RAC Tourist Trophy

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The tourist Trophy race has had many home circuits and a number of famous names have figured in the results of what was billed this year as Britain’s oldest motor race, the 35th RAC Tourist Trophy. The TT was held in June, this time at Silverstone, and was for Group 2 International Touring Cars—the two, two hour heats giving an aggregate result which counted for both double RAC Championship points and the European Touring Car Challenge.

Thus there was a welcome variety in the entry with cars from Japan (Mazda Rotary R100s prepared on the continent but supported by Japanese personnel.) Italy represented by a horde of Alfa headed by three works 2-litre GTAms (which designates America for which market they were homologated at this capacity plus fuel injection). German interests were upheld by three works 2.6-litre Weslake-Ford Capris with fuel injection. There were no Americans driving, so far as the author is aware, but a Chevrolet Z28 Camaro for Muir and Gardner’s Ford Boss Mustang 302 (both five litres with at least 425 b.h.p.) represented the popular American Trans-Am style of preparation to good effect.

In the smaller capacity classes notable British representation came from Broadspeed with J. Stewart, C. Craft, the World Champion sharing, and apparently immensely enjoying this works backed 1.6-litre Twin Cam Escort. Broadspeed also looked strong with the 1,300 c.c. 140+ b.h.p. Escort GT for Fitzpatrick, but there is no official class at this level for European events. The divisions are: over 1,600 c.c., 1,000-1,600 c.c. and up to 1,000 c.c. The current leader of the British Championship is W. McGovern in a George Bevan prepared 1-litre Sunbeam Imp, so the tiddlers class can often be worth watching, especially as last year it also provided the British Saloon Car Champion.

The cars lined up on a two by two grid for a rolling start behind the Aston Martin DBS pace car with the two American machines fastest in practice ahead of Stommelen’s Capri and Stewart in the Escort. From the first lap the V8 propelled “Pony Cars” cantered away from an exciting but short lived, scrap between Hezemans (Alfa GTAm), Stewart, Stommelen, Galli (Alfa GTAm), Glemser (works Capri) and Mohr’s similar Ford. After an hour’s racing Muir had pulled into a comfortable lead in the Malcolm Gartlan prepared-Wiggins Teape sponsored Chevrolet; after some professional pit work he was able to enlarge this lead to the end. Gardner dropped almost out of contention with a shredded tyre and fuel feed problems, eventually to finish a gallant seventh in the heat.

The Alfa Romeos looked as though they would run without pit stops (the only over 1,600 c.c. machinery to do so) and Hezemans confirmed this by hanging onto second place for a short time while Stommelen went through one of the superb Neerpasch-organised Ford Germany pit stops. However the German F1 Brabham driver soon retrieved his loss to finish second ahead of Hezemans, Stewart and Glemser.

In heat two the front runners were much the same, with Gardner once more suffering rear tyre troubles after 30 laps or so and having to fight his way back up the field as Muir took the immaculate Camaro into a secure lead for overall victory. Gardner had led for a short while and he again set fastest lap; neither broke his recently established record. Craft did not have much luck with the Stewart shared Escort and went out with a broken valve spring fairly early on, while of the German Fords both Stommelen and Aaltonen (who took over the Mohr Capri and drove excellently) dropped out with engine troubles, the third works Capri being delayed after spectacular spin when a rear tyre went flat. So behind Muir it was the GTAms of Hezemans, Galli and F3 pilot Petri all well placed for most of the race, with Gardner passing all of them with just about 10 minutes left of the final heat to claim second place and a deserved third overall.

A spell of rain towards the end put an end to the reliable Mazdas chances of really good placings as their Japanese rubberwear seemed to slither helplessly on Silverstone grease, while another Alfa, this time a non-works GTAm for Franck/Miss Christine Beckers, also slithered off the road while in fourth place.

In the up to 1,600 C.C. division Marko’s BMW 1,600 and Crabtree’s Escort T-C were evenly matched with about 170 b.h.p. from their respective Weber aspirated engines, despite Crabtree’s Willment entered and prepared machine having no clutch for the second heat. The Escort driver performed magnificently to haul himself up as far as seventh in this heat after starting a good half lap in arrears. A controversial waving of the chequered flag left the finish of this class battle in some dispute, with Marko taking the verdict after completing an extra lap. By the way, BMW-Alpina also entered a pair of 3-litre injected BMW 2800 Coupes, but neither went very well before falling out with serious engine maladies: in one case of the “hole in the wall” variety!

McGovern was delayed by a puncture in heat one, but was still an easy winner of the smallest division, collecting a valuable points bonus and moving the 1-litre Imp up into the lead of the British Championship with Gardner’s Mustang second. Hezemans now has the largest collection of points in the European series.

The TT also acted as a kind of second Fordsport Day and received backing from the Daily Express. There was a traditional, for these affairs, air display and an intriguing kart race featuring race average of not much less than 90 m.p.h. and plenty of outfumbling going on inside the pack. A decent sized crowd turned out to watch the event and it is hoped to repeat the Tourist Trophy for Touring Cars alternately at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.—J. W.

Results : RAC Tourist Trophy—Group 2 Touring Cars—Silverstone GP Circuit

Two by 2-hour heats, aggregate time and distance final result—

Mainly dry conditions

1st: B. Muir (Chevrolet Z28 Camaro – 5-litre V8) .. 137 laps, 4 hr 0min. 44.2sec. – 99.94 m.p.h.

2nd: T. Hezemans (Alfa Romeo GTAm – 2-litre 4-cyl.) .. 134 laps

3rd: F. Gardner (Ford Boss Mustang 302 – 5-litre V8) .. 134 laps

4th: G. Galli (Alfa Romeo GTAm – 2-litre 4-cyl.) .. 134 laps

5th: D. Glemser (Ford Capri 2300 GT – 2.4-litre V6) .. 132 laps

6th: G-L. Picchi (Alfa Romeo GTAm – 2-litre 4-cyl.) .. 132 laps

Fastest lap overall: F. Gardner (Ford Mustang), 1 min. 39.3sec. – 106.12 m.p.h.

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