The annual Silverstone Historic Festival had a fresh look and feel this year, with a new date and a revised race programme that brought more recent machinery to the weekend.
Inevitably, the death of former BRDC President Ken Tyrrell on the eve of the weekend cast a shadow, but three days of racing from packed grids was a fitting tribute to the man, and Jackie Stewart drove some emotional laps in Tyrrell 003 before racing began on Monday.
Although some of the stars were not as visible as at previous events, the track action was perhaps some of the best the event has ever produced.
For former grand prix racer Jackie Oliver, it was a very special weekend. Entrusted with Martin Colvill’s Gulf-liveried Ford GT40, he scooped a brace of victories in the races for 1960s World Endurance Cars. Colin Parry-Williams was the major threat to Oliver in his Lola 170 Spyder, and the impudent Michael Schryver tagged along in his Chevron B6.
But Oliver’s experience told in the opening race and misfortune amongst the backmarkers in the second race sent Parry-Williams spinning out. “It’s been a memorable weekend,” said Oliver, before handing the car back to a relieved Colvill.
The International Trophy race for Pre-78 Grand Prix cars was due to have been a highlight of the Festival, with some F5000 cars joining in, as in period. Sadly, it all went terribly wrong on the charge from the grid, when Simon Hadfield’s F5000 Lola T330 moved right. This forced the pole-sitting Tyrrell P34 of Martin Stretton to move right too, where he found a fast-starting Chris Perkins (Surtees TS16). The resultant contact sent all three crashing out of the race. When the expensive debris was cleared, Nick Crossley steered his F5000 March 73A to a hard-earned win after a thoroughly entertaining battle with the Hesketh 308E of Andy Wolfe.
The biggest grid of Formula Fords ever seen in Britain made a huge contribution to the weekend, with the 44-car field of Pre-72 machines racing mightily. The class of the field were Neil Fowler (Lola T200) and Paul Sleeman (Macon MR8) and they traded the lead in a wheel-to-wheel contest that was only settled in Fowler’s favour late in the race.
Saloon cars were back on the schedule for the first time in several years and produced some crowd-pleasing action in a pair of two-driver mini-endurance races. The Pre-65 field were contesting the Jack Sears Trophy and the man himself was on hand to meet the victors.
In the first race, Allen Lloyd/Gerry Wainwright made up for their recent Nürburgring disaster by winning in the former’s Ford Mustang, despite the best efforts of Leo Voyazides/ Andy Bacon. However, fortunes were reversed in the second lace when paint was traded in the heat of the battle. But for many onlookers, the hero of the hour was Barrie Williams. Two of his six races through the weekend were in Norman Grimshaw’s Mini Cooper S, and his fearless handling of the car had the crowd on its feet.
John Harper ended the weekend tired of the sight of the tail of Frank Sytner after finishing three races close behind his regular rival. Two of these were the BRDC Historic Sports Car thrashes, one of which was for the Duncan Hamilton Trophy and the other for the Innes Ireland Trophy. Both times, Sytner’s unique Cooper Monaco had the upper hand, but Harper was a constant threat. “No matter how hard I try, he never drops back,” admitted the victor.
And it was the same story in the Pre-66 GP and Tasman Car race. This time, Sytner and Harper were in Brabham BT4s, but once again three seconds split them at the flag.
Philip Walker’s Lotus 16 had the legs on the Cooper-Bristols in the races for Pre-61 GP cars, and Stretton headed Burkhard von Schenk’s similar Maserati 300S in the Pre-59 drum-braked sportscar race.
The Group C Revival pack raced for the British Empire Trophy on Saturday evening in a race of changing fortunes. Despite nursing the car home after turbo failure, Graham Hathaway and Gary Pearson won the famous trophy in their Jaguar XJR11. In Monday’s sprint, the talent of 18-year-old Nathan I(inch was clear as he dominated in his XJR16.
Adrian Kermode (Mini Cooper S), Francis Tuthill (Porsche 911) and Björn Andreas Viko’s Escort ran out class winners in the Rally Sprint