For its third running the MOTOR SPORT Trophy race for Historic F1 cars at the HSCC Championship Finals at Silverstone attracted an entry of superb quality, spanning 16 seasons from 1970.
Following two inclement qualifying sessions, the front row was shared by Geoff Farmer (Theodore N183, 64.72s) and Steve Pontin-Warltier, who matched Farmer’s time with his Arrows A5. Behind sat John Fenning’s Williams FW06 and Mike Freeman’s Tyrrell 007.
Although the rain had stopped by the time the first attempt to start the race came around, the circuit was still treacherous off-line, and there were different interpretations on the subject of tyre choice. Start one was aborted when Fenning tangled with the front-row occupants, necessitating the red flag.
For attempt number two, only Farmer made the restart.
This time, Freeman’s wet-shod Tyrrell set the pace, until lap two – when the red flag came out again. Farmer, on slicks, was once more involved, spinning at Copse and being collected by Tony Trimmer’s March 811 as he waited to rejoin.
The now much depleted field assembled for a third time, for a race reduced from 15 laps to 10.
Yet again, Freeman – now on slicks – led away, relentlessly pursued by the impressive Paul Smith, who had threaded his Ensign N177 through from his original mid-grid position. Smith was never more than a length or two in arrears, and he took the lead at Luffield on the penultimate lap. Freeman attempted to retaliate at Brooklands on the final tour, but his enthusiasm took him onto the wet part of the circuit, from where he gyrated onto the grass, which not only guaranteed Smith victory but also promoted Alain Filhol (Hesketh 308E) and Simon Hadfield (Lotus 72).
It vindicated Smith’s late decision to remain on wets, though he might have been challenged by Mike Littlewood, had the latter not gambled on slicks after the first warm-up lap, when he was forced to stop anyway to have a loose wheel tightened. As it transpired, Littlewood spun out of contention on lap two, though he recovered to finish sixth, behind Ian Giles (Tyrrell 012). Giles claimed fastest lap, in 58.27s.
Elsewhere on the programme, Rod Jolley was unchallenged in the Historic Car Championship. His ex-Brabham Cooper T51 had 30s in hand over Chris Drake’s Lotus 16 and Adrian Hall’s AC Ace (!), which was able to close up through the complex every lap, though it lacked the necessary grunt where it mattered down the straights.
John Brown’s lead in the Historic FF1600/ Formula Junior race was short-lived; he spun his Merlyn, and handed the race to Mike Whatley (Crossle 20F). Allan McGregor’s Cooper T59 was the first F1 car home.
Richard Parnell (Marcos) was a reasonably comfortable winner of the Improved Road Sports event, ahead of Bruce Orton’s similar car. There was another Marcos 1-2 in the Classic Sports Car race, David Methley holding off Roy Eaton in the closest finish of the day. Simon Hadfield backed up his third place in the feature event by stroking his Lotus 72 to victory in the Historic Formula Racing Championship, ahead of Mike Whatley’s Surtees TS8. Ronnie Farmer’s main obstacles overcame themselves in the Standard Road Sports/ QED Lotus 7 race. Farmer’s familiar TVR Griffith triumphed after John Catt (TVR Tuscan) and Michael Steele (Lotus 7) had spun off, the former hitting the barriers at Luffield.
The meeting was rounded off by the Chairman’s Challenge for pre ’60 Sports Cars, David Pennell winning for the first time in his ex-Drake D-type after Jim Woodley’s challenge culminated in a spin on the final lap.