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Silverstone Classic 2019 - Automotive Indulgence


© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

 

The Silverstone Classic brings together myriad different groups of people, not just cars: Most of these being the racers, the collectors, the enthusiasts, the car club committees and their flocks of members, and those who just wanted a good day out in a motoring environment. This last majority happy to drive to the centre of England, particularly when at the wheel of their cherished vehicles, so that they could meet old friends and display their favourite cars. In excess of 10,000 motors turned up!

And for those wishing to go back home with the something new, there were two days of auctions, where you could purchase anything from a modest mid-‘50s Land Rover (sold for £12,375) to an early model 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’, which changed hands for £832,500. For the budding secret agents, a very well presented Aston Martin DB5, finished in James Bond's favourite colour, was also available at the prestigious end of the catalogue. Although this 1965 Silver Birch example didn't quite reach the required code number in currency to be sanctioned for release by ‘Q’, it was re-priced at £672k and latterly offered to those who might initiate a less overt enquiry, post-sale.


© 2019, Classique Car Conduits

Not so clandestine, but more family orientated visitors were given plenty of less costly attractions to occupy them throughout the daylight hours and well into darkness. From superior quality clothing stores, amongst 100 miscellaneous retailers in the ‘shopping village’, to a multitude of demonstrations: Included were the 500cc GP two-wheel machines ridden by champions Freddie Spencer and Wayne Gardner, squealing wheeled stunt drivers, tyre shredding ‘drifters’, restoration clinics and car customisers familiar to broadcast television viewers. For the youngsters a funfair - with all rides completely free of charge - and, for the not so young, two evenings of complimentary live musical entertainment.

Tribute bands reprising the Woodstock Festival headline acts which had originally congregated on the infamous Upstate New York farm, back in the Summer of ’69. These included Hendrix, Santana, Creedence Clearwater, Ten Years After, Joe Cocker and one of the originals (if not at Woodstock in person), Kenney Jones - still rocking! He of Small Faces fame, which morphed into The Faces when Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood came along. Later, Pete Townsend inviting him to join The Who (who were there!), following the demise of original drummer, Keith Moon. So, ex-hippies and flower-power veterans in the audience took a nostalgic ‘trip’ back in time. It was far out, man.

Many automobile anniversaries were celebrated, too. In manufacturer terms they were headed by the centenary of Bentley Motors, and for a world-class Formula 1 living legend, who better as a motor racing global ambassador than Sir Jackie Stewart? The great Scot was here to celebrate 50 years since the first of his three F1 World Championships. Sir Jackie, ever the gentleman, delighted many hundreds of fans, young and old, who surrounded him wherever he appeared, and he patiently engaged with all those who wished to have their photograph taken with him, or autographs signed. What a fine example, for which many current sports professionals - and those in the egocentric entertainment industry - would do well to follow.

Having set the scene, perhaps it is worth pointing out at this stage, that I am unable to report upon much of the racing action because, to be honest, I didn't see a lot of it! Talking to people and wandering around the vast expanses between the current F1 paddock/pits complex, and the more traditional one at the opposite end of the circuit, meant there was too much to see and photograph. However, the good news is that the organisers of the Silverstone Classic have very thoughtfully put each of the races - not just the highlights - on their YouTube channel. As you will see, some great racing, absolutely huge grids and closely fought action in all weathers. From warm sunshine, right through to a torrential downpour which seemed to last for much of Saturday. Being an ordinary driver, I simply can’t fathom how the most talented defy the laws of physics, by taking corners at three figure speeds effectively along meandering shallow rivers, lap after lap, without pirouetting off into gravel traps and barriers. But, I fully concede, that’s why they are racers and I remain watching from the stands.

Take a look for yourself, there were 21 races, to suit all tastes. Just as an appetiser, you’ll find vintage Bentleys with many other Pre-war marques, multi-million pound Pre-’61 Sportscars, swarms of Mini Coopers (59 entries on their diamond jubilee birthday), great GT and Touring cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s, plus big banger Sports racers (such as V8 Lola T70s and McLaren M6s), similarly fast Thundersports (8.8 litre March 717 and McLaren M8F Can-Ams among them) and more modern Le Mans cars (Bentley Speed 8, Lola-Aston, Peugeot 908 and Pescarolo prototypes headlining). These monsters routinely exceeding 200mph down the Mulsanne Straight, and here, too, racing into the dusk, lights ablaze. Even on the short Silverstone straights, the top cars were reaching well into the 170s. There was also a colourful variety of familiar team liveries that created history in Formula One eras of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Of course, providing lots of old school, ear-splitting, F1 noise, as well. So, hopefully, as a quieter overture to the action, you’ll also find selections from each of these groupings and manufacturers, by perusing the accompanying sets of photographs.

But not all of the most famous cars are ones which immediately catch the eye. Within the car club displays, were many hidden gems. Understated models, though just as interesting and worthy of being present. One such example from a French conglomerate, amongst much more speedy and modern machinery, yet nonetheless standing out, was a run of the mill early 1960s Renault family saloon. I spotted it from about fifty yards away. Fortunately for me the event organisers had encouraged owners to write a few lines of history and interesting facts about what they had brought to the show, and the current custodian of this 1962 Renault R8 took up the opportunity. So, I was impressed to find that, although UK registered and right-hand drive, before me was the very oldest known survivor of the model. For decades seldom seen in France, this little car was the 21st example, constructed 57 years ago. Unrestored and nowhere near shiny concours condition, and neither being a special rally or racing version, that really didn't matter. It was just good to see such an unassuming rarity represented.

In the same vicinity, the ‘Pistonheads’ website forum group had put together an eclectic display from within the ranks of their membership, the most striking of which appeared to be a prototype Porsche 917, resembling one of the original 25 which were paraded in front of the Porsche factory by Ferdinand Piëch, in April 1969. They were all completed and in working order for inspection by the ‘Commission Sportive Internationale’, the competition arm of the FIA, who were responsible for homologating these brand new 4.5 litre V12 sports Racers in Group 4 - the top class at Le Mans. Here, finished in the iconic white with a green nose, this sleek Porsche looked as if it had teleported in time, half a century into the future. It might not have been powered by a Flat-12 (rather difficult to find these days), but a 3.6 litre Porsche Flat-6 was a worthy alternative. In fact, so impressive was the finished product, produced with CAD technology and authentic moulds, that the owner, he told me, was contacted last year by the Porsche Factory and the Duke of Richmond. Discussions resulted in the car (when painted in Gulf colours) being one of the landmark exhibits hoisted up the 170ft high sculpture in front of Goodwood House, during the 2018 Festival of Speed.

By way of complete contrast, for the second year, proud owners of several dozen luxurious Tesla electric cars gave of their services throughout the weekend, transporting drivers, engineers, photographers and those working at the circuit between the front entrance carparks and both paddocks. Dotted around, various charging points kept their batteries topped up when required. Silverstone is already well set for the fledgling new technological age in transportation. Additionally, for the majority of visitors, more traditional double-decker buses offered similar rides, though many people had chosen pedal power, independently getting around on bicycles. Perhaps these provided the healthiest method for absorbing amply available food and beverages, to suit all appetites and thirsts, and catered for by abundant refreshment vendors. High quality hospitality or on-site picnicking being other alternative choices for upper and lower budgets.

The Silverstone Classic is now firmly embedded in the European historic calendar and an event to which 109,000 (official attendance figures) had looked forward to taking place in high summer. Plans are already underway for next year’s event, so if you enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, want to watch from free grandstands, or walk the entire British GP circuit perimeter, and where you can wander into pit garages and see hundreds of high-end racing cars close-up, in the metal, make sure you come along to Silverstone for three days of truly classic indulgence in 2020.

John Godley, Classique Car Conduits