The UK national racing highlights from a mixed 2021 campaign

The lingering impact of the pandemic meant overseas travel was still difficult in 2021, but there was plenty of fantastic racing in the UK over the past year which caught the eye

The UK national racing highlights from a mixed 2021 campaign

The 2021 season featured a return to some semblance of reality in the club and historic motorsport arena. Unlike its COVID-lashed predecessor, which started three months late, a full calendar of events was run.

For me, though, it was a different one. If not chronicling Goodwood’s Revival or Members’ Meeting from a commentary box for the first time altered its dynamic, missing an overseas long-haul trip and the reinstated Spa Six Hours – which I’d attended from 1997-2019 – due to travel logistics was disappointing.

Nonetheless, a full domestic programme demonstrated how fortunate we are to have so many great venues within easy reach. British events and a European surprise provided plenty of enjoyable action.

Bryant Cobra lands TT Celebration

Olly Bryant’s RAC TT Celebration victory at Goodwood stands as the sporting highlight of my year. Time and again I’d witnessed Olly and various partners work their way into contention for the Revival’s blue-riband GT race, only for the gallant AC Cobra to be robbed by late dramas or mechanical failures. Three seconds – the first with dad Grahame and Bill Shepherd in 2004 – were as close as Roy Salvadori’s 1964 TT retiree came, but in September the stars aligned. Darren Turner relayed a healthy snake to Bryant Jr, who thundered to the chequered flag. A fortnight later, his Spa Six Hours GT40 duck was also broken…

Colin Turner visits Silverstone Classic

Eight months after he lost his lower legs following a ghastly accident in the 2020 Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford event, veteran Scot Colin Turner’s return to thank marshals and medics at the Silverstone Classic was my season’s grounding moment. The septuagenarian’s determination to race again is remarkable, founded on unshakeable Christian faith and fierce independence. Buoyed by Nigel and Callum Grant’s early offer of a test in their Historic Merlyn, the indomitable Colin started building a replacement Ray this summer. His Facebook updates constantly inspire many facing challenges and will surely drive brilliant prosthetists to develop ever better artificial limb functionality, making motorsport as accessible as others.

Colin Turner has been plotting a racing comeback after dreadful accident

Colin Turner has been plotting a racing comeback after dreadful accident

Photo by: Marcus Pye

Screaming Formula 2 cars thrill anew

Standing at the end of Silverstone’s traditional pitlane watching the Historic F2 cars file out for qualifying at the Historic Sports Car Club’s International Trophy meeting in May was a treat for anybody fortunate enough to have been around the European championship in the later 1970s. A fleet of iconic and distinguishable cars – five March 782s heading the local Bicester brigade, assorted Chevrons from B42 to B27, a trio of Ralts, plus Brabham, GRD and Motul chassis – was unlike current frontline categories. Add earlier 1600cc F2s and Formula Atlantics, now on the up, and the spectacle was superb. If only the weather had been kinder…

Harrison and Fitz-Simon on FF1600 pace

Exceptional teenage driving talent emerging through Historic Formula Ford is nothing new – witness 2008 champion Michael Lyons, who added all three Monaco GP Historique F1 races to his CV this spring – when traditional contemporary routes are unavailable. This term Samuel Harrison and Horatio Fitz-Simon proved they could run with anybody in their first full seasons. Elden Mk8-mounted Harrison’s pursuit of triple champion-elect Cam Jackson (Winkelmann) at Cadwell Park was stunning. Fitz-Simon, in Mike O’Brien’s lead Classic Team Merlyn Mk20A, kept Jackson and Tom McArthur (Titan Mk4) in sight to the end. After trials and wins, Harrison replaces modern-bound Fitz-Simon for 2022.

Horatio Fitz-Simon leads at Silverstone, Historic FF1600

Horatio Fitz-Simon leads at Silverstone, Historic FF1600

Molly Dodd’s FF2000 breakthrough

Like most of her Historic FF2000 rivals I venture, I’d not heard of Molly Dodd prior to her slicks-and-wings championship debut at Snetterton in a smoky Royale RP27. But I saw tenacity and potential in the 18-year-old Junior Saloon graduate’s driving immediately. Robbed – by a transponder glitch – of what would have been her first win in a tough Brands Grand Prix heat, her hunger intensified. At Oulton Park, iZone apprentice Dodd’s combative nature fuelled another charge. Ask former champion Benn Simms, who worked very hard to pass her. Fourth in the points was an impressive opening gambit. A future W Series contender?

Monaco 500 back out at Goodwood

Young Stirling Moss’s dominant 500cc victory at Goodwood’s first meeting in September 1948 demonstrated supreme talent. October’s 78th Members’ Meeting was the first without the maestro, who often celebrated his birthday at the Revival, but died last April, aged 90. The superb Don Parker Trophy race’s field included the tiny Monaco-Norton – built in Watford by a company headed by John Wyer – in which George Hartwell finished seventh in 1948. With its five-foot wheelbase, the Monaco carried Hartwell and Claude Tipper to Brighton Speed Trials class wins 30 miles away in 1948 and 1949. It was retired in 1953, then resurrected by David Baldock. Angus Frost drove it this time.

Angus Frost, Monaco-Norton

Angus Frost, Monaco-Norton

Photo by: Gary Hawkins

Classic Special Saloons at Donington

Club racing has been close to my heart since the 1960s, and my favourite fix of 2021 was the Classic Sports Car Club’s Donington dazzler in May, which attracted almost 500 entries, including a fine Special Saloons & Modsports pack. The Castrol-flavoured lead tussle between Joe Ward in Baby Bertha – the Chevrolet V8-engined Vauxhall Firenza in which Gerry Marshall was rarely beaten with Australian Holden Repco F5000 power in the mid-1970s – and fellow veteran Malcolm Harding’s Ford Escort Zakspeed tribute was a joy to behold. The sheer variety of machinery at CSCC events is awesome. Unfamiliar territory? Check one out in 2022.

750 Formula joyride at Mallory

The evolution of onboard cameras over 20 years, since GoPro joined racers’ parlance, has been staggering, particularly in terms of stability and resolution. Unobtrusive and inexpensive, now a large proportion of club racers rely on them for post-race analysis. Proving you don’t need the quickest cars to have enormous fun was 10-time 750 Formula champion Mick Harris, who raced wife Sue’s Darvi 597 this season. Mick’s race with 2021 champ Peter Bove (Darvi), former title winner Bill Cowley (Cowley MkIV) and Chris Gough (CGR2 Evo) at Mallory Park in October made enlightening Facebook viewing as the 1100cc Fiat-engined momentum meisters jostled racelong. Magical!

The 750 Formula in action at Mallory Park

The 750 Formula in action at Mallory Park

Photo by: Steve Jones

Walter Hayes Trophy comes of age

Missing the 50th British Racing & Sports Car Club Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in October, which the faithful branded a classic, was disappointing. However, I made it to Silverstone the following week – coincidentally for the fourth weekend in five! – for the 21st Walter Hayes Trophy. James Beckett’s brainchild, debuted in 2001, climaxed the Kent-engined season in style. American teenager Max Esterson rode out triumphant in a Low Dempsey Racing Ray, weathering immense pressure in a super clean finale. The Team USA Scholarship, founded by my old Autosport colleague Jeremy Shaw, and funded by a raft of partners, now has four WHT golds in its quiver.

Baby Van Diemen reminds me of 1981

It’s 40 years since my racing debut at Thruxton in 1981, driving Clive Wood’s Pine City Racing Van Diemen RF80. When team-mate Richard ‘Pink Panther’ Twinam told me F1 model maker Matt Chinn was mastering a 1/20 scale RF80 as his first release, I ordered one to reflect a wonderful day in my life. Having arranged Chinn’s visit to an RF80 owner for dimension checks, I took delivery last month and the attention to detail, beneath removable body panels, is mindblowing. For the cost of a current race entry, fanatically tailored and decalled to spec, it’s something to treasure.

Van Diemen RF80

Van Diemen RF80

Photo by: Marcus Pye

Autosport's national racing highlights

Some dramatic Ginetta Junior action, thunderous Ford GT40s and a very special Saloons & Modsports race provided memorable moments of the season for Autosport's national staff.

Stephen Lickorish, Group National Editor

Some races stick in your mind for all the wrong reasons but one that should be remembered in the best possible way is the third Ginetta Junior race at Donington Park this year. It featured one of the most thrilling lead battles I’ve seen for a long time as title rivals Aston Millar and Liam McNeilly were inseparable, continually swapping places. But, most importantly, the respect between the pair was obvious – Messrs Verstappen and Hamilton could learn a thing or two from these teenagers. And, despite the intensity of their squabble, they were still able to build a gigantic 10-second lead over the rest of the pack. Just brilliant.

Stefan Mackley, Deputy National Editor

My favourite moment of 2021 is a close one between the Amon Cup at the Donington Park Historic Festival and the 50th running of the Formula Ford Festival. The former – which coincidentally was my most anticipated event – just takes the spot – watching the likes of three-time British Touring Car champion Gordon Shedden sliding out of Redgate at the wheel of a Ford GT40 with flames spitting and V8 engine growling was magical. The event was capped off by chatting with Alex Amon, son of ex-Formula 1 driver and 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Chris, and what his dad would have made of the race named in his honour.

Mark Paulson, Special Contributor

A record 40-car entry of Special Saloons and Modsports cars for the Ricky Parker-Morris memorial race at Brands Hatch paid fitting tribute to the series’ prime mover, who tragically died after contracting COVID-19 earlier in the year. The terrifically varied entry made for a stirring sight on the Grand Prix circuit, and produced a thrilling race with multiple lead changes. Sam Wilson carved through from sixth on the grid to win in Rikki Cann’s Aston Martin V8 Vantage, but there was barely a dry eye in the paddock after Ricky’s brother Danny Morris’s fine drive to second in the Spirit of RPM Peugeot 309 Cosworth the pair had previously shared.

Gordon Shedden, Amon Cup, Donington Park 2021

Gordon Shedden, Amon Cup, Donington Park 2021

Photo by: Richard Styles

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