Five Masters grids provided the bulk of the entertainment at the 16th running of the Masters Historic Festival on its traditional late-May fixture at Brands Hatch, every race amply demonstrating that Masters drivers arrived in full-attack mode at the flowing circuit in the Kentish hills. Miles Griffiths and Steve Hartley shared the Masters Racing Legends spoils, Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield made a victorious sports car return, with Steve Brooks/Martin O’Connell and Steve Tandy doing more trophy sharing in the more recent Masters Endurance Legends machines. Two enthralling Masters Gentlemen Drievrs and Masters Pre-66 Touring Car races were won by John Davison and Sam Tordoff respectively.
Miles Griffiths apparently failed to observe that he was in a pre-78 class Formula One car when he took the fight to pre-race favourite Steve Hartley in the first of two Masters Racing Legends races at Brands Hatch. Running nose-to-tail with Hartley’s more recent McLaren MP4/1 for nine laps in a terrific scrap for the lead, the Fittipaldi F5A driver had to finally give way to the McLaren into Druids on lap 10 but moments after, Hartley’s car dramatically lost pace, its Cosworth DFV engine suddenly having developed a misfire.
This handed Griffiths his debut overall victory in a Formula One race for 1966-’85 cars while simultaneously cornering the pre-78 class win. Second, after Hartley’s demise was Mark Hazell in the Williams FW08C, the post-82 class winner running serenely in front of the battle between Steve Brooks and Warren Briggs, with Brooks’ Lotus 91 only towards the end opening up a safe enough gap to the Kiwi in the McLaren M29.
Ian Simmonds, Mark Harrison (Shadow DN9) and Neil Glover (Arrows A5) were having a great fight for sixth, and later fifth, with Simmonds breaking Harrison’s resistance in the end, but similar to Hartley, Simmonds was forced to retire only moments later, the clutch of his Tyrrell 012 having let go.
The Kentish hills lay blessed by perfect spring weather as the cars rolled onto the grid before poleman Hartley set the ball rolling. However, Griffiths in the Fittipaldi soon had the better of him and led the field into its second lap, Hartley in turn chased by Hazell, Brooks, Briggs, Harrison, Simmonds and Glover, while in ninth Williams in the Lec CRP1 was already losing ground.
Next time around, Griffiths still held a slender lead of three tenths as Hartley set a marginally quicker lap, with Hazell’s Williams FW08C now trailing by six seconds, with Brooks in the Lotus 91 and Briggs in the McLaren M29 a further four and six seconds away respectively.
Further improving on his best lap time, Hartley inched even closer on lap 3 but still, Griffiths would not budge, and on lap 4, the Fittipaldi driver himself set the fastest lap of the race so far in a cracking fight for the lead. Meanwhile, eight seconds adrift of Brooks, three cars were just tenths apart, Mark Harrison’s Shadow DN9, Ian Simmonds’ Tyrrell 012 and Neil Glover’s Arrows A5 all contesting the same patches of tarmac.
On lap 6, Griffiths increased his lead to eight tenths with another scorcher of a lap, while further back Briggs was slowly closing in on Brooks in fourth place, the gap now under a second, as Hazell maintained a safe third, 15 seconds behind the warring duo at the front. One lap later, Hartley turned the tables slightly by beating Griffiths’ best lap time, but the Fittipaldi’s time wasn’t far off the McLaren’s, the gap remaining at seven-tenths. At the back, it was obvious that all was not well with Williams in the Lec, as he returned to the pits with a misfire.
Half-distance was approaching now, and the two rivals up front had returned to running nose-to-tail when Griffiths lost half a second on lap 8. Into lap 10, however, the race was robbed of its main interest, as Hartley retired to the pits with a misfire – just after he had taken Griffiths with a great pass into Druids…
Hartley’s ill fortune gave Griffiths a comfortable 27-second lead over Hazell, with Brooks in third, having eeked back out a two-second advantage over Briggs. Meanwhile, Simmonds had finally broken Harrison’s resistance to move up into fifth. Just like Hartley, however, he wouldn’t enjoy the pleasure for long, Simmonds being forced to retire the car with a broken clutch.
As the clock wound down, Miles Griffiths rolled off the laps to secure his first overall Masters Racing Legends win – and that in a pre-78 car! Leading the post-82 class, Mark Hazell took second, 38 seconds down on the winner, with Steve Brooks in third, a further 8 seconds adrift. In fourth, Briggs crossed the line six seconds in arrears of Brooks, with Harrison the last driver on the winner’s lap.