Friday, December 07 2012
One of the unique pleasures of motorsport is the historic scene, which offers a rich flavour of past endeavours, whilst also delivering some of the best racing action on the calendar. A rush of adrenaline on track combines with evocative sights, sounds and smells and is best enjoyed with a picnic on a grass bank, whilst the sun shines overhead.
Spectators at MSV circuits were given plenty of opportunities to sample this blissful ambience in 2012, with new events joining a familiar line-up. Once again the classic scene was provided by the Historic Sports Car Club and Masters organisations, which provided great events at all four circuits.
The HSCC continued its long-running Superprix at Brands Hatch at the height of summer, with the headlining Derek Bell Trophy race featuring a selection of classic Grand Prix cars. An ex-Jackie Stewart Tyrrell and one of James Hunt's McLarens raced on the circuit, but it was category favourite Michael Lyons that dominated, in his Hesketh of similar vintage.
Lyons switched to Formula 5000 machinery for August's Gold Cup at Oulton Park, but was unable to repeat his success, but not for want of trying. The damp conditions and twisty circuit favoured the less powerful but nimbler Formula 2 cars and it was Richard Evans in a March 742 that took the wins. The races headlined a number of contests for saloons, sportscars and single seaters from the sport's rich post-war history, with many hailing from the 1960s and 70s during the Gold Cup's heyday. The theme extended to the surroundings, with themed displays and sideshows, whilst many visitors got into the spirit of the event by dressing for the era, making this one of the north-west's biggest social occasions of the summer.
Earlier in the year the club held the Autosport 3 hour meeting at Snetterton and the Formula 3-celebrating Wolds Trophy at Cadwell Park, whilst the two circuits also staged popular races from the Vintage Sports Car Club. Whilst the Cadwell fixture has been a regular for fans of pre and post-war machinery, providing one of the year's most fascinating events, the trip to Norfolk was the club's first and a day of thrilling battles proved to be highly popular with the crowds and included a rare appearance from a pre-war ERA that featured at the first ever meeting at the circuit. Bike fans also got to enjoy a glimpse of the past at the Lincolnshire circuit when the Vintage Motor Cycle Club entertained visitors in September.
At the start of the season the Masters Festival kicked off the year at Oulton Park and brought in the spring crowds, whilst just two months later the organisers descended on Brands Hatch with their most ambitious event yet. Six races were held for Grand Prix machinery, covering fifty years of the sport from the 1930s to the 80s. Central to this was the launch of a brand new series for the early years of the 3-litre era dominated by the Cosworth DFV and appropriately named the 'Return to Power'. The Brands Hatch races were billed as 'The Historic Race of Champions', recalling another popular phrase of the time. Amongst several cars raced by Ken Tyrrell's team could be found a V12-engined Matra, and for many the car's sonorous engine note was the highlight of the weekend.
The early years of Formula 1 was represented by the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association, with many pre-war cars also joining a packed grid for the races, whilst former Red Bull junior Brendan Hartley climbed into fellow Kiwi Roger Wills' Lotus 92 to showcase his skills in the Grand Prix Masters category. Continuing the theme, Lotus, Benetton and the rare Beatrice Lola Turbo F1 racers completed demonstration runs, whilst older BRMs were lapped by team alumni Jackie Oliver and Howden Ganley.
Two single-marque festivals also provided plenty of fun at Brands Hatch. The inaugural Mini Festival was a huge hit with fans, providing the best of both classic and BMW MINI racing, plus a face-off between the two variants, cheered on by enthusiasts, many of whom were watching from their own examples. In addition to the action on track there were sideshows, trade stands, an air display and live music, plus the opportunity for owners to get involved in a parade around the circuit. Famed stunt driver Russ Swift also added to the fun with a breathtaking two-wheeled lap around the Indy loop.
The annual Lotus Festival moved from Snetterton to Brands Hatch and celebrated the marque's glory years, which included many highlights at Kent's former Grand Prix venue. The 49 and 79 world beaters lapped the full circuit along with the V12-engined 102, reunited with original driver Martin Donnelly. Races for Elises, Exiges, Evoras, 2-Elevens and a 50th anniversary Elan battle provided much of the entertainment, whilst once again the venue was filled with sportscars, trade stands and displays.
Many of these events are scheduled to return in 2013, with more planned - watch this space for news! In the meantime Mini Festival tickets can be purchased by clicking here and Gold Cup tickets can be booked by clicking here.
Images courtesy of Az Edwards, Adam Pigott, Dennis Rushden, Gary Hawkins and Snappyracers.com