The Tom Cole Trophy Race
VSCC, Silverstone, 22 April, 2018
This was the third running of the Tom Cole Trophy race, and sadly, by far the poorest supported with only 21 entries. It is fortunate that the quality didn't suffer and produced some excellent racing at the front and down the field. I again point out, as I do every year, that this race always contains a few quicker invitation sports racers which would not be eligible for our usual Inter-Marque races. However, with the reduction in the number of our regular members appearing on our grids, we may have to review this situation and make it a more frequent occurrence.
A newcomer to our ranks was Mark Shears in his splendid early Flat Rad Morgan + 4, a model in this form that we hadn't seen on our grids since Leigh Sebba's example back in 2016. In fact, we had a brace of Morgans as Alan House, brought along his later + 4 and very good to see them both it was too, as indeed it was to see Paul Chase-Gardener's Aston Martin DB2 return to this race, and the pretty MGA Sebring of Glenn & Rory Tollett. The only make to present a full marque team was that of AC with a trio Aces for Tim Pearce, David Cottingham/Adrian King and Justin Beckett. We missed Peter Bower who, unfortunately, had to withdraw his Austin Healey Sprite as did Robin Ellis in the Elite. Craig McWilliams was also a non starter in the Kieft Climax which had experienced engine maladies in testing although Craig remained in good spirits when he spoke to the writer. Two late entries introduced by David Cottingham spiced up proceedings considerably ; the very quick and lovely Maserati 250S of Richard Wilson and a handsome early spec Jaguar C-Type of Richard Brazell.
Unfortunately, the race programme published last year's notes, but this was entirely your writer's fault as having written this year's notes, he contrived, somehow, to send last year's and this unfortunately was not picked up prior to printing. Just for the record here are this year's notes, although you will see that I got it wrong about which HWM was going to be quicker and also that the Maserati entry was made well after they were written:-
We run the Tom Cole Trophy Race for the third year running. Tom was born in Wales but spent most of his tragically short life in America. He did however race at the Le Mans 24 hours in 4 consecutive years from 1950 and it was in his last, 1953, that he died at the wheel of his Ferrari. Today, we again remember him. The Trophy, in his name will go to the first drum brake car to pass the chequered flag.
The winner will almost certainly come from the pair of HWMs in the hands of Richard Woolmer and Martin Hunt, with the power and pace of the Cadillac V8 version in the hands of Richard likely to prevail over the Jaguar version of Martin. In stark contrast to these big early 1950s sports racers will be the pair of later Lotus Elites , Colin Chapman’s masterpiece, powered by tiny Coventry Climax 1216cc engines, with lightweight bodies and so thoroughly modern for the period, that they remained a force to be reckoned with well into the following decade. I anticipate that in the hands of Brian Arculus and Robin Ellis, they will be in close pursuit of the HWMs. It is also likely that both Stephen Bond in his fabulous Lister Flatiron Bristol, and Martyn Corfield in his historic Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica will also feature towards the front end of the grid.
This field of cars again provides a fine mix of sports cars from the 1950s decade and with the compulsory pit stop the race sometimes throws out surprises. I thank our hosts, the VSCC, for allowing us to again run this special race and thanks also our sponsors, Woolmer Classic Engineering.
John Turner (Chairman, FISCAR – www.fiscar.org)
Qualifying established the pace of Richard Wilson in the Maserati 250S, on pole, fully 1.5 seconds ahead of the HWM Jaguar of Martin Hunt & Patrick Blakeney-Edwards with Richard Woolmer in the HWM Cadillac a further 1.6 seconds behind but himself clear of Stephen Bond in the Lister Bristol by just under a second. 5th on the grid was the Martyn Corfield Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, shared with E. Williams (apologies, first name not known at this time) close to the Lister so a good race between these two was anticipated. However, qualifying, indicated that the first 3 would, in theory, be well away but equally not stay together long. Pleasingly, this did not transpire.
Just 1.5 seconds covered the next 5 qualifiers, led by Brian Arculus in the Lotus Elite, followed by Tim Pearce (AC Ace), David Brazell (Jaguar C -Type), David Cottingham/Adrian King (AC Ace) and Jim Campbell (Austin Healey 100/4). Alan House (Morgan Plus 4) was next up followed by Paul Chase-Gardener (Aston Martin DB2), Mark Buttterworth/Anthony Hughes, in Mark's Allard J2 (not the K3 which actually ran in the VSCC 50s Sports car race), Matthew Collings (AH 100M), Keith Hampson (Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans), Justin Becket (AC Ace) and Mark Shears (Morgan Plus 4). Ostensibly, Mark was the last on the grid but the Glenn & Rory Tollett MGA Sebring Coupe, which had failed to go out in official qualifying, was allowed to join the back of the grid after doing a number of circuits in another race's practice. Finally, Keith Hampson's Sunbeam Alpine Le Mans, which had qualified 15th, suffered a broken fan belt, and whilst such a failure would normally be an easy fix, in this case, it managed to bend the fan blades which in turn pierced the radiator. Talk about bad luck! In any event, and inevitably, the car was a non starter.
Ultimately, just 17 cars took to the grid but they presented a lovely sight and great variety from the decade that saw so much change and development in sports cars.
Richard Wilson made a relatively poor start in the Maserati, in stark contrast to Martin Hunt in the HWM Jaguar who made probably one of his best ever starts and was already showing clear air at Copse from Richard Woolmer in the HWM Cadillac. The start was crucial for Martin as the Maserati was thought to have an edge on pace suggested by qualifying times. Behind the leaders was much jockeying for positions, providing plenty of spectacle with the closeness of the cars as ever on the first lap. By the end of the lap, Richard Wilson had recovered to second place, demoting Richard Woolmer to 3rd and leaving him to fend off Stephen Bond in the Lister Bristol, and Martyn Corfield in the Frazer Nash LMR. The grunt of the big Allard J2 had taken it up to 6th, albeit 3 seconds down on Martyn but only just ahead of Brian Arculus in the Lotus Elite and a whole gaggle of chasing cars.
Into Lap 2, and the Maserati was beginning to close in on the HWM although it wasn't until the end of lap 4 that Richard had the Italian car truly glued to the tail of Martin's splendid BRG machine. Several seconds adrift, and with much arm twirling through the corners to keep the HWM V8 going where it was supposed to, Richard Woolmer was just holding at bay the close attentions of Stephen's Lister Bristol and Martyn's Frazer Nash LMR, both less powerful but nimbler, better handling cars. Brian Arculus had taken the Elite passed the fast starting Allard, which itself was under attack from David Brazell in the C Type Jaguar and the well driven AC Ace of Tim Pearce and at the end of lap 2 less than 3 seconds covered the gap between Brian in 6th place and David Cottingham's AC Ace in 11th. They made a stirring sight. Behind, the remaining 6 cars were spreading out and this was reflected in their lap times. Paul Chase-Gardner was in 12th with the DB2, clear of Glenn Tollett in the MGA, Alan House in the Morgan Plus 4, Justin Beckett's AC Ace, Matthew Colling's Austin Healey 100M and Mark Shear's Morgan + 4. It should be noted that, along with Martyn Corfield's FN LMR, Mark's 1952 Morgan was the oldest car in the race and powered by the old Standard Vanguard 2088cc engine whereas later versions had the later TR2 2-litre motor.
On lap 3, Brian Arculus scrambled ahead of the big Allard to take 6th in his Lotus Elite and he was followed through by David Brazell in the C-Type. Behind the Allard, the status quo was maintained but on the following lap, it was further demoted when Tim Pearce, going splendidly, took his AC Ace into 8th and started to challenge David in the C-Type. As we headed into Lap 5, the battle for the lead was fierce. Martin drove superbly in defence to keep the HWM in the lead from the equally well driven and beautiful Maserati. Behind, Tim had got the better of David to take the Ace ahead of the C-type and into 7th.
Lap 5 was also to see the first car to be lapped; the flat rad Morgan of Mark Shears was going well but outclassed in performance terms in this company and he was completing his 4th lap just as the two leaders completed their 5th. During the following laps, the leaders lapped several other cars whilst Martin tried to hold Richard Wilson at bay but the Maserati driver was not to be denied and finally took the lead on lap 8. Richard Woolmer had shaken off his pursuers to hold down what became a rather lonely 3rd place, whilst Martin Corfield was up to 4th in the FNLMR, Stephen Bond having pitted his Lister Bristol at the end of lap 7 for his compulsory stop. In fact, as well as Stephen, a number of others took their stop at the end of that lap - Paul Chase- Gardner in the Aston DB2, Justin Beckett in his AC Ace and, Alan House in his Morgan Plus 4.
Although the Maserati was ahead, the HWM hung on well, and Martin drove his socks off to hold the gap to less than 3 seconds. They were both well clear of Richard Woolmer in the entertaining handful that was the HWM Cadillac, the gap to the HWM Jaguar ahead of him was up to half a minute by the time he pitted at the end of lap 9, but well clear of Martyn Corfield in the FNLMR. Martyn still had Stephen Bond's Lister Bristol for company but as noted above, Stephen pitted first with Martyn going in on the following lap and handing over to E Williams. When they were both up to full speed the Lister was ahead and consistently lapping about a second quicker and drawing away. By this time many of the cars had either stopped or were about to, and as usual, as well as breaking up battles, the race became harder to follow, but the two frontrunners charged on without stopping until well into the second half of the race. On lap 11, the leader outbraked himself slightly going to Brooklands, the Maserati running in deep, and whilst Richard recovered it quickly the almost 3 second gap to Martin in the HWM was halved and it was down to 1.4 at the end of that lap. By this time everyone else had been lapped at least once, and some of those who had stopped already were two laps down. Having not yet stopped, David Brazell had his C-type Jaguar up to 3rd at this point, only briefly, as Tim Pearce emerged from his pit stop ahead of the Jaguar on lap 12. Tim was shortly to become embroiled in a great battle with Brian Arculus in the Lotus Elite, which was to take them to the flag. Jim Campbell was next up, his Austin Healey 100/4 in 5th with the Allard just 4 seconds behind but neither had yet stopped. Richard Woolmer was back up to 6th and would reclaim 3rd once all stops had been completed.
To be continued