Marcus Pye's Diary

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Two major classic meets on the Pye itinerary this month one is Britain’s newest, while the other is our longest-running

Brands Hatch:

In its 16th year, the Historic Sports Car Club’s Superprix is Britain’s longest-established classic race meeting by a country mile. The Orwell Supersports Cup — that halo-German-run celebration of Can-Am, Interserie and two-litre Group 6 sports prototypes, which grew out of Charles Agg’s much-loved original of the 1980s — has maintained its international element in recent seasons.

Once renowned for its freakish hot rods, developed far beyond their period specification, the series is increasingly attempting to toe the FIA line. And tighter regulations have made for purer racing among the big bangers up front, as well as the smaller, nimbler cars snapping at their heels. As a result the current V8 contingent is the strongest for years, and more cars are coming out.

Britons Richard Piper and MSA chairman John Grant, who won a race apiece at Brands in McLaren M8F and M8C/D respectively, are the most consistent, but two of the three massive Marches built in 1970 are running them close. The other, incidentally, is in Peter Kaus’s Rosso Bianco Collection in Germany.

The ex-works, ex-Chris Amon 707-2 run from Peter Schleifer’s stable (latterly for Glenn Price) now contrasts greatly to 717-1. The 707, in which Helmut Kelleners won the Interserie round at Croft in 1970 and which later on dominated Supersports events in Chris Chiles’s hands in the ’90s, raced in its subsequent evolution bodywork for the first time historically at Brands.

The change from long, finned nose and front radiator to snub snout and twin rear rads is cosmetically dramatic — gone is the strong family resemblance to March’s first F1 car — but Richard Dodkins’s team was heartened that it still cooled the huge Chevrolet engine adequately. With 860bhp, and 850ft lb of torque, it needed to, for eel king driver Frank Bradley’s peace of mind.

But competition is set to intensify. Bavarian Audi dealer Schleifer has recently bought the ex-Team VDS McLaren M8FP, chassis 06, which in turbocharged form was a fearsome Interserie ride for Teddy Pilette. The car is currently normally aspirated, but Trevor Parfitt of Scott Racing Services, which runs Peter’s cars, says that the forced induction kit may return over the winter.

Enthusiasm for the thumpers is growing apace. Gerd Wuensch, the former Morgan racer whose Orwell fashion house supports the pan-European series, has bought Schleifer’s Lola T222, and Kiwi Ross Maxwell, who is leading the pre-72 2-litre class in his Chevron B19, has acquired a highly original McLaren M8F, chassis 03, in the USA.

Silverstone:

 A week after its members aired their cars at Brands, the nine-strong New Zealand Formula 5000 Association really got going at the Silverstone Classic, where their combative nature and pioneering spirit was rewarded with two Derek Bell Trophy races.

Airline captain Murray Sinclair had brought over his ex-Graeme Lawrence Lola T332 HU28 once before, but this time pulled together a splendid touring party, also showcasing Begg and McRae cars, with the equally enthusiastic David Abbott, who modestly described himself as a “bus driver.” Abbott is actually senior pilot training officer with Cathay Pacific.

The first car to catch my eye was Noel Atley’s recently acquired Begg 018, the unique ex-Jim Murdoch chassis of ’74 and the last of seven F5000s made by George Begg at Drummond on the South Island. I fell in love with this stunner in Gavin Bain’s motor book emporium in Christchurch in 1991, so to see it race was very special.

But I was blown away by Abbott’s Lola T430, its rakish likes set off by Count Rudy van der Straten’s strong red livery, with longitudinal white and blue stripes. None of the three built raced in Europe in period, but bizarrely they all now reside in Christchurch.

Abbott’s is HU1, one of two Team VDS chassis, raced by Pilette in the USA in ’76 and subsequently by Alan Hamilton, Alfredo Costanzo and Bob Minogue in Australia. The wreck of sister car HU2 (bisected in a ’78 crash at Melbourne’s Sandown Park circuit) is due to be rebuilt in F5000 guru and racer John Crawford’s workshops this winter. HU3, used as a back-up for Brian Redman’s Boraxo-backed T332C, is owned by Todd Stewart.