I loved the Silverstone Classic, but did you?

| 25 Jul 2011

Silverstone is back! For enthusiasts who remember the glory days of the old festivals (sponsored by a range of auction houses), last weekend was definitely a trip back to the glory days. I haven't seen any official attendance figures yet, but it seemed very busy to me, seemed like it has re-established itself as an essential gathering point for the classic car world. The main picture, by the way, was my car of the event, a beautiful and properly patinated Ferrari. Sheer class.

All the Bristol-BMW-engined clubs were side by side for an awesome display

Sure there were issues, so we'll get them out of the way as far as I saw them:

Saturday morning's traffic management was awful, mainly thanks to a broken-down E-type and an inept recovery attempt that just increased the blockage.

The cost of food from the vendors. When you go to any festival you expect to pay over the odds, but these prices sprinted the 0-60 of expectation, powered on through the 1/4-mile of disbelief and then smashed through the sound barrier of incredulity. On the plus side, it was good quality.

The buses from the top of the circuit to the bottom were overstretched, especially on Saturday. This was a shame because the classic Routemasters were a brilliant and charming solution to the issue of the "two" Silverstones. They'll have more next year, for sure.

Several other small things, beyond the control of the organisers, such as the lack of tunnels or bridges at the bottom end of the circuit.

A few enthusiasts also bent my ear (not easily done, my ears are huge, according to Martin Port) about ticket cost, but in most cases it transpired that it was the overall cost of the day out that offended them, and much of that was down to the food. Personally, I thought the ticket costs were fair, but Silverstone (and C&SC) want your feedback to keep improving the event, so if you have anything to add, however trivial it may seem, please don't be shy and please let us know.

Can't help it: see Mantis, photograph Mantis, love Mantis. Superb

Weigh these reservations against what was on offer, though, and I reckon the organisers have plenty to be rather pleased with themselves for. The clubs section was utterly sensational, the best I can remember for years. It helped massively that so many more were in grass rather than tarmac and there must be an argument for releasing those clubs still stranded on blacktop (such as the wonderful Maseratis that looked a little forlorn in their car park) perhaps by swapping them for some of the trade village. As always, there will be those that were unhappy, but the way the clubs rose to the occasion reflected well on how welcome they felt.

Masers would be even prettier on a bed of grass

Malcolm Ricketts (Lotus 18) facing the wrong way at Scheisse Zwei

The new circuit, too, made for some great racing and entertainment, though one of the new corners (The Loop officially, Sh*t One and Sh*t Two to competitors, unless they were German, in which case they were christened Scheisse Ein and Scheisse Zwei) was so classic unfriendly that it was a messy under-and-oversteer, sometimes first gear bunfight to get around. Great entertainment. Anyone who went and didn't find the new grandstand behind the funfair at Maggotts (or anyone planning a future trip to the event) should make a beeline for it next year. This is now one of the finest views in motor sport worldwide I reckon. And the non-stop historic racing, with so many, so varied grids, certainly justified taking the time to soak it up.

Love U2TC and want to be on that grid, but in what? Suggestions please

When I was travelling up to Silverstone I was muttering to myself about yet another event going three-day and questioning how necessary it is. Well, when I was driving home (blazing sunshine in the Elan, even the M40 was bearable), I was working out all the stuff I didn't get around, not through lack of interest, but just lack of time. I barely stopped to look at the traction and stationary engines, completely missed the music (the artist formerly known as Leather Tuscadero just can't compete with Group C V8s and V12s to my gargantuan ears), didn't get near the art tent and much of the rest of the trade and, criminally, entirely missed a couple of the races while I was getting around the circuit. Then there was the funfair (missed), Punch & Judy Show (ditto), pampering massage (and again), the list goes on and on. And all that adds up to pretty good value, that I was so busy that I missed so much and yet still didn't have time to blink thanks to the two main attractions: the on-track action and the clubs.

E-types: seen one, seen 'em all? I feel like I have now! Parade was a highlight

I was privileged, too, to scam a seat in the E-type parade: my own little moment in history. How much the mass E-type presence and parade added the event can't really be gauged, but is a shame that something so immense will have to way a decade or so before it has another excuse to party on such a scale.

As so often, though, it was a few rather simple, even peripheral things that made my weekend. The first was meeting so many readers and friends of Classic & Sports Car in our café by the pitlane. Over the weekend this packed marquee provided shelter for so many from both sun and rain, but that's Britain for you.

The other was late on Saturday night. I'd been stuck in the media centre filing post-Group C copy while the concert played away and the site emptied eerily. My advertising colleagues were already in the Kings Head in Syresham (lucky blighters). I conned pal Neil Godwin-Stubbert into giving me a lift, so we took the roof off his lovely and well used Healey (how he has bodged his way around a malfunctioning overdrive curdles the mind) and blatted down the A43 in the night. Open-top perfection. To top it all, on arrival at the King's Head my colleagues had a well-deserved pint of Wadworths waiting for me and I naturally discovered the car park hidden around the back (Gold Leaf Elan, Alpine A110 and a brace of Ginettas).

Lovely line-up in the new pits, which were open to spectators

Maybe it is simply that we take for granted the main course that such condiments add so much flavour on a weekend like that, but it is those little moments that turn a normal weekend into a great and memorable one.

See you all next year. 

This pair of classy Jags is owned by event director and historic racer Nick Wigley and spent the weekend ferrying VIPs and others (ie me) around.