Report & Mega Gallery: The 2013 Silverstone Classic
By Graham Dalley
This event just gets bigger and better every year! This year’s record breaking offering, a feast of racing, socialising and music was an absolute monster of an event.
90,000 people soaked up the atmosphere over the weekend, up on last year’s attendance by some 6500, a new event record. 24 races spanning nine decades of motor racing attracted 1113 original and iconic, racing cars, another event record surpassing previous record set in 2011. The infield was crammed with over 8000 classic cars from 82 car enthusiasts and owners clubs! On Saturday the featured marque was Aston Martin, who as part of their centenary celebrations fielded 361 Aston Martins in a cavalcade spanning the history of the company.
Sunday and it was the turn of the Porsche 911 to take centre stage, 2013 marking the 911’s 50th birthday, the Porsche Club GB were aiming to have a track parade of 911, 911’s… the actual figure they got was 1208, a new world record. Son of Ferdinand Porsche, designer of the original 911 Mark Porsche together with five time Le Mans winner Derek Bell led the parade around the track.
Clearly moved by the experience Mark commented, “Of course the 911 means a great deal to me as it’s my father’s big design and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a family member over all the generations of the 911 series and I’m very proud to be here today to represent the Porsche family at this great event. I think that to have these 1200 cars on track is the attention that the 911 deserves for its 50th birthday. I can’t thank the Porsche Club GB enough for making this event possible.”
A beaming Derek Bell attributed Porsche’s success on the race track as a direct result of the phenomenal popularity of the 911, “It’s because of the 911 that Porsche had the financial resources to go racing and create the history of the 917, 956, 962 and all the wins that we had around the world with all my fabulous team-mates. Porsche did a heck of a lot for me so to be here in this parade driving around my home track Silverstone is a great honour.”
Event supporter BMW pulled all the stops out providing a fleet of Brand new Bimmer’s of varying shapes and sizes to ferry VIP’s and media to and fro. The ‘BMW wheel’, a forty meter tall big wheel could be seem from anywhere on the track and provided unrivalled views of the circuit. BMW owners could take some shade and refreshment in the air conditioned BMW pavilion which boasted a show of the latest models as well as some classic BMW cars by simply producing their car key, the whole area was surrounded by a sea of BMW’s of every shape and size.
On Saturday a couple of special guests came to enjoy the atmosphere, Sir Jackie Stewart OBE together with the Prince Edward, Duke of Kent were interested spectators for Saturdays Formula One race, The Duke presented the trophies on the winner’s podium. Also and I’m rather pleased to report, Murray Walker was also at Silverstone ‘on a day off’ and looking very well after his recent health scare.
The ‘Village green’ provided fans with an area to shop in the retail park, grab a bite to eat and browse automotive inspired art. The National motor museum Beaulieu put on a display of vintage cars and the Shuttleworth Trust fired up the engine on its World War One Sopwith Camel fighter plane a couple of times a day.
On Track the action was fast and frenetic all weekend the 24 race program took a couple of hits due to the weather which on Saturday afternoon decided to mimic a monsoon with a down pour of biblical proportions which caused the red flagging of the pre 1966 grand Prix car race after four laps and the cancellation of the dusk Group C race, usually a highlight of the event, as the track was flooded in a couple of places!
This year’s races attracted several high profile professional drivers to enter the fray. Former F1 driver turn TV presenter and all round top bloke, Tiff Needell took to the track in a 1971 Lotus 69 Formula Ford, qualifying the car 10th in the new to the Classic this year, Balvenie Trophy for Historic Formula Fords races. In the first of the two races he brought the car home in 8th and in the second outing (race 14, Sunday) starting 8th he came home 7th. Star of both Formula Ford encounters however was Callum MacLeod who won both with well measured drives from the front.
Another former F1 driver, 1969 Le Mans winner and team owner the mercurial Jackie Oliver was on top form. He starred in the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy race, sharing the stunning ‘Gaillo FLY’ coloured Ferrari 250 SWB of Rohan Fernando, with Gary Pearson, to a 13 second win over Simon hadfield and Wolfgang Freidrichs Aston Martin Project 212, the Cottingham/Smith Jaguar E Type filled the final podium slot.
Triple FIA World Touring Car Champion, Andy Priaulx took to the historic scene in Richard Soloman’s Laranca Engineering prepared BMW 1800 Ti for the Sir John Whitmore Trophy for under 2 litre Touring Cars blast. With 51 cars taking the start, the Guersey man enjoyed a great battle with in his stint in the car taking the lead at the start and fending off a determined Jackie Oliver and former EVO magazine editor Richard Meaden before handing the BMW over to Soloman after 12 laps. The race was won by historic racing stars Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield in their Lotus Cortina Mk1 both of whom had busy weekends competing in several other races.
The British Touring Car Championship’s (BTCC) drivers both present and past had a few drivers out to play. Anthony Reid now an established historic’s competitor was out in several races. Reigning World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff had a ball in the Trans-Atlantic Trophy race, taking a highly entertaining class win in an Austin Mini Cooper S with a feisty drive against the American muscle cars and fellow mini drivers Nick Swift and Endaf Evans they did a passable version of the original ‘Italian Job’ chase scene weaving in and out of the faster Mustangs and Falcons only to get overwhelmed by them on the straights. Overall winners were the Voyazides/Hadfield Falcon.
The Super Touring Car Trophy saw Tim Harvey and Patrick Watts, veterans of the era and current pedaller Frank Wrathall out to play. In typical touring car fashion the races were not without incident. For the first race (Race 10)Watts qualified his superbly restored Peugeot 406 on the pole with Harvey putting his firebreathing Ford Sierra Cosworth on the second row with Wrathall putting his ex-James Thompson Vauxhall Cavalier GSI on row four. At the start Harvey got a lightning get away and jumped the three in front for the lead with Watts in second and Neil Smith right behind in the S2000 spec Alfa 156. Copse on lap two and Watts lost the rear of the 406 and was nearly collected by Smith’s close following Alfa. The errant 406 slammed into the Armco on the inside doing enough damage to prevent Patrick coming out for the second race sadly. This handed second to Smith, the better handling Alfa took the lead with a classy move on Harvey at Village next time round and there he stayed with Harvey, Wrathall, Stewart Whyte in a Honda Accord and my media day chauffeur Craig Davies’ Sierra Cosworth 500 giving chase. Whyte got his accord inside Smith in to Brooklands on lap 7 but almost lost the lead running outside the track limits at Copse, robustly coming back on in front of the Alfa, in the ensuing scrap the inevitable contact was made in the braking area at club, it knocked the rear bumper skin of the Accord askew which started acting like an air brake! Smith bidded his time and got a run at the luridly handling Honda into Brooklands, it looked like the pair touched again as both cars pirouetted into the run off area and regained the track with Whyte still in the lead. However it wasn’t to be as the back of the Honda stepped out going into Becketts and Smith found himself back in front but being put under pressure by the hard charging Cavalier of Wrathall. The pair crossed the strip with just over 0.2 of a second between them. Harvey was third with Craig Davies similar Sierra right behind him. However after a stewards enquiry Smith was excluded from the results for ‘causing an avoidable accident’ and demoted to the rear of the grid for the second race. This promoted Wrathall to the top step with the Cossie pair of Harvey and Davies second and third. In race 2 (race 20)with both Harvey, whose Cossie had suffered engine maladies towards the end of the previous day’s race and Watts not taking the start Wrathall was never headed for an untroubled run to the flag after some overnight tinkering with the Cavalier, second falling to Stewart Whyte’s repaired Accord with third going for the second time to Craig Davies and the Ex-Chris Hodgetts Sierra RS500 (I told ya that car was quick!) Smith charged through the field for a hard fought fifth behind Dave Jarman’s Ex- Matt Neale Team Dynamics Nissan Primera.
There was never any doubt as to who was in charge for both the FIA Masters F1. Young Michael Lyons was on top form over the weekend, driving his RAM Williams FW07 to a brace of wins. An enthralling battle for the remaining podium positions developed between thethe ex-Tiff Needell Ensign MN180 driven beautifully by Simon Fish and ‘The Jam Baron’ Steve Hartley in his Arrows A4. It ended in tears at Becketts on the final tour when Hartley went for a gap which wasn’t there, pitching them both off and allowing Joaquin Folch, in the Bernie Ecclestone owned Brabham BT49C and Christophe d’Ansembourg in his Williams FW07C through for second and third. In the second F1 encounter, Lyons once again disappeared at the front with Folch an untroubled second and Hartley in third after a great drive from the back of the grid. It was a similar story in the Peter Gethin Trophy F5000 and F2 races, Lyons was unbeatable notching up two more wins in his Lola T400.
Group C, what can I say? There is something very special that stirs the imagination when these awesome Endurance cars hit the track. Sadly, we were robbed of the spectacle of the cars lights a blaze as the sun goes down Le Mans Saturday evening style, due to the torrential rain that hit Silverstone just after 5 PM local time but the organisers extended the Sunday race so the cars could really ‘stretch their legs’ as it were. The undoubted star of the Group C race was Nicolas Minassian and his drive in the fabulous Jaguar XJR14 resplendent in its period Silk Cut colours, the Ross Brawn designed ex Brundle/Warwick car was the class of the field. Minassian put the car on pole and left all comers standing in a stunning display on Sunday afternoon, setting a new classic lap record of 1m 46.712 sec lap on the way to lapping all but second placed Gareth Evans glorious sounding Sauber C11, third was Steve Tandy in the Nissan R90CK
It was a weekend of many outstanding highlights, to start with, Formula Junior, it used to be a way in to Formula One back in the day and its not hard to see why. The two FJ races were, as always, thrilling to watch. Seasoned campaigners John Milicevic, Sam Wilson, Andrew Hibberd and David Methley showed just how good Formula Junior is. Hibberd winning race one from Wilson and Milicevic and Methley after a titanic race long battle. Wilson taking the laurels in race two with a ‘comfortable’ two second margin to Hibberd, Milicevic and Methley. Father and Son team Grahame and Oliver Bryant in their gorgeous Lotus XV won out in a tactical race against with the Ward and Pearson Lister Knobbly and the quick Lister Costin of Smith and Ward in an entertaining Sir Stirling Moss Trophy race. The RAC Woodcote Trophy for Pre 1956 Sports cars was also an entertaining affair won by the simply beautiful Jaguar D Type of Gary and John Pearson after a race long duel between the C type of Young and Ward and the Cooper Jaguar of Smith and Young.
The FIA Historic Masters race saw a huge grid of fifty 60’s and 70’s GT racers thunder on to the track headed by the Lola T70 Mk3b of Grant Tromans and Martin Stretton in pole with the Lola T70Mk3b of Hadfield and Voyazides filling the front row. Undoubted star of the show was the rare sight of a Porsche 917 which Carlos Monteverde and brought out to play which he would share with Gary Pearson. Paul Knapfield was also in the mix with the 917’s arch rival a Ferrari 512M which he’d qualified in a lowly and somewhat out of position 17th. With some great drivers and great cars on the grid the stage was set. Martin O’Connell made a good start and headed the pack opening a gap in the early laps to Tromans. Pearson made steady progress with the 917 however the sight of a duel between it and the Ferrari of Knapfield was not to be as into Village on lap two Knapfield who had made his way from his 17th starting spot to 12th got a bit crossed up and was collected initially by the Lola T212 of Allen and Gathercole and in the ensuing melee was hit hard by the Lola T70 of Meins and Lilingston-Price, both cars eliminated on the spot , Shaun Lynn spun in avoidance but recovered. On Lap 6 Tromans retired the Lola from 2nd spot with suspension failure, Pearson found himself in second and clear of the developing scrap between last year’s winner Oliver Bryant and Leo Voyazides. The Greek racer handed the car over to Hadfield on lap 12 who got the bit between his teeth and reeled off a series of quick laps to cement the lead and the win, Second was Steve Tandy in his Lola T70 with Pearson following them home in third in the mighty 917.
In a weather interrupted an HGPCA pre 66 Grand Prix cars race on Saturday Jason Minshaw splashed his way to the win with his Brabham BT4 followed by Jonathon Hughes Cooper T53 and Peter Horsman’s Lotus 18/21, Minshaw won again on Sunday in a full length race followed home by Miles Griffiths in a Cooper T51 and Hughes’ Cooper T53.
The re-named Froilian Gonzalez Trophy for Pre 1961 Grand Prix Cars were both great races, these evocative front engined single seaters always a crowd pleaser didn’t let down. Tony Wood stuck his Tec Mec Maserati 250F on pole for the first encounter (race 7) from the in period uncompetitive Scarab offy of Julian Bronson. Bronson has developed the car and it is now definitely a winner taking the chequered flag first in both races leaving the Maserati’s and Ferrari’s and the Lister Monzanapolis of Rod Jolley to fight it out for the podium places. The partnership of Simon Hadfield and Leo Voyazides triumphed in the Masters Historic Sports cars race hitting the front on Lap 13 in their well sorted Lola Mk3B for a convincing 33 second win after 22 laps.
Thus ended another magnificent Silverstone Classic, the 90000 strong crowd were treated to 23 fantastic races with some memorable dices with some of the most beautiful racing and road cars on track and in the paddocks and show grounds, coupled with a heady mix of Rock ‘n’ Roll, fairground attractions, shopping, dining, hospitality and art, this festival offers something different to say the Goodwood Revival or Festival of Speed which is no bad thing. In doing so it has cemented its place in the ‘must do’ motor racing events in the UK scene, long may it continue and may it break even more records in 2014.