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Editor: Jaap Horst

the Itala Trophy 1996

By Ivan Dutton

You have probably read in the motoring comics how Martin Stretton achieved a "Magnificent 2nd" - I thought you should hear the winners story.

It all started when I read the article about the Sean Danahar restored 1926 Grand Prix Talbot in the March edition of Classic and Sportscar, the article ended "All we need now is for the VSCC to organise a showcase event.......to tempt its owner to race it".

I entered the Itala Trophy in a Bugatti T35B and was both amazed and disappointed when I received the Entry List to find I wasn't racing against Spencer Flack, Mark Walker, Tim Llewellyn and Morley's big Bentley, not to mention the Morgans. I consoled myself with the fact that it would be the first time I had raced against Nick Mason (as one of us doesn't usually start).

Practice day produced the foulest weather imaginable but tremendous fun passing 250F's and other far superior machinery on the streaming track. I don't care what anybody says, Ettore was a genius.

Race day turned out to be a glorious day, all the snow had gone. I lined up on the front row of the grid and looked to my left where Martin Stretton was sitting in the aforementioned Talbot with his bottom 6" from the ground. Danahar's remarks suggesting Bugattis were truck-like by comparison seemed horribly real. The extra surprises were the podgy tires and hydraulic brakes, they must have caused a sensation in 1926!

Knowing Martin Stretton as a very good Frazer Nash driver and him being a whole second faster than me in qualifying, my usual over-confidence was declining rapidly. On my right was Nick Mason in his 35B which he has raced successfully for years.

As the starting flag was raised, I was reminded of Martin Stretton's words to me in the collecting area, " The Talbot acceleration was poor in 1st and 2nd", so I decided to let him get away and avoid any chance of jumping the start.

I let out the clutch on the old T35B and it took off as if the front cross member was attached to a bungee rope, by halfway to the first corner I overtook Stretton, I then decided to make a positive incisive move to the outside of the track to take the best racing line, thus ensuring that Stretton realized who he was up against.

By Becketts, I looked in my excellent Bugatti designed mirror to see an aerial view of the Talbot making its way towards the inside line. We set off down the straight and the Bugatti undoubtably had the superior power such that, despite Stretton's late braking, he couldn't take the line from me at the next corner.

This carried on for about four laps and the width of my Bugatti must have confirmed to Stretton he was racing against a Lorry. Suddenly yellow flags appeared, as luck may have it, the car we had to follow was a very early Aston Martin on beaded edge wheels who was obviously taking care, but to Stretton and I, it seemed like a walking pace. I remembered what Stretton said about his car being slow in 1st and 2nd so I selected 2nd gear, held my hand up to ensure no mistakes (Gerry Marshall training). When we came under the green flag the Bugatti was ready to go and, for the first time, I pulled out a little bit of a lead. I arrived at the straight and found that the car would not rev over 4000 rpm in 3rd so I dropped it into top and the engine stopped completely.

I looked around at the instruments in panic, all seemed fine, there was only one thing I could do - grab the air pump and pump like mad, bringing a whjjole new meaning to the words "hand relief", whereupon Stretton sailed by on the inside. Luckily, the car burst back into life and all I had to do was overtake him which I did but I can honestly say I don't know how or when, but I do remember pressing the brake pedal a few times and the front axle growled at me, saying that is the limit sunshine!

In my excitement I missed the chequered flag and thus completed an extra lap. Thnaks very much to the car's owner who was seen to smile on seeing his car to win.

We have now come down to earth and continue to work on Bugattis but the laurel Wreath does tend to get in the way.

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