Talk Curve - Historic motorsport insight - Twenty-year itch

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Winning the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy was a dream for Tony Seber, writes Paul Lawrence

The Seber family’s racing Wolsley Hornets have long been renowned for their performances at VSCC events. And to top it all Tony Seber has now achieved the major coup of collecting the club’s Motor Sport Trophy. This is awarded annually for the most successful pre-war car during the season. Traditionally it is a happy hunting ground for the ERAs, but Seber’s pace and commitment has at last been rewarded.

“I got into vintage racing via my dad. He was racing when I was a lad and I fell in love with the whole thing,” says Tony. Having started rebuilding Hornets in the 1950s, John Seber finally began competing in the ’70s, when his son was still a teenager. “I was hooked. I just followed in his footsteps. He finished fourth in his very first VSCC race at Donington in ’79 and, as an admiring 13-year-old, I remember it well.”

As soon as Tony was 17 he started to compete: “I won the first VSCC race I entered, at Silverstone in April 1984, and I felt on top of the world for weeks. Then I got into the engineering/development side of the sport and it’s been a progression. That has helped keep my interest up; drivers always want to go faster. We went the supercharger route at the end the 1980s and, as long as you are progressing, it drives you on.”

Into the 1990s, that first blown Hornet brought plenty of success: Tony prevailed in the John Goddard Trophy at Donington in 1992 and was pipped to the Motor Sport Trophy by ERA racers Duncan Ricketts and Mark Gillies in ’94 and ’95.

Between them, the Sebers have now built and raced 15 cars, nearly always Wolseley Hornet Specials. “Dad has become an authority on them. He’s been the driving force,” says Tony. Though John is now in his early 60s he continues to race, and a couple of years ago he was joined by his other son, Rod. The three of them now share two cars. But within a few years that could grow to four racers as a third generation of Sebers is becoming hooked on historic racing. “My son David, who is 11, is just as keen as I was,” says Tony.

The 2004 season was John’s 25th year of racing, Tony’s 20th. For Tony, the contest for the Motor Sport Trophy went right down to the wire at Donington Park in September, with Duncan Ricketts his major rival. “I was due a bit of luck,” says Tony, who was able to clinch the award despite having a spin in the Goddard/Brooklands Trophy race.

In 2004 Tony claimed four wins and two seconds and even managed a stirring third-fastest time of the day at the VSCC Prescott hillclimb in August. He urged the Hornet up the Gloucestershire hill in 43.59sec, little more than half a second adrift of the Bugatti T51 of Charles Dean.

However, it was a year tinged with tragedy as well as success. At Cadwell Park in June, Tony’s lifetime friend Len Thompson lost his life during the VSCC race meeting.

“I really wanted the Motor Sport Brooklands Trophy,” admits Tony.

“Dad was third in it in about 1980, and ever since then we have thought it would be a fantastic thing to win. Twenty years on I’ve finally managed to do it!”

Tony’s job with Ford in Australia will force him to sit out the 2005 season but he is already relishing a racing return in ’06: “Rod will take centre stage this year in the blown car, and dad will race it as well.

“I’m missing it already.”

Tony collected his trophy at the Autosport International Show.

***

Fact File — Brooklands Memorial Trophy

Trophy grew out of The Brooklands Fund, started by Bill Boddy in 1948 with hopes of funding the Track’s post-war reopening.

When reopening proved impossible, Motor Sport used the fund for a trophy to commemorate the Track — first awarded in 1950 for points at Goodwood Meetings.

First winner:Jim Mayers (Lester-MG).

Best-known winner: Mike Hawthorn.

After Goodwood closed, Silverstone races qualified. Latterly, points have been awarded to those driving Brooklands-type cars in VSCC races

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