Great Britain. A collection of rock poking out of the Atlantic Ocean and derided by visitors as full of people who live with the greyness of weather, eat food that is generally brown and who all have dreadful teeth. What is it about this place that keeps us going there?
For starters, for a landmass that is about fifty-seven percent the size of California; they’ve managed to squeeze in quite a lot. Within a couple of hours and even just a few miles from landing at any of their international airports, you will find yourself surrounded by history. They’ve been doing what they do seemingly forever over there.
On one of my trips, I ventured out to visit with a guy who had a 1940’s Bentley and passing a church down a winding country lane, I noticed that it was a Norman church. I asked him what that was. Who is Norman? Is it like a Mormon? I know nothing as it turns out. It was built in 1142 during the times of Britain being occupied by the Norman people. See? I told you this place had history.
Whether you visit their castles, the Royal houses, Stonehenge, Woodhenge (don’t, it’s not impressive) or their landscape you cannot fathom just how far back you can seemingly go in and around Britain.
However the reason for my being here was to celebrate something that I can resonate with. Twenty-five years of The Silverstone Classic meeting at the legendary Silverstone Circuit in the heart of England. For what turned out to be a sunny weekend in July more than 130 of the worlds finest historic racing cars revved up at the home of British Motorsport. Luckily I was at the media day and the event and both happened during sunshine so it would seem that the weather God’s approve this meeting just as much as I do.
Event Director, Nick Wigley explains; ‘Silverstone Classic represents the best historic racing anywhere on the planet. The breadth of cars the event attracts is simply extraordinary, from Pre-War 1920’s and ‘30s machinery through early Grand Prix cars, the glamour era of the ‘50s and ‘60s to 1980s F1 turbocharged beasts, Group C sportscars and Super Touring and GT legends from the ‘90s. It really is a comprehensive spectrum’
Was it ever.
Not only is walking around this machinery evocative of the times gone by, it was also an enthusiasts dream. Talking to the owners, the engineers, the preparers, the mechanics, other press, the public, old and young, this was an oil and fuel filled nirvana. And that was just the one paddock. There are two. And dividing them is off-track activities to also keep the public entertained, fed and watered.
“The event slogan is ‘One day is not enough’, but perhaps we’ve got to the stage where two days are not enough. Ticket sales in general are running 34 percent up on 2014, so we’re confident we will reach the magic 100,000 barrier that we have been striving towards.”
Twenty-five years ago, Stuart Graham – the only man ever to win the iconic TT race in the post-war era on both two wheels and four – was the innovator who first had the brainwave of launching the Silverstone Classic, having noted the popularity and success of similar historic events in Germany and the USA.
Thus was born the International Historic Festival, which took place at Silverstone a week after the British Grand Prix, and proved to be the catalyst that has inspired all retro-flavoured motor sport events that have followed in its pioneering wheeltracks. The 1990 event was praised by a leading magazine as ‘heaven on earth’ – and the same indubitably rings true today.
“It’s extremely satisfying to see the Classic go from strength-to-strength every year,” Graham enthused, with some of the cars that competed in the inaugural edition still racing at the event to this day. “It’s now thoroughly well-established here at Silverstone and is one of the best historic events in the world. It’s exactly what we envisioned a quarter of a century ago – and it’s getting better every year.”
I have to say congratulations to Silverstone and the whole team because not only do you have a spectacular event, but it also showed me why so many people wanted to invade this small Atlantic outcrop in the first place. It’s magical, mystical but above all, Britain is still Great.
We’ll be back covering 2016. Full details of the next Classic meeting can be found at http://www.silverstoneclassic.com
Alex Lawrence leaves us awestruck with every email. In his hands, every machine comes alive, even sitting still. He is based in Great Britain. His work and contact information can be found at The Whitewall.
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