away in his DFV-powered Spice SE89C, but soon had Steve Tandy’s SE90 GTP for company. Tandy made the extra power of the 6.5-litre Pontiac V8 pay, after taking the lead at Stowe – the light contact unsettling Wrigley’s car, which spun. A sudden deluge during Sunday’s rolling start forced everyone to change tyres. Kriton Lendoudis, who’d never driven his Mercedes C11 (above) in the wet before last weekend, was more confident in race two and hung on from a rapidly closing Tandy.

The dates for next year’s Silverstone Classic have provisionally been set for 20-22 July: find out more here https://www.silverstoneclassic.com

All photos by Jakob Ebrey Photography