When Ted Walker told me about the possibility of a 1939 Mercedes Benz 154 Grand Prix racer appearing for a test day at Donington Park a couple of weeks ago my ears just knew I had to be there to hear it.
At 6 am (ish) I picked up GALPOT contributer Tim and headed up to Donington Park and headed for the Hall & Hall pit where a mouth watering selection of cars was on display including this 1982 Matra V12 powered Ligier JS17 Grand Prix car.
Next to and in front of the JS17 were not one but two 1973 World Sports Car Championship winning Matra 670 C’s powered by similarly awesome sounding V12’s !
As we waited in the pits for the Gentleman from Crosthwaite and Gardiner to prepare the W154 for an engine warm up this Lola T70 Mk 3 Coupe rumbled down pit road to wet our appetites.
After a five minute warm up the plugs on the W154 were changed and one lucky Rob Hall jumped out of his Matra and into the Benz. The car sounded great although it was anything but a smooth test as first a recalcitrant motor had to be cured and then a water leak from the radiator brought and end to proceedings. While it was running cleanly the ear splitting sound of the 476hp 3 litre / 183 cui two stage super charged V12 was music to the ears !
As the test day progressed Tim and I took a wolk around the track which I had not seen, despite several trips to the Donington Museum, since the early 1990’s. Since my last visit the gravel traps have substantially increased in size and safety fences have increased in height. Above Rob Hall charges down the Craner Curves pursued by a Porsche GT3.
One of the many advantages of traveling with Tim is that he has breath taking memory for motor racing details, he has won several prestigious motor racing knowledge awards, during the Test day he pointed out that the arch in the Folly above was part of the pre war Grand Prix circuit through which the likes of the Mercedes Benz W154 along with Alfa Romeo’s, Auto Unions and ERA’s once raced in anger !
The works Gulf Prodrive Aston Martin team had three V8 Vantages present the #97 above, seen exiting Coppice, appeared to be the 2012 Le Mans entry driven by Adrian Fernandez, Stefan Mücke and Darren Turner which finished 19th overall and 3rd in class behind to Ferrari 458 Italia’s. The distinctive deep thump of these V8’s made it easy to tell where they were on the track even when they were not in view.
When we got back to the pits we found Terry Durdin’s 1972 Formula Ford Crosslé 25F being prepared for an afternoon’s run.
Another rumbling monster with a Le Mans history was this Sunbeam Tiger Coupé, one of two built by Lister for the Rootes Groups 1964 Le Mans challenge. Keith Ballisat and Claude Dubois qualified 34th for the endurance classic but both cars, powered by Ford 4,2 litre / 260 cui motors failed to finish due to engine failure.
There were two Ferrari’s present a 360 and this F430 driven by Sam Smeeth.
Following in the footsteps of Danica Patrick is the ambitious Laura Tillet who has stepped up to Formula Renault this year. Here her Fortec run Tatuus FR2000 is being prepared for a last minute run before the track closed at 5pm.
We did not time all the cars but thought the 2 litre / 122 cui BMW powered Ralt RT1 Formula 2 car of Philip Harper was amongst the quickest on the track. Ted Walker told us that Philip was running laps in the 1 min 02 second bracket. Tim and I reckoned Philips time would have seen him challenging James Hunt and Mario Andretti for second or third place at the very first meeting held at Donington Park the Gunnar Nilsson Memorial Trophy in 1979. To be fair the 3 litre / 183 cui cars of Hunt and Andretti had a much slower chicane to negotiate than Philip did.
Thanks for joining me on this “Cum On Feel The Noize” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !