Next week’s Silverstone Classic (29-31 July) will build on the enormous success of last year’s Silver Jubilee festival. Twelve months ago, the huge 25th anniversary extravaganza was the biggest yet, featuring more than 1,100 race entries and 10,000 privately owned classics on display – plus the mammoth event’s first-ever 100,000 crowd..
Competition entries and ticket sales for this summer’s follow-up are just as strong, as the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival goes from strength to strength. Indeed, there will be even more entertainment and attractions for visitors of all ages to relish as well as more big screens and more trackside grandstand seating available for those following the unrivalled circuit action.
Other exciting new additions include a star-studded line-up of World GP Bike Legends, a special Tin Top Sunday featuring the biggest ever gathering of racing saloons and touring cars and a live race-against-time restoration as a classic Range Rover is restored in just three days using only parts purchased via eBay. There will also be a special tribute to seventies icon James Hunt 40 years after he was crowned as World Champion.
Both of the paddocks at Silverstone are once again needed to accommodate what is the biggest entry for a race meeting anywhere in the world. The rest of the vast 800-acre Grand Prix venue is given over to a massive number of car club displays, attractions, activities, experiences, shops, aviation and so much more.
As the Classic’s ‘rocking and racing’ tradition dictates, live music shows will take over when the wonderful roar of V8s and V12s fade as the sun sets on both Friday and Saturday evenings. Following the massive success of Status Quo in 2015, this year’s line-up across both evenings include more legendary chart-toppers: The Boomtown Rats, Reef and The Stranglers.
FORZA FORMULA ONE!
Silverstone is synonymous with Formula One – it hosted the very first round of the FIA F1 World Championship in 1950 and earlier this month witnessed reigning world champ Lewis Hamilton victorious once again on home soil. So it’s no surprise this glorious F1 history plays a central role on all three days at the Silverstone Classic. Indeed, this year’s line-up is the most comprehensive yet, ranging from Michael Gans’ 1935 ERA R1B to a Caterham CT05/1 as raced by Marcus Ericsson as recently as 2014.
A superb grid of more than 50 priceless cars will line up for the pair of evocative races for the Maserati Trophy for HGPCA Pre ’66 Grand Prix Cars on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Cooper-Bristols, Aston Martin DBR4s, Maserati 250Fs and Richard Pilkington’s evergreen 1937 Talbot Lago T24 SS will represent the front-engined era, while large numbers of BRMs, Coopers, Lotuses and Brabhams will be epitomising the dawn of the rear-engined era that followed in the early sixties.
Early afternoon races on Saturday and Sunday include the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship which put the spotlight on the 3-litre epoch dominated by Ford DFV powered machines created by British-based teams such as Arrows, March, McLaren, Shadow, Tyrrell and Williams. Once again the Classic will feature Europe’s biggest grid of the year. The superb entry is topped Nick Padmore in his Williams FW07 and Loic Denman his ex Jean-Pierre Jarrier Tyrrell (010) – both winners earlier in the season. Look out, too, for Martin Stretton aboard a more modern Tyrrell 012.
There will be plenty of great variety on the grid, too, with Doug Mockett and Chris Drake bringing their Penske PC3s from America, Zak Brown debuting Jackie Stewart’s GP winning March 701 from 1970 and Alex Furiani aboard the ex-Vittorio Brambilla Surtees TS20. A pair of ex-Laffite Ligiers are two more crowd-pleasers along with Rob Hall’s Matra V12-powered JS/17 and Alain France’s later Gérard Ducarouge designed JS11/15 from the ground effects era.
Bringing the F1 story almost up to date is the new high-speed demonstration for the amazing sights and sounds of the Legends of Modern Formula One. This will feature more recent F1 cars from V8, V10, V12 and turbocharged generations as raced between 1990 and 2006 by champions such as Damon Hill, Nelson Piquet, Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Jacques Villeneuve. Highlights here include Schumacher’s 1992 Benetton, Alastair Davidson in Senna’s 1984 Toleman TG184 and Zak Brown aboard the V10 propelled McLaren MP4-16A in which Mika Hakkinen won the 2001 British Grand Prix at Silverstone – a sight and sound no one will want to miss.
JAMES HUNT 40th ANNIVERSARY
It’s exactly 40 years since hard driving, fast living James Hunt overcame all the odds to win the FIA Formula One World Championship in 1976 – a dramatic feat which will be celebrated at this summer’s Classic.
A special display curated by his two sons Freddie and Tom, will include a number of James’ most notable road and racing cars plus rarely seen trophies and memorabilia from the flamboyant Englishman’s title-winning season.
The celebrations at Silverstone are appropriate, too, as Hunt savoured more Formula One success at the superfast Northamptonshire venue than at any other circuit worldwide. As a much-loved underdog, home hero Hunt scored a hugely popular maiden F1 win at Silverstone in April 1974 when racing for the locally based Hesketh team.
Two years later, Hunt ignited his championship winning campaign with a second confidence-boosting International Trophy victory, this time for his new team McLaren. And it was at Silverstone, as reigning champion, he won his only British Grand Prix after an epic dice with John Watson in 1977.
Both Hunt’s 1976 title winning McLaren M23 and his 1977 British Grand Prix winning McLaren M26 will be on show in Pit Box 16 within the International Paddock. The victorious Hesketh 308/1 and Hesketh 308B in which Hunt won his first GP at Zandvoort, Holland in 1975 will both racing in the two FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship races.
CAN-AM AT FIFTY
This year’s Silverstone Classic is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the spectacular Can-Am series by hosting two eagerly-anticipated anniversary races, the first on Saturday, second on Sunday.
With a no-holds-barred rules structure that allowed turbocharged and supercharged engines of unlimited capacity, plus almost anything in terms of aerodynamics, the original Can-Am (short for Canadian American Challenge Cup) series produced some of the most outrageous racing cars of all time. Monsters confirmed for the Classic include a number of mighty 8.8-litre McLaren V8s as well as Lolas, Marches and the extraordinary low-drag Shadow Mk1 Chevrolet – one of the most outrageously innovative of all Can-Am cars.
TIN TOP SUNDAY
Saloon car racing is always a highlight at any historic fixture, and this year’s Classic will recognise that via a dedicated Tin Top Sunday. No fewer than four races will take place during the day’s packed programme, kicking off with the frenetic U2TC brigade – always a fans’ favourite. This pack of pre-1966 sub-2-litre saloons will include numerous Lotus Cortinas facing the likes of the Alfa Romeo GTA, BMW 1800 and, of course, the ultimate crowd-pleaser – the Mini.
Alongside that will be the JET Super Touring Trophy and the Pre-1966 Big-Engined Saloons, while completing the quartet is a fresh addition to the Classic – the Historic Touring Car Challange.
This diverse 50+ car grid from the seventies and eighties will pit Chevrolet Camaros against a record number of Rover Vitesse’s and a fleet of Ford Capris – among many others. Touring car legend Patrick Watts is preparing no fewer than three of the giant-killing MG Metro Turbos that he raced in period while Jeff Allam – another BTCC hero of yesteryear – is back racing the very Capri that launched his career more than 35 years ago.
There are plenty of eye-catching entries among the Super Tourers, too. A pair of racy Volvos make their Classic debut alongside the evocative turquoise BMW 318 coupe that took Tim Harvey to the 1992 BTCC title, but only after a controversial finale at Silverstone which saw team-mate Steve Soper collide with Harvey’s arch rival John Cleland.
It all adds up to the biggest gathering of racing saloons and touring cars ever assembled – and another record-breaking first for the Silverstone Classic.
Adding another dimension to this year’s huge bill, the star-studded World GP Bike Legends are making their eagerly-anticipated UK debut at the Silverstone Classic.
The illustrious line-up of two-wheeler heroes is topped by no fewer than six World Champions – Troy Corser, Wayne Gardner, Jim Redman, Phil Read, Christian Sarron and Freddie Spencer – all riding iconic 500cc two-stroke bikes from the golden age of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Described as the biggest, baddest, most evil racing motorcycles ever to see a track, these much-missed 200+mph monsters dominated the premier league of bike World Championships for the best part of three glorious decades. Back in the eighties, both Gardner and Spencer won the British Motorcycle Grand Prix at Silverstone aboard these 500cc beasts and both champions will be reliving those victories on their return to the superfast Northamptonshire venue at the Classic.
Another bike legend will be at the Classic, too, as four-time World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty MBE will be present on Friday to reveal a custom Triumph Bonneville T120.
More than 50 years of epic GT and sports car racing history will also be rolling back the years during this month’s Silverstone Classic. The Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy For Pre ’56 Sports Cars presented by Jaguar will see Jaguar D-types and Aston Martin DB3Ss to the fore.
Other head turners include Martin Hulsa’s gorgeous Maserati 300S and David Cottingham’s wonderful Ferrari 500 TRC. The Stirling Moss Trophy for Pre ’61 Sportscars will star at least nine Lister Jaguars plus last year’s winner: the stunning scarlet Ferrari 246S.
The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars features pre ’63 GTs such as Aston Martin DB4 GTs and early E-types plus the epic Ferrari 250 SWB. The International Trophy for Classic GT Cars is for pre ’66 GTs such as the AC Cobra, TVR Griffith and latter day E-types. FIA Masters Historic Sportscars is another with a full entry, this time filled with Lola T70s, Chevron B16s and Ford GT40s – all four of those spectacular showdowns are on Saturday.
The two races for Group C prototypes – notably at sunset on Saturday evening – are always among the highlights. This year’s favourites include the Silk Cut Jaguar, Nissan R90 and several Porsche 962s plus the welcome return of a low-slung Peugeot 905 EV1B.
Completing the bill are the high-speed demonstrations for the 90s GT Legends – these include Chrysler Vipers, McLaren F1s, Porsche 911 GT1s plus the incredible Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR from 1997. Look out, too, for some exciting new additions – these include a pair of rare Jaguar XJR15s plus two of the V12-engined Ferrari 333 SPs, the sports prototype that marked Ferrari’s official return to sportscar racing after a 20-year absence. The example driven by Sam Hancock has great history, too – it won both American endurance classics: the Daytona 24 Hours and 12 Hours of Sebring.
The historic racing scene has stars of its own – drivers such as Martin Stretton, Chris Ward and Gary Pearson are masters at racing cars from yesteryear, often even faster than they went in their halcyon heydays. They are now joined, though, by an ever-growing number of past and present champions all wanting to savour the thrills of historic motor sport.
The names of Anthony Davidson, Jeff Allam, Patrick Watts and all the World GP Bike Legends have already been highlighted but there are many more famous names among the hundreds and hundreds competing at the record-breaking Classic.
Tin-top legend Steve Soper is behind the wheel of Lotus Cortina in the U2TC; Le Mans class winner Nick Leventis is racing a Ferrari 246S in the Stirling Moss Trophy; Rob Huff, the World Touring Car Champion in 2012, is racing a Lola T70 in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars as well as a Capri 3.0S in the Historic Touring Car Challenge; 1985 European Touring Car Champion Gianfranco Brancatelli is behind the wheel of a BMW M3 in the Jet Super Touring Car Trophy where he’s up against Aussie ace and Bathurst 1000 winner Tony Longhurst in another of the BMWs; multiple BTCC race winner Anthony Reid is aboard an AC Cobra in the International Trophy for Classic GT Cars… indeed, the list of famous faces is almost endless.
If the sensational racing is the Classic’s heart-beat then the enthusiastic car clubs are its backbone. This year more than 100 will be displaying more than 10,000 privately-owned classic cars turning the Silverstone infield into an amazing motor museum. Just about every single model and marque is represented from Ferraris and Lamborghinis to Pipers and Panthers.
Many of these clubs and groups are celebrating their own key milestones with special track cavalcades taking place throughout the event. This year’s anniversary parades include: 100 years of the Bavarian Motor Works; 80 years of the Morgan 4/4; 80 years since the first Allard Special; 60 years of the Austin A35; 50 years of the Lamborghini Miura; 50 years of the Lotus Europa; 50th anniversary of the Silverstone Racing Club; 40 years of the Lotus Esprit; 40 years of the Porsche ‘transaxle’; 30 years of the Westfield Sportscar Club; 25 years of the Nissan Figaro; 25 years of the Dodge Viper; and 20 years of the Jaguar XK8.
The HSCC, the club that organises all the racing at the Classic, is also marking its 50th birthday with a very special 50 car parade featuring an amazing collection of racing machinery from F5000s and F2 single-seaters to Lotus Europas and Jaguar D-types. In total, more than 30 anniversaries will be marked with laps of the hallowed Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in 2015.
The JET Village Green is the hub of the family entertainment zone. It’s the place for visitors looking for a drink, a bite to eat plus some great activities for all ages. And, don’t worry, there’s a big screen showing all the racing so no one will miss any of the action.
Families can take a free ride on the JET big wheel; enjoy traditional funfair rides on the carousel, dodgems, helter-skelter and roller-coaster; a 9-hole golf club; Spitfire engine fire-ups and the opportunity to meet Nicolas Hamilton (Lewis’ brother) and to beat the time set by him on the Classic F1 Simulator. There will also be wonderful displays from Brooklands Museum, as well as the National and British Motor Museums.
For those working up a thirst, there’s the Classic’s very own country pub on the Village Green – The Scarf & Goggles – which this year is serving Silverstone Real Ale’s Pit Stop and Chequered Flag and, thanks again to fuel partner JET, there’s also free wi-fi.
GOING, GOING, GONE
More than 450 lots will be going under the Silverstone Auctions’ hammer over three days at the Classic. Thursday’s sale features competition cars while those on Friday and Saturday put the spotlight on a diverse and stunning collection of classic road cars.
This year’s star lots include one of the most original Porsche 924 Carrera GTRs, one of the earliest E-type Jaguar Roadsters and, topically, a Ferrari 550 Maranello formerly owned by football legend Sir Geoff Hurst MBE. Intriguingly, the sale takes place on the 50th anniversary of Hurst’s famous hat-trick for England in the World Cup Final on 30 July 1966.
ROCKING AND RACING
As well as all the racing action, the Silverstone Classic is renowned for its rocking live music concerts. Many notable bands have performed in recent years including: 10cc, the Yardbirds, Canned Heat, the Hollies, Bonnie Tyler and, last year, Status Quo. Heading this year’s bill are chart-toppers The Boomtown Rats on Friday evening and then festival favourites Reef and The Stranglers on Saturday. Getting everyone in the right party mood, top class tribute bands are also strutting well-known classics on both evenings. Ultimate Elton (Elton John) and Limehouse Lizzy (Thin Lizzy) on Friday followed by Live/Wire (AC/DC) on Saturday.
It all adds up to two more rousing nights to remember at the Classic – more so as both shows will be accompanied by dramatic balloon glows and awe-inspiring aerial twilight pyrotechnic displays from Twister Aerobatics, returning by popular demand. And, remember, admittance to both concerts is included FREE in all admission tickets plus this year there is the great new addition of the Street Food and Craft Beer Depot in the concert area.
ONE DAY IS NOT ENOUGH!
The Silverstone Classic has become almost as well renowned for its vast array of family-friendly off-track activities as it has for being ‘The World’s Biggest Classic Motor Racing Festival’.
The sheer scale of next week’s extravaganza is hard to comprehend with the vast 800-acre Silverstone estate almost entirely given over to an amazing assortment of attractions, activities, displays, shops, aviation, auctions, adrenaline experiences, taster sessions, driving experiences, fun fairs and so much more wonderful family entertainment. And much of this is included totally free in the ticket price.
Highlights really are too numerous to mention but here are just a few of the major attractions to whet the appetite… Jaguar is bringing its tyre-smoking Art of Performance experience to Silverstone, providing visitors with heart-pumping thrills of drifting in an F-TYPE. The Adrenaline Zone is also home to the ever-popular Star Flyer and Reverse Bungee Swing, a climbing wall, water balls, Wall of Death and Wacky 4x4s for kids who want to start driving at early age.
Talking of rides, there’s the chance to jump aboard a Range Rover on Silverstone’s off-road course or to take to the skies above the venue aboard a helicopter. Back on earth there’s more rubber burning with Street Car Shoot Outs and historic karting demonstrations while TV star Mike Brewer will be back on stage on Sunday with his Car Clinic now presented by eBay. Then, for those who want a break from all the action, there’s the ever-expanding Shopping Village for a spot of retail therapy.
With so much to see, savour and experience, it’s easy to see why one day really is not enough and that’s why more and more Classic visitors are staying for the entire three-day festival.
Source. Silverstone Classic/Photo. John Patterson