Stars Shine at Combe's Classic
21st February 2017

Stars Shine at Combe's Classic

Following four years glorious weather, the 5th running of the Bristol Forklifts Autumn Classic race meeting at Castle Combe on Saturday October 1 was rain afflicted, with spectators and drivers braving heavy showers. However, in spite of the changeable weather, the popular event drew another enthusiastic crowd keen to take in the circuit's only dedicated Historic meeting of the season. With the sights and sounds of some unique and important racing machinery, and occasional bouts of sunshine, there was still much to enjoy.


Star guest was David Brabham, the former F1 driver, Le Mans winner and son of legendary triple world champion, Sir Jack, demonstrating a Brabham BT11A single seater from 1964. Other 'Star' cars to take to the track included the Formula 5000 McLaren M10B that Peter Gethin took to victory in May 1970, smashing the outright circuit record by nearly eight seconds, and Stirling Moss's 1961 Monaco GP winning Lotus 18-Climax. Another ex-Moss car was the unique four wheel drive Ferguson P99, while event sponsor Julian Bronson drove his rare F1 Scarab and Mark Hales showed off the almost priceless Ferrari 250 GTO of local resident Nick Mason, complete with its 250 GTO registration number.


The Vintage Sports Car Club's race for Pre-war sports cars kicked off the nine race schedule, enjoying a window of sunshine and drying track. While Sam Stretton launched his Alta into the lead from the start, and motored away to a dominant victory, the battle for the remaining podium places was a much tighter affair. Pole sitter Patrick Blakeney-Edwards in the amazing Frazer Nash saloon 'Owlet' battled with Mark Gillies' Speed Model Aston Martin and the HRG of Andrew Mitchell, but despite Edwards' efforts on a drying track Gillies was able to pull out a comfortable enough lead to claim second, with Mitchell's HRG less than a couple of seconds ahead of 'Owlet' at the flag.


Next up was the first of two races for the Allan Cameron Healey Drivers Club Invitation Challenge and, as rain began to fall heavily, 19-year-old Jack Rawles in his father's Healey 3000 made an audacious pass on Jack Chatham's similar car at Camp, going on to win by just 1.5". Part two of the Healey race rounded off the day's activities, Rawles winning again, but by an even narrower margin, 0.6", this time ahead of Oliver Chatham, who had taken over from brother Jack. The four-cylinder 100 class was equally closely fought, Jonathan Abecassis triumphing in the first race, but Nick Matthews doing enough in part two for the class win on aggregate.


From the rolling start Richard de la Roche shot into the lead of the Bristol Aeroplane Company Motor Sports Club Challenge Trophy race for 500cc Formula 3 cars, and thereafter gradually increased a winning advantage. Following the Mk.V Cooper was a battling quartet with Gordon Russell in the lone Mackson tackling the Coopers of pole-man Brian Jolliffe, Darrell Woods and Mike Fowler, while further back an even bigger mid-field bunch scrapped over 6th place. As the rain intensified after 7 laps Jolliffe spun at Camp, and with the Cooper stranded the red flags came out. De la Roche thus celebrated his first win in 20 years of racing, with Russell and Fowler completing the top three.


Steve Boultbee-Brooks proved a master of the slippery conditions to repeat his 2015 victory in the FiSCaR 50s sportscar 'Intermarque' race.  Heading the day's biggest field Brooks' Aston Martin DB3S held off a determined group of Jaguars and Healeys, with Nick Matthews(Austin Healey 100/4) and Kevin Zwolinski (Jaguar XK120) joining him on the podium.


Making it a de la Roche family victory double, Richard's 19-year old son Peter took a maiden win in the 'Silverline' Historic Formula Junior championship race.  In his rare US built BMC Mk 2 de la Roche junior was well clear of Pete Morton's Lightning Envoyette, but further back Nick Finburgh (Envoy) and Nick Taylor disputed the final podium spot, Taylor snatching it with a bold dive into the final corner in his front-engined Elva-BMC.


Minis were the cars to have for the first visit to the 'Classic' of the HRDC's 'Coys Trophy' race for Touring Cars built between 1958 and 1966, being more suited to the treacherous conditions than bigger and normally quicker machinery. Peter Crewes led a Cooper S 1-2-3 for most of the 45 minute race until retiring with a broken alternator, allowing the pole team of James and Richard Dorlin to take the win from Paul Inch in another Cooper S. John Spiers in the Lotus Cortina brought the first rear wheel drive car home in 3rd, ahead of Gavin Watson's class winning Alfa Giulietta, while the rather unsuitable 4.7 litre Ford Falcon Sprint driven by Chris Clarkson was back in 6th. As some consolation Pete Crewes was awarded the 'Terry Sanger Memorial Trophy' for 'Driver of the race'.


Stars shine at Combes classic


The Jon Gross Memorial Trophy race for Historic Aston Martins provided Steve Boultbee-Brooks and his DB3S with their second win of the day, Brooks leading from start to finish, chased home valiantly by Nick Ruddell, who won the GT class, in his Aston Martin DB2/4. Third, and winner of the Mort Goodall Cup for pre-war cars, was Mark Gillies, repeating his victory from last year in the Aston Monoposto.


The damp conditions also played a part in the Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club's Norman Dewis Trophy race for pre '66 Jaguars, with the normally dominant E-types at a disadvantage, and the XKs and Mk.1 saloons allowed to shine. Kevin Zwolinski (XK120) hit the front on the 4th lap, after Peter Dorlin retired his Mk.2 saloon, thereafter Richard Butterfield tried everything he knew to get his Mk.1 level with Zwolinski, the pair showing impressive car control. Following a big moment at Camp Butterfield had to give best to the XK, taking the flag just 2 seconds in arrears. Best of the E-types was former winner Grahame Bull back in 6th place.


Race winners - Sam Stretton (Alta Sports) - Kevin Zwolinski (Jaguar XK120) - Steve Boultbee Brooks (Aston Martin DB3S) -  Richard de la Roche (Cooper Mk.V 500) - Richard & James Dorlin (Austin Cooper S) - Peter de la Roche (BMC Mk.2 FJ) - Jack Rawles (Austin Healey 3000)