Rain hits Castle Combe Autumn Classic


Castle Combe celebrated its vivid history with its Autumn Classic

Heavy rain did its best to derail the fifth Autumn Classic at Castle Combe on Saturday during the Wiltshire track’s annual celebration of its almost continuous 66-year history.

Guest of honour was David Brabham as the event remembered his late father, Sir Jack. The youngest of the three Brabham boys took to the track in a 1965 Brabham BT11 Grand Prix car amid an eclectic range of cars completing demonstration laps.

Also on track was the McLaren M10B that Peter Gethin took to victory at the track in 1970 when Formula 5000 paid one of only two visits to rural Wiltshire. In May 1970, Gethin took the Sid Taylor-entered car to victory and smashed the outright circuit record by nearly eight seconds. On Saturday, Matthew Wurr drove the car on behalf of current owner Martin Longmore.

Event sponsor Julian Bronson demonstrated his rare front-engined Scarab Formula 1 car, fresh from Richmond Trophy victory at the Goodwood Revival, and was joined by fellow local racer Nick Adams in the four-wheel-drive Ferguson P99. 

Top drive on a day that should have played to the patience and guile of the older racers came from 19-year-old Jack Rawles, who handled his father’s Austin Healey 3000 in the way god intended: with arm fulls of opposite lock on the wet and slippery track. On his way to sealing the Healey Driver International crown Rawles won both Healey races by slender margins as marque aces Oliver Chatham and David Grace pressed hard.

Fellow teenager, and 2015 Goodwood winner, Peter de la Roche was another star as he took a commanding Formula Junior victory in his father Richard’s BMC Mk2. In ever-changing conditions Peter went well clear of the chasing pack. Dad made it a good day for the family by winning the 500cc F3 race in his Cooper MkV.

The Coy’s Trophy for 1958-1966 Touring Cars from the Historic Racing Drivers’ Club made its debut at the event and a soaking track suited the Mini brigade perfectly. Peter Crewes was unlucky to suffer an alternator failure after leading for 21 of the 24 laps and so it was the Cooper S of James and Richard Dorlin that took the flag. Back in 11th place overall was the Jaguar Mk2 of Nigel Webb and Le Mans winner Andy Wallace.

An excellent FISCAR grid of 1950s sports cars had no answer to an assured performance from the Aston Martin DB3S of Steve Boultbee-Brooks, who later doubled up to win the Jon Gross Memorial Trophy race for Historic Aston Martins. Sixty years after his last race at Castle Combe, the venerable Norman Dewis was on hand to witness the Jaguar Enthusiast’s Club’s race run in his honour and won by Kevin Zwolinski’s XK120.

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