Motor Racing Legends ran four races at this year’s Donington Historic Festival – for pre-War sports cars, 1950s sports cars, 1966-85 Touring Cars and pre-1961 sports-racers. Here are some of the highlights…
While the Frazer Nash Super Sport of Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards won the ‘Mad Jack’ race for pre-War sports cars by a country mile, it was the tiny three-wheeler Morgan Super Aero of Gary Caroline and Sue Darbyshire who took second place – much to the delight of spectators.
Another heroic pairing was the husband and wife team of Simon and Jo Blakeney-Edwards, sharing a Frazer Nash Shelsley that raced at Donington back in 1935. In 2012, the Nash’s back axle broke in qualifying, so Jo drove across the country to collect a borrowed differential, Simon fitted it before the race began, they started from the back of the grid – and came through to finish fifth.
Gary Pearson came both first and second in the Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy for pre-1956 sports cars… paired with Carlos Monteverde in the winning Jaguar D-type, and sharing the second-placed D-type with his own brother, John Pearson. With four laps of the race to go, Gary was in the curious position of coming up to overtake his brother in the D-type he had himself been driving in the earlier part of the race. Mention must also be made of motorsport’s racing vicar, the Reverend Simon Butler, who was very modest about his chances in this, his first historic event. But he and Jonathan Crouch took their shared C-type to 14th place overall, and 4th in class.
The tussle for first place between the Jaguar TWR XJS of Gary Pearson and Alex Buncombe, and the Ford RS1800 of Mark Wright and Dave Coyne, was the highlight of this nail-biting round of the JD Classics Challenge for 1966-85 Touring Cars. Watching from the grandstand, racing legend Win Percy was egging on the Jaguar, lying in second place but rapidly reeling in the Ford. “That TWR XJS means a lot to me,” he said.
“It’s the actual car I drove here in 1984, to my first European Touring Car win. I had a bet with Tom as to whether I could take the Craner Curves flat. He said I couldn’t, I said I could. I did it once, but only once – after that the tyres wouldn’t take it.” Along with the rest of the spectators, Win’s heart was in his mouth as the JD Classics Challenge race came to its final lap. Heading into Redgate, Alex Buncombe attempted a do-or-die manoeuvre on the RS1800, and slipped between the Ford and a back marker to take the lead. “He’s going to do it!” yelled Win Percy… but sadly not. Later in that final lap, out of sight of the main grandstand, Buncombe spun and had to settle for second place.
The great man himself was there to watch the race named in his honour, the Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-1961 sports-racing cars, and Sir Stirling happily presented the trophies in the pit-lane when the victorious cars came in. And what a race it was. Bobby Verdon-Roe put in a spectacular performance in the 1959 Le Mans-winning Aston Martin DBR1, beautifully prepared by Tim Samways, staying in the lead for the first half of the race but never more than a second ahead of the Lister Knobbly of Martin Stretton.
When the two cars pitted, Stretton handed over the Knobbly to Jon Minshaw, while Bobby – as a single driver – had to keep the Aston stationary in the pit-lane for 45 seconds. As a result, when the two cars were back on track the Lister was ahead, but Bobby didn’t give up – closing in until on the penultimate lap he slipped back into the lead and won by a mere 1.4 seconds.