Oulton Park hosted the opening AMOC Racing meeting of the season on Saturday, May 13th, with a seven-race programme that delivered close and exciting competition. Highlights were two wins for James Guess and James Hilliard in the Innes Ireland Cup and the Intermarque Championship races, while the Pre-War Team Challenge handicap provided an exciting final lap and a win for Clive Morley’s Bentley.
The AMOC 50s Sports Cars including the Vredestein JEC Jaguar XK Challenge runners opened the day’s race action, Chris Keith-Lucas, who had taken pole on a damp track early in the morning, losing out on the run to the first corner to fellow Jaguar racer Rob Newall. Keith-Lucas lost more ground on lap two as he ran wide, Robi Bernberg’s diminutive Cooper T39 Bobtail now in second and starting to close on Newell.
By lap four Bernberg was right with Newall’s XK 120, with the Turner of Steve Watton up to fourth before being hit by a ten-second penalty for starting out of position on the grid. Bernberg looked inside Newall into Old Hall at the start of lap seven and was ahead later in the lap. As he eased away at the front, Watton was pushing hard to overcome his penalty.
In the later laps Bernberg had Watton close behind on the track but with a handy lead on the timing screens, and brought the Cooper home well clear
“I got past Rob Newall under brakes into the first corner,” said Bernberg. “I was quicker in the corners but the Jaguar had the power on the straights, and we were side-by-side at one point, good, clean racing.”
The Jaguar battle saw Newall and Paul Kennelly’s XK150 running third and fourth going into the final lap, Newall controlling the gap to lead the Vredestein cars home.
Mike Dowd’s BMW M3, GT4 led at the end lap one of the 50-minute Aston Martin GT Challenge, after pole man Tom Andrew locked up into the first corner, but Harvey Stanley’s Ferrari 430 Challenge was right with him and into the lead on lap two, while Nicholas King’s Aston Martin DB4 pitted.
Stanley started to open a gap at the front, Dowd finding the Sunbeam Tiger of William Smallridge closing in, and then going past at Old Hall on lap four. Charging back up the order was the recovering Morgan of Andrew, and he had just got into second and set fastest race lap when he went off, bringing out the safety car.
Racing again at the start of lap 17, Stanley was able to pull away from Edward Leigh’s BMW M3 V8 GT4, while behind Mike Dowd chased down Smallbridge, who slowed and pitted once demoted to fourth with a puncture. Stanley duly reeled off the final laps to take the win from Leigh, Dowd third ahead of David Tinn’s Aston Martin Vantage.
“I saw the shunt and then saw the safety car boards come out,” explained Stanley. “I checked my mirrors and dived into the pits right away as I knew we had to make a longer stop than the others, and it turned out to be a good move.”
From pole positon James Hilliard took the lead in his Ginetta G10 as the Innes Ireland Cup field set off for their 45-minuute race. Mark Russell’s Jaguar E-Type was right with him in the early laps, but the raucous-sounding Ginetta eased away.
Martin Melling had his Jaguar in third but under pressure from the similar E-Type of Robert Farrell, Robert Gate soon becoming the third car in that battle. The pit window opened after seven laps and Hilliard putted immediately to hand over to James Guess, Melling also pitting.
Jason Minshaw took over from Melling and started lapping quickly, and looking likely to catch the front runners, but on lap twelve the E-Type was in the pits, Minshaw having seen smoke and feeling the engine was off song. As the order settled down once all the front runners had pitted, Guess was clear at the front in the Ginetta, with Russell lead Jaguar and Farrell in turn further back in third, and they finished in that order.
“The Ginetta is great fun to drive,” said Guess on the podium. “It has so much power you can spin the tyers so easily.”
The Pre-War Team Challenge saw the field released in six groups with cars also given credit laps depending on their performance in practice, with the intention the field should come together at the end of the final lap. Guy Northam was first away in his 1928 Bentley and led all the wat until the final lap, but with the rest of the field closing in, Christian Pedersen lapping up to forty seconds a lap quicker in his Austin 7.
Northam was over three seconds clear of Anthony Fenwick-Wilson’s Railton going into the final lap, but it was Clive Morley’s Bentley who emerged from the final corner ahead, leading home Fenwick-Wilson and the three-litre Bentley of Duncan Wiltshire, with Pedersen having to settle for fourth, 11 seconds off the lead.
“With three laps to go the car went onto three cylinders” said Morley. “I wasn’t sure where I was and who had credit laps so I was lucky to win.”
James Hilliard was first driver in the pole position Porsche 968 CS in the AMOC Intermarque Championship race, and led into the first corner, opening a six second lead in the opening four laps. Behind, Peter Mangion was the driver on the move, going from fourth on lap one to second just three laps later in his 968.
Jason Minshaw was in third in his Aston Martin DB4 Lightweight, and lapping quicker than Mangion, just a second and half back by lap seven which was when the put window opened. In fourth, Tim Bates was keeping his Porsche 911 just clear of Gavin Dunn’s BMW.
Hilliard pitted from the lead at the end of lap nine, Minshaw pitting from what was then second a lap later. That put Mangion at the front, and he claim in for his stop on lap eleven, leaving Bates at the front as the pits became busy.
A slow stop saw the lead car slow away, James Guess now in for Hilliard and having to be pushed back into action, and that saw them drop behind Mangion once the order had settled. Guess set off after the leader, recording a series of race fastest laps on the way, and they were together heading down towards Cascades, Guess going past to lead at the end of lap 17.
Bates was third but had Tony Jardine, who had taken over the Porsche 944 Turbo started by Bob Searles, closing in. They were together with seven of the 45-minutes remaining, Bates defending to hold on to the final podium position, but Jardine was past on lap 20. Guess was clear of Mangion at the front at the chequer flag, Jardine making it an all Porsche Podium.
“The starter motor jammed at the pitstop,” explained Hilliard, “we had to have a push start and that cost us time, but James had to push really hard and we’re pleased to take the win.”
The AMOC Racing season continues at Snetterton in Norfolk on the 8th of July.