Wheel to wheel -- the month in historic motorsport

Fatality overshadows UK marathon — LE JOG, Dec 4-7

The 10th running of the Land’s End-to-John O’Groats Classic Reliability Trial offered a challenge as great as any of the previous nine events from John Brown’s HERO organisation. Sadly, the event was marred by the death of VW driver Graham Brasier after a road accident on Saturday evening in Wales (see page 10).

A tough four days took the crews from south-west Cornwall to the northern tip of Scotland via some of the most remote and demanding roads in Britain. The combination of special tests and tricky regularity sections ensured a high retirement rate: notable among them was the Porsche 911RS of Dutch crew Bert Dolk/Jan Berkhof.

As ever the Saturday night leg through Wales proved one of the toughest sections, and crews found that recent logging work had left some of the forest tracks muddy and badly rutted. “It was very tough in the forests in an old car,” admitted 1936 Riley Sport 12/4 man Andrew Davies during his gold medal performance. (He and navigator Jonathan Davies were later stopped at gunpoint by soldiers training on Otterburn in Northumberland!)

Among the oldest cars to reach the finish was the 1929 Bentley of Adam Hartley/Jonathan Turner. “That is the toughest rally we have done since Peking-Paris in 1997,” reckoned Hartley. The similar (but three years older) 4-1/2-litre Bentley of Robert Abrey/Julian Riley had to battle on without a trip-meter and a lack of lights after electrical dramas.

Of the newer cars John Bateson/Fred Bent were strong contenders in the early stages in their Escort RS2000, but a series of small errors cost them points. “On a HERO rally, the medals show your consistency,” admitted Bateson.

When the final results were calculated coveted gold medals were awarded to only five crews in what seems likely to be the final LE JOG with Brown at the helm. The crews were: Andrew and Jonathan Davies, John and Rob Kiff (VW-Okrasa), Jayne Wignall/Kevin Savage (356B Porsche), Jan Ebus/Lester van de Zalm (911) and Andy Nash/Nigel Raeburn (Sunbeam Tiger).


Aintree celebration a hit — Aintree Historic Festival, Nov 19-21

It was on May 16, 1964 that motor racing ceased on the full Aintree Grand Prix circuit. Over 40 years later the sound of racing engines returned to the famous track for the inaugural Aintree Historic Festival.

After several false starts, the track had finally been returned to a condition where it could at least host some demonstration laps. A section of the road at Melling Crossing was pressed into service to complete the lap for the three-day festival.

Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks and Roy Salvadori were all present to celebrate a landmark moment in plans to bring motorsport back to Aintree. Brooks did some demo laps in Nick Wigley’s Connaught, while Moss shrugged off his back injury to drive Peter Neumark’s Maserati 250F on Saturday.

Once ice had cleared on Friday morning, Mike McKenna’s Jaguar E-type completed the opening lap of the event. The main demos were made up of period single-seaters, sportscars and saloons. Around 150 cars took part, with the TOPS and Top Hat organisations providing the bulk of the entry.

“It must have been awesome in its heyday,” said Neumark after taking his ex-Harry Schell 250F around the 3-mile lap.


Half-dozen for Nutt on Irish roads — Killarney Historic Rally, Nov 19-21

Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride completed a perfect season by winning the Killarney Historic Rally for the sixth time in their Porsche 911. While several leading crews crashed out in tricky conditions, Nutt was almost a minute clear after a day of classic tarmac stages.

Former British champion Jimmy McRae and Pauline Gullick took post-historic glory in their Porsche 911, while the Ford Escort Mk2 of Dessie Keenan/Enda Sherry nabbed the classic category by just 11sec from local crew Dave Slattery/Ger Somers (Escort).

Leading the chase of Nutt in the historics were Steve Smith and Phil Spurge in a Porsche 911 borrowed from Steve Perez. The car, winner of the 2003 BHRC, was new to Smith, but he improved throughout the day despite losing time behind a crashed car on SS4, Cod’s Head. “The Porsche was a total revelation,” said Smith after his first taste of the Killarney stages.

McRae blitzed the post-historics, winning by over four minutes as the other leading runners crashed out: former winner John Farrell shunted his Escort, while Graham Samuel/Tony Phillips ran second before sliding off the road. Chris Browne/Ali Cornwell then looked set for second until they had to change a puncture.