Coys International Historic Festival
SILVERSTONE, 2nd/3rd/4th August 1996, our 4th year participating in the Coys International Historic Festival. it's a very special meeting, as anyone who's been will agree - millions of pounds worth of the most beautiful and unique motor cars all being used and enioyed, not only by those lucky enough to own and drive them, but also by tens of thousands of people who annually attend.
Three Morgans were entered for the pre-'65 GT race this year - Chris Phillips and Rick Bourne driving XOV 555, Rob Wells and Bill Wykeham in Jan Bulinski's "Choc Ices", and Rupert Richards and Bill Wykeham (again!) in Rupert's ex-Clive Fidgeon rally car.
Saturday morning was "serious" qualifying. In the GT race there are always 2 parts, 2 drivers; 10 laps each day with a mandatory driver change in both, which makes for an exciting if rather confusing race. Both drivers must qualify and our "boys" went out very positively to get their times down and get good grid positions. It's a wonderful sight seeing the Morgans whizzing round amongst Ferrari GTO's, E-types, Aston Martins, Lotus Elites, Ford Mustangs, MGB's and Healeys.
The times did come down dramatically and morale in the pit lane was high - until Rick didn't come round the final time. When we returned to base it was to see a very shaken Rick and a rather sad looking XOV. Apparantly, the newly-rebuilt engine had overheated at Beckets - quantities of water had blown out under the rear wheels which threw XOV into a series of spins resulting in a glancing blow to the Armco.
A black cloud fell over the Morgan camp - the blue and white awninged garage was immediately converted to an operating theatre. The time was midday - 3 and a half hours until the cars were due on the grid for the first part of the race. To many the task seemed near impossible.
A 'phone-call to the engine builders dispatched a man with a replacement head gasket and the combined forces of BHM and Libra Motive descended upon XOV to methodically strip the engine and try to discover the problem and prepare for the arrival of the gasket. Brett and lan set about straightening the bent cross head with a blow torch (Martin Kurrein standing by as fire marshall). A crowd gathered to watch this most impressive demonstration of combined skills focused on getting the car repaired for the race. The head gasket was examined and replaced (although there was no conclusive evidence of failure) and the engine was built back with painstaking skill and impressive speed. At 3pm. (half an hour to green lights) it all seemed too much to hope that they'd race. Chris changed into his overalls and tried to look disinterested! It was suggested that we girls might cause a "distraction like at Wimbledon" on the track to delay proceedings! At 3.2Opm. the pit crew were dispatched to the pits and Chris drove to a pit garage to get the tracking checked. At 3.3Opm. he drove out of the pit lane onto the track .... The grid assembled - Stirling Moss, Frank Sytner, Nick Mason, Will Hoy, Bill Wykeham, Rob Wells, and, by the skin of his teeth, Chris Phillips.
All the cars got away safely and it was an exciting and entertaining race. The cars kept coming round, the driver changes went well and the race was won by the E-type of Corner/Williams. First Morgan home was the Wykeham / Richards combo at 23rd, next at 24th Wells / Wykeham and Phillips / Bourne at 31st. XOV had survived the race well and her drivers were now confident that she was "whole" enough to race more aggressively in the second part of the race on Sunday. The other two Mogs. were not totally unscathed -"Choc Ices" had undergone a machine-gun attack of gravel from a Healey returning to the circuit from an "off" at Copse and the third Mog. had sustained a glancing blow to the front off-side from an Aston returning from a similar excursion. But they'd all finished and performed well and the relief was enormous.
Saturday evening saw us all enjoying ourselves once more do Chrysler - another barbeque and dancing to a band.
Sunday dawned clear and sunny, boding well for the day's racing. The cars had their final fettle whilst further enormous crowds queued to enter Silverstone and 40 hot air balloons floated up from the circuit and dispersed across the Northhamptonshire countryside. Later, we were entertained by parades, penny farthing races and marvellous air displays.
The second part of the GT race was scheduled for 1.45pm. and the cars assembled on the grid. Lights changed from red to green and they were off - well almost - a red E-type broke its gear lever and the green Mustang ploughed straight into him. The rest of the cars emerged from the dust and there began a fast and furious 2nd race. Chris had a storming start and took several cars arriving at Copse alongside another Mustang - "Choc Ices" was in front and Rupert's car behind. The race continued at a teriffic pace and the pit stops were faster than ever. The race was won by the silver E-type driven by Corner / Williams. "Choc Ices" was first Morgan home in 18th, and only a second separated the other 2; Bill in 22nd, Rick in 23rd. The combined result of the 2 races was 18th, 21 St and 24th. - a terrific effort by the team.
The rest of the day we were on wind-down - in the evening we enjoyed a relaxing barbeque by the awning. We sat in the idyllic summer sunshine enjoying each other's company and became aware of the unmistakeable sound of a lone Spitfire taking off. He circled above us and then turned to sweep low over our heads: he performed a slow roll in farewell to Silverstone and then flew into the sunset. A magnificent end to a special weekend.
(c) Beverley Phillips