A historic collection of more than twenty Sunbeams and other pre-war cars gathered to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Sir Henry Segrave’s record-breaking run along Southport’s beach as the highlight of the town’s Festival of Speed on 16 March.
Star of the event was undoubtedly the actual car in which the WWI pilot secured the record at 152.3mph, the recently restored 1925 Sunbeam ‘Tiger’ specially built for Segrave by the Wolverhampton-based firm. With its hugely advanced quad-cam supercharged V12 engine the ‘Tiger’ or ‘Ladybird’ as it was originally named is currently owned by the Force India Formula One team principal Vijay Mallya, but was driven on the beach by curator Malcolm Page. A large crowd of locals saw it drive the mile and back just as it had done 90 years ago to the day.
The largest gathering of Sunbeams in recent years also included David White’s superb 12/16 Roi de Belge Tourer built in 1910, along with a fantastic selection of other vintage and classic cars, a number of which ran along the famous stretch of sand and took part in Saturday’s Concours and hundred cars Grand Parade along Southport’s famous Lord Street. To keep the momentum going various talks and exhibitions also took place in Southport and Ainsdale, all of them dedicated to Sir Henry, Sunbeam and the glory of the region’s early motoring pioneers.
Sir Henry Segrave’s great nephew Stephen Segrave was there to see the Tiger driven on the beach. “It’s been a surprisingly emotional day re-living the past with such an iconic car and really wonderful to celebrate my great uncle’s legacy” he said. Gina Campbell, grand-daughter of Sir Malcolm and daughter of Donald Campbell was also there to share in the moment.
The Sunbeam Record breaking car was sold to Sir Malcolm in 1932 and he and John Cobb continued to race it right up until the outbreak of WW2, while Lorne Jacob’s fabulous re-creation of Campbell’s 1927 Napier Bluebird was also popular with the crowds.
Organised by the Aintree Circuit Club, the Atkinson Gallery and Sefton Council, the four day festival celebrated Southport’s unique heritage in the early years of British motorsport and the domination of English drivers of speed records. And whilst JG Parry-Thomas and ‘Babs’ took the record about a month later, Sir Henry and ‘Ladybird’ wrote themselves and Ainsdale into motoring history, the smooth open sands attracting ten motor manufacturers to the area, speed trials along the promenade along with a host of other LRS attempts.
Words and pictures: James Mann/Mark Stone