Passione fruit

Some newcomers to the historic racing grid provided a highlight of the Grande Passione event at Donington Park

By Paul Lawrence

The passion and brio of historic racers shone through the cold, damp gloom of a miserable day at the Grande Passione event at Donington Park.

The Masters Racing Organisation and the Historic Grand Prix Car Association came together to deliver quality grids and some fine racing on a day when the circuit offered precious little grip. “I had wheelspin in every gear, everywhere,” said Duncan Ricketts as he climbed out of ERA GP1 after netting a podium place in the HGPCA Pre-52 race.

With a programme that packed over 20 hours of track action into two days, there was little time for off-track activity. However, the very successful ‘speed street’ set out under awnings down the centre of the main paddock was again popular.

On track came a range of debuts and returns for cars as the dedication of owners and preparers continues to bring some gems back into active service. 

Down at the tail of the HGPCA Pre-61 grid was a Maserati 250F having its first race. This was chassis CM9, the last of the Cameron Millar ‘continuation’ cars built 20 years ago. Retained by Millar’s widow until last winter, it has now been brought to the grid by newcomer Brandon Smith-Hilliard.

Grabbing a deal of interest in Sports Racing Masters was the 1965 Hamill SR3, brought from the US by Paul Ingram and Chris Chiles to challenge the Lola T70 Spyders. Encouragingly quick in the dry, the Hamill – one of only two built by Ed Hamill – was lethally stiff in the wet. Its European debut concluded when Ingram inadvertently hit the fire extinguisher button. “I was covered in foam and couldn’t see a thing,” he admitted.

On the driver front, Ian Ashley returned to driving a Formula 1 car 31 years after his last Grand Prix, with a podium place in the Pre-66 race. Ashley is now the owner of the rare Alfa Romeo-powered LDS previously owned by Mac Hulbert. “I just wanted to show what I could do again,” said Ashley.

Elsewhere, Nigel Bancroft (Cooper T51) and Andy Newall (Brabham BT11A) shared the Pre-66 wins, while victories in the Grand Prix Masters races went to David Methley (March 761) and Richard Meins (McLaren M23).

But the best spectacle of the weekend came in the pair of World Sportscar Masters races when nine Lola T70Mk3Bs took on the Chevron and Lola hordes. Anthony Hancock (Lola T212) won the opening bout after a tussle with Jon Finnemore (Lola T70Mk3B). On Sunday, Chris Beighton took over from Finnemore and won as Hancock slowed with a worsening misfire.