Nineteen year old Harry Barton (BMW 1800Ti) will never forget his first two Historic Touring Car races at Brands Hatch as a full on racing driver. Thrown in at the deep end, twice in one afternoon young Harry was to come up against one of the best drivers in the business, a certain Nigel Cox. Nigel has been lifting one wheel of his Ford Lotus Cortina at high speed around the tight Brands, 1.2 mile ‘Indy’ circuit, for more years than he probably cares to remember, and is acknowledged as one of the best in the game.
Signs of confrontation arose during qualifying when both drivers set up near identical lap times, the Lotus enjoying a slight speed advantage, whilst the BMW was quicker around the bends, particularly Druids and the always hard to judge Clear-ways. In the first fifteen minute race Nigel Cox and Harry Barton, both midfield, were never more than a coat of paint apart. Cox led off the line, but by half distance, the tenacious teenager had somehow gnawed his way past. At the flag the BMW flashed up an elapsed race time of 21:12:201, the Lotus: 21:12:578. You do the maths.
For the record Mike Gardiner (Ford Lotus Cortina) won overall.
Historic Touring Cars Race 2: Harry on row 4 of the grid, Nigel on row five. In between. Red mist. Off the line Harry got himself boxed in, giving Nigel the advantage, but by lap two they were again together, albeit, the Lotus still in front. Fifteen minutes is never long enough when your behind. And the Cortina had grown noticeably wider. Second to last lap, into Clearways and all that stuff about being ‘gentleman’ was out the window. Nigel visibly slowed and ‘shut the door’ on a very determined Barton. They touched, both recovered, and exited side by side. Into Paddock Bend for the last time it was all or nothing. Harry, on the inside maybe had a couple of inch advantage. Maybe.
The organisers, after the Lotus had been towed out of the gravel following its dramatic roll, called it a racing accident and apportioned blame 50-50. Harry retained his sixth place.
I’m tipping Mr. Barton as a future champion. Next outing? The Masters Pre-66 One Hour Race at Donington on Friday 15th April. So just time to knock out those unsightly dents.
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