This last weekend’s 2017 Silverstone Classic was a triumph in many ways, but probably most of all for the spectators who were treated to some spectacular racing. Of interest to our readers though will be how the Porsche cars fared over the weekend in the wide variety of race classes. These included three 356 cars, six 911s of varying description, and a single 962, although three 962s were entered. Disappointingly of the 1000 race cars participating over the weekend, only 10 were Porsches.
The group of six 911s were split over two different races, the first race being the Gallet International Trophy for Classic GT Cars (Pre ’66) on Saturday, for which the 2-litre 911s were eligible. The second race class catered for the three later 911s, and this was the FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars, a 50-minute race which took place on Sunday afternoon between 15h00 and 15h50.
In the Gallet International Trophy, Mark and James Bates drove their white 1965 Porsche 911 2-litre to 28th place overall and first in the C1 Class. This was the second last race on Saturday and took place in the wet with persistent rain and semi-dark conditions. Third in the C1 Class was the #169 Porsche 911 of Talwar/Dawson while the similar #141 car of Steve Jones and Robert Barrie finished fourth in class.
The last race of the day was the Group C race. There were eighteen cars down in the race programme but unfortunately only thirteen started the race with twelve finishing. The first of two 30-minute races took place on Saturday evening from 20h30 to 21h00, although in reality the race started about five minutes behind schedule and only ran for 24 minutes, a bit disappointing for the fans.
Because the Group C cars are ground effect race cars, huge ‘rooster tails’ followed every car around the circuit in the almost dark conditions. The ground effect draws the air under the car more strongly than under a flat-bottomed car, and therefore shoots it out the back with tremendous force, and so the display looked quite impressive. Despite looking good from the side lines, these cars produce upwards of 600bhp and in very wet conditions, there wasn’t one incident of touching. The only Porsche in this field was the familiar Leyton House 962 which finished in sixth place, having completed ten laps.
The second round for the Group Cs took place on Sunday between 16h50 and 17h20. This time just eleven cars took to the track with only nine finishing the race. Once again, the Porsche 962 finished in sixth place.
Sunday morning promised slightly better weather than that experienced the previous evening. The first race to feature any Porsches was the RAC Tourist Trophy for Historic GT Cars (Pre ‘63), a 50-minute race from 09h40 to 10h30. Three 356s were entered in this event, and included the red #37 Speedster driven by Ernest Nagamatsu and Sean McClurg; the white/green #44 356 Pre-A of Gareth Burnett; and the red #58 356A Super of Steve Wright and Ian Clark. After substantial rain on Saturday night, the morning was dry with some cloud, but with wet patches still in some areas and being only the second race of the day, drivers had to tread cautiously. That said, there were spills and spins aplenty.
Taking up position on the outside of Becketts, the white/green #44 356 Pre-A performed a perfect 360° pirouette right in front of me, all of which was captured on camera. It was while going backwards mid-pirouette that the rear engine cover popped open, perhaps unknown to the driver, because once again pointing in the right direction and with his dignity restored, the car proceeded on its way. The engine lid remained open for the remainder of the race, and if anything, the car appeared to be going faster than ever before as with the engine cover up, this probably acted as a handy rear wing and provided some welcome downforce. The car would finish fifteenth overall, and first in Class B, in a busy field of 56 starters. The red #58 356A Super drove a clean race and stayed out of trouble, finishing 36th overall and fourth in Class B. The fate of the red #37 Speedster was less positive, as this car spent much of the race parked in the gravel at Chapel.
The FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars took to the track on Sunday afternoon, and what a race this turned out to be. Although no Porsche threatened the leaders, the crowds were treated to a great scrap between the #4 Chevron B19 on Martin O’Connell and the #99 Lola T70 Mk3B of Gibson/Ward. With the Lola retiring with a puncture, O’Connell ran away to victory, but it certainly was an entertaining 50-minute spectacle.
Further back in the pack in the same race were three superbly turned out 911s, the #24 911 RSR driven by Aaron and Dale Head, finished in white with a Martini stripe running down the middle of the car. The Bates duo of Mark and James pedalled their #74 911 Carrera RS around Silverstone with great skill, while the third Porsche was the #911 Carrera RS of Alain Gadal. These three gave it everything which was evidenced by the speed of the RSR, while Bates car would regularly cock a wheel as it took the sharp Brooklands Curve at the end of the Wellington Straight. The #911 RS, meanwhile, was caught doing a 90° partial spin in the middle of Luffield, no doubt trying just that little bit too hard.
But all-in-all, the three 911s performed well with the #24 911 RSR of Aaron and Dale Head finishing one-thousandth of a second ahead of the #74 Bates car (that was tight), with the #911 of Alain Gadal a little further back. These three cars finished 1-2-3 in the PES Class. Despite finishing a shade behind the class winner, the #74 Carrera RS of Mark and James Bates posted the fastest race lap in its class.
It is disappointing to see how few Porsches were racing in the 2017 Silverstone Classic. In previous years you could count on a selection of 956s and 962s appearing, but this has dwindled in recent years, and this year we saw just the one car. Porsche is without doubt the motor manufacturer with the highest number of race victories in the world, which must mean that a lot of Porsches are just sitting in garages or in museums. It would be good to see the famous marque better represented in the future.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & John Mountney