Veteran to classic: VSCC Oulton Park

A packed weekend

Saturday

Sadly the weather was unkind to the VSCC for the Saturday section of the Richard Seaman weekend at Oulton Park. Blue skies and sunshine were just a fond memory, replaced with dull and damp, not to say downright wet, conditions for most of the afternoon’s racing.

First race of the day was a four-lap scratch event which gave D Taylor’s 1933 Aston Martin a win by some 3.6 seconds from DG Barbet’s Riley. AW Barker took third not far behind the leading due in his 4.5 Lagonda.

Action in the Patrick Marsh Vintage race centred upon the chase for the lead: Terry Cardy went to the front initially but his 2.3 supercharged Bugatti was chased over the opening two laps by the rather larger-engined Bequet Delage of Alexander Boswell. Boswell used all the 1200cc at his disposal to catch the Bugatti by lap three, slipping past next time round and easing away thereafter, taking the flag well ahead. John Horton moved to third at half-distance, his Bugatti taking the place away from Martin Stretton’s spectacularly sliding Frazer Nash, which was however spurred on no doubt by the presence of the Smith Nash just behind.

Race three was the Historic Richard Seaman Trophy ten-lapper and was an ERA benefit. Once again Anthony Mayman took R4D out to the front right from the start and was never seriously threatened, pulling away from Martin Morris' R11B to have seven seconds in hand at the chequered flag. R8C with Bruce Spollon in charge kept touch with Morris but had to settle for third with Duncan Ricketts in R1B fourth. Rod Jolley in his Giron-Alvis had a steady race and moved up into seventh around mid-race but was elevated to sixth as Ludovic Lindsey retired R5B on the last lap when the oil catch tank came adrift, and further benefited from Brian Classic being penalised for an over-enthusiastic start in R2A; he was finally classified as fifth with Classic sixth.

A four-lap Handicap went the way of Thompson’s Lagonda from W Fox in his 3.5 Delahaye, who just pipped E Dunn’s Alvis, whilst the fastest car on the track, Barker’s Lagonda, could only manage last place in the face of the handicappers.

Eagerly awaited was the fifth race of the afternoon, the 15-lap Christie’s 1950s Sports Car race, run by the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association. By now the rain had got much worse and many of the drivers favoured deferring the start in the hope that the weather would be more sympathetic. The organisers stood by the programme order, however, and the race went ahead as scheduled.

Making the running at the front right from the green lights were Willie Green in the Bamford Jaguar D-type and Richard Pilkington in the Aston Martin DB3S with Frank Sytner’s Frazer Nash (a change from the DB3S he was to drive) moving into third away from the start. Lap three brought a change as Mike Barker’s Alton Jaguar slipped past Sytner into third, and this was the order which was maintained to the flag.

Green Pilkington went at it hammer and tongs, disregarding the conditions; Pilkington indeed getting a big slide on up Deer Leap on lap five in his attempts to get alongside Green’s Jaguar. With the Jaguar and Aston at the head of the field outrunning everyone else, interest was however, maintained right to the end, Pilkington only giving up on the penultimate lap when the Aston spun at Lodge Corner, dropping a few seconds regaining the circuit – luckily without hitting the scenery.

Barker and Sytner filled third and fourth with Valentine Lindsay’s D-type in fifth and Douglas Jamieson making it into sixth with his Cooper Bristol, but only after Jeffrey Pattison’s Aston Martin had retired on lap nine with the engine sounding distinctly off.

Second of the day’s four-lap handicaps went to NJ Morley’s Lagonda, which also set fastest race lap, a long way ahead of D White’s Austin 7 and Collings’ 1903 Mercedes which was right on the tail of the Austin across the line. The next five places were covered by less than five seconds with P Haye’s Alvis leading home Tarring’s Napier, the Rileys of JT Golder and PT Fleming and Spencer’s Alvis.

BRMs dominated the Allcomers race as John Harper steadily edged further head of Amschel Rothschild as the race progressed, even though Rothschild was able to match Harper’s fastest lap. Early in the race Chris Drake’s Lotus held third but fell back down the order as David Morris in ERA R11B and Sir John Venables-Llewellyn in the Mayman Ferrari came past after Morris had fought off the attentions of Ludovic Lindsay in Remus over the first four laps.

Finishing off an enjoyable afternoon, despite the weather, was a second four-lap scratch race. Hall’s Lagonda made it to the flat ahead of Payne’s Riley, with Dunn’s Riley third. Lap two saw lots of confusion as many cars retired to the pits or paddock but this hardly affected the close finish of the leading duo. 

Sunday

One of the pleasures of the two-day meeting is the leisurely Sunday morning, when the scenic track resounds to the switch of solid-tyred Ordinary bicycles and the clank of pre-war safeties, before a tug of o’war between competitors and marshalls. Before the racing all the concourse entries parade (the Cheshire Life Trophy having been awarded on Saturday to Scott’s 1929 Sunbeam), before one practice session which gives those who can only make it on Sunday a place on the grid.

As last year, the first post-prandial contest was for three-wheeler Morgans, calling themselves sidecar outfits to allow passengers to be carried under ACU rules. Form the flag things looked set for a dice between Graham Bibby and Bill Tuer, both on Super Sports, but on lap three Truer retired due to gearbox trouble, leaving the challenger’s role to Andrews and Pearson (Super Aero). Bibby and passenger Bain looked unassailable, slaloming through a varied handicap field of two and four-cylinder Morgans with Andrews unable to close the gap, until suddenly Bibby slowed, putting Andrews up front. But the former fought back to pass the Aero on the final lap and reclaim his deserved win. Reynolds’ Super Sports was third, 48 seconds behind Andrews.

Starting with a 2 min 20 sec. deficit, Malcolm Sayers tried extremely hard to reel in Payne in a four-lap handicap; though failing by six seconds, his efforts in his supercharged Riley looked spectacular and netted him fastest lap at 77.75 mph against winner Payne’s best of 69.51 in his unblown Riley.

Amongst the grid for the Richard Seaman Vintage Trophy were potential winners in a huge variety of sizes, from Dave Caroline’s low-line Morgan up to Peter Morley’s towering Napier Bentley. Paddock gossip, though, favoured Terry Cardy (Bugatti 35B) or the Bequet Delage which Alexander Boswell has really sorted.

Cardy headed the bunch into Old Hall, Martin Stretton and John Horton, running his 35B, snapping at his heels, but plunging through Cascades Stretton’s Frazer Nash took a grassy detour which knocked his goggles off. Scrabbling to put them back and rejoin the circuit dropped him to sixth behind Boswell, who was enmeshed in the field in the twin-gearbox Bequet.

By lap two things settled down, Caroline and Horton squabbling over fourth while Boswell had passed them both and set off after Cardy. Despite its 12-litre V8 Hispano-Suiza aero-engine, the elegant dark blue Bequet is remarkably light, and Bowell’s neat driving slowly closed the gap. For three laps he chivvied the Bugatti, before the squeezing past and proceeding to pull out a victory margin of some three seconds.

The other aero-engine, in the Napier Bentley, was churning out clouds of smoke on overrun, making things uncomfortable for Stretton as he tore back through the field, but merely because it is old and tired, according to Morley. Horton’s Bugatti finished fifth, while Stretton settled for fourth, after losing his chance to overhaul Caroline when he was elbowed onto the grass by a back-marker at the chicane.

Gibbs and Donnen formed a victory duo for Frazer Nashes in another four-lap handicap, before the 12-lap Allcomers race, promising a three-cornered battle between Mayman (ERA R4D), John Harper (Lotus 16) and Don Orosco in his big and powerful Scarab single-seater of 1959. Mayman flew from the lights, heading Orosco, Rodney Felton who was piloting Mayman’s 250F, and Ludovic Lindsay in R5B. By the second tour, Harper had pushed the Lotus into third ahead of Felton, and soon afterwards Lindsay saw Remus’ oil pressure dwindle to nothing and pulled off after Knickerbrook. But Orosco’s spirited pursuit of Mayman’s ERA was short-lived; a misfire caused him to retire, unsure whether the magneto was at fault or if a cylinder liner had cracked.

That made Harper’s job easier, and he harried the ERA, even passing it briefly back and took the flag by two-tenths. Felton’s 250F was a lonely third, 23 seconds ahead of Peter Hannen in his Maerati.

A victory for Thompson’s Lagonda ahead of Gregor Fisken (Richard Bolster Spl) wrapped up a packed and exciting weekend which erased the memories of 1988. GC