Exceptional, Classic British Racing
Story and photography by Nat Twiss for Petrolicious
In late July, I was lucky enough to witness classic car racing for the first time. The Silverstone Classic is a massive gathering of classic car lovers from around the UK, and I don’t think there’s a better introduction to the spectacle of vintage metal anywhere else in the world.
Though Silverstone has seen a number of overhauls since racing began in the late 1940s, it still feels very much like an old style circuit. Long straights which were once runways are followed by fast sweeping bends, meandering through the English countryside. It’s one of my favourite circuits–great cars and great drivers both come alive here. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a modern GT racer or a 1960s Brabham, most of the lap is spent at blistering speeds.
At this year’s Silverstone Classic the infield was packed full of car clubs from around the UK, as well as trade stalls, period amusements, and carnival rides. There were a huge amount of things to do for the 94,000 attendees, and a weekend wasn’t enough to see it all in detail. There was also ice cream–sorely needed as the sun was blazing all weekend, and temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius (86 deg Fahrenheit). Not exactly Saharan, but that’s sweltering for Britain!
Those temperatures proved something of a challenge for the cars on track, too –a Jaguar XJ220 LM burned to a crisp during Friday practice, and plenty of runners had mechanical failures. It comes with the territory, and really, what good is a racing car if you don’t race it every now and then? And race them they did. Seriously.
Writing this desperately makes me want to go back. The smell of racing fuel in the paddock, the cacophony of engines bursting to life. Screams of a Ferrari V12, whines of supercharged muscle, echoing through grandstands. The bias-ply tyres screeching through the Becketts complex of corners. Squirelling under braking, with rear ends slipping out as the tyres struggle to contain raw power. It’s addictive, and now I’ve had my first taste of classic car racing, I don’t think it will be long before I return.
Sadly, the event concluded in tragedy, with Lotus 18 driver Mr. Dennis Welch involved in a fatal accident on Sunday. The Silverstone Classic organisers have issued an official statement that can be found here.