Silverstone Classic 2009, A Driver's Perspective


(Click here or the photo above to view the Silverstone Classic Photo Gallery)

I have trouble keeping my core (freeze) plugs in and sure enough, hammering down the M1 at 7.45am last Thursday, en route to Silverstone racing circuit, that familiar "Turkish Bath" moment struck again, and I pulled up onto the hard shoulder. Two bits of luck, I had my good friend and co-driver for the weekend behind in his Honda Civic, and I still had my core-plug bodgers repair kit in my tool box. Co-driver went off to look for water while I started mixing the epoxy metal. I wont bore you with the details, but I spent the rest of the week-end running with the radiator cap undone because the bodge had to stay bodged.

The Silverstone Historic meeting is fast becoming an unmissable event. With every era of racing car covered there is lots to see. The UK Allard Owners had been asked to gather a display for the car club area. I went to have a look on Saturday and was amazed to see 24 cars. J's(2's and X's),L,M,P,P1, K,s, they were all there. Three cars from overseas...Hans-Albert Oppenborn's M all the way from Hamburg, Olivier Lavedrine in his ex-Cyril Wick J2 (my favorite car of the show, lovely in silver with red wheels), and Peter Vos from the Netherlands in his super L type. There was also a comprehensive photo-board display in the tent that looked like it had taken a while to produce. Well done everybody, a great effort. I believe that Mike Knapman and Peter Wright (and their missus) put a lot of work in, it certainly paid off.

But for me, the most welcome sight of all week-end was John Peskett’s green J2. This car, KXC 170, chassis M888, is the original J2 Allard, fitted with the first Cadillac V8 that Allards acquired, which Sydney and Tom Lush took round the Tour of Sicily, famously nearly losing the car to a petrol fire. John has been carefully rebuilding this car for a while now, and there she was...all alone in the main pits at Silverstone, the first time I had seen her outdoors. An emotional moment.

Right, enough of the show bit, how about the go bit. Well there were four Allards racing, all in the Woodcote Trophy, (pre-1956 Drum Braked Sports-Cars, with a special dispensation for D-types !!). Chris Phillips in his J2X, sharing with Rick Bourne. Malcolm Verey driving his black J2, Skip Butterworth in his red K3, and my J2X Le Mans co-driven with Jonathan Cobb. We qualified in that order, and it was very slippery due to a heavy shower during the session, on top of quite a lot of spilt oil. I sent Jonathan out first, with instructions to go steady to avoid pressurizing the block, and I would try and put one quick lap in at the end of the session. Unfortunately the rain prevented the quick lap, so we were going to be at the back of the grid.

Saturday was lovely and sunny, and I was up early to watch the pre-war sports car race, which was won by a very fast little super-charged Alta. We were on at 14.30, for our 2-driver 55 minute race. The line up pre-grid is on the inside of the circuit so the punters can get a good look at the cars close-up. Each grid line gets its own dolly-bird with a lollipop which is pleasantly distracting! (I don’t suppose the girl drivers get the equivalent male’s still a man’s world, eh?!) And there were three cars in our race with lady pilots, one C-type Jag had a 2-girl team. Other cars on the grid were various and mostly mouth-watering....6 (!) D-type Jags, 2 C-types, 2 Ferrari 750 Monza's, a 212/220 Inter, Aston Martin DB2 and 3s's, 2 Maserati (250 and 300),Lister, Frazer-Nash, HWM, OSCA, Gordini, Connaught, TR2, Kurtis 500S, Tojeiro. Fantastic!

Results? Chris Phillips had a race-log duel with Urs Muller in his stunning DB3S, Urs just pipping him by 0.3sec ! He was 8th, behind some very quick gear. I started in 32nd (out of 48) on the grid, and, forgetting all about epoxy core-plugs (red-mist came down perhaps?!), had great fun scything through the pack to be 12th after three laps. At which point the water temp gauge went off the scale! 25 minutes on, my co-driver gives me the "IN", and when I pit, he's there with a 5 gallon drum of water, most of which goes in the radiator! I instruct him to enjoy himself, and he tears out of the pits. So we finish 15th, having had loads of fun. Sadly Skip brought the K3 in on lap 2 with a bad water leak, only to later discover a huge crack in a bore (I told him not to take a 331 out to 4"!!). Malcolm Verey felt a bad vibration on his 7th lap so came in. Amazing that the engine was still running, because his car preparer, Richard Walbyhoff, stripped it later in the week and pulled out a crank broken in two at the rear main bearing!

Tony Bianchi was racing his famous Farrallac over the week-end, in the BRDC Sportscars race, for pre-1960 Sports and Sports racers. Tony had Nick Wigley as co-driver, started 13th on the grid and finished 10th. Though that doesn’t tell the whole story, as he was running well in 8th position, and had unlucky timing with the Safety car, which put him well down the field at the half-way point.

The Woodcote Trophy runs again at Donington circuit in September, and then we all head for Spa Francorchamps in Belgium for the season climax at the end of that month. Spa is everyone’s favorite circuit. If you happen to like beer as well, its heaven on earth.


Cheers for now,

Tom Walker


Special Thanks to David Hooper for the Silverstone Classic Photo Gallery!


Click here to view the race photos from the Woodcote Trophy Race