In a busy programme, the famous Grand Prix circuit witnessed no fewer than 14 exciting qualifying sessions with drivers from no fewer than 28 different countries jockeying for top starting positions for the weekend’s spectacular line-up of 20 nostalgic races covering the full spectrum of historic motor sport.
Many magical marques such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Matra and Williams were to fore and, with the majority of grids featuring more than 50 of the world’s finest racing classics, the scene is set for two days of epic competition.
The opening day at the world’s biggest historic motor racing festival also featured two additional sessions for Legends of Modern Formula One and 90’s Endurance Legends. Meanwhile, the infield began to fill up with many of the 10,000 privately-owned classic cars displayed by more than 100 car clubs.
On top of nearly 12 hours of track action, crowds were treated to some great family entertainment, including a fun fair, JET Village Green, Adrenaline Zone plus an evening rock concert headlined by The Boomtown Rats. Fans queued throughout the day for the popular F-TYPE Art of Performance Tour while the clock has started on Restoration Live, presented by eBay, where a Range Rover Classic is restored to its former glory.
Four-time World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty MBE was also at the Classic, revealing a custom Triumph Bonneville T120 and meeting fans on the Triumph stand.
Commander Yorke Trophy for Historic Formula Junior
The Classic got under its traditional start with an oversubscribed grid of 62 Formula Junior machines who are starting out on a three-year world tour to celebrate their forthcoming Diamond Jubilee.
The field were led by protagonists Andrew Hibberd and Sam Wilson. Those two were separated by a miniscule 0.088s, with Westie Mitchell just 0.346s back in third.
As well as the front-runners mentioned, single-seater star Harrison Scott, GT racer Lee Mowle, and the legendary Ray Mallock were among those taking part.
Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22): 2m 21.064s
Sam Wilson (Lotus 20/22): +0.088s
Westie Mitchell (DeTomaso 63): +0.474s
Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-’61 Sports Cars
While many eyes were focused on Sam Hancock and Bobby Verdon-Roe in the gorgeous ex-Phil Hill/Wolfgang von Trips Ferrari 246 S ‘Dino’ and Lola’s first-ever car – the ’58 Mk1 Prototype – it was a trio of Listers that set the pace ahead of the scarlet Ferrari.
Oliver Bryant’s little Lotus 51 was also among those lapping quickly. Ultimately, though, it was the Pearson brothers who took pole position by just 0.006s, with the top four separated by less than a second, boding well for the race.
Gary Pearson / John Pearson (Lister Jaguar-Knobbly) 2m 24.198s
Mark Lewis / Jamie McIntyre (Lister Knobbly) +0.006s
Tony Wood / Will Nuttall (Lister Knobbly) +0.608s
Historic Touring Car Challenge (’66-’90)
The Historic Touring Car Challenge is making its Classic debut in 2016 and was the first of the grids competing on Tin Top Sunday to hit the track. Mark Smith took pole in another close contest, 0.026s ahead of Silverstone Auctions Managing Director Nick Whale, both aboard BMW M3s.
A light sprinkling of rain mid-session made things tricky for all involved, though Rob Huff enjoyed himself sliding the ’76 Ford Capri through the corners in the damp conditions. Look out for the Capri during the race as it qualified lower than its potential.
The AMC Javelin – or ‘The Beast’ as it was known in period – made its first appearance for 40 years. Although it qualified well back in the 50+ car field, new owner/racer Marc Devis was just happy to have the car in competition again.
Meanwhile, the ’75 Zakspeed Ford Escort – only purchased last night in the Silverstone Auctions sale– qualified ninth in the hands of its new owner David Tomlin.
Mark Smith (BMW M3 E30) 2m 24.020s
Harry Whale / Nick Whale (BMW M3 E30) +0.026s
Grant Tromans / Richard Meaden (Ford Capri) 0.362s
John Fitzpatrick Trophy for Under 2-Litre Touring Cars
There was no let-up in the frantic action as the packed U2TC grid fought for space on track as if they were already racing each other! The Wolfe/Meaden Ford Lotus Cortina took pole by 0.351s from Fortec Motorsport boss Richard Dutton, sharing with engine guru Neil Brown. Dutton, though, made hard contact with a spinning car at Club Corner as the flag flew at the end of the session.
Touring and sports car legend Steve Soper, partnered with David Cuff, qualified third with Andrew and Maxim Banks rounding out the top four in their Alfa Giulia Sprint GTA with just 0.850s separating the top four. 1969 Le Mans winner Jackie Oliver and Richard Shaw qualified sixth in the BMW 1800 TiSA.
Andy Wolfe / Richard Meaden (Ford Lotus Cortina) 2m 31.902s
Richard Dutton / Neil Brown (Ford Lotus Cortina) +0.367s
Steve Soper / David Cuff (Ford Lotus Cortina) 0.769s
Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy for Pre ’56 Sports Cars Presented by Jaguar
No one could get near Chris Ward’s Cooper Jaguar, as his blistering lap of 2min 30.170s secured to pole position for the RAC Woodcote Trophy. The Frederic Wakeman / Patrick Blakneney-Edwards Cooper took second with the Pearsons in third after their earlier pole in the Stirling Moss Trophy.
Former BTCC stars John Cleland in a Lotus MkVI and Patrick Watts in an Allard J2 both piloted their machines solo, qualifying in 40th and 10th respectively.
Chris Ward (Cooper Jaguar T33) 2m 30.170s
Frederic Wakeman / Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (Cooper T38) +1.748s
Gary Pearson / John Pearson (Jaguar D-type) +2.730s
Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars (Pre ’63 GT)
Qualifying for the RAC Tourist Trophy race was interrupted by a mid-session safety car to recover a stricken Austin Healey, which cut down time for the ‘faster’ runners to qualify.
Simon Hadfield and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards started setting quick sectors, with Hadfield flying to the top slot in his Aston Martin DB4 GT (photo above) with a few minutes. Setting up an enthralling final minute, the Halusa’s unique and priceless Ferrari ‘Breadvan’ jumped into second place. Till Bechtolsheimer in the ex-Jackie Stewart Tojero Ecurie Ecosse Buick – running in the invitational class – took third on his final lap of the session, setting up an exciting race.
Wolfgang Frederichs / Simon Hadfield (Aston Martin DB4 GT) 2m 32.717s
Martin Halusa / Lukas Halusa (Ferrari 250 SWB) +0.374s
Till Bechtolsheimer (Tojero Ecurie Ecosse Buick) +1.624s
FIA Masters Historic Formula One
A highlight for many at the Classic is the biggest grid of the FIA Masters Historic Formula One season featuring more than 30 evocative F1 cars from the DFV era. Nick Padmore’s Williams FW07C, as raced by Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni in 1981, pipped Gregory Thornton’s iconic Lotus 91/5 by 0.638s to secure pole position. Martin Stretton left it late to pop into third in the ex-Michele Alboreto 1983 Tyrrell 012, while title challenger Loic Deman could only manage seventh, and will have his work cut out to reel in championship rival Padmore.
Nick Padmore (Williams FW07C) 1m 51.711s
Gregory Thornton (Lotus 91/5) +0.638s
Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 012) +0.996s
Maserati Trophy for HGPCA pre ’66 Grand Prix Cars
Two expected challengers for the overall win headed the way in this session for some mouth-watering machinery from an earlier F1 era. Will Nuthall was the man to beat in a 1960 Cooper T53, comfortably ahead of Peter Horsman’s ’61 Lotus 18/21. The unique Maserati Tec Mec of Tony Wood, qualified ninth overall and fastest of the front-engined cars.
Will Nuthall (Cooper T53) 2m 20.032s
Peter Horsman (Lotus 18/21) +1.946s
Jon Fairley (Brabham BT11/19) +3.052s
Can-Am 50 Interserie Challenge Trophy incorporating the Canadian American Challenge Cup
The screaming 1974 Matra MS670B/C of Rob Hall stole the Can-Am thunder in their celebration race, edging Andrew Newall’s mighty McLaren M8F to pole by 0.168s. John Grant also upheld CanAm honour qualifying third in his McLaren M8C/D. The rare and extraordinary Shadow Mk1 of Harm Lagaaij was a real crowd-pleaser but qualified outside the top 20.
Rob Hall (Matra MS670B/C) 1m 58.723s
Andrew Newall (McLaren M8F) +0.168s
John Grant (McLaren M8C/D +1.695s
Lights-ablaze, the iconic Group C prototypes grabbed everyone’s attention on Friday afternoon. Bob Berridge set the mark mid-way through the session in his yellow Nissan, only to watch Nathan Kinch’s Lola pip him late on with a great last-gasp lap. Behind the front two, Christophe D’Ansembourg took the beautiful Jaguar XJR14 to third place.
Nathan Kinch (Lola T92/10) 1m 50.676s
Bob Berridge (Nissan R93) +0.292s
Christophe D’Ansembourg (Jaguar XJR14) +2.174s
International Trophy for GT Cars (pre ’66)
Father and son combo Oliver and Graheme Bryant topped the timing for most of a frenetic qualifying, their AC Cobra heading the Jaguar E-type of Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie by less than a second, before Mike Whitaker put in a fantastic effort in the TVR Griffith to head the sheets. A late response by Lockie looked set to challenge Whitaker but traffic at the final corner baulked his final lap. The Jaguar consequently will start from the second row.
The Shelby Daytona Cobra of Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield narrowly slotted into second place by 0.069s. If the race is anything like qualifying, this will be one not to miss.
Mike Whitaker (TVR Griffith) 2m 23.842s
Leo Voyazides / Simon Hadfield (Shelby Daytona Cobra) +0.326s
Oliver Bryant / Graheme Bryant (AC Cobra) +0.395s
Big Engine Touring Cars (pre ’66)
While the crowd present was captivated by an epic battle between the US muscle cars of Leo Voyazides and Craig Davies, first Eugene O’Brien’s Mustang and then Sean McInerney’s Lotus Cortina both set fastest laps to demote Voyazides.
After the mid-session driver changes, fastest sectors were set but none of the new pilots could hook it up for a full lap on a busy Silverstone circuit. With less than a second covering the top runners, any one of them could take victory in what promises to be another dramatic race on Tin Top Sunday.
Sean McInerney (Ford Lotus Cortina) 2m 31.085s
Mark Burton / Eugene O’Brien (Ford Mustang) +0.667s
Leo Voyazides / Simon Hadfield (Ford Falcon) +0.956s
JET Super Touring Car Trophy
The Super Touring field featured a number of standout entries including double Bathurst 1000 winner Tony Longhurst in his ’94 Australian Class II championship winning BMW 320, Tim Harvey’s ’92 BTCC championship winning BMW 318 coupe, the ’94 Paul Radisich World Cup winning Ford Mondeo and the ex-Emanuele Pirro’s Audi A4 – the last four-wheel-drive touring car built by the marque.
The 1998 Vauxhall Vectra of Colin Noble Jnr and James Dodd – in the ex-Peter Kox ’99 Honda Accord – swapped pole position several times, with Frank Wrathall then popping into second place in the Audi A4. The final lap as the chequered flag flew was astonishing, with first Dodd pipping Noble Jnr by thousandths of a second, but then the Vectra bounced back with a sublime lap to grab pole position.
Colin Noble Jnr (Vauxhall Vectra) 2m 13.252s
James Dodd (Honda Accord) +0.982s
Frank Wrathall (Audi A4) +1.614s
FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars
The early part of the busy day’s final session was dominated by the stunning speed – and sound – of the Matra MS650 shared by Rob Hall and Andy Willis, but the battles were tight behind the light blue French car.
Nick Pink and Scott Mansell initially headed the ranks of chasing Lolas, before a red flag – the day’s first – for oil on track caused a brief delay. Once battle recommenced the Paul Gibson / Chris Ward Lola T70 Mk3B moved up to second place, before Nick Padmore’s little Chevron B19 squeezed between the Lola and pace-setting Matra, but neither could prevent the Gallic marque taking its second pole of the day.
Rob Hall / Andy Willis (Matra MS650) 2m 05.377s
Max Smith-Hallard / Nick Padmore (Chevron B19) +0.543s
Paul Gibson / Chris Ward (Lola T70 Mk3B) +0.681s
Source. Silverstone Classic/Photos. John Patterson