Jonathan Kennard impressed in an Arrows on his Classic debut
A new rising star of Historic Formula 1 announced himself to the world at the Silverstone Classic, when Jonathan Kennard took an Arrows A3 to pole position and two podium finishes on his debut in the category.
Former single-seater driver Kennard, now 32, had raced very little over the preceding six seasons since his professional career stalled in sports-prototypes. However, when offered the chance to race the ex-Patrese Arrows owned by fellow racer Jamie Constable, he didn’t hesitate. While his contemporary racing ambitions are far from over, Kennard is hopeful that he’ll be able to enhance his reputation in historic racing.
Kennard throughly enjoyed the experience. “I’ve always enjoyed the history of our sport and driving these cars is an absolute dream,” he said. “It is so much fun and you feel like you are driving without gizmos.
“I was a bit rusty when it came to racing as I last did the Le Mans Series in 2011,” he added. “It’s a real buzz to drive one of these around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. For an old car, it is phenomenal and the Arrows gives you so much confidence. I think the cornering speeds are not that far off an LMP2 car.”
Against established category benchmarks Nick Padmore and Michael Lyons, both in Williams FW07s, Kennard set pole position in qualifying and led the opening race before Padmore went ahead. He then finished third in Sunday’s race as Lyons won from Padmore. The youngsters and the newcomer were clearly the class of the field. “That was my first taste of historic racing and I absolutely loved it,” Kennard said. “Before the Silverstone Classic, I’d only done six laps in the Arrows at Donington. This was a one-off appearance but I’d love to do more.”
One of the biggest draws of the Silverstone weekend was the stunning JPS-liveried BMW 635 CSi of Jim Richards, on its debut appearance outside Australasia. Richards, seven-time winner of the Bathurst 1000 and multiple Australian touring car champion, was a real star of the event and the BMW was a big hit with the fans.
“It’s a beautiful car,” said Richards, who won the 1985 Australian Touring Car Championship with the BMW. “I’m so glad we persuaded Peter Sturgeon to put it back in what we called Group C specification in Australia, as those rules were a bit more liberal than the more more widely used Group A. It looks absolutely stunning and the 24-valve motor, which revs to about 8400rpm, sounds glorious.”
Richards raced the car in both parts of the JET Super Touring Trophy and finished well inside the top 10 cars from the Group A era. The popularity of the gold and black BMW was marked by the event organisers with the presentation of the Stuart Graham ‘Scarf and Goggles’ Trophy, given each year to the most admired car competing at the Silverstone Classic.
The world’s biggest historic racing festival once again delivered wall-to-wall racing throughout Saturday and Sunday for a reported crowd of more than 100,000. Heavy rain did its best to wash out the Saturday evening into-the-dusk Group C feature race, when just 12 cars splashed around to the flag behind the winning Spice SE90 of Steve Tandy.
The modest Group C grid – only 13 cars arrived for qualifying and just nine finished the second race on Sunday – has cast doubt over the continued presence of the category at the Silverstone Classic. Group C is already confirmed for the 2018 Le Mans Classic, which will run just two weeks before the Silverstone event, and it is very unlikely that Peter Auto will schedule two major events in such close proximity.
However, Group C aside, the Classic featured typically huge grids and, thankfully, no serious incidents. Former AC/DC front man Brian Johnson was one of the drivers who managed to roll his Austin A35 in the Celebrity Race, while Stuart Baird (Formula Ford) and Bob Binfield (Jaguar E-type) both contrived to roll their cars without personal harm. Richard Pilkington was fortunate to escape injury when pitched out of his Talbot T26 in the pre-war sports race for the Kidston Trophy.
A desperately slippery track hit the celebrity section of the A35 race, using cars from the HRDC Academy, and it was team captains Steve Soper and Martin Donnelly to the fore as Neil Primrose, the drummer from rock band Travis, who is famously familiar with rain, finished best of the celebrities. Sunday’s race for the owners was one of the closest of the weekend and, having borrowed his old car, former BTCC and GT ace Mike Jordan beat James Colborn and Jonathan Lewis by less than a second after a mighty contest.
Other stand-out race moments included a fierce pre-war sports race tussle between Gareth Burnett in the Talbot 105 team car ‘GO 52’ and the Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards Frazer Nash. Burnett used all his guile and cunning to win by half a length. Meanwhile, touring car ace Gianfranco Brancatelli and local racer Mark Wright had a flame-spitting contest in Sierra RS500s and Wright was elated to finally get the verdict over the former ETCC champion in Saturday’s race.
Away from the racing, notable parades included a 25th anniversary celebration of the Jaguar XJ220, which brought the three Le Mans cars from 1993 back together for the first time since that race. More than 40 cars were on-track, headed by David Brabham in his 1993 race car.
Another quarter-century anniversary was that of Nigel Mansell’s 1992 British Grand Prix victory in his Williams FW14B (featured in the August issue of Motor Sport). The Silverstone win that took Mansell-mania to new heights was referenced by young single-seater racer Nick Yelloly driving the FW14B from the Williams Heritage operation on some brisk demonstration laps.
RACING SCOTS HONOURED
Ambitious plans are being developed for a Scottish National Motor Sport Heritage Centre to be built overlooking the Rest and Be Thankful hillclimb course in Argyll.
Designs have been drawn up for an imposing low-impact facility to be built partly into the ground overlooking the series of bends near the top of the hill, which has a significant history as a hillclimb as well as a rally special stage.
The £25 million project, designed to respect the natural beauty of the area, is led by enthusiast Douglas Anderson and has recently taken a step forward with a charitable trust being formed to seek funding.
Famous Scots including Sir Jackie Stewart, David Coulthard and Jimmy McRae have backed the project, which is designed to be a tourist destination as well as a facility for non-motor sport activity.
The Rest and Be Thankful hill is sited adjacent to the A83, to the west of Arrochar.
Seventy years of the British Hillclimb Championship and 112 years of Shelsley Walsh came together in August for a remarkable celebration of hillclimbing at the famous Worcestershire venue.
Former champions and former title-winning cars were on hand to revel in the unrivalled atmosphere of the 1000-yard rush up the side of the Teme Valley. The event also featured a unique quadruple-header for the 2017 British Hillclimb Championship.
While a paddock display included throwbacks to the post-war era of the championship, in action on the hill were state-of-the-art single-seaters from Gould, OMS and Force.
From half a century ago came the Marsh GM used by Tony Marsh to take three of his six titles in the mid-1960s and the Cooper-Jap used by David Boshier-Jones to earn a hat-trick of crowns in 1958, ’59 and ’60.
Star names of the sport included six-time champion Scott Moran, five-time champions Martyn Griffiths and David Grace, four-time champion Martin Groves, triple champion Martin Bolsover and late 1970s champions Alistair Douglas-Osborn and David Franklin.
The BHC is Britain’s oldest national motor sport championship and was first run over five rounds in 1947 as motor sport made a faltering return after the Second World War. Shelsley Walsh was one of the venues on the original schedule and Raymond Mays in ERA R4D won both the Shelsley round and the inaugural title.
In 1947, Mays took fastest time of the day in 41.5sec. Seventy years later, Will Hall set the absolute pace with a feisty 23.21sec climb in the final run of the weekend in his Force.
HOT TOPIC CALENDAR CLASHES
Comment and opinion from the world of historic racing
There is no question that the classic and historic motor sport calendar is incredibly crowded. In Britain alone, there are more than a dozen promoted historic racing festivals and when events like the Festival of Speed, Brooklands Double 12 and Chateau Impney are added you soon have up to 20 significant events in seven months.
However, the issue of an over-crowded calendar goes much further, for at the head of historic racing the same competitor pool is being stretched by a daunting schedule. Out of France comes Peter Auto with six major race meetings, plus Tour Auto and, every other year, the Le Mans Classic. Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Holland, the Czech Republic and Denmark all have at least one major festival and in 2017 that was extended by a new Peter Auto event at the Hungaroring. It all adds up to nearly 50 significant events as well as a host of lower-key events in the season.
Matters came to a head in early July when a single weekend featured Peter Auto’s Monza race weekend, the new Grand Prix de France Historique at Magny Cours, the Legends of Brands Hatch Superprix and the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Not only do these clashes force car owners and drivers to pick just one event, they also make it impossible for the preparation teams to be in two places at once. That costs all of the events in terms of support and a reduced spectacle for the fans. In truth, even the most avid historic racer is only likely to tackle two events in any month.
As Simon Arron has rightly pointed out before in this publication, the problem is getting worse and there is no easy fix. But greater co-operation and dialogue between organisers and promoters would be a good start.