Ferrari stars at Coys Festival

The largest gathering of racing Ferraris ever seen in Britain honoured the marque’s Golden Jubilee in style at last month’s Coys Historic Festival at Silverstone. With the occasional white and green masterpiece bobbing in this scarlet sea at Silverstone the British Racing Drivers Club recreated a slice of Italy in Northamptonshire.

Racers crossed the globe to take part in the tribute. Froilan Gonzalez was back from Argentina and, in a moment of wonderfill theatre, the 74 year-old ‘Pampas Bull’ drove some gentle laps in a Ferrari 375, sister to that he raced to victory 46 years ago.

Gonzalez may not have won the World title, but champions Phil Hill reunited with Chris Rea’s fine replica 156 – John Surtees and Jody Scheckter all joined in the fun, Jody enjoying himself so much on slicks in the wet on Saturday that he spun his championship-winning 312 T4. Surtees drove the mighty Ferrari 712 and Nick Mason’s ex-Villeneuve 312 T3.

Everywhere you looked there were Ferraris of all shapes and sizes, from early Barchettas to the latest F50 road car. At least 500 arrived by road for an Owners Club gathering on the Club Straight, the Maranello tifosi amassing in the grandstands to cheer over 100 examples of all ages taking part during the three-day programme.

Six of the feature races were split into two legs on Saturday, when wet weather helped the likes of Peter Hardman and David Franklin humble out-and-out sports racers in Ferrari GT cars, and Sunday results being declared on aggregate.

Ferrari triumphed over allcomers too, in the Pre-1960 Grand Prix car event when Nigel Corner (a regular winner in the event’s six-year history), wailed his father’s powerful V12-engined Dino to the chequered flag in both the wet and dry.

Corner enjoyed a grand tussle with Ludovic Lindsay’s Cameron Millar Maserati 250F first time round, the pair ganging up to relieve John Harper (deputising for the injured Philip Walker in his Lotus 16) of the lead into Stowe. The Lotus’s agility had more of an influence in the dry, when Harper split the red cars. The Formula Two class was a close call on Sunday, Allan Miles pipping fellow CooperBristol driver Spencer Flack by 0.12s, though Flack had sufficient in hand to claim overall honours.

The Historic circuit, a version of the Grand Prix track designed to be kinder to the brakes and transmissions of their priceless steeds, brought out the best in the Pre-1952 Grand Prix cars. It sustained two fine duels between Martin Stretton in Simon Bull’s Maserati 4CM and Willie Green in Carlos Monteverde’s famed Alfa Romeo 158, ahead of John Venables-Llewellyn’s Alfa `P3′ and Lindsay in the top ERA, the ever-faithful ‘Remus.’

Each time ace restorer Tony Merrick fired up the Alfa, a crowd appeared at its garage, mesmerised by the rasping note of its 1500cc, supercharged straight-eight engine. Older viewers were transported back to 1950 when Giuseppe Farina won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in a 158 in the first race of the inaugural World Championship.

The Alfa was driven brilliantly too, for Green fired the dark red projectile into the corners as Farina and JuanManuel Fangio did all those years ago, and howled it through the sweepers on full bore in the wet to beat Stretton.

“I was lucky it rained” said Green, “but Martin is bloody good, one of very few drivers I don’t mind racing within three feet of”. Stretton made it one each in the Sunday sun, popping out of the All’s slipstream as its brakes faded then, hunched over the big steering wheel, twitching and linking the 4CM through the complex.

Unlike Stretton, who only had two rides once Nick Harley’s Ferrari 555 Super Squalo burned a piston (“At least I got some Sunday lunch for once,” smiled Martin), Gary Pearson barely had time to catch breath between stints in no less than nine events. By the end of an exhausting weekend, Pearson had proved his versatility with victories in a Brabham BT7A and a Lister-Jaguar, a class win in Brandon Wang’s Ferrari Testa Rossa and strong runs in an Aston Martin Ulster and, as a late understudy, a Maserati 250F.