Oulton Park Gold Cup; Jim Clark Cup – 28th – 30th July 2023
FJHRA/HSCC “Silverline” Championship Rounds 6 & 7
Of the 29 entries, 28 cars assembled to qualify on the Friday afternoon for their two races of the weekend. Top Kieft runner and Class C leader Nic Carlton-Smith had blown his engine in testing. John Arnold came to the rescue for Nic’s Championship hopes with the offer of Niall McFadden’s Elva 100. Nic reappeared on Saturday morning starting with a race to Scrutineering to get himself onto the back of the grid, bringing the total back up to 29. Sarah Mitrike had organised sunshine albeit in blustery conditions for the qualifying and all hoped her skills would continue to prevail for the rest of the weekend.
Lotus cars dominated the top of the timing sheets with the first 7 all being Lotus chassis. At the start it appeared that Horatio Fitz-Simon in his Lotus 22 would have some competition from Sam Wilson in the Lotus 20/22 for pole position, but on laps 4 and 6 Horatio put in a pair of times that left him with a 1.3 second advantage over his pursuers. The gap between Sam Wilson and Clive Richards being a lot closer, Sam having the advantage of just 5/100th from Clive in the Lotus 22.
Nick Fennell in the Lotus 27 completed the top 4, with Tim Child 5th and Philip Buhofer in the second Lotus 27 6th. Adrian Russell would finish 7th with the Brabhams of the SpeedSport teammates Mark Carter BT6 and Geoff Underwood BT2 8th and 9th respectively with Michael Hibberd in his Class D2 Lotus 20 completing the top 10.
11th was John Sykes in the ‘Magic Merlyn’ bearing the tribute to its former owner Denis Welch on the side. Alex Morton in the Condor S2 headed the front-engined runners. Adrian Holey in the ex-Bubbles Horsley Ausper T3 was fastest in class D2, with Robert Goodwin in his Kieft inheriting Class C2 honours for the Kieft marque.
Anna Wilson woke up a number of the gentlemen classifying 14th in her Brabham BT6 as she found her form late in the session, recording a time two seconds quicker than her previous best, and was rightly very pleased with her time. It was only the second time she had been in the Brabham at Oulton Park, the last time being in 2020, her race skills having been homed in an MGB and the evidence of her progress was clear with her grid position.
Bill Cowing having his final race outings in his Ginetta G8 won his class battle with Kim Shearn in the Penny Ford to qualify 21st and 22nd respectively.
The cars formed up on the grid in sunshine on Saturday morning for the first of their two 25-minute races. From the start it was Horatio Fitz-Simon who set off into the lead but close on his tail was Sam Wilson. The two broke away from Clive Richards in 3rd place whilst, behind, Nick Fennell and Tim Child were embroiled in a three-car battle that included Philip Buhofer. Adrian Russell was 7th with Mark Carter in 8th and Michael Hibberd heading class D in 9th with Geoff Underwood completing the top 10.
Best start came from Graham Barron in his Class B1 Gemini Mk2 who came up from 17th on the grid to 13th on the opening lap.
For four laps Sam Wilson harried Horatio, the gap never being more than a tenth of a second from laps two to four. On lap 5 however, Horatio appeared with a clear lead from Clive Richards, Sam having had to retire when his car’s throttle stuck open. Horatio continued to extend his advantage from Clive who had opened up a very comfortable gap of 16 seconds from the dicing trio of Fennell, Child and Buhofer.
On lap 7 the trio would become a duo as Tim Child pulled into the pits when the selector fork broke on his Lotus 22. On lap 5 Nic Carlton-Smith’s drive from the back of the grid ended when he retired from 22nd place with a seized diff. Both Kim Shearn and Justin Fleming also retired on lap 5, Justin Fleming when a diff output shaft sheared and Kim having engine problems which resulted in a suspected bent valve.
As the race settled the main dice was for the final position on the podium between Nick Fennell and Philip Buhofer, with Adrian Russell settled into 5th place, Mark Carter following in 6th, a cv joint failure causing Mark’s Brabham to pull off on lap 10. Bill Cowing’s race long duel with Sharon Adelman unfortunately ended in the gravel trap for the Ginetta at Cascades, a trip onto the grass proving to be unrecoverable.
With Mark Carter retired, his SpeedSport teammate Geoff Underwood in the Brabham BT2 moved into 6th place. Michael Hibberd, leading class D2, was now 7th, with Martin Mc Hugh having a stunning drive from 15th place at the end of the first lap to finish 8th. John Sykes brought the magic Merlyn into 9th place with Alex Morton completing the top 10 in the class B2 winning Condor S2. Robert Goodwin was 12th with Anna Wilson coming home 13th from 17th at the end of lap 1. Graham Barron and Peter Edbrooke completing the list of Class Winners.
An HSCC paddock is always a great place when you are in trouble. Hall and Hall were able to come to the rescue for Mark Carter. Robin Longdon was able to rescue Justin Fleming as he had the part back in the workshop. However, no quick fixes for Kim Shearn and Nic Carlton-Smith, whose Penny Ford and borrowed Elva 100 could not be returned to the grid for the second race. Additionally, Peter Fenichel was having gearbox problems with the Stanguellini, and having lost 2nd gear he did not want to create anymore damage prior to Silverstone at the end of the month.
With the cars in the assembly area waiting to line up for the grid, the rain that had long held off began to fall. At this point Philipp Buhofer decided not to start and headed back to the paddock. Luckily it started as a drizzle and not the potential downpour as threatened, but the race would become progressively wetter with all the drivers hunting for grip on the increasingly slippery surface.
At the start Horatio Fitz-Simon made an impressive getaway with an opening margin of over 3 seconds which he was able to consolidate. Sam Wilson was able to contain Horatio’s advance taking the fastest lap of the race on lap 3 in his pursuit. Horatio appearing to always have a little bit left in reserve to take his second win of the weekend. Following Horatio and Sam was Clive Richards in an unchallenged 3rd position with a fixed Tim Child settling into 4th place from Adrian Russell.
Nick Fennell starting from 4th on the grid had a disastrous first lap plummeting down the order to 24th. Nick retired into the pits on lap 8 only having recovered to 17th place.
Following Adrian Russell was Mark Carter in the repaired Brabham BT6 who had Michael Hibberd following for a lap before he was deposed by John Sykes in the Merlyn. Those two, along with Alex Morton, having slipped past Geoff Underwood at the start.
On lap 4 Underwood did manage to repass Hibberd and Morton, but the places continually swapped over the remaining laps. With Underwood enjoying one battle, ahead his teammate Mark Carter was being kept equally busy by John Sykes. On lap 6 the Merlyn moved into 6th place for two laps before Mark in the Brabham regained position.
Michael Hibberd did eventually take 8th place overall by just 0.6 seconds on his way to winning class D2. In 9th place was Geoff Underwood and completing the Top 10 was Alex Morton, class B2 winner.
Anna Wilson concluded her race coming home 11th having kept at bay class B1 winner Graham Barron in the Gemini Mk2 and Martin McHugh who was almost sharing the cockpit with Barron as the difference in time was only 1/1000th of a second.
Our final retirement was Justin Fleming whose rear suspension broke on one side, causing the car to instantly spin off into the barrier. Justin luckily was unharmed, but the Lola will need some repairs before its next outing.
Chris Wilks in the Deep Sanderson ended the run of Kieft victories in Class C2 taking the honours from Robert Goodwin. Bill Cowing ended his racing career with a class win in the Ginetta which will now be up for sale. Bill is going off on his next venture celebrating 50 years of marriage with a little bit of globe trotting, to compensate his wife for the years he spent racing. Peter Edbrooke completed the class winners in his C1 Lotus 18.
Under umbrella’s and easy up, the final prizes were awarded with Howden Ganley holding a watching brief as Sarah kissed her way through the presentations.
Judging by the broad smile at the end of the race it would appear that Sarah coaxing John Sykes to return to Oulton with the magic Merlyn had been really enjoyed. Hopefully we will see him take part in a few more races soon.
By Alan Jones