Despite the best efforts of the ‘weather gods’ it was another triumphant weekend of vintage motorsport at Pembrey last weekend for the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Welsh Speed Weekend over the 20th and the 21st of August.
Widely-forecast rain and high winds scheduled to batter the coasts of the British Isles over the weekend did not deter competitors and marshals who participated across an array of motoring competitions at the South Wales circuit.
The action began with Saturday’s Sprint contest, as competitors tackled three-quarters of the fast and challenging track, kept honest during the morning’s practice runs by the wet and windy conditions. By the time of timed runs after lunch, circumstances had improved, paving the way for a number of close battles throughout the day’s classes.
Following double-victory at Prescott earlier in the month, it was ‘Fastest Time of Day’ success once more for Nick Topliss in ERA R4D with a time of 57.37 seconds, holding almost a second and half advantage over second place, Julian Grimwade in the Frazer Nash Norris Special. Tony Lees continued his successful campaign to claim Vintage honours and third overall in the famed AC/GN ‘Cognac’ Special, whilst perennial frontrunner, David Pryke cemented his place atop the Sports-Cars standings in his imperious Morgan/Riley.
Further demonstrating his prowess in the road-going Special, Pryke returned to top score in Sunday’s AutoSolo contest, which also featured awards for a number of other sprint participants from the preceding day, including Club Director, David Furnell, sharing the Austin 7 ‘Toy’ with son-in-law John Williams, and Frazer Nash Club Captain, Annabel Jones in her Frazer Nash Boulogne.
The weekend’s race programme commenced on Saturday afternoon with the Team Relay Race for Pre-war Sports-Cars – this year re-named in honour of former VSCC Club Secretary, Mike Stripe, who passed away in May. The 90-minutes endurance event is an annual social and track highlight for the VSCC, which this year featured eleven teams of three, friendly intermarque rivalry being the order of the day, with Frazer Nash/GN, Riley, Morgan, Austin and MG all well-represented.
Starting from pole, Dougal Cawley’s all-action GN/Ford ‘Piglet’ stormed ahead for ‘Chain Gang’ favourites, ‘The Shiny Helmets’ before pulling off-track at the first corner with mechanical woes, freeing club president Tim Kneller to build an early lead for Riley rivals, ‘The Pistol Knights’.
As his teammates David Wylie and Brian White took up the chase, Cawley carried out repairs before successfully returning to the action to help propel his charges to the overall scratch victory by a single lap from their adversaries, with the team ‘Tenwheel’ trio of Mike Preston (Bugatti), Sue Darbyshire and Simon Edwards (both Morgan Super Aeros) in third.
Perhaps even more compelling were the handicap stakes as the ‘Team Tortoise’ combination of Riley pilots, Colin Wolstenholme and Marcus Frieder, and Mark Brett’s Ballamy-Ford took victory, less than a lap ahead of similarly shell-themed MG team ‘The Flying Tortoises’, with ‘Tenwheel’ confirmed as the consistent performers of the race with another third place finish.
The event proved the ideal warm-up for Sunday’s Seaman Memorial Trophies Race Meeting line-up, which started in gloriously sunny conditions for the morning qualifying sessions. It was not to last, however, as the rain returned over the lunch break and settled in for the duration of the afternoon’s racing action.
In the face of challenging track conditions, it was an exemplary display of racing skill throughout the programme with countless impressive performances across the wide variety of Pre-war, Historic and more modern machinery on display and only a handful of minor incidents to report.
President Kneller followed his impressive Saturday displays in both sprint and team race to claim the opening Standard & Modified Sports-Cars salvo in his Riley TT Sprite, ahead of Preston’s season-leading Bugatti T35B, whilst Frazer Nash comrades, Simon Blakeney-Edwards and Mark Groves provided highlight-reel action as they traded fourth and fifth places throughout the 9-laps, the former eventually prevailing by less than half a second in the Emeryson TT Replica.
The day’s title feature saw a combined grid of leading Vintage and Pre-1961 Racing Cars put on a thrilling spectacle for the Club’s prestigious Seaman Trophies silverware. Under pressure throughout, it was an eventual expected race victory and Flockhart Trophy success for Geraint Owen’s historic Monzanapolis Kurtis Indy racer, ahead of the battling ERA pairing of Nick Topliss (R4D) and Duncan Ricketts in Dick Skipworth’s R3A; after mechanical issues halted Ricketts’s challenge shortly before the race was red flagged for Tim Greenhill’s stricken Wolseley Hornet Special (seized brakes), Topliss took runner-up position and a third consecutive Historic Seaman Trophy.
A grateful Julian Grimwade inherited third place at the death in the Frazer Nash Norris Special, having bravely kept the hard-charging Tony Lees behind, who in turn claimed a well-deserved Vintage Seaman Trophy crown as the top Pre-1931 finisher. The pair would revisit their rivalry later in the day, as Grimwade came out on top once more to take an All-Comers Pre-war Scratch Race victory in heavy rain, the returning Greenhill making up for his earlier disappointment with third place.
Continuing the weekend’s Frazer Nash success, the ‘Chain Gang’ dominated the Special Sports-Cars Race as Cawley led the way again in the Ford-engined ‘Piglet’ to make it three wins from four ‘Set 4’ races this season, with Frazer Nash/GN machinery making up the first five places. The Longstone Tyres chief followed this with yet another victory in the day’s All-Comers Pre-war Handicap Race later in the afternoon.
Not to be outshone, fellow VSCC marque favourite Riley also enjoyed their annual Handicap feature, in honour of young Club Member Garry Whyte who passed away following an incident at Silverstone in 2014. A dozen representatives of the ‘Blue Diamond’ brigade took part, with Marcus Frieder claiming the honours in his 12/4 Special before an emotional Post-Race presentation in the Paddock.
Complementing the day’s VSCC line-up, there was a double-victory for Xavier Kingsland’s Staride Mk 3 in the two features for F3 (500) Racing Cars, having topped the Invited Post-war Class in Saturday’s sprint, whilst the racers of the local Welsh Sports and Saloon Car Championship provided welcome eclectic entertainment with two rounds of their series, both won by the Ford Sierra Cosworth of current 2016 leader, Jason Davies.