Sytner and Listers enjoy a May Bank holiday baking job

Coys International Historic Festival

After years of planning and much frantic building activity in the runup to the event, he Coys International Historic Festival heralded the official opening of Britain’s newest motorsport facility at Rockingham. After the formal opening ceremonies on Saturday, headlined by a demonstration run by Nigel Mansell in a ChampCar, the historic and classic races ran throughout Sunday and Monday (May 27-28). Nominal star billing went to a two-part recreation of the Race of Two Worlds, bringing together the twin themes of historic racing and an oval-based venue. The 1957-58 Monzanapolis’ events were the inspiration for the races, with sportscars joining grand prim cars and a handful of Indy roadsters.

In the first part, Stuart Graham’s familiar Lister-Chevrolet Knobbly seemed to have things under control until he dropped a wheel off the track on the final lap and spun his lead away. Julian Bronson’s Costin-Lister happily accepted victory, with Graham just half a second adrift.

Monday’s race was a highlight as Tiff Needell’s Knobbly tagged along to make it a three-way Lister contest. Graham spent a long time searching for the gap in Bronson’s resolute defence and finally found it with a daring move around the outside into the chicane at turn one. Frank Sytner took three victories during the weekend. In the race for 1950s sportscars, he invited the man who rebuilt his Cooper Monaco to share it in the two-driver race. Predictably, the combination of Sytner and Simon Hadfield topped the field, but just as at Silverstone, the Peter Hardman Ferrari Dino 246S, shared with Tony Dron, was a major threat to the ex-Stirling Moss car and closed to within 1.5sec in the final stages.

Sytner had things markedly easier in the pair of races for Pre-66 Single-Seaters in his Brabham BT4. Only John Harper’s similar car offered any opposition in the opening race before brake problems intervened. Richard Attwood moved up to take second in the first race in his BRM P261 and boldly took the battle to Sytner on Monday. Having dived ahead of him at the first corner, At-bivood spun further round the lap and dropped well down the field. His recovery to second place was a feature of the race.

The European Sports Prototype Trophy field provided a pair of races for the Coys of Kensington Daytona Cup and two wins for Jonathan Baker’s stunning Ford F3L. Eight Lola T70s provided the opposition and in the opening race it was Colin ParryWilliams in his Spyder who took the fight to Baker. His challenge faded with a moment on the infield and into contention came Bill Binnie in his ex-Brian Redman Ferrari 312PB.

However, he also spun down the order and so Peter Schleifer moved through to second. On Monday, Baker exerted his authority from the start, while Binnie guided the 312PB to sixth having started llth on the grid. Paying tribute to the Brooklands heritage of oval racing in the UK, the programme included the Motor Sport Brooklands Revival Race for Pre-War Racing Cars. In the opening race, Irvine Laidlaw’s Maserati 6CM seized the early lead, only to spin the advantage away and leave the way open for Mark Gillies to win in his 4CL. Tony Stephens had the ex-Bira ERA R12B running firmly in contention until fading brakes encouraged him to settle for second.

Gillies gave himself a handicap in the second race by spinning on lap one. He battled back into contention but seemed destined for second behind Stephens until the penultimate corner on the final lap, when the ERA faltered in a tangle with a backmarker. Gillies swept ahead with Laidlaw and Barrie Baxter (4CM) completing a Maserati 1-2-3. Brothers Jon and Jason Minshaw won both parts of the Shelby Challenge for Pre-66 GT Cars in Jon’s superbly-presented Jaguar E-type. Fresh from a strong run at Spa the previous weekend, the car outpaced the thundering AC Cobra pack, although it was a close-run thing in Monday’s race. David Shead/John Bendall and Graham Bryant/Bill Shepherd were the top Cobra runners and took a second place apiece.

Shepherd’s pace was hampered by an unusual problem: “The seat is on rollers Graham is a lot taller than me. But it began to move while I was driving and it was difficult to reach the steering wheel on the banking!”

The historic rally ace Nick Whale moved back to Tarmac for the Transcontinental Challenge for Pre-65 Group 2 Saloons and headed a Ford Mustang 1-2-3 from Pete Hallford and Jim Utting/Andy Gill.

Paul Lawrence