Silverstone Classic – Commander Yorke Trophy for FJ, 29th – 31st July 2016
This gave a good idea of what was in store, the top three being covered by under 4/10ths – Westie Mitchell was holding pole time before being knocked down to 3rd in the last few minutes – Andrew Hibberd claimed the pole by less than 1/10th.
The Front Engines looked good – Will Mitcham easing to fastest time by 0.6 from Chris Drake with Ray Mallock well back.
There were 62 cars out there – that number requires good behaviour from all drivers regardless of pace – and so was the case – no accidents.
The grid looked fabulous – 54 cars although tightly bunched on the grid, stretched back to and beyond Club Corner.
Wilson made a perfect start although Hibberd lost out on the inside dropping to 5th – but not for long!
Jackson had gained 2nd place on lap 1 but was pursued by Grant and Fennell with Roach keeping a watching brief a few yards behind.
Jackson’s Brabham was displaying wayward oversteering tendencies although he manfully held a number of lurid slides.
Thornton was briefly in the mix, but spun as did Fyda, Chilcott and Hicks (who was unable to restart).
Grant is perhaps insufficiently wrinkley to have watched Mansell selling Piquet that superb dummy into Stowe at the British GP in 87 – well that’s exactly what he did – at Stowe to Jackson – dummied to the left and when Jackson moved (correctly) to counter, Grant dived for the Apex – job done – mighty impressive.
Hibberd moved smoothly to 2nd place and closed at the flag to just over 1 second from Wilson.
In the front engine class, fastest man Mitcham retired his U2 when the oil pressure went AWOL on his last lap, but not despite having had a great race with Ray, leaving the class win to Mallock in his similar U2 – 2nd was Ralf Emmerling – Gemini and Ian Phillips in the BMC was 3rd.
C2 saw a new distinguished young winner – Harrison Scott having his now regular Classic drive in Peter Fenichel’s Cooper T56 from Crispian Besley’s similar car and Ian Simmonds’ Envoy.
D2 featured John Delane – our multiple Lurani Champion, followed by Fyda Minor in his very quick U2 Mk3 and Lukas Halusa with a Lotus 20.
Remarkably only 1 combatant from Race 1 failed to make the grid (Mitcham’s U2), disappointing the two remaining present reserves who were ready to go but didn’t get a run since Chris Drake (AWOL from race 1 had recovered), so Nick Finburgh was again in Race 2, the only reserve to start (having started Race 1 at the back in Drake’s absence).
So the grid again looked imposing – 54 cars take some organising on the grid for our standing start and unfortunately there still weren’t really a sufficient numbers of marshals on the grid, as is the case at the Classic due to time and human constraints, but eventually they were all away with no overheated cars or drivers.
The start was heart in mouth stuff – seemed sure the tightly packed grid would lead to contact – not so ……yet – wait out.
Wilson again made a cracking start – pole man Hibberd less so dropping to 3rd behind Jackson – Hibberd was soon up to 2nd leaving Jackson and Mitchell to scrap for 3rd.
However, oil had been dropped mid-pack at Village/The Loop and further round at Copse. First victims on lap 1 were Martin Aubert, spinning and facing head on to the pack, with Johannes Kistler having no-where to go but head on into him. Greg Audi was also caught up. Luckily only car damage (and Kistler back out again 2 weeks later at the Nurburgring). Next lap when the leaders came back round, Westie Mitchell spun on the oil, Nick Fennell came up the inside of Andrew Garside and took him cleanly, but he then spun as he got to the outside. Andrew jinked left slightly to avoid Nick, and moved inadvertently into the path of John Fyda who was flying though, and John’s Brabham caught the left hand front wheel of Andrew’s Lotus 20/22. With Nick still positioned precariously post spin, it was only a case of “phenomenal avoidance” that meant there weren’t more casualties, and Nick was able to continue. Sadly though Finburgh spun too in avoidance, and his position left Emmerling nowhere to go but to mount him from side on, with the front of his Gemini finishing just millimetres from Finburgh’s helmet! Again, both drivers thankfully ok.
Strange that the lead guys seemed to cope with the oil and come through unharmed– not strange at all – that’s why they win! That said, upon the double waved yellow during the incident, as clarified in the briefing, both leaders eased off considerably through the affected area.
We often have a great lead dice at this meeting and this one was perhaps the best yet – Hibberd eased up to the leader after his slightly tardy start – by lap 5 he was close and took the lead in a neat move into Stowe – for the rest of the race these two swopped positions – at one point they ran side by side from Club right round to Copse – of course this sort of driving requires great skill and car control but also a mature responsible attitude and as Andrew accurately summarised they were both respectful – frankly they are a great advertisement for Formula Junior – very well done both – oh by the way, Wilson just held on to the lead, winning by .22sec although on CCTV it looked even closer!
The recovered Chris Drake drove superbly in his Terrier to finish well clear of Ray Mallock in the Front Engine Class while Harrison Scott did it again in Class C2 from Crispian Besley and in D2 Jonathan Fyda beat Lukas Halusa and John Delane.
In all, a great spectacle – the few spectators who were about at such an early hour really enjoyed the closeness and fairness of the racing – I’ve been watching Formula Juniors since Boxing day 1959 – races like this fuel the enthusiasm.
by Bob Birrell