Here are Henry Hope-Frost's top 10 moments from 2017's running of the Silverstone Classic!
AUG 01st 2017
Henry Hope‑Frost’s Top 10 Silverstone Classic moments
‘Gentleman Jim’ back in brilliant BMW
Kiwi tin-top ace Jim Richards was back behind the wheel of the JPS BMW 635CSi he first made famous in Australian Group C-class touring car racing, later winning in the Group A formula of the mid-1980s. Seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner ‘Gentleman Jim’ was on top form all weekend, running the car in the Group A class of the Jet Super Touring Car Trophy double-header and smiling for pics and autographs at all other times, as well as chatting on air to yours truly about his memories of the car and the impact he made on Australia’s legendary race at Mount Panorama with Holden, Nissan and Volvo.
Talbot versus ’Nash in Kidston thriller
One of the best scraps of the 22-race weekend was the David-v-Goliath battle for Kidston Trophy Pre-War Sports Car honours between the huge 1931 3.5-litre Talbot 105 of Gareth Burnett and the spindly 1.5-litre 1928 Frazer Nash Supersports of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards. The two were locked together for the final few laps after PB-E had brought the diminutive chain-driven machine onto the tail of the Talbot, trying everything in his impressive repertoire to outfox Burnett. He failed by less than two-tenths of a second.
1970s F1 ace Lunger joins commentary team
A very pleasant surprise for F1 fans of a certain vintage, as well as lead commentator Ian Titchmarsh, was the presence in the booth of veteran US racer Brett Lunger. The 71-year-old, who raced in 34 GPs for Hesketh, Surtees, March, McLaren and Ensign between 1975 and ’78, as well as winning in F5000 on both sides of the Atlantic, joined ‘Titch’ for one of the FIA Masters Historic Formula One races and enthusiastically and articulately chatted all things retro F1.
Brancatelli fans the flames in Eggenberger Sierra RS500
Charismatic Italian Gianfranco Brancatelli was reunited with Swiss tuning ace Rudi Eggenberger and the Bastos Ford Sierra RS500 he drove to Spa 24 Hours victory in 1989. The 67-year-old, who also tasted victory in an Eggenberger BMW 635CSi in Silverstone’s 1984 RAC Tourist Trophy, got his elbows out in the Group A class of the Jet Super Touring Car Trophy double-header, finishing second on Saturday and winning on Sunday. As he said to me on the podium afterwards: “the magic is still there!”
Fabulous Formula Ford 50th double-header
Almost 60 Formula Fords, comprising Merlyn, Elden, Jamun, Jomo, Alexis, Brabham, Lotus, Titan, Lola, Crosslé, Macon, Nike, Palliser, Ginetta, Cooper and Mallock chassis powered by the 1600cc Ford unit, gathered for two races to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the category’s birth in July 1967. And in true FF1600 slipstreaming style, the battles throughout the field were terrific. Out front, it was youngster Michael O’Brien who scored a double top aboard his Merlyn Mk20A, working slightly harder for his Saturday-morning win than his lights-to-flag masterclass the following day.
Kennard makes his mark on F1 debut
Form is temporary, class is permanent, as Jonathan Kennard, a former British Formula 3 Championship race winner and McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist proved on his debut in the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship. The 32-year-old, who hadn’t raced for six years, enjoyed just five shakedown laps in the ex-Riccardo Patrese 1980 Arrows A3 and promptly stuck the Warsteiner-liveried machine on pole ahead of reigning champion Nick Padmore and multiple race winner Michael Lyons. He charged to a second and third place in the two races but was denied his place on the podium due to the car’s technical passport needing its final sign-off. Let’s hope he comes out to play a bit more often and the paperwork gets sorted…
Silver Arrow slithers to Group C glory
One of the Sauber-Mercedes C11s, the 5-litre, twin-turbo V8 Group C weapons that won all bar one of the eight World Sportscar Championship races they contested in 1990, was a sight to behold in the assembly area for the brace of Group C races. Greek racer Kriton Lendoudis, whose speed in the 730bhp Silver Arrow that took Mauro Baldi and Jean-Louis Schlesser to the title is increasing with every run under the tutelage of Bob Berridge, qualified third for race one but fell to fourth in Saturday evening’s rain-lashed opener. With added confidence for Sunday’s equally wet sequel, Lendoudis guided the car to a strong victory having switched early to wet tyres.
Big cats on the prowl for XJ220 parade
Rarely have so many examples of Jaguar’s iconic supercar, the XJ220, gathered together in one place. The sight of scores of the 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 big cats, only 275 of which were built in the early 1990s, was incredible. The 210mph-plus supercars, which for three years were the world’s fastest production machines, paraded around the circuit led by David Brabham, back in the Tom Walkinshaw Racing-run Le Mans class winner he shared in 1993 with David Coulthard and John Nielsen.
‘Driver of the weekend’ Wilson almost perfect
Sam Wilson deservedly scooped the Motor Sport Magazine ‘Driver of the Weekend’ award on Sunday afternoon thanks to a double victory in the Commander Yorke Trophy Formula Junior races aboard his Lotus 20/22 and almost making it two out of two in the Maserati Trophy for HGPCA Pre-’66 Grand Prix cars in John Chisholm’s Lotus 18. He was denied a four-race clean sweep after finishing second to the younger Brabham BT11/19 of Jon Fairley in the second encounter. Presented with the special trophy by event director Nick Wigley, Wilson was “thrilled to be recognised after such a magical weekend”.
Williams FW14B rekindles Mansell Mania
The scream of the 3.5-litre V10 Renault around the sweeps of Silverstone brought back memories of early-1990s Mansell Mania for many spectators. A daily demo of the hugely sophisticated Williams FW14B – in which Nigel Mansell crushed his rivals en route to F1 title glory in 1992 – by fellow Midlander and accomplished single-seater race Nick Yelloly was an exciting addition. Run by Williams Heritage and presided over by period chief mechanic/race team manager Dickie Standford, the demo was a fitting tribute to both the 40th anniversary of Sir Frank’s eponymous team and the 25th anniversary of Mansell’s famous final home win. Yelloly summed it up perfectly on Twitter after his Sunday run: ‘Best. Day. Ever’.
Photography courtesy of Silverstone Classic, LAT Images and Tom Shaxson
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