Although 'new' cars were thin on the ground at the VSCC's traditional April season-opener at Silverstone, there was a healthy entry for the eleven-race programme and some close-fought finishes. And after Friday's wash-out test day it was a relief to find Saturday 13th calm and sunny all day.
A capacity field of 34 starters contested the Brooks 1950's Sports Car Race, with the front row of Frank Sytner (Jaguar D), Robert Brooks (Lotus 15) and Gary Pearson (Costin Lister) covered by 0.34 seconds, the Bamford 'D' Type leading lap one from Pearson and Brooks with Barrie Williams hounding the Lotus in fourth. On lap four Williams in the Tojeiro slipped inside Brooks, as the leading group pulled away slightly from the pursuing Lister Jaguar of Steve O'Rourke, in turn under pressure from Ian Donaldson's well-driven 'D' Type and Tony Smith's 2.8 Birdcage Maserati. A quick moment for Brooks dropped him from the trio at half-distance, and although Pearson and 'Whizzo' pressed as hard as they could, the order stood, separated by a second at the flag. Brooks, fourth, was well clear of Smith, Simon Hadfield (1100cc Lotus 11) and Stephen Bulling (Lister Jaguar), after O'Rourke had retired.
Vintage purists welcomed the introduction of a Vintage Allcomers Race, allowing vintage-based specials and hybrids to race without overshadowing more original period cars which many owners have been reluctant to race in recent years. This produced a stirring battle for honours between Mark Walker's 6.1-litre Cirrus-engined Parker-GN and Robin Baker's 27-litre Delage Hispano. Walker out dragged the far larger Delage off the line, but was passed into Copse, and the story was repeated for the first four laps, the Parker leading across the line until the Delage wound up to speed. Then Walker gained a slight advantage while lapping a backmarker and managed to open up a small lead which he maintained to the finish. It was the Delage's best race to date. Another good performance netted third place for Nick Leston's Lovell Elkhart Special who pulled away from Gary Caroline's Morgan. Harvey Hine (Bentley 4 1/2) succeeded in displacing Steven Roberts' Frazer Nash for fifth.
The Peter Collins Allcomers Trophy Race proved to be somewhat processional, Amschel Rothschild taking a flag-to-flag win with the P25 BRM from pole-man Philip Walker (Lotus 16), although Walker was closing rapidly towards the end, and given a couple more laps might have been on terms. Rick Hall brought Cedric Brierley's 'C' Type Connaught home a lonely third, some distance clear of Sir John Venables Llewellyn giving Rodney Felton's P3 Alfa its first outing for a couple of years. Burkhard von Schenk's 250F Maserati was an early retirement from fourth place, while Chris Drake (Lotus 16) made progress from 13th on the opening lap to finish fifth.
With the introduction of the Vintage Allcomers class, the gala and Lanchester Trophies Race attracted five Bugattis — including new VSCC President David Marsh's Brescia — as well as Brian Banyard Smith's 200-Mile Race GN and Nick Portway's 1914 TT Humber. But the most eagerly-anticipated entrant was David Cohen's Sean Danaher-restored 1926/7 1 1/2-litre s/c GP Talbot, which Martin Stretton placed quite comfortably on pole from Ivan Dutton in Smith's Bugatti 35B. Dutton led from the start as Stretton eased the Talbot away, but in a race-long duel these two were seldom separated by more than a few lengths, Stretton came alongside more than once, actually leading over the line two laps from home, but the wily Dutton took a well-judged win. Stretton had the consolation of fastest lap. Nick Mason (Bugatti 35B) was unchallenged in third with the red 35B of John Horton following at a distance.
Martin Stretton was in a class of his own with Simon Bull's Maserati 4CM in the Patrick Lindsay Trophy Race for pre-war historic racing cars. He raced off into the distance, leaving Mark Gillies (Brooke Special) and Ludovic Lindsay, having an increasingly rare outing in ERA R5B 'Remus' and still seeking that elusive first win in the race named in his late father's honour. Ludovic succeeded in taking the runner-up spot as Gillies began to slow, although Mark managed to hold on to third as Sir John Venables-Llewellyn claimed another fourth place with the Felton Alfa P3. Ted Dunn took fifth with his fleet Riley Special, ahead of Robin Lodge's Maserati 4CM.
Bob Burrell led the first half of the Fox and Nicholl Trophy Race with his familiar 8-litre Bentley-Royce, closely shadowed by Julian Bronson's Riley 'Blue Streak' Special, but a quick spin by the Bentley allowed the Riley to seize the advantage; Burrell was almost caught by the scrapping pair of Albert Sparrowhawk (Alvis) and Bob Gilbert (Bentley), Burrell and Gilbert being so engrossed in their business that they battled on for two more laps after the fall of the flag!
Gregor Fisken took victory in the first short Scratch Race with Dan Margulies' 1935 Alta after an engrossing scrap with Keith Knight's ERA Riley, with Paul Smeeth's Richard Bolster Special in third. The second Scratch Race fell to Andy Bell (Aston Martin) closely followed by Tim Metcalfe in Fidler's Lagonda. Handicap Races fell to Peter Whenman (Lagonda) from Paul Smeeth (Bolster Spl) and John May (Bentley 4 1/2), Ian Hurwood (A7 Spl) comfortably ahead of Geoff Toms (Fiat) and Robert Monk (Alvis) while the Talbot of that man Schumacher (Cecil of that ilk) easily outdistanced Terry Brewster (Lagonda) who was almost caught by Andy Bell (Aston Martin). ASDC