A unique re-creation of the 1948 RAC Grand Prix, expected to feature a representative field of original Maseratis, Talbots and ERAs, will be the unmissable centrepiece of next year’s Coys International Historic Festival, which showcases 50 years of the Silverstone circuit from July 24-26.
Nineteen of the 25 actual cars which formed the grid for Britain’s first post-war Grand Prix – run before a vast crowd on October 2, 1948 – have so far been traced by the event’s co-ordinator Sheridan Thynne, and the overwhelming majority of their owners have responded positively to invitation to bring their cars back to Silverstone to partake in a spectacular demonstration on the Historic Grand Prix Circuit.
Those surviving drivers who took part originally – Bob Ansell, Emanuel de Graffenried, Geoff Richardson, Tony Rolt and Roy Salvadori – have been invited to drive in the festivities.
The 3.67-mile circuit, used only in 1948, followed the outline of the airfield perimeter track familiar until 1990, but achieved its length through dog-legs which darted towards each other (somewhat alarmingly) down the main runways from Stowe to Club and from Club to Maggotts.
While neither that nor the original starting line between Abbey and Woodcote, cannot be re-created given the complex’s modem multi-circuit layout, it is to be hoped that the track is wide enough to line up the grid in its original five-four-five-four-five two order.
Luigi Villoresi – who died last autumn – and Alberto Ascari blasted their Maserati 4CLT/48s through from the back of the grid in the race (having arrived late and practised out of session) and worked their way through the largely amateur British field inside three laps, dicing furiously with each other all the way.
While the Italian machines were in a class alone, with Villoresi beating his young protege, an heroic performance by Bob Gerard ousted poleman Louis Rosier’s 4½-litre Talbot from third place and kept his pre-war ERA R14B on the same lap as the Maseratis after a gruelling 238 miles in the cockpit.
The ERA – which has been owned for the past 40 years by Donald Day – is just one of six marques’ representatives in the field which are still regularly raced. The ex-Bira R5B `Remus,’ which John Bolster and owner Peter Bell co-drove to sixth place, is also a Silverstone favourite at VSCC events in the hands of Ludovic Lindsay.
ERA R9B, rolled by Geoffrey Ansell (and captured for posterity on Movietone News film), is now with Swiss racer Jost Wildbolz who, ironically, escaped serious injury when he inverted the car at Monaco’s Historic Festival last year. Efforts are being made to secure all of the relevant early ERAs to join the ex-Richardson Riley-ERA of Keith Knight, and indeed return the E-type GP2, driven by Leslie Johnson, to running order again.
Very few Maserati 4CLT/48s are currently in action, but Leopold Hrobsky has the Reg Parnell car and Jose d’Alburquerque and Thomas Bscher are enthusiastic about running their 4CLTs in place of the victorious Scuderia Ambrosiana machines. Rainer Klink is eager to bring the ex-de Graffenried 4CL for the dashing Baron to demonstrate, and Salvadori’s 4CM now with Peter Altenbach is a likely starter, as is Duncan Hamilton’s 6CM.
While the organisers have done a splendid job of contacting drivers and finding cars, a couple of mysteries remain. What became of Rolt’s Alfa Romeo Aitken, or Bobbie Baird’s Duesenberg-engined Emeryson, which failed scrutineering?
A superb programme of races is planned over the Saturday and Sunday of the Festival (details to be announced later), and a special paddock feature during the weekend will spotlight a significant car from each of the circuit’s 50 years.