A new circuit for the Coys Festival was the seal of a great weekend, says Alan Cox.
This year’s Coys International Historic Festival at Silverstone, in association with Chrysler to begin a five-year deal, was adjudged an overwhelming success on all counts, and was blissfully free of the rancour encountered last year over FIA involvement. One improvement which drew universally favourable approval from competitors was the adoption of the new Historic Grand Prix circuit with its much eased approach to Club through the Vale as well as restoration of the original left-hand sweep at Abbey, reducing stress on transmissions and brakes, and contributing to better racing. The BRDC are to be applauded for that, and they indicate that further work is under consideration for next year.
Featured marque was MG, celebrated by track parades and a one-off race for the Abingdon Trophy which attracted a stunning entry, while the Festival also honoured Sir Jack Brabham, on his 70th birthday and 30 years after his last World Championship, and the first driver to be Champion in a car of his own manufacture. Driving his 1966 Brabham-Repco BT19, he was joined on track by son David in Tasman BT7A, designer Ron Tauranac in John Harper’s Tasman BT4, Tim Schenken (now Clerk of the Course for the Australian GP) in Ean Pugh’s lobster-claw BT34 and John Watson in Tony Butler’s BT8.
Six races followed the usual two-part format, with finishing positions based on aggregate, the opening event being for Pre-War Sports Cars with both parts seeing stirring battles between the ex-Nuvolari 1931 TT Alfa 8C of Klaus Werner and Martin Stretton in Terry Cohn’s 1936 4 1/2 Lagonda, in part one, Stretton pitting to hand over to his wife Amanda with a narrow lead while Peter Groh took over the Alfa, the experienced Groh overhauled Mrs Stretton to take victory. Part two told a similar story, Stretton drifting the big Lagonda in his efforts to keep the Alfa at bay, but aided by a slick changeover and growing confidence, Amanda kept the leaders in sight. Thus Groh and Werner repeated last year’s win (albeit in a different team car) while Simon Draper and David Clark took two third places in the former’s Aston Martin Le Mans, with Peter Green/Philip Walker fourth overall with Green’s ex-Whitney Straight/Dick Seaman MG K3, after Nick and Annette Mason retired their Ulster Aston. The Astons of Draper/Clark, Rivett/ Pollock and Lucas/Moss wrapped up the team prize, all finishing within the top twelve.
The versatile Mr Stretton leaped straight from Lagonda into Simon Bull’s Maserati 4CM to lead the HGPCA Pre-’52 GP Car race from the lights, pursued initially by Ludovic Lindsay’s ERA R5B before Peter Hannen (Maserati 6CM) took up the fight, the pair trading places before Stretton pulled off on the last lap with a split radiator, handing Hannen the win from Lindsay and a well-placed Mark allies (Brooke Special). Coys chairman Jeffrey Pattinson (ERA R6B) pipped Duncan Ricketts (ERA R1B) for fourth on the final lap. With the Maserati restored to health, Stretton started from the back of Sunday’s grid to be up to third (!) by the end of lap one and leading next time round, putting on a virtuoso display played out to good effect on the giant Silverstone TV screens, and after Peter Hannen spluttered to a halt with a cooked magneto or fuel problem, romped away to win by over half a minute from Gillies, recovering from a poor start, the Brooke Special taking overall honours. A superb drive by Sir John Venables-Llewelyn in Rodney Felton’s P3 Alfa was rewarded with second overall, while Pattinson scooped third after starting from the pit lane, ahead of Jost Wildbolz (ERA R9B) and Richard Pilkington (Talbot Lago T26). One feature of the weekend which did not go down well with many drivers, particularly of earlier cars, was the amended starting procedure which did away with a warm-up lap and left the front of the grid with a long wait before the rest of the grid assembled with temperatures rising and transmissions under strain.
After four years of trying, it was fifth time lucky for the Lightweight Jaguar E-Type of Nigel Corner and Barrie Williams in the Coys of Kensington GT race for the John Woolfe Trophy; but their races were not without incident. In part one, Mark Hales held a tentative early lead with Simon Draper’s Protect 214 Aston, but once Whizzo Williams was past he received an entirely innocent ‘punt’ up the back from the Aston at Brooklands which sent the ‘E’ Type on a complete revolution and a fired-up Williams back in pursuit. He soon retook the lead, held through the pit-stops, as Draper brought the Aston home in second. Former winners Frank Sytner and Gary Pearson with Brandon Wang’s Ferrari 275GTB-C enjoyed a spirited fight with Roger Mac/John Young (E-Type) to take third, although a start-line shunt eliminated them from Sunday’s race. Nick Mason recruited BTCC ace Will Hoy to share his Ferrari 250GTO, fifth being their reward ahead of that man Stretton again, this time sharing the 1963 AC Cobra of Andrew Wilkinson. In part two, Corner and Williams led all the way, although a last-lap tangle with an errant MGB left the Jaguar’s off-side looking very second-hand. The Aston finished an even closer second, outdistancing the Sytner/Pearson Ferrari while the Cobra crew stormed through to fourth to oust the Mason/Hoy team on the final lap. The GTO took fourth, and a class win, on aggregate from the Cobra and the E-Type coupe of Colin Pearcy/Tony Lanfranchi.
The HGPCA Pre-’60 GP Car Race was red flagged after one lap to clean up oil dropped by Weiland’s Monzanapolis Lister; on the restart Rob Hall in Bruce McCaw’s BRM P25 was bogged down by wheelspin, letting Philip Walker (Lotus 16) lead away from Rick Hall with Brierley’s Connaught, but as Rick exited Club in the lead, his rear wheel ran into the soft run-off and `kangarooed’ over the gravel before veering sharp right into the path of the field, its de Dion tube having snapped, and was collected by son Rob, both cars bearing considerable damage but with drivers, thankfully, unscathed. Avoidances by Walker and Tony Merrick (Ferrari 246 Dino) allowed both to dispute the second restart over a mere three laps. Merrick took the early lead but was displaced by Walker who took the flag with Don Orosco (Scarab) in third from the 250F Maseratis of Ludovic Lindsay, Nigel Corner and Thomas Bscher. Sunday’s race produced exactly the same top six finishers although Merrick held the lead for six of the eight laps before Walker slipped inside at Bridge to take a deserved win.
Of the 75(!) potential entries, a full grid of 44 was accepted for the Louis Vuitton 50s Sports Car Race and found Frank Sytner on pole with the familiar Bamford D-Type, half a second clear of Gary Pearson, shaking down a Lister ‘Knobbly’ for Jay Howkins to such good effect that he held Sytner at bay for most of the race, partly aided by the D-Type having to take avoiding action to miss the spinning Tojeiro of Barrie Williams on the third lap. Frank made up lost ground and took the overheating Lister with two laps to go, only to be thwarted on the lap when Dudley Mason-Styrron spun his newly acquired Maserati 300S at Brooklands and the two made contact. Jeffrey Pattinson inherited second with his Cooper Monaco, ahead of Tony Dron (Le Mans-winning Aston DBR1), Williams and a recovering Sytner. Part two saw the Lister’s temperature under control as Pearson led from start to finish, Sytner’s challenge disappearing with a gearbox problem while Barrie Williams kept the Tojeiro pointing in more or-less the right direction to take second, and third overall. Third place, and second on aggregate, went to a fast-closing Pattinson while fourth place was a good result for Dron’s Aston, a car never at its best in short sprints. James Shead enhanced the reputation of the Kurtis (a sort of Lotus 7 on steroids) with fifth, while the everpresent Stretton completed the top six with Peter Scott’s ex-Musy Maserati 300S. Two impressive drives from American Duncan Dayton saw his diminutive 1.3-litre Lola Mk1 mixing with far larger machines to take ninth overall, Thomas Bscher was never headed in either of the two Classic & Sportscar Pre-’68 GP and Tasman Cars Race, to take the Innes Ireland.
Trophy with his 2-litre ex-Ginther BRM P261, the BPR Endurance Champion being trailed for the distance by Paul Alexander’s beautiful ex-Revson Lotus-BRM 24 on Saturday, and after Robs Lamplough retired his 3-litre BRM P126, by the Tasman Brabham battle, resolved in favour of John Harper (BT4) and Philip Walker (BT7A). After Alexander retired the Lotus on Sunday when the gear linkage came adrift, Harper took up the challenge to such good effect that he briefly nosed ahead of the leading BRM on the final lap but was just held off by the slimmest of margins. Geoff Farmer came to terms with Cedric Seltzer’s Lotus 25 to pip Walker for third, as Rod Jolley followed home with his three-wheeling Cooper T51 in fifth. Walker claimed third overall from Jolley and Farmer.
As featured marque, MG was honoured with the Abingdon Trophy race for cars spanning from 1929 — 1969, and produced a full (44 car) grid of exceptional quality, including such historic cars as Gunther Stamm’s ex-Howe Mille Miglia K3, Mike Allison’s 1935 Irish GP-winning NB, and Peter Green’s 1935 TT-winning NE, as well as a pair of George Eyston’s 1934 K3s. MGBs and Cs dominated at the front, Stirling Moss making the most of his front row position to lead the opening lap in Ron Gammons’ B, 6 DBL. from Colin Pearcy with an ex-Sebring MGC GT. Moss was soon down to third behind Pearcy and Barry Sidery-Smith’s B, and although briefly regaining second finished fourth after Anthony Binnington (MGB) slipped through in pursuit of the lead battle. Pearcy held on to take a narrow win. First pre-war finisher was Anthony Atkinson’s 1939 TB, while early retirements included Frank Sytner with the Brands 1000-mile winning B and Brands winner Warwick Banks B.
The Visage Pre-72 Le Mans Cars was an overwhelming Lola benefit with eleven T70 variants starting (not forgetting Tony Birchenough’s veteran Le Mans T290), and it was Jonathan Baker who set the early pace from pole position with his familiar silver Mk IIIB version. However, David Franklin in Mike Ostroumoff’s similar car made rapid inroads on the leader and was ahead by lap four. Baker retaliated but had to give best to the larger-engined car of Franklin, who also went home with the outright lap record for the new Historic circuit at 102.38mph. Lola-mounted Chris Strakosh and Nigel Hulme claimed the next two places, with Simon de Latour bringing Nick Mason’s Ferrari 512S into fifth, after Yvan Mahe (T70) collided with Colin Parry-Williams’ 170 Spyder at Bridge and eliminated both cars. Michael Schryver took 2-litre honours with his Chevron B6.
Racing concluded with the Garrison Holdings Historic Saloon race, after being red-flagged when Paolo Canal rolled his 982cc Fiat Abarth, restarted with poleman Ted Williams starting from the back of the grid with his Mustang.
The opening laps were closely fought over by Frenchman Claude Maurel (BMW 1602), Bob Bullen (Anglia) and Harvey Death (Mini Cooper S). Death welcoming the restart as he had spun out of the lead group in race 1. Maurel was an early retirement, leaving Bullen and Death to indulge in a superb scrap while Williams worked his way up to third by half-distance of the shortened race. Timing it to perfection. Williams left his challenge to the last lap, taking the lead from Bullen at Abbey in the manner of all the best cliffhangers!
If the racing was not enough, all of the regular off-track features which have become a part of the Historic Festival were in evidence, including air displays and ‘fly-in’, hot-air balloon ‘fly-outs’, the Footman James Retro-Run as well as a plethora of car club displays with a celebration of Bristol Cars’ 50th anniversary, while this year, the Owen Brown Gallery of Motoring Art was joined by a photographic display (in which LAT featured) and which, it is hoped, will develop and expand in future years. Following its success at the Grand Prix and recent BTCC rounds, one development which greatly enhanced spectators’ enjoyment was the coverage by Silverstone TV which meant that, provided that one was in sight of one of the large screens, not a moment’s action was missed.