When my friend and fellow petrol-head Arun suggested a trip up to the Ace Cafe in his wonderful Caterham 7 for the the Classic Car Night + Lotus + Midget & Sprite meeting I had no hesitation in accepting.
After the minor complication of getting my non-sylph-like frame into the tiny Caterham 7 cockpit and strapping myself into the full harness the journey up to the Ace Cafe was great (despite the early evening homeward-bound traffic). The 7 really is like a 2-seater jet-propelled skateboard – soooooo fast and responsive.
A 6AM start saw me blasting out of London in the old 911 along the M40 before hitting quiet country roads North of Oxford. Well they would have been quiet but for the fractious popping and banging of my engine!
Undeterred by fog, the aftermath of a nasty crash on the M40 and an inordinate number of flattened foxes and the odd two-dimensional deer littering the carriageway – I pressed on.
What a difference a day makes. The WEC weekend started off with snow and sleet on Saturday but Sunday brought glorious sunshine even though it was still a bit chilly.
The WEC 6 Hour Race was obviously the main event of the weekend. The 2016 WEC season opener and chance to really see what development has been successfully carried out by the teams over the Winter break.
Whilst qualifying provided an indication of top speed and relative handling capabilities – endurance race cars and drivers can only prove themselves in race conditions i.e. over several hours and with all classes of cars out on track simultaneously.
Arriving at Silverstone in a blizzard on Saturday morning didn’t bode well. After depositing my old 911 in the Porsche Club GB parking zone – a warming coffee in the club tent was essential before wandering into the circuit to find out if and when the racing would start.
As the sleet and snow subsided – the race marshals gradually abandoned the warmth of the Paddock Café to make their way trackside. A sure sign that racing was about to commence.
As Goodwood circuit is not used all year round due to local noise restrictions – it’s easy to forget that it’s is a very high speed circuit and therein lies the risk to race drivers and to spectators.
At the end of the first lap of the first of Sunday’s races a really scary crash unfolded right in front of me on the start/finish straight when Richard Wilson’s Lotus Cooper Climax T51 collided with Stephen Bond’s Lotus Climax 18.
Instead of both cars coming to rest on the track or in the tyre wall – the collision caused Bond’s Lotus to go into an end-over-end cartwheel which lifted it over the wall and hedge of an access road before it plummeted down into a pedestrian tunnel right next to the viewing area for wheelchair users.
Possibly because it was early in the day – the pedestrian tunnel was empty so by a miracle spectator injuries were avoided. Stephen Bond also came out of it with broken ribs but was extremely lucky not to come out worse particularly as fuel was pouring from the car as he hung suspended in his seat belts.
It’s horrible to contemplate but with slightly more forward momentum the cartwheeling car could easily have cleared the pedestrian tunnel and landed on the wheelchair spectator viewing area.
Luck was with a number of people as it looked like the accident could have shaped up to be a 1955 Le Mans type incident.
I was rooted to the spot watching the accident in slow motion but a few yards further along the viewing platform Tim Quinlan captured this remarkable footage of the accident:-
The signs are unmistakeable – Spring has definitely sprung! :-
Longer hours of daylight and occasional sightings of a yellow disk in the sky have encouraged the daffodils to bloom and trees to bud,
Classic racing cars have been awakened, coughing and spluttering from their winter slumbers and their doting owners have squeezed themselves into their race suits and boots for the 74th Goodwood Members Meeting.
This year’s London Classic Car Show at the Excel Exhibition Centre in London’s Docklands promised to be bigger and better than last year and thankfully – it was!
Spread over two large halls the show was easier to move around, it offered a more balanced mix of dealers, specialists and car club stands and last but not least it allowed for a much bigger open space in which to parade cars representing the great automotive nations.
Moving on from reflections of 2015 – it’s time to look forward and consider how to indulge my motoring interests in 2016. What events should I attend and what improvements can I make to my ’71 2.2 L 911E? Decisions, decisions!
With a bit of careful planning – it would be easily possible to spend most of my weekends attending one form of motoring activity or another but this would certainly be a fast-track to divorce. Instead I need to carefully select those events that:-
a) Stand-out in terms of their quality, variety and spectacle,
b) Present an opportunity to meet up with old mates,
c) Provide new motoring experiences.
On the car front – my aim is to continue gradual improvement of my 911 with some mechanical and cosmetic upgrades as time, money and availability of parts & services allow.
So here are my thoughts on car events I could attend and car improvements I could make during 2016.
The winter months present something of a challenge to British motoring enthusiasts as it’s a motoring Dead Zone as far as races and classic car jaunts are concerned due to the poor weather and lack of daylight.
With precious motors consigned to winter hibernation – it leaves car enthusiasts dangerously prone to the onset of ICDS – Interesting Car Deficiency Syndrome!
To counter the debilitating effects of this affliction it’s important to reflect on the past year’s motoring highlights and to start planning for petrolicious pleasures in the year to come.
It also allows time to muse over the improvements you’ve managed to make to your classic car over the past year and fantasise over other reassuringly expensive ways of further improving its performance or looks.
NB: The featured image shows my Dad (on the left) and his colleague in the late 1940s just after they’d dug their way through a truck-high snow drift on their daily round to collect milk churns from remote farms around Appleby, Cumbria.
Having explained in Part 1 where the term “British Plastic” came from I just wanted to expand in Part 2 upon my thoughts as to how and why such an unusually large number of British fibreglass car manufacturers came and went during the ’50s,’60s and ’70s.