The fifth annual Croft Nostalgia Weekend revved into life yesterday with a mix of classic cars, retro racing, military magic and phenomenal fly-pasts. Croft is celebrates its 50th year of motor sport action in 2014, and marks such a momentous milestone with the ever-popular, BARC and HSCC-run Nostalgia Weekend – celebrating the very best of a golden era from the 1940s-to-1970s.
The racing on-track was the traditional thrill-fest, whilst a spellbinding sideshow of World War Two machinery – with a Spitfire, Chaffee Tank and military encampment chief amongst the attractions – spectacular aerial displays from a Pitts Special and Jet Provost, a stunning array of classic cars and an intoxicating mix of period music and dress meant there was never a dull moment for spectators or competitors.
Two particularly welcome visitors were Jeremy Bouckley and Graham Birrell, both of whom competed in the inaugural event held at Croft Autodrome on 3 August, 1964 – the Daily Mirror Trophy Meeting.
Indeed, Bouckley was emotionally reunited with the very same, ex Charlie Crichton-Stuart Cooper T59 that he had driven at Croft half a century ago – campaigned this weekend by current owner George Cooper in the Historic Formula Junior class.
Birrell, meanwhile, competed in the Daily Mirror Trophy Meeting in a Ford Cortina GT – what he quips was his ‘theoretical work car’ – and long held the Northern Saloon Car Championship lap record at Croft in a Ford Escort MkI. The Scot was a dominant force in tin-tops around the popular North Yorkshire circuit in 1969, and continued to compete there until hanging up his helmet in 1971.
“Croft Nostalgia Weekend is like the Goodwood of the North,” remarked Bouckley, who was just 19 when he competed at the North East venue in 1964. “There’s a really laidback atmosphere and it’s lovely to see all the army vehicles and air displays.
“It was great to be back in my old car, too – it certainly doesn’t feel like 50 years ago! I was very lucky to race during such a fantastic era. Croft has always been an enjoyable circuit to drive and it brings very happy memories being back here again.”
“I must confess, the Nostalgia Weekend is much bigger than I thought it would be, with so much more here than just what’s going on out on-track,” echoed Birrell, who returned to racing towards the end of the 1980s to win the Scottish Production Saloon Championship in an Opel Kadett.
“This is actually the first time I have been back to Croft since 1971, and it’s still a terrific circuit. It’s amusing to reflect now upon when we set the lap record. We came down to Croft for three days’ testing the week before the race meeting to conduct set-up work, and we got the car so finely-tuned into Croft that we were barely able to qualify it at the next circuit we visited!”
Out on the racetrack, the agile Lotus Seven S4 of John Pringle was the weekend’s first winner in Historic Road Sports / ‘70s Road Sports for road-legal cars, narrowly fending off the hard-charging Lotus Europa of Oliver Ford in a bumper 33-strong field.
The latter broke free from a titanic tussle over the runner-up laurels to chase down and latch right onto the leader’s tail, with the margin of victory at the chequered flag less than a second. Jim Dean’s Europa ultimately prevailed in the fraught scrap over the final podium position.
Dean Forward fought his way through from sixth on the grid to triumph in the weekend’s first Historic Formula 3 encounter in his Tecno F3, although his task was aided by early dramas for pole-sitter Benn Simms, who had to start from the pit-lane following clutch woes.
The Elfin 600 driver was on a mission as he scythed his way through the field, but a misfire towards the end forced him to cool his challenge and safeguarded Forward’s success – welcome relief, given that his own car was by then suffering from overheating issues. Paul Waine finished third in his De Sanctis F3 69, with six different manufacturers filling the top six spots.
The heavens opened with a vengeance shortly after the Historic Formula Junior race got underway, rendering the track surface treacherous in the extreme, generating rooster tails of spray and reducing visibility to next-to-non-existent.
Jonathan Milicevic made the most of his pole position advantage and a clear track ahead to sprint to an uncontested victory in his Cooper T59, with Jack Woodhouse in his Lotus 20/22 and Peter Morton’s wonderfully-titled Lightning Envoyette completing the bedraggled podium-finishers.
With the rain as ever proving to be a great leveller, the first Historic Touring Cars race of the weekend took place in conditions considerably more suited to the light and nimble Minis than the flame-spitting Mustangs. Sure enough, from seventh and ninth on the starting grid, Pete Morgan and Roger Godfrey wasted little time in working their way through to the front of the pack.
Godfrey’s green Mini overhauled Morgan’s red Mini to go on to triumph, with a quartet of Ford Lotus Cortinas following behind. AC/DC front man Brian Johnson took the flag an eminently respectable eighth, with an excellent fifth-fastest lap time to his credit.
Pole-sitter Callum Grant sped to a straightforward victory in the Historic Formula Ford outing, and as he pulled away from his pursuers in his Merlyn Mk20A, he left in his wake an energetic squabble over second place.
The position was eventually claimed by a flying Benn Simms from the very back of the 25-car grid, after the Jomo JMR 7 driver and Maxim Bartell in his Merlyn Mk20A elbowed Simon Toyne’s Lola T200 down to fourth on the final lap.
Andrew Park converted pole position into the top step of the podium in his Reynard SF81 in Historic Formula Ford 2000, with even a lurid last lap slide unable to prevent a commanding lights-to-flag success.
He came home ahead of Tom Smith’s Royale RP27 and the Royale RP30 of Benn Simms, who this time made life easy for himself without the need to charge through the field. An honorary mention should also go to Benjamin Tusting, who did charge through the field – from 20th and last on the grid into fourth in his Reynard SF79.
In a triumph for the lone rangers, Steve Hodges piloted his Chevron B8 to a dominant triumph in the final race of the day, the Guards Trophy. Michael Whitaker prevailed in the duel for the runner-up spot, with his TVR Griffith seeing off the AC Cobra of Robert Bremner. The best two-driver effort came home in eighth place.
Full results from yesterday's racing at Croft Nostalgia Weekend can be found by selecting ‘HSCC’ and then ‘Croft’ at: http://results.mstworld.com/Results#