Historic racing news

Welch tragedy mars Classic
Accident claims well-known historic racer | By Paul Lawrence

A tragic accident took the life of Denis Welch at the Silverstone Classic – the first fatality in the annual event’s 24-year history.

Welch was racing the ex-Syd van der Vyver Lotus 18, a former South African F1 title winner now owned by Malcolm Ricketts, in the second of the weekend’s Historic Grand Prix Car Association races for Pre-66 cars.

On the opening lap there was a clash of wheels at the infield section and the Alfa Romeo-engined Lotus overturned. The car’s roll hoop was reported to have withstood two significant impacts, but Welch suffered serious neck and head traumas and later succumbed to his injuries in the circuit’s medical centre.

Goodwood marques time

Two of the most evocative race cars will headline the Goodwood Revival Meeting, which celebrates 60 years of both the Jaguar D-type and the Maserati 250F from September 12-14.

As many as 25 D-types will contest the Lavant Cup in a field that also includes examples of the D-type’s road-going cousin, the XKSS. The grid will have a total value running to tens of millions of pounds.

“It’s a fantastic idea and it will be amazing to see all those D-types,” said Gary Pearson, who is one of the fastest active D-type drivers. His Pearson Engineering business prepares up to eight of them.

Also, about 16 Maserati 250Fs will be on the grid for the Richmond Trophy – and among them will be one of only two V12-engined versions ever built.

Jackie Stewart will also be honoured at the Revival, with a parade of cars from his career on each of the three days. The 74-year-old Scot will lead the cavalcades, which will include two of his F1 world championship-winning cars, the Matra MS80 and Tyrrell 006. A Lola T90 Indycar, BRM P261, Ford GT40, Lola T70 and Ferrari 330 P4 are also expected.

Ex-Clark Lister returns

More than 40 years after its last appearance in this country, an ex-Jim Clark Lister Jaguar (chassis BHL5) appeared in the hands of new owner Steve Brooks during the Silverstone Classic.

Registered HCH 736, the car was built in 1955 but rebuilt with a Jaguar engine in 1957. It became the only Lister to finish Le Mans when Brian Naylor and Bruce Halford battled to the line in 1958. Clark raced the car in ’59.

An ex-Peter Revson McLaren M23 was also back in action at the Classic. Sports car racer and classic car dealer Gregor Fisken used it to make his Historic Formula 1 debut.

Fisken has restored it to Revson’s 1973 Yardley colours. “I had a model of an M23 as a kid,” Fisken said. “It’s a lovely piece of history.”

HF1 to support Singapore GP

Masters Historic Racing is to send a field of 20 bygone Formula 1 cars to take part in a support event at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The Masters organisation will tap into its European and American series to assemble a grid representing the 1970s and early 1980s. The meeting takes place on the Marina Bay Street circuit from September 19-21.

“We are delighted to invite the best historic Formula 1 cars to race under Singapore’s lights,” said event spokesman Colin Syn. “Fans can look forward to the thrilling spectacle of racing history set against the stunning Singapore skyline.”

Hindley hat trick on Tour

After one of the closest lead battles in the event’s 10-year history, Phil Hindley and Andy Bull (above) claimed victory on this year’s Tour Britannia to maintain their unbeaten record on Britain’s only classic race and rally tour. The result completed a hat trick of wins for Hindley’s Porsche 911 SCR, but he was pressed hard by the Ford Escort Mk2 of Steve Perez and Paul Spooner.

Birrell drops in at Croft

Scotsman Graham Birrell, a rising single-seater and sports car racer of the late 1960s, returned to the Croft circuit for the first time in 43 years during the annual Nostalgia Weekend. This year’s event marked 50 years since the opening of the North Yorkshire track.

Birrell competed in the first meeting at Croft in August 1964. “It is the first time I have been back since 1971,” he said, “and it’s still a terrific circuit.”

The elder brother of late former F2 ace and Grand Prix aspirant Gerry, Birrell (right, above) raced a Lotus Cortina in 1964 and competed regularly at Croft until retiring in 1971.

*HGPCA racer Nick Eden was seriously injured at the Nürburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix in August, after his Cooper- Bristol was tagged by a spinning car and rolled several times. A strong roll hoop did its job, but Eden suffered chest, shoulder and arm injuries as the car flipped in a very fast section. He was taken to a Koblenz hospital.

*The 2015 Donington Historic Festival will repeat this year’s format, taking place over the bank holiday weekend of May 2-4. Festival founder Duncan Wiltshire said: “Within just a few years this event has become a major fixture on the international calendar, one that goes from strength to strength.”

*In our August story reuniting Norman Dewis and the prototype D-type, we accidently inserted the name of Bill Hayden, Jaguar chairman in the Ford era, instead of William Heynes (above), the engineer behind the C-, D- and E-type. We are happy to put this right.

*Aberdeen-based Irishman Tommy Dreelan has added Keke Rosberg’s 1982 title-winning Williams FW08 to his stable and raced it for the first time at the Silverstone Classic. The historically significant car, which had not been used for two years, was previously owned and raced by Michael Fitzgerald in America.

*For the first time in nearly a decade, a current Grand Prix driver will compete in the Goodwood Revival. Marussia driver Max Chilton will race a 1965 Ford Mustang in the Shelby Cup – a one-off race marking 60 years of the small-block V8 engine and the 50th anniversary of the Mustang.

Denis Welch

Denis Welch was one of the most popular and successful drivers in the UK historic racing fraternity and his death has cast a terrible shadow over the 2014 racing season. The 69-year-old Staffordshire racer was best known for his exuberant style in Austin-Healeys, but he was also enormously successful in sports-racing cars and Formula Junior.

This season he was realising a long-held ambition to race a 1960s Formula 1 car and had borrowed the Lotus 18 of his friend Malcolm Ricketts.

Welch raced for half a century, firstly in Minis and then a Ford Anglia, but the birth of his sons Jeremy and Tim forced him to stop racing for a little while. He’d been a fan of Austin-Healeys for many years and eventually built up a racing version in the early 1980s. It was the beginning of a business specialising in Healey parts and he hurled the car to countless wins.

In more recent times Welch won with a Lotus 23B, while his Formula Junior Merlyn scored many victories – notably a hat trick of race wins at the Monaco Historic GP.