Coys Historic Festival

This year’s Coys Historic Festival was the best and biggest yet staged. Marcus Pye was there

Fifty years fell away as Baron Emanual ‘Toulo’ de Graffenried, Roy Salvadori, Geoff Richardson, Tony Rolt and Bob Ansell took their places on the grid with 19 of the original 26 cars for a reconstruction of the 1948 RAC Grand Prix, Silverstone’s inaugural meeting, in a marvellously theatrical centrepiece to last month’s BRDC Coys International Historic Festival.

The beaming Swiss Baron, clad in sky blue from head to toe, looked a dozen years younger than 84 as he sat proudly in the same Maserati 4CL he drove to ninth place that October afternoon. He beamed all weekend and gave interviews in his wonderful English. “Silverstone was my magic circuit,” he said, recalling his 1949 GP victory in a 4CLT, making him the first to win a race called the British Grand Prix.

De Graffenried, Rolt and Ansell did not drive, but Salvadori gave bis old Rowland Motors Maserati its head in the cavalcade. ‘Scruffy’ Richardson, as he was known, was reunited with Keith Knight’s ERA-Riley, as Maserati 4CLTs (sisters to the Scuderia Ambrosiana cars) stormed from the back as they did originally, creating -a one-two finish for Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari.

The 13-race programme neatly showcased the circuit’s history until the early 1970s, when Le Mans cars did battle in the Martini International Trophy events. Highlight of the opening day was the tenacious Ludovic Lindsay’s Pre-’52 triumph over Willie Green’s Alfa Romeo 158 in ERA R5B ‘Remus,’ the grand old car which Peter Bell and John Bolster drove to sixth place in the ’48 Grand Prix.

The finest field of prototypes ever assembled as Historics provided Sunday’s fireworks. Lola T70 expert Nigel Hulme’s immaculate drive was rewarded with victory over Kent Abrahamsson (Chevron B16) and Jeremy Agace (Lola T2I2), the 2-litre pair locked together in an authentic rerun of the Brian Redman/Jo Bonnier scraps of 1970.

With an Alfa T33, a wailing Matra 670 and a rare Osella-Abarth to the fore, pursued by David Piper’s Ferrari P2 and 275LM, Simon Hadfield’s Lotus 30 and trains of T7Os and Chevron B8s, all that was missing from the dream pack was a Porsche 917 and some Lotus 47s…

A sensational Pre-’65 GT race saw Bizzarinis, a Ferrari 330LMB, Jaguar Es and a Shelby Daytona Cobra embroiled in a thrilling lead battle. The speed and consistency of the Nigel Corner/Bathe Williams pairing in the former’s lightweight E proving the deciding factor.

The BRDC 1950s Sportscars were as frenetic as ever, James Shead (Lotus 15) and John Harper (Cooper Monaco) taking a win apiece. Frank Sytner (Lister-Jaguar) and Robert Brooks (Lotus 15) had a couple of dust-ups in their wake, ending in the retirement of both cars.

Sytner had an easier time topping the Pre-’66 Grand Prix field, aboard John Coombs’s Cooper T5I, while the front-engined Pre-’61 race fell to Tony Merrick’s Ferrari Dino, after several rivals hit trouble in the opening leg.

Sight of the weekend though was probably Gary Pearson in full flight with Brandon Wang’s Ferrari 512S. Once he stopped teasing a pair of 512Ms, he walked away with the Shell Ferrari Challenges. The saddest sight, however, was the mangled ends of Cailos Monteverde’s Testa Rossa and Bart Rosman’s 250SWB after a prang at Club.