The UK’s record-breaking spell of wet weather cleared just in time for the start of the equally record-breaking Silverstone Classic, writes Roger Dixon. Held on the 20-22 July, and billed as ‘the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival’, this now well-established meeting again filled Silverstone’s ample proportions from end to end with classic racing and sports cars.
With more than 1,000 entries contesting 24 races, and featuring saloon, GT, single-seaters and sports cars covering the full spectrum of motorsport history from the 30s to the 80s, there were also a further 7,000 classic road cars from more than 100 owners’ clubs on static display. Among the clubs were several celebrating special events: the 50th anniversary of the AC Cobra, for example, or the ‘Z-fest’ – a gathering of 230 BMW Z models. But the most spectacular gathering was reserved for Sunday, in the Ferrari Club area.
Never before have so many cameras and mobile phones been aimed at the same subject: a line-up of no fewer than 60 Ferrari F40s. The Ferrari Owners’ Club had organised this world-record gathering to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the model and it was indeed a stunning, and possibly never-to-be-repeated, sight. Then, at 12.30pm, this multi-million-pound cavalcade took to the track for a lap of honour.
Just before the parade, an equally iconic road/racing Ferrari had been set to win the RAC TT race for Historic GTs: the 250 SWB of Jackie Oliver and Gary Pearson. Unfortunately, their race – and my story line – was shot to pieces when Pearson brought the smoking #60 Ferrari into the pits to retire from first place a few laps before the end, leaving Nick Naismith and John Young’s Aston Martin to win.
Alex Buncombe, on the other hand, managed to keep his #40 E-type in the lead of Saturday’s E-type Challenge race, despite smoke and/or steam billowing from the offside wheelarch, to take the win. In the second race, on Sunday, Alex continued his dominance to make it two victories in a row.
Saturday’s rock concert featuring Adam Ant was well under way by the time the Group C cars started their ‘twilight’ race, blasting down the pit straight, headlights ablaze, only for four cars to be sidelined immediately after the start. At Abbey corner, David Mercer’s Spice SE90C found the gap between two cars he was heading for disappear before his eyes, forcing him to lock his brakes and spin. In the ensuing avoidance melee, Robin Ward’s #4 Lancia LC2 almost capsized as it ran over the hapless Spice.
With three Touring Car races over the weekend, saloons were plentiful – the first of these running on Saturday morning and featuring under-2-litre pre-1970 cars, hence the screaming field of Lotus Cortinas, Mini Coopers, Alfa Romeo GTAs and BMW Tis. Shaun McInnerney took the trophy, dedicated to the legendary Alan Mann, in a Lotus Cortina. Both days saw rounds of the Fujifilm Touring Car Trophy for cars from 1970-2000 – and it was good to see these colourful ‘modern’ tin-tops battling it out, Rick Pearson in his Nissan Primera taking first place in both races.
‘Big is beautiful’ appears to be the ethos that the Silverstone Classic has developed over the few years of its existence, and it certainly works. Only at a venue the size of Silverstone could you stage an event so extensive that it needs a fleet of classic buses to transport visitors around the packed infield displays alone. With two full days of competition, and the last race on Saturday not finishing until 9.00pm, not to mention a rock concert that goes on for another two hours after that, this ‘rocking and racing’ event will no doubt fill Silverstone to the brim again next year.