Mid-grid historic racing

The body of the spectacle

Flashing and gnashing, gleaming and screaming the front runners arrive and are gone. In a heat haze of historic racing grandeur they pass, and what is left? — it is only us, the rest. Not a Ferrari or Jaguar to be seen, only a plodding selection of colourful shapes. But they are no less historic for their meagre placing, Lancia, Morgan, Porsche, Triumph, big Healey, Alfa and more. We drive the historic machines that are the body of the spectacle. We own them, we make them, bring them and take them. We also sadly sometimes break them.

We are forever paying for them though we seldom reckon up the price. We are not foolish! But why do so many of us in the midfield continue? That question has no simple answer. I can only conclude that the common bonds must be enjoyment and achievement. Most of us know we can never win but we are fiercely proud of the marques we represent. It is warming to see that nationality respects no political boundaries, and the Triumphs, Morgans and Healeys are loved by their German, French and Dutch owners probably more passionately than by their English counterparts. In the main camaraderie and friendship prevail.

There are many administrative obstacles placed before the historic racer that stretch in a never-ending line. They start months before you participate in any historic racing: time expired helmets, medicals, valid FIA documentation, entry confirmation, permission to race, holidays, time off work, ferry bookings, currency, accommodation, mechanical reliability, scrutineering, practice. And only then have you earned your ticket to the real thing! To achieve all this and suffer a puncture in the warm-up lap is a good way to find out if you really are as philosophical as you claim to be!

I can only speculate, from my own experience, that these trials are all part of the enjoyment. It’s certainly not the prize money. This is usually represented by the bank’s lending facilities you have negotiated for something else!

What of the mid-grid supporters club? Or even the non-supporters club? I dare say that in most cases “all roads lead to home”! Yes, of course, there are dedicated mechanics who suffer from the same lemming-mentality as their drivers. They do it to get away, and they share those magic moments that reward their efforts. They can pick it up and put it down! The families cannot. They are stuck, for better or for worse, with this historic driving enthusiasm until the driver becomes so historic that he hangs up his helmet for good. Perhaps they are the real mid-grid supporters.

But back to the machines themselves. What is also remarkable is the very high standard of preparation mid-grid. The innovation, care, cleanliness and attention to detail is the equal of any. In fact on close inspection the works-supported histories often have a more “used” look about them, which may reflect the very hard racing they are subjected to by a number of drivers.

These petty points, of course, come nowhere when set against the Historic GT or GTS grid on a sunny day at the Nurburgring. The charisma, power and grace exuded by such an assembly has to be experienced to be believed.

I commend you to historic racing, mid-grid or any grid. But I warn you, once you become addicted, you’ll need more than rehabilitation to cure you!

Darryl Uprichard, Triumph TR3, 600 BPC