MOTOR RACING: Grantham’s historic racer Ellingworth tackles French street circuit

Richard Ellingworth waits nervously on the Angouleme grid.
Richard Ellingworth waits nervously on the Angouleme grid.
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Vintage racing driver Richard Ellingworth has been in action at the famous Angouleme Circuit des Remparts in France.

The unique street circuit remains virtually unchanged since 1939 when the inaugural race took place. The circuit starts and finishes on the town’s hilltop, winding down fast narrow streets before racers tackle three hairpin bends back up the Remparts.

The French round of the VSCC Formula Junior Front Engine pre-1960 race series saw Richard qualified his BMC-engined 1959 Gemini single-seater second in the 20-car field in 30 degree heat, one second behind pole position man Simon Goodliffe in his very quick Lola.

With two cars crashing in qualifying, only 18 cars made it on to the grid. A frantic start saw the Lola almost push Richard into the barriers but he held on to second and the first five laps went well until the safety car was deployed after two cars collided and blocked the circuit.

Following the restart, Richard’s car began to overheat but fortunately the race was almost over and he hung on to the runners-up spot.

Richard said he had never felt so relieved, both mentally and physically, to finish a race: “It’s incredibly technical with curbs, houses, hairpins and many other hazards in front of thousands of fans. It’s another Monaco and a must for any historic racer.

“I was never going to beat the Lola but it was still a great achievement from all my team. The car was prepared faultlessly.”

Richard thanked his mechanics Dean, Alan, Jeff, Ian and Dave and said he was looking forward to the final round of the championship at Brands Hatch.