Veteran to classic -- historic racing

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Historic Racing Activities

The talking-point in historic racing circles this year has been the Vintage Sports Car Club’s controversial decision to admit rear-engined cars to its races for pre-1960 Grand Prix machinery, and the effects it is having.

It’s an old argument. On the one side, logic says that if races are open to cars built before 1960, they should include any car built before 1960, irrespective of engine position. The other view is that the period in question represented the end of an era, and the rear-engined cars fitted better with the next period.

On top of all that, there was — and is — a strong body of opinion which believes that Anthony Mayman and his Lotus 16 have enough of an edge to beat the rear-engined cars regardless.

The first few races of the year have done little to settle matters. Mayman succeeded in winning the Silverstone race, first 1991 encounter between old and new, when he pipped Peter Hannen’s Cooper on the last corner. But at Donington the situation was reversed, when John Harper took his Cooper past the Lotus a few laps from the end and held it off to the flag.

Lack of representative entries meant the early non-VSCC meetings in Britain did not prove anything either way. The race at the AMOC’s Brand Hatch, held in pouring rain, allowed Gerry Porter (who had been third at Silverstone) to win in his 2-litre Cooper-Climax. Chris Mann’s Lotus, which has given the rear-engined cars a run for their money in the past, was scratching from the Historic Sports Car Club’s Visage Super Prix meeting at the same venue a month later, and although Harper was there he broke down on the line, and Porter won again. Since its establishment in 1988, the Historic Grand Prix Association’s annual 100-mile race has been the high point of the year. Restricted to cars built before the end of 1957, and with strict regard to originality.

Winner of the first three races was Willie Green in a variety of 250F Maseratis: Anthony Bamford’s “Piccolo” at Donington the first year, and then Hartmut Ibing’s ex-works 1957 car at the Nürburgring and Silverstone in ensuing years.

There were two departures from tradition in this year’s race held on May 18/19 at Spa-Francorchamps. The first was that “non-complying” cars were admitted, excluding the dreaded rear-engined Cooper and Lotus designs but including post-1957 replicas and Neil Corner’s Ferrari Dino. This last car, although an undeniably glorious machine, is not a Formula One car, as it runs with a 3-litre V12 engine fitted for Formule Libre racing in New Zealand.

The second departure came in the overnight break between the two halves of the race, when it was decided that the rear-engined cars could, after all, join in, starting from the back of the grid. This, it was hoped, would bring the numbers of fast cars up to scratch, as between practice on Saturday morning and the end of the day’s competition five of the six fastest qualifiers had suffered problems of greater or lesser permanence.

Corner had won this event, but Hannen (BRM P25) led him until mechanical troubles intervened, and Ludovic Lindsay (250F replica) spun away what would have been second place in the early stages. Lindsay Owen-Jones (B-Type Connaught) lost time in the pits with gear-selection problems and Alain de Cadenet rendered his similar car a non-starter. Until he blew up, Nigel Corner (250F Maserati) held second place behind his father which then left Nick Mason’s similar car to take second place, chased by the ageing Cooper-Bristol of an on-form John Beasley.

For Sunday’s race Hannen switched to his Cooper-Climax, and ran Corner Sr close until a misfire dropped him back slightly. He nevertheless finished second, ahead of Lindsay, Mason, Beasley and the rest. On aggregate Corner was a runaway winner, with 3-1/2 minutes in hand over Mason. The 250F driver was however winner of the HGPCA award, though by less than half a minute from the impressive Beasley. Jeffrey Pattinson (ex-Moss 250F) was fourth, and the only other runner to complete the full 21 laps. The Ure/Mann ERA was one lap down (and first pre-war car), followed by Tony Merrick, who completed 19 laps in the Haysahi-owned P3 Alfa (but not the ex-Nuvolari car, which will appear later in the year).

Races for pre-war and vintage cars at VSCC meetings have been covered by our reports, as have the events for 1950s sportscars, but it is worth looking again at this last group. Not only are these cars enjoying a resurgence of popularity, but they, like the ’50s GP cars, are promoted by groups other than the VSCC.

Harper, driving a 1957 D-type Jaguar for auctioneer Robert Brooks, won at both VSCC meetings and at Spa, in spite of a certain amount of bickering over whether the car’s provenance is sufficient for it to be admitted to these events. It is not alone, for the days of rocketing values of such cars has led to conflicting claims to particular identities of a number of cars.

Indeed, on more than one occasion this year two cars in the same race have laid claim to the same identity! Harper’s closest challenger has been the Costin-bodied Lister-Jaguar of Gary Pearson, but this retired at Silverstone, was a nonstarter at Spa, then finished second (after a spin) at Donington.

At Spa Harper was chased all the way by Steve O’Rourke in a 1958 “knobbly” ListerJaguar, the two putting on a wonderful battle.

The sportscars and GP cars race together in a new series promoted jointly by the HSCC and the AMOC. The first two rounds have been at Brands Hatch, and although both were won by Porter’s Cooper, sportscars filled the next places both times. In May Roger Ealand in a Rejo, revelling in the wet conditions, was second, while at the June meeting David Beckett (Lister-Corvette) filled the runner-up spot ahead of O’Rourke.

The Devin SS, with which Ron Gammons led the field home at Silverstone, was again at the Super Prix meeting, this time with more acceptable tyres, but again not eligible for points. The car, although providing a unique sound, was not competitive here, finishing sixth. — KHRC

VSCC Silverstone

Anthony Mayman may have won two races at the VSCC’s Hawthorn Memorial meeting at Silverstone in mid-June, but he missed out on the important one, the Hawthorn Memorial Trophy race, when he was involved in a collision in his Lotus 16 with Peter Hannen’s Cooper-Climax and was forced to retire. Martin Stretton in his newly restored Cooper-Climax was therefore the winner, leading home a string of three similar cars. First front engined car home was Pilkington’s Talbot ahead of Jamieson’s similar car, both one lap behind.

Mayman’s success came in the Bill Phillips Trophy race in his Maserati and the Hawthorn Spanish Grand Prix Trophy race, which was an ERA benefit, Mayman being followed home by Merrick, Ricketts, Chris Mayman and Pattinson with Jay’s Alta being the best of the rest.

Mann in the Alfa Romeo was runner-up to Mayman in the Bill Phillips Trophy race, some 3-1/2 seconds behind while into third and fourth came the Alvises of Jamieson and Sparrowhawk. The latter, though, achieved outright success in the first 5 lap scratch race when he had a two second lead over Dunn’s Riley.

Another exciting race of the day was the Invitation race for Fifties sports cars. It was a two horse race all the way with Frank Sytner in the Lister-Jaguar doing all he could to slip past John Harper’s D-type, but the latter held his slim lead all the way to the chequered flag. They were followed at some distance behind by Hall’s AC and Stretton’s Cooper.

Pollock won the first 5 lap handicap race of the day, his Invicta crossing the finishing line just 3-1/2 seconds ahead of Giles’ Frazer Nash. — WPK

Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy

Positions to date in the Motor Sport Brooklands Memorial Trophy contest are: AJ Mayman 103; M Grist 44; N Mason, E Dunn, D Ricketts 34; A Merrick, A Boswell 31.

The next round is at Mallory Park on July 7.

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