Since its inception in 2013, I’ve attended every Speedfest bar one (in 2016, when it clashed with what turned out to be the final Cholmondeley Castle sprint and an appetizing motorcycle clubbie nearby at Oulton Park). To my mind it is one of the most engaging events introduced to the UK calendar in recent times, with so much going on that a family could have a very enjoyable day out (monster truck rides, drift demonstrations. American car displays and so on) without actually watching any racing, though one doubts any adopt that approach.
There was a time when Brands Hatch hosted stock car races on its long discussed Clearways oval – and one or two EuroNASCAR drivers adopted tactics that would have been suitable for such occasions. Contact, though, is perhaps inevitable when you have a field of 30-plus cars that are physically imposing and have somewhat more power (450bhp) than grip. And they sound even better than they look… Serial winner Alon Day’s performance in the opening race was a masterclass in canny racecraft – and the crowd showed suitable appreciation.
The supporting categories were excellent, too, ripe with close competition (Legends, Pickups, Intermarque Silhouettes) and diversity (Bernie’s V8s).
In essence, the only thing wrong with American SpeedFest is that you have to wait 12 months for the next one to come along…
British Automobile Racing Club
Thruxton Historic June 12
Having managed, in a rare moment of clarity, to leave home with only my own clothes, I was able this time to progress beyond Croydon and then most of the way to Stonehenge.
One of the reasons for originally having preferred the idea of Saturday at Thruxton had been a stronger-looking racecard—and it seems instinct was correct.
One has to feel for the BARC. It has been working very hard to establish its historic meeting and attracted a superb field for its Jochen Rindt Trophy, an old-style Formula Libre race that drew a big and varied collection of F2, F3, Formula Atlantic and FF2000 cars. The HRDC provided some strong, diverse fields, too, as is its custom. BUT…
MRL’s combined Pre ’63 GT and Jaguar Challenge attracted only six cars – one of which was sidelined during practice by a blown diff – and its similarly merged Sixties Touring Car Challenge/U2TC race just eight. Both races ran for an hour; as the quickest E-types were but a couple of seconds quicker than the briskest Lotus Cortinas, surely it would have been sensitive to combine them – much better for spectators and an opportunity for marshals to knock off an hour earlier. The only saving grace was the presence of Richard Dutton’s Mk1 Ford Escort, built relatively recently – and very nicely – to pre-1970 Group 2 regulations. “Everybody seems to love it,” he said.
Not hard to see why, it’s just a shame there weren’t a few more of similar ilk.
I’d been told I’d missed a real treat the previous day, a sublime Jochen Rindt Trophy lead battle between Benn Tilley (in Simon Hadfield’s Atlantic Modus M1) and Rob Wainwright (ex-Niki Lauda 722). Tilley won that by less than a second after Wainwright recovered from a quick spin – and they were almost inseparable second time around, at least until Tilley lost a pin from his front suspension and resorted to some nifty cadence braking in a successful quest to keep the car out of the barriers.
The contest between the Frogeyes of Pippa Cow and Tom Walker in the MG Car Club’s Midget & Sprite Challenge was similarly engaging. Cow had won Saturday’s race by a fraction – and drew a huge cheer from the grandstand when she swept around the outside to lead again on Sunday. Walker subsequently regained the upper hand, but the outcome remained in the balance until his rival’s gearbox packed up.
While they lasted, both had been perfect illustrations of how our sport should be.
Pre ’98 2.0-liter bangers
Stand Lake Arena June 26
This section of the column was supposed to contain sweeping views across northern England, to coincide with the second running of the Yorkshire Motor Sport Festival, but for some reason getting out of bed at 3am was more challenging than usual – partly because my legs seemed less willing than the rest of me, but also because I was feeling a bit under the weather.
The solution was to have a restful Saturday and find an alternative attraction later in the weekend – and pre ’98 bangers (Mondeos and Focuses both banned, presumably due to greater structural rigidity) just sounded the ticket. As it transpired there weren’t many of them – during their briefing, drivers were implored to save major wrecking until the end of the meeting – but that didn’t dilute their capacity to entertain.
For the first time, at the recommendation of sat-nav app Waze (which is very good at spotting traffic jams and road closures), I approached the venue via the village of Standlake, whose elegant cottages provide a striking contrast to the more basic, rough-and-tumble charms of the racetrack a mile along the A415.
So quiet was the paddock that the sound of angle grinders was secondary to that of nearby shotguns – presumably the culling of rabbits, rather than Nissan Micras – but loudest of all were associated parents, cussing and blinding during a race for a category known as Teen Streets, basically banger racing for kids.
Participants were warned beforehand about track etiquette, in the wake of an incident the previous evening at Ringwood, yet in one race some drivers were hard at it before the green flag had flown and while marshals were still clambering over the barriers to reach their posts.
Not a good look, that.