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2018 Silverstone Classic report
Sticking with tradition


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Andrew Haddon


Hesketh-Cosworth 308




2018 Silverstone Classic (July 20, 2018)

Andrew Haddon, Hesketh 308, 2018 Silverstone Classic

When an event is well into its third decade of existence there’s not much that will still surprise its long-time visitors – and in fact, with the Silverstone Classic, it’s traditions rather than the element of surprise that gives people the reassurance to return each year. One is that at least one evening gets rained off by a sudden thunderstorm, another is that grids will be plentiful and opposition is at its toughest. The same was true for the 2018 edition. Even in the driest and hottest summer ever the track was hit by a deluge, and over at the National Paddock it was easy to lose count of the Juniors that filled one garage after another. As usual, the Classic won by sheer numbers.

Oversubscribed grids were the norm at Silverstone yet again, so 25 cars for the two FIA Masters Historic Formula One races was perhaps fewer than could be expected. The races were dominated by Nick Padmore’s Williams FW07C and – in the pre-78 class – Michael Lyons in a one-off comeback appearance in his Hesketh 308E but in their wake Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C), Martin Stretton (Tyrrell) and Matteo Ferrer (Ligier JS11) provided the entertainment, while Greg Thornton starred in the pre-78 category. His performance – finishing second to Lyons twice – was all the more remarkable since Thornton had crashed his usual Lotus 77 n the slow-down lap after the British Grand Prix support race and was without a car less than a week before the Classic. But then Classic Team Lotus team mate Katsu Kubota lent Greg the March 761 in which the Japanese driver had competed in the 2016 Monaco GP Historique, and even though he admitted that the March was a handful, requiring a driving style opposite to that for the Lotus, Thornton did the crucial overtaking in it needed to claim the two runner-up spots to Lyons. With the Hesketh ineligible for championship points due to its single-event entry, Thornton took a full-points haul twice, which was made even sweeter for the Lotus man when he learned that his class rival Max Smith-Hilliard had done no better than fourth in class in both races.

Andy Whitaker, TVR Griffith, 2018 Silverstone Classic

Andy Whitaker catching a lurid slide into Abbey. The quick TVR man would not feature in the International Trophy race. (photo 8W)

The FIA Masters Historic Sports Car field, however, was bulging with cars but one stuck out among the crowd. Alfaholics brothers Max and Andrew Banks looked to have the race done and dusted in their McLaren-Chevrolet M6B but at three-quarters distance the Can-Am car limped into the pits stuck in third gear. A great victory was lost, handing the spoils to Olly Bryant in the family’s Lola-Chevrolet Mk3B who held off Michael Gans in the nimble open-top Lola T290 by two seconds.

Preceding that during the Daytona at Dusk-themed Saturday night was the International Trophy race for pre-66 GT cars, and this brought a shock overall for the little Lotus Elan ably pedalled by BTCC racer Jake Hill. In a chaotic race interrupted by a lengthy safety-car period coinciding with the pit window, Hill was third behind two other CLP-class cars – Ron Maydon’s Ginetta G4R and David Tomlin’s similar Elan – but quickly dispatched with both of them. Towards the end, the leader began to feel the pressure of the Dodd/Dodd Jaguar E-type and then Andy Wolfe’s Cobra, but he didn’t crack.

Roger Dexter, Elva-DKW 100 Formula Junior, 2018 Silverstone Classic

The National Paddock was overflowing with Formula Juniors, Roger Dexter's DKW-engined Elva 100 among them. (photo 8W)

The evening programme ended somewhat unsatisfactorily when the Masters Endurance Legends had to be cut short due to Silverstone curfew, resulting in a strangely lobsided race in which some of the competitors made their mandatory pitstops just short of the chequered flag. In the end, Steve Tandy (Lola-Mazda B12/60) got an easy win as long-time leader Michael Lyons (ORECA-Nissan 03) had no chance to claw back the deficit of an additional 50-second pitstop penalty for professional drivers. On Sunday, Lyons dropped out early on but that didn’t harm the race at all – instead, we got a cracker with two tense battles for first and third places. At the front, Tandy narrowly held off Le Mans veteran Hervé Regout in Christophe d’Ansembourg’s glorious Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 while Martin Short (Dallara-Judd SP1) finally succumbed to David Porter’s Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. In GTs, Nick Leventis shone by hustling his Aston Martin DBR9 from the back of the grid to a splendid class win.

The mornings of both race days started with one of two Formula Junior grids present at this year’s Classic. Both were bumper grids, chockfull of cars, and this led to the sensation of scouring the National Paddock’s garages and finding yourself tripping over yet another 20 Junior machines of all shapes and forms. And then there were parked some outside too… Sam Wilson (Lotus 20/22) won both races for the newer rear-engined machines but the real star drive came from Cameron Jackson who in the second race piloted his Brabham BT2 from 50th and last on the grid to second place behind Wilson. In his boxy U2 Mk2, Will Mitcham won the first race for the older Juniors but Andrew Hibberd struck back on Sunday by taking race 2 in his Lola Mk2.

Tony Wood/Will Nuthall, Lister Knobbly, 2018 Silverstone Classic

The Wood/Nuthall Lister Knobbly finished fourth in the Stirling Moss Trophy. (photo 8W)

Many of the fifties and sixties sportscars also found their home in the cosy National Paddock. Martin Hunt and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards convincingly won the Pre-63 GT race organised by Historic Motor Racing News while Chris Ward (Lister Knobbly) proved unstoppable in the Stirling Moss Trophy, beating the Wood/Nuthall Knobbly and Roger Wills’ Lotus 15 by more than ten seconds. On Sunday, Gary Pearson triumphed in the RAC Woodcote Trophy, the second race run by Motor Racing Legends. In his D-type, Pearson had five seconds in hand on the Fred Wakeman/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards Cooper-Jaguar T38.

The HSCC’s Road Sports cars ran their race from ‘The Wing’, and saw John Davison’s Elan beat the Morgan Plus 8s of Richard Plant and Jonathan Edwards. The International Paddock also housed the Historic Grand Prix Car Association which had brought 45 pre-66 Grand Prix cars. Will Nuthall (Cooper T53), Peter Horsman (Lotus 18/21) and Timothy de Silva (Lotus 24) treated the crowds to an exciting first race that saw Nuthall pull the longest straw. Horsman beat all comers on Sunday in a race in which Nuthall was a DNS.

Henry Fletcher, March 761, 2018 Silverstone Classic

Henry Fletcher in his March 761 ready for the second Historic Formula One race of the weekend. (photo 8W)

The Classic also hosted a big amount of tin-tops, and not just with a celebratory BTCC display in the International Paddock. Many cars from arguably the best BTCC era raced in the Super Touring Trophy that didn’t just include Super Tourers. Cars from that type did dominate proceedings, James Dodd’s Honda Accord twice beating the Volvo S40 that 20 years later was reunited with its erstwhile driver Rickard Rydell. On Saturday, Abby Eaton did come close to spoiling the all-Super Touring party on the podium by fighting for third place but her Australian Holden Commodore lost out in the end. On Sunday, the podium was completed by another BTCC legend, John Cleland taking third after an intra-Vectra tussle with Jason Hughes.

Turning back the clock another decade brought us to the Historic Touring Car Challenge. Nick en Henry Whale prevailed in their BMW E30 M3 but not before the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C of James Hanson and Paul Pochciol had made its way to the front – a performance rarely seen from the car back in the day.

AC Cobra, 2018 Silverstone Classic

Blakeney mechanic Ben Pain returning the Patrick Blakeney-Edwards/Martin Hunt AC Cobra to the team after its crushing win in the Pre-63 GT race. (photo 8W)

Many of the same touring cars raced Historic Motor Racing News’ U2TC race and the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race that ended the weekend. Top duo Rob Huff/Andy Wolfe (Lotus Cortina) lived up to its role as favourites by handsomely beating Max and Andrew Banks’ Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA in the U2TC race. The Richard Dutton/Neil Brown Cortina was third when Mark Sumpter’s example lost power on the final lap.

Mike Gardiner and Andy Wolfe once again triumphed in the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car-race. In an exciting race that saw Sean McInerney build a sizeable lead over Gardiner in his stint but with James Thorpe at the wheel the Mustang was mercilessly reeled in by Wolfe. Three laps from the end, Thorpe could no longer hold the Ford Falcon Sprint, and then two corners from the chequered flag, he outbraked himself at Stowe, allowing Craig Davies’ Mustang past to take second place. In fourth overall, Steve Soper was the quickest of the Cortina runners.

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