Two Action Packed Days At Donington Historic Festival

The 2024 season got off to a flying start at the Donington Historic Festival over the weekend (4-5 May). The sun shone throughout to banish memories of the damp winter, with races run in front of bumper crowds.

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The Royal Automobile Club Pall Mall Cup once again offered up a tense climax after three hours of thrilling 1960s GT racing. Following a late call-up by Kyle Tilley, modern-day touring car racer Jake Hill found himself in the thick of it on his first experience of a TVR Griffith. Hill qualified on the front row alongside the pole position-winning Griffith of John Davison and Mike Whitaker – the two cars separated by just 0.001sec! Then with 42 minutes of the three-hour race to run Hill took a decisive lead to claim a memorable victory, with five cars all on the lead lap at the finish.

Hill’s BTCC rival Rob Huff claimed the early limelight in a semi-lightweight Jaguar E-type shared with Richard Meins before cooking his brakes. As the race entered its final hour, the battle for overall victory came down to a trio of TVRs and the Cobra Daytona driven by Julian Thomas and Jeremy Cottingham. Davison led the way, only for his bid for victory to be caught short by a drive-through penalty for a pitstop infringement – which he was forced to serve for a second time after allegedly taking it originally during a safety car period.

Hill had already passed Davison after the safety car had closed up the pack, and then shot past Harry Barton’s TVR to take the lead. Thomas charged up to second in hot pursuit, his Cobra Daytona finishing just 6.4sec behind Hill, with Max Lynn and Andy Wolfe the first of the Lotus Elan’s home in fifth.

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Gary Pearson stroked to a fine solo win driving his Jaguar D-type in the Stirling Moss Trophy, from Dafyd Richard’s Lotus X1 and Christ Clarkson’s Lister Jaguar, as rivals fell by the wayside in the opening race of the weekend. Shane Brereton had been a threat for victory until his Cooper Monaco broke a driveshaft; Will Nuthall’s bid was thwarted by a wheel bearing failure in the Lotus XV he was sharing with Richard Wilson; and the pole-setting Lister Jaguar Knobbly driven by Nigel Greensall and John Spiers was side-lined with a misfire.

The concurrent Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy was won by a delighted Rudiger Friedrichs in his Jaguar C-type, ahead of fast-charging Lotus V1 drivers Charles Angrave and Richard Hodson – finishing a remarkable third and fourth overall against the later machinery, with Ben Eastick’s D–type Jaguar taking third step of the podium.

A first-lap incident marred proceedings – none of the drivers involved were hurt but the competitor deemed responsible was later disqualified from the meeting in its entirety and the results for that race thus loosing his podium placing.

“It’s very special to win this race and to finish third overall is even sweeter,” said Friedrichs. “I had a good battle with the amazing little Lotus” – the MKVI of, which finished fourth overall – “until I pulled away. I was managing the drum brakes on the C-type towards the end but I’m used to that.”

A first-lap incident marred proceedings – none of the drivers involved were hurt but the competitor deemed responsible was later disqualified from the meeting, thus elevating those behind in the placings.

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The green Nissan Skyline of Andy Middlehurst and Jonathan Bailey claimed pole position and overall victory in the Historic Touring Car Challenge with Tony Dron Trophy and Sixties Touring Cars with U2TC race  on Saturday afternoon, but only after the demise of Ric Wood’s blue version, which was forced out by broken front left suspension. Touring car legend Steve Soper starred in a Bigazzi tribute BMW E30 M3 owned by Toby Partridge, but a penalty for a too-short mandatory pitstop confused him who pitted thinking the race was over. He recovered to finish fifth, as class winner Mark Fielding finished a distant second overall in his ex-Soper M3. Ian and Frank Guest got the better of an entertaining all-Ford Escort battle, their RS1800 finishing just 1.292sec ahead of the MkII of Nick Whale and Alistair MacKinnon in third and fourth overall. Adam Brindle and Jack moody took Tony Dron Trophy honours in their Rover SD1, and Irishman David Dickenson claimed U2TC honours in his familiar green Lotus Cortina.

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A rare mistake by Nigel Greensall when his foot slipped off the brake pedal proved the deciding moment as Harvey Stanley and James Cottingham claimed a fine victory in their Jaguar E-type in the Pre ’63 GT race on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon.

John Spiers headed the field away from the start in his AC Cobra, before Stanley made his move for the lead further around the lap on the run up to McLeans. Once Stanley had handed over to Cottingham, and Spiers to Greensall, the white E-type led the red Cobra by 5.7sec with around 20 minutes to go. But then the safety car broke up the race. That gave Greensall his chance, only for his race to unravel at McLeans as racing resumed with 13 minutes left on the clock. Cottingham crossed the line at the end of the hour-long race more than 20 seconds to the good ahead of Greensall, who still finished second despite his error.

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The threat of rain held off for the ‘Mad Jack’ for Pre-War Sports Cars to complete Motor Racing Legends’ Donington Historic Festival with a flourish. Rudiger Friedrichs added to his weekend haul following his Woodcote Trophy victory with his second consecutive ‘Mad Cap’ win at Donington. At the end of the 40-minute race, including a mandatory pit stop, Friedrichs and his delightful Alvis Firefly Special were 18.3 seconds up the road on Gareth Burnett and his Alta Sports. In 10th overall and second in the post-vintage under 2001cc class was ex-Formula 1 team boss Vijay Mallya, who was sharing a Frazer Nash 328 with Chris Ward. But there was disappointment for Aston Martin GT veteran Darren Turner. The three-time Le Mans class winner didn’t get to race this year in the 1930 Aston Martin Team Car, after Jonathon Lupton had to retire.

The expanded race report will be available soon – race results are all available to download on the Entries and Results page of (click here) The Motor Racing Legends season will continue with the Snetterton Classic on June 29/30.

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