Celebrations for the Mini and F5000 were among the highlights of this year’s Oulton Park Gold Cup
By Paul Lawrence
The Oulton Park Gold Cup is now firmly established as the biggest historic racing festival of the season in northern England, and the 2009 edition underlined the event’s growing status.
This time the Historic Sports Car Club turned the spotlight on to Formula 5000 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first UK race for the big-banger single-seaters, held at the Cheshire track at Easter 1969. Sadly, winner of that race and the king of the category, Peter Gethin, was ultimately unable to attend, but former F5000 aces on hand included Teddy Pilette, Mike Walker, Ian Ashley and Tony Trimmer.
Fittingly, former Gold Cup winners Ashley and Trimmer were both in harness for the weekend, where a pair of HGPCA Pre-66 Grand Prix car races topped the programme.
Elsewhere, car demonstrations on the rally stage, Mini 50 celebrations and a bigger than before owners’ club arena added to what is now more than just a busy weekend of racing.
Ashley, winner of the 1974 Gold Cup in a Formula 5000 Lola T330, was a front-runner in the HGPCA races in his LDS-Alfa Romeo, but the spoils fell to John Harper’s Brabham BT4 and Enrico Spaggiari’s Cooper T53. Monday’s race started with ill-feeling after confusion off the line sent Harper and the similar car of Jason Minshaw into the pitwall, as Nigel Bancroft swept clear in his Cooper T51. But circuit ace Bancroft was soon fishing for gears and Spaggiari, racing in Cheshire for the first time, rushed ahead as Ashley took second from Alan Baillie’s Cooper T71/73.
Trimmer, 66, the Gold Cup victor in 1978 aboard the Melchester Racing McLaren M23, returned to F5000 power for the Derek Bell Trophy races. When his Frank Lyons-owned Lola hit engine trouble in qualifying, Trimmer readily accepted the loan of the ex-Peter Gethin Chevron B37 from Simon Hadfield for Monday’s race.
Hadfield won the dry opening race in his Trojan T101, but he had no answer to the pace of Richard Evans in the ex-Wink Bancroft F2 Chevron B40 when the rain came in time for Monday’s encounter.
Other notable performances in the wet came from young James Dodd, who topped the Tourist Trophy celebration Pre-66 saloon race in his father’s Ford Mustang, and from Andy Newall who was a surprise Guards Trophy winner. A messy safety car period in heavy rain gave Newall the chance to get clear despite gearbox gremlins in the ex-Le Mans JCB Chevron B8.