FISCAR & CMMC Pre-64 Challenge
The Bentley Drivers Club, 3rd August, 2019
The popular Bentley Drivers Club meeting in early August at Silverstone has, for many years, been a FISCAR stamping ground, and along with the VSCC Spring Start and Castle Combe Autumn Classic forms the tripod of events around which our season is built. Unfortunately, in recent years, our decline in entries meant that we had difficulty in justifying a standalone grid although BDC did allow us our own race last year but it was a close run thing. This year however, we managed to slightly increase our entries as Richard Culverhouse was also able to bring along a few of his Dunlop L shod CMMC pre- 64 cars and therefore on the same rubber as our cars.
Among our entries this year we welcomed two new cars although the drivers of both have raced with us before. Paul Woolmer entered his Elva Courier Mk 1 to be driven by his son, Richard, so we knew that was likely to be a front running car. This was to be the Elva’s first race after rebuild. Mark Hoble, who had previously raced his Triumph TR2 with us brought along his newly rebuilt Turner Mk1 Climax. It was also very good to see Paul Griffin return to us with his wonderful Connaught ALSR. This car has so much history attaching to it, emphasised by the names of previous drivers, Stirling Moss, Les Leston, Archie Scott-Brown & Tony Brooks adorning its flanks. Another car that joined us, was John Harper’s Jaguar XK120, to be driven John and David Brazell. This is not a FISCAR compliant car so was unable to compete for any FISCAR award but John & David were there simply to enjoy themselves and the car fitted well into this lovely grid of cars. It was unfortunate that there were no Class 4 cars on the grid this time.
Neil Burnside appears, pleasingly to have been a late entry in the MGA Twin Cam but sadly a few entries didn’t show. Paul Kennelly had suffered mechanical issues in testing the previous week so unfortunately had to withdraw his Austin Healey 100M and we didn’t see two CMMC cars, the TR4 of Julian Balme and the MGA of Peter Hiscocks. Alan House had brought along his Morgan +4 but didn’t even manage to qualify the car having discovered the fuel contaminated by diesel.
After the loss of the cars already mentioned 22 qualified. The AC Aces and Lotus Elites took to the tracks in force - no less than 5 Aces and 4 Elites, more than a third of the field. Richard Woolmer in the Elva Courier did not entirely surprise us when he put the car on pole but the margin of 1.3 seconds over Brian Arculus, alongside on the front row perhaps was, but as Brian said, Richard is probably worth a good 2 seconds lap over the rest of the field. On the second row, just over a tenth behind Brian was Stephen Bond in the Lister Bristol and alongside but 6 tenths behind was Richard Tyzack in the Kellison J4R. The first of the CMMC cars, John Andon qualified 5th, in his Triumph TR4, less than a tenth behind Richard, and qualifying an excellent 6th was Tim Pearce in the first of the AC Ace Bristols. A slightly subdued Robin Ellis qualified his Lotus Elite 7th, with Adrian King alongside in David Cottingham’s AC Ace Bristol, and the top ten were completed by Jim Campbell in his Austin Healey 100/4 and Tim Stamper in the Aston Martin DB2/4. The rest of the grid was composed of an eclectic mix of lovely cars amongst which were the Turner Climax of Mark Hoble qualifying 13th, Paul Griffin’s Connaught, 14th and the John Harper Jaguar XK120, 16th.
We were deprived of one more car when Richard Thorne failed to appear on the grid with his Morgan +4 so this would be the first time for a while without an example of the Malvern marque in the field. Poleman Richard Woolmer edged the Elva Courier ahead of Brian Arculus as they headed into Copse for the first time, but it was the stonking start by Tim Stamper that grabbed the attention, starting 10th on the grid and grabbing 6th by the time the Aston arrived at the first corner.
At the end of the first lap, the Courier was ahead by 1.9 seconds, and Brian Arculus had his mirrors full of Lister Bristol being driven with great gusto by Stephen Bond. Incredibly, Tim had made a further 2 places and had the Aston up to 4th as they crossed the line to start the second lap. Richard Tyzack had the big Kellison in 5th with a small gap already opening up to John Andon in the TR4. Jim Campbell, in the Austin Healey 100/4 was 7th and lead a stream of 7 cars covered by just over 3 seconds and some great battles were already brewing. Paul Griffin had the Connaught in 14th closely followed by Barry Dye and Dominic Spicer in Lotus Elite and TR4 respectively. Just under a second behind was the MGA of Neil Burnside, with Martin Stowe (MGA), Justin Beckett (AC ACe Bristol), Nick Adams (Lotus Elite) and Mark Morgan in another of the lovely AC Ace Bristols, all giving chase.
Over the course of lap 2, Richard Woolmer pulled further away in the Elva Courier and Brian Arculus could not do much about it, particularly as he was having to fend off Stephen Bond’s Lister Bristol. Richard Tyzack had reasserted himself in 4th place with the Kellison but was nearly 4 seconds behind the battling duo ahead. John Andon, in the TR4 had also passed the Aston, to take 5th but Tim was going great guns, as he always does, in this superb example of the Feltham marque.
Jim Campbell, in the Austin Healey 100/4, was now just behind the Aston, and still leading a train of cars, albeit shortened, Robin Ellis (Lotus Elite), Tim Pearce & Adrian King, both in AC Ace Bristols - but Mark Hoble was becoming a bit detached from the line as the Turner was short on top speed and still had the John Harper XK120 in close attendance, John himself having to keep an eye on the LECo of Alex Quattlebaum snapping at his heels. Behind Alex, and still in 14th place was Paul Griffin, going well in the Connaught, just ahead of the squabbling Barry Dye (Lotus Elite) & Dominic Spicer (Triumph TR4) who were 3 tenths apart at the end of the lap. Keeping them in sight was Neil Burnside’s MGA but Neil was beginning to pull clear of Justin Beckett, Martin Stowe, Nick Atkins & Mark Morgan.
Into lap 3 and Richard continued to extend his lead, out to 4.6 seconds at the end of it, as Brian held Stephen at bay. Robin Ellis was finally getting into his stride in his Lotus Elite, overtaking Jim Campbell and pulling away from the Austin Healey to latch onto the back of Tim Stamper in the Aston. The only other change of position on that lap was Dominic Spicer taking his TR4 passed Barry Dye’s Lotus Elite for 15th. The status quo was maintained during lap 4, Tim not only holding off Robin but actually creating a small gap, and close racing continued down the field. Into lap 5 and the pit stops had started. The Elva lead was up to over 9 seconds whilst Brian Arculus pitted the second placed Elite, and he was followed in by Paul Griffin in the Connaught, these being the first two to pit. The Harper/Quattlebaum (XK120/LECo) battle had taken them both passed Mark Hoble’s Turner and a little further back, Martin Stowe (MGA) had displaced Justin Beckett (AC Ace) and Mark Morgan took his AC Ace passed Nick Atkins in the Lotus Elite.
Richard Woolmer pressed on extending his lead in the Elva Courier which was going great guns and he went deep into the race before pitting for his mandatory 45 second pit stop. In the meantime, at the end of lap 6, Stephen Bond brought the Lister Bristol in from 2nd place for his stop and was followed in by Robin Ellis in the second of the Lotus Elites. At this point, although spread out, no-one in the field had been lapped but all this was to change by the end of lap 7 when both Brian Arculus and Paul Griffin were registered as a lap down but this creates a false impression since they had been the first to pit and were actually rapidly recovering ground. At this stage, Richard Tyzack who was yet to pit had the Kellison up to second with John Andon’s TR4 in close attendance and Tim Stamper was not far behind either in the Aston. The AC Aces of Tim Pearce and Adrian King are shown as having got ahead of Jim Campbell’s Austin Healey but that was simply because Jim had pitted and crossed the timing line in the pits. He was the only one to stop on that lap. The MGAs of Neil Burnside and Martin Stowe had dropped to the back of the field but were hard on the heels of Barry Dye’s lotus Elite.
At the end of lap 8, with two thirds of the race still to run, the Elva had lapped the tail enders and was 21 seconds ahead of the Kellison which had John Andon’s TR4 still breathing down its neck with Tim Stamper’s Aston 5 seconds down from the dicing duo, in the Aston. None of those first 5 had pitted however, whilst their closest challengers, Brian Arculus, Stephen Bond and Robin Ellis had all pitted and were working their way back up the order. Apart from Richard Woolmer, well ahead, it wasn’t clear in what order or how close the chasers would be until all the pit stops had been completed! At the end of lap 9, three more cars pitted and Richard was a lap ahead of half the field. Four more pitted on lap 10, the same lap on which we saw the retirement of Dominic Spicer’s TR4. He came into the pits and was timed down but did not re emerge. The Elva finally pitted at the end of lap 11, as did several other cars although they were by no means the last to do so. It was on that lap, that we saw the demise of the Aston when Tim retired the car with a heavy oil leak after a terrific drive.
At the end of lap 13, with all the scheduled pit stops completed, the true position of the cars reasserted itself. Richard Woolmer was leading, the Elva having a very healthy 28 second cushion to Brian Arculus in the Lotus Elite, who in turn was now 8 seconds clear of John Andon in the TR4. Less than a second behind John was Richard Tyzack in the Kellison, their longstanding battle for position yet to be resolved. Stephen Bond, in the Lister Bristol was 6th but he was dropping off the pace and all was not well with the car. It led to his retirement at the end of lap 14 with a suspected head gasket failure, just one lap after Justin Beckett’s AC Ace had suffered a driveshaft failure, which seems to be this model’s Achilles heel. Jim Campbell was to inherit Stephen’s position and for once appeared to be on his own as he seemed to have shaken off the attentions of the AC Aces of Tim Pearce and Adrian King but would soon be under pressure from Robin Ellis in the Elite which had dropped behind the Austin Healey during the pit stops. Robin admitted afterwards that his lap times were consistently at least a second down on what he has achieved previously at the circuit and was at a bit of a loss to explain why but it may simply have been down to a lack of important seat time. Tim and Adrian in the Aces were 8th and 9th and the last of the unlapped runners.
As we headed into the final third of the race, Richard Woolmer continued to extend his lead, but Richard Tyzack was slowly homing in on Brian Arculus, the Kellison regularly putting in lap times that on occasions, were a second quicker than the Lotus. By the end of lap 17, Richard had halved the gap to Brian, and his consistent high pace had finally taken him clear of John Andon’s TR4. However John was well clear of Jim Campbell’s Austin Healey which was again coming under pressure from the recovering Robin Ellis in his Elite. Not far behind Robin, Adrian King had the AC Ace Bristol in 7th place but was about to be caught by Tim Pearce in a sister car who was lapping quicker. Tim was the last of the unlapped runners. A lap down, John Harper’s Jaguar XK120, now driven by David Brazell, was again about to receive the close attention of Alex Quattlebaum in the LECo. Paul Griffin was now 11th in the Connaught and Mark Hoble 12th in the Turner but Mark, already struggling on top end speed, was also lapping around 2 seconds slower than he had earlier in the race, coupling a loss of some power with a recalcitrant MGA gearbox complaining that having only paid £50 for it over Ebay that a 30 minute race was a bit much to expect of it! I think we can assume that the next time the Turner is out it will be quicker! 13th was Barry Dye in the Lotus Elite. The rest of the field were now 2 laps down on the leader, such was his pace.
As we headed into the closing stages of this splendid race, with the exception of the leader, many of the the placings were still not set. The battle for second was hotting up as the big Kellison continued to close on the Elite, and whilst John Andon was now securely in a lonely 4th place, the battle for 5th had some laps still to run as Robin Ellis in his Elite had caught Jim Campbell in the Austin Healey but Jim wasn’t giving the position up without a fight. They were being caught by the AC Aces of Tim Pearce who had again forged ahead of Adrian King. Alex Quattlebaum had closed rapidly on the XK120, David Brazell unable to match the owner John Harper’s pace, but there was no shame in that as anyone who has followed historic racing for over 30 years would know of John’s skills. We were on lap 19 and there were still position changes to take place before the chequered flag and for the relatively few spectators, the interest in this race continued right to the end.
Richard Woolmer’s lead however was unassailable. Only mechanical problems could prevent him completing a comfortable victory. He was almost 40 seconds ahead of the second place battle at the end of lap 19 and surely able to stroke it home, but it was not to be! At the end of lap 20 he headed for the pits. It was not a ploy to make a race of it, for he returned to the track to complete one more slow lap before pitting again, and ending the impressive debut run of this car, as a result of fuel pump problems.
The battle for 2nd had become the battle for outright victory. Richard Tyzack had powered the Kellison passed the Elite and was almost 1 second ahead by the end of lap 20 and he became the leader when the Elva retired. John Andon was safely in 3rd but no threat to the leaders. Robin Ellis had again passed Jim Campbell, who now had both of the quickest AC Aces in his mirrors, less than 3 seconds covering the four cars after 22 laps. Alex Quattlebaum had taken the little LECo passed David Brazell in the XK120 to secure 8th place and then proceeded to stretch clear of the Jaguar but was too far behind those ahead to mount a further challenge. Paul Griffin had the superb Connaught in 10th but Mark Hoble’s hobbled Turner had lost position to Barry Dye in the third of the Lotus Elite, Mark now just intent on ensuring a finish. Barry appears to have stepped up his pace this season, not only enjoying himself but confounding Mark Campbell’s Index of Performance predictions. Neil Burnside was by now clear of fellow MGA racer Martin Stowe, who in turn was clear of Nick Atkins in his Lotus Elite and Andrew Mitchell in Mark Morgan’s AC Ace.
Brian Arculus was not done yet in his Elite. Richard Tyzack was not able to power away, and having been passed, Brian latched onto the Kellison, losing on the straights but closing up into the braking zones and corners, and on lap 21 he completed an excellent outbraking manoeuvre going into Brooklands to retake the lead and stayed ahead to the line to finish the lap 3 tenths ahead. Richard struck back, repassing the Lotus to be ahead by 6 tenths at the end of the following lap and the lead had gone out further to almost a second at the end of lap 23, the pair temporarily split by the lapped MGA of Martin Stowe. Brian quickly dispensed with the MGA and closed in on the Kellison, so much so that into Brooklands for the last time he was again on the tail of the big American V8, but it seemed that he was never going to beat Richard to the flag. However, there was to be one last moment of drama as the Lotus chased the Kellison through Luffield because as they headed through Woodcote, Richard ran wide, and Brian slotted the better handling Lotus up the inside to get alongside. It was a great effort but once Richard got straightened up and put the power down he inevitably outdragged Brian to the line winning by just 3 tenths after 30 minutes racing. Now almost down 13 seconds, John Andon took a fine 3rd place in the TR4, the first of the CMMC cars home. He was over 20 seconds clear of a slightly under par, performancewise, Robin Ellis in the Elite who had nevertheless opened up a small gap to the racelong battling Austin Healey/AC Ace trio of Jim Campbell, Tim Pearce & Adrian King. This had been an epic defence by Jim and he would no doubt regard himself as poorly rewarded when he lost out to both the Aces on the final lap, finishing 8th and last of the unlapped runners. This had been a truly fine race all the way down the field with excellent and clean racing and a great advert for the FISCAR brand - more please! - JT