Silverstone Classic 2017
Photos by John Retter Photography
This year’s Silverstone Classic passed by with some breathtaking battles and wonderful wheel-to-wheel wizardry reminiscent of yesteryear complemented by a star-studded Celebrity Challenge Trophy Race that raised funds for Prostate Cancer UK.
The weekends race action kicked off with Formula Ford, where seasoned competitor Michael O’Brien fought back from an early error to triumph at the end of a terrific tussle, with the similarly delayed Ed Thurston carving through to second. Callum Grant produced a heroic recovery from a costly spin to finish sixth.
Renowned Formula Junior exponent Sam Wilson doubled up in the Commander Yorke Trophy for Historic Formula Junior in what was another capacity, 50 car-plus contest. Wilson replicated his results from last year’s event, although he was made to work hard by the ever-present Andrew Hibberd as the pair sped clear in a class of their own. The single-seater star later completed a hat-trick of triumphs in the Maserati Trophy for HGPCA Pre ’66 Grand Prix Cars.
Tin-top legend Steve Soper looked set to add another success to his impressive career CV in the John Fitzpatrick Trophy for Under 2 Litre Touring Cars (U2TC), only for late misfortune to hand victory to Mark Sumpter in a similar Ford Lotus Cortina.
The Stirling Moss Trophy delivered yet another gripping battle. There was non-stop action from the start as Chris Ward made his winning intentions clear from the moment the lights went green. After piloting the JD Classics’ Lister Costin to first place – Chris said “I just went at it from the start to get a good lead.” An early retirement from the Lister Knobbly of Jon Minshaw left the way clear for Olly Bryant to climb the order in the early stages to second before a delaminating tyre on lap 8 put an end to his race. Just behind this, the three Listers of Tony Wood/Will Nuthall, Gary Pearson and Richard Kent set about a race-long fight, with Rob Barff’s Lotus 15 hanging on their tail. After the pit stops everything changed; a beautifully timed late stop from Rob Barff in the Lotus 15 allowed him to ‘under-cut’ the Listers and rejoin in second position which he held to the finish. Richard Kent finally headed home Gary Pearson and Will Nuthall to take third – the three Listers covered by just four tenths of a second at the flag.
Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger picked up the Eric Broadley Tribute award for the highest finishing Lola, a fitting tribute to the founder of Lola who sadly passed away earlier this year. Martin Birrane the Chairman of Lola Group Holdings was present to award the trophy. The winning 1955 Lola Mk1 Prototype was one of the first ever Lola Mk1s to roll out of Eric Broadley’s workshop in Bromley.
In the Kidston Trophy, a first-lap incident triggered a short safety car period, but after this an intense battle ensued at the front. Gareth Burnett appeared to be determined to secure the win at any cost; having secured pole position he clearly had the pace, but had to fend off charges from Charles Gillett’s Frazer Nash, Rudi Friedrichs’ Alvis, and Sam Stretton’s Alta, with James and Clive Morley both opting for a late pit stop strategy to try and get ahead. After all the pit-stops had settled, it was down to Patrick Blakeney-Edwards in Fred Wakeman’s Frazer Nash to apply the pressure, with Burnett and Blakeney-Edwards swapping places numerous times in the final stages. At the flag it was Gareth who managed to cross the line first – by just 16 hundredths of a second! On picking up the Trophy Gareth said with a smile “After Patrick made a gesticulative hand signal to me in qualifying, I was determined he wouldn’t get past.” Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and Fred Wakeman had to settle for second. Patrick commented “The Talbot was the widest car I have ever had to follow and one of the tightest races I have ever had!” The Frazer Nash Supersports of Charles Gillett and Eddie Williams finished in third place. Charles commented “I nearly went off a few times, it was all getting very exciting.”
High-speed lunchtime demos from both World GP Bike Legends and the Williams FW14B – marking the 40th anniversary of Williams and the 25th anniversary of Nigel Mansell’s memorable British Grand Prix triumph at Silverstone – added to the on-track entertainment, with more than 40 remarkable Jaguar XJ220s subsequently taking to the circuit for an evocative parade.
In the afternoon, Saturday star Jonathan Kennard in the pole-sitting, Warsteiner-liveried Arrows A3 was unable to hold off the charging Williams FW07C of Nick Padmore as the FIA Masters Historic Formula One race progressed, finding himself forced to settle for a close second place. Young gun Michael Lyons completed the top three in a similar Williams.
The JET Super Touring Car Trophy featured a split grid for Super Tourers and older Group A machinery. Following a typically hectic tin-top start that saw cars scattering in all directions, Jason Minshaw dominated the Super Tourer element behind the wheel of his ex-Rickard Rydell title-winning Volvo S40.
Behind, a fantastic scrap saw Mark Wright narrowly defeat former European Touring Car Champion Gianfranco Brancatelli in a battle of the flame-spitting Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworths, with Soper and ‘Gentleman Jim’ Richards engaging in a similarly entertaining duel further back.
The heavens opened properly for the Gallet International Trophy for Classic GT Cars (Pre ’66), giving David Pittard the opportunity to truly take the fight to bigger-engined rivals in his little Lotus Elan 26R. The British GT race-winner scythed through the spray to snatch the lead from eighth on the grid before the pit-stop driver change, but ultimately, it was Oliver Bryant in the 1964 AC Cobra that held off Roger Wills, Andrew Haddon and Jason Minshaw in a thrilling finish that saw the top four blanketed by less than two seconds.
The day’s action concluded with the Group C twilight race, although twilight descended rather quickly into darkness in the prevailing conditions. Steve Tandy and Mike Wrigley indulged in an old Spice battle at the front of the field, before a brace of spins for the latter settled the result.
In Sunday’s Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy it was Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards who finished on the top step of the podium after a fantastic drive in the Cooper T38. The pole sitting Jaguar D-Type of John and Gary Pearson led the race in the early stages, but a developing misfire hampered their chances to maintain the lead. Andrew Smith and Chris Ward were also in trouble; both drivers struggling with a faulty gear knob on the JD Classics Cooper Jaguar T33. But even so, the duo finished second overall. The Pearson brothers managed to keep the Jaguar D-Type circulating to finish third overall. Gary commented “Despite the misfire arriving half-way through and killing the brakes, it is such a great circuit for a D. To be able to stretch its legs on the fast and flowing Historic circuit is fantastic.” Rick Bourne and Malcolm Paul were race leaders at one point in the Lotus Mk10 but eventually settled for 4th and John Young finished in 5th place hot on their heels in the magnificent Lister Maserati.
The blue riband Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars (Pre ’63 GT) was arguably the highlight of the Sunday with a dramatic final twist in the tail for good measure. Lukas Halusa overhauled early leader James Cottingham behind the wheel of his unique Ferrari 250 GT SWB ‘Breadvan’, and went on to comfortably control proceedings up to the final few laps.
Despite losing a chunk of time a handful of laps from home, Halusa remained in charge and finished first-on-the-road – before being handed a retrospective 45-second penalty speeding in the pit-lane, relegating the scarlet Ferrari to fifth.
Halusa’s misfortune meant the duel for the runner-up spot between Simon Hadfield and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards was in actual fact the battle for victory. When Hadfield took over in the Aston Martin DP212 ‘project car’, the car was languishing down the order, and notwithstanding a brace of off-track excursions, a string of fastest laps saw him charge back through the field to pip the AC Cobra within sight of the chequered flag.
An interesting entry in the race was European Parliament Brexit Co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, who was spotted with both the UK’s Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis, and Event Director, Nick Wigley, in the Silverstone Classic Heritage Paddock.
In the FIA Masters Historic Formula One race, Silverstone instructor Michael Lyons led home Nick Padmore and Jonathan Kennard. In Williams’ 40th anniversary year, it was somewhat fitting that both races should be won by the team’s FW07 – the car that delivered the squad its first grand prix victory here at Silverstone back in 1979.
The new-to-the-bill Jaguar Classic Challenge was an instant crowd-pleaser, with hordes of eye-catching E-types producing a spectacular showpiece as they were pushed right to their limits and occasionally beyond. The low-drag example of Julian Thomas grabbed the early lead but its glory was short-lived – a technical issue leading to its retirement. Victory finally went to Gary Pearson from the fast-finishing James Dodd.
The FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars contest was even more dramatic and ended behind a safety car after several damaged cars were abandoned around the circuit. Martin O’Connell’s fast-starting Chevron B19 burst past the front row sitters to lead the pack. Behind him, a fierce battle for second developed between Dan Gibson (Lola T70 Mk3b) and Nick Padmore’s Chevron B19. Just as Padmore appeared to have taken the place, the cars touched with the Chevron spearing into the barriers.
Gibson’s luck ran out later in the race. Dicing with O’Connell for the lead, the Lola suffered a rear puncture when forced off the circuit, paving the way for the former British F3 National Class Champion to sprint clear to victory.
The Maserati Trophy for HGPCA Pre ’66 Grand Prix Cars delivered a superb scrap between Jon Fairley in his 1964 Brabham BT11/19 and Sam Wilson’s older Lotus 18 372 – resolved in favour of the former – with an equally good battle for earlier front-engined car honours pitting Julian Bronson’s brutal Scarab Offenhauser against the unique Maserati TecMec piloted by Tony Wood, whose challenge was scuppered by a ten-second false start penalty.
The second Group C contest of the weekend was again affected by rain, with the field starting on slick tyres but obliged to pit for wet weather rubber as the precipitation intensified. When the race was rejoined, the ex-Michael Schumacher ‘Silver Arrows’ Mercedes C11 held a commanding lead, with driver Kriton Lendoudis even able to afford a couple of off-track excursions on his way to victory. Following a pit-stop delay, yesterday’s winner Steve Tandy charged back through to snatch the runner-up spoils.
The JET Super Touring Car Trophy appropriately brought the curtain down on another super-successful Silverstone Classic, with Saturday star Jason Minshaw and James Dodd waging a titanic duel for glory on a drying track. Dodd’s Honda Accord ultimately got the better of the ex-Rickard Rydell Volvo S40, as former European Touring Car king Gianfranco Brancatelli winning the simultaneous Group A race in his flame-spitting, Spa 24 Hour-winning Ford Sierra RS500.
As tradition (and logistics) dictate, the Silverstone Classic follows two weeks after the British Grand Prix. With next year’s Formula 1 calendar already announced and the Formula 1 showcase set for Sunday 8 July, the 2018 Silverstone Classic will move forward a week and be staged from 20-22 July.
In the meantime, highlights of this year’s Classic can be caught on ITV4 at 20:00 on Thursday, 10 August, presented by Tiff Needell.