Historic F1: Silverstone Classics

Another in our series of reports looking back at historic Formula 1 races held during the course of the 2016 season, featuring iconic cars from the seventies and eighties.

Photos by Trevor Noble

Silverstone Classic
31-29 July

FIA Masters Historic Formula One – Race 1

The FIA Masters Historic Formula One cars broke the silence on Silverstone’s hallowed tarmac just after lunch, with 29 competitors lining up, headed by quadruple winner Nick Padmore in the Williams belonging to Max Smith-Hilliard, next to Greg Thornton’s Lotus on the front row, with last year’s winner Martin Stretton in third, just in front of Ollie Hancock.

A rolling start produced a four-abreast contest at Abbey as Ollie Hancock swept the Fittipaldi around the outside of Nick Padmore to take the lead, followed by Stretton and the demon-starting Loic Deman, coming through from 7th on the grid. Padmore wasted no time in taking the lead back at Brooklands, and at the end of the first lap he led from Hancock, Deman and Greg Thornton.

Ollie Hancock would have been glad to see the chequered flag at this point though, since he was passed aggressively by Deman, then Thornton and Stretton on lap two, as Padmore asserted himself into a five second lead.

Behind, Deman was taking Greg Thornton with him in pursuit of the leader as D’Ansembourg and Steve Hartley both passed Hancock, resuming their great battle for fifth.

Deman set fastest lap on lap 5 to close the lead gap to 3 seconds with Greg Thornton hanging on, less than a second behind. The lead gap ebbed and flowed with traffic but Thornton and Deman kept it fair in their pursuit. Meanwhile Ollie Hancock’s fall from grace continued as he was passed by Rob Hall (up from 11th) and Mike Wrigley.

On lap 6, Steve Hartley grabbed fifth from D’Ansembourg’s Williams but promptly slowed and pulled off the track, leaving D’Ansembourg in a lonely fifth behind Martin Stretton. The lead gap was still anywhere between 2.5 and 4 seconds with Nick Padmore doing his best to manage the gap to his pursuers, as Simon Fish pitted and retired the Ensign from ninth place on lap 9.

Martin Stretton made a surprise pit call on lap 10, handing fourth to D’Ansembourg but as the race neared its final laps, a number of spun cars brought out yellow flags which helped to maintain the order and the gaps.

With one lap to go, Philip Hall passed Bill Coombs for third in Fittipaldi class, behind Derek Jones’s Hesketh in 10th overall. Padmore’s lead was safe at 6 seconds but Greg Thornton pirouetted spectacularly on the way out of Abbey in his pursuit of Deman, rejoining and losing only 2.8 seconds, but not his third place.

At the chequered flag, Nick Padmore took his fifth victory in a row from Loic Deman (who took fastest lap) and the dizzy Greg Thornton, with D’Ansembourg fourth and Mike Wrigley taking fifth from Rob Hall in the final few corners. Ollie Hancock held on in 7th to win the Fittipaldi class, in front of Mike Cantillon’s Tyrrell in the Invitation class. John Delane’s Tyrrell took the Stewart class win.

FIA Masters Historic Formula One – Race 2

The FIA Masters Historic Formula One cars returned to the Silverstone circuit for their second race of the Siverstone Classic weekend. With Nick Padmore having taken his fifth race win of the season in front of Loic Deman and Greg Thornton on Saturday, the cars re-set in their original Friday qualifying positions, Padmore still occupying pole position for the 25-minute race.

At the rolling start, Ollie Hancock took a deep breath and once again from fourth on the grid, surged around the outside line at Abbey to take the lead from Padmore, with Stretton, Wrigley, Thornton and Deman in his wake. Unlike race one though, he refused to buckle and led over the line to complete the first lap but Nick Padmore eventually made his way past at Village on lap 2.

Martin Stretton was third, but was coming under pressure from Mike Wrigley, who passed at Stowe before Stretton then ran wide at Club and dropped to 6th behind Thornton and Deman, then lost a further place to D’Ansembourg

Ahead, Padmore was pulling away, with Mike Wrigley, Greg Thornton and Loic Deman now lining up behind Hancock, who was acting as the cork in the bottle, holding his pursuers behind. However, unlike the previous race when he slipped down the field, Ollie benefitted from overnight changes to the car and was able to watch the order change in his mirrors as Greg Thornton relieved Mike Wrigley for third into Brooklands. Behind, Deman was monstering the Wrigley Williams and passed him on lap 5, moving up to menace Greg Thornton.

Now Padmore was pulling away at the front, with Hancock maintaining his composure to hold five charging competitors at bay – Thornton, Deman, and D’Ansembourg now in front of Wrigley with Martin Stretton joining the queue. Deman passed Thornton at Copse as Stretton passed Wrigley, but still nobody could touch Hancock, who was now 13 seconds behind the disappearing Padmore as the half way point came far too soon.

On lap 8, Wrigley dropped away to make it a battle of five cars for second, meanwhile Greg Thornton took third place off Loic Deman at Brooklands to have another go at the resilient Fittipaldi ahead. Martin Stretton passed D’Ansembourg at Aintree but Christophe spun in his continued defence of the position at Brooklands and dropped back from the peloton, which was now still headed by Hancock, ahead of Thornton, Deman and Stretton, all covered by little more than a second. Spectators would have been forgiven for thinking back to the 1981 Spanish GP at Jarama when Gilles Villeneuve kept a queue of cars at bay lap after lap – Hancock was turning in just such a performance, still managing to keep his head down and set personal best sectors.

Rob Hall, having had an awful first lap, was now seeing the competing group getting larger ahead and was closing in on Stretton by lap 10. Deman was snapping at Thornton, allowing Hancock some respite as the group scythed past back-markers onto lap 11.

With four minutes to go, the gang of five for second were all together, Thornton had a lunge at Hancock at the Loop, Martin Stretton went onto the grass and Rob Hall slotted into 5th place behind Deman.

Padmore, now more than 20 seconds clear, obligingly crossed the line two seconds before the chequer might have flown, giving spectators just want they wanted – one more lap! It would prove critical as Loic Deman and Rob Hall flew past Greg Thornton at Abbey while lapping the Hagan Hesketh, giving Hancock a fresh challenger to hold off for the final lap.

Nick Padmore crossed the line for the chequered flag and a well-deserved 6th straight victory with a 30 second advantage as Hancock, Deman, Hall, Thornton, Stretton and now Simon Fish battled all the way around Silverstone. Deman finally went around the outside of Hancock into Stowe to take second on the road but Hancock held on to third, winning his class by some considerable distance as well as the admiration of all who watched.

Padmore credited Hancock for a brilliant race, having had time to watch the battle unfold on the big screens while leading. Deman had what he admitted was his hardest race ever, winning that absorbing challenge for second place which covered just three seconds from second to seventh.

Mike Cantillon took the Invitation class win, Stretton won the Lauda class and John Delane won the Stewart class.