Sytner comeback lights up Donington Historic Festival

| 8 May 2012

Exactly a year after suffering a heart attack while competing at the Donington Historic Festival, Frank Sytner made a successful return to the same event finishing third in the 1000km race for pre-1972 sports racing cars.

Sytner shared a Lola T70 with Simon Hadfield, and the pair chased home Rick Hall's fabulous Matra MS650. Another T70, driven by David Coplowe and a hard-charging Martin Stretton, took the victory.

The race, which ran into dusk on Saturday, was among the highlights of a superb event, held on 5-6 May.

The E-type Challenge saw a great tussle between Alexander Buncombe and Martin O'Connell. The two distanced themselves from the pack and looked set for a grandstand finish before there was contact on the last lap, leaving Buncombe to cruise home an easy winner.

He may have claimed the JD Classics Challenge for 1966-'85 Touring Cars too. Sharing the TWR Jaguar XJS – which rivalled the Matra for best-sounding car of the weekend – with Gary Pearson, Buncombe chased down the Ford Escort RS1800 of Mark Wright and Dave Coyne before spinning two laps from home.

The Historic Formula 2 cars were the only single-seaters on the bill, and Matthew Watts took a comfortable victory in his March 772 after pole-sitter Martin Stretton (below) failed to make the grid.

Much was made of the attendance of the Group C sports cars, and Andy Meyrick drove the rumbling Aston Martin AMR1 to a narrow win over Mike Donovan's Spice SE89, pipping him by just 1.709 seconds after an hour's racing.

Other winners included the Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards Frazer Nash Super Sport, the Jackie Oliver/Gary Pearson Ferrari 250 SWB, Bobby Verdon-Roe's wonderful Aston-Martin DBR1 and the Lotus Cortina of Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield.

Gary Pearson also won the RAC Woodcote Trophy for pre-'56 sports cars, and added still further to his list of achievements over the weekend by finishing second in the same race.

He began the one-hour event in a Jaguar D-type that he shared with his brother John, then – at the compulsory driver change – switched to another D-type that had been started by Carlos Monteverde.