Brands memories and French collection

| 8 Jun 2012

It’s funny how certain sounds pitch you straight back in time – a full 27 years if it’s a twin-turbo Lancia LC2 Group C car howling around the wonderful Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. Is there a better natural venue for watching “cars going round”, as Matt James, Motoring News’ Voice of National Racing, would say?

The previous time that I’d seen an LC2 blat around the Kent circuit – well, two of them in fact – Riccardo Patrese put one on pole for the 1985 1000km race. His blistering 1 min 14.66 secs best remains the most spectacular lap that I’ve seen. It was only about 3 secs off Patrese’s practice time with the F1 Alfa in which he came ninth in that year’s Grand Prix of Europe!

Sadly, the Lancias had to give best to the works Porsche 956s back then, but I reckon Roger ‘How many cars does he have?’ Wills ought to do better against German opposite in this year’s Group C Le Mans support race. That’s if Bob Berridge can fix his Mercedes-Benz C11 in time, after his testing off at Donington.

Not that I’ll be there – for the Classic, yes, but you can keep the main event – though I’m looking forward to an epic twilight Group C battle at the Silverstone Classic next month.

The great thing about a meeting such as the Masters Festival, where the Lancia won (see report here) is that you can happily wander around wherever you like. You might happen upon Richard Barber’s Copersucar Fittipaldi (still proudly wearing its laurels, above), spot a cool Ford Galaxie convertible in the paddock (below) – or a fabulous Duncan-bodied TA21 with the Alvis Owner Club.

It was good to meet fellow 2002 owner George Champ, too, with his smart Verona red Lux (below, with a gurning bald bloke in shorts).

George runs the East Anglia section of the BMW Car Club and was fresh back from the Laon Historique in France. “A Brit invasion with 400 classics,” as he put it.Now it’s confession time. I sloped off after about 15 minutes of the Gentleman Drivers enduro, the last race, for a vain attempt to tart up my Citroën GSA for La Vie en Bleu the following day.

I’d sanded off most of the surface rust and primered it that morning, intending to finish it off that evening. No such luck. The rattle can ran dry about half-way through. At least primer looked as if I was doing something about it, I thought – not that it mattered, because I ended up in the normal parking. It never occurred to me that I’d need a display pass. D’Oh!

Still, it was a fabulous event, with an outstanding selection of weird and wonderful Gallic machinery. My favourite was a lovely little René Bonnet Djet.

If you closed your eyes, it could have been a perfect French idyll – particularly with Fifi la Mer’s accordion playing in the background.

And how did my own little Gallic charmer repay my hours of fettling? The exhaust broke on the way back, after which it sounded a bit like a racing Panhard. Fortunately, there weren’t any gendarmes about...

Thanks to Kevin Wood of LAT for the shot of the Lancia and Neil Godwin-Stubbert for the one of me with George Champ