One knowledgeable pundit voiced his belief that the entire grid was worth £85-million, not that any of the drivers in the RAC TT Celebration seemed overly concerned by the value of their steeds. This hugely popular one-hour race for closed-cockpit GT cars that raced from 1960-64 predictably witnessed some close – occasionally too close – racing.
As six-time Le Mans winner Jackie Ickx dropped the Union Jack, Justin Law in the unique Lister GT got the jump on pole man Adrian Newey’s ‘Lightweight’ Jaguar E-type. Ferrari pilots Peter Hardman and Jean-Marc Gounon shuffled the McLaren designer further down the order before the opening lap was over.
Nonetheless, the relatively inexperienced Newey performed brilliantly to stay in touch with the professional drivers directly ahead of him as Rob Hall swarmed all over the back of him in the first of a two-car train of AC-Shelby Cobras. Ten minutes into the race, the first six cars remained nose-to-tail, with former C2 World Champion Ray Bellm bringing up the rear in the tail-happy Daytona Cobra.
Peter Hardman finally got past Law as they came up to lap backmarkers with 48 minutes to go. A lap later, Gounon swept past Law with only the slightest amount of daylight covering the sextet. Newey was the first of the leaders to blink and pit for a driver change with 38 minutes left to run, handing the car over to the race’s fastest qualifier, Martin Brundle. The leader pitted two minutes later, former Formula Renault champion Bobby Verdon-Roe taking over the Ferrari 330LMB. It was left to Gounon and Law to slug it out up front, the Frenchman flinging his now slightly crumpled Ferrari 250GTO with abandon, the Lister appearing more stable under braking as Hall and Bellm stayed in touch. With 33 minutes left to run, Law finally pitted to hand over the Lister to Anthony Reid, the leading Ferrari eking out further distance over the pursuing Cobras. Brundle meanwhile, put in the fastest lap of the race to that point despite a massive – and self-inflicted – ‘moment’ at St. Mary’s.
By half-distance, Gounon’s tyres were patently going off, ever more lurid slides allowing Hall to close as they moved through backmarkers and finally eke out a few car lengths over Bellm. Gounon handed Sir Anthony Bamford’s Ferrari over to the car’s preparer Andy Newell with 22 minutes to go, Bellm simultaneously swapping places with Christian Gläsel in the rumbling Daytona Cobra. A lap later, Hall handed his Cobra over to 1965 European Touring Car Champion Sir John Whitmore. Once all the principals had performed their driver changes, Verdon-Roe emerged in front with a nine-second lead over Reid with Brundle a further six seconds down the road.
All of which counted for little as with 16 minutes to go, the safety car was bought out after Barrie Williams shunted Miguel Amaral’s Cobra at Madgwick; the much-loved veteran spun on oil and connected with the retaining wall. With just eight minutes to go, racing resumed. Verdon-Roe assumed the lead with Reid nibbling away a tenth of a second here, a tenth there. Newell and Brundle meanwhile enjoyed an epic battle with the latter clearly having more speed out of the corners, the GTP being better under braking. Newell defended stoutly, leaving no chink of light for the former Le Mans winner to explore until they headed side-by-side through Madgwick with just four minutes to go. Brundle held his nerve and took the place, Newell’s Ferrari twitching fiercely as he fought to straighten it up.
Up front, there was nothing Reid could do to overhaul Verdon-Roe, the places remaining static to the flag. Brundle kept third with Newell an impressive fourth. Gläsel came home fourth.
After the race, an elated Hardman laughed: “Finally, a Ferrari has won! It’s about time something other than a Jaguar finished first. We’ve been trying for ten years to win this. The pace car coming out made me worry a little but Bobby had the pace to cover it.” Verdon-Roe added: “It was a struggle to keep it on the island as the tyres were going off. Obviously Anthony’s a great driver so to stay ahead of him was special.”
[Source: Goodwood Revival]