• Great British weather greets World's Biggest Classic Motor Racing Festival
• More than 1,000 cars contest action-packed qualifying day
• Fans flock in ahead of bumper bill of weekend racing
• 'Rocking and Racing' as Paul Young wows crowds into Friday evening
Rain failed to dampen spirits as the Silverstone Classic began its 25th birthday celebrations in fine style today (24 July), getting into gear with an intoxicating high-octane blend of fast-and-furious on-track action and family-friendly off-track entertainment.
A summer spectacular is firmly in forecast for the forthcoming two days, after more than 1,000 racecars completed their preparations and duelled it out during qualifying around Silverstone’s full 3.66-mile Grand Prix Circuit at the World’s Biggest Classic Motor Racing Festival.
Thousands of hardy fans refused to let the weather rain on their parade and turned out in force to enjoy no fewer than 14 qualifying sessions and a well-received ‘Legends of Modern Formula One’ demonstration – a new innovation for 2015 and bringing together iconic cars raced by the likes of multiple world champions Michael Schumacher and Nelson Piquet.
The Peter Arundell Trophy for Historic Formula Junior
Jonathan Milicevic drew the day’s first blood in his Cooper T59 – appropriately enough sporting No.1 on its side – by annexing pole position. Milicevic was briefly threatened by Sam Wilson’s Lotus 20/22, but responded to secure the prime starting spot for tomorrow’s race. Wilson settled for second by the narrowest of margins from Jonathan Hughes in his Brabham BT6, with early pace-setter Andrew Hibberd fourth and Chris Drake claiming seventh and fastest-in-class in an Elva 300 that is understood to be the last single-seater ever raced by Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
1) Jonathan Milicevic (Cooper T59): 2:29.594
2) Sam Wilson (Lotus 20/22): +1.573
3) Jonathan Hughes (Brabham BT6): +1.595
The Stirling Moss Trophy for Pre ’61 Sports Cars
In slippery conditions that precipitated a number of spins, former chief Silverstone instructor Chris Ward put his track knowledge to good effect to clinch an unchallenged pole position with team-mate Andrew Smith in the pair’s evocative Jaguar D-type. Tony Wood and Will Nuthall crewed the Lister Knobbly to second on the grid, ahead of Shaun Lynn’s similar car. Roger Wills and 1992 British Touring Car Champion Tim Harvey will start fourth in their Lotus 17. Former Le Mans winner Andy Wallace wound up 19th in a Jaguar D-type, with an honourable mention for Tony Bianchi and Silverstone Classic Event Director Nick Wigley in the extraordinary, 4.6-litre Cadillac V8-powered Allard Farrellac.
1) Chris Ward / Andrew Smith (Jaguar D-type): 3:00.239
2) Tony Wood / Will Nuthall (Lister Knobbly): +3.272
3) Shaun Lynn (Lister Knobbly): +3.589
The Kidston Trophy for Pre-War Sports Cars
This qualifying session took place in very wet conditions. The 1931 Talbot 105 Alpine of Richard Evans and Gareth Burnett scythed its way through the spray to steal pole position, albeit only just from Frederic Wakeman and Pat Blakeney-Edwards in the 1928 Frazer Nash Super Sports. Matt Grist placed third in the beautiful 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 Mille Miglia, whilst Nick Pellett’s Sunbeam Tourist Trophy made the grid despite being the oldest car at the event – having celebrated its 100th birthday last year!
1) Richard Evans / Gareth Burnett (Talbot 105 Alpine): 3:24.671
2) Frederic Wakeman / Pat Blakeney-Edwards (Frazer Nash Super Sports): +0.132
3) Matt Grist (Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 Mille Miglia): +1.899
The Warwick Banks Trophy for Under 2 Litre Touring Cars
This class witnessed a thrilling duel for supremacy between a colourful and eclectic field of Austin Mini Coopers, Ford Lotus Cortinas, Alfa Romeo Guilias and BMW 1800s, with the treacherous track surface palpably playing into the hands of the nimble and fleet-footed Minis. Jonathan Lewis set the pace in his Cooper S for the majority of the session – explaining that he likes ‘daft conditions’ and quipping without a hint of irony that he was keen to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ – only for a flurry of late improvements to overturn the order.
A last-gasp flyer elevated Robert and Josh Beebee’s Mini to pole position, with former British GT Champion Bradley Ellis snaring the outside front row spot in the Mini he is sharing with Adrian Barwick. Matt Kelly and Lewis wound up third, with other notable competitors including Jackie Oliver in seventh in a BMW 1800, Mike Jordan eighth in a Lotus Cortina and current BTCC team-mates Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal 14th in their Team Dynamics-prepared Cortina.
1) Robert Beebee / Josh Beebee (Austin Mini Cooper S): 3:03.960
2) Adrian Barwick / Bradley Ellis (Austin Mini Cooper S) +1.522
3) Jonathan Lewis / Matt Kelly (Austin Mini Cooper S): +2.192
The Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy for Pre ’56 Sports Cars
Simon Hadfield was the star of the show, producing a superb late effort in an Aston Martin DB3S to see off a two-pronged attack from Chris Ward. Even yellow flags could not scupper Hadfield’s charge, as he pinched pole position from under the nose of Ward, who qualified both second in the JD Classics Jaguar C-type with John Young and third in the Cooper Jaguar T33 he is sharing with Derek Hood, making it three marvels of British engineering at the front of the grid. Former BTCC racer Patrick Watts lines up ninth in a Cooper Bristol T25.
1) Simon Hadfield / Wolfgang Friedrichs (Aston Martin DB3S): 3:10.852
2) Chris Ward / John Young (Jaguar C-type): +1.001
3) Derek Hood / Chris Ward (Cooper Jaguar T33): +2.517
The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars (Pre ’63 GT)
For the second session in a row, Simon Hadfield left it late before soaring to the top of the timesheets, taking pole position in the Aston Martin DB4 GT. In so doing, he overhauled Jeremy and James Cottingham’s Jaguar E-type – which had long held the advantage – with Martin Hunt and Pat Blakeney-Edwards rounding out the top three in their AC Cobra.
1) Simon Hadfield / Wolfgang Friedrichs (Aston Martin DB4 GT): 3:06.505
2) James Cottingham / Jeremy Cottingham (Jaguar E-type): +2.687
3) Martin Hunt / Pat Blakeney-Edwards (AC Cobra): +3.769
FIA Masters Historic Formula One
Qualifying for FIA Masters Historic Formula One was a truncated affair, beginning behind the safety car and ending early due to a red flag following a number of spins. That didn’t stand in the way of a commanding display from Martin Stretton in his 1983 Tyrrell 012, winding up well clear of Sam Hancock in the 1978 Fittipaldi F5A and Steve Hartley, behind the wheel of a 1982 Arrows A4.
1) Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 012): 2:39.904
2) Sam Hancock (Fittipaldi F5A): +4.976
3) Steve Hartley (Arrows A4): +7.426
JET Battle of Britain Trophy
Matt Nicoll-Jones had to draw upon all of his wet-weather prowess in the glamorous Jaguar E-type to see off Jonathan Lewis’ Austin Mini Cooper S, with the powerboat racer enjoying something of a headstart in such conditions. Andrea Stortoni injected some Italian flair into proceedings, with a Mini that is British through-and-through to make it two Coopers inside the top three on the grid. BTCC legend Steve Soper placed sixth in another E-type.
1) Matt Nicoll-Jones (Jaguar E-type): 3:11.951
2) Jonathan Lewis (Austin Mini Cooper S): +0.056
3) Andrea Stortoni (Austin Mini Cooper S): +2.350
Maserati Trophy for HGPCA Pre ’66 Grand Prix Cars
Julian Bronson’s Scarab Offenhauser was the car to beat, with Will Nuthall’s Cooper T53, Sam Wilson’s LDS 7 and Tim Harvey – making his debut in the Cooper T51 and impressively hauling himself immediately onto the leading pace – pushing the pole-sitter closest.
1) Julian Bronson (Scarab Offenhauser): 3:17.897
2) Will Nuthall (Cooper T53): +2.325
3) Sam Wilson (LDS 7): +3.994
FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars
Rob Huff stole the limelight by piloting the Lola T70 Mk3B he is sharing with Richard Meins to the top spot on the starting grid, notwithstanding a brace of red flags and an early finish to the session. The former FIA World Touring Car Champion saw off Martin O’Connell and Andrew Kirkaldy in their Chevron B19, with Martin Stretton and Grant Tromans completing the top three. Other big names in the field include Steve Soper and Marino Franchitti, who will start alongside one another in 13th and 14th respectively.
1) Richard Meins / Rob Huff (Lola T70 Mk3B): 2:52.654
2) Martin O’Connell / Andrew Kirkaldy (Chevron B19): +1.339
3) Grant Tromans / Martin Stretton (Lola T70 Mk3B): +3.260
Round-up of other classes
Qualifying for the remaining classes – the Super Touring Car Trophy, Group C, International Trophy for Classic GT Cars (Pre ’66) and HSCC Guards Trophy – was disrupted by the heaviest rainfall of the day in sodden conditions. The decision was taken to allow competitors to run behind the safety car to enable them to benefit from some track time ahead of the races, although grids will be established based upon known previous performance.
Super Touring in particular has all the hallmarks of a bahnstormer, with the likes of Tim Harvey, John Cleland, Steve Soper and Patrick Watts all revved-up to renew battle and reignite some old rivalries alongside current BTCC race-winner Adam Morgan.
Fans young and old alike similarly made the most of the off-track attractions – including the Village Green, Adrenaline Zone, Scarf & Goggles country pub, Giant Wheel and ever-popular 2CV Tin Snail Challenge – before the opening day concluded with live music from tribute bands The ZZ Tops and Fleetwood Bac and 1980s pop star Paul Young.
And now with a sunny day in prospect on Saturday and non-stop action from dawn ‘til dusk, everybody – from the drivers to spectators, marshals and event organisers – is ready to go racing!