So many classic events, so little time


Author: James ElliottPublished:

Because the wife and kids are upstairs keeping each other warm on a grim New Year's Day in front of some nonsense on the telly about lions that live in wardrobes or something, I have surreptitiously sneaked (is there any other way to sneak?) downstairs to fulfil what used to be one of the most enjoyable rituals of the holiday season: working out my classic events diary for next year.

Naturally, the perfect item to do this with is the splendid – unrivalled, even – events calendar that was given away free with the January 2012 issue of C&SC (hurry and you should still be able to find it in the shops if you missed out or click here to order it).

Traditionally, I pore over each month and circle or highlight my must-do events for the coming year.

Did you notice that I said 'what used to be one of the most enjoyable rituals'? Thing is, while in the past this was a genuinely exhilarating experience, a moment of planning routes, reviving past memories (are there any other type?) and looking forward to creating new ones, this year it has been an almost depressing one.

There simply aren't enough days in the year – or weekend passes from the family – to do even a fraction of the stuff that I want to do. It's like finding yourself locked in the kitchen of an Angus steakhouse a couple of hours after having your stomach stapled.

Of course, this is actually a very good thing, both for enthusiasts and as an indicator of the burgeoning strength of our hobby.

After all, it wasn't so many years ago that the aforementioned calendar had only a couple of hundred events, and many of them smaller, inaccessible or, in a few cases, downright marginal.

Now, pick any month and it overrunneth with essential, big-time classic brilliance.

OK, it's a nice dilemma to have and I am fortunate in that my work means I have to attend a lot of them (or rather, that I can blame work for the fact that do I attend them), but even then there are hundreds too many.

Include the big ones as a matter of course (and I won't quibble over what is big and small, or a few I am obliged to attend because of my involvement with C&SC because there isn't one I wouldn't relish anyway, but suffice to say all the major, unmissable festivals and shows) and you have already lost more than 10 weekends. Take into account only the larger weekday shows and more than an entire month of my year has been written off instantly.

Because it remains quiet upstairs (except for the sound of angry dragons and clashing swords), I have just totted up how many days would be gone if I attended even just the top tier of events events plus the very front-line of my personal wants list, and the top five from the list of ones I have never attended and desperately want to.

Ignoring the fact that some of them overlap so it would be impossible to be in two places at once, it would add up to more than 130 days of 2012. And that is just at a glance and by no means an exhaustive list.

Realising that being at them all is impossible, there then comes the agonising task of narrowing the list down. And that is where it starts to get depressing, writing off even now things that I should be spending the next few months looking forward to. 

Again, there's little point in mentioning too many specific events (this is all about how many there are, after all, so it would be a very long list), and like everyone I have favourites for atmosphere, theatre, racing and grids etc, so I will namecheck just two of the many where you are guaranteed to find me this year.

Yes, I will be scrabbling around the paddocks at all the major race meets and trawling the stalls at various pageants, festivals and whatnot, but the one I have never been to that have pledged to myself that I will this year is Classics in the Walled Garden, the sort-of successor to the actually-far-from-dead Classics on the Common (which I go to every year as a matter of course). 

The other event I will mention is the Le Mans Classic. Perhaps it is the fact that we are only biennially drip-fed this one, or the fact that it means a great drive in a classic to get there, or that the C&SC crew always attends en masse and has a great (and hilarious) time, but I cannot think of anything that would keep me away.

Odd really, that the smelliest, most uncomfortable, in many ways least sociable event of the classic year should be so compelling for me.

Maybe it is because it so appeals to the grass-roots enthusiast in me, or that I missed it last time for the first time (there's a picture above of the C&SC team having a whale of a time without me, grrrrr), or that it resuscitates so many of my own youthful trips to Le Mans.

Maybe it is because it is an event where you sense the greatest equality and camaraderie amongst enthusiasts, a shared pride and empathy for the efforts you have all made to get there and the suffering (in a hygiene sense) that you will merrily undertake to be there.

More than anything, though, perhaps it is the feeling that there is still something a little bit "secret" about it, that while non-enthusiasts inevitably infiltrate and dilute all the greatest events, this one is yet to be "discovered" by the great unwashed (or in this case "the great washed").

I am not saying it is better than anything else, just that it is currently different to everything else, so whatever else you do and whatever else you enjoy in 2012, make sure this one is also in your diary in case that changes.

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