Donington Historic Festival

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Donington Park, Derby

On only its second running the Donington Historic Festival confirmed its status as one of the best UK events of the season. Wall to wall quality, big entries and some great racing was the story of the weekend; and when the sun came out on Sunday, so did the crowds.

For a man whose mainstream racing career ended half a century ago, Sir Stirling Moss remains a huge draw and on Sunday he completed a couple of demo laps in the Jaguar C-type he drove to victory at Reims 60 years ago. “Beautiful, as good as it ever was,” said Moss as he stopped in the pit lane.

Moments earlier Moss had congratulated Bobby Verdon-Roe on victory in the race bearing Moss’s name with the Aston Martin DBR1 that Moss himself raced to victory in the 1958 Goodwood Tourist Trophy.

To score a most apposite success, BV-R had to overcome a typically determined challenge from Martin Stretton and Jon Minshaw in Minshaw’s Lister Knobbly. But with concerns about his brakes, Minshaw elected not to ight Verdon-Roe when the Aston grew big in his mirrors.

It proved to be a good weekend for Aston Martin as the AMR1 Group C car scored the win it never achieved in period and it even had a recent works driver at the wheel. Andy Meyrick became the only man to race both the AMR1 and its 2011 counterpart AMR-One when he accepted Paul Whight’s invitation to race AMR1 chassis five, raced at Donington in 1989 by Brian Redman and David Leslie. It took all of Meyrick’s pace and incisiveness in traffic to deal with a dogged challenge by Mike Donovan in his C2 Spice SE89.

“That was really tough; Mike pushed me hard,” said Meyrick. “It shows what the car can do,” added AMR1 owner Whight. Three of Britain’s best historic racers, Gary Pearson, Simon Hadfield and Martin Stretton, had typically busy weekends and all had highs and lows. Pearson bagged both first and second in the Woodcote Trophy race as he reeled in and passed his brother John; he started his own Jaguar D-type before handing that one over to John and jumping into the model started by Carlos Monteverde. Pearson also shared Pre-’63 GT spoils with Jackie Oliver, but in the JD Classic Touring Car race Gary lost victory on the last lap when Alex Buncombe spun the ex-Win Percy/Chuck Nicholson Jaguar XJS. Mark Wright and Formula Ford ace Dave Coyne nipped back ahead in Wright’s Ford Escort Mk2.

Stretton planted his F2 March 742 in the wall before Redgate when warming up the tyres, but then drove a blinder to bring David Coplowe’s Lola T70 Mk3B home for victory in the 1000km series race for pre-’72 sports-racing cars. Hadield, in the T70 started by Frank Sytner (making an emotional return to the event that so nearly cost him his life a year earlier) was on course for second when, closing in on customer Leo Voyazides in the T70 Hadfield had started, they clashed at the Chicane (above). Hadfield finished third and made amends later by sharing Voyazides’ Lotus Cortina to U2TC victory over Alex Furiani and Frank Stippler.

Paul Lawrence