There’s something special about Croft – an historic venue which blends the old-school airfield track’s rugged charm with the infield leg’s modern nuances – when the sun shines. After a damp start to Friday’s test day, the yellow orb’s omnipresence from dawn until dusk on the club’s 12th visit since 2010 was glorious, welcomed by almost 200 competitors, including a strong Scottish contingent.
Saturday victories sealed Ben Tinkler’s first SDC Classic Formula Ford title, Graham Fennymore’s second in Historic FF2000, Callum Grant’s third in Historic FF and a belated maiden Historic One-Litre F3 crown for 19-year-old Samuel Harrison. Unbeaten in two seasons, the Yorkshireman was denied last year’s top honours because university studies precluded him from contesting Dijon’s finale.
Two magnificent performances in Mike O’Brien’s ex-Ian Walker Racing/Peter Westbury Brabham BT21B erased that memory and left battling rivals Jason Timms (BT21) and Andy Jarvis and Simon Armer (ex-Peter Deal and Tom Walkinshaw March 703s) gasping.
Harrison’s best lap was barely 2.5s seconds outside the event’s best car race time, set by Fennymore. By contrast the 250cc Superkart mark was Matt Robinson’s 1m18.601s (96.18mph) in the Superprix feature, won brilliantly by Ross Allen, a Silverstone Aurora race winner at Silverstone in May in Keith Bisp’s F2 March-BMW 762!
Tinkler, Fennymore and Grant also repeated their victories on Sunday. Ben was on imperious form in his Van Diemen RF80, pursued hardest by Donington winner Jake Shortland in his rakish Lola T440. Thirds were shared by Rick Morris, his Royale RP29’s engine short of puff, and Joseph Ahrens whose RP26’s master switch failed on Saturday. Chris Porritt (Titan Mk6) was uncatchable in the Pre ’74 class.
A clash between Fennymore and Historic FF2000 polesitter Jordan Harrison on Saturday ended the Lola T580 driver’s race within seconds. Fennymore lost out briefly to Andy Storer (“I’d forgotten how to lead”) and Richard Coleman, but was soon ahead. Ollie Roberts was slow away with a sticky clutch and had a first lap spin, but – helped by a safety car – recovered to snatch second from Storer and Coleman. Sunday’s race was stopped twice, latterly with Lancaster’s Hawke DL16 in the Clervaux gravel bed. Results were counted back to one lap, with Fennymore, Storer, Coleman and Adrian Langridge ahead of Harrison, bumped a place from their red flag order.
Historic FF1600 provided the races of the weekend, scintillating lead battles between Grant (Merlyn Mk20A) and Benn Simms (Jomo JMR7), already a triple champion. Scrapping wheel-to-wheel, the aces ran abreast from Tower through the flat-out Jim Clark Esses on occasions, demonstrating respect and trust. Simms took the chequer by a tiny margin, but red flags – for Oliver Chapman’s Lola, stranded between Clervaux and Hawthorn – reversed the order. Neither Benn nor Callum cared amid the handshakes. Over 50s’ winner Porritt, Rob Wainwright (Elden) and initial leader Ted Pearson (Merlyn) chased them in.
The top four repeated on Sunday, Grant prevailing following an opportunistic pass into the Complex. Spencer Shinner climbed to fifth in his ‘Heinz Baked Beans’ tribute Merlyn, which should carry #57. Having had components flown in by helicopter, Chapman’s race was over at the chicane on lap one, with both front corners buckled after contact with Canadian Tony Cove’s March 709.
Imbued with Scottish Classic series spirit, the HSCC Historic Touring Cars and Modsports/Special Saloons qualified en masse, before being split. Having rebuilt his Ford Anglia’s engine following Silverstone’s blow-up, Neil Wood drove the black beauty brilliantly to win the TC opener from Alastair Baptie, who wriggled his Fiat X1/9 through from the back, having practiced his MGB GTV8 from the other side of the equation. Mark Watts (Mustang), Joseph Sledmore (Lotus Cortina) and Steve Platts (1040cc Singer Chamois) were next back.
Although heavy (1500kg) and relatively underpowered, the Fiat’s traction and handling saw Baptie snare Sunday gold from Wood. The Mustang went lame, so Sledmore and Platts moved up as Gary Thomas guided his Lotus 7 home fifth, ahead of Adrian Oliver’s Imp. Iain Mitchell’s Vauxhall Nova and Paul Bowers Fiat 128 Coupe added variety and colour to the top 10.
Croft was a hotbed of Modsports and Special Saloon racing in the 1970s with John Absolom, Andy Barton, Sedric Bell, Alex Clacher, Jim Evans, Jim Clark’s cousin Doug Niven, Tony Sugden and Jeff Wilson among the stars. The HSCC’s retrospectives proved real crowd-pleasers on Sunday, although the V8s hit trouble in the opener, Andy Wilson’s DAF V8 an early casualty, Andy Robinson’s Ford Falcon losing its gearbox oil bung, Nigel Reuben’s TVR Griffith shedding a wheel while second and Andy Willis’ wondrous Austin A302 spinning out at Sunny.
Head down, Paul Sibley outran Reuben through bravado in the corners in his 150bhp MG Midget. Scots John Kinmond (Rover SDI) and Baptie’s equally sideways MG, Martin Morris’ Midget, Mark Campbell’s Triumph TR5 and Steve Watton’s splendid Turner-Ford completed the top six after the TVR’s demise. Robinson kept Sibley honest later, but the gear selection-hobbled Falcon’s prey escaped. Scot Andrew Graham’s Triumph TR8 survived an unfortunate clonk with Morris’ MG [which cannoned into the pit lane entrance barrier], to finish third, with Watton, double spinner Willis, Kinmond and Baptie on his tail at flagfall after a frenetic tussle.
Roadsports competitors enjoyed a cracking social weekend and two entertaining races, honours spread among the Historic and ’70s runners in a 39-strong entry. John Shaw’s pilgrimage from the south coast was rewarded with victories in his Morgan +8 over John Williams’ Porsche 911SC, Sunday’s early pacemaker, and Antony Ross (TVR 3000M). Lotus dogfights embroiling Mark Godfrey and Jonathan Stringer (7s), and Jonathan Rose (Elan S1), and ’70s class wins for Mark Leverett (Elan S4) and Peter Hore (Porsche 924) were among the highlights.
Lincolnshire-domiciled Geordie Mike Bainbridge bagged memorable maiden Aurora wins in his Formula Atlantic spec Brabham BT35, narrowly beating Mike Bletsoe-Brown’s peakier F2 Chevron-BDG B27, which snapped sideways in Sunday’s final drag race from the hairpin. When Jim McGaughay’s FA Swift DB4 cut-out, Scottish Classic F3 battlers David Thorburn and Fraser Gray (Ralt RT3s) and Belgian Louis Hanjoul (Argo JM1, revelling on new tyres) finished directly behind the leaders, split by half a second.
Like Bainbridge from Neil Fowler Motorsport’s stable, Rob and Ben Tusting (Lenham P69 twin-cam) trumped Chevron-BMW B8 men Steve Nuttall and David Forsbrey in the Guards Trophy finale. Despite only four of the seven starters running for much of the hour – George and Neil Daws’ Merlyn Mk6A rejoined laps after spinning – it was a good race.
REPORT BY MARCUS PYE