Thruxton revs up for 50
Stars come out to celebrate much loved circuit’s anniversary
Morecambe and Wise, Fry and Laurie – erm, Murray and Mansell…
OK, as double acts go Nigel Mansell and Murray Walker may be relatively new to showbiz but, as anyone who witnessed the pair at last year’s Hall of Fame event will know, they have what it takes to join the greats with their infectious mix of banter and paddock reminiscences. And motor sport fans will have the chance to see them again at Thruxton this summer.
The 31-time Grand Prix-winner and 1992 Formula 1 world champion and his long-time friend and semi-retired motor sport commentator and journalist, Murray Walker, have confirmed that they will be among the galaxy of stars celebrating the circuit’s 50th anniversary in June. Together they will open the Thruxton Centre – the circuit’s new £2m state-of-the-art hospitality facility on Sunday, June 3.
Visitors can expect a series of compelling and occasionally hilarious memories from the pair about their days at the sharp end of Formula 1, before they cut the ribbon to open the building officially at 12 noon, during what promises to be a weekend packed with action on and off the track.
Two days of festivities will feature a whole host of single-seaters, sports cars and saloons from the last five decades. They will hit the track for a spirited sprint down memory lane at a circuit that has barely changed since opening in its current form, in 1968.
Already confirmed to race over the two days are HSCC Guards Trophy Sports & GT Cars; Historic Formula Ford 1600; Super Touring; HSCC Libre – HF2, CF3, FF2000 and M7RC Mini Miglia. One of the stars of the show is the 1983 Williams FW08C (above), which will run in anger on both days of the event. Mansell’s 1992 Formula 1 championship-winning FW14B will also be on display.
Away from the race programme, there will be a raft of eye-catching demo runs, static displays and car club reunions, as well as a funfair, live music, overnight camping and a fireworks display that the organisers hope will give the festival a family-friendly atmosphere and appeal.
As anyone who as driven the circuit will know, Thruxton is tremendously fast. It holds the distinction of being the quickest circuit in the UK – the current lap record was set by Damon Hill in 1993 in his FW15C lapping in 57.6sec at an average speed of 147mph. Originally a motorcycle circuit that also held a few car meetings in 1952 and 1953, Thruxton was chosen as the new home of the British Automobile Racing Club after Goodwood closed in 1966, and the refurbished venue opened in March 1968. The regular highlight of its racing calendar was the Easter Monday Formula 2 race. Since then it has hosted a variety of racing from touring cars to the British Superbike Championship.
Like many racetracks in Britain it has gone through fallow periods – especially since noise restrictions mean it can host only 12 race days per year. However, in recent seasons a comprehensive modernisation programme has been undertaken. The new Thruxton Centre is the latest part of that and, when finished, it will feature a fully-catered facility comprising a new restaurant and bar, exhibition space, function rooms, hosting suites and outside viewing terrace.
Advance tickets for Thruxton’s 50th Anniversary Celebration on June 2/3 are available from £12 for Saturday entry and £15 for Sunday or £24 for both days. Sunday grandstand seats are an additional £5. Accompanied children aged 15 and under will be admitted free of charge. Just make sure you arrive early for front-row seats for the Murray and Nigel show.
Silverstone Classic (July 20-22) will pay tribute to the 24 Hours of Daytona with three sports car races on the Saturday, billed as ‘Daytona at Dusk’. Drivers such as Pedro Rodríguez, Brian Redman, Derek Bell and AJ Foyt have won the illustrious race, and Silverstone Classic is celebrating its immense heritage that spans 52 years.
Three new races will take place on Saturday evening: the International Trophy for Classic GT Cars, FIA Masters Historic Sportscars and the new-for-2018 Masters Endurance Legends series. All of them will involve cars that have raced under the lights at Daytona, such as AC Cobras, Lola T70s, Ford GT40s, Porsche Carreras and Dodge Vipers.
Chip Wile, president of Daytona International Speedway, said, “This is a great honour for Daytona and our widely admired 24-hour race, which has always had huge appeal to British drivers and teams. The Silverstone Classic is one of the world’s greatest events celebrating so much of motor sport’s history and we are really proud that it will be saluting Daytona come July.”
Silverstone Classic promoter Nick Wigley added that “Daytona has been deified by motor sport followers here in Britain – that’s why we’re so delighted to be celebrating its incredible heritage at the Silverstone Classic.”
With that comes another homage, as it’s the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’. The rare V12-powered GT was built in 1968 to celebrate Ferrari’s 1-2-3 finish at the ’67 event with a 330 P3/4, 330 P4 and 412P. Daytonas did later race in the 24 Hours (NART car from 1975, above) and one took a class-winning eighth overall in 1978.
For those who purchase tickets before March 31, adult admission starts at £37.
Prince Harry revealed a trait more usually associated with his gaffe-prone grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, on a recent visit to Silverstone circuit.
Regaling students with stories about how he once beat Formula 1 driver Johnny Herbert in a kart race, the Queen’s grandson explained his unexpected victory by saying that 1995 British Grand Prix winner had become “too fat” since his retirement. The comment was quickly downplayed by officials as tongue in cheek.
Prince Harry was visiting Silverstone in March to give the royal green light to the construction of the Silverstone Experience, which is set to open in spring 2019. The Prince spoke to students from the nearby technology college and delivered a speech as a patron of the project.
“When it opens in 14 months it will tell the story of Silverstone, the history of British motor racing and the pivotal role which Great Britain plays in motor sport today,” he said.
“It is well known that Great Britain is a world leader in high-performance engineering and motor racing engineering in particular – as well as having some great drivers. But it is no exaggeration to say that unless we encourage more young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths it will be impossible for us to continue to lead in this field.”
The Silverstone Experience will serve as the circuit’s museum, promising interactive galleries that tell the stories behind the current home of the British Grand Prix, also displaying an archive of memorabilia and artefacts from the BRDC at its new Collections and Research Centre. It will be housed on the complex’s remaining WWII hangar, right by the main entrance.
Prince Harry didn’t stop there, as he reportedly asked two students whether women aren’t being motivated to enter STEM careers as much as men.
“There are a lot of stereotypes,” said 15-year-old Tara Vooght.
“What, men covered in grease?” replied the Prince.
The upcoming Masters Endurance Legends Series has announced a varied entry-list for its debut at Imola (April 20-22). The series, which fields cars that were eligible to enter the Le Mans 24 Hours or its feeder series, from 1995-99, 2000-05 and 2006-12, boasts a strong entry list for its season opener.
Travis Engen’s 2005 Audi R8 will star, racing the Orecas of Keith Frieser, Mike Smith, Michel Frey and Ralph Meichtry and Steve Tandia’s Lola B12/60. Double Le Mans LMP2 winner Mike Newton will also race in his MG Lola EX257 while Mike Furness’s Courage LC75 and Tommy Dreelan’s Oreca will also take part.
In the GT category, Jon Minshaw’s Ferrari 458, Nikolaus Ditting’s Aston Martin DBR9 and Manfredo Rossi di Montelera’s Porsche 977 head the 25-car entry list entry list, with Ferrari, Panoz and HPD also represented and more cars to be announced soon.
Gearing up for its first year of competition, the series is already proving a salivating prospect, supporting the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard on June 22-24. The Masters Historic Formula 1 series will also support the British Grand Prix (July 5-8), adding diversity to the traditionally homogenised world of contemporary F1.
“Having the opportunity to see, smell and hear some of the most iconic and successful racing cars suits our programme perfectly. Indeed, these cars will not only be seen on stage but driven flat out and race against each other” said Gilles Dufeigneux, general director of the French GP.
The series will also be present at the Silverstone Classic and the Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch, for those raring to watch their endurance heroes at home.