The rite of spring

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Large crowds and fierce racing helped to ensure the success of the VSCC’s season-opening Spring Start meeting
By Paul Lawrence

Even though some of the grids were disappointing, typical bravado from competitors made the opening VSCC race meeting of 2008 a splendid affair. Anyone who doubts the ongoing popularity of racing for cars from before the Second World War would have been stunned by the Vintage Sports Car Club’s Spring Start meeting at Silverstone.

Despite a woeful lack of promotion by Silverstone, the crowd was huge as a fine spring day provided the perfect backdrop to the start of the VSCC’s 74th racing season. Generally the racing was excellent, though fields for the headline races were smaller than hoped. Mechanical dramas befell a number of cars in the run up to the meeting, including during qualifying, while others were understandably being saved for the Monaco Historique GP.

But that didn’t deter thousands of enthusiasts from gathering, many of them arriving in their own piece of motoring history. The special vintage car park was full to overflowing long before racing started.

On track, the racing was fast and, in one or two cases, slightly too furious. David Fletcher-Jones had the luckiest of escapes when a steering arm on his Lagonda Rapier broke and pitched the car into the wall at Woodcote. David was thrown out, but walked away with nothing worse than a few scratches.

The Patrick Lindsay Memorial race is a traditional highlight, and while it was sad that just eight cars made the start, it was a bonus that half of them were ERAs. Unfortunately not among them was R5B ‘Remus’, the car that has now been in the ownership of the Lindsay family for nearly half a century. Lindsay’s son Ludovic, entered for this VSCC race since the ERA celebration race at See Red in September 2004, went out in qualifying but a marked lack of oil pressure ended the day for ‘Remus’.

Instead, Mark Gillies (R3A) and Mac Hulbert (R4D) thrilled the fans with a fine battle, which Gillies eventually won by a couple of seconds. Elsewhere, Andrew Smith won the Amschel Rothschild Trophy race for post-war single-seaters in his Cooper T43, fresh from a major rebuild.

But the star of the day was surely Christopher Williams, in the wonderful 24-litre Napier-Bentley. The cockpit inscription that claims the car to be ‘the ultimate laxative’ is well founded, for the aero-engined monster spins its wheels and eats its tyres at every opportunity, while belching flame from a vast bank of exhaust pipes. But Williams tamed his monster well to win the GP Itala and Lanchester Trophies race, much to the delight of the appreciative crowd.