BY ANY MEASURE, THE 2011 SILVERSTONE Classic was huge. Billed as the biggest historic racing festival of all and, quite probably, the biggest race meeting ever staged, it had over 1100 entries and a crowd of 80,000 across the weekend. Grids of up to 58 cars on the Grand Prix circuit delivered bags of action in 22 races, with Saturday alone offering a daunting 12 hours of racing.
The infield was crammed with a vast array of affractions, including over 7000 classic cars. But it was the Jaguar E-type that took pride of place as the biggest of the year’s 50th birthday celebrations brought 1000 roadgoing E-types to Silverstone and put a Guinness World Record-breaking 767 of them into a track parade. Continuing the theme, two races for the E-type Challenge had star billing and, in a weekend of records, another was set when 52 E-types were unleashed towards the new Abbey Corner on Saturday evening. No one has more passion for racing E-types than Jon Minshaw and he duly won both races, the first by a modest margin over Alex Buncombe and the second by a much bigger gap. While
Desire Wilson raced, and shunted, the Buncombe car, former F3 winner Martin O’Connell went into second from 22nd on the grid, having taken over the car he preps for Sandy Watson.
“The 50th anniversary only happens once and to win in front of another 1000 E-type owners was very special,” said Minshaw. But it was not as easy as it sounds for a gearbox failure when leading the Gentleman Drivers’ race left his crew just three hours to take the engine out and change the ‘box. They did it with an hour to spare. Some of the weekend’s most exciting racing came early on Saturday with barnstormers from the Formula Junior and U2TC packs. Even with monster grid capacity for the 3.6-mile track, both races were oversubscribed and it proved an epic weekend for Sam Wilson who twice beat paceseffer Jon Milicevic in a pitch baffle of the
Cooper T59s. “I’m speechless,” said Wilson after the races of his life. “Jon is such a good guy to race against.”
The 50-minute U2TC thrash came to a glorious finish as Simon Hadfield and Mike Jordan went head-to-head in a baffle of the Lotus Cortinas, with Richard Shaw’s BMW chasing hard despite a failing damper. “It was like riding a horse,” said Jackie Oliver after taking the first stint in the Beemer. Hadfield tigered ahead, but with a cracked manifold costing Jordan revs, it was a close call. The year’s best Historic Fl grid had no answer to the prodigious pace of Le Mans racer Andy Meyrick in his father’s March 761 and he swept to a brace of ‘1) wins. Bill Coombs (Tyrrell 009) and Steve
Hartley (Arrows A4) led the chase. _0 ° The HGPCA turned out 80 cars in Pre
61 and Pre-66 grids, and Philip Walker (Lotus 16) won both Pre-61 encounters. Roger Wills (Cooper T51) won the first Pre-66 race, but the second fell to Enrico Spaggiari’s T53 after Wills tripped over a backmarker on the final lap. Stuart Graham took another Tourist Trophy win, this time in the Aston Martin
DB4 GT he shared with 1970 Le Mans victor Richard Attwood. Other notable winners included Ewan McIntyre, who kept his Lotus 15 ahead of the big bangers in the Sir Stirling Moss Trophy, and the Gary Pearson/Carlos Monteverde Jag D-type, which went nine seconds clear of the Woodcote Trophy pack on lap one alone.
The choice of category for the coveted Saturday evening race slot has been the subject of much debate, and the 2010 Italian Historic race was a disappointment. The decision to put Group C back into the limelight this year was a calculated gamble, but one that paid off in spades as the cars delivered the finest of spectacles.
As if pre-ordained, the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful sunset as the 8.30pm start approached and the 25-car grid looked and sounded sensational as they raced while the sun went down. It could have been Le Mans in the ’80s as a Suzi Quatro concert baffled against Jaguar V12s and V8s from Mercedes and Cosworh.
However it was Nissan power that claimed the day, with Japanese ace Katsu Kubota winning in his RC90 from Alex Buncombe’s Jaguar XJR9 and Gareth Evans in the Mercedes Cl 1 of Bob Berridge. Calum Lockie starred in John Pearson’s C2 ADA, firing the Cosworth DFV car from 14th on the grid to fourth with a blistering opening salvo. Eventually power told and Lockie was elbowed back, but still took a C2 win. In Sunday’s race, Berridge took over the Mercedes to head home young Japanese F3 racer Hideki Yamauchi in Kubota’s Nissan. Paul Lawrence