Bentley Drivers’ Club, 30th August 2003
A week later than normal but the weather was as good as we could wish for. 30 drivers had signed up for the Tony Morgan-Tipp Challenge the largest grid of the year so far. (Snetterton and Brands Hatch could outstrip this if you all put your minds to it....) Additional races were on the cards for many: Slow Handicap, Fast Handicap, Allcomers’ Scratch, with 3 wheelers in the Vintage Handicap and Scratch races. Some people had brought extra cars: Jack Bellinger, his 1971 4/4 for the Slow Handicap; Tony Howard, his 1962 SLR; and Grahame Bryant, his 1964 Aston Martin DB5. James Edgerton’s Plus 8 appeared in an extra race, driven by John Dutton.
The rest of us turned up with a variety of clothes as the weather forecast was not as fine as it eventually turned out. Travelling to Friday testing started in heavy rain and the day ended with hail (though the single seaters were out by then and they are made of tough stuff presumably). Testing was interesting with very fast and very noisy cars (Jackie Oliver in a GT 40 and Jamie Campbell-Walters in the works Lister Storm for example). Lots of people turned up at the end of the afternoon to book parking spots and be scrutineered before the early morning start on Saturday.
As the bright cool Saturday dawned there was plenty of coming and going as all the vintage and other cars arrived, the exhibition of special cars (and an aeroplane) was assembled and practice started on time at 9am. Several people had experienced adventures before even arriving at the track. Peter Horsman had a broken gearbox a week before which was taken out and mended by Friday and then in addition cracked rear brakes were discovered. Well done, the lads at Brian Gateson’s, for getting him there. Sadly, pressure of work had prevented Matthew Wurr from replacing his electrics we hope to see you driving again before the end of the season. David James managed to cure the nasty knocking sound which retired him from Snetterton by borrowing an engine from Rick Bourne and a starter motor from his wife’s car ( what else are wife’s cars for?) He was still experiencing some fly wheel and clutch incompatibility problems, of which more later. Peter Sargeant lived up to his “Country Life” reputation by disposing of a pheasant on the way to the track. The pheasant’s revenge was to demolish Peter’s front offside (new) wing and headlight. Jack Bellinger got wife, Sally, to disguise herself as son, Billy, to drive his Plus 8 to the track. She did this safely but when Jack got into the car to take it to scrutineering it had lost all brake fluid and had no brakes to speak of. What does your life insurance look like Jack? Simon Orebi Gann had tested on Friday and ended the day with very funny noises coming from his tappets would it work on Saturday? Sadly, although Richard Plant has recovered from his 4 day headache after his crash at Mallory, his car hasn’t and we shall only see him as a spectator until next season.
The Morgan drivers were in Practice 2, along with various other cars which confused some of the spectators and the drivers too. It was good to great to see both some new and some returning drivers. Tony Lees was out racing for the very first time in his 1993 +8; James Edgerton was driving his Class A car for the first time in a while; Grahame Bryant took out his 1977 version which he has raced for 26 years, but not recently; Paul Chauveau (as a newly qualified Dad) was back in Class C; Nigel Ingram was braving the maul rather than being alone on the track in a sprint; Tony Howard confused himself by driving his Plus 8 and Malcolm Paul downsized to his 1959 +4. The practice included a Chevron, vintage Bentleys and a Cortina but nothing could faze our intrepid Morgan racers as much as the Caterham did.
Class A had Rick Lloyd bedding in new tyres but still winning pole position; Adam Jones with no oil pressure and understeering; and James Edgerton (Edge) and Tim Bryan finding it slippery. Grahame Bryant lost his clutch pedal and spent his time between practice and race looking for a pin maybe his middle name is Barbarina? Philip McKelvey had also had puncture problems, but only with his airbed overnight, his practice was just busy with traffic. Chris Williams affected Class B and C qualifying, frightening Frank Grimley by spinning in front of him at Maggots, witnessed by Simon Orebi Gann who said it spoiled his lap time(!). Frank had been finding it pretty slippery himself with a spin into Luffield and Peter H complained about traffic as did Tony Lees and Peter S. Those at the front of Class B and some of Class C were intimidated by the Caterham which buzzed up and passed them at unexpected places. Chris Acklam. James Paterson, Paul Burry and Simon OG all made official complaints to your scribes about the interloper. Andy Green blamed his soft brakes for his grid position and Paul Chauveau said he had gone soft as a new father until Philip Goddard in Class D overtook him and he woke up. Chris Dady and Leigh Sebba just complained about too much traffic in general.
As usual in Class D we had the best excuses of all. Mary Lindsay was surprised that Silverstone was not as bad as she remembered, though busy- she registered a good qualifying time. But Jack knew that the timing system was wrong, the wrong transponder was on his car, (it must have been swapped with Mary’s(?)) and Sally thought that she should have been racing not him... Kelvin Laidlaw was struggling against the Chevron’s slow performance on the bends and Tony Howard was learning to drive a Plus 8 instead of his SLR. At last we had a grid in Class E, though these lovely cars were not without their problems. David James had a slipping clutch and a rocker leaking oil; Malcolm Paul reckoned he would have done better with scrubbed tyres; and Matt Taylerson ran fine apart from a misfire at the end which needed investigative help from the man on crutches (his father, Doug) and, even after 4 hours work between practice and race, sadly proved terminal.
Lots of coming and going in the paddock as people and cars entered other practices and races and the Procession of Bentleys took place. And then the 28 cars lined up for the Tony Morgan-Tipp Memorial Race. (The race is important but cast your eyes for a moment to the BRDC Stand where most of us spectators are thanks to BDC for suspending the charge for seats. We try to explain to visitors what is happening who is in which class, why they are running each other off the track, what the flags waving mean. We comfort the wives who don’t look and tell them that it’s OK for this lap at least. And your scribe and her roving reporter cling to each other as their husbands try to win Class C at great risk to friendship,bank balance and mechanics’ time).
The start: At the front Rick and Edge were away neck and neck into the first corner and throughout the first 2 or 3 laps they were dicing with each other all round the track. Grahame had trouble with his gears (1st to 5th does not work well); Chris W pulled ahead of him and Peter H, with James P and Chris A taking swift avoiding action to drive around the bogged down car. As did Simon and Paul B a little later when Grahame found himself back in 1st again. Philip McK once again showed everyone how to do it, making up 8 places at the start including getting ahead of his Classs B rival Phil Hollins. Chris Dady had an excellent getaway passing Andy Green though at the first corner Andy touched him (Peter S having a worryingly close view of the incident) and recovered more quickly than Chris who returned to the track near the back of the field. Paul Chauveau got stuck in 1st and 2nd so was passed by lots of cars; just behind him Nigel, in his first start decided that his car must have suddenly become magnetic as he felt everyone converge upon him. On the next row Tim Bryan had removed his hard top and got past about 5 cars, Frank improved on his previous starts and Tony Lees impressed himself with lots of wheel spin (the pundits say that wheel spin slows you down Tony). Behind them Philip G was waiting for the green lights so missed the flag and Leigh found himself too close to the barrier for comfort. Further back still, Mary had a lovely start but Jack was even better, passing numerous cars. He commented that he thought they couldn’t see the green flag and Tony Howard agreed that was the case the arrangements were a bit chaotic for the last cars in a large field. At the rear of the grid David James was still having trouble with his slipping clutch and the course car passed him....
Once he had worked out which gears were where Grahame swiftly passed Adam, Paul B, Simon and Chris A all by the third corner. Also during the first lap Chris W overtook Peter H on the Club Straight and Chris D started to make his way back up through the field. Phil G got past Kelvin starting a personal battle that lasted throughout the race. The only time they were separated was on lap 4 when Paul C separated them and a little later when Kelvin had a moment at Maggots, took to the grass and his bonnet flew open. Frank, being a little overenthusiastic as usual, nearly had an off but recovered himself well. On the second and third laps Edge was ahead of Rick into the complex but as he says “It is a long way round the outside of Luffield” and each time Rick was back ahead by the start finish line. Grahame squeezed past James P to recover another of his lost places and Simon caught and passed Paul B into Luffield, giving those of us in the stand the first of many exciting spectacles round the long bend indeed on lap 3 Paul overtook him on the inside there. Jack was dropping back through the field after his fantastic start and conversely Chris D was making up 6 places in one lap. Both Andy and Tim got past Peter S and Tony Lees in his first race overtook Tony H.
During the next lap Andy passed Phil H and Leigh overtook his old friend Jack. Mary, who had a good first couple of laps dropped 3 places following a “love bite” from Phil G (not a gentlemanly way to behave on the track, Phil) at Becketts. Malcolm overtook Tony H and then was puzzled by the absence of Matt, whom he had been looking forward to racing. Tony then had a lonely race, but enjoyed getting used to his newly rebuilt car. Lap 4 with Rick still ahead of Edge and pulling away about ½ second a lap. Grahame passed Peter H to take 4th place and was fast catching Chris W. Tim entertained the crowd at Copse with a 360 spin which left him half on the track, but facing in the right direction more luck than judgement, he said afterwards. Not surprisingly that lost him 4 places. Paul C got past Class D cars Phil G and Kelvin, resisting the temptation to separate them as this would have spoiled their race. And Tony L made his second ever overtaking manoeuvre to get past Mary.
At the start of Lap 5 Simon was entertained somewhat differently approaching Copse as Adam and Paul, who were 0.2 seconds in front of him parted to expose a slow moving David whose clutch was still slipping. A hurried racing decision was required to avoid collecting his friend from the London Centre up the back end. Grahame passed Chris W to gain 3rd place where he remained for the rest of the race. The races for Classes C and D were staying hot with Paul B and Simon, and Phil G and Kelvin each being less than 0.2 seconds apart. Then Frank (The Gravel) Grimley threw a spanner in the works by braking too late at Brooklands and visiting his natural habitat luckily with no damage. Waved flags caused problems for some of our racers through the next 2 laps as marshals first attempted to push Frank’s car (some hope it was buried deep) and then called for the truck to lift and tow it clear. Philip McK thought that he had passed Andy under waved yellows ( he hadn’t) and waved him through at the green flag. This deprived Philip of the grandstand view of the Paul B/Simon tussle which he had been observing for 6 laps, complicated by the proximity of Adam in front of them. Paul C had started to remember the driving skills that becoming a new father had robbed him of and passed Jack on lap 6. Next lap, with the waved yellows still at the Brooklands/entrance to Luffield, Grahame found that he was unable to encroach further on the distance between him and Edge as they were split by some back markers. Equally Peter H was separated from Chris W and Grahame as he did not overtake under the waved yellows on Lap 7. Well behaved, Peter! Philips McK and Hollins were starting on their own battle being less than 0.25 seconds apart all the way to the chequered flag.
On Lap 8 Kelvin had a moment at Maggotts during which he had to take to the grass and his bonnet came open. This allowed Tony Lees to get very close (he had been catching for some time) but not quite to get past. Adam had noticed by now that he sometimes had a large ivory shape in his mirror (PaulB) and sometimes a large green shape (Simon). Lap 9 he had a big moment through Luffield and although he recovered safely it allowed Paul B to get past on the pit straight the only time that he and Simon were separated all race, and then only briefly. The final bit of excitement then occurred at Luffield as Peter S and Nigel approached the bend side by side they became aware of Chris D failing to brake on the inside and driving across them towards the gravel at a rate of knots. Great anticipation from both of them meant that only Chris was excluded from the race by the incident. Congratulations both, and especially Nigel as a new racer. (Good Luck too in the final 3 rounds of the Hill Climb Championship in which Nigel is a strong contender). A very dusty end for Chris D but he was pronounced fit by the circuit doctor later after his bounce across the off-road terrain. Nigel then managed to pass Peter S as they came out of the bend. Paul C had finally caught and overtaken Leigh after catching him over the past 4 laps.
The final lap continued the excitement as Adam retook his place ahead of Paul B allowing Simon to have another go at passing him. Simon was faster out of the last corner but Paul kept the lead by 0.13 seconds half a wheel length apart and they shared the champagne as drivers of the day. It was close throughout the field though as Peter S also retook Nigel and they finished 0.6 sec apart; Peter H was only ½ sec behind Chris W; Phil Hollins 0.2 sec behind Philip McK; Kelvin and Tony Lees were both less than a second behind Phil G. So, although it was a lonely race for several drivers most everyone enjoyed it and the spectators got fantastic value for money.
Congratulations to Class winners: Rick Lloyd, Peter Horsman, Paul Burry, Jack Bellinger and Malcolm Paul.
Kate Orebi Gann
(with thanks as always to roving reporter Liz Burry)