Classic | Silverstone; 26th – 28th August 2022
FJHRA – The Silverstone Classic. 26th – 28th August 2022
“Silverline” Championship Rounds 9 & 10
The Classic at Silverstone is the official title for the event. 2022 for Formula Juniors will certainly be an event that will be long remembered for all the right reasons. This annual gathering is normally the single largest entry for Historic Formula Juniors. The original entry featured 70 cars but as the race weekend approached entries reduced with reasons varying from mechanical failures to illness and other unforeseen events. It still remained a quality entry, supplemented at the last minute by the Lotus 18 of Adam Bruzas, without anyone being disappointed for being listed as a reserve. The entry featured previous race winners at the Classic along with a mix of returning drivers after some absence as well as a collection of new faces all welcomed at the Friday briefing. Fresh from her family holiday Sarah Mitrike came to UK to assist Mum and Dad to ensure everyone had a good weekend.
Memories from the past years were rekindled as competitors, team supporters and friends gathered in the assembly area on the Friday morning for a minute’s silence to remember an absent friend. Simon Diffey; the Association’s loyal supporter and competitor and one of those people who could always make you smile. His son George led the tribute with a few words before climbing into the Veedol Lotus 20/22 to lead the field of 52 cars, sporting the Diff stickers, from the assembly area onto the track to commence qualifying.
From the outset Michael O’Brien in the Speedsport Brabham BT6 in its new blue livery laid down the marker that he would be the car to beat. Pursuing were Cameron Jackson in Martin Walford’s Lotus 22, Alex Ames Brabham BT6, Horatio Fitz-Simon (Lotus 22), Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22), and Sam Wilson in the Cooper T59. During the qualifying Cam reduced the gap to Michael to within 6 tenths of a second but ultimately the difference at the end of qualifying was 1.125 seconds. Cam headed a trio, separated by a little under half a second, of himself, Alex and Horatio.
Tim De Silva was 7th in qualifying, he and his father Harindra making a welcome return to the grid, although both had been racing their futuristic Gemini Mk IV’s at Monterey the previous week. Jon Milicevic, who had raced Alan Baillie’s Foglietti at Mallory Park last Sunday in the VSCC Pre’66 race, made his very welcome return to Formula Junior with his Brabham BT6 formerly owned by John Truslove. The car and driver combination anticipated moving further up the grid as the pair get to know each other. Mark Woodhouse was having his first run of the year in his Lotus 20/22, commenting that the long layoff had worked in his favour as he qualified 11th. Benn Simms, shoulder repaired, was back in Jim Blockley’s Caravelle Mk2 and 12th overall heading class D2 from Stuart Roach Alexis Mk3 and Chris Drake, out in his rear-engined Elva 300 rather than the front-engined Terrier.
Tim Child looked to be a little out of position given his podium performances in the previous Championship rounds. After qualifying he admitted that he just could not find a clear lap, leaving him as one of the drivers expected to improve during the race. Ray Mallock in the U2 Mk2 headed the front-engined classes from 16th on the grid.
Mark Carter was back out in the Speedsport Lotus 22, thoroughly enjoying the car although the grip level on the Historic tyres was taking some acclimatising to compared to the Historic Formula Ford to which he is more accustomed.
Local man Mark Haynes has been spending this season on the hills, timing his return to circuit racing at his home event. Drivers not doing so well included Jeremy Deeley, who had a suspected electrical problem as the Lotus 18 would not run above 6,000rpm and Crispian Besley, in Peter Mullen’s Kieft, who was experiencing overheating problems with a possible airlock in the cooling system. Duncan Rabagliati, in the flying carrot, used qualifying to bed in his brakes, although he did have a mysterious misfire to to keep Iain Rowley busy during the day.
Richard Wilson, having had an eye problem on Friday morning, started on the back of the grid for what would have been a 53 car start. Unfortunately, on the parade lap David Watkins ground to a halt on the International start line first time past, luckily this being only half way through the one and a half lap green flag lap, leaving 52 cars, although the next casualty was Eddie O’Kane when his head gasket failed and he put a con rod through the side of the engine. Eddie admitted there was an upside as he parked close to where John Watson was standing and spent the ensuing 20 minutes talking Crossle with John about the cars with which he started his racing career.
Michael O’Brien did not make the best start and this was to be the first signal of an engine problem that would plague him throughout the race. Into the first corner it was Cam Jackson and Alex Ames that contested the lead with Michael holding a watching brief in third and Sam Wilson fourth. Horatio Fitz-Simon also lost time at the start, dropping down two places. On the following lap Michael moved into second place ahead of Alex and, together with Cam Jackson, started to break away from the following pack. As the leading two took an early advantage, Sam Wilson was into third with Alex Ames losing another place. Recovering from the start, Horatio was closing in on both Sam and Alex, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 5. Down the order Richard Wilson, starting from the back of the grid along with Duncan Rabagliati, was making progress through the field. Richard being 25th by the end of lap 3. On this lap Keith Roach came into the pits to retire following a brief off course excursion due to a stiff gear selector. Keith heard a nasty metallic noise and called it a day.
Nearer the front, Nick Fennell in his Lotus 27 was being caught by Mark Woodhouse’s Lotus 20/22 and Westie Mitchell’s ‘62 De Tomaso who slipped past him on lap 3 dropping him to 11th place.
Alex Ames’ car had developed a worsening misfire on lap 4, his times dropping by 7 seconds from his best. This was the start of his slide down the field, first being passed by Tim De Silva, followed by Andrew Hibberd in the Lotus 22. At the head of the field Horatio had moved up to third place drawing Sam Wilson with him to form a four car dice at the front. Both Cam and Michael were suffering from down on power engines and were becoming increasingly vulnerable to the fast approaching Horatio.
All of the front runners were now demonstrating the drifting qualities of the Formula Juniors as they parried against each other through the corners. Lappery required careful planning as the leaders continued their dice. Having waited for the right moment, Michael on lap 6 took the lead from Cam. He was followed by Horatio and Sam Wilson. With a worsening misfire Cam lost another place to Tim De Silva on the following lap.
The stage was set for a thrilling final three laps with Michael O’Brien, Horatio and Sam Wilson dicing with Sam briefly taking the lead until he was at the rear end and then coasted the Cooper to a halt at Copse corner. Horatio had the speed down the straight into Stowe and at least twice, including last lap, took the lead only for Michael to regain it through the final corner, taking the win by one tenth of a second. The final step on the podium went to Tim De Silva with Cam 4th Andrew Hibberd 5th and Nick Fennell climbing back to 6th overall. Jon Milicevic was very pleased with his return to the Formula Junior family, finishing 7th after a terrific scrap with Westie Mitchell, Mark Woodhouse and Benn Simms, the winner of Class D2, whilst from his back of the grid start Richard Wilson had made his way up to 17th. We all hoped that Simon Diffey was cheering his lad on from above as George raced against Peter Anstiss in the duel of the Lotus 20/22’s.
Nic Carlton-Smith continued his unbeaten streak of wins to claim class C2. Ray Mallock won the front-engined class B2, also being awarded the Jon Goddard-Watts Trophy as the highest placed finish by a front-engined car. Ray’s fastest lap time was a new class lap record, as were those of Benn Simms and Horatio.
The awards for this first race on Saturday were presented post-race by our FJ Period legends Howden Ganley and Peter Procter who handed the top prize awards to fellow BRDC members Michael O’Brien and Ray Mallock.
Regrettably in post race scrutineering 5 cars were found to be under weight, the most notable of these was Philip Buhofer, who had raced Lee Mowle to the line. All of the cars were penalised for this race, Round 9 of the Championship, with the standard penalty of disqualification. With the weight problems rectified in time for Round 10 the following day, they were able to assume their Friday qualifying positions on the Sunday.
With a day to remedy any problems, 50 cars assembled on Sunday morning for race 2 of the weekend. Those missing were Chris Drake who only entered for the Saturday, Charlie Besley who had a blown diff, and Eddie O’Kane’s Crossle. Eddie himself did race in Iain Rowley’s Lotus 20/22 with Eddie commenting on how nice the car was. He hoped Iain had not thought he had blown the engine on the Crossle deliberately to get a chance to race the Lotus. Jeremy Deeley was now in his Cooper T52, having brought it up late Saturday to sub for his Lotus 18 which had suffered various problems in race 1.
Michael O’Brien’s team set to work on changing the electrics on the car and after a quick call to Turweston to arrange a brief test session they were hoping for a clean run in the second race. Sam Wilson and his team had remedied the problems that saw him retire and he was also hoping for a better second race. Cam Jackson simply required a new rotor arm in his borrowed Lotus.
Michael O’Brien made no mistakes on the second start getting away cleanly from Alex Ames and Cam Jackson. Horatio Fitz-Simon made a very good start but then went very wide off track, hoping to keep with Michael and maybe repeat his attack for the win. Using all of the road, plus a little grass too, he was into third place briefly on Lap 2 at Copse with Cam retaking the position before the finish line. With the following pack dicing for position, Michael O’Brien had a clear track ahead of him and he took the opportunity to put in his fastest lap of the race on lap 3, which claimed the lap record from Horatio, to give himself a comfortable gap. Being able to choose his line he eased away to win by 13.5 seconds to celebrate a very special and emotional victory for himself and the family team.
Having regained second place Cam Jackson looked set to pull away from Horatio, extending the gap to 1.5 seconds before fluid dropped onto his brake pedal and he ended firmly in the gravel at Village. With Horatio inheriting a secure second place on lap 5 with a 3.5 second gap back to Alex Ames in third it looked like the spectators would be cheated of a dramatic finish, however from 6th place on the grid, Sam Wilson was soon moving up the order after a cautious first lap. By lap 5 he was only 4 tenths of a second behind Alex Ames having passed Tim De Silva on the previous lap.
Further back in the opening laps there was plenty of action to keep the spectators entertained. Nick Fennell had Jon Milicevic in his mirrors after Westie Mitchell had a brief off course excursion on lap 4. Benn Simms was clinging onto the wheel tracks of Mark Woodhouse, whilst Tim Child and Philipp Buhofer were having much better races than the first day. Richard Wilson had really got the hang of starting from the back making up 19 places on the 1st lap.
On lap 6, having already overtaken Alex Ames, Sam Wilson also caught a slowing Horatio Fitz-Simons who was experiencing fuel starvation in the Lotus. On lap 7 Horatio retired when the engine cut out on him, leaving Sam with what looked to be a comfortable second place with over a second gap back to Alex and Tim De Silva who was catching the podium pair. As Michael O’Brien selectively passed the slower cars in front of him Sam had a more difficult time with Alex Ames applying his race craft to take back second place.
Michael O’Brien took a fine well judged win. Both of his weekend wins being dedicated to his mother Julia who passed away earlier in the year. It was her wish for him to win both races at the Classic and he kept his promise to her.
There was now a trio fighting for the remaining two places on the podium. In a grandstand finish Sam took second place by two tenths of a second from Alex Ames whose margin over Tim De Silva was only one tenth of a second. A truly spectacular finish to a Classic weekend. Probably one of the loneliest drives of the weekend was that of Andrew Hibberd who finished 5th in the “Monza wager’ green Lotus 22. Mark Woodhouse came home 6th followed closely by Class D2 winner Benn Simms, Martin Aubert being second in that class with David Watkins making up for his early retirement in Race 1 with a third in class on the Sunday. Tim Child who had a much better second race finished 8th, Philipp Buhofer was 9th and Nick Fennell rounded out the top 10.
Ray Mallock finished 12th again winning Class B2 from Harindra De Silva and Ralf Emmerling. For the first time this year there was a new C2 Class winner in Andrew Taylor, driving his Cooper T56, whose daughter Katherine is proving to be a good mechanic. In the future we wonder if she will be suggesting to dad that she swaps the spanners for the helmet and overalls. The C2 classification had Stuart Monument in his Lotus 18 second, another of the disqualified cars from Race 1, whilst third in class was Jeremy Deeley in his Cooper T52.
Other notable drives came from Geoff Underwood starting 24th on the grid to finish 14th, Mark Carter in his first chequered flag with the Speedsport Lotus 22, who started 27th and finished 18th. For Mark this was a consolation for his late retirement in race 1 when the throttle stuck open. The improved driver of the day had to be Richard Wilson again starting from the back of the grid, he finished 15th overall.
As there are winners we had a few losers too. The Roach family, Keith and Stuart, both retired with gearbox issues. Stuart Tizzard retired his Cooper T56 from both races, joking later he was trying to save money on fuel. The unfortunate incidents were Nic Carlton-Smith whose record streak of class wins was ended by a spin at Luffield. Anthony Binnington, in his attempt to avoid a backwards heading Nic, unfortunately had nowhere left to go but to ride over the wheels of the hapless Kieft. Both drivers were unhurt and Nic was able to drive his car back at the end of the race. John Chisholm also had a rare mistake with a spin leaving him sitting in the track looking at the approaching traffic. In his haste to get going and avoid the two cars bearing down on him as he pointed the wrong way, he did not notice a car slipping by on the inside, the resulting incident leading to his retirement. Justin Fleming stopped on lap one with a suspected blown head gasket and Mark Haynes retired on lap 2. Jon Milicevic stopped on lap 7 , and on the same lap Keith Pickering sensed a mechanical issues so pitted his Britannia in the International pits with a hub failure, but took the flag in the pit lane to be classified.
There were many memorable events from the two days of Formula Junior racing. On the track, Michael Hibberd thoroughly enjoyed himself in the return to the track of Lotus 20-J-892, rebuilt after the last owner’s accident at Hockenhiem and now back in Hibberd family ownership, and splendid FJ debut races for Stuart Monument, Nigel Lackford (son of Robin) in the family Elva 100, and a fun weekend for Eddie O’Kane, finishing race 2, even after two spins, in Iain Rowley’s 22. Whilst off track, it was simply a wonderful atmosphere, and the best of FJ camaraderie, including birthday celebrations for Adam Bruzas on Sunday, and Alan Baillie quietly acknowledging his 60 years continually holding a competition licence, when collecting the 2021 season Ladies Trophy on behalf of Anna Wilson.
Most poignant of all was George Diffey bringing home the Veedol Lotus 20/22 appropriately numbered 17 for his 17th place finish on the second race.
Sarah Diffey joined us at prizegiving to thank everyone for their support and donations to the Simon Diffey Heritage Motorsport Apprentice Award. Such a wonderful way to remember one of the paddock personalities whose presence is always with us. Especially at Silverstone where his ashes were scattered. If you have not already donated, do try to support this very worthy initiative.
The next round of the Formula Junior Championship takes place at the Spa Six Hour Race Meeting before returning to Silverstone for two separate grids for the Championship Finals on the National circuit.
Report by Alan Jones