The racing action got underway at the 2017 Silverstone Classic today (29 July), with some breathtaking battles and wonderful wheel-to-wheel wizardry reminiscent of yesteryear complemented by a star-studded Celebrity Challenge Trophy Race that not only had spectators on the edge of their seats but also raised vital funds for Prostate Cancer UK.
The day kicked off with Formula Ford, and in fitting fashion, the world’s pre-eminent junior single-seater series celebrated its 50th anniversary with a traditional Silverstone slipstreaming spectacle, as five drivers energetically disputed the Formula Ford 50 presented by Historic Motorsport International spoils. 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.
Former Silverstone chief instructor Chris Ward demonstrated the benefits of track knowledge to dominate the Stirling Moss Trophy for Pre ’61 Sports Cars behind the wheel of his Lister Costin, with Oliver Bryant threatening to challenge before being forced into retirement, promoting Rob Barff to the runner-up spot.
The Kidston Trophy for Pre War Sports Cars, meanwhile, served up a superb David vs. Goliath duel between the ‘GO 52’ Talbot 105 behemoth of Gareth Burnett and Frederic Wakeman / Pat Blakeney-Edwards in the nifty and nimble Frazer Nash Super Sports. A shortened race it might have been following an early safety car intervention, but it was an epic encounter as the Talbot ultimately got the verdict by a scant 0.162s.
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. Away from the high-octane thrills, Fergus Walkinshaw’s eBay Restoration LIVE continued while Mike Brewer’s Car Clinics presented by eBay drew huge crowds all day.
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 Silverstone Classic Celebrity Challenge Trophy Race was red-flagged after a number of early incidents, and when the action re-started, a four-way fight ensued between Soper, fellow former touring car ace Anthony Reid and ex-Formula 1 drivers Mark Blundell and Martin Donnelly, with intensifying rain adding to the drama.
Soper ultimately held off his pursuers for victory, with a late spin for Reid promoting Donnelly to second and Blundell to third. Take That’s Howard Donald was the top rookie racer in 12th. The Blundell-led Screen Stars squad – additionally comprising Dragon’s Den host Theo Paphitis,Wheeler Dealers presenter Ant Anstead, BBC Radio 2 sports presenter Vassos Alexander, Sky Sports F1 pundit Tony Jardine and former Top Gear anchor Tiff Needell – took the celebrity teams’ prize, and with it helped to raise £10,000 for the event’s official charity partner, Prostate Cancer UK. The owners will race tomorrow to conclude the Challenge.
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.
Once the final chequered flag had fallen, the Dire Straits Experience and former Spandau Ballet front man Tony Hadley took to the stage to reward hardy fans who braved the elements with a medley of classic hits between them, belting out everything from Sultans of Swing to the New Romantics anthem True.
The on-track entertainment will resume tomorrow (Sunday), with ten more races, another Williams FW14B Anniversary parade and a world record parade of McLaren road cars.
- Sam Wilson (Lotus20/22) 8 laps (87.09mph)
- Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22) +28.499s
- Westie Mitchell (De Tomaso 63) +33.841s
- Michael O’Brien (Merlyn Mk20A) 9 laps (92.21mph)
- Ed Thurston (Elden Mk8) +1.813s
- Max Bartell (Merlyn Mk20A) +2.003s
- Chris Ward (Lister Costin) 20 laps (86.74mph)
- Rob Barff (Lotus 15) +14.251s
- Richard Kent (Lister Costin Jaguar) +24.043s
- Mark Sumpter (Ford Lotus Cortina) 19 laps (82.16mph)
- Ambrogio Perfetti/Augusto Perfetti (Ford Lotus Cortina) +38.596s
- Karl Jones/Chris Ward (Ford Lotus Cortina) +39.183s
- Gareth Burnett (Talbot 105) 12 laps (62.94mph)
- Frederic Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (Frazer Nash Super Sports) +0.162s
- Charles Gillett/Eddie Williams (Frazer Nash TT Rep) +6.211s
- Sam Wilson (Lotus20/22) 9 laps (92.74mph)
- Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22) +4.428s
- Timothy De Silva (Brabham BT2) +23.629s
- Nick Padmore (Williams FW07C) 11 laps (116.10mph)
- Jonathan Kennard (Arrows A3) +2.502s
- Michael Lyons (Williams FW07B) +3.193s
- Sam Wilson (Lotus 18 372) 9 laps (93.37mph)
- Jon Fairley (Brabham BT11/19) +3.966s
- William Nuthall (Cooper T53) +7.575s
- Jason Minshaw (Volvo S40) 8 laps (95.32mph)
- Jon Minshaw (Audi A4) +31.540s
- Dave Jarman (Nissan Primera) +36.210s
- Steve Soper (Austin A35) 3 laps (57.63mph)
- Martin Donnelly (Austin A35) +1.568s
- Mark Blundell (Austin A35) +2.003s
- Neil Primrose (Austin A35) 3 laps (56.68mph)
- Tony Jardine (Austin A30) +3.048s
- Jason Kenny (Austin A35) +7.983s
- Oliver Bryant (AC Cobra) 16 laps (67.92mph)
- Roger Wills (Bizzarrini 5300 GT) +1.032s
- Andrew Haddon (AC Cobra) +1.658s
- Steve Tandy (Spice SE90 GTP) 10 laps (88.40mph)
- Mike Wrigley (Spice SE89C) +11.487s
- Tony Sinclair (Spice SE90C) +44.542s
Source. Silverstone Classic/Photos. John Patterson