Silverstone Classic, the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival, celebrated its 30th edition, due originally for 2020, but postponed due to world events. The last weekend of July, in the midst of a traditionally rainy English summer, saw drivers, teams and fans alike descend on the Northamptonshire circuit.
With grids from Masters Historic Racing and the Historic Sports Car Club, the circuit hosted a sumptuous feast of classic racing, with packed grids and spectators adorning the grandstands.
The 30th anniversary of this event, also hosted celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the unmistakable Jaguar E Type, the 50th anniversary of the Triumph Stag and the 40th anniversary of the DMC DeLorean.
Friday, beset by torrential rain at times, saw qualifying sessions throughout the day, with track conditions tricky for drivers through all classes. This didn’t dampen spirits though, with limits being tested and pace being found throughout the fields. The British weather, true to its reputation for unpredictability didn’t offer much in the way of summer sunshine for the remainder of the weekend either, with conditions on track ranging from ‘almost dry’ to ‘aquaplaning inevitable’ with alarming frequency.
Historic Formula Junior
Opening the racing over both days was the Historic Formula Junior. Originally a feeder series to direct aspiring young drivers into Formula One, legendary names such as Clark, Surtees, Hulme, Rindt and Hailwood all graduated from this Formula. The Brabham BT2 were the class of the field, with Richard Bradley and Cameron Jackson both taking a win apiece, the Lotus 22 of Pierre Livingstone taking the only non-Brabham podium place in race 2.
Pre-War BRDC 500
The MRL Pre-War BRDC 500 was an incredible spectacle with sports cars from the 1920’s and 1930’s jousting around the high speed corners of Silverstone. The Wakeman/Blakeney-Edwards Frazer Nash TT replica taking the race win by just over half a minute from the hard charging Talbot AV105 Brooklands, with Clive Morley’s Bentley 3/41/2 claiming third spot.
Historic Formula 2
The eardrum-perforating Historic Formula 2 enjoyed two races over the weekend, with a grid of over 40 cars competing for honours. An incredible first race saw less than half a second separating the winner Matthew Wrigley in his March 782 from the March 742 of Andrew Smith, with Miles Griffiths in the Ralt RT1 claiming third step on the podium his.
Roles were reversed in Sunday’s second race, however, with Smith turning the tables on Wrigley and bringing his March home five seconds clear of Wrigley in second.
RAC Historic Tourist Trophy
One of the undoubted highlights of the weekend was the incredibly close racing seen in the Royal Automobile Club Historic Tourist Trophy for pre-63 GT cars. A wonderfully eclectic array of cars took to the track, with the two Jaguar E Types setting the early pace. It looked to be a clean sweep, until the hard charging Lukas Halusa in the unmistakable Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan turned the tables, and with some intense wheel to wheel battles, Halusa came home in first, narrowly edging out the Nottingham/Stanley piloted E-Type, with the second charging E Type of Fisken/Ward coming in third, narrowly edging out the chasing pack of Cobras, Healeys and the stunning DB4 of Les Goble.
Masters Historic Formula One
After the sad loss of Murray Walker earlier this year, it was only fitting that his legacy be cemented by the Masters Historic Formula One, in the form of the Murray Walker Memorial Trophy. Always an incredible sight and sound, with dazzling and remarkable liveries, this is a series that never fails to disappoint.
With races on both Saturday and Sunday, the screaming sound of Cosworth DFVs filled the air, as the Ensign N108B of Michael Lyons took a thrilling win on Saturday from the FW07C of Mike Cantillon and Jamie Constable in the Tyrrell 011. The top five were reversed for the grid on Sunday, but again Lyons was in sublime form, taking a dominant victory over Cantillon, with the resplendent McLaren MP4/1 of Steve Hartley taking third.
With no respite, the HSCC Thundersports left the pits, led by the thunderous March 717 and McLaren M8F. Offering a closely fought opening few laps, before the unfortunate retirement of Dean Forward’s McLaren.
With the 8.8 litre bright blue March seeming likely favourite to take the honours, it was Tony Sinclair who stepped forward with a raft of scintillating laps, to bring his Lola T292 home in first by a mere 0.3 seconds in front of Lockie in the March, and Kevin Cooke in his March 75S.
Classic Mini Challenge
Always a crowd favourite, and a guarantee of high spirited, plucky and exciting racing, the Classic Mini Challenge provided entertainment in the form of two races over the Classic weekend. Living up to the expectation, Race One saw the top four finishers separated by a gap of 1.5 seconds. Bill Sollis taking the race win, with Nathan Heathcote and Chris Middlehurst hot on his heels.
The final race of the weekend saw more closely fought action, Heathcote finishing ahead of Endaf Evans, with Bill Sollis making up the third podium place to close the action of a fantastic weekend of racing.
HGPCA Pre-66 Grand Prix Cars
Celebrating the golden era of motorsport history, the HGPCA Pre-66 Grand Prix Cars enjoyed two outings on track over the weekend. Proving that these cars have lost none of their competitive edge over the years, the Lotus 18 372 of Sam Wilson won Race One, narrowly edging out Will Nuthall in the Cooper T53 by a mere 0.2s. Tables turned for Race two, as Andrew Haddon in the Scarab Offenhauser stormed to a dominant victory over Rudiger Freidrichs in the first of two Cooper T53s making up the podium places.
Transatlantic Trophy for Pre-66 Touring Cars
A firm favourite of the British crowds, the Transatlantic Trophy for Pre-66 Touring Cars brings back evocative memories of the legendary battles between the snarling Mustangs and the nimble and fearless Lotus Cortinas and Minis.
A 45 minute race saw incredible battles throughout the field, as well versed drivers charged their way around the high speed corners of Silverstone. In the end, the Ford Mustang of Craig Davies claimed the honours, after scintillating battles with the Lotus Cortinas of Jewell/Clucas and Richard Dutton, and the Mann/Soper Mustang which claimed third.
Masters Endurance Legends
One of the most spellbinding of the weekend’s events was the double header of the Masters Endurance Legends. By far the most modern of all the grids over the weekend, a dazzling array of endurance prototypes and GT cars delighted the fans, with drying track conditions allowing them to stretch their legs on the high speed circuit.
The Lola B12/60 of Rob Wheldon setting a Silverstone Classic Lap Record in his high speed pursuit of the Peugeot 908 of Francois Perrodo, following an Elite Driver pit stop time penalty, before bringing the Lola home first, ahead of Perrodo, and Jamie Constable in the Pescarolo LMP1.
Steve Tandy didn’t have fortune on his side in the second race, however, as a gearbox issue forced his retirement, leaving a duo of Peugeots to contest the race win. Perrodo bringing his 908 to the top step of the podium, usurping Shaun Lynn in the second 908, with Constable again taking third after holding off the Porsche RS Spyder of Emmanuel Collard.
Masters Historic Sports Cars
A highlight of many of the UK classic racing events, the Masters Historic Sports Cars took to the track late on Saturday evening, with fading light, and heavy rain adding extra complexity to the challenge of pedalling these glorious machines.
The hotly tipped Alex Brundle lived up to expectations taking his Lola T70 to victory, on a slowly drying track, leading two more Lolas of Oliver Bryant and Beighton/Hadfield to the podium, with the Chevron B19 of Tom Bradshaw narrowly missing out on a podium finish by less than a second.
Royal Automobile Club Woodcote and Stirling Moss Trophies
Racing into the night, we were not gifted with a dazzling sunset, but the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote and Stirling Moss Trophies provided a curtain closer to the programme on Saturday that will live long in the memory. A living celebration of racing sports cars post war, through to 1961, to witness these cars racing on into the night creates an evocative memory that will not be forgotten.
An incredible variety of manufacturers were represented, but it was Lotus that came out on top with the Lotus 11 of Martin O’Connell taking a thrilling victory, from Roger Willis in the Lotus 15. The Lister Knobbly of Ward/Smith doing well to edge out the Lister Jaguar Costin of Pearson/Brundle and the Tojeiro Ecosse Jaguar of Cottingham/Stanley.
Historic Touring Car Challenge
Through the Sunday morning drizzle, on a damp and uninviting morning, the MRL Historic Touring Car Challenge proved the perfect pick-me-up, better than any bacon sandwich and espresso combo.
The sights and sounds of classic touring cars taking to the track, with exhausts flaming as if to signify the start of a new day, lit up the crowd, with the Sierra Cosworth of Wright/Coyne taking a dominant win, in front of a number of hotly contested battles, not least by the Capri of Steve Dance coming home in second ahead of Touring Car legend Steve Soper, partnering with Davies in another RS500.
60th Anniversary E-Type Challenge
As a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the inimitable Jaguar E Type, no less than 43 cars set off racing at Silverstone to honour this landmark celebration. It is quite the spectacle to witness so many of these race-prepared Jaguars in one place, let alone racing on such an incredible circuit.
Unfortunately, the weather was not kind, and heavy rain plagued the race, making for incredibly difficult conditions to control these machines on track. The win was awarded to Jon Minshaw after the session was red flagged, with second going to Ben Mitchell and Danny Winstanley taking third.
International Trophy for Classic Pre-66 GT Cars
The International Trophy for Classic Pre-66 GT Cars concludes the race reports for the 2021 edition of the Silverstone Classic. With one race on the Sunday, a grid packed with hard racing and fast charging cars from the 1960s delighted the crowds, with a 50 minute race allowing intense battles and close racing all the way through the field.
On the fast Silverstone circuit, the large engines of the Cobras shone brightly, with the Thomas/Lockie Daytona Cobra claiming the win, with Oliver Bryant in an AC Cobra on the second step, and a second Daytona in the hands of Alderslade/Jordan taking third.
Damon Hill Returns To His Title Winning FW18
An additional highlight was the celebration of Damon Hill’s Formula One World Championship title, as the British driver stepped back into the iconic William FW18 for demonstration laps around Silverstone, 25 years on from his dominant campaign. Crowds delighted in the sight and sound of the legendary 3 litre V10 beast stretching its legs around the circuit that saw a famous win for Damon in 1995.
As far as historic racing in the UK, the Silverstone Classic cannot be beaten. It truly offers something for everyone, and after a year’s absence, it was truly a delight to see the circuit packed with fans, enjoying the return of the largest historic racing event in the UK.