sportscars


In the week leading up to the London to Brighton veteran car run, the organisers, the Royal Automobile Club, hold a number of motoring events in London including a motoring forum at the RAC club house in Pall Mall.  This year the guest of honour was former Ferrari and Benetton team manager Ross Brawn.  As well as having won manufacturer F1 World Championships with both those teams Brawn has the unusual distinction of having won the same title with his eponymous team in their first year of operation. Until recently he also managed the Mercedes Benz team following their purchase of a majority interest in Team Brawn in 2009.

After struggling for a couple of years the Mercedes team has now won this years Formula One manufacturers title. Brawn expressed his pride in having contributed to the team’s success. He said winning the title was harder than he thought it would be as Mercedes-Benz were initially unwilling to invest in the team. Brawn pointed out that Red Bull spent over £200 million each year to win each of their recent titles . Brawn said that unfortunately Formula One was like that nowadays . Investing a lot of money was not a guarantee of success but not investing enough money was a guarantee of failure .

The cost of running a successful Formula One campaign was very high and could not be met, even for the large teams, by the income they received from the commercial rights holder. Sponsorship could close the gap to some degree but, due to the recent recession, this was not as plentiful as before. As such the manufacturers have an advantage today because they are able to support their race teams from other resources and also supply engines to other teams which generate an income. The complex hybrid engines being used this year are over twice as expensive as last year’s engines and as such Brawn believed the cost of such new technology has undoubtedly had a negative impact on the smaller teams.

When asked what was the greatest challenge of his time at Mercedes-Benz Brawn said it was getting them to think as a team. The engine guys had initially been sceptical of a Mercedes-Benz team as they already had a good working relationship with a successful team – McLaren.  Getting the engine guys and the chassis guys to think together on a “one-car “basis was the key to the current success of the team.

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Ross Brawn at the RAC Motoring Forum

When asked about his impressions of Michael Schumacher Brawn said that he first came across Schumacher when Brawn was working for the Jaguar sports car team at the end of the 80’s. At the time Schumacher was racing for the Mercedes sports car team and Brawn and Tom Walkinshaw were very impressed with Schumacher as he was the only driver at the time who threatened the dominance of the Jaguar sports cars.

When Walkinshaw and Brawn were recruited to Benetton with Briatore it was Tom Walkinshaw who approached Schumacher and poached him from Jordan, not Briatore who often claimed the credit for what turned out to be a vital hire.  Schumacher quickly established himself as a very impressive driver who worked very hard and was always available for testing, unlike some of his colleagues. brawn said he was a great team player who took a real interest in all members of the team. He knew the names of all the mechanics and never criticised the team.

When asked which current drivers he rated Brawn tactfully mentioned Hamilton and Rosberg but also expressed admiration for Alonso. Alonso was one of those drivers able to get the best out of any car in any circumstance.  Brawn contrasted this with Vettel’s performance this year where he’s been consistently outshone by his teammate.

Asked what he thought about double points being awarded to the winner of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix he said he thought it was a “stupid idea”. Brawn was firmly of the view that the most consistent driver of the year should win the championship – it should not be decided on such gimmicks at the last race of the season.

Currently “retired” Brawn was due to take part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in his recently acquired 1904 Wilson Pilcher.

Brooklands, the birthplace of British motor racing, is home to a fascinating museum and the very impressive Mercedes-Benz World. Every October the Museum with Autoitalia Magazine organise a motorsport day at the Museum and on the test track at Mercedes-Benz World. All sorts of competition cars are invited to the event and this year I took along my MG SV.

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Queuing up for some hot laps on the MBW test track. The broken concrete circuit is part of the original Campbell road circuit. Note the variety of other competition cars. Not sure the standard F Type and Testerosa count!

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In the paddock the variety continues. Note the top fuel dragster. When the engine is running the pit crew need to wear gas masks.

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This fearsome Fiat 500 Abarth looks like it is on steroids. It has a 1.8L 220 bhp engine!

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A very smart MG M Type Midget Le Mans. A similar car won the 500 Mile Race at Brooklands driven by Lord March’s grandfather, Freddy.

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Alfa Romeos 8C and 4C

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TT Legend Joey Dunlop’s Ford Transit complete with smart looking BSA

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Two more Fiat 500 Abarths, one luke warm and the other hot!

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MG SV in front of the iconic Brooklands Club House

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JPS Team Lotus transporter. The stock car isn’t quite a Lotus 72.

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A team Lotus JPS Motorhome, former home to Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson.

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A miraculous survivor of a time when Fiats rusted to oblivion in 5 years! This 128 is immaculate. My Grandad had a green one which I remember with fondness. In production from 1969 to 1985 it was European Car of the Year in 1970 and its front engine front wheel drive design became the standard for most other manufacturers.

The Shere Hillclimb in Surrey is a relatively new event, first running last year. The 900 yard course is a public road temporarily shut for the day. As such, and despite the road closure, normal road traffic rules apply. The event is therefore not timed and all runs are mere “demonstrations “.

The event is organised by a number of local car clubs and raises money for the local school and other charities. In this regard it is similar to the now well-established Kop Hillclimb in Buckinghamshire. That event now attracts nearly 15,000 spectators and over 1000 potential entrants for only 100 places. I have driven the Kop Hillclimb in the past and whilst it was fun, the lack of a competitive element to it detracted from my enjoyment and I have felt no strong desire to go back.

As the Shere Hillclimb is close to where I live I put aside my concerns and decided to enter with my MG YB. Like the Kop Hillclimb the Shere Hillclimb was oversubscribed and I was lucky to get a place, primarily due to the 1950’s race history of my YB.

It was a good day but the hill was somewhat ruined by a number of very sharp chicanes which prevented my old car from attaining a decent speed. In addition there were so many entrants that I only had three runs up the hill and there was a lot of waiting around. I won’t be doing it again, at least not whilst is non-competitive.

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MG YB in the paddock next to fire spitting Cobra!

The government is in the process of changing the law to allow competitive motorsport events on public roads (as has been allowed for many years on the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and in France) so maybe next year the event will be competitive or at least have a competitive class.

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Ferrari 246 Dino, Lotus Elise and Lexus LFA – diverse machinery

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Lotus 2- 11 with very smart JPS livery. Signed by Hazel Chapman too!

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Frazer Nash tackles the hill (same restored one that was at Hampton Court the day before).

 

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Chain gang – business end of the Frazer Nash Norris Special. Fancy sitting on that lot?

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Group of AC cars through the ages. AC were a local Surrey make based mainly at Thames Ditton.

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Another view of the Norris Special Frazer Nash. Raced at Brooklands pre war it was most successful post war when used in hillclimbs. It holds the VSCC record at Shelsley, Prescott, Harewood, Loton and Wiscombe Park.

The concours of elegance which have been held for the last three years at various royal palaces have emerged as the premier concourse d’elegance in the UK. The first event at Windsor Castle in 2012 was a great success. Last year’s event at St James’s Palace was also good though a rather less grand affair. This year’s event at Hampton Court Palace was the best yet. Held in the grounds of Henry VIII’s palace on the banks of the River Thames, this year’s event was blessed with good weather and a fantastic turnout of world-class cars. Indeed many of the cars in the concourse had been shipped across the Atlantic direct from Pebble Beach. As in previous years, the premier motoring clubs in the UK were invited to enter 50 cars each for a supporting show. I entered my MG SV with the Royal Automobile Club.  Having become an established feature of the London motoring scene next year’s event will be held at Holyrood House in Edinburgh, the Queens official home in Scotland. Whilst this will undoubtedly provide grand surroundings and whilst Edinburgh is a fine city, I wonder whether there will be a sufficiently large market to support an event of this nature. We will find out next year.

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1933 MG K3 under close examination.

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Lord Bamford’s gorgeous 1933 razor edge Rolls Royce Phantom II Continental. The one off coupe coachwork was carried out by Freestone & Webb. Lord Bamford showed the same car at Salon Prive and the Goodwood Revival the following weekend. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

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Epitome of 50’s sports cars, 1957 Ferrari 250 TDF GT Scaglietti Corsa Berlinetta.

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Old and new. 1896 Lutzmann Victoria and 2014 Ferrari LaFerrari.

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The Aston Martin Owners Club brought a fine selection of DB4’s and 5’s.

 

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Jaguar XK120 Jabbeke Coupe. This modified XK120 was built to claim back the Land Speed Record, which it did at Jabbeke in Belguim in 1953 at a speed of 172 mph in the hands of legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis.

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This immaculate Ferrari 275 deservedly won best in show from amongst the club entered cars.

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This one off Zagato Jaguar XK140 was built after its Italian owner (and friend of the Zagato family) bent the original body in a crash. Zagato hoped that Jaguar might order further cars but they did not. It is much better looking than an XK 140!

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A car that attracted lots of attention was this barn find 1934 Frazer Nash. It belonged to an RAF officer and remained in his ownership until the current owner purchased it recently following the first owner’s death. Shabby but with oodles of patina, the current owner was asking for views on whether to restore it or not. I think its best to get the mechanicals sorted but leave the body as is. Its only original once!

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By contrast, here is a similar restored Frazer Nash. It looks brand new.

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Another view of the beautiful Zagato Jaguar XK140 Coupe.

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Patina..

 

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The Beast looking good – compare the lines with the Ferrari 550 Maranello behind.

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Old Beauty

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MG SV on show

I first attended Salon Prive last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Held in the beautiful grounds of the Duke of Northumberland’s London home, Syon House in West London,  the event is billed as an upscale concourse d’elegance and motoring lifestyle show. Running from Wednesday to Friday it is targeted at the well-heeled corporate hospitality market and the price of a daily ticket (including Lobster lunch..) reflects that. I attended last year on an afternoon ticket only which I was able to buy at a discount due to membership of a motoring club. At less than half the cost of a full day ticket it was good value for money as whilst I only had four hours at the show this turned out to be more than enough time to see what there was and the price included a good quality free afternoon tea and an unlimited bar! So this year I again opted for an afternoon ticket only and was not disappointed.

Being a top end event a number of prestige manufactures were present showing their latest cars including Ferrari and Lamborghini. Two La Ferraris were on show, one in red and the other, belonging to Jay Kay, in a lurid shade of green. There was also a stunning one off Ferrai F12 open top roadster. Ferrari would not reveal who the car was built for but it certainly seems to me that they made a better job of it than they did on the bespoke Ferrari 458 they built for Eric Clapton last year.

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Jay Kay’s lurid green La Ferrari. The interior is that colour too..

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Gorgeous bespoke Ferrari F12 Open Top Roadster for an anonymous client

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Contrast with Eric Clapton’s bespoke Ferrari 458 – actually less good looking than the standard car. Photo taken at St James Concours of Elegance 2013.

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The F12 looks stunning from all angles. I love the retro themed bubbles behind each seat.

Below are some other notable cars from the event.

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The concours included a whole class of D Type Jaguars (celebrating their 60th anniversary). One of them won overall and many made an appearance at Goodwood a week later for a spectacular all D Type race.

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Unusual Zagato Rover 2000. The only one and very striking.

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Senor Pagani attended the event which showcased his cars. Here he is admiring a very yellow Jaguar XJ220.

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Fantastic Art Deco front end of a Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A

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More interesting coachbuilding, this time Superleggera’s take on a future Mini roadster. A very nice design indeed.

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Another of Jay Kay’s cars, beautiful modern coach built body on a Bentley R Type chassis. Yours for £500k. He was trying to flog this car at Essen (see below). No takers yet which is a shame. Its stunning looking.

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Red La Ferrari. I think the McLaren P1 looks better.

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This is Jaguar designer Ian Callum’s take on the Mark 2 Jag. I’m afraid it did nothing for me. I do not see the point of taking an old car and making it modern.

Last week I and some other RAC members had the rare privilege of having dinner with two time Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi. Although now in his 60s he looked incredibly fit although he has long since lost his former trademark muttonchops. It proved to be a great evening as Emerson turned out to be a thoroughly charming and patient man. Down-to-earth, he took time to answer all our questions even though he had probably heard them all many many times before. He entertained us with incredible stories about his career, both in Formula One and in IndyCar. It’s astonishing to think that he started racing in the same year that Jack Brabham retired and only finished racing in 1997 when he was well into his late 40s. Over a varied career he not only won the world championship twice but also the Indianapolis 500, also twice. He also won the British Grand Prix twice and will be driving his Silverstone winning McLaren M23 tomorrow before the British Grand Prix.

What was particular striking about Emerson was that he clearly has a real interest in the history of motor racing. For the dinner the Club could not, unfortunately, decorate the table with the British Grand Prix trophy as it had already been sent to Silverstone. Instead the beautiful Tourist Trophy took pride of place. Emerson took a real interest in the trophy, looking carefully at the names of the illustrious drivers who had won it in the past. I think he regretted the fact that his name was not on it! However he explained he never really took to sportscar racing and never did Le Mans as a close friend of his father whom he had looked up to as a child was killed there in the fifties.

Of course, like many other British men my age, the thing I particulary remember about Emerson Fittipaldi is the Corgi toy Lotus 72 JPS. I think every boy at school had one at the time of Emerson’s first world championship in 1972. I took my own along to the dinner and Emerson very kindly agreed to sign the box. It will be treasured even more now!

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Emerson Fittipaldi with the Tourist Trophy

Some interesting new iron (aluminium, carbon fibre …) at the FoS this year. Highlights below.

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The new Ford Mustang – finally available in right hand drive. Aggressive retro styling looks good – shame about the awful colour

 

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More “motor show” colours on the McLaren stand. Am I the only one who prefers the simple look of the MP4-12c nose to that on the new 650S nose? Must be as apparently there was so little continuing demand for the old car once the 650S was launched that they have now stopped making it.

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The Jaguar F Type Project 7 is an important car for Jaguar. Based on the slightly more extreme concept shown at last year’s FoS , the Project 7 is actually a production car – indeed the fastest production Jaguar ever. Its V8 is tuned up to 575 bhp – 25 more than the R Coupe. It also has bespoke aero, and trick suspension and diff with standard carbon ceramic brakes. The screen has a greater rake than the standard convertible and it has an D Type imitating faring behind the drivers role hoop. Inside it looks fairly standard and weather protection consists of a rather impractical clip on hood like the recent Boxster speedster. Its a striking car and they hope to sell 250, and only 60 in right hand drive. But what’s it for? Too comfortable and therefore heavy for a racer (and the rollover protection looks too scant) yet too uncomfortable for every day use. Is it therefore just for collectors and occasional track days?

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This stunning Jaguar SUV concept is far more likely to make JLR lots of money. Aimed at rivalling the Audi Q4, BMW X3 and especially the Porsche Macan it should perform well and in a different segment to current Land Rover products. I would certainly buy one. The bad news is that we are unlikely to see one for sale until 2018, with a hot version not to follow until 2019.

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VW ran their diminutive XL electric car up the hill. It looks like the future for urban transport but is very very small and very very expensive.

 

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The new Renault Twingo Sport looks like great fun. Based on the same platform as the new Smart 4-2 it has a rear mounted 1L turbocharged engine. Hot versions later this year should have 140 bhp making the car a mini 911!

There is always a fine selection of Le Mans sports cars at Goodwood ranging from those from the earliest days of racing to the very latest winning machines.

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Andy Wallace is reunited with his 1988 Le mans winning Jaguar XJR – 9

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This year’s Le man winning Audi e-Tron. Havings stumbled in the early rounds of this year’s World Sports Car championship they managed to win the race that really mattered. Sound familiar Peugeot?

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1970 Ferrari 512, just like in the film Le Mans..

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Mercedes high speed transporter carrying the fabulous Uhlenhaut Coupe (see previous posts from Stuttgart)

 

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This year’s Le Mans Toyota hybrid

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Gorgeous Jaguar D Type Le Mans winners – 55, 56, 57. This Ecurie Ecosse car won in 1957 and provided the design inspiration for the Project 7 Jaguar

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Vast V12 Sunbeam racer from 1920 and even bigger 1911 Fiat

Due to restrictions on testing (!) there were no contemporary Formula One cars tackling the hill at Goodwood this year. That did not stop some of the teams bringing cars for static display or bringing cars from previous seasons for their drivers and test drivers to run up the hill. Even then runs were restricted to demonstration performances with plenty of doughnuts and burnouts and very little speed. We had to look to the historic guys for real pace.

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Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-26 he drove in 2012.

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Max Smith Hilliard in his 1972 Surtees TS9B. Seconds later he stuffed it into the bales at Molecombe corner. He was unhurt and at least he was trying!

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Legendary Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi driving the McLaren M23 with which he won McLaren’s first world title in 1974.

One of the best things about the Festival of speed is the close access to the drivers available for fans.

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British GP winner Johhny Herbert sharing a laugh at the Williams pit

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John Surtees was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with a class of cars and bikes associated with his career in action on the hill all weekend.

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An immaculately turned out Paddy Hopkirk reunited with his Monte winning Mini Cooper

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Twelve time World Motor Bike Trials champion Dougie Lampkin in action

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Felipe Massa reflecting on his good fortune to no longer be at Ferrari

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I had a good chat with Andy Wallace about Le Mans in 1988. The XJR made 250 mph down the pre chicane Mulsanne Straight. At night he could see so little as the lights were mounted so low that he had to pick out his braking points by calculating distances from land marks as they flashed by. To this day the XJR is the fastest car to have driven at Le mans. Andy has no desire to ever drive that fast again – he said it was something you could only do when young, fearless and lacking in imagination.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of driving my friend Pierre Lequex’s immaculately restored Racing Sprite to the Lenham Roadhouse Cafe in Kent. From the 50s to the 70s the Cafe was a regular stopping point for rally cars on their way to Europe, particularly for British Monte Carlo Rally contestants. Coaches running between Dover and London also used to stop there and it is said that Ian Fleming wrote much of his first Bond novel whilst eating breakfast at the Cafe when travelling up from his house in Folkestone to his publisher’s office in London.

After many years as a truck stop the Cafe now has new owners who have made an effort to try and capture the custom of classic car owners who might be interested in the Cafe’s old links to rallying. Having seen an advert for the Cafe in an MG club magazine Pierre and I decided to head there early one Saturday morning for breakfast in his recently restored Sprite. Unfortunately Pierre broke his arm the week or so before our trip so could not drive. Instead he very kindly let me drive his very precious car. So his bad luck was my good fortune!

We had great weather and a fantastic trip down through the back roads of Kent to Lenham. Pierre had bought the Sprite minus it’s engine in a pretty poor condition a number of years ago. He had spent the intervening period having the car expertly restored whilst he investigated its history. He new it had been raced but he managed to find out it had competed not only in events in the UK such as the Brighton Speed Trials, but also in international events on the continent. The car is a hoot to drive as the engine is powerful and the car weighs very little – even with two passengers! You can find out more about Pierre’s fantastic car on his website http://www.cyberspot.co.uk.

Then Lenham Roadhouse Cafe is not easy to find being hidden back from the road and with no signage to alert you to its presence. Once you do find it you have to navigate a porthole filled parking area to get to the entrance-not ideal in a low-slung sportscar. The Cafe building itself has clearly seen better days but the interior has recently been repainted and the walls adorned with many of rally (and Sprite) legend John Sprinzel’s rally plates. These and the large number of accompanying photographs make the trip worthwhile. The huge breakfasts at a reasonable price are also an incentive to make a visit!

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After a hiatus of 50 years, April saw the return of the Goodwood members’ meeting. Intended originally for GRRC members only, disappointing ticket sales saw invitations extended to other motoring clubs and subscribers to various motoring magazines. The comparatively light crowds may have been disappointing for the Earl of March but they were fantastic for those who attended. Not having to force your way past crowds of bored wives and girlfriends was a welcome contrast to the Revival Meeting as was the lack of corporate sponsors.

The event was blessed with remarkable weather – warm bright sunshine in what was otherwise a wet and miserable spring. The sun, coupled with the lack of crowds created a relaxed atmosphere most unlike other Goodwood events. But the best thing about the event was seeing cars that most of us had never seen before. Wonderful though the Festival of Speed and Revival are, many of the top cars return year after year. Having gone to both events for nearly 20 years I am afraid I have become a little blasé about even the most expensive exotica. Embarrassingly, at the last Revival, I found myself spending more time looking at the cars in the car park than in the paddock.

It’s this overfamiliarity with the usual Goodwood fare which made the cars at the Members meeting so interesting. For the first time we were shown cars that raced after the date the circuit closed in 1966. Le Mans prototypes and Turbo Era F1 cars did demonstration laps whilst colourful 70s touring cars battled it out in full on races. It was fascinating stuff and I can only hope that the event is repeated in a similar format next year.

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In a previous post I mentioned my love of the Matra 670 that Graham Hill and Henri Pescarolo raced to victory at Le Mans in 1972. Imagine my delight when I found the very car at the members meeting. I also got to hear its V12 howl as it accelerated away from the chicane – something I had been longing to hear for years.

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The fantastic 70s touring car race is going to do wonders for the price of neglected 70s saloons. Dolly Sprint anyone?

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The Dolly Sprints below seem to have lost a little oil….

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Sports Car Heaven – Alfa leads Aston Martin and Jaguar C Type

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Jaguar Le Mans Prototypes exit the chicane

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Jaguar XJR8LM

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Martini Lancia Abarth 038 Delta S4 – this Group B rally car won the 1986 Monte Carlo Rally

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Group B Rally Renault 5 GT Turbo

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Prost and Lauda Turbo Era McLarens

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Beatrice team Haas Turbo Ford’s

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Visiting Rolls Royce Phantom with serpentine horn!

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Donald Campbell’s Jaguar XK150 Coupe – in Bluebird blue.

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The great Sir Stirling Moss checks out the 70s touring car grid. He drove touring cars in that period as an unsuccessful reprise to his career.

One of the peculiarities of the show was the fact that many manufacturers brought along their modern cars as well as cars from their heritage collections. Some highlights below.

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Volkswagen brought along a lot of VWs, Skodas, Seats, Audis and half a dozen Bugatti Veyrons. What an ugly car – though this colour scheme is smart.

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The same Veyron – note its a manual. Must be one of very few without flappy paddles.

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On the Audi stand there was the 2013 Le Mans winning LMP hybrid diesel – complete with French bug graveyard

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My parents had two of these VW Variants when I was growing up. Like the Beetle they were air-cooled with the engine at the back (see the cooling gills at the rear). In winter we would drive up to see my grandparents in the North of England and my brother and I would take it in turns sleeping in the boot which, being over the engine, was lovely and warm . No child seats then..

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Peugeot had this lovely 504 Coupe on their stand. Designed by Pininfarina its one of my favourite cars and very rare in the UK.

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Peugeot chose to showcase the new R version of their striking RCZ Coupe. Commencement of production of the RCZ was the sign that Peugeot had begun to get their mojo back after decades of producing rubbish. The R version looks great and is the most powerful production car ever produced by Peugeot. Sadly it will be produced in very limited numbers and sales will not helped by a £30k plus price tag.

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Citroen chose to show case their new Cactus Crossover. I think it looks great inside and out. Having been on the receiving end of far too many car park door opening dents I love the idea of the protective air pockets on the sides. They look good too. Fantastic French design. You could never imagine a German company coming up with anything like this.

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BMW had a lot of great cars on display. The CSL is a wonderful 70’s icon and one of the most beautiful coupes ever built. Especially in 70’s orange.

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M1 Sports – a real 80’s supercar

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Martini Liveried Batmobile CSL racer. Great to see that livery back in racing with Williams F1.

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Another lovely CSL in another great 70’s colour

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Z8 Sportscar – undoubtedly a great car bout now over £120,000?

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Supercar bargain – V12 850 CSi. These wonderful Ferrari baiters are very undervalued but look great, are fast and have that cracking engine. Sure fire future classic.

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The stunning new BMW i8 electric sports car. Absolutely stunning from all angles.

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The i8 is so of the future it makes most other new cars look like antiques. Can’t wait to drive one.

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