Mitchell’s Martini shaken but not stirred
Something or somebody different in the winner’s circle, especially when the natural order is overturned, is always appreciated by dyed-in-the-wool motor sport enthusiasts bored with samey World Championship Formula 1 races every other weekend. The Classic at Silverstone provided just that when Ben Mitchell beat the period-dominant March 782s to score the first Historic F2 victories for a French Martini chassis built at Magny-Cours. The Masters Endurance Legends applecart was also upset by Michael Lyons, who won Sunday’s thriller against the odds in a Lola-AER B12/80 fresh from 500 hours of recommissioning by Julian Simpson-Smith, son of the late 1979 Le Mans class winner Robin Smith. Marcus Pye reports…
A change of date to the August Bank Holiday weekend brought three days of glorious weather to this monster event after Thursday’s wet test day. This brought maximum enjoyment of a full programme of entertainment to what organiser Goose Live Events claimed a record attendance. Highlights included morning hot air balloon fly-outs, cavalcades of Group C cars (40 years after the category’s debut at Silverstone), a unique reunion of Lewis Hamilton’s seven F1 title-winning cars, and popular evening concerts by ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again, Gabrielle, Sister Sledge and Rick Astley which had the audience rocking long after the sun set.
First time out in Matthew Watts’ ex-Xavier Lapeyre 1977 spec Martini-BMW MK19/22, Ben Mitchell was surprised to emerge top gun in the FOB cartridges liveried car in which Patrick Tambay had finished third in the previous year’s European Championship with Renault Gordon power. If slightly shaken by the pace of Andy Smith, whose 1m53.566s pole time second time out in Richard Evans’ similarly-powered 782 was an average of 113.37mph on the Grand Prix circuit, Mitchell (from P3 on the 32-car grid, having passed Watts at Luffield) was not stirred in his Saturday pursuit which turned to gold when the leading March retired with front wheel bearing failure, legacy of overheated brakes.
“The Martini doesn’t have the 782’s downforce, but it feels good round here,” said Ben, whose day was made more memorable when Watts made it a Retro Track & Air one-two in his Marc Surer Polifac BMW Junior Team 782. David Shaw (782), Marc Mercer (Ralt-BDG RT1) and unrelated old friends Martin and Clive Wood, piloting 782 and Chevron-BDG B29 respectively, completed the top six. An impressive drive from the back by Scot David Thorburn in a newly-restored March-BDG 762 which had barely completed a lap prior to the race, netted third.
First on track each day were the Formula Juniors and there was no stopping Michael O’Brien in Speedsport’s Brabham BT6. Despite an electrical glitch which severely limited its engine’s revs, leaving him 15mph down, thus a sitting duck on the straights, the McLaren GT racer flew through the corners and read lapped traffic brilliantly to rob Horatio Fitz-Simon (Lotus 22) of victory at the final corner on Saturday. With the glitch eradicated overnight, O’Brien had an easier time doubling-up on Sunday.
Honouring Sir Frank Williams, whose eponymous F1 team’s maiden victory was claimed by Clay Regazzoni at the 1979 British GP at Silverstone, the Masters Racing Legends races both fell easily to Mike Cantillon in his Williams FW07C prepared by Front Row Racing. Another double winner was IN Racing’s Will Nuthall who aced the broad and representative HGPCA Pre-‘66 showcases in the Cooper T53 he has been racing for several years.
Motor Racing Legends’ contribution included the Pre-War Sports Cars ‘BRDC 500’ evocation, won again by Patrick Blakeney-Edwards in Fred Wakeman’s Frazer Nash Supersport, started on this occasion by chain-gang debutant Gregor Fisken.
Sunday’s Royal Automobile Club Woodcote and Stirling Moss Trophies race was spoiled by a series of careless (and expensive) incidents caused by excessive speed behind a safety car crocodile which eliminated several cars in front of the old pits.
James Cottingham and Harvey Stanley’s’50s sports car disappointment was countered by a dominant victory in the Royal Automobile Club Historic Tourist Trophy race for Pre-‘63 GT cars, ending an odyssey for current British GT championship competitor Cottingham and his family DK Engineering team. Their Huffaker Jaguar E-type roadster romped home clear of Guy Ziser’s FHC version started by pro Oli Webb and Richard Cook, debuting one of the original competition Shelby Cobras.
Sports prototypes of the mid-1960s to early-‘70s went into battle in Saturday evening’s Yokohama Trophy Masters Sports Car Legends set. The catchweight contest up front between Tom Bradshaw (Chevron B19) and Alex Brundle (Lola-Chevrolet T70 Mk3B).
For Marcus Pye’s full report, see our October 2022 issue….
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