What to watch in 2017, where to see it and when: here are our highlights for the year ahead – now all you need to do is get there
Are we plugging Race Retro because Motor Sport happens to be a partner… or is Motor Sport a partner because it happens to think this is the best show if its kind? We suggest you set co-ordinates for Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, and draw your own conclusions. We regard Race Retro as a wonderful throwback, an event that captures the spirit of bygone race and rally exhibitions, when cars were the stars but you could also pick up a 1962 Aintree programme for a reasonable price, track down a coveted Scalextric Ford Capri and watch a few rally talismans in action.
Vintage Sports-Car Club, Prescott
VSCC events feature the most charming mechanical body language anywhere in motor sport – and they tend to happen at the UK’s most photogenic locations. Prescott is an absolute must – a chance to see whether cars generate more steam than the local heritage railway – and the same applies equally to Shelsley Walsh, Loton Park, Oulton Park, Mallory Park and pretty much everywhere else on the schedule. Event dates are all listed at www.vscc.co.uk. There will be two events at Prescott this year – one on the short course early in August and a single-day fixture on the full hill (September 23).
Monaco Grand Prix
Having defeated his nemesis for the first time in 2016, Nico Rosberg might be sipping cocktails when Lewis Hamilton commences pursuit of a fourth F1 world title in Australia (March 23-26, a wonderful event, but slightly impractical for those without time on their hands). As the sport embraces its latest technical shift, and Pirelli seeks to produce tyres that permit competitive lap times over a full race stint rather than suffering thermal degradation after about four corners, we’d recommend (cliché alert) the Monaco Grand Prix – particularly if you are able to travel to southern France by train. Reserve early enough and you might pick up a first-class return from London to Nice for about half the cost of an aeroplane ticket. We’d suggest staying in Nice, too, as rosé wine is a touch cheaper than it is along the coast and restaurants tend to have available tables. If you don’t fancy Monaco, how about Malaysia (September 29-October 1)? Last time we looked, non-direct return flights were available for less than £350 and it might be one of the final opportunities to appreciate an event that seems certain, sadly, to vanish from the radar. For home birds, Silverstone is scheduled for July 14-16.
Goodwood Members’ Meeting
The Festival of Speed and Revival Meeting capture most of the attention, but it’s not hard to see why many consider this to be the cream of Goodwood’s motor sport crop. Tickets can be scarce and prices remain at a premium, but grids are full, the racing is unrelentingly good and thinner crowds make this a more engaging experience than the Revival. Races for Edwardian leviathans, Group 1 saloons and Sixties US V8s confirm that this belongs in the pantheon
of the unmissable.
VHRA Vintage Nationals
Europe’s first permanent drag strip celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. At first glimpse it has changed little since first it opened – but that’s a positive. Apart from the new-for-2017 VHRA event, for traditional hot rods and custom cars, key events include Dragstalgia (historic dragsters, July 14-16) and twin rounds of the FIA European Drag Racing Championship (May 26-29 and September 7-10). Old V10-powered F1 cars were once glorious to behold through the Monaco tunnel, but their sonic boom didn’t come close to that of a top-fuel dragster – nor even remotely so.
Blancpain Sprint Series, Brands Hatch
For the many UK racegoers who prefer to eschew the bustle of the British GP, the World Endurance Championship at Silverstone (April 15-16) provides a pleasing, top-class alternative. Our recommendation, though, would be the Blancpain GT races on the Brands Hatch GP circuit. The cars look and sound the part, driving standards are high and out in the woods the backdrop hasn’t changed a great deal since the 1970s. Few traditional venues have retained their looks so well. And once you have acquired the taste, the Blancpain Endurance Series is in action at Silverstone just one week later.
October 9-November 5
Endurance Rally Association Classic Safari
Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship might now be restricted to the northern end of Wales and a few bits of Cheshire, but there are still august associations promoting rally tours in the old style, when stranded cars had to be fixed by the side of the road (mobile mechanics are provided, in this case) rather than being taken to a high-tech service park for an overnight rebuild. The Classic Safari is a taxing run through southern Africa – an opportunity to appreciate the world’s finest wildlife from the helm of some of the planet’s finest classics. The ERA’s 2017 schedule also includes the Baltic Classic (May 28-June 10), an event that takes crews from Copenhagen to Berlin, via Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
May 27-June 9
Isle of Man TT
Average lap speeds of 130mph-plus. On a motorcycle. Between dry-stone walls and postcard-pretty cottages. Just go. As an alternative, try the Classic TT (August 19-September 1), North-West 200 (May 7-13), any other road races on either side of the Irish border or else the natural contours of Oliver’s Mount, near Scarborough (www.oliversmountracing.com/event).
Caterham 60th Anniversary Festival, Donington Park
Racing Caterhams are not quite as svelte as their road-going cousins, thanks to protective cockpit scaffolding that is nowadays the norm, but their antique roots mean an absence of aero efficiency… and that in turn means some of the modern age’s most exhilarating racing. It’s not uncommon for them to hunt in lead packs of 10 or more. If you don’t enjoy watching Caterhams, best check your pulse: it might have stopped.
Opened in 1965, Ingliston (located just off the A8 in Edinburgh) was at the forefront of Scottish motor racing until the rising cost of circuit maintenance triggered its demise in the mid 1990s. The track might have lain unused, but it survived and is this year due to return to action when a sprint event takes place as part of a Revival initiative that began in 2015. Will racing ever return? This has to be a step in the right direction.
Le Mans Bike Festival
The Le Mans Classic has the summer off in 2017. This is similar in spirit, but involves fewer wheels (and also takes place on the Bugatti Circuit, which is slightly less than half the length of its more famous neighbour). In short, a new event for old bikes.
Wales Rally GB
Was the WRC better when events lasted several days, covered the length and breadth of host countries and sometimes required crews to bodge their cars with chewing gum and string to reach the next time control? Perhaps so, but contemporary cars remain highly spectacular on appropriate terrain (particularly Finland, then). Britain’s event has regained much of its impetus since relocating in 2013 to North Wales and the entry looks stronger than it has for a couple of years, despite VW’s withdrawal. Toyota is back in the championship after a long absence, M Sport Ford and Hyundai are well represented (with Sébastien Ogier joining the former as he chases his fifth consecutive world championship title) and Citroën makes a full-time return with a line-up that includes Ulsterman Kris Meeke and Irishman Craig Breen.
HSCC Oulton Park
It will host only eight meetings this year, but the Historic Sports Car Club is rich in understated jewels. The Oulton Park Gold Cup felt more like a standard clubbie in 2016, but this year the event will feature a round of the Historic F2 Championship: F2 cars always looked particularly good at Oulton when they were new… and they still do. Other highlights include a return to Donington Park (April 8), Cadwell Park (June 17-18), Brands Hatch GP (July 1-2, more of which below) and the Croft Nostalgia Weekend (August 5-6). The HSCC also has a meeting on September 23 at the Snetterton 200 circuit, the most engaging of the venue’s three layouts, and is organising the Donington Historic Festival (April 28-30) and the ever-entertaining Walter Hayes Trophy (Silverstone, November 4-5).
Formula Ford at 50, Brands Hatch
It all began at Brands Hatch on July 2 1967, so it seems fitting that Formula Ford’s half-century will be a central theme of the HSCC Brands Hatch meeting at the same circuit exactly 50 years later. The category will also be celebrated during the biggest of all the summer’s retro events, the Silverstone Classic (July 21-23). The original cars’ simplicity produced ferociously competitive racing – a truth that holds to this day.
Le Mans 24 hours
Audi might have gone, but this is an event – not just a motor race – and is unlikely ever to be deflected by such setbacks. It has an atmosphere like no other and is also the only place on the globe where you’re likely to encounter a traffic jam featuring nothing but Morgans. Or Reliant Robins. Or Routemaster buses. Or…
September 29-October 1
A new event on the roster of highly respected promoter Peter Auto – classic racers set free at one of the prettiest locations on the F1 world championship calendar: the perfect excuse for a long weekend close to the heart of Budapest, one of Europe’s most architecturally rich cities.
British Superbike Championship, Cadwell Park
The BSB equates to raw power unleashed at some of the UK’s finest locations. The riders’ obligations range from nudging 200mph at Thruxton (August 4-6) to flying higher than anything else over Cadwell Park’s Mountain (August 18-20) – one of the finest sights anywhere in motor sport. Marvellous, in a word. To see the full calendar, go to www.britishsuperbike.com.
Formula E, New York
Bernie Ecclestone tried for years to host a race in New York (see also Paris and London) and we’re still waiting, yet Formula E managed to sort one out in about 15 minutes (see also Paris and London)… The circuit will be situated in Brooklyn and, afterwards, you could create your own electrically themed road trip by sauntering through New York and heading to Montréal for the FE finale a fortnight later. Done in one hit, the journey takes about five hours in a hired Ford Mustang drop-top, but the scenery is such that you won’t want to rush.
St Ursanne-Les Rangiers hillclimb
Circuit racing might have been banned in Switzerland since 1955, but the country retains some of Europe’s most spectacular hillclimb courses. This is one such and will host its 74th annual event during the summer. As ever, it will be a round of the FIA European Hillclimb Championship.
Masters Historic Grand Prix, Zandvoort
It is more than three decades since Niki Lauda waltzed away with the last Dutch GP trophy to be awarded, but the circuit remains splendid – even in its current, sawn-off form – and this year it would be appropriate to visit one of Europe’s most popular historic festivals. It’s a chance to watch DFV-powered F1 cars in action at the circuit where the engine made its debut, just the 50 years ago.
World Rallycross Championship, Lydden Hill
The world’s best championship of its type returns once more to its spiritual home as rallycross celebrates its half-century. The sport has changed beyond measure since Daf 55 Coupés and strangely powerful VW Beetles roamed the earth, but the technology is impressive and the spectacle remains intact.
Pau Grand Prix
It might have lost some of the lustre that accompanied F2, F3000 and non-championship F1 races, but this is among the world’s most original street circuits – barely changed since the 1930s – and benefits from having the snow-capped Pyrénées as a backdrop (on clear days, at least). The headline F3 race is likely to feature Mick Schumacher, who is stepping up to a level at which his illustrious father was a champion in 1990.
Located close to the M40, this former RAF complex has been transformed into an automotive and aviation engineering hub, home to myriad specialists and stage for an increasing number of historically themed events. The Flywheel Festival (www.flywheelfestival.com) is perfect for car, bike and plane gluttons. See www.bicesterheritage.co.uk for details of other events.
Plum Pudding meeting, Mallory Park
Brands Hatch’s annual Boxing Day event fizzled out during the early 1980s, but Mallory retains the tradition with a fusion of car and bike racing (four-wheeled grids being settled according to the order in which entries are received). It used to clash with van banger racing at Wimbledon Stadium, but that seems ever more certain to be a thing of the past as redevelopment threatens to consume the last of what were once many London stock car stadia. West Ham, Wembley, Walthamstow, Harringay, New Cross, Crayford and others were long since demolished – and by next Christmas it’s all but certain that Wimbledon will have joined that sad list, despite valiant efforts to preserve it.
Nürburgring 24 Hours
Germany might struggle to support a GP nowadays – it just about manages biennially, a far cry from when it had sell-outs twice a year – but the nation’s passion for the sport remains intact, if you know where to look. The annual day-night Nordschleife enduro attracts a boisterous crowd estimated at more than 200,000. True, some are there for beer rather than BMWs, but that doesn’t dilute the event’s magnificence. It’s a non-stop party with a motor race at its core.
American SpeedFest, Brands Hatch
The only chance to see European NASCAR in the UK
2CV 24 Hours, Snetterton Returns from Anglesey to the original home of 24-hour racing
British GT, Spa
The most spectacular UK-based series? Discuss. The overseas round is worth the trip, too www.britishgt.com
Classic Sports Car Club, Thruxton
The CSCC runs some of the UK’s busiest grass-roots events – and is often blessed by the Special Saloon/Modsports revival movement. www.classicsports carclub.co.uk
Recently revived hillclmb that is maturing nicely
Motor Sport Hall of Fame, Epsom
Stars and cars gather in the spectacular grounds of the Royal Automobile Club, Woodcote Park. www.motorsport magazine.com/hall-of-fame