Castle Combe Autumn Classic

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Lindsay’s Capri Sun* at Castle Combe

*(other pouched fruit drinks are available)

The presence of a golden orb in the sky above Castle Combe for the 10th anniversary Autumn Classic on September 24 was a welcome novelty for competitors and spectators following several soggy editions.  Long hailed as the most relaxed on Britain’s historic calendar, the event attracted some sensational cars and provided some superb racing, none better than in the returning GT & Sports Car Cup’s inaugural Group 1 Touring Car sibling.

Marcus Pye Reports

Named for local hero Vince Woodman, the Bristol Ford dealer who won 27 races here in a career spanning more than 40 years, from Lotus Cortina to his beloved 450bhp 3.4-litre GAA V6 engined Broadspeed Cologne Capri.  Woodman’s specialty was the British Saloon Car Championship, where he was a regular winner in Equipe Esso Capri 3.0Ss.  Four similar machines disputed victory after the quickest Rover SDI V8, started by Jack Moody, was retired from their midst.

Duncan Rabagliati in his Comet Photos Kieran Bicknell

John Spiers, Graham ‘Skid’ Scarborough, Ludovic Lindsay and Neil Merry raced the wailing V6-powered cars with conviction.  As Spiers’ Hermetite Capri lost its gears, Scarborough, Lindsay (in his ex-Stuart Graham’s Faberge Brut 33 car) and Merry’s Gordon Spice Motorcraft/Autocar clone closed up.  Former ERA ace Lindsay pounced in the closing stages, passing Scarborough audaciously at Quarry.  When Scarborough lost drive and parked, Merry continued to chase Lindsay home in a flurry of oversteer.  Jeremy Bailey, debuting a Rover SDI, netted third ahead of Matt and David Green’s Win Percy tribute liveried Toyota Corolla 1600GT. 

The 90-minute GTSCC race saw Chris Chiles and father Chris Sr repeat their victory in Oulton Park’s season opener, Junior setting a stout lap record in their CRC-run AC Cobra.  They finished a lap clear of a superb GT3 battle in which two more family teams, Billy and Jack Bellinger in John Emberson’s Morgan +4 SLR and Jack and Bill Rawles (Austin-Healey 3000) scrapped to the chequer.  Malcolm Paul/Rick Bourne (TVR Grantu-ra) claimed GT2 after a strong challenge from Oliver Marçais (MGB), blunted by additional stop time as a soloist.      

In a waft of methanol, the 500cc Formula 3 cars gave onlookers a flavour of Castle Combe’s 1950s’ roots.  There was no stopping Alexis Wilson who clinched the 500 Owners Association championship in father Chris’ Cooper-Norton Mk10.  Simon Dedman led the chase in a similar car, under pressure from Andrew Turner, flying in the JAP-engined Mk9 his father John bought in 1967.

The Chiles Cobra took its second GTSCC win of the season

Three Maseratis practiced for the Griffiths Haig Trophy double-header, celebrating the trial event which effectively founded the HSCC in 1966, but Richard Wilson’s ex-Jim Hall/Carroll Shelby 250S broke its final drive in the FiSCar race, leaving Richard and Tania Pilkington’s 300S and Rebeca Rettenmaier’s A6GCS to play.  As at Silverstone in May, the Cadillac V8 Allard J2 of Oliver and Tim Llewellyn proved unbeatable – not that Tony Bianchi (Allard Farrellac) stinted in his pursuit.  The zippy Lola Mk1s of John Chisholm and Tim Reid – both raced by Lord Angus Clydesdale in the ‘60s’ – were not far adrift on pace.

Jonathan Abecassis, whose grandfather George won the 1955 Redex Trophy sportscar race here in a works-entered HWM-Jaguar, repeated his 2019 FiSCar win in his Austin-Healey 100M.  Richard Woolmer (Elva Courier) led to the mandatory stops before relaying to dad Paul, but Abecassis overhauled him in a Woolmer Performance Classics one-two.  Third and fourth were the Lotus Elites of Robin Ellis and Andrew Mitchell – whose delightfully patinated but little raced example, originally registered to The Chequered Flag, Graham ‘LUV 1’ Warner’s dealership in London, was finished spiritedly by second generation Elite racer Richard Fores.

Ecurie Classic Racing/Norman Dewis Trophy poleman Tom Smith (Jaguar E-type FHC) led until Tower on the final lap when, with Lee Atkins (TVR Grantura) breathing down his neck, he dropped it.  Contact was unavoidable, but damage was relatively light.  Atkins won, and Smith – with bonnet dislodged – crawled home second, clear of Welsh Jaguar wizard Grant Williams and his engine builder Tom Barclay in well-matched saloons. 

See our November 2022 issue (also available in digital format) for more reports….

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