Big grids, fine racing and glorious spring weather added up to the perfect start for the Historic Sports Car Club’s season at Donington Park on Saturday (8 April).
A full nine-race programme with 250 entries was capped by a fantastic 55-car line-up for Historic Formula Ford 1600 and a sensational championship race was decided by just 0.057s when Callum Grant nosed ahead of Michael O’Brien in the sprint to the flag.
First race was the Historic Road Sports Championship round and young Will Plant took over his father Richard’s Morgan Plus 8 to score the first win of the HSCC season. However, he had to contend with a major early challenge from the Lotus Elans of John Davison and Peter Shaw. In fact, it was his own moment at the chicane that allowed Plant to escape as the sight of the Morgan sideways across the track prompted Davison to spin. Shaw moved into second and held off the recovering Davison to the flag.
With the fastest 24 Formula Fords from two qualifying sessions going straight into the championship race, the remaining 31 cars ran in a 20-minute qualifier, from which the top eight finishers took the final grid places for the later race. Andrew Mansell had an early moment of glory by leading a race for the first time, but Ross Drybrough and Chris Sharples duly edged him back to third as they ran to the line in close company.
Jack Drury was the star of the Historic Touring Car Championship race with a debut victory at the wheel of the Ford Falcon built and prepared by his father Terry. Despite very limited time in the car, Drury drove a storming race against the Ford Mustang of Warren Briggs and the Lotus Cortina of Ben Winrow to score a memorable victory. Unfortunately, Briggs dropped to sixth in the final results due to a 30-second penalty for a non-working transponder, so Winrow was second from team mate Paul Pheysey. Barry Sime topped the smaller-engined cars in seventh in his Mini Cooper and defending champion Simon Benoy headed the Hillman Imps from Steve Platts.
Andrew Park opened his title defence with a classy victory in the Historic Formula Ford 2000 Championship opener, which featured a tremendous 30-car field with the addition of the URS Classic FF2000 runners.
From the start Park was under intense pressure from Nelson Rowe but a long grassy moment out of the chicane cost Rowe a lot of time and handed Park some breathing space. Rowe dropped back to third behind the flying Tom White (Osella FAF) and though Rowe tigered back to second, Park was well clear. Benn Simms started at the back of the grid after a carburettor problem in qualifying, but scythed through the field to a spectacular fourth. Meanwhile, the leading URS runners had a fine battle and just three-tenths of a second covered the Van Diemens of Chris Lord, Chris Levy and Jon Finch at the flag.
David Shaw scooped Derek Bell Trophy victory in the striking Eifelland-bodied March 721 Grand Prix car in what was surely the car’s first race win. Shaw moved ahead in the results when Jamie Brashaw (March 73A) and Mark Dwyer (March 742) were excluded from first and second for coming through to the front of the pack in a mid-race safety car period. In the Classic F3 contest, which featured a strong field, Gaius Ghinn topped the 2-litre cars in his Ralt RT3 from the similar car of Paul Smith while Adrian Langridge headed the 1600cc cars in his Dastle Mk10.
The Historic Formula Ford Championship race was an absolute thriller with fierce battling all the way down the capacity grid. To everyone’s credit, only three cars failed to finish and of those Tim Brise was able to drive back to the pits after the race following a trip into the gravel.
Up front, Michael O’Brien took the early advantage and edged a few yards clear as Richard Tarling chased. However, once clear of a mighty contest for third, Callum Grant moved into contention and was soon on O’Brien’s gearbox. Grant then squeezed ahead, but O’Brien was back in front into the final lap. Down to the chicane for the last time they both went very late on the brakes and Grant grabbed second to get a better run to the flag. They were side-by-side over the line, but Grant got the verdict by 57-thousandths of a second. Tarling, worried about engine temperature, held third as Cameron Jackson, Sam Mitchell, Benn Simms and Benn Tilley enacted a titanic battle for fourth.
A safety car period in the middle of the Guards Trophy race shook the order up as it came just as the pit-stop window opened. In the gravel at the Old Hairpin were the front-running Chevron B8 of Hugh Colman and the Jaguar E-type of Paul Castaldini.
From the re-start the Lotus 23B of Michael and Andrew Hibberd held a narrow lead but Charles Allison was closing fast in his Chevron B8 and Andrew H could not fend off the Chevron. However, the Hibberds were delighted to score the overall podium finish they have always thought was possible with the Lotus. Philip Nelson made it two B8s in the top three while Dominic Barnes made a storming AC Cobra debut to head the TVRs in the GT division.
A huge and varied grid of 70s Road Sports was headed by Charles Barter in his Datsun 240Z but only after an entertaining contest with the Lotus Europa of fellow former champion Jim Dean. It was nip and tuck from the start and Barter seemed to have lost his chance when he knocked the ignition master switch off mid-race.
But fortunes changed again when Dean suffered in traffic and then hit a clutch cable problem. With the Europa finishing the race in fourth gear, Barter went well clear over the final laps. Iain Daniels had a run in Peter Shaw’s newly-prepared Europa and took third despite an overshoot at the chicane, while Robert Gates took his Jaguar E-type to fourth.
An encouraging Classic Clubmans field closed the programme and there was another commanding win for Mark Charteris. John Harrison ran second until his engine expired in the final half lap and he pulled off at the chicane. With Mike Lane limping slowly to the flag Alun Cook moved from fourth to second in the last two laps, with David Wale taking third. Clive Wood got the better of Barry Webb in the B Sport class after a typically sporting contest while Roger Waite (Royale S2000M) headed the Sports 2000 class.