Williams FW08 racer Bob Berridge scored his second successive victory in the Motor Sport-supported FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship as the series came to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit for round four on June 6.
In front of the BBC’s Top Gear cameras: the record field of 25 Grand Prix cars from the 1970-84 era put on a tremendous performance, with Berridge forcing his ex-Keke Rosberg ’82 car through from third on the grid to snatch the advantage at the start, as poleman John Wilson (who posted a 1m19.19s best in his ’83 FWO8C) was hampered by excessive wheelspin, then grabbed fourth gear.
Points leader Steve Hitchins pressured Berridge initially, but with his more powerful short-stroke DFV engine not due to be delivered until the race at the Nürburgring the following week, his ex-Nigel Mansell Lotus 91-10 was always going to come off second best. Berridge underlined his superiority round the flowing 2.6-mile circuit by jumping the Dingle Dell kerbs spectacularly.
The race began with an incident at the startline after Mike Whatley stalled while attempting to check his creeping Ensign N175 and was clouted by Helen Bashford’s fast-starting Shadow. Both cars hit the guardrail, their drivers unhurt, and mechanical damage was thankfully light.
The driver on a charge early on was Paul Ingram, whose colourful Shadow demoted Wilson’s “gripless” Williams, which had Geoff Farmer’s Tyrrell 012-5 in its mirrors. Farmer, suffering a slow puncture in a rear tyre, eventually ceded his position to Mike Littlewood, who had nosed John Fenning’s ex-Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 312T5 briefly into third off the line.
Littlewood’s prowess in the corners compensated for his Ferrari’s lack of straightline speed, and once past the ailing ex-Stefan Bellof Tyrrell, he was able to close rapidly on Wilson. Steve Pontin-Warltier’s Arrows A5 then moved up to challenge, having shaken off Ian Giles’s clutchless Brabham 13149 after a committed dice.
Back in the pack, a furious sortout involved Dave Mercer’s RAM (Berridge’s 1997 title winner), and team-mates Dave Abbott (March 761) and Steve Hartley (Arrows A6). But Tony Smith threaded his Williams FW06-4 through the trio to win his class for the second race running.
“I made it difficult for myself, by making a terrible start, but fighting back was enormous fun,” said the bearded Genesis manager, who now leads the points table by a point from Hitchins in the chassis which Motor Sport tested in the June 1998 issue.