Looking Back At The First Petrolicious Drivers’ Meeting: A Beautiful Sunday At Bicester Heritage
Photography by Alex Lawrence
Bicester Heritage is fast becoming the place to see and be seen with classic and performance cars. In fact it could already lay a serious claim to being the nucleus of many of the UK’s vintage-leaning motoring activities. The stratospheric rise of the Sunday Scrambles, to the point where they have become calendar dates in their own right, have epitomized the great flavor that Bicester has in its patina’d hangars and quaint walkways, and if the draw of the former RAF compound was great enough to entice Luftgekülht to pack up the circus of Porsches and bring it to this side of the pond, it should be no surprise that Petrolicious chose the venue for its first-ever Drivers’ Meeting.
I can imagine that the problem of putting your own stamp on something that has essentially already been done before is a complex task, but as I wandered around the familiar avenues of the Bicester site early on Sunday morning as many of the show cars were arriving, it seemed that the solution was a fairly simple one. Take an eclectic, but well-considered mix of top level road and racing cars, obsess over their precise placement and orientation in one of the most recognized and photogenic locations in the country, and invite an enthusiastic and passionate list of guests, just enough for buzz and atmosphere, but not so many that the house gets destroyed and the cops come to shut it down.
This was the recipe for success that Petrolicious had mixed up for the Drivers’ Meeting. They were nice enough to import some of their SoCal weather to share with some 4,000 guests, and between the Group B homologation specials, vintage and modern endurance racers, coachbuilt Italians, paragons of rally sport, and everything else that was assembled here, it felt like the website that I’ve followed and contributed to for years had animated itself into a sublime Sunday at Bicester.
A long line of Alfa Romeos bled into a gathering of Alpines, themselves adjacent to a raft of Porsches, Ferraris, and hot-rods, as well as racing saloons and Nelson Piquet’s 1986 Williams F1 machine—the FW11B—which, as a lifelong fan of my local F1 team (it isn’t just football fans that have geographical loyalty), was a personal treat to see up close.
Aston Martins from various eras were sprinkled between the hangar and grounds, Group C racers thrilled younger generations that were born just as they were being replaced, and a troupe of Zagato-bodied cars took the edge off of the ‘80s aero packages. The car parks were full of incredible machines as is the standard at any good car show, and from some angles it was hard to differentiate between the spectator lot and the show itself.
The different niches were represented by the best of their breeds—the Impreza works rally car setup was constantly thronged by aloft iPhones—and the atmosphere about the place was the buzzy and happy sort; enthusiasm compounded by like minds.
The Scrambles have almost become a victim of their success in many ways, just like a fire, when kept under control they give you light and warmth but if left unattended will consume everything. With so many thousands of people attending those now, one could be forgiven for feeling a little jaded, especially those that were there at the beginning. The Drivers’ Meeting however seemed to capture that fever of the early events, and though some staple cars—F40s and the like—were requisitely present, the chance to walk between works Audi Sport Quattros, Jag XJR-15s, and Mercedes-Benz 600s with the same cup of coffee was a rare experience.
This was a Drivers’ Meeting in more than just name, but the young crowd had plenty of drivers-to-be discovering their dream cars for the first time. In all, it was a chance for d impassioned people to indulge in the amalgamations of metal and carbon and rubber that excite them, whether their taste steered them towards MGs or Elise GT1s. The show wasn’t so much a new formula as it was a tasteful and inclusive execution. There was a car for everyone to think about on the drive home, and plenty of opportunities to connect with the like minds filled with the same ideas. For a journo who’s no stranger to Bicester, this was energizing.