Aston Martin Owners Club 60th St. John Horsfall Race Meeting Silverstone 22nd May
Before I go any further I’d just like to say that The Aston Martin Owners Club are a lovely bunch of friendly enthusiasts. All the drivers and mechanics I spoke to, and there was a few, were happy to stop and chat about the cars the day and the club.
AMOC’s 75th anniversary celebrations got off to a splendid start at Silverstone’s national track on Saturday 22nd May, under a blazing sun the small crowd were treated to some close racing by some of the most mind-bogglingly beautiful cars ever created.
The races started at 11:45 with the 50s sports cars team challenge, a 20 minute dash for teams of three cars who all compete from points, the team with the most wins. First across the line after 18 laps was the Aston Martin DB3 S HSK110 driven by David Clarke with his Class F1 ‘The Feltham Flyers’ team mates, Adrian Beecroft in DBR1 NSK693 and David Reed’s DB2 NLV242 rolling in 2nd and 3rd. The 60th running of The St.John Horsfall race was next up with 16 gorgeous 1930’s Aston Martins lining up on the grid. David Freeman in his Aston Martin Speed Model EML129 charged from the lights to the flag winning by just shy of 30 seconds. However that was not the only story of the race. Tony and Son, Simon Armstrong brought their supercharged Aston Martin Le Mans BPA899, nicknamed ‘the green monster’ out to play. This car plays hard, easily the noisiest car of the day, it runs on methanol which it consumes at the astonishing rate of 1.5 miles to the gallon. The ex Bob Fowler owned machine has a more history than any other car on the Aston Martin register to which its adding to every time it appears. Simon decided to start at the back of the grid and give a thirty second head start to the rest of the field, to add some extra excitement to the race! After 12 laps ‘Green Monster’ crossed the line in third place, posting the fastest lap in the process.
Not so much retro but worth a mention is the new Aston Martin British GT4 Challenge, round 2 of which featured on the race card. A 90 minute mini endurance race saw thirteen gorgeous Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4’s and N24’s thunder round the National track for 81 laps, with another father and son team, Christopher and Tony Scragg taking the win in there N24. Making a guest appearance in the race was Aston Martin Racing and Prodrive chairman David Richards partnered with Comedian, Actor and petrol head Rowan Atkinson; the pair were looking good for a strong showing until the pitstops when Atkinson who drove the first stint handed over to Richards. “ we think it suffered heat soak and went in to failsafe mode and wouldn’t go beyond the first three gears, it corrected itself without us having to do anything as it cooled” Richards reflected after the race.
Race Four saw Sunbeam take centre stage, the Sunbeam Challenge saw another thirteen car field charge down to Copse. Pole sitter, Jackie Cochrane fluffed the start and had dropped to forth and had to work for the win from fellow front row starter Rupert West, with Edmund Cassidy’s similar machine taking third.
Next up the AMOC Aston Martin Championship Historic/ Classic Race saw an eclectic field of 29 cars take to the track ranging from the oldest car, a 1952 Aston Martin DB2 owned and driven by Anne Reed to the newest, Angelos Metaxa’s 2010 Aston Martin N24. The 20 minute race saw a titanic battle between Chris Scragg’s 1973 V8 and eventual winner Boysie thurtle’s DB4, Scragg getting the jump off the line but lost the lead on lap 3, that said Scragg didn’t give up muscling the V8 after Thurtle’s rapid DB4, eventually finishing 0.7 of a second behind, the pair leaving the ’72 DBS of Bob Searles in a lonely third some 10 seconds down the road.
In the spotlight next was the Lackford Engineering Austin Healey Championship – Vredestein/JEC Jaguar XK series race. With a well supported 25 car grid, a mixture of XK 120’s, 140’s and a mixture of Austin Healey’s both big and small. Austin Healey’s locked out the podium, Dave Smithies Austin Healey 3000 dominating proceedings with an easy victory over Chris Clarkson’s 3000 Mk1 and the Sprite of Patrick Harris coming home third. First Jag over the line Jim Tester’s XK120 less than a second behind Harris’ Sprite.
The AMOC Intermarque Challenge race was penultimate race of the day and an interesting affair it was too. As the cars lined up on the grid Pole sitter David Ellis with his GT700R had elected to start at the back. This gave Boysie Thurtle out to play in his ’67 Chevrolet Camaro an early lead from Jackie Cochrane’s Sunbeam Race winning Tiger also out for another run. The two were nose to tail until the Camaro lost oil pressure and was forced to retire. By lap 8, David Ellis had gone from dead last to second at the wheel of his GT700R, a tour later he took the lead and disappeared in to the distance winning by 40 seconds and lapping everybody to third by the time the flag fell. So Dominate was the performance that his average lap speed of 92 Mph was 3 Mph faster than second place man Cochrane’s Sunbeam Tiger! The GT700R took the fastest lap of the weekend with an incredible 59.615 sec lap of 1.6 mile National track. To put that into context third place man Tom Black in a contemporary ex works DBRS9 (no slouch in the GT2 class) set a fastest lap of 1min 3.549 nearly 4 seconds slower than the GT700R!
What is the GT700R you may ask? I had to after the race, cornering the David in his pits garage, “I designed and built it my self” the modest Wigan man replied. What a creation, the car in its present form, which is awesome, is the culmination of a lot of years continuous development. It’s an Aston Martin at its heart; the engine is a finely tuned development of the brilliant 5.3 litre Aston Martin V8. Now an exceptionally finely tuned, full 6 litre 32 valve 700+ BHP normally aspirated V8 developed by the man himself. It’s fitted into a aerospace spec tubular subframe with carbon fibre bodyshell, with the engine very low at the front and the Hewland gearbox in the rear the GT700R has a near perfectly balanced chassis, giving a great handling car for David to ply his trade in.
The last race of the day the David Brown trophy was a slightly confusing affair to the untrained eye with seven teams competing in a relay. It was won by ‘team 4’ of Chris Scragg’s V8, Adrian Beecroft’s DBR1 and Alan Hudd’s DB4 beating ‘team 2’, the Taylor, Reed, Rawe – speedmodel, DB2, DB4 combination and ‘team 1’, Mason-Franchitti, Barker, Searles – Ulster LM17, DB2/4 Mk1, DBS V8.
Thus ended a great days racing with some rare, expensive and utterly beautiful cars being raced at ten, tenths! My thanks go to AMOC and its members for being so hospitable and friendly throughout the day.
Full results can be found on the clubs website www.amoc.org
Images: Graham Dalley
Next Report MG live 2010, the annual celebration of all things MG, this year upgraded to the full classic (Bridge) Grand Prix circuit, with the promise of the first views in the UK of the first new MG in 15 years in the shape of the MG 6 saloon…