Britain’s most successful sportscar racer, Derek Bell MBE , will top a star-studded bill as Silverstone celebrates the 40th anniversary of the legendary Group C era at The Classic over the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of this month (26-28 August).
The five time winner of the illustrious Le Mans 24 Hours will be joined by fellow Group C luminaries including Kenny Acheson, John Fitzpatrick and John Watson to mark the 40 years since revered Group C cars first took to the track at Silverstone in 1982.
Fittingly, it was Bell who took Group C honours in that milestone opening six hour race, sharing an iconic Rothmans liveried Porsche 956 with fellow legend Jacky Ickx.
Marking the special 40th year milestone, a spectacular display of more than 25 seminal Group C sportscars – including impressive gatherings of Jaguars, Mercedes and Porsches – will be on display throughout The Classic, many taking to the Grand Prix circuit for evocative demos on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
For the track action, Bell will be back behind the wheel of a Porsche when reunited with the final factory prepared Rothmans 962; the very car he shared with Hans Stuck at the start of the 1987 season.
“It’s just amazing to think it was 40 years ago that Group C started at Silverstone,” said Bell. “It was the greatest era of sportscar racing and I was just so lucky to be around and available at that time – those amazing cars are what made my career.
“I have just had an utterly unbelievable week with Porsche driving all their old Group C cars flat chat at their Leipzig test track. It was just spectacular and bought back lots of great memories. Now I’m really looking to being back at The Classic driving the Rothmans 962 I last raced to a podium finish at a somewhat different Silverstone 35 years ago. It’s going to another wonderful celebration.”
Others revving up for the not-to-be-missed demos include Alex Brundle who will be driving the 1987 World Championship winning Silk Cut Jaguar XJR8 which his father Martin raced in period and Kenny Acheson. The Ulsterman will be rolling back the years in the hot seat of the Sauber-Mercedes C9, similar to the Silver Arrow he campaigned with notable successes for the Mercedes team in 1989.
Other highlights include John Fitzpatrick being reunited with the recently restored JDavid liveried 956 which he famously shared with Derek Warwick to win the Brands Hatch 1000kms in 1983 and the rare sight of all three of the early V12 Jaguar XJR6s lining-up together, two in their striking British Racing Green colours.
The Rothmans Porsche that Bell shared with Stefan Bellof to win the Silverstone 1000kms in 1983 is another of the standout exhibits for visitors to savour.
“With so many great Group C cars both on display and on the track, this promises to be a memorable highlight for all those coming to The Classic… and to have Derek Bell back behind the wheel of a Rothmans Porsche is just the icing on the cake,” commented Nick Wigley, CEO of The Classic promoter Goose Live Events. “We are very grateful to Group C arch enthusiast, collector and racer Henry Pearman who has helped us to curate this incredible collection with the invaluable support of Mark Constanduros at MotorvationPR.”
Following Saturday’s dramatic track demo, the celebrations will continue in the Silverstone Interactive Museumwith the launch of Ultimate Works Porsche 962 books (all three volumes) written by Serge Vanbockryck.
As well as the stunning Group C revelries, all those attending The Classic will be treated to 20 of the finest retro races with packed grids of glorious cars spanning a century of epic motor sport history.
What’s more Silverstone will also resound to the awesome shrill of Formula One’s best-ever sounding engines with daily track demos of highly-prized F1 cars from the mighty V10 era. Screamers from Brabham, Dallara, Jordon, Leyton House, Minardi, Tyrrell and Williams will all be revving up, plus Ayton Senna’s dazzling McLaren MP4/7 from 1992.
Further fuelling The Classic’s appeal to all ages and interests over the Bank Holiday weekend, the off-track entertainment is equally ear-pleasing, eye-catching and mouth-watering.
Group C Display
Porsche 956 007 #2 – 1983 Porsche AG Rothmans – Winner of Silverstone 1000kms (Bell/Bellof)
Porsche 956 008 #2 – 1983 Porsche AG Rothmans – Norisring ‘Gold Race’ winner (Bellof)
Porsche 956 101 #21 – 1983 Kremer Kenwood – Third at Le Mans (Andretti/Andretti)
Porsche 956 110 #11 – 1983 JFR JDavid – Brands Hatch 1000kms winner (Fitzpatrick/Warwick)
Porsche 956 114 #33 – 1984 JFR Skoal Bandit – Podium at Le Mans (Hobbs/Streiff/van der Merwe)
Porsche 962 004 #1 – 1985 Porsche AG Rothmans – debut 1985 Le Mans (Watson/Holbert/Schuppan) Le Mans Pole at Le Mans 1986 (Mass)
Porsche 962 007 #18 – 1987 Porsche AG Rothmans – One of the final two final Rothmans 962s
Porsche 962 008 #17 – 1987 Porsche AG Rothmans – Last of the Rothmans cars. Pole at Silverstone 1000kms, finished third (Bell/Stuck).
Porsche 962 010 #17 – 1988 Porsche AG Shell Dunlop – Last factory 956/962. Pole, fastest lap and runner-up at Le Mans (Bell/Stuck/Ludwig)
Porsche 962 200 #14 – 1988 RLR Cabin – 1989 Le Mans (Bell/Needell/Weaver)
Porsche 962 201 #43 – 1989 RLR/Italya Sport – 1989 Le Mans (Hill/Hobbs/Andskar) and 1990 Le Mans (Weaver/Reuter/Letho)
Jaguar XJR6 LM 185 #51 – 1985 TWR Jaguar, led debut race
Jaguar XJR6 LM 285 #52 – 1985 TWR Jaguar, podium on debut
Jaguar XJR6 LM 385 #53 – 1986 TWR Jaguar Le Mans 24 Hours
Jaguar XJR8 287 – 1987 Silk Cut World Championship winner. 1988 Le Mans (Watson/ Boesel/Pescarolo)
Sauber-Mercedes C8 02 #62 – 1986 Kouros, Nürburgring 1000kms winner
Sauber-Mercedes C9 A1 #61 – Built by Sauber from original C9s. Similar spec to C9s that finished 1-2-3 at 1989 Le Mans
Aston Martin Nimrod 005 #31 –1983/4 Bovis, qualified 10th at 1984 Le Mans (Mallock/Attwood/Olsen)
Source. The Classic