Incorporating MGCC Iconic 50s
MG Live, Silverstone GP, 4th june
Preamble & Qualifying
Opportunities to race historic cars on the GP circuit are pretty rare during each season. I can only think of the HSCC International, AMOC, Silverstone Classic and this, the MG Live event, as providing them. We mustered 19 cars in a grid of 43 which on reflection really wasn't quite good enough, although it has to be said that a number of FISCAR Inter-Marque drivers were racing elsewhere, some abroad, this weekend. The sum total of the grid however, made for a pretty busy race, and had an interesting variety of cars, including, in addition to our Inter-Marque cars, 5 that would be classed as FLIER Class 1 cars, and a couple of very unusual American Specials that Rob Manson had brought over from the States.
Since, all FISCAR Inter-Marque races have a compulsory pit stop, to allow those who wished to, to change drivers, it was pleasing to note that the MGCC instructed their Iconic series cars to follow suit, thus ensuring that commentators and spectators did not become confused with the order of the race and that the race results truly reflected the positions of all competitors.
Qualifying was of real interest given the varied nature of the entries, but it was not altogether a surprise that Colin Chapman's real masterpiece, the Lotus Elite, occupied the first 3 positions on the grid, with the very experienced Mike Freeman and Brian Arculus sharing the front row with Robin Ellis on the second row. Rob Manson's Baldwin Mercury Special split the Twin Cam MGAs of Neil Cawthorn and Mark Ellis who qualified 4th & 6th respectively, followed by Colin Jones in his MGB engine MGA, with Jason Harris, proving that his first race with us in the Tom Cole Trophy was was no flash in the pan, qualifying the Austin Healey 100/4 an excellent 8th. The top 10 qualifiers were completed by Paul Kennelly's Jaguar XK150S which unfortunately was not destined to start, and Graham Coles MGA Coupe. At this point it should be noted that none of the 4 MGAs qualifying in the top 10 were FISCAR eligible, since they were modified, and two of them were running with overbored MGB engines. Some of the Iconics cars were also Avon shod, so direct comparisons were therefore not easy to make. However, in all, 43 cars qualified, although they were not all to make it to the start.
The records show that 38 cars started the race. Amongst those not making the grid was the aforementioned XK150S, Marcus Bicknell in Rob Manson's Streets Manning Special with engine problems and George Cooper in his newly restored Devin XPAG Sports Special. The rear axle was moving about and George reluctantly, but correctly, withdrew the car. At least one car started with little hope of getting to the end and that was the TR2 of Paul Ziller, who decided that despite a blown head gasket, he'd take the start as he finds the first few laps the most exhilarating part of the race!
At the end of the formation lap, front row man, Brian Arculus headed for the pits and this is what he had to say: ' On the green flag lap, the steering was feeling uncharacteristically light and there were various clonking noises, noticeable at slower speeds which had not been apparent during qualifying. Fearing that something was loose/broken in the front suspension/steering department, I came into the pit lane to have it checked. Everything was deemed OK so I trundled along to the end of the pit lane to wait for the start of the race'. So not a good start to the proceedings for Brian but it boded well for the rest of us anticipating his progress through the field. This left poleman, Mike Freeman, on his own, but a little slow off the start, he was soon joined and then passed by the MGAs of Mark Ellis and Neil Cawthorne (see photo above). As the big field of cars streamed through Copse and headed down towards Maggotts, Brian Arculus was released from the pit lane, lights instantly ablaze.
The two MGAs opened up a gap to Mike Freeman and Robin Ellis in their Lotus Elites, with Rob Manson trying to hang on to them in the rumbling Baldwin Mercury Special. Rob was to gradually drop back, although keeping them in sight and retained 5th until an increasingly slipping clutch led him to retire the car at the end of 7 laps. Meanwhile, Brian Arculus launched his charge; 'the pitlane marshall was very good at releasing me quickly and I managed to overtake 16 cars in the first lap and another 6 by the end of lap 2.' At the end of lap 3 Brian was the first to pit for the compulsory stop at which time he had climbed to 14th. Back at the front the two MGAs remained in place, but Mike Freeman was beginning to reel them in, taking Robin Ellis with him. Plenty of good close battles were going on down the field. Paul Ziller's blowing head gasket was only going to get worse so after having had a bit of fun retired the TR2 at the end of lap 4.
Having closed down the leaders, Mike Freeman took the Elite into the lead with two separate passing moves on Lap 4. Robin Ellis moved his Elite into 3rd as the Neil Cawthorn MGA pitted. Jason Harris continued to impress in his Austin Healey 100/4; from his qualifying position of 8th, he was 6th at the end of the opening lap and was up to 5th by the time he pitted at the end of lap 5. Alex Quattlebaum's little LECo 2, a Class 1 FLIER, found a lot of time over his qualifying pace and made great progress having gained 8 places on the first lap to be 9th at the end of it and at one stage was as high as 7th. Another good start was made by Martyn Corfield in the Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica. He went from 12th on the grid to 8th on lap one although he was then passed by both Harris and Quattlebaum on lap 2. A good little dice between John Waterson in his Elite and Edward Van Dyke's lovely MGA Twin Cam, a car that apart from its slightly larger, at 1760cc (1962 Nurburgring spec) would be FISCAR compliant, took place until Edward pitted. John was to have the upperhand by some margin at the end of the race, however.
Most of the pit stops took place between laps 4 and 8, all except one being completed by the end of the latter. The leader Freeman, was the only one not to have stopped and led by almost a minute from Patrick Rignell's Austin Healey 100S and Martyn Corfield's Frazer Nash but they both pitted on that lap so that the MGA of Mark Ellis was in the real second place still being shadowed by Neil Cawthorn with Robin Ellis in the second Elite just a few seconds back. The third Elite, that of Brian Arculus was up to 5th but over 20 seconds behind Robin. It's difficult with a grid of this size and a race with pit stops to pick out all the battles but also during this phase, down the field Robert Clarke had been gradually bringing his Austin Healey into passing range of Bruce Riches Elva Mk5 Climax. He got ahead on lap 8 at which stage they both pitted. At the end of the race Robert was 5 seconds clear. However, it is true to say that by the end of lap 8 most of the cars were beginning to be spread out.
Mike Freeman finally made his pit stop at the end of Lap 9, and it was not entirely certain that he would emerge in front of the two pursuing MGAs but he did so with just a couple of seconds to spare and held that gap to the flag. It had been a fine controlled drive by Mike and made up for Donington! The two Iconic 50s class MGAs had run him close. Robin Ellis was 4th but having emerged from his pit stop just behind the two MGAs started to drop back with a misfire which also prevented him revving beyond 6000rpm. It meant that he finished nearly half a minute behind the first 3 and his diminished pace meant that he so nearly fell into the clutches of the flying Brian Arculus. Brian's performance during the race, and the fact that he put in the fastest FISCAR Inter-Marque lap by fully half a second suggests that had he started alongside Mike, he would have had an influence on the podium configuration. The problem that had caused him concern on the green flag lap 'was found to actually be a loose Chapman Strut at the rear which was completely detached at the top allowing rear wheel steering. So I went quicker in the Equipe race and got into the low 2 minutes 39s' - so work that one out then, since it sounds a positively precarious situation to the writer. I believe it was even suggested later that both struts should be disconnected and that he would then go quicker still but I'm sure wiser counsel will prevail!
After the 3 Elites, the next up of our Inter-Marque cars was Jason Harris, in his 100/4 chased closely home by the 1ooS of Patrick Rignell. Patrick having shaken off the attention of Martyn Corfield's Frazer Nash in the early part of the race got within 2 seconds of Jason at the flag. Two more Austin Healeys, those of Jim Campbell and Robert Clarke followed on behind the Frazer Nash, and in the Jaguar XK150, Graham Love relayed to his son, Alastair, who understandably was not quite as quick as his Dad, and was caught and passed by David Cottingham in his AC Ace on the last lap. The race results will follow showing just our Inter-Marque cars but in their overall places in the race. Mention however of Mark Hoble's unexpectedly lowly position in the surviving TR2 should be made. Slight fuelling problems manifested themselves during the race and the carbs were attended to during a very lengthy pit stop which cost him at least a lap, but he still managed to win Class 3.