Clear skies and warm – no, make that hot! – weather greeted the crowds at the Silverstone Classic on both Saturday and Sunday (21 and 22 July 2012), but only after drenching all and sundry on the Friday afternoon and leaving puddles and standing water, it seemed that in most areas where the photographers liked to stand for their favourite shots. But the weekend races were a feast for the fans with great weather, and it proved a popular outing for the whole family.
Without doubt one of the main race events of the weekend was the Group C races that was run on Saturday as a ‘night’ race in the spirit of the original series from the 1980s, while the Sunday race took place in the late afternoon. Replacing the outgoing Group 6 series, Group C was introduced in 1982 and the phenomenal performance of the cars was matched only by the enthusiasm of the spectators, and which continued to grow in the years that followed. Only one manufacturer was really prepared for Group C at the start of the 1982 series, namely Porsche, as the 956 swept all before it, rewriting the record books in the process. In celebration of the series’ thirtieth anniversary, no fewer than 24 Group C cars took to the grid at Silverstone this weekend for both races, just like it used to be thirty years ago.
Another favourite was the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars, which included such machinery as a Ferrari 250 SWB, Aston Martin (DP212, DB4, GT Zagato, and a DB2 Lightweight LM), as well as a host of E-type Jaguars, Porsche Abarth and 356s, Austin Healey, Lotus, and many other favourites. There was no quarter given as the cars raced with great enthusiasm, much to the delight of the large crowds.
Other very popular races included the RAC Woodcote Trophy for pre-56 sportscars, and the Fujifilm Touring Car Trophy 1970-2000 which proved a favourite with the spectators as many of the cars racing in this event would have been familiar even to the younger racegoers.
Then there were the HGPCA pre-61 front engined GP cars, the HGPCA pre-66 rear engined GP cars, the Masters ‘Gentleman Drivers’ pre-66 GT cars, the Daily Express International Trophy for GP Masters, the Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-61 Sportscars, the Silverstone Classic Celebrity Challenge, Jaguar E-type Challenge, the Alan Mann Trophy for under 2-litre Touring cars, the Peter Gethin Trophy for F2 and F5000 cars, the Historic Formula Junior race, and not forgetting the World Sports Car Masters.
This was a really full programme of races, and there was certainly something there for all tastes. There were bumps, spins and off-track excursions aplenty, as all drivers put on a superb display of driving but with more than a 1,000 race entries, this year’s Silverstone Classic will once again be the biggest race meeting staged anywhere in the world during 2012.
Occupying the infield area were no fewer than 73 car clubs where 7000-plus classic cars were on display, and the public made the most of wandering around this area and feasting their eyes on all the delicious machinery. A large area was dedicated to specialist traders and booksellers and for those very young ones for whom motor racing was not yet a priority (but soon will be), there was a fun fair with many different rides and slides. Despite the recent rains, the event drew a record crowd of 83,500 according to the organizers.
Having arrived at the track early on Saturday morning, I took the opportunity of wandering around the paddock with a fellow-photographer and chatting with race car owners and engineers before the crowds arrived. The Group C Peugeot 905 that had been driven by Nicholas Minassian on the Friday had its engine and gearbox split for inspection where it was found that a gearbox problem that occurred during practice on Friday had ended its chances of any further racing on the weekend, and so the Frenchman raced the Lancia LC2 instead on Sunday.
In the garages under the new Wing complex most cars were receiving some kind of attention from fluid top-ups to gearbox rebuilds, it was a fascinating place to be and to get up close with such significant machinery. There was machinery from the Formula 1 ex-Ronnie Peterson JPS Lotus 76/1 to the evocative BMW M3 and M6 touring cars and pretty much everything else that you could reasonably shake a stick at that had turned a wheel on the circuits of yesteryear – it was all there!
In closing, just in case you were wondering why there was such a shortfall in the number of security guards turning up for duty at that big sporting event in London (can’t mention the name, you see), well they had all snuck off to work at Silverstone, and they were wearing those corporate high-vis jackets emblazoned with the name of the security firm that has been prominent in the news lately. Well, it certainly appeared that a large contingent of the missing guards had indeed turned up at the Northampton circuit, as every few hundred yards there seemed to be a group of three or four of them stopping cars and pedestrians, and ushering them in another direction, and most of them were big enough so as to make any resistance futile. Never before have I seen such security, not at the Le Mans 24-Hours, not at Goodwood or even at other Silverstone events in the past. As a working journalist and trackside photographer, I was stopped all too frequently and told that I could not walk down a certain road – I have been a journalist/photographer for many years but this was a first for me, it was most puzzling indeed, a feeling also shared by many of my journalist colleagues. It seemed odd that such a high level of security was needed at a race meeting where one might have thought that the idea of a family day out was all that most folk had come to enjoy.
Podium results, Silverstone Classic, Sunday 22 July
Historic Formula Juniors (9 laps)
1. David Methley, Brabham BT6
2. Sam Wilson, Cooper T59
3. Andrew Hibberd, Lotus 22
Peter Gethin Trophy for F2 & F5000 (11 laps)
1. Simon Hadfield, Trojan 101
2. Martin Stretton, March 742
3. Neil Fowler, March 752
Woodcote Trophy for Pre-56 Sportscars (12 laps)
1. John Young/Andrew Smith, Cooper Jaguar T33
2. John Pearson/Gary Pearson, Jaguar D-type
3. Nigel Webb/Anthony Reid, Jaguar C-type
Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars Pre-63 GT (19 laps)
1. Nick Naismith/John Young, Aston Martin DB4
2. Ben Adams, Turner Mk2
3. Wolfgang Friedrichs/David Clark, Aston Martin DP212
HGPCA pre-61 Front Engine Grand Prix Cars (9 laps)
1. Roger Wills, Lotus 16
2. Philip Walker, Lotus 16
3. Eddie McGuire, Lotus 16
Fujifilm Touring Car Trophy 1970-2000 (9 laps)
1. Rick Pearson, Nissan Primera
2. Frank Wrathall, Vauxhall Cavalier
3. Richard Hawken, Nissan Primera
Daily Express International Trophy for Grand Prix Masters (11 laps)
1. Bill Coombs, Tyrrell 009
2. Steve Hartley, Arrows A4
3. Michael Lyons, Hesketh 308E
Group C Endurance Race Cars (15 laps)
1. Gareth Evans, Mercedes C9
2. Nicolas Minassian, Lancia LC2
3. Herve Regout, Porsche 962
World Sports Car Masters (23 laps)
1. Andrew Smith/Oliver Bryant, Lola T70
2. Paul Knapfield/Martin Stretton, Ferrari 512M
3. Steve Tandy, Lola T70 Mk3b
HGPCA Pre-66 Rear Engine Grand Prix Cars (9 laps)
1. Jason Minshaw, Brabham BT4
2. John Harper, Brabham BT4
3. Rod Jolley, Cooper T45/51
Jaguar E-type Challenge (9 laps)
1. Alex Buncombe
2. Gregor Fisken
3. John Pearson
Silverstone Classic Celebrity Challenge (8 laps)
1. Kelvin Fletcher
2. Brian Johnson
3. Jay Kay