Preview: GT & Sports Car Cup Race Silverstone At Sunday 9th June

Following a triumphant debut at the historic Autodromo di Pergusa in Sicily three weeks ago, the GT & Sports Car Cup – exclusive playground of choice for invited owners of Pre-1966 Grand Touring machines and Pre-’63 Sports Racers – touches down on home soil for its second rendez-vous of the season within the Equipe Summer Classic blockbuster at Silverstone next Sunday. A superb entry for the two-hour contest on the challenging 3.63-mile Grand Prix circuit lists an unprecedented 12 family teams, one of which has listed two cars.

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Sixty years after the competition version of the Lotus Elan – the hallowed 26R – debuted, three of the backbone-chassised, fibreglass shelled beauties take on heavy-hitting Jaguar E-types, AC Cobras and Shelby Mustang in the GT4 division from which, historically, the outright winners have emerged most often in the supremely social and sporting series which debuted in 2007.

One of the Elans is not only distinctive, but boasts a distinguished race record both as a contemporary racer since 1964 and in modern retrospectives of the great international championship events of a golden era. Raced by Major Richard ‘Dick’ Crosfield from new 26R-7 – UK road registered AUT 173B – is among three of 20 Shapecraft coupes designed and marketed by Barry Wood, principal of Lotus dealer Surbiton Motors close to the River Thames in Surrey. The cars, of which Wood raced the prototype RFB 66B, featured alloy fastback roofs bonded to their shells for aerodynamic advantage.

Crosfield had raced Lotuses in the late 1950s, then competed regularly in an MGA Twin-Cam and a Daimler SP250, as well as sharing an Aston Martin DB2/4 in Sicily’s classic road race, the Targa Florio of 1962. He raced the Elan twice at Silverstone in 1964, placing fifth in an Autosport Championship round in April and 21st in an International the following month. In 1965 the combination returned, winning Mayday’s Autosport race from Jeff Edmonds in Peter Mould’s 26R and Portugal’s Carlos Gaspar – who went on to found the successful BIP Lola sportscar team in the early 1970s – in another Elan.

A racer all its life, the blue Elan arrives with a remarkable recent CV, as winner of last October’s gruelling Cento Ore di Modena, part-race, part-rally, and our twin-legged season-opener at the Settimana Motoristica Ennese. Both times it was shared by proud current custodian Robin Ellis and Julian Thomas, head of the Buckingham-headquartered Racelogic electronics business whose V-BOX datalogging product is renowned by competitors globally as an essential training tool. Julian has a US business commitment on Sunday, thus Wolfe Manufacturing preparer Ben Tinkler, the reigning Classic Formula Ford champion, is his capable understudy.

GTSCC FullLogoMultiple GTSCC winners Chris Chiles and son Chris Junior suffered a major mechanical failure in their AC Cobra on the historic lap of Lake Pergusa. Following a 2000-mile return trip to Gary Spencer’s Classic Racing Cars workshop in rural Staffordshire, their loyal engine builder has worked all hours to get them back out this weekend with a fresh 289 ci Ford V8 in competitive fettle. Alongside this proven equipe, Bristolian veterans David Smithies and Chris Clarkson – indisputably North Borneo’s greatest racer – handle David’s paler blue Cobra Daytona coupe, resplendent in Tour de France tribute livery.

The Jaguar E-Type set is arguably the strongest, with father and son Graeme and James Dodd, the Pearson brothers Gary & John and rapid Richard Kent bringing winning pedigree to the fray. Also saddling the sleek and muscular Coventry cats are Alistair Dyson/James Dorlin, Martin Melling/Jason Minshaw (sharing the MRM low-drag coupe) and Canadian Read Gomm.

Ford’s Blue Oval is represented in the shape of the Shelby Mustang GT350 of Nick Sleep and Alex Montgomery. This all-American slugfest brings yet another frisson of excitement to the battlefield, with more conventional Elans in the hands of Simon Evans and Stephen Bond/Cliff Gray bound to impudently run rings round the thuggish big bangers in the corners.

GT3 looks like a tasty contest too, with the tail-happy Austin-Healey 3000s and 100/6 from nearby Warwick more than capable of springing surprises. Doug Muirhead and Jeremy Welch – whose family Denis Welch Motorsport business is once again generously supporting our top quality paddock hospitality hub – drive Doug’s scarlet TON 792 (“aka The Chairman’s Car”) run by Sir George Harriman from new in 1956 while Mark Pangborn/Harvey Woods reprise their long-standing partnership in Suffolk-based Pangborn’s British Racing Green machine.

Father and daughter Richard and Alice Locke have added a big Healey to their stable as their experience broadens. They join the class for the first time, alongside returnees Marc Gordon/Nick Finburgh in Marc’s Jaguar E-Type, Sir David Scholey’s ivory open XK120 entrusted to Dorset farmer Rob Newall and Oliver Marçais. The omnipresent Triumph TR4 of Dr Allan Ross-Jones and son Daniel completes the division. The Jaguar XK120 and TR have been turned around since their Enna exertions incidentally.

The GT2 tussle will be as combative as ever, with no fewer than six MGBs, a brace of nippy TVR Granturas, a Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports taking on a two-litre Porsche 911 in a division replete with six racing dynasties. Veteran marque specialists Peter Tognola and Steve Monk are in the iconic German coupe. They and the Triumph-powered Moggie are also back from Sicily, where Simon King [not The Hairy Bikers TV chef!] and Richard Plant finished a brilliant class-winning fifth overall on aggregate after the two 75-minute legs.

Fresh from racing his ex-Gerry Marshall Vauxhall Firenza V8 ‘Baby Bertha’ to podium finishes on Silverstone’s National circuit last weekend, Lincolnshire farmer Joe Ward will find his TVR “Fred” a little more sedate down the straights, but wieldier in the twiddly bits as BMC ‘B’ Series engine sorcerer Chris Conoley recreates their 1995 and 1996 Spa Six Hours-winning TVR Griffith V8 partnerships. Welcome German returnees Florian and Julius Brandt drive their earlier version.

The MGB is nuanced with the strongest family battles. Mark Hope and Jason Minshaw might have a slight edge on pace, but father and daughter Jeremy and Arabella Welch, fathers and sons Nick and Chris Thompson and Scots Sandy and Ross McEwen – bringing Porsche 996 GT experience – and married couples Brian and Barbara Lambert and Beverley and Chris Phillips (joined by ever-smiling IN Racing chief Ian Nuthall) bring years of GTSCC racing to a level playing field.

The Sports Racing triumvirate may find themselves a little short of puff on the Hangar and Wellington Straights with their small-capacity Coventry-Climax single cam engines, but the vastly experienced team of former British Saloon Car Championship racers John Clark and Welshman Karl Jones in the Scot’s Cooper T39 Bobtail and Nick Finburgh/Ollie Crosthwaite (Lola Mk1) will be pedalling their featherweight chassis like mad through the corners, where agility is at a premium.

Last but not least Ellie Birchenhough and Nick Topliss – joined by son James, also from a Vintage racing background – in Ellie’s Dorset Racing Mini Cooper S, which excelled at Enna, renew their Touring Car tussle with Richard and Alice Locke’s pretty Mini Broadspeed GT fastback created by legendary tuner Ralph Broad’s team in Warwickshire.

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