It's going to be another classic year

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The choice of major classic and historic events gets better by the year. And if enthusiasts are willing to travel over to mainland Europe, a whole raft of possibilities opens up, with superb meetings at stunning venues. Below we have focused on 10 European events which we think are particularly worth visiting, but there are many others that deserve your attention.

The arrival of impossibly cheap flights to many European destinations, coupled with quick and easy Channel crossings, means that there’s never been a better time to make a long weekend out of a trip to a meeting. Atmosphere-laden circuits such as Spa, Imola, Pau and Clermont-Ferrand make for attractive alternatives to Snetterton, Mallory Park and Pembrey.

At home, meanwhile, there’s no doubt that Goodwood sets a standard no other organiser can come close to matching. Its Festival of Speed, over the weekend ofJuly 12/13, and the Circuit Revival Meeting, on September 6/7, are magical events, steeped in nostalgia, both human and mechanical. The build-up to each of these will be covered by Motor Sport over the next few months, and previewed in depth closer to their dates.

The Vintage Sports-Car Club also continues to provide wonderful motorsport for those whose main interest is pre-war machinery. The club’s headline race meeting will again be the two-day Donington Park event on June 21/22, when the 10th anniversary of Senna’s majestic European Grand Prix win will be celebrated.

However, two of the most popular events in the VSCC’s calendar are its Shelsley Walsh and Prescott hill climbs. Sunday July 6 is the Shelsley date, which is assured a fine entry and a big crowd to witness the ERAs battling for FTD. The class dedicated to Shelsley Specials helps make this a memorable day out, as intrepid pilots urge their remarkable devices up the side of the Teme Valley.

VSCC Prescott is run over the first weekend in August, when a 200-strong entry takes on the challenge of the Gloucestershire venue.

Other VSCC hill climbs are held at Wiscombe Park, Harewood and Loton Park, and a visit to any of them is a fine way to spend a day.

While Shelsley moves to within two years of its centenary, Oulton Park celebrates 50 years as a race circuit this summer. To mark this the Gold Cup will be held over the Bank Holiday weekend of August 24/25. Building on a successful first running last year, the Gold Cup should be bigger and better in 2003, and winter redevelopment work at the circuit has eased the fussy Knickerbrook Chicane, to the likely approval of the historic racing fraternity.

Headline attractions are races for FORCE Classic Grand Prix and Formula 5000 cars, as well as single-seater and drum-braked sportscar events from the Historic Grand Prix Car Association. The sight and sound of Flavien Marçais wailing the BRM P180 to victory last year left the enthusiastic crowds eagerly awaiting the HSCC-run 2003 event.

The HSCC will also be in charge for the big Brands Hatch affair, the annual Superprix over the weekend of July 5/6. Additionally, this rare run-out on the Kent track’s Grand Prix layout for the HSCC championships includes rounds of the BRDC Historic Sportscar Championship and the International Supersports Cup. Expect packed grids and exciting racing — even if the spectacular Dingle Dell ‘launch pad’ will have fallen victim to a round of pre-season circuit changes.

Added to the HSCC mix for 2003 is a new series for 1970s Road Saloons, which is based along the same lines as the very successful Road Sports series. Although likely to start modestly, it could readily become an important part of the entry-level historic racing scene.

Sadly, the Thoroughbred GP cars are due only one UK race in 2003, as part of an FIA Sportscar meeting at Donington on August 9/10, while the Group C racing movement has a support race to the DTM touring car feature at Donington Park two weeks earlier.

In Ireland, the big event of the year will be the Gordon Bennett centenary over the first weekend in June. Cars from 100 years of motorsport will take part in three hill climbs centred in the Athy region, home to the original event.

Paul Lawrence