50 years on

In order to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of VE Day, the HSCC hosted a one-off two-day Historic race meeting at Donington Park, and with the assistance of a number of specialist clubs and groups, including the VSCC and HGPCA, assembled a quite superb entry, which, in terms of variety and quality, was second only to the Coys Festival in the British racing calendar, with on-track action being matched by some spectacular aerial displays.

Saturday began with a hard-fought opening round of the RJB Historic Sports Racing Car Series in which Mike Wilds showed he had lost none of his speed, or tenacity, by winning his first outing since his horrifying Goodwood accident last June, at the wheel of sponsor Richard Budge’s Chevron B31, but only after trading the lead with Richard Evans’ B26 example, the latter finally spinning out of contention exiting the chicane.

Newcomer to this year’s European Historic Formula 2 Championship, Bob Juggins (March 712) claimed pole but took two laps to squeeze past the demon-starting John Harper (March 712). Former series champion Fredy Kumschick found his faithful Lotus 69 outpaced by the March 712 brigade, following Peter Hannen home to a close fourth. Sunday’s race followed a similar script for the lead, although it took a further lap for Juggins to wrest the lead, in another close moment, diving through at the chicane with Harper relinquishing second to Kumschick a few laps later. Ross Hyett brought John Beasley’s Brabham BT36 home in a lonely fourth.

Headline race of the programme was the ’50 Years On Trophy for Historic GP Cars, and the HGPCA assembled a fine entry, but sadly only three of the eight 250F Maserati entries made the start. John Harper, in Mallya’s Vanwall, led from start to finish, hounded initially by the 250Fs of Ludovic Lindsay and Nigel Corner until Lindsay’s gearbox blew apart at the chicane on lap two. The close-following Corner couldn’t avoid him and made contact with the luckless Lindsay’s tail as he rolled to a halt. Corner continued in second place, followed at a distance by the only rear-engined car to start, Gerry Porter’s Cooper T43. First pre-war finisher was Donald Day’s ERA RI 4B after a failed piston sidelined Duncan Ricketts in RIB. In Sunday’s race Harper was beaten away by Corner and Porter, but by lap two formed the meat in the sandwich and outbraked the Maserati into the chicane four laps later to take a lead which he was never to lose, although Corner pressed hard to the flag. Porter claimed another third with Chris Drake netting a pair of fourth places.

Charlie Agg failed to take pole after warm-up disclosed sinister rumblings in the M8Fs engine, so it became the turn of David to topple Goliath in the International Supersports Cup battle. Chris Chiles (McLaren M6B) had emerged as early leader from Richard Evans (B26), who shadowed the mighty McLaren until jinking past at McLeans on lap six and exploiting the nimble Chevron’s braking, holding a narrow advantage to take the shortened race. Mike Wrigley (B19) held a race-long third from Wido Roessler (M8F) and Fred Laufer (B26). Chiles again took the early lead in part 2 from Richard Eyre’s revitalised M8F — now restored to eight cylinders — and Evans’ Chevron. Eyre snatched the lead at Redgate on lap two with Chiles never losing contact and with Evans snapping at his heels. As the trio headed through the chicane for the final time. Evans made an ill-judged lunge for second, collecting Chiles and bringing him to a halt. Eyre made the line from Evans, as a disgruntled Chiles crawled home in third, Evans taking the aggregate win from Chiles and Eyre.

The VSCC Race for the pre-1935 Trophy produced splendid entertainment in the contest for the lead, fought out between the Sunbeam Tigress of John Baker-Courtenay and the Pacey-Hassan Special of Julian Majzub, having his first race in the car. After frightening himself with violently grabbing brakes in practice, Majzub managed to restore some balance and led the early laps narrowly from the Sunbeam before taking the escape road at the chicane on lap four as the brakes faded in a cloud of smoke. Undaunted, he rejoined, but out of touch with the leader only to take a second excursion some laps later. After seeing off Sam Stretton’s ‘Nash, with an oil pipe adrift, Terry Cohn finished second with his famous Alfa Monza and Bill Morris had a most encouraging run to finish third, albeit lapped, with Eckart Berg’s ex-Count Zborowski Miller.

The inaugural round of the FIA Cup for Thoroughbred GP Cars (1966-1985, non-turbo) attracted 24 starters, some requiring additional ballast before being allowed to start. Paul Smith (Ensign N177) beat fastest qualifier Mike Littlewood (Shadow DN9) into Redgate as Sean Walker tucked into third (Lotus 87B). These three produced a splendid sight, lapping in close formation before Littlewood slipped in front at the chicane as the Ensign began jumping out of gear, coincident with the Lotus pulling up with a failed plug. Bob Berridge inherited second with his RAM 001, and came under pressure from a battle between Geoff Farmer (Theodore N183) and Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 005) with Farmer briefly holding second before light contact with Smith’s rear at Redgate deranged the Theodore’s nose and prompted his retirement on lap eleven, as Smith finally gave up the struggle one lap later. Berridge was restored to runner-up spot from Stretton and Ian Giles (Tyrrell 012).

McLaren GTR racer Lindsay Owen-Jones had an increasingly rare Historic outing in his Maserati T61 Birdcage in the Le Mans pre-1960 Sports Car Race, and from pole position took a lights-to-flag win, despite sustained pressure from Frank Sytner (D-Type). Peter Hannen (Birdcage Maserati) held an initial third place before John Harper’s Lotus 15 nudged the tail on the chicane exit and Hannen spun to a halt. A frustrated Sytner tried to out-brake Owen-Jones into the chicane but the effort went awry as the D-Type shot across the inside apex on the grass, emerging backwards in front of the Birdcage which narrowly missed the Jaguar to take a very well-judged win. Sytner retained second with Gary Pearson finishing third in David Pennell’s Costin Lister, having fought to make up ground after missing a gear at the start. Hannen recovered to take fourth with a slightly dented Birdcage.

The HARA Trans-Am Challenge race for American big-bangers produced an easy win for Dennis Leech’s ground-hugging Camaro after a re-start when Ted William’s Mustang bounced off Leech’s car and hit the pit wall on the rolling start. Second place was just reward for a spirited drive from Amanda Torregiani (Mustang) who pulled steadily away from Tony Dron (Chevrolet Corvette).

An Historic Road Sports Race completed the programme, and after leaders Nick Randall (Jaguar E-Type) and Aidan Mills-Thomas (AC Cobra) had each spun, honours went to Richard Parnell’s Marcos from the Elan of Barry Ashdown.