The paddock alone would make a visit to Coys worthwhile; add a full two days of top-class historic racing and a phalanx of famous drivers and you end up with an unmissable meeting.
From the spectators' viewpoint and the social angle, the 1995 Coys Historic Festival at Silverstone was another overwhelming success, boosted by Mediterranean weather conditions and some close racing. However, from the competitors' standpoint, this was overshadowed by a somewhat heavy-handed approach by the FIA, much of whose involvement, unavoidable with inclusion of a round of the FIA European Touring Car Challenge on the programme, was deemed to be inappropriate for a historic meeting of this type. Several £100 fines were doled out for non-production of FIA papers, and one competitor took his car home after practice. Others threatened to do likewise before reason prevailed. Other disputes ranged from the suitability of crash helmets and racewear to use of the Grand Prix circuit in place of the preferred 'historic' circuit (which omits the Vale section that met with disapproval from drivers at last year's Festival.
In his speech at Saturday night's BRDC dinner in honour of Carroll Shelby, BRDC President Lord Hesketh expressed his personal criticism of the FIA.
The featured marque at this year's Festival was Aston Martin, to celebrate the both anniversary of the Aston Martin Owners Club with former team drivers in evidence including Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Jack Brabham, Eric Thompson, Noel Cunningham-Reid and '59 Le Mans winners Shelby and Roy Salvadori, as well as Cliff Allison, Bruce Halford and Maria-Teresa de Filippis. On Sunday, Moss demonstrated Neil Corner's ex-Fangio 250F Maserati and a one minute silence was observed in honour of the recently deceased five-times world champion.
All races bar those for touring cars and Austin Healeys were run in two parts, with winners determined on aggregate. Both Parts of the Pre-War Sports Car event were dominated by the 1931 Le Mans-winning Alfa Romeo 8C of German duo Peter Groh and Klaus Werner. They won part one from the spiritedly-driven Bentley 3/4.5 of John May, who just pipped the Alfa RC of Hartmut Ibing/Hans Hugenholtz on the final lap. The Talbot 105 of Stephen Curtis/David Morris took a respectable fourth.
In part two, the Groh/Werner pairing brioly lost the lead at their pit-stop to the Ibing/Hugenholtz car, but Groh soon restored the status quo to take the overall win from Ibing/Hugenholtz and Day, with Curtis/Morris in fourth from the solo-driven MG NA Magnette of Phil Walker. The first two finishers and Alex/Tania Pilkington (Alfa 1750SS) helped Alfa take the team prize.
Some of the best racing of the weekend was seen in the HGPCA Pre-52 GP Car race sponsored by MOTOR SPORT, honours being contested by John Harper in Vijay Mallya's ERA R4D, and Martin Stretton in Simon Bull's Maserati 4CM. Quickest in practice by 1.25s, Stretton was beaten away by the ERA and harried Harper over the early laps. After much place-swapping, he succeeded in getting past for good on lap four and pulling away to win. Stephen Curtis, sharing David Morris's ERA R11B, took third, initially heading off Mark Gillies (Brooke Special) before Jeffrey Pattinson worked his ERA R6B into fourth.
The second race saw more of the same with Harper. once again, taking an early lead. After much side-by-side motoring, and some demon outbraking by both parties into Copse as the track became slippery, Stretton placed the 1.5-litre car ahead just before half-distance. Despite continued pressure from the wily Harper, Martin held on by half a second. Martin Morris took his second third place of the meeting, with Curtis. An eighth and a fourth netted fourth overall, and an extremely promising result tor the Alfa 8C35 of Paul and Matt Grist, lost Wildbolz (ERA R9B) took fifth and Tony Stephens consistency was rewarded with sixth, with ERA R12C. Much interest centred on the first outing of Julian Majzub's sensational 1937 Alfa Romeo 308, rebuilt over a long period after returning from South America, in the hands of restorer Duncan Ricketts. Although it missed the first part, it completed Sunday's race in good shape and promises much for the future.
Winners of the GT race for the past three years, Frank Sytner and Gary Pearson went their separate way for the Coys of Kensington GT race. Frank joined Paul Alexander in Brandon Wang's Ferrari 275 GTB, and Gary teamed with Simon Draper in the latter's Project 214 Aston Martin. Splitting them on the front row was Nigel Corner's Lightweight Jaguar E, shared with Barrie Williams and complete with fuel-injected engine to fullrace spec. Sytner's Ferrari held a narrow early advantage, but was kept on the limit by the pursuing Pearson, the E-type failing to feature after ingesting a stone. The Italian E-type of Dino Morazzoni/Roberto Tonetti headed the chase, followed by Lindsay Owen-Jones' 1964-bodied Ferrari GTO shared with regular McLaren GTR teammate Pierre-Henri Raphanel, having his first taste of historic racing. The three leaders pitted on lap seven amidst mild chaos.
Alexander rejoined ahead of Draper, but the E-type lost third place to the Owen-Jones Ferrari and that's how it stayed to the finish. Stefano Violati/Peter Hannen put in a strong drive to take fifth with an older 250GT SWB, overtaking the Nick Mason/Justin Bell GTO on the run to the line.
It was much the same story in Sunday's race, though Owen-Jones's GTO led the Italian E-type and the similar car of Michael Cann/John Young until the pit stops. The leaders stopped together, only for Sytner to leave the car in gear, which slowed Alexander's getaway and allowed the Aston to take the flag, albeit not far enough ahead to deny the Ferrari overall victory.
Owen-Jones and Raphanel took third overall, well clear of Morazzoni/Tonetti, Hannen/Niolati and the ex-Norinder GTO of Robs Lamplough/Enrico Guggiari. Class One honours fell to the Lotus Elite of Renzo Raimondi/Mauro Bompani from the well-driven MGB of Warwick Banks/Anthony Binnington. After a delayed start, with John Harper's Vanwall starting from the pit lane, Nigel Corner dominated the first heat of the Ness Furniture HGPGA Pre-61 GP Cars race with his Tasman Dino Ferrari. Runner-up Gerry Porter (Cooper 13) never got close enough to challenge, and this pair outdistanced American Joel Finn (Lotus 18) and Phil Walker (Lotus 161). Pierre-Henri Raphanel took his turn in Owen-Jones's Maserati 250F Piccolo to claim a respectable fifth on his first acquaintance with the car.
Corner's hopes of a perfect score were dashed when Joel Finn cut across in front of him at the start of race two, squashing the Dino's nose and letting Porter get away to win, in spite of Walker's sterling efforts. Corner had passed Walker with two laps to go, but spun down to third at Club on the penultimate lap and just failed to take the aggregate win from Porter. Walker emerged in third overall from Rod Jolley (Cooper 151), Tony Merrick (Ferrari Dino) and Raphanel. John Harper's efforts were rewarded with seventh place, after he had brought the Vanwall through the field in part one to take ninth.
The rising young star of historic sports car racing, Australian Matthew Martin, qualified Kerry Manolas's two-litre Ferrari Dino on pole by over two seconds for the Louis Vuitton 50s Sports Car race but was beaten off the line by Gary Pearson (Lister Jaguar) and Frank Sytner (D-type Jaguar). Martin was soon on the lister's tail and took the lead after three laps as the leader began to overheat.
Jeffrey Pattinson (Cooper Monaco) took up the challenge and he and Martin put on a tremendous show, Martin finally securing the lead with a heart-stopping pass on the inside of Bridge. He managed to collect himself after a hairy moment at Priory on the last lap to win by less than half a second. Sytner was third on this occasion with Barrie Williams (Tojeiro) pipping Peter Hardman's Le Mans-winning Aston DBR1 for fourth.
Sunday's race saw Pearson lead but Martin was consigned to a spectating role after going off at Club on the opening lap, leaving the pursuit to Pattinson. Once again the Lister's temperature rose, causing Gary to relinquish the lead and drop back. Sytner's third place gave him second on aggregate from Hardman. Pearson's efforts in part two elevated him to fourth overall, well clear of Nick Mason (Maserati Birdcage) and Steve O'Rourke (Aston DBR2). The Innes Ireland Trophy Race for Pre-66 GP and Tasman cars was a replay of the MOTOR SPORT Trophy event, with Martin Stretton (Cooper 151) and John Harper (Brabham BT4) scrapping mightily for the full distance after poleman Paul Alexander had spun his ex-Revson/Parnell Lotus-BRM 24 at Abbey on the opening lap.
Never separated by more than a few lengths, the duo held spectators entranced with an exhibition of wheel-to-wheel racing which Culminated in a failed last-lap bid by Harper at Stowe. The Brabham tailed the Cooper across the line, just 0.18s adrift. Allan Miles (Cooper T53) took fourth after overcoming the Lotus 18s of Jeremy Agace and Duncan Dayton.
Part two proved to be an anti-climax with, first, Harper's Brabham being wheeled off the grid, shrouded in extinguisher foam. Then Stretton stopped at Stowe on lap three, his gear linkage trouble allowing Miles to cruise to overall victory, a distance clear of Dayton and Alexander.
A 44-car grid contested the Donald Healey Memorial Trophy race with poleman Denis Welch leading from start to finish in his ultra-successful 3000, despite having to pace himself to the end following the onset of head gasket trouble on lap four. You would never have known.
Bruce Montgomery (3000) held a race-long second, but the third place battle between Stirling Moss in John Chatham's 3000 and Steve Bicknell's similar car provided the main interest, Bicknell pressuring the maestro without success and spinning off with two laps to go. In turn, Moss was closing rapidly on Montgomery but ran out of laps, while Jeremy Welch finished an excellent fourth with a much earlier, less powerful 100M.
Drive of the race came from Tony Dron. Starting from the back of the grid after a frustrating practice, he passed 38 cars on his way to fifth in Dave Hardy's 3000.
The British-entered Ford Falcon of Bill Wykeham/Peter Austin snatched the early lead in the one-hour HA European Challenge for Historic Touring Cars, and Wykeham defended it well under strong pressure from Tommy Brorsson's Lotus Cortina and Peter Gerhards' Alfa Giulia Sprint. A slow-starting Sandro Munari (Alfa Giulia Sprint) was soon challenging Gerhards for third, handling the Alfa with tremendous style befitting a former rally champion and Targa winner.
On lap 10, Brorsson lunged inside the Falcon at Club, emerging in front and pulling away as Munari took his turn at worrying Wykeham. Brorsson was first to pit, handing over to Bo Warmenius, who regained the lead when the Falcon and Alfa stopped. Maurizio Ambrogetti rejoined in the Alfa ahead of Peter Austin in the Falcon, and the Italian set about the leader. In the course of his pursuit, Ambrogetti lapped a backmarker under a yellow flag. This was to be his undoing. As the Cortina's handling deteriorated as its tyres went off, the Alfa closed and passed despite a brake problem in the closing stages. However, the yellow-flag incident incurred a minute penalty, demoting the Italians to second while the Falcon was excluded from third for a technical infringement over the width of its track (subject to appeal). Third place went to Massimo Faraci/ Carlo Facetti (Alfa Giulia Sprint) after 'Amphicar'/Arcangelo Priulla (Alfa GTA) had also been penalised for overtaking under the yellows. ASDC