Oulton Park Gold Cup; Front Engined Race; 27th – 29th August 2016


This excellent event over three days of the August Bank Holiday weekend always draws large crowds to the picturesque Cheshire circuit to enjoy a diverse range of entertainment. This year, military vehicles, heritage stock cars, an Artisan Market and an impressive range of car clubs competed for attention with the on track action. This was topped by a two part HGPCA race for pre “66 Grand Prix cars vying for a newly introduced historic version of the famous Gold Cup.

Despite these attractions and the fact that the event formed the first part of the Caravelle Trophy phase of our Diamond Jubilee world tour, the entry was a bit on the thin side with only eleven cars taking to the circuit for qualifying. Various theories circulated to explain this – casualties from recent events, the proximity to Goodwood and other races and Bank Holiday traffic horrors in previous years etc. Either way, quality compensated for quantity and those who did make the trip all seemed to have a thoroughly good time. Even the weather was kind throughout with dry and warm conditions for each of our three track outings.

Qualifying – Saturday

Based on recent form, it seemed likely that the tussle for pole would be between Mark Woodhouse’s Elva and the two Bonds of Andrew Tart and Mike Walker. So it proved, with Mike (a former winner of the Gold Cup when run as a F5000 event) emerging fastest with a 2:02.855 lap just 0.3 sec quicker than Mark who was in turn 0.7 secs faster than Andrew. This despite Mark embarking on a lengthy process of bedding in new brakes which entailed a pit stop early in the session to “nip them up a bit”.

Nick Taylor was next fastest in the familiar Elva 100 owned previously by John Arnold. Nick has quickly adapted to the technique required to get our cars to maintain momentum despite have primarily driven big banger sports cars with totally different characteristics. Behind on row three were William (when did “Bill” officially become William?) Grimshaw in the familiar Moorland and James Owen who climbed aboard his Gemini Mk2 a bit breathless and at the last minute having just qualified his Triumph TR5 in the session before.

It was unusual to have three front wheel drive cars on the grid but just behind Ian Phillip’s BMC Mk1 on the timesheets was Anthony (formerly Tony) Olissoff in the remarkable UK built FWD Elfin Mk1 which led the smaller capacity class B1. Classmate and filling station proprietor Graham Barron, was next up in his beautiful Gemini but needed help back to the paddock after suffering from fuel starvation – a malady which curiously went away when some fuel was put into the tank… Nigel Russell (who gets the prize for the most exotic moniker upgrade back to his original given name of Hunter) followed Graham in the wonderful and unique FMZ which was suffering from complex fuel related problems. Completing the field was the ever ebullient Tony Pearson who hasn’t become Anthony yet but who has several alternative names for his Bandini (the only class A runner) depending on how it is performing!

Race 1 – Sunday

Mike’s hard won pole evaporated in a cloud of tyre smoke as the Bond scrabbled for grip when the lights went out and he slipped to fourth place by Old Hall Bend allowing Mark into a lead he was never to lose.  The story of the race was not over though for the leading Bond driver had regained second place by lap two and set off to get back on terms with the leader. The gap varied around the lap as the vastly different handling characteristics favoured each of the drivers in different sectors and as the race wore on, slower cars being lapped created uncertainty too. At the finish, the gap was a scant 0.6 secs and any thoughts that Mark had a lot in reserve were dispelled when he was forced to record his fastest lap on his penultimate tour nearly a second faster than in qualifying.

Behind the two at the front there were several knots of cars lapping in close company. Initially, Nick Taylor held Andrew Tart at bay until lap four and behind, Bill Grimshaw and James Owen were “nip and tuck” for several laps. This tussle was broken up when first the Moorland went off song (subsequently traced to a faulty condenser) and then the Gemini retired with loose driveshaft bolts. This left Ian Phillips and Tony Olissoff in lonely fourth and fifth places respectively. Graham Barron’s Gemini was enjoying its fresh tank of fuel until it too suffered problems – a suspected head gasket failure right at the end. Completing the walking wounded were Nigel Russell who limped over the line with continuing fuel system problems – this after a last minute panic to change the inlet manifold gasket just before the start. Tony Pearson completed the list of finishers in the Bandini before pleading (in jest) with Duncan to let him fit a Ford engine!

So, despite a thin field spread out around a long lap and high attrition, the race at the front between Mark and Mike kept interest alive. If there was a lull in the action, commentators Marcus Pye and Ian Titchmarsh either wrestled with the assorted name changes or resorted to vivid descriptions of the inside of Tony Olissoff’s custard coloured Transit van which he has called home these last few months.

Race 2 – Monday

Thankfully, all eleven cars were pronounced fit enough to take the start of the second race although the winning Elva needed attention to an oil leak on its drop box and Nigel Russell managed to create another last minute panic as he couldn’t find his goggles in the assembly area – poor Anne being dispatched in great haste back to the paddock to look for them only for the offending items to be spotted under the car!

The start of race two saw an even more extreme illustration of the “Bond Start” as first Andrew then Mike were gobbled up by much of the field on the run down to the first corner. It was Bill Grimshaw with his new condenser in second place (a great start this from row three) followed by Nick Taylor, James Owen, Ian Phillips! and then the red Bonds, gathering momentum on the run down to Cascades.

A re-run of race one now followed as Mike Walker re-established himself in second place by lap four and set off after Mark Woodhouse. Andrew Tart settled into third place after passing Nick Taylor on lap five and the pattern was set for the remaining five laps. There was a great dice for a few laps between Messrs Grimshaw, Phillips and Owen with regular place changes as their fortunes ebbed and flowed – the Moorland even taking to the grass on several occasions. However, James dropped back from this group towards the end and Ian was hobbled by a dodgy fourth gear leaving Bill to cruise home in fifth. Further back, Graham Barron lasted barely a lap when a catastrophic engine failure struck (broken crankshaft) leaving the Elfin of Tony Olissoff unchallenged for class honours. Nigel Russell struggled on with the rough sounding FMZ and swapped places on occasion with Tony Pearson who once again ran reliably in the Bandini.

Back at the front. Mike pressed on to get within three seconds of Mark at the flag. These were impressive drives, very much appreciated by the large crowd as it was clear that both cars were lapping on or near their full potential. A Bond duo on the podium was achieved as Andrew came home third, a few seconds ahead of Nick. But this was deservedly Mark Woodhouse’s weekend and he added another haul of points to his 2016 tally.

Afterwards, Duncan made the presentations and with class results included, pretty much everyone got a trophy (including the discretionary Silverline Tools award for a popular drive by Ian Phillips) which somehow seemed appropriate!

Peter Anstiss

(with valuable lap chart assistance from Graham Rabagliati)