Marcus Pye's Diary

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132

Motor racing’s most powerful man returns to his roots, and F1’s most unusual winner is reunited with Stirling Moss

Silverstone:

FIA president Max Mosley is unarguably the highest-powered graduate of Clubmans racing. His name, indeed, is currently on everybody’s lips in the Historic and contemporary racing worlds.

While his decision to permit newly-built but technically period-correct cars (fakes, Jenks would have loudly declared them) into historic events unsurprisingly went down badly with the purists, the Indianapolis Formula One FIAsco has caused more grief.

Trained first as a lawyer, Mosley turned salesman with the fledgling March company (in which he was the M), founded in 1970. He sold dozens of new cars and recycled many more in that phase of his career. But Max remained a racer at heart. As do his kinsfolk in the Clubmans Register.

It was a delight, therefore, when he accepted its invitation to the category’s 40th birthday bash at Silverstone. Going back to his roots, when he competed vigorously in the front-engined sportscars, Mosley led a cavalcade in Ray Mallock’s U2 Mk6.

Max raced a similar car at the start of his Formula Two adventure. In fact, he lined up alongside Ray’s father, the legendary Major Arthur Mallock, on the back row of the grid at Crystal Palace in May 1967.

Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell, who — having won his first race at Goodwood in a Lotus 7, four years before the Clubmans class was formalised — is the Register’s honorary president, was on track too. A doubly memorable day for dozens of  ‘anciens pilotes’ at the reunion.

Goodwood:

Ulster-born tractor pioneer Harry Ferguson’s brave entry into F1 in 1961 was probably a couple of years too late. The tide had well and truly turned towards rear-engined cars, so the advantages which his ingenious four-wheel-drive system conferred upon the eponymous P99 — developed by Tony Rolt — were minimal.

Except in bad conditions when, allied with Stirling Moss’s genius, Ferguson’s brainchild triumphed in Oulton Park’s Gold Cup, entering the annals as the last front-engined machine to win an F1 race.

Relatively few people saw the oddity compete on tracks, for it did so sparingly. Given its debut by Jack Fairman in the ’61 British GP (and taken over by Moss after his Lotus broke!), it contested a couple of Tasman Series races, with Graham Hill and Innes Ireland up. And it was tested at Indy by Fairman.

The Ferguson appeared more often in speed hillclimbs, where its abundant traction helped Peter Westbury defend his RAC British crown in 1964. Convinced of its potential when he smashed his own Wiscombe Park record late in ’63, Westbury was duly loaned the P99.

Wins at eight of the 11 rounds he started (Tony Marsh pipped him by 0.01sec at Wiscombe and Peter Boshier-Jones in the supercharged Lotus 22 beat him well at the postage-stamp Great Auclum venue and at Prescott) and nine records constituted a very fine season.

Prior to Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, where Moss was reunited with it, the P99 had not run in public for 36 years, since Fairman demonstrated it at Silverstone. The car later joined Tom Wheatcroft’s expanding Donington Collection.

Now back in the Ferguson Family Museum at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, the ‘Blue Fergie’ was recommissioned for Lord March’s event and was only finished at 3am on the Friday!

Reclining in the cockpit with his trademark white helmet and stringbacked gloves, Sir Stirling could almost have been transported from the period. But for the 2.5-litre Tasman-spec Climax FPF engine under the bonnet in place of the original 1.5-litre version, his steed could have been also.

Moss was full of praise for the concept: “In the wet the car was incredible, but we had no idea then how good it really was. Now it’s better than new, absolutely sensational.”

When the Ferguson ran cleanly, it shot away from the start quickly and without drama. On one occasion it proved recalcitrant, however, spitting fuel back though its vast Weber carburettors. At once, and belying his age, Stirling sprang from the cockpit. “Thought I’d better get out before it blew up,” he quipped to the marshals, before clambering back in for another wonderful ascent.