Brands Hatch, November 10: if you thought the F1 rulebook was confusing…
The Formula Vee Festival’s remit is plain enough, but there’s half a chance you won’t be familiar with the concept of the Victor Meldrew Trophy. A brief explanation follows, although it might not make things terribly clear.
Created in 2007, the Meldrew shared top billing with a brisk (but slender) Vee field at one of Brands Hatch’s later 2013 clubbies.
As its name implies, the race is aimed at older drivers, although a free bus pass is not mandatory. It is open to a wide range of saloon cars, which this time embraced everything from a Toyota Starlet to a Jaguar XJ-S via a horde of 3-series BMWs and a couple of charismatic (ie Mk1/Mk2) Ford Escorts.
It’s a handicap event, the result determined by a staggered start, various credit laps and “a complex system for awarding points”. This is calculated as follows: “The difference between a driver’s best and average lap time, subtracted from three, will be multiplied by half the driver’s age (birth certificate proof required for the over 65s) and half the driver’s weight in kilos. The resulting figure will be added to length of marriage (multiple certificates accepted) and distance travelled to the venue (in miles for home-based competitors, kilometres for those who live south of Calais).” There are also, apparently, a few other criteria.
Metro driver Neal Gardiner lost a wheel before he’d set a practice time, retired early from the first race (in which Kristian Dean and Warren Gazzard recorded a BMW one-two) and was declared winner of the second, even though he seemed to be running somewhere in midfield. Later, once the abacus had been pressed into service, the obvious conclusion was that BMW M3 racer Mike Collins (fifth and 14th on the day) was the overall 2013 Meldrew champion. The bottom line, though, is that everybody enjoyed it – on both sides of the debris fencing.
The Vee contest had fewer cars but greater formality – and for the most part was a lot more straightforward. Adam Macauley dominated qualifying and the first of three races, but retired from the main event after damaging his nose – the result of contact during a splendid lead battle in which five cars were covered by no more than a sneeze. The group eventually splintered and Peter Belsey (Spyder) went on to beat race two winner Ben Miloudi (Ray) by a couple of seconds. By that time it was pretty much dark, competitive sunlight having ebbed shortly after 3pm.
Winter clubbies might have lost some of their lustre in the 30 years since the BBC sent cameras to Brands Hatch to cover packed Formula Ford 2000 fields, but they remain a precious throwback and merit support.