2004 Review -- Part Two: Sportscars/GTs/Saloons
Pearson suffers bit of Agg -- Group C/GTP Revival
The effort and commitment of Jim Graham really paid dividends in 2004 for the Group C/GTP Racing movement. More cars, more drivers and a sensational warm-up slot at the Le Mans 24 Hours proved that the series is now firmly in the big league of historic racing.
Yet it started at a wet and gloomy Spa in May when typical Ardennes weather, and the looming prospect of the Le Mans race only a month away, led most to opt for caution rather than bravado. Ralf Kelleners (Porsche 962 CK6) and American Jim Mullen (GTP Spice) took a win apiece in testing conditions.
The definite jewel of the series was the race on the Saturday morning before the Le Mans 24 Hours; the final tally was 35 cars from the 1984-93 era. This was an important race for the viability of the championship, and its teams and drivers did not disappoint. Gary Pearson set the qualifying pace in Derek Hood's Jaguar XJR11 and did everything necessary to build a handsome lead in the race. Cruelly, with barely a lap to go, transmission failure halted Pearson and handed victory to a suitably jubilant Charlie Agg, who drove his yellow Nissan R9OCK.
One of the surprise packages at Le Mans had been young GT hotshoe Simon Pullan in the Porsche 962 owned by his uncle Kevin, which he confidently steered to a podium finish. That good form continued at the Nüburgring when he duelled with Denmark's Casper Elgaard in the Kremer Racing 962. Elgaard eventually took a double win, but Pullan had underlined his talent with mature performances.
Brands Hatch GP followed and allowed new circuit owner Jonathan Palmer the chance for some demo laps in the Canon Porsche 956 he drove in period. The pair of races was almost a rerun of Le Mans as Pearson and Agg thrilled the crowd with two cracking dices. In some recompense for his Le Mans retirement, Pearson won both despite the best efforts of the charging Agg. Local dentist David Mercer led the chase in his Spice SE90C and took the runner-up slot from Agg in the closing stages of the second race as the Nissan's tyres faded.
Mercer's front-running pace was finally rewarded with a victory at Donington Park, but a puncture thwarted his chances of a double as a surprised Henry Pearman took a maiden win in his XJR11.
The season wrapped up at Dijon, another track with splendid Group C history. Elgaard added two more wins to become the most successful driver of the season, although seven men in four different marques claimed wins across the 11 races.
In all, 47 Group C/GTP cars raced during the season and at least four more are being prepared for 2005, when a number of high-profile historic racers plan to join the swelling ranks. Despite the complexity of the cars this is a series that is definitely on the up and up.
Lola duo keep cheeky Chevrons at bay -- European Sports-Prototypes
In what would be the final season for the Group 4 movement under Jonathan Baker's direction, it was Carlos Barbot who dominated the series in his Lola T70. Sometimes sharing the car with Baker, the Portuguese racer claimed victory in four of the six events.
It started well for Barbot on the streets of Pau: in the first damp race John Sheldon was mighty aboard his Chevron B16, but when it dried for race two Barbot surged ahead to win convincingly on aggregate.
At Silverstone it was Frank Sytner and Nigel Hulme slugging it out in their T70s, and the brace of wins went to Sytner. Barbot did not make much impression, while Baker wheeled out his Ford F3L for the weekend and was very quick but blighted by gearbox dramas.
The Barbot/Baker combination returned for victory in the final meeting at Montlhéry, while it took a mighty performance from Baker to fend off Sytner at Dijon after a safety car period set up a dramatic conclusion to the hour-long race.
With Barbot absent and Sytner out after hub failure in qualifying, the 2-litre cars had it all their own way at Oulton Park, and ex-F3 star Martin O'Connell blitzed both races as a phalanx of Chevron B16s blitzed their spiritual home.
But it was back to normal at Spa for the finale as Barbot and Baker wrapped up their year with a victory over the best of the 2-litres, Irvine Laidlaw/Simon Hadfield's B16.
Title gone for a Burton -- International Supersports Cup
For the second time since his return to motor racing in 1993, John Burton swept to the International Supersports Cup after a giant-killing campaign in his Chevron B26. With the title secure Burton was even able to miss the final pair of races at the Nürburgring.
Winning his class consistently was one thing; what Burton really wanted was to bag some Can-Am scalps by winning races overall, and he did just that several times with the BDG-powered machine. A double victory on the Brands GP circuit crowned his season, but beating the big bangers in the dry at Spa was another memorable result.
In 12 outings the Vin Malkie-tended B26 barely missed a beat and only once did Burton fail to bag maximum points. "It was the most reliable and successful season we've had in 11 years. We can now beat the Can-Am cars on a number of circuits!" said the jubilant champ.
Peter Schleifer was easily the best of the Can-Am runners in his Lola T222. Having made good progress in recent seasons, the German racer took the fight to Burton on a regular basis and won his class by a handsome margin.
Series organiser and two-time champion Silvio Kalb had a strong campaign in his March 76S to chase Burton home in the class for the newer 2-litre chassis, while Glenn Price (McLaren M1C), Richard Piper (Chevron B19) and Hugh Colman (Chevron B8) all brought class titles back across the Channel.
Other drivers who shone during the year included MSA chairman John Grant (Chevron B19), Carlo del Conte (GRD 375) and Greg Caton, who made Bob Brooks' Lola T212 go extremely rapidly whenever he got the chance.
Coopers run into Walker's Lotus -- BRDC Historic Sportscars
Clearly the premier series for racing sportscars of the1950s, the BRDC championship went down to the wire at Spa in September with three drivers in the running for the overall crown.
Six months earlier it had started in the wind and rain of Silverstone with Philip Walker taking first blood in his nimble Lotus 15. Eleven races and another four wins later, Walker emerged victorious at Spa to clinch the title for the first time.
Two Cooper Monacos were perennial thorns in the side of the Lotus racer as John Harper and Ted Williams each used decades of racing experience to great effect. Harper won three times and Williams twice, including a gritty performance at Oulton when he beat off a race-long challenge from Harper.
The remaining two wins fell to Julian Bronson in his thundering Lister-Chevrolet and, along with the Jaguar D of Ben Eastick, Bronson went to Spa with a realistic shot at the title.
Rupert Whyte had a splendid year in his Lotus Eleven to claim the 1500cc class over the Lola Mk1 of John Clark.
Three decades on from being a works driver for Chevron, Burton is still winning races and titles for the Bolton marque. "I'm sure that Derek Bennett would be very proud that so many of his cars are still racing," says Burton, who returned to the sport 11 years ago after an 18-year break.
His B26, once a box of bits in Vin Malkie's workshop, is now probably the fastest 2-litre historic sports-racing car in the world. "We've done a lot of testing and we've got the suspension so well set up," he says. "It's a dream to drive and I absolutely adore the car. It gives me a helluva buzz."
One of only nine such cars to have been built, Burton's is the only one running in Supersports.
For 2005 he will centre his racing on a contemporary sports-racer, but will still wheel the old Chevron out for selected Supersports events.
1. John Burton (B26) -- 113
2. Peter Schleifer (LolaT222) -- 100
3. Silvio Kalb (March 76S) -- 93
4. Glenn Price (McLaren M1C) -- 84
5. Richard Piper (Chevron B19) -- 65
6. Carlo del Conte (GRD 375) -- 57
1. Philip Walker (Lotus 15) -- 124
2. Julian Bronson (Lister-Chevrolet) -- 120
= Ben Eastick (Jaguar D-type) -- 120
4. Rupert Whyte (Lotus Eleven) -- 97
5. John Clark (Lola Mk1) -- 84
6. John Harper (Cooper Monaco) -- 83
Barrie's class of the field in 911-- HSCC Historic Road Sports
In probably the best performance with a Porsche in HSCC history, Robert Barrie took a commanding Historic Road Sports title in his 911S and even tasted overall victory amid a long run of class glory. Only a lack of class starters in some races kept Robert from a perfect score when he went unbeaten through the opening eight races. His crowning moment came in a topsy-turvy race at Mallory Park in early October; having secured top-three-overall finishes at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, Barrie sealed the title with a memorable outright race win at the Leicestershire track.
The Australian Milano coupé of former champion Mike Eagles and the TR5 of Chris Burbury pressed Barrie in terms of overall points, but Laurence Bailey would have been an even bigger threat had he done more than the three races he won in his TVR Griffith; sidelined by injury by mid-year, Bailey missed the rest of the season. Bruce Stapleton also dropped in for a brace of wins in his Morgan +8.
James Bilderbeck scooped class honours in his Turner MkII, while Adam Ormandy edged out John Fitzgerald for Class C, but not before it took a tie-break to split the Lotus Elans. Ormandy topped his year with an overall race victory at Castle Combe.
Thorne grabs the crown for Morgan -- HSCC 1970s Road Sports
Morgan dealer Richard Thorne took his +8 to the 1970s Road Sports title, though his task was eased when Jal Sharma's Fulvia blew its headgasket in qualifying for the final race of the season.
Stepping back to historic racing for a full Road Sports campaign, Thorne was unbeaten in class in the eight races he started, and the bonus points for driving the car to the meeting ensured his overall tally was well clear of the pack.
However, had Sharma started the Silverstone race he might have done enough to pip Thorne for the title.
In terms of overall race wins the upper hand was firmly held by Charles Barter. The Dorset veteran took five wins and two seconds in a typically hard-charging season. His duels with the sister Datsun 240Z of Matthew Bannister were a highlight and Bannister's sole victory came after a glorious Mallory battle.
Andrew Shepherd (Lotus 7) was third overall, topping his year by beating Barter on the Brands GP circuit.
Tales of the unexpected for B man -- HSCC Classic Sports Cars
The HSCC's Classic Sports Car grids were as erratic as ever, ranging from excellent to poor throughout the seven-race schedule, but the series still provided good competition for the race-bred cars.
Aside from the sports-racing cars running in the invitation class, nearly 60 sports and GT cars appeared. Sadly, barely a dozen of them were regular title contenders.
Having split his season between his Jaguar E-type and a BMW, Les Ely only needed to finish the final round of the season at Silverstone to seal the title — but the horrible conditions on that October day left his E-type in the barriers.
Instead Simon Ashworth grabbed the crown by one point in his MGB. With Martin Richardson's similar car offering the only regular class opposition, Ashworth survived the Silverstone soaker to emerge as a slightly surprised champion.
Jon Minshaw's E-type took the win at the Donington Park opener, and Graham Bryant blitzed the field at Silverstone in his AC Cobra.
Like several of the rapid Marcos pilots, Philip Nelson didn't do all the races, but he still emerged third in the points in his 1800GT.
Classic Sports Cars
1. Simon Ashworth (MGB) -- 49
2. Les Ely (Jaguar E-type) -- 48
3. Philip Nelson (Marcos 1800GT) -- 45
4. Malcolm Sanders (Lotus Elan) -- 32
5. Charles Allison (Marcos 1800GT) -- 30
6. Alan Tice (Marcos 1800GT) -- 25
= Michael Moore (Jaguar E-type) -- 25
Historic Road Sports
1. Robert Barrie (Porsche 911S) -- 64
2. Mike Eagles (Milano GT MkI) -- 42
3. Chris Burbury (Triumph TR5) -- 40
= James Bilderbeck (Turner MkII) -- 40
5. James Owen (Triumph TR5) -- 37
6. Adam Ormandy (Lotus Elan) -- 34
= John Fitzgerald (Lotus Elan) -- 34
1970s Road Sports
1. Richard Thorne (Morgan +8) -- 95
2. Jal Sharma (Lancia Fulvia) -- 86
3. Andrew Shepherd (Lotus 7) -- 71
4. Charles Barter (Datsun 240Z) -- 67
5. Adam Bagnal (Triumph GT6) -- 66
6. James Calvert (Porsche 914) -- 64
Hatters mad for Europe -- Top Hat Racing
With around 1000 active racers on the database, it was another year of growth for Top Hat Racing under the guidance of Julius Thurgood. Headline series were again the Top Hat pre-1966 saloons and the Cloth Cap '50s and '60s sportscars. With a programme topped and tailed by Castle Combe and Mallory Park, and visits in between to circuits like Montlhéry, Pau, Chimay and Spa, the appeal is easy to see.
Before switching his attention to developing the rare Dodge Dart, John Young was the early Top Hat hero as he overcame the American muscle-cars to take his Jaguar Mkl to overall victory at Castle Combe. Others to make an impression included former single-seater racer Richard Shaw, back racing a BMW 1800 after a break, who starred at Montlhéry in particular. Elsewhere, Leo Voyazides and Andy Bacon shared the former's Ford Falcon to good effect, but the best race of the season came at Pau as the Mini Cooper of Jason Stanley/Nick Swift beat the Lotus-Cortina of Chris Sanders in a last-lap thriller.
Shaun Lynn's AC Cobra was a regular contender in Cloth Cap, along with the 'CUT 7' Jaguar E-type in the hands of Nick Whale and Ian Guest. Mark Hales and Jon Shipman took their Crosslé 9S to victory at Combe, while Voyazides switched to his Ford GT40 to win the combined race at Spa when an 83-car entry made the pilgrimage to the Ardennes.
Oliver takes impish delight -- HSCC Historic Racing Saloons Register
"It's been the toughest year yet," said Adrian Oliver after claiming a hat-trick of championship titles in the Historic Racing Saloon Register Championship. Imp racer Oliver, the son of four-time sidecar world champ Eric, faced much stronger opposition than ever before. At times he had as many as seven fellow Imp pilots to fend off, and it was Martin Bramwell who proved the biggest thorn. Bramwell took the class at Mondello Park and OuIton Park, which left Oliver needing a sixth class win in the wet finale at Silverstone to seal the crown.
While the Imps battled mightily down the order, at the head of the field was a gaggle of widely divergent cars. Les Ely was rapidly getting to grips with his BMW 2000, Graeme Dodd's Jag MkII was as spectacular as ever, while Dan Cox's Anglia was absolutely storming along. Dodd's hopes of doubling up on his 2003 title slid off the track at Oulton in August on a monster slick of oil, and Cox had propshaft dramas that took the shine off his pace. Instead it was Ely who ran Oliver closest with just two points between them.
However, the Silverstone final belonged to Roger Godfrey, who drove an epic race in the rain to win outright in his Mini Cooper and secure third overall in the process.
1. Adrian Oliver (Hillman Imp) -- 66
2. Les Ely (BMW 2000) -- 64
3. Roger Godfrey (Mini Cooper) -- 55
4. Graeme Dodd (Jaguar MkII) -- 54
= Dan Cox (Ford Anglia) -- 54
= Martin Bramwell (Hillman Imp) -- 54
Dodd dodges puddles to storm to title -- JEC Jaguar XK Championship
Two hideously wet end-of-season races settled the Jaguar XK title in favour of Graeme Dodd; in soaking rain at Mallory and Silverstone, he slithered to the title.
After missing the double-header at Knockhill, Dodd spent the rest of the season clawing back the deficit to Nigel Webb, who had won twice in Scotland in his XK120.
Closer still, the other two classes ended with ties: Kevin Zwolinski got the nod over Geoff Ottley in the more standard cars, while Grahame Bull just pipped David Hall in the middle category.
Juan's the one with 917 -- Classic Endurance Racing Series
Created to run alongside the Le Mans Endurance Series, the four-race Classic Endurance Racing Series was aimed squarely at 1960s and early '70s prototypes with period Le Mans history.
For his step up from national racing, Juan Barazi equipped himself with the ex-Bobby Rahal Porsche 917K and there was no question that it was the tool for the job. Barazi treated it with suitable respect but still dominated the opening race at Monza to head David Piper's similar car by more than a lap.
GT racer Bobby Verdon-Roe jumped into the glorious Ligier JS3 of Michael Jankowski and starred, but his efforts went unrewarded as the car ran out of fuel when heading for second.
Barazi did it again at the Nürburgring but had to up his pace to see off the older 908 of Philipp and Siggi Brunn, and it was the former who should have won at Silverstone a month later. This time it was the 908's turn to run short of fuel, allowing Verdon-Roe through to victory from Barazi.
Saving the best race for last, Barazi won at Spa in September but by little more than a tenth of second over the charismatic Gulf Mirage of American Chris McAllister.
Anton ups the ante in rapid GTA -- FIA Historic Touring Cars
Although the most points were scored by the Alfa Romeo Giulietta TI of Mario Rossi/Mario Cajani, the biggest winner in the FIAs European Challenge for Historic Touring Cars was Austria's Dieter Karl Anton. The former German F3 racer outpointed the American V8 machines in a memorable campaign aboard his Alfa Romeo GTA. While most cars were shared in the hour-long races, Anton went solo.
Only at the Oldtimer meeting at the Nürburgring did Anton fail to bag major points, and that ensured that British combo Nigel Vaulkhard/John Smirthwaite stayed firmly in contention in their Mustang. But the championship newcomers fared little better at the 'Ring, and when a stub axle failed in the Estoril final, the flying Alfa won by 14 points.
Other notable contenders from the V8 pack included Max Rostron/Ulf Larsson, but their Mustang was dogged by poor reliability. Erwin Derichs/Manfred Kubik were consistent rather than blindingly quick in their 'stang, while Leo Voyazides/Andy Bacon flew in their Ford Falcon on rare outings.
Former multiple champion Bo Warmenius shared a Lotus-Cortina with Gunnar Turebrand to claim third ahead of the similar car of Mikael and Carl Gustavsson. Other quick Cortina crews were Kerry Michael/Chris Sanders and Nick Stagg/Pantelis Christoforou. Among the Mini men, Graham Churchill teamed up with veteran one-make star Peter Baldwin to good effect.
The Pre-1976 initiative staggered into existence with small grids. The car to watch was the Alpina CSL of Wolfgang Scachinger.
First year flyers
For their first venture into the FIA Euro Challenge for Historic Touring Cars, Nigel Vaulkhard and John Smirthwaite had a mighty campaign in their Mustang. "We could have won it," says Smirthwaite after they finished runners-up.
They had to learn a number of tracks in the pan-Europe series, but led the points race for much of the season despite that.
"It went to the wire in Estoril, but a stub axle broke and put Nigel into the wall," says Smirthwaite.
Another title assault is planned for 2005 with the Mustang. In addition, a BDG-engined Mkl Escort is being built for use in the new FIA Pre-1976 series.
Warmenius dominates with Elan -- FIA Cup for Historic GT Cars
The FIA touring car title may have eluded him in 2004, but prolific Swedish racer Bo Warmenius took no small consolation in winning the FIA Cup for Historic GT Cars in his Lotus Elan.
Such was the tally of Warmenius in Class 10 that the Pre-1965 title was secure by the penultimate race at Spa, and so the long haul to Estoril was not necessary. However, Warmenius did not have things all his own way in the class -- the arrival of Sean Walker's Elan 26R 'Gold Bug' for the Donington Park races left the Swede struggling to keep up. To the relief of Warmenius, that was the former BTCC driver's only FIA outing with the Lotus.
The runner-up slot in the final results went to the monstrous Chevrolet Corvette of Hans-Jürgen Malsbenden. However, the well-driven TVR Griffith of Jamie Boot was a strong contender and the Sheffield racer starred at Spa by taking the win.
Top of the thinly supported category for older period E cars was the Lotus Elite of Udo Vossheinrich, while the best of the select group of Pre-1976 cars was the consistent 911RSR of Germany's Thomas Verhoeven. The De Tomaso Panteras of Claus Damgaard and Hendrik Lindberg looked and sounded glorious but failed to deliver results.
'Nash keeps 8C Alfas on their toes -- Motor Racing Legends Pre-War Sports
New for the 2004 season was Duncan Wiltshire's pre-war sportscar series. Unfortunately, a big accident curtailed the opening event at the Nürburgring in June as a three-way battle was heading for a close finish. Martin Walford, flying solo in John Ruston's Alta, James Baxter (Alfa Romeo 8C Monza) and the 'Nash of Chris Chilcott/Sam Stretton were the protagonists.
The Dutch motorcycle GP circuit at Assen proved well suited to the pre-war cars and a pair of 45-minute races allowed Bill Ainscough and Baxter to take aggregate victory in the former's Alfa 8C Monza. Baxter, more often in a Frazer Nash, took to the car in style, but he had to press on in the second race to overcome the 'Nash of Chilcott/Stretton.
An hour-long race at Spa in September also fell to an 8C Monza, but this time it was the car of Hubert Fabri/Adrian Stoop which emerged marginally ahead of the Ainscough/Baxter car after a spirited contest.
European Challenge for Historic Touring Cars
1. Mario Rossi/Mario Cajani (Alfa Romeo GiulettaTI) -- 147.2
2. Dieter Karl Anton (Alfa Romeo GTA) -- 140.4
3. Nigel Vaulkhard/John Smirthwaite (Ford Mustang) -- 126.8
4. Luigi Ambroso/Vinico Marta (Alfa Romeo Giuletta TI) -- 119.2
5. Bo Warmenius/Gunnar Turebrand (Ford Lotus-Cortina) -- 113.4
6. Mikael Gustavsson/Carl Gustavsson (Ford Lotus-Cortina) -- 99.4
Cup for Historic GT Cars
1. Bo Warmenius (Lotus Elan) -- 127
2. Hans-Jürgen Malsbenden (Corvette) -- 109.6
3. Jamie Boot (TVR Griffith) -- 104.6
4. Udo Vossheinrich (Lotus Elite) -- 83.6
5. Peter Kroeber (Lotus Elan) -- 74.2
6. Peter Dunn (Marcos 1800GT) -- 68