A prestigious new sponsor, Cartier the jewellers, brought glamour to Brands Hatch when the Aston Martin OC’s May meeting featured the second round of the FIA European Championship for Historic Cars.
But for once, public attention did not focus on the big race; instead it was Stirling Moss, making his first foray into Historic racing, who was the centre of interest. Three TV crews followed his day, and the newspaper seemed to think that this was his first race since his F1 days ended. But he put up third-equal time to qualify on the second row of his grid in his own BMW-Elva, and the healthy crowd throbbed with anticipation.
First, though, was the fourth round of the Gordon Russell Furniture Inter-Marque series, which has absorbed the very successful Giroflex Porsche Championship. This year, Ferraris are joining battle with AC, Jaguar, Aston and Porsche drivers, but the main argument concerned John Greasley’s Porsche Turbo whose early lead was snatched back by Malcolm Hamilton’s E-Type. Mike Cousins harried Greasley until his Aston V8 collided with a back-marker, leaving first and second to Hamilton and Greasley respectively.
An excellent start put Stirling Moss second behind Steve Hitchins’ Lotus 23B when poleman Mike Littlewood fluffed his getaway, and on lap two Moss’ pretty little Elva squirted past to head the field. But Littlewood (Lotus 23) recovered quickly, passing Hitchins who was suffering a misfire, and finally taking the flag when Moss lost impetus negotiating a slower car.
Pre-1959 Astons made up Race Four, and while Martin Cheetham’s modified DB2 was an unsurprising winner, ahead of Steven Bamford’s similar car, Freeman’s 1936 Spa Special was a worthy third.
Formula and Sports cars madras interesting grid for the Cartier FIA Historic race, and it was the Brabhams of Harper and Freeman which made the early running. But when Harper stopped and Freeman went off, Steve Hitchins, still misfiring, was there to mop up the race and the Cartier jewellery which was his reward. Chris Mann’s exciting and successful dice with Nick Wheatley’s Merlyn for second came to nothing— he was excluded for ignoring a black flag, leaving Wheatley with second and Sid Hoole (Cooper Monaco) third.
For the first half of the Thoroughbred Sportscar event, Gerry Marshall kept his DB4 in spectacular oversteer, but when sidelined by a fuel problem, it was David Heynes (DB4) who narrowly took the laurels; one more lap and Mike Salmon, making up for a missed gear at the start, would have salvaged second.
Two grid revisions and much confusion delayed the HSCC John Lelliot Post-Historic Road Sports start, but the last lap cliff-hanger between the TVR Tuscan of Paul Weldon and Tim Sissons’ E-Type was a real highlight. Simons had headed Weldon on lap three, but it took until Cooper Straight on the tenth and final lap before the TVR pounced again: right through McLaren and Surtees Weldon looked for a space, the pair eventually being split by a slow Fairthorpe on Clark Curve. Sissons squeezed inside but Weldon scrabbled around the outside, two wheels on the grass and foot flat to cross the line mere feet ahead of the Jaguar.
John Harper (Cooper) looked set to deprive Alan Baillie’s Lola of victory in the Lenham Formula Junior event until he was flagged off for polluting the track with oil, leaving Baillie to win, a long way ahead of the Lotus 22 of John Beasley.
For the final Aston Allcomers race, the wintry weather turned to rain briefly, but David Heynes seemed unperturbed, leading first Ian Moss, until his DB4 went on to the grass at Clearways, and then Dave Reade’s similar car, to gain his second win of the day. Moss recovered to finish third.
A pity that neither Aston Project 114 nor Viscount Downe’s Aston Martin Nimrod appeared for their races, but the racing did not suffer, and the large audience enjoyed the sight of one of motor racing’s legends in his element . GC