Report of Silverstone Classic
Thanks to the hard work of John Watson and Vic Thomas the Historic Lotus Register enclosure at this event contained eleven cars:
UPE 9 1953 Lotus Mk VI 1467cc MG John Watson.
The ex-Peter Gammon car,
Visitors to the enclosure included Jay Sloane and his wife Julie and their sons Julian and Ian from West Palm Beach , FL. Jay runs the Lotus Eleven Website and is "Mr Lotus Eleven USA.", John Standen who started with Lotus in 1954 and Mark Steed, son of Dick Steed whose Lotus Mk VIII was the first to have a Climax engine.
As can be seen from the photos the weather looked rather threatening, but although there were a few very light showers it never really affected the racing or spectating.
The event bears inevitable comparison with the Goodwood revival. Whilst the organisers had attracted an enormous and mouth watering entry of cars, the way they were raced appeared to be more for the benefit of the drivers than the spectators. Each event had an enormous number of starters (53 in one event alone) and they were divided into a bewildering number of classes. For example in the Formula 1 race for pre-1996 Grand Prix cars the age span was from 1927 (a Bugatti T37) to a 1961 Lotus 18. These were divided into NINE different classes. There were no doubt some interesting class battles going on, but it was far too much for the spectators to follow, even if the public address system had been up to it. Not only was it not fitted at one of the best stands to watch from, at the stands where it was installed it was almost inaudible.
The programme did not help much - in some races there were classes that were not described, and in one event the number was not supplied for eleven of the cars. This from a programme for which we were charged £10!
More shorter races with fewer classes would have been more interesting to watch and much easier to follow.
Race 1 for pre-1959 drum braked Sports cars
Main attraction for HLR members was Tom Candlish's Lotus VI driven by Hugo Shipley which has a FWB Climax engine, and Malcolm Ricketts in the Lotus Mk IX. Shipley did very well to finish 16th, beating a C Type Jaguar and an Aston Martin DB3S, to finish 7th in Class D, but the programme did not tell us what Class D was! The first four in Class D were Cooper Bobtails, so he was in good company. Malcolm with only 1098 cc passed and stayed ahead of a 2 litre Ferrari 500 TRC, and told me that he had thoroughly enjoyed racing on the full Grand Prix circuit.
Race 2 for Historic Formula Junior Cars pre-1964
This race was dominated by Lotus cars, and they took seven of the top ten places as well as 1st, 2nd and 3rd. This was one of the closest races of the day, with the winning margin of Michael Hibberd in his Lotus 27 being only 0.04 sec over Edwin Joysey in his Lotus 22. Urs Eberhardt from Switzerland was 1.96 sec further back in another Lotus 27. There were 54 entries and four different classes. The oldest being for front engined cars.
Race 3 for Gentleman Drivers GT and Sports Endurance.
This peculiar title covered a range of cars from 1953 to 1965 and five classes. It was for 60 minutes and, just to thoroughly confuse the spectators, there was a compulsory stop to change drivers. Neither the classes nor the change of drivers were described in the programme, and even the commentators (when you could hear them) were thoroughly confused.
Amongst the 44 entries there were two Lotus Elevens, two Seventeens and a brace of Elites, confusingly described in the programme as of 1243 cc. The race was an eye-opener for the speed of Peter Horsman’s Lotus Seventeen, fitted with a 1220 cc FWE engine, who battled for the lead with the AC Cobra (4.7 litres) of Oliver Bryant, and the Porsche 904/6 of Laidlaw. As the latter was not shown in the programme I cannot tell you the engine capacity. Horsman started from the front row of the grid.
His co-driver had not driven the car before and was slightly slower, but they still managed a fine 3rd place. Peter bought the car from HLR Registrar Robert Matthews, and has modified the front suspension to a very interesting double wishbone set-up which you can see in the photos. He reckons it was worth 2.5 seconds per lap of the GP circuit.
Cooke/Twyman were 13th, two laps behind in the 1498cc(?) Lotus Eleven, the Paterson/Acklam FWB Eleven 15th and the Woodley/Rowley 1098cc Seventeen 21st.
Race 4 for Group C GTP Cars
This looked to me like a race for Le Mans cars from 1984 to 1991, and there were thirty entries and five classes. It proved to be a comfortable win for the Jaguar XJR16 of Gary Pearson, even though he was pursued hard all the way by the Nissan R90CK of Charlie Agg. Pearson’s car was quiet and looked quite slow - until you saw him lapping the tail-enders.
Race 5 for Grand Prix Masters F1 cars
This covered cars of the period 1968 to 1978 in four classes and was interesting because the winged cars seemed no faster round the corners than those without wings. This was one of the best races as the lead was very fiercely contested between Peter Williams in a March 761 (the programme showed the wrong number!), Peter Wuensch in a Wolf WR1, and the eventual winner Frank Sytner in a Penske PC3 who crossed the line less than one second ahead. Alistair Morrison’s Lotus 72 looked lovely, finished 6th and won its class for 1969-71 cars.
Race 6 for pre 1966 Grand Prix cars
This was the race for cars within a ridiculously wide time span which I have already mentioned. It proved to be a close race between the winner Michael Schryver in a 2.5 Lotus 18, John Clark (shown with the wrong number in the programme) in a 2.5 Cooper T43 and Barry Cannell in a 2.5 Cooper T53. Philip Walker was 4th in his Lotus 16.. Duncan Dayton must have stalled his engine on the third row of the grid, but came up very fast after that but in the 20 minutes the race lasted could get no higher than 7th.
The mix of cars gave us the unforgettable sight of Mark Gillies driving a 2 litre A-Type ERA (first raced in 1934) passing a Lotus 18 on the slower corners to finish 9th! He did even better the next day in race 13.
Race 7 for pre 1980 F1, F2, F Atlantic, F3 and F5000 cars
This was probably the most dramatic for sheer noise and cornering power and produced some very close racing between winner Simon Hadfield in a Chevron B37 (5 litres), Mike Wrigley in 5 litre Lola T330/332, and Edwin Jowsey in a 5 litre Lola T400 until the latter dropped out on lap 7, and then Christian Fischer in a March 77 took 3rd spot..
Race 8 was for pre-war sports cars
This was rather an anti-climax which I did not watch. This concluded the Saturday programme.
The weather on Sunday was much the same, but the wind was stronger and colder.
Race 9 had a very long title which conveyed very little: “World Sports Car Masters”, and was for sports cars of the period 1963-1974, run concurrently with “Gentleman Drivers Sports Racing Challenge” for 1961-1966 sports cars.
Once again there were lots of different classes, none of which were explained in the programme. Like Race 3 there was a compulsory pit stop just to ruin everybody’s lap chart, and of course no prior warning in the programme! Until it became totally confusing the race was a keen scrap between four cars: David Yates in Chevron B16 until he dropped out, Irvine Laidlaw in a Chevron B8, Jackie Oliver in a Ford GT40 and winner Frank Sytner in a Lola T70 Mk IIIB. Three shorter races of 20 minutes instead of this 60 minute marathon would have been much more acceptable.
Race 10 was a repeat of Race 5 for Grand Prix Masters.
Frank Sytner won again in his Penske, but Peter Williams only completed 4 laps, and Peter Wuensch suffered some problem which dropped him down to 5th, so it was James Hansen in a Surtees TS9B who took up the chase until he too had to retire on lap 14, leaving a long 45 second gap back to second place man Chris Perkins in his Surtees.
Race 11 was round 6 of the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship and was for cars powered by Cosworth.
There were four classes and they were actually described in the programme! The dates of the cars were not shown.
This proved to be a comfortable win for Duncan Dayton in his Williams FW07 from Joaquin Folch in a Williams FW8/3. Third place man Hubertus Bahlsen in an Arrows A4 worked his way up from 6th place on the opening lap, but was over 30 seconds behind the winner. There were five Lotus entries: Nico Bendells finished 9th in a Lotus 87B/3, Dan Collins 11th in a Lotus 91/10 followed home by Sid Hoole in a Lotus 80, and Japanese Keiichii Murakami was 20th in a Lotus 72-5. 25 started.
Race 12 was a repeat of Race 4 for Le Mans sports cars
The winner was the same, but Charlie Agg retired from the lead on lap 1 in the Nissan, and Justin Law in another Jaguar lay 2nd until he retired on lap 4 letting David Mercer in the Spice SE90C into 2nd place and Simon Pullan in a Porsche 902 into 3rd.
Race 13 was a repeat of Race 6 for pre 1966 GP Cars.
John Clark in the Cooper led for the first few laps but was passed by the winner Michael Schryver, and then by Barry Cannel in his Cooper and finally by Duncan Dayton in his Lotus 16, which had made a better start this time. Mark Gillies in the ERA worked his way up to 7th place ahead of six of the rear engine GP cars. 32 started.
Race 14 was a repeat of Saturdays’ Race 3
But with all the numbers changed and some more cars added. It was billed as the BRDC 50s Sportscar Championship. There were 4 classes and three of them were described in the programme.
Peter Horsman’s Lotus 17 was now up against rather stiffer opposition including cars with 2 litre Twin Cam Climax engines, and a 2.4 litre Ferrari driven by Tony Dron. It proved to be a battle between Philip Walker in the 2 litre Lotus 15 who soon overtook the Cooper Monaco of Graeme Dodd, but they were very close throughout the race, and Dodd edged in front at least once, and finished only 0.55 second behind. Dron was 3rd 17 seconds behind.
Peter Horsman was 8th and easily won the up to 1.5 litre class from Rupert White in a 1460cc Lotus Eleven, and made the second fastest lap overall at 89.17 mph. In the up to 1100cc class Lotus was 2nd with Ian Woodley in his Seventeen third with Gareth Williams in an Eleven (both being beaten by, of all things, a Rejo Mk IV driven by Jamie McIntyre). Also racing was Malcolm Ricketts in an Eleven, but as he was not shown in the programme I don’t know his engine size.
Race 15 was a repeat of Race 7
For the incredibly noisy F5000 cars, and Hadfield was again the easy winner and Wrigley second, but he had to fight hard against Frank Lyons in a Lola, and Mark Stretton in a March 712 who passed Lyons to take third place. James Denty drove a Lotus 70 into 8th place and Hermann Unold a Lotus 69 into 23rd. HLR member Richard Spelberg (the Lotus bookseller) was 29th in his Lotus 59.
Race 16 was for Historic Formula Ford 1600cc cars
This produced some very close racing between the Lola T200 of Neil Fowler who kept swapping the lead with initially James Winslow in a Macon MR8 (a make I had never heard of) until he retired on lap 6, and then with Nelson Rowe in a Crossle 20 F who just pipped him for first place by 0.57 seconds at the end. Third was John Pearson in a Merlyn MK 11A. Lotus cars did not do well, the highest being Neil Davies in a Lotus 61MX in 13th place. The race was originally scheduled for 40 minutes but reduced to 9 laps (approx. 18 minutes) due to the time needed to remove damaged cars from a previous race. Just as well, because the cars proved very fragile with ten retirements.
Race 17, the last race of the day, was a welcome change as it was for Historic Racing Saloons of the period 1958-1969.
There were 8 different classes, but in saloon car racing the smallest engines seem to do almost as well as the big bangers, and this race was no exception. The sight of Roger Godfrey in a Mini scything his way between two much larger cars as they rounded a corner, one on the inside and one on the outside, was a joy to behold.
Leader for most of the race was Leo Voyazides in a Ford Flacon (irritatingly described as a Mustang in the programme), but he was passed by Les Ely in a BMW 2000 with James Dodd in an Alfa Romeo close behind. This was another of those “compulsory pit stop” races where some drivers changed, so the race order after that was impossible to follow. For me the man of the race was the driver of the little Mini which finished in 8th place.
For complete details of the results, practice times and grid positions click here.
I would like to acknowledge with thanks the race results service provided online by MST Timing, without whose website this report would have been impossible to write.
This is one person’s account of the races. If you were there and disagree with anything I have said, want to correct something, or tell YOUR story of what happened, please contact me.
Peter Ross Falmouth 12th August 2005