FISCAR Race 4 - BENTLEY DRIVERS CLUB, Silverstone -10 August 2013
LOTS OF TROUBLE, USUALLY SERIOUS
Well that interpretation of the Lotus name certainly applied to all drivers not in one of Colin Chapman’s Elite Squad, the Cheshunt production line occupied all 3 top qualifying positions, we thought no-one else would get a look in all weekend. Not looking good for the team prize if you didn’t have one either. Let’s see how the day panned out then.
The customary mix of marques across the grid was simply superb. We had 14 different marques in the 23 starters, an incredibly high quality entry of rare and beautifully turned out cars, a credit to all. I was sitting in the BRDC stand, packed full and the level of interest is amazing, you just wouldn’t realise it if you weren’t there. OK the average age of spectators (and competitors alike) at the Bentley Drivers Club meeting isn’t exactly youthful, but it reinforces just what FISCAR is all about. This is a wonderful meeting and indeed a privilege for FISCAR to be invited to. They always draw a good crowd, which does make a difference, and it’s a unique occasion to be enjoyed each year, especially as the sun has shone on the meeting both years.
Qualifying underway and aside from the fibre racers, Andy Shepherd was pushing on with his Avon shod AC Ace but was still a bit short of John Hilbery’s Elite by 0.7 s in 4th which is a reasonable gap around the Silverstone National circuit. Michael ‘Spike’ Milligan was out again in the HWM followed by the Aston engine Atalanta of Guest / Adams doing the dual driver role. These cars, like a few others. had the grandstand “experts” foxed when the wife asked what car it was….., great conversations to listen to.
Regular front runner of last year Mike Thorne led a brace of Healey 100M’s with newcomers to our races, David Llewellyn in Allard J2 (Chairmans class) and Daniel Wood in JWF Italia, followed by Astons (a rare minority at a FISCAR race but included David Bennett’s recently acquired and stunning DB3S) and Sunbeam Alpine, and a pretty TR3 mixed up with the Noah’s Ark lot: in pairs we had MGAs, one of which was driven by another newcomer, Simon Gurney; Jowett Jupiters (not many of these to the average mile on our roads these days; Lancia Aurelias; all embracing Colin Youle’s lonesome Jaguar XK120 on this occasion, sitting nicely at 18th on the grid.
Seriously, we should not take this list for granted, it is indeed a privilege to see these cars together, and with close times too. You had to get to 20th of 23 before any 2 cars were split by more than a second. Compare that to other races of the day, you simply cannot.
So onto the race, with the sun shining but not too hot, half an hour at race pace would test the cars and drivers, with a pit stop / driver change for 5 cars to remember yet again. We lost Mike Thorne after qualifying, a great shame as he always entertains. Spike was in front on lap one in the HWM having blasted by Brian Arculus on the Wellington Straight but Brian was merely tuning his radio, before finding a channel he liked (aka Top Gear’s The Stig) and then he was on it again taking the Elite back to the front on lap two where he stayed until the pit stop. The chairman’s class entry HWM kept him honest though and just one slip would have been enough. The leaders pitted early on lap 5 (good idea to follow the strategy of the one in front, that way you can keep them in sight) and the rest pitted through the race until lap 13, which made it a bit difficult to follow.
Chris Gawne had a great start in the green Lancia Aurelia from 22nd on the grid making up 4 places and held it there to the pit stops; others generally settled in whilst the status quo was being established. Some great dices were emerging throughout the field, especially when the pit stops started and the quicker cars had to thread their way through the various tussles along the way, adding to the excitement.
Andy Shepherd was playing to the crowd, now on Dunlops in the race to see if the AC would go quicker, or if the tyres were louder in front of the BRDC stand, either way he was attracting mucho attention, not least from a marker post on the inside of Brooklands which “made its mark” and also from the Guest/Adams Atalanta who engaged in a good scrap with Andy early in the race. Through the left hander at Brooklands a wide range of lines and techniques were on display, Spike Milligan feathering the HWM on the throttle on a smooth consistent line, others such as James Wilmot-Smith in the Healey 100M making it look easy (how do you do that?) with a nice line, but throughout the field battles were taking place. Richard Gane’s Jowett Jupiter giving Jim Campbell something to think about and putting in some very respectable times. It’s worth mentioning that Richard brought two Jowetts along, the second for John Arnold to drive. They are both destined for 2014 Le Mans at different stages of development. These are rare cars and it was great to see them out in such good company.
After the pit stops the race was taking its toll on a few cars. Peter Swete’s really nice TR3 had disappeared after 6 laps with a clevis pin deciding it did not like racing, end of clutch operation; the Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans developed a misfire; and towards the end the big Allard was smoking rather, better to pit (subsequently discovered ‘detonation had killed 4 cylinders’).
Gallant finishers included John Hilbery with no brakes (have a look at his times on the TSL site after lap 15, this was not story telling!); Mike Freeman’s Elite was smoking a lot but lived to tell the tale; Chris Gawne in the Aurelia thought he had a front wheel bearing about to go; the Kennedy’s in the other Aurelia were worried about a lack of power, possibly valve clearances and also they took longer than planned on the pit stops; Colin Youle in the Jaguar had brake shudder.
I never found Andrew Moore in the mint green MGA. This car finished but did much of the race on 3 wheels, but not the 3 you would expect. Coming in to Brooklands under braking, turn in, up came the inside rear about 6” off the ground all the way around the corner, next through Luffield it was the inside right! Quite how it stayed on the track defeats me, but smooth lines got him there and to the finish. That poor differential was working hard but survived. Stiff and high suspension is an interesting combination, but I suspect it’ll take a bit of settling down, not recommended in the wet!
And so to the finish, and believe me, rapturous applause from the crowd; they loved it! There were 19 finishers from 22 starters with the biggest climber of the day Colin Youle gaining 7 places from his grid position.
Brian Arculus took the customary honours chased by Spike Milligan, Andy Shepherd and the lovely and unusual RGS Atalanta Aston of Guest / Adams still ensuring Andy kept his foot in to the end. So many lovely cars and so many more race stories but since this could go on forever just one more; Daniel Wood, after years of frustration with the rare Healey 100/4 based JWF Italia has found both pace and reliability this year and finished a splendid 9th.
Full results at www.tsl-timing.com
Something for us all to aspire to; take a look at the results on the TSL timing web site for individual lap times by race order and by driver. It’s the latter that tells you a lot. There’s a column that shows you every race lap difference from your fastest, and by how much. A classic data set to do a standard deviation for the seriously anal, but just look at Spike Milligan’s and Andy Shepherd’s results. These guys are just so consistent, it’s really impressive. Lap after lap, there is little difference despite having to cope with lapping some cars, well done indeed. I always find it difficult to concentrate so hard but I guess it’s all about rhythm and being ‘in that groove’.
Team Results below, also displaying the process by which it is arrived at:-