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Former winner Ian Ashley to make Gold Cup comeback this weekend

Wednesday, August 20 2014

Former Gold Cup winner Ian Ashley returns to Oulton Park this weekend (23-25 August) to race a Formula 5000 car in the Gold Cup meeting, 40 years after lifting the coveted trophy.

The 1974 Gold Cup was Ashley's third attempt, his first being two years earlier in the F5000 class against a contingent of F1 drivers, including 1972 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi. "Emerson had been my team mate in 1970," Ashley said. "He was like a brother to me. With Denny Hulme and people like that, it was a great thrill to be able to go up against them all. I just took it in my stride really."

The following season the Gold Cup switched to F5000-only rules: "In 1973 I actually led the race for the first ten laps. I was on the front row of the grid alongside Peter Gethin and Tony Dean and I led until I got a slow puncture, which eventually dropped me back to sixth."

By the time Ashley returned to win the Gold Cup he had already begun his short Formula 1 adventure. But like much of his career, his victory wasn't straightforward. Because Ashley had skipped a couple of F5000 races to make his F1 debut, team mate Lella Lombardi was given the new Lola 'banana' wing that he had previously used: "My father had been deputy test pilot with Concorde and he was very good at aerodynamics, so he quickly designed a wing for me. It was very similar to the Lola's but it was much lighter."

That wasn't the only issue for Ashley to overcome. At the end of practice he was told that Firestone had quit racing and he had to complete the rest of the meeting on Goodyear tyres: "I was so cross, I didn't even alter the ride height. I'd had no practice on them, but they were so brilliant that with a few laps to go it rained as I came over the top of the hill towards Knickerbrook. I was really terrified because the Firestone slicks were just lethal in the wet. I braked thinking that I wasn't going to stop in time for Knickerbook but actually I stopped halfway down the hill, I felt really stupid!"

After a long and varied career that included a brief Gold Cup return during the BTCC-era in 1993, Ashley switched to historic racing a few years ago. He is looking forward to his F5000 return at the Gold Cup in the Derek Bell Trophy race, 40 years on from his win: "I was driving the pace car at last year's Silverstone Classic when Michael Lyons drove off into the distance in the F5000 race, then I saw this Lola T300. That was the nucleus for the car I drove, and I thought I could set it up to fly. I have to say that it is going very quick and I just want to catch Michael's attention, and make a race out of it.

"I'm due to test on [Saturday] morning and I think that will be enough to settle me in a bit and then we've got qualifying in the afternoon. It should be alright. I love racing and the historics are perfect for me really, it's great fun."

You can read an extended interview with Ian Ashley in the event programme, on sale this weekend for £5. Tickets for the Oulton Park Gold Cup on 23-25 August are available on the gate for £5 on Saturday and £22 for Sunday or Monday, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.