Veteran to classic -- Pomeroy Trophy/Longleat Historic Rally

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Pick a Star

The first weekend in March brought a whole plethora of pre-war and classic cars out onto the circuit and special stages in two quite separate events, related only by proximity of time and attractiveness of entries.

The Pomeroy Trophy is a well established and well supported event which allows VSCC members to have a day of fun at Silverstone Circuit every year. The entry is varied as the year and make of car that may be entered is unlimited, except that post-war entries must have an engine capacity greater than 2-litres. Of the 66 cars that took the start, 26 were pre 1940 cars, so the odds on the winner of the Pomeroy Trophy coming from one of their ranks were quite slim.

There was a healthy turn-out of Frazer Nashes, Talbots and a cross-section of Alfa Romeos, but there was nothing especially exotic this year. What was significant, however, was that it was the first time an event was being held on Silverstone’s new national circuit, and it was generally greeted with admiration. It is now far less of a three-pointed triangle with one long straight, and has become much more complicated requiring far greater skill to circumvent it quickly, despite the loss of the kink in the complex just after Brooklands corner.

Before the three 40 minute timed sections, there had been the usual driving test type sections for manoeuvrability, coming to a stop between some lines, and standing and flying starts along a given length of road. After these four disciplines, though, it was impossible to foretell who was going to win the Trophy, so much depended on the 40 minute trials and whether the target number of laps would be achieved by the various competitors.

The first timed run was for the older cars, held in cold, windy weather with just a touch of dampness. The second timed run was generally for post-war classic cars with a few underpowered moderns thrown in for good measure, and that was held in part sunshine and part rain, while the third timed runners had to put up with a wet track all the time. Inevitably there were some lurid slides and not more than just a few spins, but fortunately it was only pride that was dented.

After the VSCC computer had coughed up its provisional results, it was found that RF Wills’ 1938 Frazer Nash BMW had done enough in the timed section to beat a 1967 Porsche, a 1972 BMW, a 1931 Frazer Nash, a 1963 MG, a 1935 Maserati and a 1936 Talbot, all of which had won a first class award, to win the Pomeroy Trophy. It was a good result.

***

The only pre-war entrant in the heavily over-subscribed Longleat Historic Rally, however, was Julian Bronson’s 1937 supercharged Riley, making up for that marque’s absence at the Pom, and this car was truly a sight to see. It didn’t win the slippery, undulating stages within the grounds of the Longleat Estate in Wiltshire, but it was one of the most impressive cars to watch, its solid axle back end being thrown at corners with great panache and hopping around where other cars slithered around.

Some of the stalwarts of historic rallying were missing from this event, no doubt preparing for the RAC International Historic Rally later in the week, but the organisers still had the unenviable task of turning down a number of applicants on the grounds that they could accept only 100 entries. Although it was lovely to see so many Austin Healeys, a Renault Alpine and some Renault 8 Gordinis competing, the battle at the front developed into Ford Lotus Cortina vs Mini Cooper. It was all blood-stirring stuff! In the final results it was the Mason/Lyne Lotus Cortina on 57min 58 sec who beat ex-works BMC rallycross driver Dave Preece and Rowand Prentice in a Mini Cooper S by just 18 seconds. As a point of interest, if Timo Makinen’s times had been taken, instead of just running as car zero, then he would have finished in second place instead in his Mini Cooper S. Third place went to John Woolley/Nick Wright in a 2-litre Vitesse, a consolation for the sleepless night the crew had after fixing back on the original accident-scarred bonnet after failing scrutineering on the Saturday afternoon with an illegal glassfibre replacement.

Highest placed Austin Healey 3000 was the Chilman/Griffiths example in eighth place while the team award went to the Zephyr team of the Browns, Drons and Hardsons.

There were a number of slightly bent cars at the end of the day, some stretches of the road so slippery it took great skill just to keep it on the tarmac, but for many, it was the sight of that Riley being thrown around and ending up in tenth place which made the day. — WPK