Veteran to classic -- historic racing

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Historic Racing Round-up

One of the appeals of historic racing, particularly in Britain, is that it covers the whole history of racing. The British enthusiast can enjoy events for cars built before the First World War, in the vintage era, in later pre-war years and the 1950s, right up to the 1980s.

Each enthusiast, it seems, is most attracted to the era when he first discovered motor racing; those who “caught the bug” at Brooklands or Crystal Palace before the war are likely to be more passionate about cars of the Twenties and Thirties, while the postwar “baby-boom” generation, whose adolescence coincided with the Fifties, will favour the 250F Maseratis and D-type Jaguars of that period. Of course, interest in one period quickly spreads to others — otherwise very few people would be racing pre-war cars today.

Those whose interests are in cars built before the end of 1960 are catered for here better than in any other country in the world, thanks to the efforts of the long-established Vintage Sports Car Club, and others, whose events will be familiar to readers. But what of the younger enthusiast, whose “golden age” is the later 1960s and early Seventies, or even later? The principal body promoting racing in Britain for cars of this era is the Historic Sports Car Club, whose relatively low profile means its events do not have the same public recognition as VSCC races. And although most support at HSCC meetings comes from the owners and drivers of period production sportscars, the Club does provide an incentive for preserving and using pure racing machinery, particularly those built in the 1960s and very early Seventies.

It also promotes an interesting series for even newer Formula One cars, in fact more or less any obsolete F1 car. This drew an excellent field for the 25-year celebration at Donington in May, but only eleven cars lined up for next round of the series, at the Brands Hatch Super Prix meeting. They still provided a first-class race with the Wolf pair of John Fenning and Mike Littlewood again the centres of attention. But this time Brands expert Tony Gordon could not be caught, setting a new lap record in his Williams FW08C on his way to leading the Wolves over the line.

The HSCC’s Historic Formula Racing Championship admits all cars built to international single-seater formulae before the end of 1971. This means that Formula Atlantic and F2 cars race have to compete with the much more powerful F5000 and Grand Prix machinery. For the past two or three years Don Wood (Surtees TS9B) has been virtually the only competitor regularly campaigning a Formula One car in this series, and in 1991, as in the past, is not always able to get to grips with the fastest F2 machinery. He won outright at Donington, but managed only sixth at Brands Hatch and third at the HSCC’s July Oulton Park meeting. The F5000 cars, too, are often defeated by the smaller-engined contenders in this series, though the talented Simon Hadfield did take an outright win at the international Spa meeting in May, in Sean Mooney’s McLaren M10B, and Littlewood has been prevented only by unreliability from achieving the same sort of results in Mike Pendlebury’s Palliser.

The Formula Two class of this series has been dominated by the ex-Jaussaud March 712 of Paul Gardner; he won at Donington, and was leading at Oulton Park when his wing collapsed. Northern Irishman Arnie Black, whose Crossle 19F had chased Gardner to the line at Donington, was a non-starter in the second round after a piston broke in race morning practice, allowing Michael Schryver (Lotus 69) to take a comfortable win.

The F2 owners have meanwhile had further opportunity to give their cars a run in the European Historic F2 Challenge, being run for the first time this year. This is attracting a lot of British interest, with Schryver and Steve Hitchins in Lotus 69s and Mooney in his newly-restored Brabham BT35X all featuring high in the placings. After a shaky start in the first round, the series contender to emerge so far is Frenchman Alain Filhol, who has the benefit of BMW power in his ex-Eifelland/Quester March 712; his toughest competition, apart from the Brits, has come from Swiss drivers Fredy Kumschick (Lotus 69) and Hans Peter (Brabham BT36).

Hitchins was winner of the opening round, at Spa in May, leading all the way. Gerard Gamand in a March 712 and Peter in his red Kumschick Racing Brabham were in the initial pursuit, but both struck trouble before the race was over, and it was Mooney who finished second. Filhol joined the series at Brands Hatch and was end-to-end winner, though hotly pursued by Schryver all the way.

Filhol then got in a bit of practice by winning a non-championship Nürburgring race in June — from Kumschick and Peter — and took over the series lead with victory at Montlhéry on 30 June. He was again chased home by Kumschick here, these two finishing well clear of Gamand. Hitchins was fourth, but almost pipped by Mooney at the post, Peter having retired from third place near the end.

The HSCC was best known in recent years for its promotion of races for Can-Am sportscars and similar, but these events have all but disappeared in Britain, the blame for their demise being levelled at the RAC’s silencing regulations. This has resulted in events being dominated by smaller machinery, but has had the converse effect of strengthening the International Super Sports Cup which, although administered from Britain, holds most of its races on the Continent.

There were however only three competitive big cars — all McLarens — in the opening round at Spa, and in one of these Charles Agg was end-to-end winner, in spite of destroying the 8.4-litre engine in his M8F just before the finish-line. Richard Eyre’s M8C/D was second in class and Alain de Cadenet’s M6B third. At the Nürburgring in June, Agg won narrowly from David Franklin’s M6B, rebuilt after its major 1990 Donington accident, with John Hunt (Lola T222) the next big car to finish. The order at the Norisring later in the month was Agg-Hunt, Eyre having been involved in a start-line collision. The only V8 campaigned locally so far this year has been Roly Nix’s McLaren M8C/D, but although he won overall at Donington in May, he was beaten at Brands by two 2-litre cars.

The 2-litre cars in fact seem to be taking over the role that the bigger machinery used to play, providing fast and spectacular racing. Greg Hart (Lola T212) and Richard Arnold (Chevron B19) pushed Nix all the way at Donington, with Arnold taking second after Hart had spun. The B19s of Swedish ace Jonas Qvarnstrom and former F1 driver Brian Redman were third and fourth, with Hart recovering for fifth.

At Spa the brilliant Hart completely overshadowed the Can-Am cars, qualifying on pole and then hounding Agg’s McLaren for the first couple of laps, before the much more powerful car was able to make a break. Hart also won in both German races, with Qvarnstrom second in all three Continental rounds. Kent Abrahamsson (Chevron B16), another Swede, was third at Spa after Californian resident Dutchman Ed Swart, a contender in this category in its heyday, retired his B19 from second place; in the first race at the Norisring Abrahamsson actually beat his compatriot, but was third on aggregate.

Making an appearance in this last race was German superstar Dieter Quester at the wheel of a BMW-backed Chevron B16 but the car let him down. This combination is the most likely to give Hart a run for his money this season.

Some of the closest racing seen in this sort of cars has, for some years, been in the HSCC’s 2-litre GT class. Open to cars that raced before the end of 1968, it is dominated by Chevron B6 and B8 models. Phil Buck is unbeaten so far this season, having won at Donington, Brands Hatch and Oulton Park, and also in all three Super Sports races. It should however be mentioned that at Spa he could not catch the B8 of Bjorn Knutson, until the Swede was sidelined by brake troubles. In spite of the results, the races have all been extremely hard-fought, and a different man has taken second place each time. The HSCC is also administering a new series for newer 2-litre cars on behalf of their owners this year. The first two races, at Thruxton on May Day and at the Brands Hatch Super Prix, saw Toj cars take victory. Sean Walker in a 1975 model won in Hampshire but had to give best to Pendlebury’s older car in Kent.

The new series is full of promise, with Osellas and a Sauber as well as the Tojs joining the more usual names such as Chevron and Lola. — KHRC

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