Donington Historic Festival 2019; 3rd – 5th May
Front Engined Grid;
An excellent 20 cars appeared for Front-engined qualifying at the Historic Festival at Donington Park. The sensation was Niall Murray who repeated his form of a month earlier by taking pole by over a second from Alex Morton. A further second back was Michael Hibberd’s Lola Mk2 with the second row of the grid completed by Nick Taylor (Elva 100), whilst Chris Drake (Terrier) was only to be found lurking mid-grid.
Race 1 was very eventful. Niall led the first nine laps until he pulled into the pits with differential trouble, New Zealand visitor Nigel Russell spinning on his dropped oil. After a brief Safety Car period, a battle for second then raged between Michael Hibberd (Lola Mk2) and Alex Morton but a trip up the chicane escape road for Hibberd’s Lola left Morton clear in second from Nick Taylor (Elva 100). Incidentally, Michael’s BRJ 11 has one of the longest histories in HFJ racing, appearing in the hands of Norman Hillwood in the very first HFJ race in 1975 season and was raced extensively for Norman by Roy Drew and Brian Urlwin up to 1983, then it went Continental racing in the hands of first Hugo Studer and then Jürg Tobler before Dietrich Merkel bought it in 1999, racing it until 2016 after which it passed to Michael.
Potential front-runner Jonathon Hughes was eliminated by misfiring, having had diff trouble in qualifying whilst Drake ended fifth. Unfortunately Stephen Potts had a big crash in the yellow Sadler and was seen no more in 2019.
For Sunday’s race Hughes was missing as he had gone to the Scottish 6 Days motor cycle trial and it lost Justin Fleming (Lola Mk2) to the McLeans gravel trap on the first lap. It was de la Roche who quickly went clear as Chris Drake (Terrier) worked ahead of Murray for second and Hibberd retired the Lola with brake issues. Nigel Russell and Graham Barron went out when Nigel spun and Graham could not avoid him. Iain Rowley had a drive in Nicholas Daunt’s Taraschi but, having won Class A on Saturday, engine trouble denied him a finish. This left Martin Sheppard to win class A from Roger Woodbridge’s rarely seen Volpini.
Rear Engined Grid;
In the rear engined grid, Cameron Jackson (Brabham BT2) was unstoppable; having qualified fastest by 0.9”, he twice powered his Brabham into clear first lap leads. The result marked three perfect weekends to date this season for Jackson with pole, win and fastest lap in three different cars. On Saturday, Pete Morton led the chase for five laps, but then Richard Bradley was through and just held on to the flag. Behind these two was an even more intense battle between the Lotus’ of Richard Wilson in the blue 27 and the gold 20 of Simon Diffey: Wilson got ahead after four laps, and thereafter they were passing the pits almost side by side every time. Class D leader Dave Watkins (Elfin) eventually disposed of an increasingly uncomfortable Peter Anstiss (20/22), but Andrew Taylor, leading Class C was too far ahead to be caught.
Casualties included Robin Longdon (Lola Mk3) who spun off due to an oil leak and an early exit for the attractive Dolphin of Geoff Underwood when another wheel departed.
Richard Bradley clinched second again on Sunday but only when Pete Morton had to park the Lightning/Envoyette after a bolt came out of the gear linkage. Adrian Russell (Lotus 22) came third, having headed Bradley for the first three laps. Taylor and Watkins were, again, the class C and D winners but they were rather humbled by Niall Murray who had another outing in the John Arnold prepared Elva 100 and led the two rear-engined cars across the line. Peter Anstiss was unwell on Sunday and it was planned that son Tom would drive. He signed on and was all kitted-up but not quite in time to get out for a lap behind the safety car in a break, so sadly could not start. Chris Drake ended his race beached in the gravel.