Williams Denies Lotus Challenge

This year, MOTOR SPORT supports the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Trophy for historic F1 cars. Paul Lawrence watched the Bank Holiday series opener at Donington.

Grand Prix Car races don’t come much better than this one. When the FIA Cup for Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cars opened at Donington in early May, the combination of a classic car and a quality driver proved unstoppable. Mike Littlewood romped to victory in John Fenning’s Williams FW07B, but it was the battle for second place that will long remain in the memory of those who saw it.

A fine grid lined up for the first race of the season, with cars representing nearly 20 years of Formula One history. Littlewood, on his first experience of the Williams, topped the qualifying times. “It’s the most complete car I’ve ever driven,” he said. It will go a lot quicker — but I’m not sure about the driver!”

Bob Berridge picked up the RAM March by the scruff of its neck and powered it around to qualify second-fastest. Never one of the most competitive F1 designs of its era, Bob was typically extracting the maximum from the ex-Derek Daly car.

On race day Littlewood simply blasted into the lead from the start and stroked the Williams home. Berridge went after him and would have finished a strong second had his engine not let go two laps from the end.

But most eyes were focussed on the next group, as up to six cars jockeyed for position. Steve Hitchins was driving the race of his life in his Lotus 78, as reigning champion Martin Stretton in the ex-Stewart Tyrrell 005 recovered from fuel vapourisation on the opening lap to mount an awesome attack for what was to become second.

Others to feature in the action were Geoff Farmer (Tyrrell 012) and Urs Eberhardt in the Lotus 91, until a backmarker edged the exMansell car onto the grass and into the tyre wall approaching the Esses.

Ultimately, Hitchins denied Stretton’s every move, and the warm congratulations they traded after the race proved just how sporting a contest it had been. The next UK round is at Silverstone on July 21/22.