Wednesday 1 August 2012


Sensational race grids plus mouth-watering parades
A host of new records established
Star-studded turn-out from Nigel Mansell to Sir Patrick Stewart

Last weekend’s Silverstone Classic powered by the AA (20-22 July) was another record-breaker providing spectacular action both on and off the famous Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in front of the biggest crowd in the sparkling event’s 22 year history.

Already established as the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival, this year’s packed programme of 24 races not only featured more than 1000 entries spanning seven decades of motor sport history but also served up some truly breathtaking competition with numerous of the evocative races going right down to the chequered flag.     

With so many of the world’s finest historic competition cars rolling back the years, both Silverstone’s National and International Wing pits and paddock complexes were brimming with an extraordinary collection of Grand Prix, GT, Le Mans, single-seater, sports and touring cars from past generations.

But while the outstanding race grids were at the heart of the festival, a sun-drenched Silverstone also sparkled with a huge number of other attractions. Based at the Stowe Circuit to the southern end of the venue, the new AA World interactive automotive theme park proved an instant hit. Meanwhile, to the northern end, a record number of car clubs put on glittering displays of 7000-plus classic cars alongside fun fairs, live music, on-stage appearances from Roary the Racing Car, busy trade stalls plus a whole host of other family attractions.  

“Every year the Silverstone Classic just gets bigger and bigger,” enthused Nick Wigley, Event Director. “We had to make several contingencies after all the poor weather in the run-up to the event but thankfully the sun finally came out and what a show we had! The quantity and quality of the racing was astonishing and the car club displays were every bit as impressive. We are proud of our ‘access all areas’ policy that lets everyone enjoy the sensational cars right up close as well as free admission into the rock concerts, trackside grandstands and all the other many, many attractions. Despite the recent rains, the event drew a record crowd of 83,500 and I’m confident all those people and more will be back hungry for another top-class Silverstone Classic in 2013.”


With more than a 1,000 race entries this year’s Silverstone Classic once again will be the biggest race meeting staged anywhere in the world during 2012. Many of the 24 races boasted full 58-car grids and the busy race schedule included six decades of Formula One history, a feast of classic touring cars plus just about every sportscar from the legendary Jaguar C- and D-types of the Fifties to the awesome Group C Le Mans prototypes of the Eighties. Despite the huge grids and fiercely fought competition, the packed programme ran to schedule with just one short safety car period in two days of epic racing. 

Among the many highlights was the re-birth of the famous Daily Express International Trophy, one of the most famous prizes in motor racing history. Past winners include greats such as Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill. The prized Trophy went to the aggregate winner of the two Grand Prix Masters races featuring a fabulous line-up of F1 cars from the Seventies and Eighties. After a titanic wheel-to-wheel battle at speeds of 180mph, Bill Coombs in a Tyrrell 009 – originally raced by Jean-Pierre Jarier in the 1979 F1 season – overcame the 1982 Arrows A4 of Steve Hartley to win the revived Daily Express International Trophy, presented on the podium by Ian Parrott, Group Managing Editor of Express Newspapers. It was a very special moment for Coombs as he explained: “I was under a lot of pressure but thought back to when I came here to Silverstone with my dad and watched my heroes in the old Daily Express Trophy – that made me even more determined to win. It’s fantastic the Express has brought the race back to life and with all the great cars that always made it so special.”

One of Saturday’s many highlights was the enthralling Celebrity Challenge race starring famous faces from the high-profile worlds of music, sport, media and show business. Those risking their reputations this year were: Heston Blumenthal; Steve Bull: Andrew Castle; Kelvin Fletcher; Vicky Gomersall; Tony Hirst; Brian Johnson; Jay Kay; Nicola Stapleton; Sir Patrick Stewart and  ‘Comedy Dave’ Vitty. Brendan Cole, sadly, was sidelined after an accident in a familiarisation period earlier in the day. As in 2011, all the stars lined up in competition-prepared Morgan racing cars and were competing for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital; Bobby Moore Fund and RPJ Crohns Foundation.

Emmerdale star Fletcher made the most of his racing experience to take the chequered flag while Johnson, Kay and Hirst fought over the remaining two places on the podium. Racing rookie Hirst spun away his chances while Kay received a five second penalty for exceeding the track limits, handing second spot to a delighted AC/DC front-man Johnson. Fletcher commented: “It was really good fun. I had an amazing time and a good battle with Jay Kay before edging away. Everyone came back unscathed which was the main thing. It was a great day and we’ve raised awareness for three great charities.” Runner-up Johnson added: “It was fantastic. The crowds were awesome as were the guys who loaned us these magic cars. This is the best event on the planet and, what’s more, it’s right here on our doorstep in the UK. I’ve had a wonderful time. It was terrific fun.”

Special races dedicated to the memory of two of motor sport’s most respected figures, Peter Gethin and Alan Mann, provided some spectacular entertainment for a packed grid of thundering F5000 and more nimble F2 single-seaters.

The double-header Peter Gethin Memorial Trophy races were dedicated to the memory of F5000 racing legend Peter Gethin who passed away in December. Victory in Saturday’s encounter went to Michael Lyons racing the evocative Parnelli Jones Racing Lola T400 once campaigned in the US-based F5000 championship by Al Unser. Lyons retired from Sunday’s follow-up, though, setting up an epic duel between Simon Hadfield in an ex-John Watson Trojan T101 and Martin Stretton in the ex-Jacques Lafitte March 742. Taking full advantage of the prodigious power of the 5-litre Chevrolet engine on the open expanses of Silverstone, Hadfield eventually edged home to win by just 0.124s and was presented with the trophy by the late Peter Gethin’s son Nick Gethin.  

Dedicated to the achievements of Alan Mann whose Alan Mann Racing team was revered in touring and sportscar racing circles in the Sixties, the Alan Mann Trophy was presented to the winners of the 50-minute, two-driver Under 2-Litre Touring Cars race on Saturday morning. After the demise of the early pace-setting Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA of Alex Furiani and David Fitzsimons, as well as the BMW 1800TiSA of Richard Shaw and Jackie Oliver, Ford Lotus Cortinas filled the top five places with victory going to Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield. Fittingly Alan Mann’s son Henry was among the front-runners finishing fourth in his Alan Mann Racing liveried red and gold Lotus Cortina shared with BTCC star Mat Jackson.

Two of Britain’s most famous and successful racing drivers – 1992 F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell and five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell – were among those savouring the nostalgia at this year’s Silverstone Classic. There were a host of racing stars competing on the circuit, too. Nicolas Minassian, who finished on the Le Mans podium for Peugeot in 2011, joined Sunday’s Group C grid in one of the trio of evocative Lancia LC2s. Despite his total lack of experience in the stunning Lancia, ‘quick Nic’ starred in the 30-minute showdown, passing the Porsche 962 of early leader Herve Regout and coming within two seconds of the victorious Mercedes C9 of Gareth Evans.

Former F1 ace Roberto Moreno was another of the star names in action – the Brazilian sharing a GRD S75 with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. Others on the grid included former Le Mans winner Jackie Oliver, BTCC race winners Tim Harvey, Anthony Reid and Mat Jackson as well as current ace Frank Wrathall who finished runner-up in both Fujifilm Touring Car Trophy races which featured huge grids of super touring cars from the Eighties and Nineties.     

AA World – UK’s largest interactive motoring attraction – was a new addition to the Silverstone Classic based at the South Circuit at the southern end of the venue. AA World included a wide range of activities all aimed at putting the fun back into motoring. One of the best draws was an opportunity for children aged 12 and over to get behind the wheel for the very first time. The faces on the children said it all with initial nerves quickly replaced with beaming smiles after half an hour in an AA driving school Ford Focus.

Edmund King, AA President, was delighted with this exciting new initiative. He said: “The free driving experiences at AA World were the highlight for young and old. You can’t beat telling your school mates that you drove at Silverstone and adults loved the hot laps round Stowe. It was tremendous fun and great to be at the Silverstone Classic.”

The number of film crews present further underlined the Silverstone Classic’s status as a major national and international event. Both BBC Oxford and BBC South covered Nigel Mansell’s ‘Make Roads Safe’ announcement in AA World while regional Anglia and Central ITV crews filmed news stories on both Friday and Sunday. Sky Sports F1 covered both the Celebrity Challenge and the amazing number of historic Grand Prix cars competing for broadcast on its F1 Show, while the BBC followed Sir Patrick Stewart’s on-track exploits as part of a forthcoming Senna-style documentary on Sir Stirling Moss to be presented by the Hollywood star. A post-production team working on Ron Howard’s forthcoming movie Rush were also at Silverstone keen to capture the sounds of DFV-powered F1 cars for the film which focuses on the 1976 duel between Niki Lauda and James Hunt. In another major coup, top German clothing retailer Anson’s used the Silverstone Classic as the dazzling backdrop for its latest catalogue.

No fewer than 73 car clubs (up from 57 in 2011) organised dedicated display areas for their members ranging from the AC Owners Club to the XK8/XKR Enthusiasts Club, many celebrating special milestones in marque, model and club histories. There were anniversaries galore, not least 60 years of the Mercedes Benz Club, BMW Car Club and Renault Owners Club. Half centuries of the AC Cobra, Mk1 Ford Cortina, Lotus Elan, MGB, Triumph Spitfire and TVR Club were also marked with fabulous displays plus a glittering on-track parade. Another not to miss out was the Lamborghini Club UK – Valentino Balboni, the Italian supercar company’s legendary test driver for the past 44 years, oversaw its special 25th anniversary festivities.

As well as celebrating 40 years of M Power, the BMW Car Club GB marked its 60th birthday by hosting the UK’s first Z-fest at the Silverstone Classic. Hundreds of BMW’s renowned ‘Z’ sportscars descended on the circuit and enjoyed a special parade lap on Saturday.

Over the years Ferrari has enjoyed many successes at Silverstone – not least its maiden Grand Prix win back in 1951 – but few sights could rival the world record parade of F40s that lapped the full F1 circuit on Sunday. Marking the sensational supercar’s 25th birthday, an unprecedented gathering of 60 scarlet stallions took to the track in a memorable tribute to the world’s first 200mph road car.
While rockers Brian Johnson, Chris Rea and Jay Kay were among those racing on the track, other famous musicians topped the live music bill. Eighties chart toppers Mike & the Mechanics headed Friday night’s line-up while Adam Ant and Snakecharmer entertained thousands of fans on Saturday evening. 

With an amazing sales rate of 89 per cent of the classic and road cars on offer, along with the acquisition of a further 13 competition cars, Silverstone Auctions achieved a fantastic premium inclusive total of £1.1m at its special Silverstone Classic Sale. Demand was strong across the entire sale, which featured classic road cars as well as some more modern supercars all coming under the hammer in Silverstone’s new ‘Wing’ on Saturday afternoon. Highlights of the sale included a stunning 1959 Jaguar XK150 drophead coupe which fetched £67,760, an extremely rare 1960 Austin Seven 850 which sold for £24,080, and a 1996 Lamborghini Diablo VT for £59,360. Fittingly at the home of British motor sport, the sale also included a number of impressive competition cars including a 2008 Ferrari F430 GT3 race car which sold for £76,720 – more than £11,000 over its pre-sale estimate – as well as a 2003 Ferrari 360 Challenge for £34,720.
“The collection of cars we put on offer looked absolutely stunning, so it’s very pleasing that this was met with such strong demand and interest,” commented Nick Whale, Managing Director, Silverstone Auctions. “Our team of experts guided the cars very sensibly which was reflected in the high sales rate achieved.”  
The arrival of summer gave visitors of all ages to the Silverstone Classic a chance to experience some great entertainment. Among the most popular attractions were a vintage fun fair, go-karts, aerial displays with wing walkers, the Parachute Regiment The Red Devils, hot air balloons, Punch and Judy (celebrating 350 years), rally car and 4x4 experiences plus a retail village with nearly 200 exhibitors presenting a wide range of autojumble, automobilia, art, jewellery, books, videos and gifts for everyone.

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