July 27th - July 29th 2007
SILVERSTONE CLASSIC: JAGUAR 1, PORSCHE 1
Group C stole the headlines at this year’s Bonhams Silverstone Classic, with both the biggest-ever, 25th-anniversary gathering of the machines from the golden age of sportscar racing, and a pair of frenetic races which saw wins for Silk Cut Jaguar and RLR Porsche, writes Mark Cole.
Group C GTP Racing was able to attract a stunning 76 cars to this year’s three-day festival at the British Grand Prix circuit, 29 of which were racing on Saturday and Sunday, among 2800 classic road and race cars representing more than 50 marques.
Le Mans winners Derek Bell and Andy Wallace were on hand to share Mark Sumpter’s Joest Porsche and Justin Law’s Silk Cut Jaguar respectively in Sunday’s driver-change endurance event. Legendary Group C team owners such as Richard Lloyd, Hugh McCaig, Keith Greene and Dave Pruett were also present during a weekend, which in the words of one veteran, “brought tears to the eyes of grown men…”
Highlight of the Group C gathering was the presence of no less than six factory Porsches - four Rothmans and two Shell-Dunlop - and eight Silk Cut Jaguars, plus one of the British Racing Green XJR6s which brought Jaguar back into the world sportscar championship in 1985, and an XJR 5.
Pole for both the 30-minute sprint and 40-minute pit-stop enduro went to Mark Sumpter’s Nürburgring and Le Mans-winning Joest FAT Turbo Express Porsche 962C, with David Mercer’s little C1 Spice-Cosworth again splitting the bigger cars with 2nd fastest. American Brian de Vries took 3rd with his Intrepid-Chevrolet GTP, just ahead of the turbocharged Silk Cut XJR11 of Gary Pearson and Bud Light XJR16 of Richard Eyre.
This should have been Sussex Porsche specialist Sumpter’s race, his 1989 Dijon-winning 962C easily the fastest Porsche in the series, but it was traffic which was to lead to his downfall, colliding with the Leyton House Kremer Porsche of Janine Payne as he lapped her at Stowe, puncturing two tyres and losing two laps.
Mercer inherited the lead, but Pearson was on a charge on his home circuit, and passed the white Spice in Derek Hood’s XJR11 to pull out 5.5 seconds by the chequered, the pair followed home by Law’s 1990 V12. Swiss Fredy Kumschick’s IMSA Spice-Chevrolet and Charlie Agg’s From-A Nissan R90CK completed the top six, with Brands Hatch winner Andy Purdie seventh just ahead of Henry Pearman’s 1990 Le Mans Nissan.
Ian Stinton won C2 in his 1986 factory Spice-Cosworth , a lap ahead of second-placed Alasdair McCaig,who was driving father Hugh’s Ecurie Ecosse Rover – which Hugh has kept since he ran the team in the 1980s. There was more-than-usual damage by the end of the 19-lapper, the Argo Chevrolet of Richard Oddie coming off worst when he ran out of brakes at Copse and caught the GTP car along the wall.
If Saturday’s race had been frantic, Sunday’s started explosively as front-row men Sumpter and Mercer touched first time into Copse, spinning Sumpter. Seperately, Richard Eyre's Bud Light Jaguar 'lit up' the rear wheels, and collected Kumschick’s Spice and Kent Abrahamsson’s Kremer Porsche 962, putting the three out the race.
Despite front-end damage, Sumpter was still strongly in the running, setting fastest lap in both races, and fighting his way back to the front, until handing over to Derek Bell. But the car did not feel right and when the front splitter snapped off at 190mph on Hangar Straight, DB felt enough was enough, and retired to the pits.
Justin Law ran up front until handing over to Wallace, but almost immediately Andy had the oil pressure warning light come on, and also parked up to avoid serious damage to the expensive TWR V12.
Mercer’s race came to an end 12 laps in when his Cosworth DFR lost its power, and Pearson’s hopes of repeating his Saturday win ended when his XJR11 lost its electrics. Race 1 C2 winner Stinton’s Spice was already out with fuel pump failure, Jim Loftis had a fuel cell split in his 1988 Le Mans class-winning Mazda 757 rotary, and David Leslie’s strong Race 2 run in Bryan Wingfield’s Ford C100 came to a halt when the throttle jammed open.
Making up for his first-lap retirement on Saturday, Tony Wood took his Ecurie Ecosse Swiftair car – Pat – to the C2 win ahead of McCaig and the Tiga-Buick GTP of father-and-son Richard and Nick Chester.
Richard Lloyd was the first man to greet Purdie as he climbed from his Porsche Cars GB 962C, Andy thanking him for building him a winning car back in 1988. “It took nearly 20 years to get that win,” said Richard, “so thank you too!”
The Group C GTP Racing circus has almost two months to prepare for the next event on the calendar at SeeRed - Donington Park on September 15/16, prior to October’s season finale at Spa.