No-one seems to be celebrating the Queen’s 40th anniversary this year, but this is Donington Park’s Diamond Jubilee and while the European GP was the major event, the VSCC’s May meeting was a rather better reflection of those first races around the wooded park in 1933. The pre-war atmosphere began with the Brooklands Society Trophy, where Seber’s rapid Wolseley retired, letting Ian Bentall (Bentley) through to win. A computer snag over practice times meant that Gary Pearson had to start the 1950s Sportscar event from the back of the grid, but it only took him four laps to get his Lister to the front ahead of Steve O’Rourke’s similar machine.
After last month’s promising performance at Silverstone, Tim Llewellyn surprised no-one in the John Holland Trophy when he arrived first at Redgate in Julian Majzub’s Pacey-Hassan Bentley, and for several laps opened up a small gap over Morley’s Napier-Bentley. But when the singles-eater’s dry-sump system dumped its contents, Morley inherited a lead which only Stanley Mann could threaten. Revelling in new Alfin brake drums on the 3/8Itr Bentley, Mann was on terms with Morley’s leviathan, but a misfire kept him behind to the flag — though he claimed he could hear the Napier engine misfiring too and that another two laps would have done it.
Wheel-to-wheel action in the Ron Flockhart Memorial Trophy brought excited cheering from the stands as Nigel Corner strove to wrest victory from Rick Hall in Cedric Brierley’s C-type Connaught. Second by inches at Redgate, the Corner Maserati 250F was all over the Connaught for two nail-biting laps, passing it on lap three, only to be jumped on three laps later when Hall hurled himself through at Redgate. Corner gathered himself for a last-lap do-or-die moment at the chicane when they touched wheels, but Hall kept it to the flag in a car he also prepares.
Riding mechanics added drama to the Morgan three-wheeler handicap, won by Hughes and Finch in their 1100cc JAP Super Sports, before the Donington Trophy, where despite the handicappers’ best efforts, one of the fast boys scored — Martin Stretton in Bull’s Invicta. Remarkably, the race featured a car and driver pairing who also raced in Donington’s first season in 1933 — the evergreen Tom Delaney, who has been racing his Lea-Francis Hyper continuously through the intervening 60 years.
1-1/2-litre cars dominated the Shuttleworth and Nuffield Trophies, Martin Stretton scooping both pots after what he called one of his hardest races ever. He was Maserati-mounted this time, not in Sean Danaher’s 4CM as at Silverstone, but in the 4CL which Dan Margulies has owned for 21 years. It was Duncan Ricketts (ERA R1B) who took the early lead, but Stretton was eventually to pass. His Maserati had an edge in speed, but the ERA’s pre-selector box gave Ricketts a fractional advantage on two shifts out of the chicane, so it was only by grim determination that Stretton held an inside line over the kerbs to hit the pit straight just in front. From then he opened a gap to complete his double, Spollon (ERA) coming a lonely third. Further back, Rod Jolley and John Ure entertained, squabbling over fourth; Ure finally headed the always immaculate Giron Alvis by a nose.
Phil Walker’s MG lifted the John Goddard Trophy, in which Crowther’s attractive Rally began to trail smoke, in contrast to its unexpected win in an earlier handicap; it must be many years since one of these French light cars took a chequered flag. G C