GP circuit proves a festival favourite

Bill Coombs and Simon Hadfield led the Masters winners on Brands Hatch’s famous GP loop

The annual Masters Festival at Brands Hatch delivered a fine weekend of racing, marred only by the shocking violence of the accident that befell John Grant in the Interserie Revival race (see Historic News, p112).

The big winners included Bill Coombs, who made it three Formula 1 wins from four starts in Grand Prix Masters, and Simon Hadfield, whose versatility earned victories in a Lola T70 Spyder and AC Cobra.

Any event that offers drivers the chance to tackle the spectacular challenge of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit will be a sure-fire hit. The three-dimensional sweeps of the former home of the British GP ensure it remains one of the world’s great circuits, unfettered by chicanes and Tilke-esque constant-radius turns. “I know the lap at Brands is shorter, but you get just the same buzz you get at Spa,” said Hadfield of the Kent track. “It really is that good.”

After a day of Top Hat racing on the Indy circuit on Saturday, the action switched to the Grand Prix circuit for Sunday and Monday, and drivers responded by pitting fabulous machinery into action from encouragingly strong grids. For many cars in the crowded paddock, it was the first race of the season.

Coombs, now enjoying a fresh career a quarter of a century after he was a rising star of Formula 3, bagged a double in GP Masters at the helm of Peter Orlando’s Tyrrell 009. It might have been tougher for Coombs, however, if another former F3 racer in the shape of poleman Rob Austin had not lost out with clutch problems before his anticipated debut in the ex-Alan Jones Surtees TS19. Roger Wills (Williams FW05) and Manfredo Rossi di Montelera (Brabham BT42) pursued Coombs.

The vastly underrated Richard Evans toppled the big bangers in the opening World Sportscar Masters race with a mighty performance at the wheel of John Crowson’s Osella PA01. With the car back on track this season for the first time in decades, Evans was denied a double when the gearlever broke at Paddock Hill Bend on the first lap of race two. Instead, Oliver Bryant stormed away in his Lola T70 Mk3B.

The Gentleman Drivers grid was split at two litres to cope with competitor demand and it proved a popular move with the drivers. Hadfield was a big player in both two-hour races, winning the big-engined race alongside Leo Voyazides in the Greek’s AC Cobra. However, 24 hours earlier, Hadfield and Michael Schryver could not quite match the pace of the similar Lotus Elan 26R of old mates Sean Walker and Ian Flux.

Elsewhere on the programme, Richard Piper (McLaren M8F) bagged the Interserie Revival win despite a spirited chase by Frank Bradley (March 717), and Patrick Watts was top dog in Top Hat Saloons in his Ford Mustang.