Masters Historic Festival, Brands Hatch

Excellent grids, fine racing and a fitting tribute to Sir Jack Brabham made a winning combination for the annual Masters Historic Festival on the awesome Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.

As the event marked the 50th anniversary of the Kent venue’s first British Grand Prix, two Historic Grand Prix Car Association races had added prominence. To cap the Brabham celebration, John Fairley took his 1964 BT11 to victory in Saturday’s opening race… but two first-lap retirements set the stage for a barnstorming follow-up in Sunday’s warm sunshine.

Peter Horsman (Lotus 18/21) and Miles Griffiths (Cooper T51) both retired from race one: Horsman with a spin, after new brake pads locked the rear wheels, and Griffiths with fuel pump failure.

A late gearbox drama prevented Fairley from starting race two, but Horsman and Griffiths thrilled a sizeable crowd by charging through from the back of the grid and then battling fiercely for the lead. Griffiths mounted monster challenges and was still on the attack when the coil lead fell off halfway around the final lap and he coasted into retirement. “I knew there was a mountain to climb from the back of the grid,” Horsman said, “but then we had a terrific battle.”

In a weekend that commemorated Brands Hatch’s Grand Prix heritage, the FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 Championship marked the golden era of the 1970s. The sight and sound of 20 Cosworth DFV-powered cars storming off onto the Grand Prix loop was a real highlight.

Steve Hartley won both races in his Arrows A4, but the Lancastrian had to race very hard to fend off a determined challenge from Simon Fish (Ensign N180). Mike Wrigley got his Williams FW07 onto the podium in both races and then pledged to spend more time in the gym. The second race was interrupted by a safety car when Mark Dwyer’s ex-Derek Daly March 811 plunged off the road at Clearways, fortunately without harm to the driver.

As is so often the case at Masters events, Simon Hadfield and Leo Voyazides were at the centre of much of the racing. Voyazides took his beloved Ford Falcon to a brace of victories in the Pre-66 Touring Car events, while his Lola T70 Mk3B won both parts of the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship. Hadfield had his hands full of Martin O’Connell’s Chevron B19 in a fine wet contest on Saturday, but O’Connell was clear and gone on Sunday before electing to retire the Chevron as a transmission problem left him concerned that the car might jump out of gear and suffer a buzzed engine.

The Gentleman Drivers race was split into two 40-minute sections and the Hadfield/Voyazides AC Cobra won in increasing rain on Saturday. In Sunday’s dry conditions, however, Mike Whitaker’s TVR Griffith proved just too rapid as Hadfield gave his all in a dogged chase.

Finally, Jonathan Hughes added to the Brabham story by winning the opening Lurani Trophy Formula Junior race in his BT6, but lost out by half a second to James Murray (Lola Mk5A) in an absorbing part two. Paul Lawrence