Bentley Drivers Club, Silverstone
The Bentley Drivers Club meeting is always one I look forward to as it seems to me to offer an insight into old style club grassroots racing and a great atmosphere all of its own. This year we did not provide the size of grid that we normally produce but it was nevertheless a most interesting collection of cars that took to our grid and truly representative of a period which had so much variety.
There were a number of returnees and very welcome they were too. Chris Guest entered in his RGS Atalanta, both car and driver sorely missed for a few seasons. Simon Gurney returned with his lovely MGA Coupe and it was so good to see Andy Shepherd return at last, with his AC Ace, after a couple of seasons absence. Nigel Winchester turned up with a really lovely original Lotus 7, and all in all it was a fascinating mix of cars to behold.
David Brazell had, as his co driver, one John Harper. Now those of you, like me, of an age that you would probably not wish to disclose may well remember John from over 30 years ago as a pretty quick pedaller, no more so than when he was behind the wheel of the famous Ferrari 250GT Breadvan and taking on the late Mike Salmon in the Aston Martin Project 212 in historic racing. Ah, those were the days!
Qualifying produced a bit of a surprise when the Cottingham/King AC Ace Bristol took pole, ahead of the Brazell/Harper Jaguar C type. Jim Campbell took 3rd and less than half a second covered these first 3 cars. In fact the Shepherd AC Ace Bristol, 4th on the grid was just a tenth behind Jim so potentially, a great race was in the offing. 5th fastest was the big Kellison J4R of Tyzack and Taylor in stark contrast to the diminutive Lotus 7 of Nigel Winchester alongside. On the fourth row was the Connaught ALSR of a Paul Griffin, going ever quicker, and Alan House in his Morgan Plus 4. The fifth row was an all MGA affair with Peter Hiscocks alongside the father and son pairing of Glen and Rory Tollett. A brace of AC Ace Bristols occupied Row 6, Justin Beckett just ahead of Mark Morgan, also sharing with his son, Alex. Row 7 had Chris Guest in the RGS Atalanta just ahead of Keith Hampson in the Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans and the final row was occupied by the Lancia Aurelia B20GT of Jason & Louis Kennedy with Simon Gurney’s MGA Coupe in the last slot.
The quickest of the MGA qualifiers, Peter Hiscocks, failed to take the grid. At the start, John Harper surged the Jaguar C type into the lead, followed by Jim Campbell in the Austin Healey 100/4, both having overwhelmed poleman, Adrian King in David Cottingham’s AC Ace who found himself alongside fellow Ace pilot, Andy Shepherd (see photo at head of the page). Alan House made a cracking start in the Morgan to pull alongside both Nigel Winchester’s Lotus 7 and the Kellison J4R, although once the big V8 in the latter got into its stride, it soon annexed 5th as the cars streamed through Copse for the first time.
At the end of the first lap John Harper had a 1.5 seconds lead over Jim Campbell in the Austin Healey 100/4. Jim, in turn had a small gap over Andy Shepherd and Adrian King, both in AC Ace Bristols and they were being pressed by the Kellison J4R, just 4 tenths covering the 3 cars. Nigel Winchester had the little Lotus 7 in 6th place a further one second back but pulling clear of Alan House’s Morgan which was challenged by Paul Griffin’s Connaught ALSR. Next up was Justin Becket’s AC Ace Bristol, but hard on his tail was Glenn Tollett in his MGA and Mark Morgan in his AC Ace Bristol . Already dropping back was, by his own admission, a race rusty Chris Guest in the RGS Atalanta, and behind him a good dice was brewing between Keith Hampson (Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans), Jason Kennedy (Lancia Aurelia) and Simon Gurney in his MGA.
As John Harper completed his second lap and consolidated his lead in the C type over Jim Campbell’s Austin Healey there was plenty of action behind. Richard Tyzack used the V8 power of the Kellison to boom passed both Andy Shepherd and Adrian King in the AC Aces so that it completed lap 2 in 3rd place and went after Jim. At the same time David had also been passed by the little Lotus 7 of Nigel Winchester who came round in 5th place. On the same lap, Paul Griffin took his Connaught passed Alan House in the Morgan for 7th place, and Chris Guest decided to play himself in by deliberately dropping behind the battling threesome previously mentioned which also allowed him to enjoy the spectacle now in front of him.