Castle Combe Autumn Classic 5th October 2014
Hadfield dominates in Friedrichs Aston Martin DB3S
But great dices for 2nd and down the field in this spectacular grid
The Jon Gross Memorial Trophy
Including the 'Mort' Goodall Cup for Pre-War Aston Martins
(Sponsored by Cotswold Classic Car Restorations)
Jon Gross, after a long illness, died the day after having competed at the 2013 Goodwood Revival in his beloved Aston Martin DB MkIII. The Aston which had been a works entry at the 1958 Sebring 12 hours, had been in the Gross family for many years and Jon had driven it with great success for well over 30 years, taking the AMOC Club Championship, twice. Jon was a popular and well respected racer both inside and out of AMOC and FISCAR felt it entirely appropriate that he should be remembered with a race dedicated to his memory and we are very grateful that the Gross family were very supportive of the idea. The 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic provided the perfect opportunity to hold this race, coming as it did, just over a year after his passing. It enabled us to assemble a fine collection of early post war Aston Martins, to which we added a small Invitation class of their period competitors and a separate class for the Pre-war Aston Martins competing for their own award, The ‘Mort’ Goodall Cup. Morris Mortimer Goodall was a well-known Aston Martin racer both before and after the World War 2.
Among the fine entry we had 10 post-war Aston Martins of which three were DB3S models and very poignantly, Chris Woodgate in Jon’s DB MkIII, which is currently retained by the Gross family. Another MkIII was in the hands of Andy Shepherd, better known for his exploits in ACs but on this occasion driving a car very kindly loaned by Simon Jefferies who was unable to enter the race. As a result the AC representative on this grid was Andy’s son, Ted. Richard Woolmer, son of Paul, sponsor and provider of our hospitality unit, was in Matthew Collings Austin Healey 100M and Paul Griffin was entered first time out in his newly acquired Austin Healey 100S. Amanda Hadfield was also in her first race with FISCAR in her Elva Courier although the car had been out with us once before at Oulton Park in 2013, and was one of the six cars original FISCAR cars track tested by Autosport Magazine at the beginning of 2012. Another 'first' was Richard Walker's outing in his recently acquired ex Barker, Aston Martin DB2/4 MkII
We had a splendid entry of 7 pre-war Astons entered for the ‘Mort’ Goodall Cup which included three of the ex- works LM Astons, LMs 17,18 and 21 owned by the Mason family and driven by Annette, Holly and Chloe, so giving us, along with Mandie Hadfield, 4 ladies on the grid. The other 4 pre-war Astons were all two litre cars and if as seems likely we run this again, we would, subject to entry levels, have two classes of 1500cc and 2 litres respectively.
There was an inevitability about who would be on pole for this race although the margin of 5 seconds was somewhat staggering. Simon Hadfield in Wolfgang Friedrichs ex Whitehead Brothers Aston Martin DB3S (chassis 105) dipped under 1.22 whilst Steve Boultbee-Brooks in the ex Kangeroo racing sister car (chassis 104) was alongside in just under 1.27. The second row composed of the two very quick DB2s of David Reed and Chris Jolly, with Paul De Havilland (XK150) recovering from a heavy bout of flu, and Gordon McCulloch (Maserati 200Si) occupying the 3rd row. All 4 had qualified in the 1.27s so promised a right royal dust up, although my money would have been on Gordon taking the Maserati to the head of this group. In fact, I had fully expected him to split the two sports racing Astons at the front of the grid but it was his first time at the circuit and was playing himself in, but he, too, had higher expectations from the race. Nicholas Ruddell put his Aston DB2/4 Mk 1 on row 4 with Richard Woolmer unexpectedly qualifying Matthew Collings Austin Healey alongside, in an excellent eighth. It was an all Shepherd family row 5, with Ted (AC Ace) outqualifying his Dad, Andy, in the Jefferies DB MKIII. Lining up directly behind Andy was Chris Woodgate in the Gross DB MkIII having been just outqualified by the lovely and rare Frazer Nash Targa Florio of Anthony Galliers-Pratt. First of the ‘Mort’ Goodall cup cars, not unexpectedly, was David Freeman in the Spa Special qualifying a fine 13th with Holly Mason Franchitti, best of the 1.5 litre Astons qualifying in 23rd in this truly splendid field of 26 cars.
This was Race 3 of the Autumn Classic’s fine programme and an excellent array of Aston Martins and Invitation cars emerged from the slip road onto the track bathed in a warm sunshine that belied the October date. They followed the Course car around the circuit to form up on the grid, the two British Racing Green Aston Martin DB3S cars of Simon Hadfield and Steve Boultbee-Brooks presenting a stunning front row to this wonderful grid of cars. Whilst Simon made a good start, Steve bogged down a little allowing both the second row DB2s of David Reed and Chris Jolly to move ahead. Gordon McCulloch also made a good start in the sleek yellow Maserati to demote Steve to 5th but during the first lap the two sports racers tripped over each other a couple of times and were jumped by Paul De Havilland in the Jaguar XK150 and the pattern of the race at the front was set. Further back, David Freeman, the ‘Mort’ Goodall Cup poleman in the Spa Special, was outdragged by some of the postwar cars sitting behind him and was never able to recover the position, proof, if any were needed, of his fine qualifying effort. He nevertheless stayed at the head of the pre-war field.
Having been separated from his fellow sports racers by the squabbling Reed and Jolly DB2s and the big XK 150, Hadfield drove off into the distance to remind us what a competitive car the DB3S can be on its day. In period, when it gave something away in power to the Jaguars and Ferraris, it often made up for this in the handling department and Simon was able to show this off to good effect. Meanwhile Paul De Havilland having thrust the Jaguar into 4th place, and not content simply to race whilst recovering from the effects of flu, then had to contend with the gear knob breaking off in his hand! Briefly, whilst he adapted to his new predicament, the gap to Reed and Jolly grew but neither McCulloch, nor Boultbee-Brooks were able to capitalise so they remained in 5th and 6th respectively.
Whilst Hadfield drew clear, the next 5 places raced in close order as they, too, pulled away from the rest of the field. Ted Shepherd in the AC Ace displaced Nick Ruddell’s DB2/4 to occupy 7th place, an increasingly lonely position that he was to occupy for the rest of this 20 minute race, whilst pater, Andy, in the DB MkIII, overcame Richard Woolmer in the Austin Healey to go after Nick. Anthony Galliers-Pratt in the Frazer Nash Targa Florio also started to close in on Woolmer but was never quite able to get within striking range. Behind them Richard Walker, having overtaken Steve Wright in the Porsche 356 then pulled away, getting quicker and quicker as the race wore on. He improved his qualifying lap time by 5 seconds and his best race lap was better than several cars ahead of him, but he was too far behind to catch them and finished 12th. Wright, meanwhile had Chris Woodgate, driving the Gross DB MKIII, looming large in his mirrors and pressing hard. Steve’s attempts at keeping the big Aston at bay took a toll on the Porsche’s brakes and Chris overtook him on the last lap although, for some reason, this change of position is not recorded in the official results!
In the Race for the Mort Goodall Cup, David Freeman, as expected had the pace to pull away from the other prewar Astons to keep Nigel Grice’s postwar DB2/4 company but the other 2 litre cars of Peter Dubsky, Paul Chase-Gardner and David Ozanne kept close order and looked superb, a description that applied equally to the 3 wonderful ex works LM cars. Annette Mason in LM21 found 5 seconds on her qualifying time to move ahead of Holly Mason- Franchitti in LM17 whilst Chloe Mason circulating a little further back also improved substantially on her qualifying times in LM18.
Before returning to the battle at the front, I draw attention to 4 other cars that graced this lovely field but not so far illustrated in this report – Christopher Mann’s fabulous Alfa Romeo Disco Volante, David Bennett’s beautiful Aston Martin DB3S, Amanda Hadfield’s Elva Courier, a car which recalled the fact that Jon Gross campaigned one of these as well as the Aston, and Chloe Mason in Aston Martin Ulster LM18.
The battle for 2nd was intense particularly between David Reed and Chris Jolly who got alongside a couple of times and it was quite fraught on one occasion when they caught some lapped cars going into Bobbies and Jolly had to take to the grass when Reed took the racing line. Paul de Havilland was also in close attendance ready to pounce in the Jaguar, his straightline speed showing an edge over the Astons. The gap between these three and McCulloch in the Maserati and Boultbee Brooks in the DB3S tended to be of an elastic nature but all 5 cars were often in the same shot and put on a great show. Eventually, De Havilland got a run on Jolly and took 3rd place but there was no relief for Reed who now merely had a Jaguar breathing down his neck instead of another Aston. Still Gordon McCulloch in the Maserati was unable to get into this action but stayed in touch whereas Steve Boultbee-Brookes had one moment too many and got detached from the group.
The race came to a close after 20 minutes of pretty intense activity, for not only were there battles for the places but there was also plenty of lappery given the performance differentials. Simon Hadfield won by 56 seconds but just 2 seconds covered the next 4 cars and every one of this lovely grid of cars finished; yes, even the Frazer Nash Targa Florio of doubting Anthony Galliers-Pratt who was well rewarded with 11th place in a car that he raced again later in the day.
It took a lot of people to make this special race happen. Whilst, immodestly, I can claim the idea was mine, it was Mark Campbell who suggested that it should be a standalone race and Castle Combe as the venue. It would not have occurred without the full support of Sue Gross and Jon’s daughters, Jenefer and Debbie, and grateful thanks are also due to them for allowing Chris Woodgate to race Jon’s Aston Martin. Thanks also to Chris for his moral support. Andy Shepherd was instrumental in introducing Sue to the idea and enabling contact and I also acknowledge Simon Jefferies magnanimous gesture in allowing Andy to race his Aston Martin as Simon was out of the country. The goodwill and warmth towards Jon was most evident in the response to the invitations and although we had a very good turnout of Aston Martins, nevertheless there were a number of owner/racers who were disappointed not to be part of this tribute, due almost certainly to the relatively short notice given. So, thank you to all those competitors who did participate and whilst it may seem invidious to single out anyone, I would like to thank Wolfgang Friedrichs who acceded to my gentle but frequent nagging to enter his DB3S despite being unable to race in it himself and for allowing Simon Hadfield to drive in his place. It again says much for Jon that Wolfgang should send the car to this race. Very special thanks to Andy Hodge who made The Jon Gross Memorial Trophy so unique, from various car components, which I’m told would have greatly appealed to Jon. I’m only sorry that I wasn’t there to witness the awards ceremony being on the other side of the circuit at the time! Thanks also our race sponsor, Cotswold Classic Car restorations, and of course to Castle Combe and in particular, Secretary of the Meeting Jo Lewkowic who had to put up with a bombardment of phone calls and e mails from me, and probably Mark, too.
It was also Mark Campbell who came up with the idea of putting Mortimer Morris-Goodall’s name to the prewar part of the Aston race, and both he and I were extremely surprised that such an award was not currently in existence for such a well-known character within Aston Martin circles. He was, afterall, a founder member of AMOC, its first Honorary Secretary, filling various roles including that of Club President fronm 1951-1953 as well as an Aston racer both sides of the war. Many thanks are due to Gillian Carr for locating a suitable cup and ensuring its preparation in time!
Apologies if I have left anyone out!
The Jon Gross Memorial Trophy
- Simon Hadfield - Aston Martin DB3S
- David Reed - Aston Martin DB2
- Paul De Havilland - Jaguar XK150
Aston Martin Sports Racing Class (SR)
- Simon Hadfield - Aston Martin DB3S
- Steve Boultbee-Brooks - Aston Martin DB3S
- David Bennett - Aston Martin DB3S
Aston Martin GT Class (GT)
- David Reed - Aston Martin DB2
- Chris Jolly - Aston Martin DB2
- Nichols Ruddell - Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk1
Post War Invitation Class
- Paul De Havilland - Jaguar XK150
- Gordon McCulloch - Maserati 200Si
- Ted Shepherd - AC Ace Bristol
The Mort Goodall Cup
- David Freeman - Aston Martin 2 - litre Speed Model (The Spa Special)
- Peter Dubsky - Aston Martin 15/98
- Paul Chase-Gardner - Aston Martin 15/98
Although not separated or awarded (but next year it will be!), the 1500cc Class winner,
- Annette Mason - Aston Martin Ulster LM21
Drive of the Day Award (sponsored by Mark Campbell and Trophy put up by Rex J Woodgate AC Ltd)
- Chloe Mason - Aston Martin Ulster LM18