Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Masters Historic Festival, Oulton Park

I used to spend a lot of time at Oulton Park when I was a teenager. I’d be wide awake for an excited early start on a Saturday morning, flask of coffee and cheese butties prepared and packed and then off to my friends house just around the corner from home for the drive there with him and his Dad. We’d often sit on the outside of Old Hall corner to watch the racing, and during lunch we’d wander around the paddock to marvel at the race cars and dream about having enough pocket money to buy something from the book shop.

Since the early 1990s I have sadly only managed to make it there six or seven times, the last back in 2007. Where does the time go? When I got myself organised enough to go recently for the first event of the year I was relieved to find that although things have changed a lot the old atmosphere is still there. People in the paddock are as approachable as ever, the view overlooking Cascades is still as good and the racing just as entertaining as it was. I didn’t spot any of the Donut vans dotted around that always used to be there though, we’d always buy a cheap bag of them right at the end of the day as they were selling them off and enjoy a sugar rush all the way home.

The Masters Historic Racing series is dedicated to keeping alive the racing from a different, older era to that of my teenage years though. No Formula First or Renault 5 challenge, no Sierra Cosworths or BMW M3s, it’s all about racing from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Five races with busy grids made for a thoroughly entertaining day, lots of close action and a fascinating variety of really interesting cars to watch.

The action is close and exciting from the start.The sight of a Ford GT40 howling along the pit straight is quite breathtaking, and the spine-tingling wail of not one but two Porsche 911 RSRs together climbing up along Clay Hill towards the bridge will live with me for a long time.

Car 86 - David Forsbrey - 1965 Ford GT40 Mk1P3122258-EditP3122135-EditCar 74 - Paul Howells - 1973 Porsche 911 RSR

I was pleased to see several Chevrons, the B8 has always been a favourite racer of mine, and I’d never seen the Huffaker Genie Mk10 before in the Knickerbrook Trophy For World Sportscar Masters race. The red and white Capri in the Clay Hill Trophy For The 1970s Celebration Race looked stunning and went very well indeed, and the Morgan V8 was a real highlight.

Car 1 - Jason Minshaw - 1969 Chevron B8Car 73 - Simon Hadfield - 1964 Huffaker Genie Mk10Car 42 - Paul Pochciol - Ford Capri Group 2Car 72 - Russell Paterson - 1974 Morgan Plus 8

The best race for me was The Avenue Trophy For Pre-1966 Touring Cars though, real of-the-era battles between the tiny Mini Coopers and big Mustangs and Falcon. A Mk1 Lotus Cortina lifting the inside front wheel under cornering is such an iconic image and I was thrilled to see it for real time and time again in front of me.


My favourite race car of the day had to be the Zakspeed 1975 Mk2 Escort of Mark Wright. It looked absolutely fabulous, I spent ages poring over it in the pits.

Car 68 - Mark Wright - 1975 Ford Escort RS1800 ZakspeedCar 68 - Mark Wright - 1975 Ford Escort RS1800 ZakspeedCar 68 - Mark Wright - 1975 Ford Escort RS1800 ZakspeedCar 68 - Mark Wright - 1975 Ford Escort RS1800 Zakspeed

It’s not just the track and race cars that hold interest though, like most events there is always something good in the car park. The immaculate white Escort XR3i really did stop me for a second and take me back to standing in pretty much the same spot as a 15 year old boy. A slightly gnarly Ferrari Dino lurked under the trees near Lodge Corner looking fantastic, and it’s not every day you see a bright yellow Saab Sonnett just parked up in the sunshine!

White Ford Escort XR3iSaab SonnettRed Ferrari DinoRed Ferrari Dino

Seeing a Gilbern in the wild is an usual event, so it was a real treat to see three of them parked up together.

Gilbern InvaderGilbern Invader

This Porsche 911 was the finest sight of the day for me, simply perfect in such a wonderful colour!


My full gallery of photographs from The Masters Historic Festival 2011 at Oulton Park is here, 130 in all for you to have a look through.

This was the first time that the series has visited Oulton Park and I’m eagerly awaiting a return in 2012. Next up for me could be some Sprinting action in a few weeks, if I make it then words and pics will be published here shortly after!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Tour Of Cheshire Historic Road Rally

After a promising week of Spring sunshine it was a shame that persistent drizzle tried hard to dampen the enthusiasm for the Tour Of Cheshire. It tried but failed – how could anyone not be persuaded by the sight of so many classic Porsche 911s, Mini Coopers, Triumphs and all manner of other historic machinery touring the Cheshire lanes?

After consulting the spectator information on the website I decided to start the day by meeting the event at the High Legh Garden Centre where the competitors gathered at about 10:15am for a short car park autotest. Standing at the side of the road watching the cars trickle in was magical, it was fantastic to see them confusing the elderly Garden Centre shoppers. If I’d studied the entry list more closely I’d have been prepared for the most surprising car of the event, but as it was my jaw dropped when I saw the stunning 1939 Lancia Aprilia come into view as it made its way to the parking area.

Car 0 - Robert & John Kiff - 1959 VW BeetleCar 48 - Fred Gallagher & Sue Sanders - 1939 Lancia Aprilia

Car 1 - Howard Warren & Cath Woodman - 1965 Porsche 911Car 23 - John Larkin & Steve Skepper - 1966 Morris Cooper S

In between camera clicks it was interesting to take stock of how the cars handled the small circuit. The Minis were clearly the most agile, the 911s sounded the most glorious, although the V8 TR7 and the Sunbeam Tigers ran them close. The Fulvia HF looked stunning, as did the Alfa Giulias, but I think most of all I really wanted a Triumph 2000 - surprisingly chuckable for something of that size.

Car 38 - Richard Fisher & Paul Holmberg - 1972 Lancia Fulvia HFCar 62 - Phil Hargreaves & Paul Simmons - 1972 Rover 2000TC

Car 50 - Jayne Wignall & Peter Rushforth - 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia SprintCar 59 - Daniel Knight & James Abbatt - 1973 Volkswagen Beetle 1303S

After watching most of the cars leave to continue through the lanes I headed off to Beeston cattle market to meet them there for a faster, more open sprint section. The drizzly rain wasn’t good for my camera but it was still fine for spectating, and as the cars were all parked up for lunch it was great to be able to have a proper look round the Austin Westminsters, Lotus Cortinas and the lovely Volvo Amazons.

The Tour of Cheshire Historic Road Rally 2011Car 31 - David Dunlop/Barry Kendal & Shon Gosling - 1955 Austin A90 Westminster

Car 30 -  John Fox & Nick Bloxham - 1967 Ford Lotus CortinaCar 64 - John & Iain Pearson - 1966 Volvo 122S

Click to see the full gallery of the 2011 Tour Of Cheshire.

I’ll definitely be out to watch again next year.