Report and photos by Matt White
The iconic Brands Hatch circuit in the south-east of England hosted the 11th running of the Masters Historic Festival on 27-28 May 2017. Brands Hatch, being inextricably linked with Formula One racing, seemed a fitting location to also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary Cosworth DFV engine, Grand Prix racing’s most dominant power unit that left a winning legacy from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. The event celebrated the 50th anniversary by way of a demonstration of a range of cars that utilised this power unit.
Saturday morning saw a huge downpour during the initial session, which drenched the sun-baked track, after a week of unseasonable warmth across the UK. Negotiating the tricky conditions initially were the Stena Line Gentlemen Drivers grid, with the practice session for the Masters Historic Formula One going out subsequently on a rapidly drying track, as the sun appeared, and an almost tropical humidity enveloping the tree-lined circuit. Despite this, Michael Lyons in the Williams FW07B set a blistering lap in practice, over a second quicker than his nearest competitor.
With the majority of Saturday’s track time taken with qualifying sessions, as unbroken sunshine saw idyllic conditions for racing, it was the Historic Touring Car challenge that launched the racing for the day. What seemed a straightforward performance for Mark Smith in the BMW M3, as he stretched to a healthy lead over the pursuing Metro Turbo and Capri 2600RS, an early retirement for Smith, and a spectacularly blown turbo for the Metro of Watts/Smith, it was left for Mark Dance to bring the Ford Capri 2600RS home in top spot, ahead of BTCC’s Adam Morgan and Ric Wood in the Capri 3400, and the glorious Rover SD1 of Charlie Williams in the first of two races over the weekend.
The initial Masters Historic Formula One race saw the Williams FW07B of Michael Lyons sit on pole, and unfazed by a safety car period in the first race, controlled the race supremely to take a well deserved win ahead of the Shadow DN5 of Nick Padmore, and Ensign N180 of Simon Fish.
A 90-minute race for the Stena Line Gentlemen Drivers concluded the first day’s racing, with an incredibly healthy grid packed with a host of Pre-1966 GT cars. Ordinarily a battle between the AC Cobras and Jaguar E-Types, the race was won quite comfortably in the end by the Cobra of Michael Gans and Andy Wolfe, with the ever impressive TVR Griffith of Mike Whittaker claiming second spot, narrowly edging out the stunning Bizzarrini 5300 GT of Roger Wills into third.
With a slightly cooler and more refreshing temperature to commence proceedings on the Sunday morning, the smooth lines and endearing contours of the grid for the Stirling Moss trophy took to the track. The Lister Costin of Chris Ward dominated the race, with Michael Gans in the curvaceous Lotus 15 heading home in second.
The second of the Historic Touring Car Challenge races saw luck return to Mark Smith in the BMW M3, easing to the win, ahead of the ever competitive Capri of Mark Dance, and the Ford Boss Mustang of Peter Hallford. A real step back in time to the golden era of the late 1960s, ’70s and ’80s Touring Car racing, the grid brought delight to the crowd in the second of two spectacular races.
The lunchtime break gave no respite for the crowd to retreat, as the Cosworth DFV demonstration was arguably one of the highlights of the weekend. Indeed, the sound of the DFV unit brings both joy, and perhaps a mere hint of pain to the listener’s ears. On track to commemorate this legendary engine, the Brands Hatch crowd were treated to a feast of historic Formula One cars, including the McLaren M14A, Williams FW04, Lotus 88, March 821 and McLaren M26. The crowd, enthralled by this demonstration, served to prove that the legacy of the DFV is not forgotten, and indeed, a new generation of fans had just been won over.
With barely enough time to let the dust settle and the calm return to the Kent countryside, it was time for the Masters Historic Formula One to take centre stage once more, in the second of their two races over the weekend. With the Williams of Michael Lyons retiring with a broken driveshaft after the first lap, it was left to Martin Stretton in the stunning Tyrrell 012 to claim a hard-fought win over the Arrows A4 of Steve Hartley, with an ever-impressive Nick Padmore in the Shadow DN5 taking a class win and third overall.
Strictly adhering to period specification, the RAC Woodcote Trophy for post war sports racing cars up to 1955 saw an elegant field comprised of unmistakable racers such as the Jaguar D-Type, Aston Martin DB2 and DB3 and the Lister Bristol Flat Iron. The race was dominated by the Cooper T38 of Gillette and Blakeney-Edwards, with an enthralling fight for second place between the Jaguar D-Type of Benjamin Eastick and Karl Jones, and the Cooper Bristol T24/25 of John Ure and Nick Wigley, a mere 0.082 seconds separating the pair at the chequered flag.
One of the undoubted highlights of the event was the FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars race, and a field packed with the heavyweights from Lola, Chevron, McLaren, Ford and Porsche. A sudden downpour before the race drenched both the track, and the hordes of spectators eagerly anticipating the start. With the race started under safety car conditions, the water was soon dispensed by the field, and a residual heat soon dried out the racing line. The Chevron B19 of Martin O’Connell taking the chequered flag over half a minute ahead of his closest rivals, the gorgeous Lola T212 of Robert Oldershaw, followed by Gary Pearson in the Lola T70 on the third step of the podium.
Concluding the weekend’s racing, the Tony Brise Trophy, for Classic Formula Ford, saw a huge grid of cars taking to the track. Easing to the victory was Adriano Medeiros in his Van Diemen RF80, followed by Mike O’Brien in the Merlyn MK20 which took the class win, with a stellar drive from Simon Hadfield in the Titan Mk4 to come from last place on the grid to claim 7th overall and second in class.
A fitting tribute to possibly the greatest racing engine of living memory, the Brands Hatch Masters Historic Festival 2017 saw a healthy crowd entertained by a feast of historic machinery, showing that enthusiasm for classic racing is very much alive in the UK. Brands Hatch, with its undoubted history, yet intimate atmosphere, provides the perfect stage to witness historic racing, and it’s with this sentiment, that the memory of a fantastic weekend of historic racing will live on in the memory of race goers and drivers alike for a long time to come.
Masters Historic Festival Brands Hatch 2017 – Photo Gallery (photos: Matt White)
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of any editorial or photographic content from SportsCarDigest.com without express and written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SportsCarDigest.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
[Source: Matt White]