Tag Archives: Ensign

Five Star Day Dream – Silverstone Classic

A couple of weeks ago I visited Silverstone for the launch of this years Silverstone Classic which will be run on the weekend of the 26th to 28th July.

Jaguar XK140, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

Standing just inside the gates to the Silverstone Wing were several cars to be auctioned at this years Classic by Silverstone Auctions, top billing goes to a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 which is due to go under the hammer with no reserve, perhaps slightly more affordable is 1956 Jaguar XK140 Fixedhead Coupé SE which during the 1970’s was acquired by the Reverend John Fellingham and raced with many successes. Known as the Vicars car it was subsequently prepared for, but not used in, the 1999 rerun of the Carrera Panemerica, the top end estimate for the vehicle is £65,000.

Lotus 27, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

The 23rd Silverstone classic will be run almost 50 years to the day of a well remembered British Grand Prix support race for Formula Junior cars which featured a 25 lap battle between the King of Formula Junior Peter Arundell driving a Lotus 27 similar to Alan Baillie’s example above and the Brabham BT6 driven by New Zealander Denis Hulme. Eight original Formula Junior cars that took part in the 1963 race are entered for this years Silverstone Classic Event, including Peter Arundell’s winning car driven by Micheal Hibberd, which is sure to be as hotly contested as the one run 50 years ago.

Coultard, Lotus 25, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

During the Press Day proceedings David Coultard was trying out Jim Clark’s Lotus 25 Grand Prix car, chassis R4 in which Jimmy won won seven victories on his way to his first world drivers championship in 1963, for the television camera’s to mark the 50th Anniversary of Jim Clarks first World Drivers Championship. It was great to see several of Jimmy’s Lotus mechanics in attendance including Cedric Selzer and Bob Dance. I saw a wheel chair bound Bob a couple of days earlier giving a talk to members of The Nostalgia Forum so was most surprised and pleased to see him leaping about, with seat belts and what not, while installing David Coultard into the car, recovered from sciatica.

Porsche 911, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

There will be three mass demonstrations of vehicles over the Silverstone Classic weekend including it is hoped a lap of the Silverstone circuit by 911 Porsche 911’s to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Porsche 911, further demonstrations will mark the 100th anniversary of Aston Martin and the 60th anniversary of the Chevrolet Corvette.

Rover 3500 P6, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

For my money the most remarkable car at the Silverstone Classic press day was this Rover 3500S, or at least that is what it resembles. The car was built at the behest of none other than the Chairman of British Leyland Lord Stokes who wanted a car that could take overall victories from the Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaro’s that were ruling the roost in British saloon car racing.

With a top speed of 170 mph the 360 hp 4.3 litre / 262 cui Traco Oldsmobile powered car seen here was entered into the 1970 86 hour Marathon de la Route run over three and a half days at the Nurburgring. Roy Pierepoint, Roger Enever and Clive Baker comfortably led for 16 hours until a propshaft vibration brought about the Rovers demise while leading a fleet of works Porsche 914/6’s by over 3 laps / 51 miles.

The Rover is scheduled to take part in the Super Car Touring Trophy, a one off race run at the Silverstone Classic last year which has become a series this year, with owner Ian Giles at the wheel.

Summerville, Ginetta 18B, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

Two races will be run for the Historic Formula Ford Series, another personal favorite series, for the first time at the Silverstone Classic. Above Paul Summerville driving a 1971 Ginetta 18B will be competing against Tiff Needell in his Lotus 69.

Trimmer, March, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

Tiff Needell’s former IBEC Le Mans team mate and former British Formula One Champion Tony Trimmer, seen above in a March Formula 5000 car powered by a Ford GA V6 motor, is scheduled to be driving in the combined Formula 2 and Formula 5000 races.

Fish, Ensign MN180, Silverstone Classic, Silvertsone

The Grand Prix Masters Formula One races are scheduled to include Simon Fish driving the Ensign MN180, another car with a Tiff Needell link his one and only Grand Prix start was driving a similar car in the 1980 Belgian Grand Prix qualifying 23rd but retiring after 12 laps with engine failure.

In all 24 races are scheduled for the Silverstone Classic powered by AA which will include plenty of fun for the whole family. BMW are sponsoring a big wheel from which the whole Silverstone site should be clearly visible. For campers there will be live music provided by The Hollies who have recently reformed along with Stars from the Commitments, while tribute bands Floyd Reloaded, Boot Led Zeppelin, The Guns and Roses Experience and the Ultimate Eagles will be catering for those with heavier tastes.

As Tiff Needell said “It will be like reliving my youth”, I can’t wait.

Entry for Silverstone Classic is by advance ticket only, which are available from the ticket page on this link, if you are an AA member to look out for the 10% discount.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Five Star Day Dream’ edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow for the next installment of this years potted history of the Indy 500. Don’t forget to come back now !


WMC Championship Hillclimb – Wiscombe Park

Shortly after dawn on Saturday morning I found myself cruising across the Somerset levels headed for Wiscombe Park in deepest Devon where the Woolbridge Motor Club was running a fully subscribed hillclimb where I found myself being assigned to the Esses 2 marshals post with two seasoned marshals from Melksham.

Wiscombe Park

The 1000 yard course at Wiscombe Park was first used in 1958 and the course record is currently held by Aylesbury’s Trevor Willis who recorded a time of 33.92 seconds in his OMS 25 Powertech in July last year.

Howells, Hillman Super Imp, WMC. Wiscombe Park

The marshals post Esses 2 is situated on the outside of a sweeping corner and afforded a great view of the action as cars clipped a huge tree at the apex of the corner. All of today’s photo’s were taken as the vehicles returned from the top of the hill to the paddock. Jenny Howells shared this 1968 Hillman Super Imp with her husband Alex.

Hodson, Smart Roadster, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Running in the same Road going cars up to 1400 cc class and a little faster was Peter Hodson in his Smart Roadster Turbo.

Wright, Audi A3 1.8T quattro, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Fastest in the over 1800 cc Road going class was the Audi A3 Turbo quattro of Anthony Wright who made a fastest run of 45.15 seconds around half a second faster than his nearest challenger.

Coote, Ginetta G4, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Last time I saw Roger Coote’s Ginetta G4 in action was at the Great Western Sprint when it was freezing, what a difference a couple of weeks makes. On this occasion Roger finished third in the Specialist Production B2 class.

Conibear, Lotus 23B, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Cliff Conibear proved to be a model of consistency recording identical times of 45.96 seconds on both of his runs in his Lotus 23B, good enough for 5th in the Road going B3 class.

Hunt, BMW 2002 Touring, WMC. Wiscombe Park

James Hunt’s BMW 2002 Touring shows signs of savaging the tree on the entry to The Gate on his second practice run, he made amends by finishing both of his timed runs recording fourth fastest time in the modified production C3 class.

Biggs, Kayne Special III, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Another car that seems pop up frequently in my travels is John Biggs Kayne Special III which looked far happier at Wiscombe Park than it did at the Great Western Sprint when I saw it last. John who finished 3rd in the Sports Libre D2 class tells me he has tested the Rover V8 powered Kayne Special III at over 140 mph and looks forward to giving it a run in a race at Silverstone in the near future.

Fraser, Metro 6R4 DAM 4100, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Competing in the same class as the Kayne Special as the Kayne Special were Andy Fraser and Tim Painter who shared this MG Metro 6R4 DAM 4100 which features a space frame chassis built by Dave Appleby Motorsport, the running gear from the steel shelled MG Metro 6R4 and a post 1995 Rover Metro style body. Andy seen at the wheel here proved faster than Tim and won the D2 class.

Moore, Ford Cortina GT, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Craig Moore is on a mission to threepeat his Bridge Tyres & Wheels Wiscombe Park Hill Climb Championship wins in 2011 and 2012 with his 4 door Ford Cortina 1600 GT, being the first person to win back to back championships he is now looking to become the first man to win three championships in a row, he started his campaign with a second in the Rally Cars class D4 on Saturday.

Wadsworth, Lancia 037 Stradale, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Like the MG Metro 6R4 the Lancia 037 Stradale was built for Group B rallying it would appear the Robert Wadsworth example is one of the 200 037 road cars built to meet the mandatory homologation requirements. Robert finished third in the Rally Car D4 class.

Hick, SEAT Altera, Freetrack TDI 4WD, WMC, Wiscombe Park

Gordon Hicks #19 was listed as a Megapin HC3 open wheeler but a check of the licence plate reveals that he was actually driving a SEAT Altera Freetrack TDI 4WD in the Road Going A3 class in which he finished with the ninth fastest time.

Broome, Cooper T65, WMC. Wiscombe Park

The Cooper T65 was designed to compete in the 1963 Formula Junior series against the Lotus 27. Reg Broome drove his car running with a 1598 cc / 96.7 cui motor recorded 7th fastest time in the E2 Racing cars class.

Crosse, Ensign LNF3, WMC. Wiscombe Park

Running a similar motor to the Coopper T65 Bristol’s Fyrth Crosse drove his early 1970’s Ensign LNF3 Formula 3 car to a fifth fastest time in the E2 class.

Steele, Martlet AS1, WMC, Wiscombe Park

Maidenhead’s Adam Steele had a mishap at the entry to The Gate on his first timed run, despite spinning he avoided hitting anything and on his second timed run he recorded second fastest time of the day overall with his 1 litre / 61 cui Martlet AS1 running in the E1 racing car class.

Hollier, Pilbeam MP62, WMC, Wiscombe Park

Fastest time of the day was 36.57 seconds recorded by Ed Hollier driving his Pilbeam MP62 in the E2 class.

After a fantastic days action it was time to drive home and prepare for a spot of competition myself the following day, full report next Wednesday.

Thanks for joining me on this “WMC Championship Hillclimb” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


The Green Batmobile – Ensign Cosworth N173 #MN01

1973 was the year in which my interest for motor racing and particularly Grand Prix motor racing ramped up from excited enthusiast to bordering, and some might say well exceeding, obsessive.

I thought it would be fun for the five Sundays in March to share the 40th anniversary of my passion for international motor racing with you by looking at five Grand Prix cars that took part in the 1973 season.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

The first car in this series of five Sunday blogs is the Ensign N173, it did not appear until 1973 French Grand Prix half way through the season, but I remember the first time I set eye’s on a picture of it printed in a copy of Motorsport I had an extremely affirmative WOW ! Looks like a green Batmobile, reaction to both it’s shape and colour scheme which was unspoiled by any concessions to commercial considerations quite simply because the team had no sponsor.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

Morris ‘Mo’ Nunn had progressed as far as the works Lotus Formula 3 team by 1969 when he decided his future lay not in the driving seat but as a manufacturer of racing cars. He started building his first car to the third tier Formula 3 regulations in his immaculately prepared garage behind his house in Walsall.

By 1971 the Ensign was up and running and Bev Bond won a race, with the space frame chassis car that featured Lotus 59/69 front up rights and Brabham magnesium rear uprights, fourth time out at Brands Hatch.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

In 1972 Rikky von Opel, son of rocket car pioneer Fritz von Opel and grandson of Opel car manufacturer Adam Opel joined Mo Nunn’s Formula 3 team and together they won the 1972 Lombard North British Formula 3 Championship.

Encouraged by this success “Mo” and Rikky decided to take the step up into Formula One together, despite the fact that they had no commercial backer.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

The Ensign N173 was a typical garagiste’s vehicle of the period, built around a monocoque powered by a Ford Cosworth DFV driving the rear wheels through a 5 speed Hewland gearbox.

By qualifying 25th, last but one, for the 1973 French Grand Prix and finishing 15th Rikky von Opel became the first driver from Lichtenstein to take part in a Grand Prix. He is still the only driver from the principality, population less than 40,000, to take part in a Grand Prix.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

At the following British Grand Prix Rikky qualified 21st and finished 13th which was to be the highlight of Ensign’s 1973 season.

Reliability would become an increasing factor in the teams lack of performance over the remaining season, a seasons best 14th place qualification for the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix came to naught when the car did not start the race due to suspension damage.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

Rikky persevered with the Ensign team into 1974, but after two failures to start due to uncompetitiveness and handling issues he switched to the second works Brabham car which netted him two career best 9th place finishes in Sweden and Holland.

A couple of failures to qualify in Monaco and France was enough to bring Rikky’s Grand Prix career to an end on the anniversary of his first season at the top table of the sport.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

The car seen here was used primarily as a back up car in 1974, Vern Schuppan raced the car in the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix, but was disqualified for having started unofficially from 26th place on the grid having completed 77 laps and finished 12th.

Mike Wilds attempted in vane to qualify MN01 for the Austrian, Italian and Canadian Grand Prix before finally qualifying 22nd for the 1974 United States Grand Prix where he completed 50 of the scheduled 59 laps to record an unclassified finish in a car that was much modified from it’s original appearance.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

Mo Nunn continued in Formula One mostly as an at best underfunded single car team until 1982.

1972 Le Mans winner Gils Van Lennep scored the Ensign team’s first point at the German Grand Prix in 1975 and the teams best finish was recorded by Marc Surer who finished 4th and was credited with the fastest lap in the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Ensign Ford N173, Silverstone Classic

Among the many drivers that drove Ensign cars in Grand Prix were Le Mans winners Vern Schuppan, Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx, Ferrari refugee Clay Regazzoni, USAC/Cart winner Danny Ongias and future World Champion Nelson Piquet was given his Formula One debut at the 1978 German Grand Prix where he qualified 22nd and retired after 31 laps.

After his team was sold to Teddy Theodore “Mo” moved to the United States where he was chief engineer for Alex Zinardi and Juan Pablo Montoya at Chip Ganassi Racing when they dominated the CART championship from 1997 to 1999 and the Indy 500 in 2000. After a spell running his own IRL cars with varying degrees of success Mo Nunn returned to Ganassi as a technical adviser in 2004.

Thanks for joining me on this “The Green Batmobile” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psychoontyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !