Masters show their class

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A thrilling World Sportscar Masters battle and a wealth of other track action helped this year’s Silverstone Classic live up to its name
By Paul Lawrence

Though under a new management regime, the 2009 Silverstone Classic built on the good work of the previous year to deliver a full-on weekend of historic and classic racing, supplemented by a dizzying array of off-track activities.

With a recorded crowd of 65,000 for the weekend, the event continued its climb back towards the 100,000 attendances of the 1990s before it was squandered during Silverstone’s dark era under the control of Octagon.

There was much to enjoy this time around, with a typically mammoth race programme running across more than 12 hours on Saturday and nine hours on Sunday. Only an inappropriate Mini race spoilt a top quality line-up.

Star billing rightly remained with the 90-minute World Sportscar Masters race on Saturday evening and it was a stunning 44-car field that poured through Woodcote for the rolling start at 7.45pm. The action was relentless and the sight of historic racing maestros Simon Hadfield and Martin Stretton gunning their respective Lola T70 Mk3Bs side by side through Woodcote at 130mph was nothing short of sensational.

Eventually, the T70 of Jon Minshaw and Stretton fell foul of a fire extinguisher regulation during the pitstop and picked up a drive-through penalty, and it was the Nick Linney/Hadfield car that won as darkness fell. “I just had to keep pushing flat out all the time,” said Linney, who drove a fine race to back up Hadfield’s opening salvo.

A massive oil slick that pitched Nick Whale’s McLaren M1 into the pitwall interrupted the WSM race and caused a long safety car period. And it was oil that was the talking point of the Woodcote Trophy, when Peter Neumark’s Jaguar D-type blew its engine at Becketts. Million-pound cars went all ways, but thankfully there was no major damage and it was relative youngsters Gavin Pickering and Spencer Marsh who guided their D-type to victory over the Maserati 250S of Marc Devis and Anthony Reid.

Notable single-seater winners included teenager Mick Lyons who twice blitzed the Grand Prix Masters field in his Hesketh 308C. Meanwhile, the prolific Roger Wills scored a first major HGPCA victory at the wheel of his Cooper T51. Enrico Spaggiari won the second race in his T53 after Wills rotated, then recovered to second.

“I just love driving these cars,” said Group C victor Chris Buncombe after guiding his Jaguar XJR9 to victory in the opening race. But Andy Purdie turned the tables on day two once his Nissan RC90K was back to full fitness.

With around 600 cars in action, the Silverstone Classic was a monster affair. But it was an overall success and the prospects for the weekend of July 23-25 2010 look even better.

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