1999 - The essential guide to the season

From Coys to Goodwood, Le Mans to Monza, this season's historic calendar is packed with thrills. Marcus Pye previews the best action.

From ignominious failure to heroic Formula One World Championship success, engineering folly to mechanical wizardry, the story of British Racing Motors is a compelling one. Back in 1949, when the shattering sound of the first supercharged V16 engine roused the enthusiast's heart (and touched his pocket, for the public had subscribed to it) at Silverstone, few could have believed that the company would carve such a major niche in motor racing history.

It took fully a decade for BRM to win a Grand Prix, and three years more for Graham Hill to secure a famous title, but beyond the start of the 3-litre F1 in 1966, victories with V12 engines were scarce, if not insignificant. Indeed, the annals still record Peter Gethin's dramatic 1971 Italian GP win as the fastest of all time. BRM withdrew in 1977, with 17 wins on its slate, unable to keep pace in an increasingly commercially-led business.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the marque's birth, and fittingly, this milestone is the central theme of the BRDC's Coys International Festival, presented by Chrysler, at Silverstone on July 30-August 1. Unarguably the world's premier historic championship race meeting, it will be a timely tribute to the endeavours of BRM founders Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon, and those who subsequently strove to keep the Bourne spirit alive.

Goodwood Motor Circuit, of course, was the backdrop to early BRM successes. Its reopening last year afforded a new breed of enthusiasts raised on today's rarified sport an extraordinary insight into the racing of yesteryear, when cars looked like cars and drivers could be seen working at their steering wheels. If you missed out on the event of 1998, book early for this September's extravaganza. And don't forget the Festival of Speed at Goodwood House in June, which charts a Millennium of Horsepower.

Whatever your favourite event or discipline, use this overview hand-in-hand with the MOTOR SPORT Historic Calendar (presented free with the last issue) to plan an exciting and memorable season.

Goodwood Festival of Speed and Motor Circuit Meeting

Year One to Formula One - or `From Flintstone to Ecclestone' as one wag at Goodwood summed it up - is the Millennium of Horsepower thread which runs through the seventh Festival of Speed on June 18-20. Presumably a contemporary horse will represent its ancestors in kickstarting the party, but what is certain is that Formula One giants McLaren International and Williams Grand Prix Engineering will be gunning for Jonathan Palmer's outright record of 45.00sec on the 1.16-mile hillclimb.

Nick Heidfeld, who was magnificent in the wet last June, will pilot last year's World Championship-winning McLaren-Mercedes Benz MP4/13 chassis. Sir Frank Williams is sending a Renault-powered machine, and 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg is tipped to drive it on what would certainly be a spectacular Festival debut. Honda is gearing up to re-enter the Formula One fray next year, and, in addition to sending over six of its GP cars, their first time out of Japan since the '60s, is likely to demonstrate its new test muleta. A number of superb motorcycles are also promised for Surtees' two-wheeled feature, including the awesome six-cylinder racer from the 1960s.

Audi's celebration of 90 years of technology centres on no fewer than four of the sensational Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the 1930s, but also stars the latest Audi R8 sportscar, fresh from its Le Mans debut. Bentley, Aston Martin and Porsche racers from La Sarthe are planned, with Jacky Ickx set to renew his remarkable driving partnership with Derek Bell.

Forty years on from the first of his three World Championship tides, Sir Jack Brabham is honoured. 'Black Jack' will demonstrate a Cooper T51 which, with its Climax engine in the 'wrong' end, finally turned racing trends on their head, 25 years after Auto Union's first GP victory. And Renault will take spectators back to the the dawn of the turbocar era with its RS01 and RS60, the latter to be driven by Patrick Tambay, back-to-back with his 1983 San Marino GP-winning Ferrari 126C2.

Three months later (September 17-19), attention switches to the adjacent Motor Circuit, where the magic of last year's Revival will never fade in the memory of anybody present. While the exact programme of events has yet to be finalised, the full spectrum of single-seater, sportscar and saloon races (plus motorcycles) of the 1948-66 era will entertain royally once more. That's a guarantee.

The triumphant recreation of the Tourist Trophy, for GT cars, was one among endless highlights last year, with Formula One World Champions Brabham, Phil Hill, Surtees and Damon Hill in a huge field which contained their sports-racing counterparts Stirling Moss and Bob Bondurant. Lord March's insistence that paddock visitors wore period costume added to the sense of decorum, so enter into the spirit of the occasion, as stars and cars roar round the track, and mock-dogfights fill the sky. Whatever you do this summer, be there!

Goodwood Road Racing Company: 01243 755000

Coys Historic Festival

More than 30 cars will trace BRM's history as Silverstone's biggest event of the season after the British Grand Prix (on July 9-11), focusses the spotlight on the men and machines from Bourne. The visual and aural pageant will start with the National Motor Museum's P15 Mk1 - the V16 monster in which Reg Parnell finished fifth in the 1951 British GP at the venue and, hopefully, run right through to the Stanley-BRM P207 of 1977.

The only remaining P25, in which Jo Bonnier scored the marque's breakthrough victory at Zandvoort in 1959, is promised, Robert Brooks will bring Hill's championship-winning P261, and Peter Gethin has been invited to demonstrate a P160 in the likes of which he won the Monza thriller.

Only Gethin, Jean-Pierre Beltoise - whose triumph in the wet at Monaco in 1972 marked BRM's swansong - and Jackie Stewart of the seven drivers who won Grands Prix for the marque are still living, but the final line-up will doubtless evoke fond memories of departed comrades Bonnier, Hill, Pedro Rodriguez and Jo Siffert.

The race meeting itself includes events for '50s and Pre-65 GP cars, Pre-War Sportscars, '50s Sportscars, Pre-'64 GTs and Le Mans-type Sports Prototypes among the traditional Festival favourites, plus a round of the new Classic Grand Prix series for Pre'72 F1, F2 and F5000 cars, and the expanded Ferrari Historic Challenge, which now embraces Maserati too.

Elsewhere, look for a display to mark 100 years of Lagonda, the Jaguar/Daimler Heritage Trust's XK120 demonstration and prominent Porsche and Ferrari features among myriad club areas.

BRDC: 01327 857271

Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cars

Ronnie Peterson may not have been a fan of his six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 in 1977 - indeed 'Superswede' loathed it, for understeer was not his way - but Martin Stretton will wring chassis 5's neck in the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship, and that will be worth a special trip to see.

Once Stretton, who won the inaugural TGP title in 1995 in Tyrrell 005 (also from horologist Simon Bull's stable) is used to peering over twin rows of 10in front wheels - for which Avon has pulled out the stops to make special tyres - expect the combo to be the star turn, on and off the track.

Historic racing's premier series, for 3-litre F1 cars built between 1966 and '85, is set to reach new heights. No fewer than 46 drivers representing nine nations and 19 marques of car are gearing up to compete, which should make qualifying busy. Following Bob Berridge's virtual whitewash last year in the ex-Keke Rosberg Williams FW08B-05, the question on everybody's lips is can the double champion be beaten? Paul Ingram (who won Kyalami's fun event in December) believes so, and has invested in the ex-Michele Alboreto Tyrrell 011-6 to prove it. Joaquin Folch thinks so too, and, if he updates from a Lotus 87B to a 91 as has been rumoured, will have the equipment.

Lotus 91-mounted Steve Hitchins - winner at Paul Ricard's opener last year - and Richard Eyre, who has parked his CanAm McLaren to concentrate on his Williams FW08B-08, will be in the hunt too.

Regular Class B pacesetter Mike Whatley (Ensign N175) should have his mirrors full of Tony Smith and Andrew Wareing (Williams FW06s) and the ex-Depailler 1978 Monaco GP-winning Tyrrell 008 shared by Roger Earl and Trevor Reeves.

The Cosworth DFV-powered stampede starts at Paul Ricard at Easter, and climaxes at Kyalami, with new stops at Ireland's Mondello Park in August and Barcelona in October. British fans should make dates of Donington on June 5-6 and August 29-30, and Brands Hatch's period GP circuit on July 3/4.

Thoroughbred GP: 01451 810855

Classic Grand Prix Cars

Headlined by 3-litre Formula One cars built prior to 1971, the new Classic Grand Prix series means a new playground for the more exotic BRM, Eagle, Ferrari and Matra V12 machinery which is not competitive, or practical to run, in the TGP arena.

Organised by The Force, the short programme of events is as much about enjoying the wonderful cars as out-and-out racing hence its motto "History, not Victory" and owners have been quick to respond to prime mover David McLaughlin's bugle call.

Abba Kogan intends to run two Matras, the ex-Jean-Pierre Beltoise 1968 MS11 and the ex-Chris Amon 1971 MS120B/C, a 1967 Ferrari 312 (currently under restoration) and the Brabham-Repco V8 in which he won at Monaco's Historic GP in 1997.

Ben Liebert plans to field his 1967 Eagle-Weslake whenever his TGP commitments allow, while Bobby Bell will bring out his Yardley BRM P153. Other BRMs may run again in the marque's Golden Jubilee year, and Sid Hoole's 1968 Cooper-BRM is a confirmed starter. Period Formula 5000 cars will surely keep all but the quickest F1s honest, with interest from owners of McLaren, Surtees, Lola, Lotus, Crossle and Palliser chassis based throughout Europe.

Talk of the F2 class will be Bob Tabor's ex-Jim Clark/Jackie Oliver Lotus 48 R1 - the Cosworth FVA-powered beauty due to run for the first time in more than 25 years, following total restoration - and several pencil-slim McLaren M4As. Action begins on Barcelona's GP circuit in May, with the field of the inaugural season expected for Silverstone's Coys International Historic Festival on July 31-August 1.

The Force: 01306 730517

European Sports Prototypes

Whether or not the showpiece Le Mans 24 hours support race happens in June - and it deserves to - don't miss Group 4 Racing's spectacular recreation of the inter-marque wars which characterised a golden era of the World Sportscar Championship in the late 1960s and early 70s.

Alfa Romeo T33, Ferrari 312P, Foal GT40 and a representative range of Porsche prototypes will battle it out with a gaggle of thundering Lola-Chevrolet T70s, giant-killing Chevron B16s and B8s, and a brace of Abarth-Osella PA1s (powered by screaming straight-six Abarth engines this year).

Several Cosworth DFV-engined cars are set to compete. Belgian veteran Jean 'Beurlys' Blaton has entered a McLaren M8, Nicholas Zapata's unique Ligier JS2 is nearing completion and at least one Lola T280 is due, evoking thoughts of the late Jo Bonnier.

Christian Glasel (Ferrari 312P) should win races on paper, but seasoned campaigner Nigel Hulme (T70 Mk3B), series organiser Jonathan Baker (Alfa T33) and his old adversary Kent Abrahamsson (Chevron B16) will keep him on his toes.

One newcomer quite capable of upsetting the order is Colin Blower, who is driving the ex-Sid Taylor team Lola T70 Spyder in which Denny Hulme won numerous races in 1966. Blower's experience of wrestling TVR Tuscans in modem events will stand him in good stead.

A fine class of cars from the early 1960s - Lotus 23s, Elva Mk7s and the occasional Lotus 30 - will benefit from the addition of Lincoln Small's fabulous 2-litre Brabham-Climax BT8.

With the majority of cars obliged to run on treaded tyres when tracks are dry, drivers have to work harder and spectators see the cars sliding as they were designed to do. Pure magic!

Group 4 Racing: 0171 440 8721

International Supersports Cup

Two of the three gargantuan March 707s, an ex-Chris Amon Can-Am car and the ex-Helmut Kelleners Interserie version, go head to head in this year's International Supersports Cup, driven by series founder Charles Agg and Germany's Jurgen Weiler respectively.

With Geoffrey Hobbs's big-block Lola T222 heading the chase (and the less potent sister cars of Peter Schleifer and Denis Galland due out), the McLaren domination of yore looks to be a memory. Ross Hyett and Paul Whight will run M8s, with ex-Grand Prix driver Martin Donnelly set to sub when the latter is on Aston Martin duty.

The 2-litre classes resemble the European Championships of the early 1970s, with Chevron B19s and Lola T212s slugging it out for supremacy. Among the closed GT cars, mighty Lola T70s and pretty little Chevron B8s are popular and competitive.

New on the schedule - which has evolved since MOTOR SPORT's calendar closed for press - are rounds at Mondello Park in Ireland (July 17-18) and the Grand Prix track at Magny-Cours in central France (September 18-19).

International Supersports Cup: 01420 87622