Silverstone Results 110410

Silverstone 11th April 2010

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile. This day shall gentle his condition and gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here and hold their manhood cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day..........

The long, cold Winter had led to abnormal degrees of cabin fever amongst the Half Litre crowd, so a better than expected fifteen cars were out for the season opener, at Silverstone for a change, for the Don Truman Trophy. Champion Nigel Ashman chose his white Kieft to open his defence, whilst Mike Fowler was loaned the bare aluminium Cooper Mk XI. Neil Hodges, Nigel Challis and Roy Hunt were aboard their usual mounts, joined in the leading group by Darrell Woods, now fully committed to his Cooper Mk VIII, and Steve Jones back in the ex-Procter, ex-Culver Cooper Mk X. Steve started last season well, but through other commitments and a slight accident on the flying side had disappeared. In the midfield, George Shackleton was branching out from Brands for his second season, whilst Mike Bell and Richard Bishop-Miller were with their respective mounts, the latter full of enthusiasm for the Revis he is now restoring. ‘Young’ Stuart Wright had the reins of the Dastle, with Dad accompanying on spanners, and Kerry Horan was out early with the Trenberth. Mike Gilbert failed to appear, but his place was taken by Paul Hewes, back in his Cooper.

David Whiteside was also back out with the Mk VII after missing much of last season, and now certain that his is the Brandon car. David also had the most impressive modification of the close-season. After suffering a series of gear selection problems that had in turn caused over-revving and damaged Nortons, two complete strip downs had shown no faults in the gearbox. Finally, he had spotted a wear mark on the gear linkage where it passes the seat - David’s trunk forcing the seat side onto the rod! A crafty length of two-by-one would hopefully resolve the problem. Last, but by no means least was David Stevenson. David raced 500s in the mid-1850s, and had turned out at Goodwood 2005 in Paul Hewes Cooper. He has recently bought Pat Barford’s car, raced last season by Gordon Russell. At 81, there have been older racing drivers, but not many who have bought a new car and joined a new series. His performance five years ago was rather impressive and few younger guns may be in for a surprise.

Mike Fowler leads Neil Hodges and Roy Hunt out of Woodcote. Photo Michael Hedger


Race day was one of those strange Silverstone days, where the cloud refuses to clear and a persistent wind keeps it feeling like Siberia, even as practice started at noon. The circuit is in the midst of major redevelopment for the Grand Prix, with (literally) acres of new tarmac on both track and run-offs. At the revised Brooklands, there is so much blacktop it’s somewhat confusing trying to identify where the track ends, much less finding markers for braking and turn-in. The other new obstacle was a rather large bump on the exit of the Becketts hairpin, which caught everyone out to some extent.

Two cars failed to make practice. Darrell with a complete loss of gear selection, whilst David Stevenson’s car refused to fire. What the frustrated pushers thought was David struggling with the start procedure turned out to be gear problems as well, and he was unable to complete a timed lap. Whilst Darrell could drop in a spare box, David was stuck and would scratch. Also missing would be Kerry, who yet again holed a piston on the Vincent engine. After so many faithful years service with the same set up, this has plagued the car for three years now - even a session on the dyno over the Winter had shown no major problems.

It was perhaps a surprise to see a JAP motor take pole on what at first would appear to be a Norton track, but Neil Hodges, sticking with the slightly higher gears that worked so well last summer, always looked strong, and headed the times through most of the session. For once staying out for the flag, a final lap of low 1’ 19”s stymied a late bid by Nigel Ashman (with a locking brake) as the track warmed and gave up a bit more grip. Mike Fowler, Steve Jones, Nigel Challis and Roy completed the top six with a quite tight spread of just 3.5 seconds.

Roy Hunt's Martin-Norton stalks Richard Bishop-Miller in the Cooper Mk II-JAP


After a long, long wait for final race of the day, thirteen cars were ready to line up. Darrell joining at the back of the pack. Paul Hewes had a late panic as the primary chain threw in the Paddock. Fixed quickly, he made Assembly, but this had been the symptom not the cause. On the warm-up lap a mass of sprockets and cogs broke free and he coasted to the side. Unlike previous years (always a bogey at Silverstone), the start line team did a fine job to get the grid formed quickly, and the dirty dozen all raced away, Nigel Ashman seizing the initiative as the Norton opened up on the run to Copse. But by the time the cars returned to the complex, it was Mike ahead of Neil and Nigel, followed at a second’s gap by Nigel Challis and Steve Jones in close formation, then George and a slow starting Roy. Four seconds back were Stuart Wright, already with a charging Darrell on his heels, and Mike Bell close in. Then David Whiteside (gear shift now fine) and Richard.

Thereafter, things get somewhat difficult to describe. Not through confusion, but because so much happened it was impossible to be absolutely sure what was going on. Whilst your reporter could see only the end-of-lap complex, we had the race commentary to assist. But it was clear that whatever left our sight was not what the commentator would see seconds later. And the order of cars reaching Becketts would have changed by the time they hove into view again under the back straight bridge. (Ed - It was just as exciting out of sight at Becketts, especially when the Kieft locked its brakes and threatened to send all three down the Hangar Straight!)

The first three had clear air from the rest, but each was dealing with their own issues. Nigel was in the older car and struggling under braking, whilst Mike had to deal with driving a new car - not being able to take as many risks as with his own Mk V. Neil had a limited number of JAP horses - whilst prodigiously fast in the corners, he would find himself baulked by either or both of the other two.The JAP had the edge out of the slower corners - Luffield and Becketts - only for this to quickly close down as the two Nortons came back on cam. In pursuit of a clear line without baulking, that might just give him the break, Neil would try some very late braking and bold passes. A second lap dive at Brooklands got the lead, but in the urgent flick back to the left for Luffield the yellow & blue Cooper twitched, forcing the Kieft into the dust. This left a gap for Mike to retake the lead.

For a lap or two, this would have been exciting stuff, but it continued for lap after lap, and corner after corner. Whilst Mike could hold onto Nigel, Neil had to find a different way. His racing line quickly became “wherever Mike and Nigel aren’t”. If they held the inside line at Luffield, he had to go around the outside. If they split, he would go between. And every lap, one of them would have a moment on that Becketts bump, just to mix it up again.

Somewhere around halfway and seven cars battling. Mike Fowler leads from Neil and Nigel. Photo courtesy Michelle Young

Behind, another battle was being engaged. Nigel Challis appeared to have Steve controlled, and the pair were very slowly drifting off the lead trio by a few tenths. But Roy Hunt wanted a run, and passed them both by the third lap. Darrell was driving very aggressively and was next up, but some six seconds back.

Next in line, eighth, was George Shackleton, handling the Mk VI Cooper superbly. Given that it was his Silverstone debut, and he can still count his total starts on one hand, he really had the car drifting smoothly. Even the two times when he arrived at Brooklands fumbling for a gear, he still maintained speed and composure. George’s biggest problem was simply that he had no one to race. Darrell’s red mist was taking him over the horizon, whilst Mike Bell, who might have offered some competition, had his own troubles. The JAP motor was sounding unusually crisp and crackly - mainly because the exhaust had fallen off. Mike still brought the car round to the flag, curious as to why his right shoulder was rather hot. The other possible competition was Stuart, but gear selection problems put paid to the Dastle which pitted after three laps. So the back half of the field, with David Whiteside and Richard motored round, all running well, but with the gaps just opening gently.

Back to the lead, though. Into the complex for the fifth time, Nigel dived inside Mike at Brooklands for the lead. But Mike fought back at Luffield. And Neil went around both of them to lead by a few inches. Despite a wheel on the grass, the JAP began grinding out the horses to give Neil a car length as they approached Woodcote. But Nigel’s Kieft was now motoring, and in the few feet from Woodcote to the line he was ahead again. Mike’s Cooper was there as well, and all three crossed the timing beam within seven hundredths of a second! The Cooper JAP was down to third by Copse, but Neil’s exceptional speed through the corner (perhaps with a bit of “close your eyes and go for it”) had him back into second for Maggots. Out of all of this, Nigel found himself with a lead of a second and got his head down.

No, this isn't the start, its near the end! The battle for second; Roy Hunt, Mike Fowler, Steve Jones and Neil Hodges cross the line while Richard Bishop-Miller has the best seat in the house. Photo courtesy of Michael Hedger.

And then the most remarkable thing happened - everyone else decided to join in! Having slowed each other up, Roy found himself almost in touch, and knuckled down to properly join the party, achieving it by the end of the seventh lap. Steve found his way past Nigel C, and seeing Roy up the road also focussed. A couple of 1’ 18” laps - faster than pole, and a second & a half faster than anyone else at that point - and now we had Nigel A two seconds ahead of a melee of four cars. This battle was just as furious. Nigel, with a clear track ahead and empty mirrors behind, seemed to have the edge and eked out three seconds. But behind it was less clear. Mike seemed to have the strongest car, but every time he opened the tiniest gap, somehow he was pulled back in. Anyone spat out the back was soon back into the fight as the others tripped themselves up.

Eventually, Steve found himself ahead and with the speed to pull away. although Nigel was out of reach nearly four seconds ahead. Mike Neil and Roy continued battling, but the tenth time through Luffield, Roy’s right foot was just a touch too heavy and the Martin spun to a stop near the exit. Engine still alive, Roy rejoined, somewhat to the consternation of Nigel Challis who missed him by just a couple of feet. He in turn was fighting Darrell, who had done a super job catching up - Darrell went the long way around Roy, in the event getting a nose ahead, but ceding Copse back to the Chairman. They would duke it out for the final, eleventh lap, but finish half a second apart.

Meantime (again) Steve had the bit between his teeth. In those last two laps he absolutely went hell for leather, dropping to a remarkable 1’ 17.5” fastest lap. A second and more better than anyone else, it still left a lap or two short of time, and he took the chequered flag 1.6 seconds behind victor Nigel. The fight for the final podium was even tighter. In the end, Neil dipped into the bag of heroics once too often, and spun away at Becketts on the final tour. Mike duly took third, leaving Nigel Ashman and Darrell fourth and fifth, Roy sixth and Neil seventh. George rolled in forty seconds after the winner, whilst Mike Bell, David Whiteside and each came in one lap behind after rather lonely races. Although the latter two both got ringside seats as the big fight stormed past them. Richard Bishop-Miller came in eleventh and first in Class A

Eventual winner, Nigel Ashman who plans to run the Kieft for the season

And still, this report can’t do justice to the race. It was certainly the best your reporter has seen in the ten years he has been in the 500 Paddock, and I doubt we’ve seen anything like it since Russell, Bueb, Parker at al. Despite many close shaves and rubbed tyres, all the leaders were grinning like sand boys. An absolutely remarkable race. Where were you?

 Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Class Time Laps Best

Fastest Lap: Steve Jones - Cooper Mk X:  1:17.580

DNF: Stuart Wright - Dastle-JAP, Paul Hewes - Cooper Mk VIII-JAP

DNS: David Stevenson - Cooper Mk VIII-Norton, Kerry Horan - Trenberth-Vincent

Our thanks the British Racing and Sports Car Club

Points Table

Report by Richard Hodges

1 Nigel Ashman Kieft CK52-Norton B 14:43 11 1:18.790
2 Steve Jones Cooper Mk X-Norton C 14:45 11 1:17.580
3 Mike Fowler Cooper MK XI-Norton C 14:50 11 1:20.091
4 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII-Norton C 15:02 11 1:20.702
5 Darrel Woods Cooper Mk VIII-Norton C 15:03 11 1:20.038
6 Roy Hunt Martin-Norton B 15:04 11 1:19.697
7 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII-JAP C 15:06 11 1:19.723
8 George Shackleton Cooper MK VI-JAP B 15:25 11 1:23.065
9 Mike Bell Cooper Mk X-JAP C 14:45 10 1:26.619
10 David Whiteside Cooper Mk VII-Norton B 14:54 10 1:27.339
11 Richard Bishop-Miller Cooper Mk II-JAP A 15:27 10 1:31.007

George Shackleton had one of the least busy races to take eighth overall and third in the pre '53 class.