Silverstone Classic

There were smiles aplenty on Saturday morning as glorious sunshine welcomed visitors to Silverstone for the 26th running of the Classic. As one person remarked: “the event is now older than some of the cars running here!”

With close to 1000 entries across 20 races and an estimated 10,000 cars on display from clubs in the infield, as well as an exhibit celebrating 40 years since James Hunt’s Formula 1 World Championship, the action was non-stop. Live demonstrations were held for an array of 1990s sports cars, modern F1 machinery (headlined by Zak Brown’s ex-Mika Häkkinen 2001 British Grand Prix winning McLaren MP4-16) and a host of motorcycle legends.

Matra took three victories in the hands of Rob Hall who stole the show in both of the 50th Anniversary Can-Am celebration races (the grids being bolstered by Interserie entries) and romped to a commanding victory in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars event with Andy Willis. His exploits rightly earned him the Motor Sport Driver of the Weekend award, and he was visibly emotional when presented with it on Sunday evening.

Wolfgang Friedrichs and Simon Hadfield’s Aston Martin DB4 comfortably claimed the Tourist Trophy after Lukas Halusa made his compulsory pitstop too early in the fabulous Ferrari 250 SWB ‘Breadvan’. Hadfield also won out in the International Trophy for GT cars, sharing with regular partner Leo Voyazides in the Shelby Daytona Cobra.

Nick Padmore continued his fantastic season in FIA Masters Historic Formula 1 taking his fifth and sixth straight victories in an ex-Clay Regazzoni FW07C Williams – appropriate at the circuit where Regga claimed the team’s maiden F1 win in an earlier evolution of the FW07 just over 37 years ago.

Sunday’s F1 race was easily the best of the weekend, if not of the historic racing season. Ollie Hancock was determined to fend off challenges for second place in his Fittipaldi F5A, after falling down the order on Saturday. He’d initially taken the lead for the second race in a row, from fourth on the grid around the outside at Abbey, before Padmore worked his way past.

Behind Hancock, Greg Thornton (Lotus 91/5) and championship hopeful Loic Deman (Tyrrell 010) swapped places constantly, before being joined in the battle by Classic regular Martin Stretton in his Tyrrell 012 and Christophe D’Ansembourg’s Williams FW07C. When Stretton and D’Ansembourg clashed at Brooklands – sending the latter down the order – Rob Hall joined the fray in his Ligier JS17.

Approaching slower traffic to start the final lap (Padmore crossing the line with two seconds to spare, ensuring one more frenetic tour) Thornton was baulked, allowing Deman to shoot past and set after the Fittipaldi. Getting a good run onto the Hangar Straight the Belgian finally managed to make the pass at Stowe, denying the brilliant Hancock a second placed finish he had surely earned, while Hall also managed to pass Thornton on that blistering last 3.66 miles to secure fourth place. At the flag second to seventh were covered by just 1.067sec.

Earlier, on Saturday morning, Ollie’s brother Sam took a jubilant win in the ex-Hill/von Trips Ferrari 246S ‘Dino’, handing the car its second straight Stirling Moss Trophy victory, while Chris Ward was forced to work hard
for his Woodcote Trophy win, only regaining the lead from Ollie Bryant with five minutes remaining in his Cooper-Jaguar T33.

The Vauxhall Vectra of Colin Noble Jr held off incessant pressure from James Dodd’s Honda Accord for most of Saturday’s Super Touring race, the pair crossing the line 0.2sec apart. Unfortunately the battle on Sunday had a less desirable outcome: Noble pushed Dodd off-track at the final corner, and the stewards later excluded him from the race for his actions.

In touring cars of the pre-66 variety, Craig Davies’ Alan Mann Racing-liveried Ford Mustang prevailed while in U2TC Andy Wolfe and Richard Meaden dominated in their Ford Lotus Cortina. The 1990 BMW M3 of Nick and Harry Whale took victory in the Historic Touring Car Challenge.

 Both of the Formula Junior races were fantastic spectacles, Sam Wilson taking the victories but being chased hard by Andrew Hibberd on Sunday.

 Will Nuthall and Jon Fairley entertained the crowds in the pre-66 Grand Prix Cars race on Saturday afternoon, swapping the lead four times before an error by the latter handed Nuthall the win. A stalled Fairley was collected from behind on the grid on Sunday, eliminating several cars in the process. Peter Horsman eventually took the victory in his Lotus 18/21.

The glorious-sounding Lola T92/10 of Nathan Kinch was untroubled in Saturdays Group C finale while Bob Berridge’s Nissan R93CK likewise coasted to victory on Sunday.

It’s a long and tiring weekend, but easy to see why people return year after year. There really is nothing else like it. Jamie Howlett