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THE GREATEST MARQUE AT THE BEST HISTORIC EVENT OF THE SEASON
Coy's International Historic Festival at Silverstone is now established as one of the best historic events of the year. Tens of thousands of fans descend on the circuit every year to watch and mingle with the nostalgia that is at the very heart of this spectacular meeting. This year the featured marques were M.G. and Brabham, so there was even more of a reason for hundreds of M.G. lovers to make Silverstone their Mecca in August.
Silverstone acknowledges that Coy's is one of its major events and John Fitzpatrick with the rest of the BRDC organising committee had worked hard to make it even better this year. They had modified the F1 circuit at Club corner, specifically for the Festival, to make it more sympathetic to the older cars. The circuit now sweeps left out of the Vale and up into Club allowing the drivers to maintain higher average speeds, with the original flat out Abbey curve making the entry to Bridge very exciting.
They had also arranged for Silverstone TV to cover the event. This was a new enterprise started for the Touring Car and F1 meetings. Such personalities as John Watson, Andrew Marriott and Chris Goffey were presenting interviews, wandering around the pits and paddock with roving cameras and filling in between the splendid commentary of Ian Titmarsh, Robin Bradford et al. All this was viewed on two huge screens, one at Copse and one at Priory. So not only could one hear what was happening around the circuit but one could see it as well.
John Watson summed up Coy's by saying that it was one of the most relaxed meetings he had been to and he enjoyed walking around the pits and paddock without the constant hustle of the F1 circus. Somehow the atmosphere is different. Perhaps it is because the cars are the centre of the attention. Nearly all of these beauties has a history which goes back to races before some of us were even thought of.
The Rover Group Heritage Roadshow formed the centre of an impressive M.G. area. There were competitions, autograph sessions and a display of Landmark M.G.s, tracing the history of the mark from 1926 to the MGF. The Car Club, together with the Owners Club and the Octagon Car Club had organised an Invitational Concours event which brought 50 of the best M.G.s in the country together. Entries included the oldest M.G., a 1928 M.G. 14/40, the oldest surviving M.G. 2-seater sports car that was registered as an M.G., as well as T-types. Magnettes, MGAs, Bs, Cs, through to Metros, Maestros and RV8s.
Although many spectators visit Coy's for the trade stands and the peripheral displays, the racing has to take place. The sheer enjoyment that the drivers and it would seem the cars, get out four-wheel drifting through the corners, close racing and basically going 'like hell' is infectious. Not only was the lead in most of the races fought over with sheer exuberance, but all the way through the field there were battles being fought out with no quarter given.
The racing takes place over the two days with most races having two heats, the final result being the combination of both heats. This meant that there was a total of 15 races. Wonderful stuff! M.G.s featured in 4 of them plus they had a race all of their own, The Abingdon Trophy.
The Abingdon Trophy Race for M.G. Sports Cars, Race 7 was the first race on Sunday. There were 44 cars making up this spectacular grid spanning 40 years of M.G. racing. On the front row were No.56, Warwick Banks, the ex works 'B' driver, in his '63 MGB, Stirling Moss, No 7, driving 6 DBL, Ron Gammons' MGB, which won the Autosport championship in 1963 driven by Alan Hutchinson, and Frank Sytner, No 54, in 8 DBL the sister car to Moss'. This car won the Brands Hatch 1000 miles in 1965, then driven by Warwick Banks.
The second row was made up of Barry 'Sideways' Sidery-Smith, No 61 in his MGB Le Mans and Tony Binnington, No 51 in his MGB.
Colin Pearcy, No 59, in one of the two lightweight, ex-works MGCs in the race, Gerry Brown, No 57, MGB now residing in sunny Suffolk and Steve Smith, No 40, in his MGA made up the third row.
The second lightweight MGC, No 58, in the hands of Ron Gammons was on the fourth row alongside Gammons Junior, Malcolm, in an MGB, No 60.
The race got off to a storming start and at Copse Corner, Banks, Sidery-Smith, Moss and Sytner were side by side. But by the time they had all got to Becketts, Colin Pearcy had moved the MGC up to 2nd place. Moss manged to keep in front until the second time through Becketts, then the charging Pearcy pushed passed into the lead. Barry 'Sideways' had, by this time, got himself into third and was putting pressure on Moss. Coming down into Bridge for the third time put the Le Mans 'B' into second with Tony Binnington not far behind.
Whilst Colin Pearcy was extending his lead somewhat, Sidery-Smith, Moss and Binnington were swapping places. Banks pulled off on the start/finish straight and Sytner was slowing with a smoking engine. Gerry Brown was having his own private battle with Steve Smith in the MGA. Eventually on lap four, Barry 'Sideways' managed to make second place his own whilst Tony Binnington was still having a battle with Stirling Moss.
Lap five saw Barry 'Sideways' making up ground on Colin Pearcy and Binnington finally getting past Moss, Steve Smith's 'A' started to smoke giving fifth place back to Gerry Brown. For the rest of the race Barry 'Sideways' tried and tried to get past Colin Pearcy, but using the tactics of a seasoned Touring Car driver and the extra power of the MGC, Pearcy made the MGC very wide and somewhere managed to keep in front. Tony Binnington finished 0.4 seconds ahead of Moss with Gerry Brown 5th, Ron and Malcolm Gammons were having a father and son battle, but when Malcolm fell off momentarily at Luffield, Ron shot past and managed to take 6th by 0.1 second. George Edney in his superb TB finished 8th, the first 1930's car home. That is some impressively fast T-type.
Other tit bits
Louis Vuitton 1950's Sports Cars. Race 5 & 12 The irrepressible Barrie 'Wizzo' Williams was out again in the Tojeiro Jaguar.
This car was built to compete in the 1959 Le Mans, it stopped due to overheating. Later the same year it had its second outing at Goodwood, unfortunately it ran wide and was wrecked and lay in pieces until it was rebuilt in 1980s. Now owned by Dick Skipworth, he managed to get sponsorship from Altera and so it is back competing. However, on Friday, in practice it sheered a wheel hub. Being handbuilt there were no spares. Lynx motors who now maintain the car, persuaded a machinist in Redditch to stay up all night to machine a 8 inch long, 7 inch diam. billet into a new hub which was rushed to Silverstone and fitted just in time for Williams to drive the car into 4th place on Saturday and 2nd place on Sunday. Giving him third overall. It is a marvellous sight to see 'Wizzo' driving that car. The race was won by Gary Pearson in a Lister Jaguar.
This is one for me
Jonathan Baker's Lola Chevrolet T70GT in race 14 for Pre '72 Le Mans Cars Baker was the fastest man at Coy's when he established an unofficial lap time of 100.95 mph on the new Historic Grand Prix circuit. I just love these cars!
The 1996 Coy's was a wonderful success, the weather decided that it was going to brighten up on Saturday afternoon and that all added to the carnival atmosphere. It also made it perfect for the 40 plus hot air balloons which took to the skies above Silverstone on Saturday evening. This year there were so many that they had to wait for the racing to finish so that they could use part of the track as a launch pad.
It is rumoured that next year's Coy's is the last week in July, so put the date in your diary. M.G.s won't be featured marque in 1997 but you can be sure that whatever is, it will be historic and there will be hundreds of shining examples of them. If you love seeing cars as they should be, being used and loved, then Coy's is the place for you.
See you there.