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2005 Silverstone Classic
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Click here to open the slideshowIntroduction
In the 1990s the Silverstone Historic Festival was one of the finest events of its kind, but when it was last held in 2001 it was overshadowed by the two Goodwood meetings; the Festival of Speed and the Revival. Both of these are exceptional events, but lack the no-nonsense racing that made the Historic Festival so popular. This past weekend a great tradition was reinstated at the British Grand Prix track where hundreds of vintage racers took to the starting grid in the inaugural Silverstone Classic. Divided into seventeen races, sportscars and grand prix racers of seven decades were piloted around the high speed circuit. The cars ranged from the early 1920s to Jaguar’s Group C racers of the early 1990s. Particularly exciting was the large line-up of Formula 1 racers of the 3-litre era which ran in two different series.
In regular event coverage we would look at each race separately, but due to the sheer number of races and racing cars this would become a lengthy and repetitive article, so this time we would like to highlight some of the star cars and drivers. A summary of the action can be found in a
175-shot slideshow.

Bonham’s
Auctioneer Bonham’s was one of the weekend’s title sponsors, who held an auction in the paddock on Saturday evening. On offer was a nice variety of collectors’ motor cars, motorcycles and automobilia. The cars on offer were a mix of pure racers and thoroughbred road cars. Highlighting the sale were two Porsche engined sportscars; an Elva Mk VIIA from the 1960s and a more modern Brunn/Porsche 962 Group C car. Of the road cars the Gordon Murray designed Light Car Company Rocket really caught our eye. This lightweight tandem two-seater was the first Murray design to go into production, a few years before the legendary McLaren F1 set new standards.
The most valuable car to change hands was the ex-King Hussein of Jordan Aston Martin, which was hammered down at just over 45,000 Pounds. Another big money car was a McLaren M4A F2 racer, which found a new owner for 36,700 Pounds. In the automobilia sale a signed Damon Hill helmet was sold for 4,715 Pounds.

Frank Sytner, Martin Stretton and Duncan Dayton
Many of the drivers hopped from car to car and competed in many of the races. After securing the 1988 British Touring Car Championship, Frank Sytner set his sights on historic racing where he raced many different vehicles. For this weekend he brought an immaculate Lola T70 Mk IIIB Coupe and the very rare Penske PC3 Formula 1 racer. He successfully campaigned the Lola in the one hour Denny Hulme Trophy for World Sports Car Masters & Gentleman Drivers Sports Cars, where his lead was never challenged, beating among others Jackie Oliver in a Ford GT40 similar to his Le Mans winning car and McLaren's chief designer Adrian Newey in another GT40. He had a much tougher time in Grand Prix Masters race with his Penske. The British driver claimed the victory in both races, despite strong challenges from Peter Williams in a March 761 and Peter Wuensch in a Wolf WR1.
In the last two decades Martin Stretton has proven to be one of the leading drivers in a wide variety of historic racers. He explained to us that he felt sorry that he could not compete in all races of the weekend, but he was found behind the wheel more often than not. Effortlessly he jumped from a 1930s BMW 328 to the Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler F1 racer of the 1970s. In the BRDC 500 race for Pre-War Sportscars he showcased his skills in two cars, eventually taking the victory in the BMW 328. His efforts in the Tyrrell brought him class honours.
Although not as successful as the previous two, American gentleman driver Duncan Dayton grew to be one of the biggest crowd pleasers of the weekend. He brought out his Lotus 16, Brabham BT33 and Williams FW07 F1 racers, which he campaigned in the John Cooper Trophy Race for HGPCA pre 1966 Formula One cars, James Hunt Trophy Race for Grand Prix Masters cars and Silverstone International Trophy Race for the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix World Championship respectively. He was a top runner in all three events, but problems early in the races saw him fight back through the field with the Lotus and Brabham. Although he started on Pole in the Williams, he chased fellow Williams driver Joaquin Folch for the first few laps of the TGP race. He eventually got past and secured his only victory of the weekend. His fighting spirit and huge power slides in all three cars made him one of the spectator’s favorites.

Jaguar, Tyrrell and Ferrari
Britain’s most successful manufacturer at Le Mans in the last five decades has been Jaguar, racking up seven victories between 1951 and 1990. In various races Jaguars of both the 1950s and 1980s/90s lined up. These included the oldest existing Jaguar C-Type, a recreation of the Le Mans winning D-Type and a selection of TWR built Group C cars. Gary Pearson drove his Jaguar XJR-11 to a victory in both Group C races after fierce battles with Charlie Agg in his Nissan R90CK. In addition to the Jaguar-built racers, a wide variety of specials powered by the XK six cylinder engine were present like the Listers, an HWM, an RGS Atlanta and many more.
After using a Matra chassis combined with a Cosworth V8 for a while, Ken Tyrrell formed his own company, which would prove to be highly successful and continues to this day as the BAR team. American collector John Delane brought over three of the first six Tyrrells constructed in his original Tyrrell transporter. These included the first two; the ex-Stewart 001 and the ex-Cevert 002, which was part of the 1971 championship winning team. Additionally there were four other Tyrrells present, including the P34 six-wheeler and the 012, which was the last Cosworth engined Tyrrell. These seven cars perfectly showcased the marque’s evolution throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Just like in the 1970s, the only real opposition to the dominance of the Cosworth DFV engine came from a Ferrari. Prepared by two of the car’s original mechanics, John Bosch’s 312 T3 is the only modern Ferrari F1 racer driven in anger. In the TGP race the Dutchman finished second in class behind Stretton, but this was sufficient to move from second to first in the Cosworth sponsored championship.
In sheer quantity Lotus and Cooper dominated the weekend, with the two companies' single seaters and sportscars lining up for almost every race.

Kiwis on tour
Especially for two rounds of the HSCC pre 1980 F1, F2, F3, F5000 & F.Atlantic cars championships, nine New Zealanders brought over their F5000 racers to Great Britain. The second and final round was held at Silverstone, where the ‘Kiwis’ were faced with strong opposition from local racers. Nobody could match the speed of British driver Simon Hadfield in his Chevron B37, but behind him there were numerous fights. In the first race Murray Sinclair in his Lola T332 was the best of the Kiwis in seventh and the second race saw John Crawford pilot his McRae GM1 to sixth and best of his nation.

Conclusion
With plenty of entertainment on and off the track, the Silverstone Classic proved to be a worthy successor to the Historic Festival. A date for next year has already been set, which gives the owners/drivers plenty of time to arrange their schedule to make it to the event. With a few more high profile racers, this event could very well grow into a worthy competitor to the Goodwood events.

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Report and images by Wouter Melissen.