Marcus Pye reports on the 12th Donington Historic Festival, topped by an RAC Pall Mall Cup enduro dominated by Lotus Elans..
Resurfaced at a cost of £2.5m over the winter, Motor Sport Vision’s 1.979-mile Donington Park switchback circuit looked pristine for the 12th Historic Festival on the last weekend of April. After a difficult couple of years there was a buzz in the capacious paddock as competitors prepared for battle. An unusually wet spring brought parking compromises for eventgoers, but with a fine turnout of marque owners’ clubs and eclectic cars lining the infield and GP loop on Saturday, the stage was set for two days of racing. Harking back to the venue’s 1993 European GP, Steve Ottovianelli exercising his ex-Michael Schumacher Ford V8-powered Benetton B193 in spirited fashion topped the daily Formula 1 demonstrations.
Saturday’s 180-minute Royal Automobile Club Pall Mall Cup, decided by 4.104 seconds, was the best race of the weekend. Top qualifier James Littlejohn brought Simon Evans’ primrose-hued Elan home ahead of John Tordoff’s pale blue JCT 600 version shared with Andy Jordan – minus top gear towards the end – as agile Type 26s filled five of the top six places. The interlopers in fourth, as in the HSCC’s Autosport Three Hours at Snetterton six days earlier, were Ollie Reuben and Harry Barton in the Barton Racing TVR Griffith.
Data-logging guru Julian Thomas chased Jordan and Reuben from the start and did the lion’s share of the driving, bookending Robin Ellis’ Shapecraft coupe-bodied Elan, in which 1476 gear changes were performed along the way. The V8-engined TVR growled ahead when Tordoff replaced Jordan, Thomas ascending to top the lap charts when Barton jumped into the Griffith. Julian was behind Evans, preparing to lap him 48 laps in, when a safety car was scrambled and they pitted together. Littlejohn reeled Ellis in and led when he reinstalled Julian, after serving a drive-through, 22 laps later.
Full course yellows were also implemented when the crank in the Cobra of German ‘Erich Stahler’ – for decades only as good as his last race, winning Le Mans for Ferrari in the eponymous 1971 film! – failed just past the pit entrance, wreaking mechanical mayhem, and the Ward family’s Ginetta G4R beached in the Craner Curves gravel bed. Those, and penalties for refuelling infringements thwarted some tactics, but double-stinter Littlejohn was beyond Jordan’s reach once the latter’s top gear went missing.
Andy Willis and George McDonald changed the engine in Austrian Stephan Jöbstl’s Elan’s after qualifying, then shared it, Historic Formula Fordster McDonald passing Chris Atkinson (in Steve Jones’ Elan) from fifth after a long chase. As so often the TVR Grantura of Rick Bourne/Malcolm Paul claimed heavyweight scalps, finishing seventh, ahead of Bristolian Austin-Healey 3000 trio Chris Clarkson/David Smithies/Jack Chatham. Rudiger Friedrichs’ Jaguar C-type, co-driven by Gary Pearson, was ninth albeit in one gear. The Jaguar E-type of Martin Melling, John Burton and Jason Minshaw completed the top 10.
To read Marcus’ report on the rest of the meeting, see our June 2023 issue or click here to subscribe….
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