Donington Historic Festival

The fourth Donington Historic Festival featured a weekend of stand-out races, topped by Simon Hadfield’s Gentleman Drivers’ victory over Olly Bryant in a mesmerising AC Cobra shoot-out.

Feature races included the Motor Sport 90th Anniversary Trophy for pre-war sports cars running over a brace of half-hour races. After some spirited battling, Frazer Nash saw off Bentley in convincing style. In between were gems such as the 1914 Sunbeam Tourist Trophy of Nick Pellett and the short-chassis Squire of Jonathan Turner, which raced in the 500-mile race at Donington in 1936.

Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards won both parts in their Frazer Nash Supersports, with American Wakeman doing the opening stint and then handing over to the historic race car preparer. “I enjoyed getting into the car after someone else had done all the hard work,” said Blakeney-Edwards.

On Sunday Ewen Getley ran second in his Bentley, but could do nothing to stop Sam Stretton (Alta) taking the runner-up slot from the back of the grid on Monday.

Of course, the race programme was only part of the story of this ever-growing event. Notable was the guest appearance of John Surtees, who jumped into a Lola T70 Spyder for some rapid demonstration laps. “I’ve not been in one of these since 1968, but all things come back a bit and it felt very nice,” said the 1964 world champion.

A mighty battle raged in the HRDC’s celebration of the British Saloon Car Championship as the race boiled down to a straight fight between Sean McInerney’s BMW 1800 and Martin Stretton in David Tomlin’s Ford Lotus Cortina. To his eternal credit, McInerney withstood everything that Stretton could throw at him to hold onto the lead.

However, McInerney’s winning margin of just over a second was positively comfortable compared to the tenth that split Hadfield and Bryant after a sensational 90-minute Gentleman Drivers contest. Hadfield took over from Leo Voyazides and emerged from the stops with a 10-second lead over Bryant, who had taken over from his father Graeme.

For the final 40 minutes of the race, Bryant mounted a relentless chase of Hadfield, clawing back fractions of a second as both cars scythed through traffic. Into Redgate for the final time they were side-by-side as Bryant tried to go around the outside. However, a backmarker just cost him momentum and Hadfield held on to win by a tenth of a second after a battle of the very highest order.

“It’s great to race with you,” said Hadfield as he shook hands with Bryant after an outstanding race. “Simon did a great job defensively,” said Bryant, while Hadfield had the last word: “That’s proper racing.”

The day before, a rare retirement for the Lola T70 Mk3B of Voyazides and Hadfield left the way open for victory for the similar car of Olly Bryant in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car Championship. Recompense for Voyazides and Hadfield came with a resounding Ford Falcon success (Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars).

Other notable winners included Michael O’Shea (Cooper Monaco) and Jason Minshaw (Birdcage) who shared the wins in the Maserati Centenary Trophy races. For O’Shea’s Maserati-powered ex-Salvadori sports-racer, it was a first win since the original driver won the 1964 Whitsun Trophy at Goodwood.

Gary Pearson and Jackie Oliver took Pre-63 GT spoils once more in their Ferrari 250GT, but Oliver and Richard Shaw (BMW 1800) were edged back to second in the U2TC thrash by the Alfa Romeo Giulia of brothers Andrew and Max Banks. Paul Lawrence