The sun has set on another great Silverstone Classic: an event that is maturing into a laid back petrolfest of epic proportions.
Silverstone is local to me: only fifteen minutes from home. I’ve never previously considered local events as being world class, and I am not alone. Talking to some Le Mans locals at a previous Le Mans Classic, they viewed Goodwood Festival of Speed as a better event. Away from cars, when we visited Venice, the locals said Florence was more impressive. As Joseph Addison put it: “when a man becomes familiar with his goddess, she quickly sinks into a woman.”
My issue with Goodwood is it’s all a big car show. Fine if you like looking at cars, not so great if you want competitive action. Le Mans Classic has plenty of racing, but there’s a feeling of exclusion in the field. If you haven’t got something ACO approves of, stay home. That long course is great for the drivers who can be bothered to lean on the loud pedal, but spectators hardly see the older cars, each lap is so long.
Silverstone Classic Porsche
Silverstone is a different affair. A huge mix of cars go racing on the 3.6-mile GP circuit: everything from early F1 to ’90s GT cars. There is not too much properly old stuff – and what old stuff there is runs a reasonable lap time and is absolutely terrifying to watch, let alone drive. I watched an early GP car in practice on Friday and, every time it braked into Luffield, the rear wheels bounced up and down at least a foot off the ground for three or four seconds, driver sawing away at the wheel but getting straight back on the throttle as soon as it turned in. Hardcore!
Yes, much the same faces win every year, the later F1 cars will always go quickest and nothing can touch a Lola T70. But, behind the front runners, everyone else is racing hard too. The EB Motorsport 911s fought a range of other machinery this weekend: Ferrari Daytona, Corvette and Chevron. A classic McLaren raced that gorgeous Ferrari 512M, and GT40s had a proper grudge match in the thirty-degree heat. With track temps past forty degrees, the old cars worked like ovens all weekend.
Still the drivers thrashed on: a quick walk around the paddock showed some serious racers. Big motorhomes and race transporters parked up next to single-trailer set-ups with tents and barbeques everywhere. Hoorah Henrys seemed less prolific than in previous years, although I did see a punch-up between drivers in the paddock.
A bit silly maybe, but no doubt these guys take the racing seriously, as they should. It’s the most serious racing this side of Oldtimer GP and the Spa 6 Hours. There is no doubt the FIA Masters Historic Sportscars race could have run longer: most drivers I spoke to wanted to race on for at least another hour (the race was sixty minutes). It will be interesting to see how the programme develops over the next few years.
Good fun to have a concert at the venue too. Coming into the circuit at 4pm one evening, loads of old cars were leaving but lots more people were coming in to share the music and atmosphere. As I left the track at 10pm on Saturday, the place was packed, and rocking to the sounds of Bonnie Tyler. Not my kind of music, but it was still a great weekend. Congratulations to Silverstone on another sterling effort, and many thanks to whoever is organising this weather!
Edit: RIP Denis Welch. Just heard via Octane’s David Lillywhite that the respected Healey specialist has died in hospital from injuries sustained in a crash this weekend. Sad to hear the news: at least he went out doing what he loved.