Oulton Park Gold Cup

Peter Horsman leads the HGPCA pack Photos Phil Rainford

Report by Alan Cox

In this, the 50th anniversary year of organising club the HSCC, it was decided to celebrate the Oulton Park Gold Cup’s history by creating a Historic Gold Cup trophy to be awarded to the winner of the meeting’s main race. For its first commemorative running, on the bank holiday weekend of August 27-29, the HGPCA were invited to field a grid of pre-’66 GP Cars, a category that featured prominently in the early history of the Gold Cup when Grand Prix stars and the latest works cars would travel to Cheshire for a race on a weekend away from normal championship pressures.

Since the HSCC took over the running of the historic race weekend in 2002, a headline race is something that has been missing and this new initiative has addressed that nicely. For once, the British bank holiday weather was at its best, with the ambitious 23-race programme run under three days of unbroken sunshine and high temperatures, which, combined with various side attractions, attracted a larger attendance than for many years.

The first recipient of the new trophy was Peter Horsman, who took a pair of wins with his ex-Parnell Lotus 18/21, itself a veteran (in 1½-litre form) of the 1962 Gold Cup when South African Tony Shelly brought it home in fifth place. Horsman ran away with Sunday’s race, from the battling Coopers of Rod Jolley (T45/51) and Oulton newcomer, Rudi Friedrichs (T53), the latter stuck in third gear over the closing laps. Ed Morris, with Malcolm Ricketts’ Lotus 18, managed to break clear of a group featuring Dan Collins (Lotus 21) and Andrew Smith (Cooper T43) to consolidate fourth.

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Horsman found himself with more work to do on Monday, when the Lotus jumped out of gear at the start and Jolley did his best to fend off the later Lotus for as long as he could. Horsman made up six places by lap 2, and found his way past the three-wheeling Cooper by half-distance. Friedrichs retired the T53 a few laps from home, leaving third place to Dan Collins, who was also 1½-litre class winner and third on aggregate with his ex-Ireland Lotus. Following a fraught practice and first race, Barry Cannell brought his Cooper T51 home in fourth after starting from the back of the grid.

As a further nod to Gold Cup history, Andy Middlehurst brought his US GP-winning BRM H16-engined Lotus 43 for some demonstration laps, evoking memories of Jim Clark, who practiced the car for the 1966 event some 50 years ago, and glorious it sounded.

Amongst other races on the full HSCC programme, Andrew Hibberd took top Rear-engined Formula Junior honours, after the Lotus driver’s nearest challenger, Benn Simms (Merlyn Mk5/7), was sidelined with drive-coupling failure on the warm-up lap of the first race. The front and rear-engined Formula Junior races were one category that would have benefitted from being combined, as both entry lists were undersubscribed, and on a long circuit like Oulton races can develop into something of a yawn for the paying spectator. A scant eleven cars made the grid for the first of two Front-engined Formula Junior races, the two Bonds of Mike Walker and Andrew Tart sandwiching Mark Woodhouse’s Elva on the grid. But it was the Elva that outdragged the Bond pair in both races, with Walker and Tart struggling for traction, despite the very best efforts of 1970s single-seater star Walker.

Guards Trophy contenders were a little thin on the ground too, but were granted separate races for sports-racers and GTs. The GT race turned into a TVR benefit, the Griffiths of Mike Gardiner/Dan Cox, Mike Whitaker and John Spiers proving the class of the field with Whitaker’s metallic blue example taking the early initiative until the compulsory pit stop when Gardiner briefly held sway.

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The Guards Trophy sports-racers mustered 15 starters, but two were eliminated before the second corner when George Douglas’ Ginetta G16 was launched over Anthony Taylor’s very historic Willment-BRM on the Avenue. Greg Thornton took the initial advantage with his Chevron B8 from Mark Colman’s similar car and Nick Thomson’s B6 in pursuit.

The first of two Derek Bell Trophy races produced a fine contest between pole-man Mark Dwyer, with his F2 March 742, and Jamie Brashaw with his recently-acquired F5000 March 73A. Dwyer led from the lights but Brashaw was locked on his tail for twelve laps and the sight of the pair as they crested Hilltop was something to savour, never separated by more than a couple of car lengths. Sadly, however, on the twelfth lap, Brashaw suddenly dropped away and pulled off with clutch failure, leaving Dwyer to complete the final lap unopposed. Race two was lacking Brashaw, which left the honours to Dwyer once more.

Largest field of the weekend was reserved for the ByBox Historic Touring Cars, where Warren Briggs proved to be the class of the entry, his Ford Mustang storming to two unchallenged victories.

As is so often the case, the best racing of the weekend came from the Historic FF1600 runners. Race one, red-flagged following a start-line incident which eliminated three cars, featured a classic six-way battle initially headed by Benn Simms’ Jomo from championship-leader Callum Grant (Merlyn Mk20A). This pair traded places, shadowed by Max Bartell (Merlyn MK20A), Rob Wainwright (Elden MK8) and the Merlyn Mk20s of Sam Mitchell and Benn Tilley, until the last lap when Grant had braking problems and took to the escape road at Hislops chicane. In the resulting confusion, Simms crossed the grass infield and collided with the hapless Tilley, tipping the youngster’s newly-repaired Merlyn up in the air, a mishap from which he fortunately emerged unscathed. Mitchell took the flag from Wainwright, Bartell and Grant, with only front-wheel braking.

Race two was a deal less fraught, with Mitchell looking set to take the win before a spin on lap eight dropped him to fifth.

Callum Lockie and Julian Thomas sealed the win in the Jaguar Classic Challenge with the latter’s low-drag E-type replica and Kevin Kivlochan’s Morgan +8 sealed a narrow victory in Historic Road Sports from John Davison (Elan), after the latter recovered from a spin at Druids and retook the place from the similar car of Peter Shaw. Series veteran Charles Barter took 70s Road Sports honours with his Datsun 240Z after an engrossing battle that went to the wire with the Lotus Europas of Jim Dean and Julian Barter, and Morgan +8-mounted Russell Paterson.


For a full report and results see our October issue….

 

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