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2019 Masters Historic Festival & Masters Race Weekend report
A British doubleheader


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2019 Masters Historic Festival (May 24, 2019)

Rob Fenn/Jake Hill, Ford Mustang, Brands Hatch, 2019 Masters Historic Festival

Masters Historic Racing chose the fickle spring of 2019 for a British doubleheader that provided additional challenges as the track conditions kept on changing almost every day. At Brands Hatch, for Masters’ traditional self-organised festival at the end of May, the sky was bright most of the time but at Donington, for its more modest second meet in two weeks, the heavens opened on Saturday while Sunday was fresh and breezy. It didn’t spoil any of the racing, though – on the contrary.

The Historic Formula One fraternity came to Brands for the second round of its championship, with Matteo Ferrer having trounced the opposition at Paul Ricard. The Italian wouldn’t much of an easy time on this occasion, though. Another young gun in the shape of Michael Lyons made a surprise one-off return to take on Ferrer’s Ligier in his 2017-championship-winning Williams FW07B, and Martin Stretton came to Brands – as he usually does in his Tyrrell 012 – to try and beat the youngsters.

Mike Cantillon, Williams FW07D, 2019 Brands Hatch Masters Festival

Mike Cantillon caught in pensive mood just ahead of HF1 qualifying. (photo 8W)

In which he succeeded. First in qualifying, deciding a tense session in his favour, pipping both Lyons and Ferrer as the chequered flag dropped on his final effort, and then in the first race, keeping both at bay for the entire length of the race. A shortened race, as Lyons’ last-ditch effort to pass the Tyrrell around the outside into Paddock Hill Bend came to nought, the Williams going off and causing a red flag. Phil Hall won the pre-78 class in his Theodore TR1 once pre-race favourite Henry Fletcher’s March 761 had faltered.

Sunday’s race belonged to Steve Hartley in the McLaren MP4/1, as he passed early leader Jamie Constable’s Tyrrell 011 and then defended bravely against Stretton who, just as he was shaping up to pounce, lost the opportunity once the safety car had come out because of an off by Mike Cantillon in the Williams FW07D. This time around, Fletcher did win the pre-78 class – and in style, as from the back of the grid he made it all the way up to sixth overall, chasing home Christophe d’Ansembourg (back in his FW07C after starting the season in his newly acquired Brabham) and Ferrer who on old tyres could no better than fifth.

Steve Hartley, McLaren MP4/1, 2019 Brands Hatch Masters Festival

Steve 'The Jam Baron' Hartley heading out to the starting grid. (photo 8W)

The FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race was shortened too, as well as punctuated by no less than three safety-car periods. Out on top in the scruffy race came the Lola T70 Mk3B of Robert Beebee and Martin O’Connell, the latter pouncing on his own team mate on lap 25, Henry Fletcher in his Chevron B26 having led the race from lap 2. Their opposition was hurt by the safety cars, both the Jason Wright/Andy Wolfe T70 and the Joaquin Folch/Nick Padmore Chevron B19 losing a lap in the process to finish a distant third and fourth respectively.

Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger looked to have cornered the pre-66 win in their trusty Cooper Monaco King Cobra, profiting from Steve Farthing running out of fuel in the T61M version of the Monaco started by Chris Jolly, but when Ahlers was penalised for overtaking under one of the safety cars, the win fell back into the lap of their perennial class rivals. Ross Hyett and Mark Owen took the Siffert and Bonnier class wins, partially aided by clever timing during the safety-car-inflicted pitstop phase.

Nick Sleep, Lola T70 Mk3B, 2019 Brands Hatch Masters Festival

Nick Sleep seen contemplating next to his Lola T70 Mk3B. (photo 8W)

As at Paul Ricard, Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie reigned supreme in Masters Gentlemen Drivers, their Wolfe-run Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé winning by nearly a minute from the Rob Fenn/Jake Hill Lotus Elan. In the opening half of the race, Thomas had fought Hill and Steve Soper in another Elan, but Lockie quickly put distance between himself and Fenn while Soper was out after getting tangled up with a backmarker. Third went to Mark Donnor’s E-type, Donnor on the occasion sharing with the experienced Andrew Smith, who chased Marco Attard (in the Corvette started by another BTCC star, Tom Ingram) down to the line to beat Attard in a photofinish. Nick & Eddie Powell’s Elan and Ron Maydon’s Ginetta G4R took second and third in the CLP class.

Fenn and Hill did take the top spot in the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race, their Mustang passing Mark Sumpter’s Lotus Cortina for the lead on lap 20. Craig Davies’ Mustang had led until the pitstops, hunted by the Thomas/Lockie Falcon, but both cars lost out at the pitstops which coincided with a safety-car period. One moment running as high as third overall, Tom Bell and Joe Ferguson repeated their Mini-class win at Paul Ricard with another cracking drive.

The full Brands Hatch gallery

At Donington, two weeks later, Bell even managed to produce pole position in what was arguably the wettest qualifying session on a very wet Saturday. Driving solo this time, Bell made it three out of three by hanging on to fourth overall despite the track being bone dry on Sunday. There was no stopping Davies this time, however, the Mustang driver moving into the lead on lap 2 – from ninth on the grid! – and not looking back after that. Only near the end, the Mustang eased its pace to allow Steve Soper to come within striking distance in the Cortina shared with Mark Martin, but Davies had it all under control. Hampered by clutch issues, the Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield Ford Falcon finished a distant third, but the other Falcon – that of Thomas and Lockie – had been chasing Davies until it stopped at Starkey’s Bridge ten minutes from the end.

That continued Thomas and Lockie’s run of bad luck in the weekend, as they lost almost certain victory in Saturday’s Masters Gentlemen Drivers race when Lockie came into the pits with the back of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé on fire! Only moments earlier, 75 minutes into the 90-minute race, the safety car had come out to allow for the retrieval of Olivia Wilkinson’s stricken MGB – which up until that moment had imperiously led the C1 class – and that brought the other Daytona Cobra back into play.

Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield, Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé, 2019 Donington Masters Race Weekend

A late safety car handed Masters Gentlemen Drivers victory on a plate to the Voyazides/Hadfield Daytona Cobra.
(photo 8W)

The red Voyazides/Hadfield machine had occupied a remote fifth place before but with the field all bunched up because of the safety car, Hadfield could almost literally see victory right in front of him. Picking off his rivals one by one, he was in the lead just two laps after the green flag was waved and took a victory that had seemed hugely unlikely only 15 minutes earlier.

In the non-championship Masters Historic Sports Car race, though, the Anglo-Greek pair suffered from luck similar to Thomas and Lockie’s when their Lola T70 Mk3B uncharacteristically dropped a cylinder. Hadfield was in with a shot of victory while chasing Michael Gans in the Lola T290, the American having inherited the lead from the Andrew & Max Banks McLaren M6B that had strode away from pole and was looking at an easy win. That all came to nought when Andrew Banks was called in for a stop-and-go penalty for ignoring earlier safety-car boards and then was forced to retire with a puncture. In the end, Matt Wrigley’s Chevron B19 took second, while Thomas and Lockie finally saw their luck change when their Chevron B8 had a faultless run to third. Such was the rate of attrition that only five cars made it to the end.

Craig Davies, Ford Mustang, 2019 Donington Masters Race Weekend

Still a bit ill at sea during a very wet qualifying session, Craig Davies was in a class of his own on race day. (photo 8W)

The second Masters weekend was closed by an all-Mini race preceding an unparallelled 60-plus car race at the Silverstone Classic. Silverstone, however, will adopt the sprint format used at Goodwood earlier while Donington saw a 60-minute race that allowed for driver changes. Endaf Owens prevailed, dominating the second half of the race, having fought hard with Ian Curley and Jeff Smith during his opening stint. When these two were hit by mechanical issues, the Welshman was home free for the win.

The full Donington Park gallery

Both meetings featured strong support programmes, with Dutch-run series as the surprise package at Brands as well as Donington. At Brands, the Youngtimer Touring Car Challenge was the crowd favourite, with Dan Brown’s gorgeous Escort Mk2 winning both races, chased hard by Christian Nowak’s CN-Cobra. The variety of cars was mindboggling, and with no championship points being awarded, all drivers were in it just for fun. At Donington, the Dutch GT & Touring Car Championship for 1966-’81 cars proved to be another crowd puller, the races turning into three Escort bonanzas, as the Porsches faltered in qualifying. Marcel Frijlink won the first race, fighting hard to keep Manfred Pledl’s similar Escort Mk1 RS1600 behind, but the German took both other races.

Martin O'Connell, Chevron B40, 2019 Brands Hatch Masters Festival

Martin O'Connell won one of the HF2 races in his Chevron B40. (photo 8W)

On the back of Peter Auto’s admission of defeat, the Historic Formula 2 Championship seems to be going from strength to strength, the HSCC-run series coming to Brands with a record 35 cars. From this healthiest of grids, Miles Griffiths’ Ralt RT1 and Martin O’Connell’s Chevron B40 took the wins, Griffiths pushed hard by Martin Stretton’s March 782 and the absolute beauty that was polesitter Mike Charteris’ March 742, while Griffiths chased O’Connell in race 2, the pair a long way ahead of Mark Dwyer’s 782 in third.

The only single-seater racing at Donington was provided by the Luna Logistics Formula Ford 1600 Championship – but what a show they gave. The first race saw a slipstreaming battle to the line involving Jordan Jordan Harrison (Lola T540E), Rick Morris (Royale RP29), Simon Hadfield (Lotus 59), Tim Harvey (Van Diemen RF81) and Ben Tinkler (Van Diemen RF80), They finished in that order, with Tinkler dropping out and forced to start the second race from the back. That fact didn’t stop him from making his way through and past the leading car of Hadfield before getting tangled up with a backmarker. Tinkler’s subsequent launch over the rear wheel and into the gravel was enough to bring the safety car out, which led the field until Hadfield was flagged off as the winner.

NK GTTC start, 2019 Donington Masters Race Weekend

The Dutch GT & Touring Car Championship for 1966-'81 cars proved to be a popular addition to the Donington programme. (photo 8W)

Lee Atkins won the Equipe GTS race at Brands in his TVR Grantura, heading home Mark Holme in the same Healey 3000 in which he made his Masters debut along with Nigel Greensall. Despite a pitlane start, Ric Wood’s Holden Commodore proved invincible at Donington, storming all the way to front in the first Dunlop Saloon Car Cup race. Wood not starting in the second race allowed Stewart Whyte’s Honda Accord to take the spoils ahead of Sierra RS500 pair Mark Wright and Julian Thomas.