Wheel-to-wheel -- the month in historic motorsport

Sytner chalks up a Classic double -- Silverstone Classic, July 30/31

Double wins were the norm as Silverstone burst back onto the historic racing festival calendar with the inaugural Silverstone Classic. From a programme crammed full with high-quality race series, Gary Pearson (Group C/GTP), Simon Hadfield (Derek Bell Trophy), Frank Sytner (GP Masters) and Michael Schryver (Lotus 18) all won twice.

While his fellow double victors had things relatively easy, Sytner could never relax as a gaggle of pretenders tried to dislodge his Penske PC3 from the top of the Grand Prix Masters races.

In Saturday's race Peter Williams (March 761) and Peter Wuensch (Wolf WR1) both gave dogged chase to Sytner. When Williams dropped four seconds a lap after losing fourth gear, Wuensch took up the fight and kept the gap to less than a second at the flag. However, out on the opening lap had gone James Hanson when his Surtees TS9B lost a wheel on the run to Becketts. The errant wheel then damaged the nose of Duncan Dayton's Brabham BT33.

With both Hanson and Dayton starting at the back on Sunday, Sytner might have expected some peace. However, Williams and Wuensch took up the battle once more and tracked the Penske over the opening lap until Williams was put out with battery failure.

Wuensch still chased, but now had his mirrors ever fuller of the flying Hanson, who had scythed up the order to third in just five laps. Wuensch fell to the Surtees under braking for Stowe on lap 10 and three laps later the Wolf pilot had a massive scare when a backmarker put him on the grass past the pits. Quite how he avoided the barriers during the resulting spin was a point that still mystified the shaken Wuensch half an hour later.

Hanson kept up a relentless pressure on Sytner, but oil from the catch tank of the Cooper T86C of series promoter Ron Maydon caught Hanson out as he lined up his last-lap attack into the complex. Though he ended his race in the gravel, Hanson had starred on only his second weekend of historic F1 racing. "The race was great fun," he said afterwards.

In comparison, the TGP contest was relatively straightforward as Dayton overcame the pace of early leader Joaquin Folch. Denied a podium finish by a misfire during a spectacular charge in the Brabham during the GP Masters race, Dayton finally bagged his only win of the weekend in his Williams FW07. "A good car makes it easy to look good," said Dayton modestly.

In their wake, Hubertus Bahlsen (Arrows A4) had to press on to stay ahead of Martin Stretton who just got quicker and quicker as he raced the six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 for the first time in more than a year.

Earlier on Sunday, Sytner had also won the Denny Hulme Trophy for World Sportscar Masters and Gentleman Drivers Sports Racing Challenge. Before handing his ex-Sid Taylor Lola T70MkIIIB over to Simon Hadfield to finish the job, Sytner went well clear of Irvine Laidlaw's Chevron B16. Sadly, a strong run from the similar car of David Yates ended heavily against the barriers.

Hadfield was the dominant force in the Derek Bell Trophy races, twice blasting his ex-Gethin Chevron B37 clear of a truly sensational field. The Formula 5000 pack, which numbered a record-breaking 26 cars with the Kiwi visitors, ran twice, joined by the Euro Formula Two pack on Saturday and the regular DBT competitors on Sunday.

Mike Wrigley (Lola T332) twice chased Hadfield from a distance as Murray Sinclair (Lola T332) and John Crawford (McRae GM1) headed the New Zealand contingent. Christian Fischer (March 772) and Stretton (March 712) topped the F2 classes.

Having returned to action after a back injury, Gary Pearson won both Group C/GTP races at the wheel of Derek Hood's Jaguar XJR11. On Saturday he had a fine tussle with the Nissan R9OCK of Charlie Agg until backmarkers dropped the Nissan back a couple of seconds.

The much-anticipated re-match on Sunday was over almost before it started when the Nissan consumed its transmission during the opening quarter of a mile. Pearson romped home unopposed as David Mercer stepped up to take second in his Spice SE90C.

Schryver's Lotus 18 topped an overflowing HGPCA grid which covered more than 30 years of grand prix history. In both races the ex-Surtees car stretched clear of the field as an inspired Barry Cannell (Cooper T53) twice claimed second against some tough opposition. One of the highlight races of the weekend came from the BRDC Historic Sportscar Championship as Philip Walker (Lotus 15) and Graeme Dodd (Cooper Monaco) again went head to head. The lead changed countless times before Walker edged half a second clear in the final laps.

Similarly close was the Historic Formula Ford 1600 race; in the end Nelson Rowe in his Crosslé 20F pipped Neil Fowler (Merlyn Mk20) after a tight tussle. James Winslow had been part of it too, putting his Macon MR8 right into the lead contest until its engine expired in spectacular fashion at Becketts. Michael Hibberd's Formula Junior victory over Edwin Jowsey was even closer, as Lotus 27 out-gunned Lotus 22 by four-hundredths on the final sprint to the flag.

To bring the curtain down on the weekend, the BMW of Les Ely and Simon Garrad topped a hugely entertaining Jack Sears Trophy race for Historic Racing Saloons, but Leo Voyazides (Ford Falcon) and the Alfa Romeo Giulia of father and son Graeme and James Dodd gave valiant chase.

Mark Gillies (Maserati 300S) won the drum-braked sportscar race, Oliver and Grahame Bryant in their AC Cobra took a Gentleman Drivers win, and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and Martin Stretton guided the former's BMW 328 to victory in the BRDC 500 race.

***

Mercer adds Spice at Brands -- HSCC Superprix, Brands Hatch, July 23/24

David Mercer took two excellent victories in the Group C/GTP races at the annual Brands Hatch HSCC Superprix in late July.

Driving his Spice SE90C, Mercer fended off Gary Pearson's Jaguar XJR11 in the opening 30-minute race, after Charlie Agg spun his Nissan out of contention when he caught oil at Surtees.

Race two was held on a drying track and Mercer grabbed the early lead from Justin Law's Castro-liveried Jaguar XJR10, Nigel James (Porsche 962C) and Pearson, who fell away early on as his intermediate tyres took time to come good. As the road dried a little more, Pearson flew. Once past James, he made short work of Law, whose Jaguar was running on five cylinders, and was just over a tenth away from Mercer at the finish.

Richard Piper (McLaren M8F) took an easy Orwell Supersports win on Saturday, while MSA chairman John Grant (McLaren M8C/D) won on Sunday after a huge fight with Martin O'Connell (Chevron B19). Piper ended his race in the gravel, allowing O'Connell to take the fight to the Can-Am car, with Steven Arnold's B19 chasing them home.

Danny Wright took Philip Walker's Brabham BT11 to a well-judged HGPCA Pre-66 Grand Prix win, with a late safety car setting up a one-lap dash to the chequer. Michael Schryver had led all the way in his ex-John Surtees Lotus 18, but pole-sitter Wright grabbed the advantage coming to the line to win by a tenth of a second.

A magnificent Derek Bell Trophy grid, blessed with 19 Formula 5000 cars, produced an easy win for Simon Hadfield's ex-Peter Gethin Chevron B37. Hadfield had expected a fight with Edwin Jowsey's Lola T400, but Jowsey's clutch cried enough. That allowed Mike Wrigley's Lola T332 into second place while third fell to Frank Lyons' Lola T332, the ex-Tom Belso racer carving up from a poor grid position. The best of the strong Kiwi contingent was John Crawford's McRae GM1 in sixth.

An unusually tame BRDC Historic Sportscar Championship round fell to Graeme Dodd (Cooper Monaco), who easily distanced himself from Philip Walker (Lotus 15). Oliver Bryant's similar car took third from a subdued John Harper (Cooper Monaco).

Edwin Jowsey easily won the Historic Formula Junior race on Saturday, his Lotus 22 stretching clear of Mike Hibberd (Lotus 27) and Urs Eberhardt, who is racing his Lotus 27 for the 24th consecutive year. Jowsey led the majority of the Classic Racing Cars event, too, his Brabham BT28 keeping Matthew Watts (Brabham BT16) at bay. Jowsey defended strenuously but Watts wriggled by out on the Grand Prix loop to take the lead. Jowsey was then prevented from a proper fight-back by a red flag, one of many over the weekend.

Another red-flagged race was a wet Historic Racing Saloon counter, featuring a superb battle between Les Ely (BMW 2000), James Dodd (Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT) and Graeme Dodd (Jaguar Mk2). Dodd Snr then spun at Surtees, but Dodd Jnr tried everything to find a way past the BMW. Ely had the grunt in a straight line and was able to keep the Alfa at bay up to the red flag.

Another superb fight came in the Historic Formula Ford race, with Neil Fowler (Lola T200) just fending off Nelson Rowe (Crosslé 20F). Charles Barter (Datsun 240Z), Laurence Bailey (TVR Griffith) and Steve Maxted (Argo JM6) all took wins over the weekend, as did Martin Stretton (Lotus Elan) in the 40-minute Classic Sports Car race from Sean Walker/Ian Flux (Elan) and Denis Welch (Healey 3000).

***

Sheldon's B16 turns back the clock -- Historycar: Chimay, July 23/24: 

Rain failed to dampen the annual Chimay road circuit event in Belgium, with John Sheldon scooping one of the major wins of the weekend in his Chevron B16.

One-hour races for the Top Hat championships formed the nucleus of the meeting, supported by demonstrations for various pre-war cars and a lone modern Formula One car, the Benetton B191 in which Michael Schumacher scored his first world championship points.

The Chimay Trophy for pre-74 Classic Cars was a runaway victory for Sheldon. The sportscar veteran won despite suffering an electrical problem that meant he needed a push start at his pitstop.

The road to victory for Sheldon was aided by the retirement of his main rivals, notably 2004 winners Jon Shipman and Mark Hales. Their Crosslé 9S ended a fraught weekend with transmission problems. Second, a lap down, was the Dulon of Andy Reeves.

The Top Hat Historic Touring Cars looked set to be an Alfa Romeo benefit, with the Shipman/Hales GTA claiming pole ahead of the similar cars of Simon Arber/Adie Hawkins and Peter Sugden/Peter Rutt. Shipman led, but soon after he handed over to Hales the Alfa slithered over a vicious kerb, taking off the sump plug. Retirement was inevitable, and remarkably Hawkins went out in similar fashion a few moments later!

That left Rutt with a comfortable lead but when the rain came he was almost caught by the Alex Postan/Barry Robinson Lotus Cortina. They crossed the line just seven tenths of a second apart.

It was really wet when the Cloth Cap Historic Sportscars lined up. Once the round of pitstops was complete the David Grace/Robin Ward Austin Healey 3000 emerged in the lead, taking the chequered flag 13sec ahead of the TVR Griffith of Tim Fish.

***

Smith and Nicols head the big boys -- Manx Historic Rally, July 28-30

Steven Smith and John Nichols won the Conister Trust Manx Historic Rally for the second year running at the end of July. Their 2005 performance was all the more remarkable given that their 1965 2-litre Porsche 911 beat all the newer and more powerful cars from the post-historic and classic categories in the process.

The Manx remains the toughest event in the Armajaro MSA British Historic Rally Championship, with 21 asphalt stages on closed public roads. As well as the usual thick fog over the higher stages on Thursday evening, the crews faced soaking wet roads throughout Friday.

Those conditions played into the hands of Smith and Nichols, as their stunning speed using pace notes kept them ahead of the pack, even when the stages dried out on Saturday. "We backed off on Saturday and were staggered when we still set fastest times over the opening two stages," said Smith.

Into second with a typically attacking drive to top the Post-historics went David Stokes and Ian Oakey (Escort Mkl). They lost time behind the shunted Datsun 240Z of Dominic Frattaroli and then plunged into a field later on Friday, but still took second after a big battle with the similar car of the charging Graham Samuel/Tony Phillips.

Meanwhile, Gareth Lloyd/Ryland James took the classic division on the driver's first taste of the island roads. They took honours after locals Martin Freestone and Chris Heyes had alternator failure on their Mk2 Escort.

***

Walker holds off Hardman's Dino -- BRDC Historic Sportscars, Silverstone, July 12

With the challenge from his usual rivals fading, Philip Walker had to see off the threat of Peter Hardman to win the BRDC Historic Sports Car race that supported the British GP at Silverstone.

Although Hardman put his Ferrari Dino 246S ahead on the drag race to Copse for the first time, Walker kept his Lotus 15 on the tail of the Ferrari and nipped ahead as they slithered through the complex for the third time. Hardman thrilled the crowds with his stylish handling of the Ferrari as he chased the fleet Lotus, but Walker offered no opportunities and ran out victor by a second and a half.

Julian Bronson (Lister Chevrolet) was not able to offer Walker the challenge that is usual in championship rounds, losing out with a spin as a fine battle for third between Jason Minshaw (Maserati T61) and John Harper (Cooper Monaco) finally fell to the latter.

Ten years on from his British GP win, Johnny Herbert took tenth place in the Jaguar D-type of Nigel Webb, one place behind the recovering Bronson.

***

Cobden, Fidler brew up Yorkshire wins -- VSCC Yorkshire Speed Weekend, July 9/10 

Robert Cobden (Riley Falcon Special) and Ben Fidler (Lagonda Rapier) claimed fastest time of the day awards as the VSCC ran speed events at Oliver's Mount and Elvington during its Yorkshire speed weekend.

After a mix-up over the availability of the Harewood hillclimb course, the club arranged to use the Oliver's Mount venue on the outskirts of Scarborough for the first event.

The twists and turns of the motorcycle track were well suited to the more nimble cars and Cobden exploited that to take FTD in his 1500cc Riley, edging Fidler by two seconds in the 1500cc racing car class.

Trevor John's 2-litre AC/GN Cognac was the best of  the more powerful cars stopping the clocks within three-quarters of a second of Cobden's time.

Charles Gillett was impressively fast in his 1929 Frazer Nash Super Sport to top the vintage cars, while Pete Candy's Riley Special headed the sportscars.

Fidler turned the tables the following day at the Elvington sprint course to beat Cobden by less than a second. With Gillett absent, Justin Maeers set the best vintage time in his Morgan Special, while Candy completed an excellent weekend by again setting the best sportscar time.

***

Personal best for Baxter

Sunshine, a packed paddock and a bumper crowd were the hallmarks of another hugely successful VSCC Prescott weekend. In competition terms, James Baxter was in unstoppable form as he hurled his Frazer Nash single-seater to FTD with a final-run charge that took him under 42sec for the first time.

With Mac Hulbert retiring ERA R4D after mechanical problems on his first practice run, Baxter was always likely to set the overall pace. Following a storming first run in 42.05sec, he improved to 41.89sec.

Among the closest rivals to Baxter was Carl Gray's Hardy Special from the incredibly competitive 1100cc racing car class. Gray's best was a stunning 42.43sec, while Tim Whellock's Hardy Special was a second and a half adrift. Michael Fitzmaurice topped the vintage division of the 1100cc class in his screaming supercharged Austin 7.

Elsewhere, Brian White (Frazer Nash BMW TT Replica) and Pete Candy (Riley Special) continued their excellent seasons to claim special sports class wins, and Paul Richardson (ERA R14B) beat Trevor John (AC/GN) to win the 1500cc racing car class,

***

Caroline trips at final hurdle -- VSCC: Mallory Park, July 24

Heavy rain did its best to take the shine off the VSCC's annual visit to Mallory Park. The headlining race was the Bob Gerard Memorial Trophy, which fell to the Alfa Romeo 308 of Duncan Ricketts, but only after a late-race accident at Devil's Elbow put Gary Caroline's Morgan Super Aero out of the race.

Capitalising on the soaking conditions, Caroline led the more powerful cars from the start as the conditions claimed the Morgan of Stuart Harper at Gerards. Meanwhile, Ricketts was making ground after a slow start and was closing in on Caroline when the leader went off when lapping the Bentley of Peter Morley. With the race halted and results declared at eight laps, Ricketts was the winner from Michael Windsor-Price (ERA R1A) after Mac Hulbert retired R4D.

Mark Gillies (Lotus 20/22) romped to Formula Junior honours, finishing 17sec clear of the Lotus 20 of a slow-starting Simon Diffey. Duncan Rabagliati (Alexis HF1) was the best of the front-engined cars while James Culver (Cooper Mk10) headed the 500cc F3 cars.

Another excellent Edwardian field had no answer to the pace of Tom Walker's Panhard-Levassor, whose task was eased when Duncan Pittaway retired the Monarch after a couple of laps. On handicap, however, the Nazzaro Targa Florio of David Biggins came out on top.

***

Sons spoil fathers' day -- HSCC: Castle Combe, August 6

Julian Barter posted a landmark first win over his vastly experienced father Charles when the Historic Sports Car Club series paid their annual visit to Castle Combe in early August.

That feat, in the 70s Road Sports encounter, was matched in the HRSR Historic Racing Saloon race by James Dodd (Alfa) who pipped father Graeme (Jaguar) in another crowd pleaser.

Both sons earned their wins the hard way, most notably TVR 3000M driver Barter who was caught and passed by his father's Datsun 240Z. Locking front brakes and plumes of smoke showed just how hard Charles was trying. Flat-spotted tyres left him with an increasing vibration and as he struggled in the 30-minute race, so Barter never relented and fought back to win.

David Smithies (Healey 3000) took Classic Sports Car honours by less than a second from Stephen Radcliffe (E-type), the pair having been split early on by Ted Williams who spun his Corvette into the Camp tyre wall.

Nelson Rowe kept Neil Fowler at bay throughout the Historic FF1600 race to extend his points lead. Lotus 7 driver Andy Shepherd took Historic Road Sports honours, his cause aided when the Milano GT of Mike Eagles, who had fought back from a first-lap spin, expired when leading.

Matthew Watts received the perfect 28th birthday present as his Brabham BT16 was a runaway winner of the Classic Racing Car event.