What changes greeted the members of the VSCC as they descended on Silverstone for their traditional curtain-raiser to the new season on the 8th April? Well, gone were the old café and bar, and in their place were rolling acres of new tarmac behind the pits, and a sparkling array of new paddock buildings to cater for the manoeuvering of F1 transporters and the like. On the track, the eagerly awaited debut of Paul Grist’s C-type Alfa, imported from Argentina and rebuilt over a long period, must await another day, although the car was on static display in the paddock to whet the appetites of admiring onlookers.
The opening High Speed Trial, in which 23 of the 27 starters qualified, took place under clear, blue skies which prevailed all day. It was followed by the Fox & Nichol! Trophy Race, in which Julian Bronson (2½-litre Riley ‘Blue Streak’) maintained practice form to dominate proceedings, finishing clear of Bob Gilbert (4¼-litre Bentley) and Stephen Bulling (3½-litre Bentley), the latter having demoted Chris Drake’s 8CM Maserati after the opening laps.
Gerry Porter claimed pole for the Peter Collins Post-War Race in his ex-Harper Cooper T53, from Ludovic Lindsay’s Cameron Millar 250F Maserati, and it was the rear-engined car which led from the flag, while Lindsay found his hands full defending second place from the BRM of Amschel Rothschild, in turn harried by Jeremy Agace (Lotus 18), Phil Walker (Lotus 16) and Robin Lodge debuting his 246 Dino Ferrari. Porter’s race came to an end with two laps to run when a drive-shaft let go, allowing the front-engined brigade to the fore headed by Lindsay, who had lost his clutch early on and resisted race-long pressure from the BRM to win by 1.7 seconds, with Walker in third as Lodge fell back towards the finish, A welcome splash of French blue was brought by John Foster who gave his ex-DonIngton Collection Simca-Gordini its first outing in historic racing.
Following recent trends, the Itala & Lanchester Trophy Race was somewhat short of genuine vintage cars elegible for the name trophy, the main race contenders being specials and hybrids, and after the demise of early leader Ivan Dutton (Bugatti 35B) the pace was set by the spectacularly driven Parker GN of Mark Walker, with 6 litres of Cirrus Hermes acro-engine, before he slowed with a lack of pressure to the fuel tank, allowing Peter Morley’s giant NapierBentley into the lead. The pursuit was headed by Spencer Flack (3/8-litre Bentley Special) and Freddie Giles’ AC/GN, with Flack briefly holding the lead at half-distance as the leaders negotiated backmarkers, but having to settle for a close second to Morley at the flag. Gary Caroline took the ltala Trophy with fourth in his Morgan, as Walker recovered to fifth, having carried out some fettling on the move to tighten a leaking pipe union behind his seat and restore pressure to the fuel system.
Having practised 3½ seconds quicker than Duncan Ricketts (ERA R1B), Martin Stretton’s efforts to claim his third Patrick Linsday Trophy were thwarted when a half-shaft failed on Simon Bull’s Maserati 4CM as he left the line, leaving the way clear for Ricketts to head Swiss Jost Wildbolz (ERA R9B) and Donald Day (ERA R14B) at the end of lap one. A slow-starting Paul Jaye (Alta) worked up to second by the second lap as the load pair pulled away from their pursuers. As Ricketts headed down the Club Straight on lap 8, a cloud of smoke heralded a piston failure, but as he pulled off to the left the closely-following Alta launched over the rear wheel of the ERA, fortunately landing on its wheels and without serious damage to either occupant. This left a surprised Day In the lead from Wildbolz and Jeffrey Pattinson (ERA R6B) who had stormed through to latch onto the leading duo, the three covered by 1.6 seconds in a close-fought finish. Tony Smith (ex-Shuttleworth Alfa P3) and Robin Lodge (Maserati 4CM) filled the next two places after a spirited scrap, and the demise of Robert Brooks (Maserati 8CM).
The biggest racing draw at today’s VSCC meetings is the 1950s Sports Car Race, and the entry for Silverstone’s event was oversubscribed, resulting in a full grid. Barrie Williams sat on the outside of the front row, giving the recreated 1959 Tojeiro Jaguar its maiden outing and looking a lot more competitive than it did in its heyday, lining up with regular Gary Pearson (Costin Lister) and Frank Sytner (Jaguar ‘D’), closely followed by Nick Mason, making a welcome return after Pink Floyd’s world tour, at the wheel of his bigger (2.6-Iitre) Birdcage Maserati. The grid also saw both Aston Martin DBR2s of Simon Draper and Steve O’Rourke racing together for the first time in many years.
Pearson outdragged Sytner, with ‘Whizzo’ indulging in the first of two spins on the opening lap at Luffield, letting John Harper (‘D’ Type) through into third. The two leaders rapidly pulled away while Harper indulged in his own private battle wlth team-mate Brooks (Lotus 15), and on lap 7 Sytner snatched the lead as the Lister’s brakes were cooked, although Pearson was less than a second adrift at the flag, the pair having out-distanced Harper, with Mason bringing up fourth after Brooks retired with a lack of gears.
Phil Walker forsook his Lotus 16 for his trusty MG to take the closest win of the day in the first 5-Lap Scratch Race by 0.1 seconds from Mark Gillies’ Treen Riley, with the second being a Riley benefit with Kenneth White heading home Terence Watson. White had some consolation in winning the first Handicap, a full half-minute clear of Robert Monk (Alvis) — handicappers take note — whilst other Handicaps went to Ian Rowe (Lagonda ) and Jost Wildbolz, who brought his ERA through from scratch to beat Freddie Giles (AC/GN).