Donington’s Historic Superprix produced some of the most varied historic racing this year, worthy of far greater attendance. Alan Cox reports on some excellent racing for those who did turn up.
The highlight was undoubtedly the two rounds of the European Historic F2 Championship. From pole for Saturday’s race, Rob Hall (March 712) was languishing in eighth after the first lap, which was led by John Harper (March) from current champion Bob Juggins (Lola 240) and James Denty (Merlyn 21). Hall made rapid progress up the field, taking fourth by lap four and ousting Juggins for second two laps later. One more lap and Harper had been demoted to second as Hall slipped through at the Chicane and pressed on to win, with Fredy Kumschick (Lotus 69) following home in third from Ross Hyett (Brabham BT36) after Juggins’ luck deserted him once more when his engine blew out all its oil. Sunday’s race was equally close-fought, but this time Hall led from the start Harper shadowed relentlessly but never quite managed to disturb the leader’s composure. Once more, Kumschick followed in third from Hyett while Eberhardt Metke (Lotus 69) eased Philip Walker (March) onto the grass on the chicane exit to claim fifth.
Starting at 5pm on Saturday, the two-hour Groveair Endurance Challenge was played out in front of one man and his dog, who were kept entertained by Gary Pearson in series-sponsor David Pennell’s Costin Lister, who opened up a lead from John Harper’s Cooper Monaco and Tony Smith’s Birdcage Maserati, until the Cooper made its first pit visit before retiring. When the leader handed over to Richard Attwood at halfdistance, Smith inherited the lead which he held another ten laps, only having to retire with a broken camfinger, while the other Birdcage of Global BPR champion Thomas Bscher did not fare much better. Started by Andy Wallace, deputising for regular co-driver John Nielsen, the rear bodywork became detached from the chassis-frame causing a long stop to secure it, losing any chance of being classified. Meanwhile, John Beasley and Peter Hannen pressed on to good effect in John’s Cooper Monaco, closing in on the leader in the latter stages only to be thwarted by an off-song engine: they settled for a close second. A well-paced drive by Tony Lanfranchi/Colin Pearcy was rewarded with third in the latter’s E-Type Jaguar, three laps down but only a whisker ahead of the Cooper Monaco of Sid Hoole/Paul Alexander.
From pole position for the Thomas Pace Hospitality Group 4 race, Jonathan Baker held a tentative opening-lap lead in his Lola T70IIIB from Peter Lee (T70 Mk3) before Kent Abrahamsson squeezed past with his Chevron 816 and proceeded to trade places with Baker as the pair distanced themselves from the pursuers. Time ran out before the Lola could make a final challenge; the 2-litre car took the flag, while Ivan Mahe (ex-de Udy T70 Mk3) inherited third following Lee’s retirement, with Andrew Jackson getting the better of Michael Schryver in the battle of the 86 Chevrons, but only after Schryver had incurred a 10-second penalty.
Feature event of the 15-race programme was the Donington Cup for Historic GP cars, organised by the HGPCA, which saw both front row men, Rod Jolley (Cooper T51) and Philip Walker (Lotus 16), mysteriously starting from the pit lane! A spin at the chicane on the opening lap by Tony Smith (Connaught B) allowed Burkhard von Schenk to take an early lead which he held for seven laps before Jolley and Walker stormed through and disappeared into the distance. They traded places until the final lap, when Walker, leading out of the chicane, was surprised by Jolley who beat him to the line by a nosecone. Von Schenk consolidated third after Smith retired with transmission worries on the last lap. Fourth place was the reward for Ian Nuthall’s excellent drive with the Grant-Peterkin Alta.
Opening round winner Mike Wilds was in superlative form in the RJB Mining Historic Sports round with the RJB Chevron B31/36, and even the additional challenge of Richard Evans (Chevron B26) couldn’t prevent Mike from taking a lights-to-flag win. After a first-lap spin by Paul Ingram (B19), John Burton (B26) had third place all to himself with Helen Bashford (B19) taking fourth, and first in class B. The Tasman Brabhams of Philip Walker (BT7A) and John Harper (BT4) dominated the thinly supported Pre-’65 F1 Challenge, Walker narrowly keeping Harper at bay, but main interest centred on a fired-up Richard Attwood, deputising for David Pennell in his Cooper T51. Starting from the ten-second mark, he scythed his way through the field to fourth by lap five and was pressing Alan Baillie (Brabham BT14) for third when the effort proved too much and the car rolled to a halt. Malcolm Ricketts inherited fourth with the Classic Team Lotus ex-Clark Tasman 32B.
Steve Hartley (Ensign N179) was unable to shake off the attentions of Mike Whatley’s F5000 Surtees TS8 in taking the Historic Formula Racing Car encounter, with Martin Birrane claiming third on his first outing with his Penske PC3. Rob Moores (Chevron B38) comfortably took Oregon Timber Frame Homes F3 honours.
Willie Beck (GRD 374) and Bill Woolfe (Chevron 838) took a win apiece in the two German Open Championship rounds with Mike Whatley swapping Surtess for FF Crossle to offer the most consistent challenge. Colin Pendle (TR7) recovered from a tangle with Michael Richards (TR7) to head Richards to the flag in the Cox & Buckles TR race, while Chris Phillips took his Morgan + 8 to victory over Vernon Taylor (Datsun 240Z) and Chris Holland (Lotus Europa) in the Motorcare Services Road Sports round.
Oiled plugs proved to be only a temporary setback for Ted Williams (Ford Mustang), reeling in Nevil Smith (Lotus Cortina) as he headed for Historic Saloon victory. A fine display of opposite-lock driving characterised the lead duel for the International Austin Healey Challenge, displayed by Bruce Montgomery (3000) before running wide at the chicane allowing Denis Welch to head the field home with Matthew Wurr (+ 8) taking final victory in the Morgan Motor Company Challenge from Craig Jones ( + 8) and erstwhile leader Peter Garland.
In between races, BRM specialists Hall & Fowler arranged a reunion of examples of the Bourne marque, with a number of former BRM employees as guests. Rick Hall demonstrated Donington’s latest V16 recreation while Tom Wheatcroft took the wheel of his BRP-liveried P25. Mike Burtt’s H16 looked and sounded the part, as did John Beasley’s P180 in the hands of Philip Walker, and Ean Pugh’s much raced P126/133. Amongst personalities on hand were Tony Rudd, Louis and Jean Stanley and former team driver Howden Ganley.