September was an amazing motorsport feast with three major historic events in Britain and Europe.
Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix.
We fired off with the amazing track at Zandvoort in Holland. Racing the stunning Shelby Dayton Cobra in which Julian and I have claimed all races barring the Donington fiery incident, and, started them from pole in all barring the Silverstone Classic where traffic inevitably played its part.
Being in the Flying Dutchmen's back yard we thought it was going to be a brawl. However we sat on pole by 1.2 seconds from the Hart Daytona and the Pastorelli Ferrari 250 after qualifying. All could change for the race....
We claimed class pole for the FIA Historic Sportscar Championship in the Chevron B8, but with a wet qualifying we were down in 14th for the Pre '66 Touring Car race in the Falcon praying for a dry race.
Race day saw Julian speed away from the chasing Dutchmen and handed over to me with a lead of about 30 seconds. My job was just to maintain that and see out the laps. All duly completed and we added another win to our tally for the season along with fastest lap.
Unfortunately luck was not with us for either of the other two races as the Chevron suffered gearbox problems with Julian in a comfortable 22 second lead resulting in retirement.
The Falcon race was on a wet but drying track and was extremely tricky. A spectacular moment for Julian saw us delayed and we trundled round to finish but well behind the leaders.
Well, you can’t win them all, but the highlight was definitely stretching our lead in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers championship. Julian also claimed a beautiful Chopard Winner's edition watch no. 1 of 13 being presented through the weekend.
After a quick track day we headed straight down to Goodwood for the spectacular Revival race week end. I was down to race Sean and Laura Danaher's amazing Maserati 6CM Grand Prix car for the 7th year running. I was also due to share a famous E type Jaguar with owner Mark Midgley in the Kinrara Trophy on Friday's into the dark race. This car had been a bare shell only 3 weeks before the race. Having been very successful in the early 1960s it disappeared into America and was 'lost' for 50 years. Having been rediscovered Mark has had it fully restored but with no time to develop it we were keen to show it off and just finish the race.
As ever the Goodwood Revival is a huge feast of wonderful machinery, fantastic costumes and displays and the mesmerising Goodwood Saturday evening ball.
Qualifying on Friday started with the E type. It ran the registration 2 BBC in period and it was great to see it venture out onto track for the first time in 50 years sporting the same number. With a number of very highly developed cars in the field we were pleased to qualify 14th in amongst a pack of FHC E types.
Later it was Maserati time. From the off it was not right. A misfire got no better after a pit stop and a lap later the engine cut dead coming out of the Chicane. Our day and weekend were done to our very great disappointment. However, we have had an amazing run together. 18 races with 17 podiums, 3 Continental Trophy Championship wins, the Bruce Spollon Memorial Trophy, the Nuvolari Trophy, 3 Goodwood Trophy poles and 2 Goodwood Trophy wins all in 6 years. The old girl has not disgraced herself and will be up and running again soon.
Then it was Kinrara Trophy time and Mark was taking the start. Due to its very tight time schedule and lack of running our aim was to finish without damage and be around in the midfield. The car ran faultlessly and we came home straight and clean in 17th to achieve all our objectives for this year. Now it is testing and development time to ready her for a proper assault next year.
Spa 6 Hours.
Rather later than usual this year we were bracing ourselves for lots of wet weather for the famous 6 Hours meeting at the superb circuit of Spa.
Racing Julian's cars again we were lining up in the Daytona Cobra for the Championship final, the Chevron B8, the Ford Falcon and the much anticipated first run at Spa in the amazing ex Andy Rouse Ford Sierra RS500. Another quiet weekend in prospect, then....
Testing on Thursday was wet, wet, wet. As it was likely to stay wet for large parts of the weekend we duly went out and set about discovering grip and seeing how things went.
The Cobra was mighty and we felt very confident we could see off our competitors despite having another Cobra with a very fast pairing. The Chevron B8 ran as usual and the RS500 was immense even in the soaking conditions with unbelievable grip from the Dunlop wet weather tyres.
Qualifying was a mixed bag but pole was ours from the second Cobra. The lines were set and it looked like a battle royal. On a dying track we were pleased to put the Falcon P2, the Chevron P2 in class but the RS500 suffered a suspension problem on the first lap so we were relegated to the back of the grid but pleased to be allowed to start at all.
Friday also saw our first race which was the first of two in the RS500. the track was damp but we elected to go on slicks with the sun out and a 30 minute race indicating it would dry quickly. I had a bet with myself that Julian would be in the top 20 from 42nd on the grid by the end of lap 2. In fact he made it to 17th and then in the rest of his session brought it up to 9th before handing over to me. Game on!
I gave it large, pulling 150 mph down to Eau Rouge and catching cars ahead hand over fist. Time was running out and then I saw the leader a few seconds ahead. Going onto the last lap I was 4 or 5 seconds adrift but catching at about the same rate. Going into Stavelot 1 I was on is tail but a back marker intervened and I had to take avoiding action. This allowed a gap between me and the leader, just too great to bridge and we missed the win by 1.2 seconds at the flag. Still an amazing result and fastest lap by nearly 5 seconds!!
Saturday was relatively quiet with one race for me but Julian was also in a GT40 in the 6 Hours race. It was the second race in the RS500 and we were 2nd on the grid. We felt we had the pace, however, as ever at Spa, the weather was playing its part. It was again wet but drying at the start and in hindsight we should have been brave and gone for slicks. But, as with almost the entire field, we started on wets. Julian got straight into the lead and started to pull away. However it was dryer than the previous day and the wets soon cried foul with the huge power of the RS500 causing them to overheat. Soon the cars behind started to catch and when the pit window arrived we were in 2nd. We had elected to change to slicks at the pit stop but we had a couple of problems which left us out of the picture with a long pit stop. Disappointing!
More disappointment for Julian in the 6 Hours as the car’s gearbox failed 15 minutes into his stint through no fault of his.
Sunday saw us busy again with three races and more mixed weather. First up was the Falcon and we were praying for dry as the prodigious power and narrow tyres mean it is more than a handful in the wet and cannot compete with the likes of the Minis.
The start of the race was damp with dry patches and we were hopeful the incoming rain would hold off. Julian was rear ended at La Source off the start by a very optimistic Mini which had started 6 rows back!! This punted him wide and by Eau Rouge he was running 8th. However, by the end of lap 1 he was up to 5th and then made short work of getting to 3rd behind the very rapid Alfa of Olivier Hart. Then proceeded a fantastic ballet as they worked together to cut the gap to the leading Mustang. This was working but time ran out and he pitted to hand over to me. I blasted out of the pits just behind the Alfa and as we came round for the first time the Mustang exited the pits just ahead of us. This was going to be fun!
Pushing hard I got past the Alfa after a great tussle and set about closing the gap to the leader, no mean feat as it was going like a rocket! Lap after lap I closed in and then the chance was there. A back marker held him up in Eau Rouge and I got a run up Kemel Straight. He defended the inside and I drew past him on the outside. Breaking as late as I dared, I turned in and thought I had done it when a small tap sent me into oversteer and he was back through! I knew time was now short and gave it everything. However, going into Blanchimont on the last lap the car spluttered and cut and we were out of fuel. I put it in neutral hoping we could roll to the flag but it was clearly not going to happen. P2 went by but I knew he had a 5 second penalty. I put it back in gear and tried a bump start and to my immense relief it fired up and got me to the line within 5 seconds of the Alfa, giving us a great P2 podium.
The FIA sportscar race panned out very well for us and from P2 on the grid we ended up winning the class after an uneventful race.
Finally, the big one was here! The 90 minute Gentlemen Drivers race was upon us and the weather was atrocious. Julian made his customary fantastic race start and lead the race for lap after lap. As we approached the pit stop he slipped to second but the leader had received a 10 second stop and go penalty so we were still in the game.
I jumped in and gave it my all, astounded at how slippery it was on track. Watching the pit board I could see the second driver in the other car was closing in on me but I could not see how I could go more quickly without seriously risking then car. So, I stuck to what I was doing with a slightly sinking feeling as the laps ticked off and the gap shrank. Four laps from the end and he was on me and then suddenly he was gone! I kept peering through the gloom behind me but could not see the chasing car. Next time past the pits the gap was 14 seconds with 3 laps to go and barring mistake I knew we had it!!
Our 6th win of the season to clinch the Championship and it was with some relief I saw the chequered flag!!
It has been an amazing and eventful season so far. The win at Spa made it 16 championship wins for me. Next up we head to Portimao for the very popular end to the European season of Historic Racing.
As ever, a huge thank you to Jade and Julian, Sean and Laura and Mark and Deborah for putting me in their amazing and successful cars.