Race Report and Photos: VSCC Spring Start – Silverstone April 23 2011
The GP Italia and Lanchester Trophies Race Meeting
Take one of the hottest days of the year so far, on the Easter Bank holiday weekend, at a circuit steeped in history, add a mouth watering selection of some of the rarest and most exquisite racing cars gathered in one place, a splash of friendly competition and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd and you have the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s annual spring start 2011.
What a day! Temperatures soared well into the 80’s so much so that overheating was a frequent topic of conversation in the paddock…in April!! The array of Automobiles on and off the track was stunning, Christopher Williams entertained in his 24 litre Napier Lion engined Bentley. Mark Walker, who stole the show last year with his lovingly restored 1905 Darraq 200hp, fielded the aptly named GN thunderbug of 1922 vintage. The Historic Grand Prix Cars Association (HGPCA) kicked off its season in fine style with 28 pre 1966 Grand Prix cars taking to the grid including the last front engined car to win an F1 race, the unique 4 wheel drive Ferguson P99 with Stuart Rolt at the wheel. Pink Floyd drummer, car collector and racer Nick Mason dusted off his beautiful Maserati 250F for a run in the Amschel Rothschild and Patrick Lindsay Memorial Trophies Race. Tony Bianchi raced the Cadillac engined Farrellac Allard sports racing. The paddock was packed with beautiful cars too, notably a 1958 Ferrari 250 ‘pontoon fender’ testarossa coupe drew lots of attention, at every turn another stunning piece of automotive exotica could be found parked in the Easter sunshine.
The day’s racing kicked off with the 30 minute regularity trial, not a race as such the ‘half hour blind’ is a time trial, competitors are required to cover a minimum distance which is set according to the engine capacity of the car, to add some ‘spice’ to event competitors have to make a pit stop, remove a hot spark plug take it to a designated point then return to their vehicle refit the plug and return to the track. Fastest lap went to Andrew Mitchell in his HRG 1.5 Litre with a time of 1:20.93 on lap 6. Holly Mason-Franchitti, Aston Martin Ulster LM17 and Trevor Swete, Invicta S Type both covered 19 laps. Gillian Carr the clubs Publicity and Marketing Manager was also in action covering 14 laps in a 1914/18 Vauxhall A/D Type.
Race 2. A 5 lap Short Scratch race for Pre-war cars, saw a good battle for the lead between John Earle Marsh’s Alvis Silver Eagle and Andrew Kellock’s Fiat AC. The Alvis driver looked set for the win keeping the smaller engined but nimble Fiat at bay until the last lap when he spun at Brooklands gifting an Easter present in the shape of the win to Kellock. Jo Blakeney-Evans came home third in a Frazer Nash Shelsley.
Race 3. 31 iconic front engined racing cars rumbled round to the grid for the Amschel Rothschild and Patrick Lindsay Memorial Trophies race. Pole sitter Phillip Walker failed to make the grid leaving a gap on the front row, Mark Gillies ERA R3A sat on his own at the head of the field. At the end of lap one it was Hubert Fabri in his gorgeous Aston Martin DBR4 that crossed the line first with Gillies in close attendance, Michael Steele about a second behind in the Connaught C Type ‘toothpaste tube’ and a determined looking Paddins Dowling hunched over the wheel of his 1936 ERA R10B. Next time round Gillies had got by Fabri who was being pressed by Steele and Dowling. Sadly Fabri’s fast but fragile DBR4 retired on lap 3, leaving a titanic battle for the lead between Gillies and Steele which played out for the remaining laps Steele briefly put the Connaught in front but out braked himself at brooklands allowing Gillies back through to take the flag by a mere 1.41 seconds. Dowling finished a further 20 seconds down the road for the final step of the podium.
Race 4. The Fox and Nicholl Trophy for standard and modified pre-war sports cars brought 32 magnificent automobiles out into the Silverstone sun shine, the race was a belter too with a three way battle for the win between Sam Stretton in a 1937 Alta Sports, Richard Pilkington’s Talbot T26 SS and Andrew Mitchell’s HRG 1.5 Litre. The three starting from the front row of the grid were locked together for the race all taking turns at running in the lead. At the flag it was Stretton followed by Pilkington with Mitchell third, great race.
Race 5. The Feature race of the day, the GP Italia & Lanchester Trophies race for vintage racing cars was a noisy affair, with some of the biggest capacity engines of the day lining up on the grid. Last year’s winner Geraint Owen put his Bugatti T35B on the front row, he was beaten to the pole by just over half a second by the Riley Menasco Pirate of Robin Tuluie. The first start was aborted, but when the flag fell to re start the race it was Owen who scampered into the lead at copse and there he stayed finishing 7 seconds ahead of Anthony Howatt’s 1926 27 litre aero engined Hispano/Delage 500CV, Tuluie brought the pirate home third.
Race 6. A short handicap race for pre-war cars over 5 laps, the cars are handicapped according to their lap times the theory is that the slower cars go off first with the faster cars taking a time handicap with the result that all the cars should finish at around about the same time for a grandstand finish. Timothy Holcroft-Smith won in an Austin 7 Ulster, Julian Grimswade second in a Lagonda Rapier and Graham Paddick third in the Mc Dowell Ford Track Racer.
Race 7. The Silverstone trophy for special pre-war cars gave spectators another good battle between the GN Parker of Justin Maeers and Dr David Pryke’s Riley 12/4 TT sprite replica, the pair seemed to be joined by an invisible piece of rope and after 8 laps the pair crossed the finish line just 0.26 of a second apart with Maeers taking the spoils. Dougal Cawley put in a fine drive taking his GN/Ford Special ‘piglet’ to third after starting from the back of the grid.
Race 8. 1950’s sports racing cars over 10 laps fielded 34 beautiful sports cars. Tony Bianchi’s 6.4 litre Cadillac engined Farrellac Allard locked horns with Barry Cannell’s striking 2 litre Willment Sports Racing. Brute force won over handling in the race however, the thundering Farrellac winning by over 8 seconds from Cannell, Antony Wood in a Lister Knobbly a further 2 seconds down the road completed the top three.
Race 9. The second short handicap race for pre-war cars was won by over 10 seconds by Tim Metcalfe in an Eccles Rapier Special from Durward Lawson in a Riley special and a further 10 seconds down the road Annette Mason’s Aston Martin Ulster LM21 completed the top three.
Race 10. The Historic Grand Prix Car Association Pre 1966 Grand Prix car race provided an excellent spectacle in the late afternoon sunshine, kicking off the HGPCA’s celibration of the 50th anniversary of the 1.5 litre Formula 1 series eight event ‘magical history tour’. The competitors will also visit the Nurburgring, Dijon, Pau, Spa, another visit to Silverstone for the classic in July, Monza and the Algarve circuit. It was Peter Horsman who pedalled his Lotus 18/21 to the first pole of tour lapping the National circuit in 1:04.270 beating John Harper’s brabham BT4 by less than 0.5 sec, Sir John Chisholm lined his immaculate Lotus 18 up third on the grid, alongside him the gorgeous looking and sounding 1500cc Coventry Climax engined Lola Mk4 of Mark Piercy. First into copse was Piercy who got a flyer off the line, followed by Horsman and Harper. At Becketts Sid Hoole out braked himself taking to the escape road (GP track) and filtering back in to sixth at the end of lap one. Horsman got by the Lola on the run from Copse to Becketts next time round with Harper making a move a lap later, with Paul Smeeth hussling his Lotus 18 by on lap four, Piercy finished 4th at the end staying a head of Nick Wegley’s Cooper T51. Lap three also saw the demise of another potential front runner in the shape of John Chisholm who pulled his Lotus off at Becketts with gearbox maladies. Horsman finished first on the road but was demoted to second for jumping the start, Paul Smeeth shared the champagne on the podium.
Race 11. The second of the 5 lap scratch races and the last race of the day, or as the commentators put it, ‘the survivors race’ saw just 18 cars line up for the start. Steven Shoosmith in his Bugatti T51 won from Terry Crabb’s ERA R12C and Rod King’s Delage Special completing the final podium.
And thus ended a fantastic day of racing nostalgia. Next week is the turn of the Aston Martin Owners Club (AMOC) to entertain us, I’ll be there to soak up the atmosphere and record the days action on behalf of Motorsport Retro.com