Coys International historic festival preview

If the Coys festival at Silverstone is not already in your diary, put it in now. Marcus Pye reveals why the 2000 edition should be the best ever

Fifty years of Formula 1 is the perfect excuse for a celebration at Silverstone, birthplace of the World Championship in 1950, thus the British Racing Drivers' Club has invited an amazing array of champions to a very special Coys International Historic Festival presented by Chrysler, on 21-23 July.

Nigel Mansell, John Watson, Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss and Froilan Gonzalez will represent their respective decades in a special demonstration of some of their most famous cars, which also commemorates 50 years of our sister magazine Autosport. Gonzalez will be driving a Ferrari 500 from the year after he won the legendary 1951 race at Silverstone, breaking at last the might of Alfa Romeo. Moss drives various cars, but Stewart is back in his '71 British Grand Prix and tide-winning Tyrrell 003. Watson is reunited with the McLaren MP4 in which he won the 1981 British GP and Mansell is set to thrill in a Lotus 91 and, hopefully, his championship-winning Williams Renault FVV14B.

John Surtees and Sir Jack Brabham plan to demonstrate cars of their own construction, while fellow World Champion Jody Scheckter is bringing his own Fen-ari 312 T4, the last Prancing Horse to carry its pilot to the drivers' title. BRDC secretary Howden Ganley is back in a BRM, joining stars like Tony Brooks (Connaught), Maria-Teresa di Filippis (Maserati 250F), Roy Salvadori (Cooper) and Jean-Pierre Beltoise (Gordini) on track. A representative selection of cars, including successful chassis and 'heroic failures' will be displayed throughout the weekend. From the early 1950s comes an Alfa Romeo 158, ERA E-type and BRM's extraordinary V16. Vanwall and Cooper Climax show the divergent design trends in a sport which was about to change radically.

Lotus 24 and 49 models mark the two distinct eras of the 1960s, the latter, with its Cosworth DFV powerplant contrasting with a spaghetti-piped Ferrari 312. An early F2-type Porsche will be a rare sight, as will BRM's overcomplex H16 and the four-wheel-drive Lotus 63 and gas turbine 56B. Renault's RS01, its first 1500cc turbocar which made it debut at Silverstone in 77, joins a classic McLaren M23 and Brabham Alfa Romeo BT45 of the '70s, an epoch which also spawned the Arrows A2 'doodlebug'. Stars from the '80s number McLaren's MP4, the twin-chassis Lotus 88 (subsequently banned), a Toleman's TG183B and the Williams FW08 six-wheeler.

The '90s line-up is headed by a Ferrari F93, high-nose Tyrrell 019, and Williams Renault FW14B, plus last year's Jordan, McLaren and Stewart Ford models. And, to bring things up to date, there is current Formula One testing on the three days preceding the meeting, to which admission is free (see News).

The single-seater theme also binds together the 12-race programme, which features nine classes this year, one more than the norm. Three evocative fields of Grand Prix cars will compete, split into Pre-1952, Pre-1961 and Pre-1966. The latest of these timeframes is showcased over two high-octane events, and features a trio of magnificent BRM P261 V8s, driven by '60s F1 veteran Richard Attwood, Paul Alexander and the versatile Thomas Bscher. The final result will be declared on aggregate of the two legs. A raft of Maserati 250Fs is set to chase Nigel Corner's V12 Ferrari Dino, the very fast Lotus 16s of Philip Walker and Spencer Flack, and John Harper's BRM P25 in the Pre-'61 event. Barrie Baxter's Tec-Mec (Valerio Colotti's 250F evolution) will attract plenty of intrigue and, subject to FIA paperwork, Robin Lodge's marvellous Lancia D50 recreation could make its race debut.

ERAs are strongly tipped in the Pre-'52 race, but Ludovic Lindsay in R5B 'Remus' and Michael Steele with R4D will watch over their shoulders for the swiftest Alfa Romeo P3s and Baxter's Maserati 4CM. US-based Peter Giddings is planning to run his ex-Denis Poore Alfa Romeo 8C-35 (the 1949 British Hillclimb Championship winner) which is currently being fettled here.

Three-litre Formula One is the focus of The Force's Classic GP competition, which features Cosworth DFV-powered machines and their rivals of the Pre'72 era. Geoff Farmer's ex-Jo Siffert/Graham Hill Lotus 49 R7 heads the entry but will have to fight off the Brabham BT34 of Fan Pugh and Ben Liebert's Eagle Weslake. A host of rorty Formula 5000s should give the F1s a hard time, with Lola, McLaren and Surtees chassis — and Malcolm Carter's frighteningly quick wingless Harris — to the fore. Nimble Formula 2 chassis make up the field, the best of

the 1600cc machines capable of mixing it inside the top ten overall. Watch for the race debut of Classic Team Lotus' unique de Dion-suspended FVA-powered 58 'wedge' car. Now in its 43rd season, Formula Junior merits its place on the race card for the first time in years, and a 50-car entry for Count Lurani's fabled training class should provide some of the weekend's best racing. Three-time FIA Historic champion Tony Thompson is still king with his Lotus 27, but Denis Welch, Urs Eberhardt and Stephan Jocher are out to depose him. Of the early front-engined cars, Tony Steele's Lola Mk2 is the quickest.

Four races for sportscars span the whole gamut of development, with Alfa Romeos starring at each end of story The beautiful Milanese machines of the 1930s square up to Talbots, Lagondas and blown MGs in their traditional two-parter. Autodelta's threelitre T33s of the early '70s take on Lola T70s and Chevron Bl6s on Sunday in the European Sports Prototype Trophy. The 1950s Sports Cars will be real crowd-pleasers, with Win Percy and Robert Brooks in Lotus 15s, John Harper and Frank Sytner in Cooper Monacos and Lister Jaguar stars Gary Pearson and Nick Lirmey gunning for victory. Peter Hardman is bound to get the 1959 Le Mans-winning Aston Martin among them, while Lotuses and Lolas will be locked in combat in the chasing pack.

Title sponsor Coys of Kensington's Pre-'64 Grand Touring race is the only enduro on the timetable, and this 50-minute feast will pitch AC Cobras, Aston Martin DB4s, Ferraris, Jaguar E-Types and Bizzarininis into battle at the sharp end. Behind, Shelby Mustangs, big Healeys, MGBs and Lotus Elites guarantee first class entertainment.

As ever, the sideshows are manifold, with something to please all the family. The Historic Rally-Sprint, on the Roger Clark Circuit adjacent to Becketts Corner, features a Group B shootout between Marldcu Men (Lancia 037), Stig Blomqvist (Audi Sport Quattro) and David Llewellin (MG Metro 6R4). The seventh Footman James Silverstone RetroRun brings 400 cars to the circuit for its climax. The motorsport art gallery, Scarf and Goggles restaurant, live bands, aircraft displays, hot air balloon fly-outs are back. And if the action compels you to join the Historic racing or classic car set, don't miss the superb Coys auction on Saturday evening.