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VSCC Mallory Park - 23rd August 2009


10 days to go, the VSCC are naturally fretful as we have managed only 9 entries. Lights, action, we can’t have this – a combined effort from Duncan and Sarah and voila ! we have 21 entries.
         “Give me Mallory Park on a Summer’s Day” – no really, the ambiance parked by the lake watching the extraordinary VSCC Specials and Edwardians – it’s all very relaxed and different. Only 2 juniors failed to show but 19 actually practiced.
Much to Peter Jackson’s joy, Coopers occupied the first 4 places after practice with Jon Milicevic recording an astonishing 50.73 lap – where does that time come from? Well if you watch him through the Esses – yes it comes from the cockpit. Last year’s winner Sam Wilson was less than a second slower – that itself a result!  and Simon Armer was 3rd , these three in T59s with Simon Smith having a rare outing in his T56 in 4th .
Ian Bankhurst was the quickest of the front engine brigade in the ex Tony Goodwin Gemini – while on his form this year that might be expected, the pace of Andrew Tart’s Bond was a revelation – The writer saw this wildly unconventional car at the racing car show in 1961 and had never seen or heard of it since. Boy, does it go well - front wheel drive, fibreglass monocoque but it really went well – beautifully driven too. It was nice to meet the owner and original driver Jon Goddard-Watts – I don’t remember seeing him drive this car but I remember him well driving a Berkley.
Practice took its toll. Crispian Besley had the engine let go in his very tasty Cooper T56 – fortunately he (and his Freedom Beer) stayed on until after the race (of which more anon). Bill Grimshaw had changed the cylinder head on his Moorland but whatever he’d done can’t have worked and he too was a non starter. Julia De Baldanza had a mild off in her sublime ex Besley OSCA  - damage seemed confined to the front bodywork but it was loaded up before the race, as was Clive Temple’s brakeless Cooper T56.
It was good to see Dave Abbott out in Peter Jackson’s Cooper – he drove neatly and well – a great effort in what was I believe his first race ever – he sported the day’s biggest grin.
The race start was at least conducted in gentlemanly fashion – the FWD Bond was slow and returnee Fred Boothby was lightning fast – he put it down to being more familiar with flag start than lights!
         You may be expecting me to describe the battle between the Cooper T59s – well Simon Armer from 3rd on the grid had a front brake lock on – not great on the 1st lap but he avoided a red flag situation (we’ve had enough of these at Mallory this month) by somehow coaxing it to the pit road entrance. As for Milicevic and Wilson – how would I know? They were so far ahead and out of sight by the hairpin on lap 1. I can say this however, they lapped me at Gerards and to see them attack the Esses about a car’s length apart and it seemed without requiring to slow down a bit was – well an education – I’m not sure however that the education would ever work on me. Wilson wasn’t giving up – he straight-lined the Esses – if we mere mortals tried that we’d be in for a chassis rebuild/ unbend!
         The Bond, after its indifferent start, soon passed the military battle between Birrell and Fred Boothby – Birrell got by and pulled away after Fred lost his clutch and declined to attempt first gear at the hairpin.
Paul Dixon was going well in his immaculate Gemini – Birrell as in practice had to concentrate to stay ahead – is it right that a Brabham should have to work so hard? It can’t be the car, because seasoned campaigner Sid Hoole finished a smooth, if lonely, 3rd in his superb BT6.
Jeremy Deeley went well in his most original Cooper T52 – a lovely car. In the Hutchison family, it was Sarah’s turn to drive the Lotus 18 – I remember being astonished by the small size of these cars at the Goodwood Easter Monday meeting in 1960 – now it seems big enough to hold a dance inside – Sarah drove smoothly and well – are you doing the Ladies race at Donington at the See Red meeting? The last ladies race I saw was at Kirkistown in 1969 when my girlfriend of the time Samantha Connelly won in my Djerid F4 – and Richard Young’s then wife Jenny demolished his Mallock Mk 6 against a marshal’s post – on the straight!

         I digress, the race was incident free i.e. no crashes or even spins (at least I didn’t see any).
The prizegiving was a change from the usual routine. (Fortunately not too much of a change as Crispian kindly kept us watered with his very welcome Freedom Beer)
 It is important to remember that this race is really a most fitting memorial to John Taylor – a protégé of Bob Gerard and very much the master of Mallory in the first half of the 60s – he was a real star and progressed from dominating the national scene (invariably in Coopers) to F2 in company with all the F1 superstars of that period (and they really were superstars) – he progressed to F1 in those dangerous times. I was in the press box on that gloomy dark and sodden day at the German Grand Prix in 1966 when John’s Brabham left the road after a collision and John suffered injuries from which he subsequently died. We are privileged to race for this prize and John I’m certain in the celestial racetrack will be proud that we remember him in the best possible way.  As is happily customary, John’s widow Irene kindly joined us and presented Jon with the magnificent trophy. It was indeed nice to chat to Irene – she was Bob Gerard’s secretary when they met and was a real inspiration to John.
Jeremy Bouckley makes the arrangements for the Trophy – he showed me the past winners engraved on the Cup – It has run since 2002 – only 1 person has won it more than once (Edwin Jowsey) and Jon Milicevic was the 4th different winner in 4 years – even more significant, those other 3 winners took part this year – says it all about FJHRA – n’est pas?
Final thought – how nice to see Jon and Sam put arms round shoulders after a really close and (from what little I saw) very exciting race – no tantrums or excuse giving here – proper people- a credit to the sport – Sam quietly pleased that his heroic effort got him so close (0.6s) and Jon surrounded as usual by his delightful family was gracious and modest – just wish I could drive half as well – proper people all.

Lt Col Bob Birrell