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Silverstone Classic 2016: Was It All a Dream?

The family arrived home last night after four great days spent at this year’s Silverstone Classic. With cars to unload and a small mountain of debris to sort after unloading the motorhome, it was, on reflection, an exhausting but awesome few days. The Silverstone Classic organising team seem to endlessly reinvent the wheel when it comes to hosting this world class racing event and this year was the best yet!

On Friday, we enjoyed back-to-back qualifying sessions for all races, followed by a drinks reception at The Wing building, where Silverstone Auctions were hosting their auction for Classic cars, race cars and memorabilia. As we got there, the race car auction was just about to start. The drink was flowing, but not many cars were going for the full estimates, and there were bargains to be had. A 1975 FIA Group 2 Ford RS1800 was sold at the auction, which was successfully entered into the Historic Touring Car Challenge on the Sunday to a podium finish.

Friday evening’s late night entertainment was Ultimate Elton, an Elton John tribute band who was a better look-a-like than sound-a-like, but it was good entertainment. This was followed by The Boomtown Rats, where Bob Geldof bounded about on stage before laying into the audience telling them they were all Silverstone Classic’s and looked like ‘Jeremy Clarkson’.  Despite waiting in the rain until he played a song we knew, Bob’s attempts at ironic comedy made us throw the towel in and we, like many others, drifted off.

Both mornings we were up early as we had early races to attend. There were 11 classic races over the weekend ranging from early eighties DFV-powered F1 cars and ’50s GTs, to slightly more modern Super Tourers and Group C prototypes. One of the many highlights was the Motor Racing Legends—Stirling Moss Trophy—a race of ’50s Sports racers. It was a hard-fought battle in which genuine historical racers (many of which are priceless) are racing wheel to wheel. The race was won by the dashing young Sam Hancock, who in his victory speech apologised for tapping the pole sitting Lister Jaguar Knobbly on the first lap, but thanked everyone and whooped at the size of his trophy! 

Also incredible to watch was the Group C Racing and the FIA Masters Historic F1, an amazing grid of 28 Historic F1 machines being driven flat-out. It was an incredible sight and sound and just four seconds separated the top three finishers after the 30-minute race.  

Aside from the racing, there was still lots to see and do. Lamborghini Club celebrated their 50th anniversary of the Miura plus 100 years since the birth of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. The Viper Club marked its 20th birthday with a parade and Porsche Club GB was honouring Porsche’s first ‘transaxle’ sports cars 40 years ago. They celebrated with a massive display fronted by its Le Mans winning 919 Hybrid plus an impressive number of beautifully restored 924s, 944s and 968s. In total, no fewer than 2,500 club members were displaying 1,200 Porsches, including 200 transaxle models, which took to the famous track for the special parade.

Not many racing events are family friendly, but this is one of them, a huge shopping village, a free funfair, adrenaline zones and live music—there is lots to see and do help to keep everyone entertained. For the drivers, easy access, and the ability to move around freely without hassle, keeps competitors coming back. This year we had no issues buzzing about the infield on our vintage Enfield ‘bullet’ replica. Classic bikes are becoming a common sight and each year we are seeing more and more exotic ones appearing.

Saturday evening, we took the kids to see the ‘Wall of Death” funfair attraction which was a surprise to us all. A White Tuxedo clad compare who must have been 65-plus took off his Jacket and rode to the top of the wall one handed as the opening stunt! Rock band Reef were the warm up band to The Stranglers who received the best reception of any band I have seen at Silverstone Classic for years. They clearly got the pairing here of a band to audience age bracket bang on. As well as finding a band who still sing and play as we remember them. So top marks to Silverstone for the band choice here! 

On Sunday, we were woken to the roar of a balloon burner, and we enjoyed our first cup of tea of the day at the campsite watching the air balloons float overhead. Billed as ‘Tin Top Sunday’, the packed schedule featured a further nine retro races as well as three dramatic high-speed track demonstrations, and special parades.

Living up to its billing, the race programme featured a trio of evocative pit-stop races for packed grids of saloon cars from the sixties, seventies and eighties. There was as wel second showdowns for many of Saturday’s highlights: including Group C, Can-Am, Super Tourers and an evocative F1 race that would be one of the most thrilling ever seen at Silverstone. 

My race was in the Historic Touring Car Challenge, a grid of over 45 racers from the golden era of British and European Touring Car Championships. Many of which have period racing pedigrees and some of which are even driven by the very same drivers who raced them in period! The cars are fun to drive, some on slicks and some in Group 1 specification on treaded Dunlop tires with original brakes! You would think it would be carnage, but driving standards are high, and the racing is brilliant fun. In fact, I can safely say I have never experienced such good spirits amongst fellow competitors. Everyone seems to be friendly, supportive and having a barrel of laughs. Our Triumph Dolomite was amongst the back of the field in original Group 1 spec, but we had an absolute ball sliding around racing amongst our classes and even picked up a 2nd in the class trophy. 

As I write this, the washing machine is on its fourth load (with probably still another four to go), outside the Bristol weather is back to standard (tipping it down ), and I am thinking,  ‘Was it all a dream?’ But a new trophy sits on the desk, and I think what a difference the sunshine makes! When it’s warm in the UK there is no better place to be, well done to the Silverstone Classic organising team, you cracked it! 

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