AMOC St john Horsfall Meeting

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The highlight of the Aston Martin Owners Club’s competition year has become the St John Horsfall meeting at Silverstone. This year’s was the 36th such event, and, very suitably for the club’s Golden Jubilee Year, the number of entries for the Horsfall Trophy itself was so great that there had to be two five-lap heats on the Saturday, lead­ing to an eight-lap final on Sunday. Wintry weather took the edge off some exciting racing on both days, but a spectacular selection of cars, not all Aston, was some compensation.

Amongst the “alien” machinery were those Porsches, Jaguars, and ACs contesting the opening race, the Chapman-Spooner round of the Inter-Marque Championship. In the absence of Eilis’s V8 Aston, victim of a collision in practice, it was John Piper who took an early lead, his Porsche 930 being held in sight by, but not in danger from, Martin Colville’s Cobra. Norman McRoberts’ looked for a while like stealing third from the only Jaguar to near the front, Stephen Langton’s Lister, but Langton’s place was secured when the RSR Carrera lost some time lapping a tail-ender.

Another decisive win fell to Steve Hitchins in the HSCC Classic Sportscar round. His Lotus 23B was the first arrival at Copse and he kept it that way for all 10 laps, with a bigger and bigger gap to the scrap between Roger Ealand (Marcos GT) and Tony Thompson, which lasted the whole race and only narrowly fell to the latter’s Elan. Nick Mason’s victory in Heat 1 of the Horsfall Trophy was not so easy; John Freeman had his Spa. Special Aston very sideways in places trying to close the gap to the Ulster LM21, ultimately unsuccessfully, and a little way behind the flying pair was Chris Hudson in another Ulster. A third example scored in the second heat: CMC 614, thought by owner Derrick Edwards to be one of the most raced cars in the world, proved its point with a fine first place. With Edwards at the wheel – or at least in the cockpit: his side-car cornering style with head and shoulders overboard makes quite a spectacle. Judy Hogg lost her early second place to Bill Burton (15/98) but kept her Ulster (LM18) just ahead of Peter Sutcliffe (AM Le Mans) despite his last lap attempt at Woodcote which showed his enthusiasm to be as great as ever. His last drive was in a works Ferrari in 1967.

Separating the two heats was the Failsafe GT race, won by John Foulston’s huge McLaren M8D from Ted Williams’ March 707, but behind this ear-splitting pair, David Franklin (McLaren M6B) and Mike Wheatley (BRM Pl54) argued with each other, and Langton (Lola Tl60), lap after lap over third, though after Langton spun, and Franklin stopped on the circuit, it was Wheatley who scored.

Inevitably, it was Aston DB4s to the fore in a wet Thoroughbred race, with Alistair Sinclair victorious, while the Cobra of John Atkins took the John Lelliot Post Historic Road Sports event which followed with a huge lead, although Trevor Needham’s second-placed Ginetta had to contend first with Tony Ingram’s similar car, and then the Marcos GT of David Chaney, before clinching the runner-up position. Second also provided the thrills for the first two laps of the Ericsson Trophy which concluded the first day’s events, with Jeffray Johnstone’s McLaren being harried by the Chevron of Sid Marler. Marler managed to steal through on the inside at Woodcote, but the 3-litre advantage of Johnstone’s car soon reversed the places. Way off in the distance, Foulston’s McLaren was collaring another victory, leading from pole to flag.

Sunday morning saw the Concours judging, followed by a parade to honour AMOC members of long or valuable service, which was a happy idea. A rather faster parade followed, in the form of a High Speed Trial won by Tony Goodchild’s DB3, setting the scene for the historic single­seaters in the General Portfolio Trophy.

Although Langton looked hopeful in the Lister-Jaguar for the first few laps, it was the two Lotus 16s which made the pace, Chris Mann letting Anthony Mayman through on lap three, with-Langton taking third, a respectful distance behind.

Having discovered that the “rain” tyres he had chosen for Saturday’s Thoroughbred race offered very little grip in the conditions, Michael Salmon assuaged that disappoint­ment in Sunday’s Selkirk Trophy for the later DB Astons by smoothly fending off four rivals for the first corner and leading for all ten laps. Alistair Sinclair lost his early second place to David Heynes’ DB4, and St. John Hart obviously disapproved of being dropped to fifth by Steve Earle, the lovely DB4GT Zagato trying some very late brak-ing to retake Earle, but to no avail.

As the Horsfall Trophy was sponsored by Nick Mason’s Morntane Engineering firm, which also owned or prepared some 10 of the entries, it was a just reward for his love of all things Aston that Mason should pass initial leader John Freeman (Spa Special) on the second lap to romp home a clear victor over the latter with Edwards and Hudson third and fourth in their respective Ulsters.

Mason’s LM2 l was also winner of the 1 1/2- litre award.

Another all-Aston race, this time for Feltham-built cars, proved to be the high-spot of the weekend’s action, a terrific· seven-lap tussle which saw four different leaders and a virtual dead heat at the flag. It was Richard Pilkington’s DB3S which led to begin with, but, on lap four of the 10-lap Alpro Trophy, Tony Goodchild (DB3) got through, followed by St. John Hart (DBR2) who had just taken Frank Sytner’s DB3S Coupe.

But when the leaders began to lap the field, Sytner outbraked them one by one through the traffic until he led over St John Hart, Pilkington and Goodchild. However, Hart overdid it at Woodcote and spun right in front of his pursuers who shot round, one each side, within a hair’s breadth of the extremities of the DBR2. This only seemed to inspire Hart, who immediately recovered, and soon picked off Pilkington, then Good-child, and finally Sytner, who then suc-cumbed in his turn to the flying Goodchild. In the final moments, the latter flung his DB3 inside Hart at Woodcote and they tore across the line, finishing so close that both stopped at the rostrum unsure who was the victor. It was declared to be Hart, and he then arrived on the grid for the last race still wearing his laurels, though he did remove them before the start .

It was Peter Millward’s turn to shine in the Banett Trophy which concluded the weekend, the gleaming Lola-Aston proving to be fastest in the absence of rhe promised A-M Nimrod. Millward’s pole. position turned into an enormous’ lead which Terry Mitchell (DBS V8) could not dent, while Salmon’s DB4 held off a late challenge from the similar car of Francois Duret.

Some sunshine would have been wel­come, but the paddock and the racing combined to make the 36th St John Horsfall meeting one for AMOC to be proud of.

G.C.

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