Story by Ed McDonough and photos by author and Simon Wright
The Classic Endurance Series again provided a superb entry and race to accompany the 1000 Kilometer Le Mans Series event at Silverstone on Saturday, September 12. 56 entries practiced and qualified over two days, with Rob Hall in Abba Kogan’s Matra 670C taking pole position from Ludovic Caron’s 1973 Chevron B21-BDG. The three sessions saw a number of incidents and mechanical woes meant 44 cars took the starter’s flag on a brilliant sunny Saturday afternoon.
Notable non-starters included the Prototype 1 Lola T210 FVC of Gareth Burnett and Geoff Lister which had topped the class qualifying. An oil leak in the final session made them decide not to risk the engine. Noted drummer Neil Primrose had a rod go through the block on Friday in his quick Lola T212 which had been 3rd fastest in the class.
Though Rob Hall headed the field on the race warm-up lap, having gotten the ‘no down-force’ Matra into the 1 minute 49 second bracket, it was a very quick starting Paul Knapfield who came charging round in front on the first lap, his new tires and some adjustments having given him an edge. Knapfield was driving the ex-Mario Andretti Ferrari 712P Can-Am car, something of a handful with no wing and rather ‘tall’ ride height, but it was flying. Hall followed, with David Gathercole having moved the ex-Gitanes Lola T290-BMW onto the Matra’s tail.
As the famed Howmet TX Turbine car steamed by near the back with a very interesting mix of cars, there was real fighting at the front. After three laps of the Grand Prix circuit, Knapfield had two seconds on the Matra and another two to Gathercole. A few seconds further back, the tussle of the race was beginning to take shape. Caron’s Chevron held 4th as the famed Porsche 936, Ickx’s ex-Le Mans winner, driven by Jean-Marc Luco moved up into 5th, with a fierce scrap going on between Bobby Rahal and John Burton. The Indy winner was driving the Lola T290-BDG which he had driven many years ago and had bought back for historic events. Burton, one the top Chevron drivers in the 1970s, was in a B26. Da Rocha in a Lola T298-BMW the Busst/Freeman Chevron B31 were right behind, and the 2-liter cars were never more than a few inches apart. Philippe Brunn had the Sauber-BMW in this group as well, all sliding through the Abbey Chicane every lap. Marc Devis had started the Mirage further down the field but was making up ground in spite of brakes that needed to be pumped on every corner.
One of BMW M1s only lasted a lap, and the fast March of Hart/Caton only made three tours. Rob Hall eased past Knapfield on lap five, as did Gathercole, and then the Ferrari stopped after 11 laps. The Howmet made a few stops, and then the Brunn Sauber was gone on lap 17. On the same lap, Rob hall came round with a puncture and went into the pits, not to return. Gathercole in the Lola had one glorious lap in front and he too was out. Though many cars only had a single driver, there was a mandatory pit stop. After the stop, the advantage went to the flying Rahal, chased very hard by John Burton. Two great stars were having a superb race through traffic.
At the one hour finish, at 30 laps, Rahal won by less than five seconds from Burton. Da Rocha took third near the end after some very robust driving from Busst/Freeman. Lafargue’s Lola T298 was next from the similar car of Cazalieres and Luco’s Porsche.
Rahal took Class P2, John Sheldon’s Chevron B16 P1, the McInerney BMW M1 GT2 and Ostmann’s Mangusta GT1. Ten cars, including the three original leaders, retired with Rob Hall taking fastest lap. It was generally agreed that the modern prototypes would be hard pressed to put on such a good show the next day.
Classic Endurance Race at Silverstone Results and Photo Gallery (click on image for larger picture)
[Source: Story by Ed McDonough; photos, Ed McDonough and Simon Wright]