Oulton Park Gold Cup - HSCC
24 August 2014
FISCAR Historic Inter-Marque race
Whilst the entry list had, as usual, some great and interesting cars, it has to be said that numerically, it was poor, particularly when considering the status of the meeting, but it seems to be a reflection of our grids (and not only ours) this summer. We can find reasons for it, but 12 cars is, nevertheless, frankly, not good enough. True, we lost 3 potential entries at short notice. Chris Mann, mindful of the sound issues for the Disco Volante at Donington decided to give it a miss, preferring to look for a permanent solution to the silencing issue. Charles Fripp, very unfortunately, broke his knee in the run up to the race and had to withdraw the Gomm Jaguar, and Shaun Bromley’s MGA entry was not received by the HSCC. An interesting interloper was the Cooper MG entry of Stephen Cooper which strictly speaking, as a FLIER, was not eligible, but was a very welcome addition to the field given paucity of entries. It was very good to see two Astons out with us that hadn’t this year appeared in our Inter-Marque races, the DB3 of Martin Melling, which had last run with us at the George Abecassis Trophy, and Richard Bell’s DB2/4 in the hands of Tim Stamper. We certainly also missed the Woolmer Classic Restoration hospitality unit, too.
In qualifying, running true to form, we saw Brian Arculus annex pole position in his Lotus Elite, but the gap to Robin Ellis alongside, also Elite mounted, was truly staggering at 3.5 seconds! No contest then? Nick Matthews did very well to qualify his Austin Healey 100/4, third ahead of the very competitive Paul De Havilland in the big Jaguar XK150. Martin Melling qualified the 1952 Goodwood 9 Hour winner fifth and shared the third row with the very smart Austin Healey 100/4 of James Pugh-Lewis and Keith Jenkins. Next up, we had John Waterson with his Lotus Elite, with Tim Stamper alongside. Back row comprised of Steven Cooper, who had drafted ARDS instructor, Colin Elstrop as second driver to enhance his fortunes and John Tewson in the lovely little Frogeye Sprite, a car that he was very thankful had avoided the conflagration that destroyed his black modsport version recently. Tim Stamper’s journey to our grid was fraught. He had also entered the HRS race, which fortunately was Race 1 of the day, whereas ours was Race 9. Within 2 laps, Tim noted a massive vibration from the engine and retired. His diagnosis was a clutch problem. Gearbox out, new clutch part in, all reassembled; job done well in time for our race. Pretty impressive!
Jonathan Palmer put an appearance in at the meeting and visited our cars in the assembly area and talked at some length with Brian Arculus. Brian then duly flew off the line from pole, but alongside, Robin Ellis could not find first gear, and by the time he had decided to try 2nd instead, the field had gone. However, he was quickly into both his stride and the tailenders. At the front, Paul De Havilland had slotted into 2nd behind Arculus and for a while shadowed the Elite, but Brian, who was mindful of the excellent defence put up by Paul at Brands Hatch, determined that the XK wouldn’t get a sniff of a pass anywhere, so started to edge away. Martin Melling had a splendid start in the DB3 to take 3rd place with Nick Matthews in the Austin Healey 100/4 glued to the Aston’s tail. Their dice during the first few laps was probably the highlight of the race, the Aston sounding magnificent, especially on the down changes, quicker out of the corners and down the straights but the Austin Healey better on braking and through the corners. An early retirement was John Tewson, the Frogeye Sprite having blown its head gasket. On lap 7, John Waterson pulled his Lotus Elite off the track at Hilltop with no oil pressure; possibly due to the fact that much of it had been deposited around the circuit!
Arculus pitted early for his compulsory stop and was followed in by De Havilland and they both, inevitably, emerged down the field although the gap between them had increased since Paul's pitstop was slower. Briefly, therefore the erstwhile battle for 3rd became the battle for the lead, with the Aston still holding the Austin Healey at bay. However, Melling was soon to head to the pits for his stop thus relinquishing the lead to Matthews who, running a long first stint and now with a clear road, proceeded to improve his lap times. With all the pitstops completed, order was re-established with Arculus leading with an increasing gap to De Havilland, but Matthews had leapfrogged Melling to take the Austin Healey into 3rd and was well clear of the recovering Ellis in his Elite who had also got ahead of the DB3. The field behind had become rather spread out but it was noted by commentator Marcus Pye that the Jowett Jupiter in the hands of Richard Gane entertained by carrying nearly as much speed through the bends as it achieved down the straights – surely an exaggeration! It was clear too that the little Cooper MG belied its diminutive size by being heavy on the steering, both Stephen Cooper and Colin Elstrop complaining of aching shoulders after the race.
The race ran out with Brian Arculus taking the win but there was a bit of drama at the end when Paul De Havilland’s XK150 ran out of fuel and he pulled disconsolately off just before Knickerbrook. A bit of confusion too, since the official results give him 5th having completed full race laps, whereas I thought it he pulled off before completion of the last lap. I still await to be enlightened! Anyway the upshot of all this was that Nick Matthews took an excellent second and was delighted to have split the Elites.