HSCC Oulton Park, August 26: because it’s worth it…
Journey time from Spa to the EuroTunnel? About three hours. Journey time from EuroTunnel slip road to passport control? About two. I have known it quieter…
The dash from southern Belgium to north-west England has become almost ritual: as long racing weekends go, four days at the Belgian Grand Prix and one at the Oulton Park Gold Cup provide a formidable cocktail.
Thanks to the dense thicket of travelling humanity, I reach home at 1.20am on Monday: the alarm is set for 4am… but I rise an hour earlier, having forgotten to reset my phone to UK time. The error remains unnoticed until I’m comfortably settled into the next 220-mile leg of the trip, but it means reaching Oulton Park in ample time for the mandatory paddock breakfast (or even two, had I wished). I arrive in Cheshire feeling remarkably fresh, but then I’ve had the unfair advantage of a loaned Porsche Carrera 911 4S, which seems to remove the effort from any journey – no matter how convoluted.
The Gold Cup had greater lustre 45 years ago, when Ferrari sent three works cars to take on Lotus, BRM , Brabham and Matra in a non-championship F1 contest, but the Historic Sports Car Club’s meeting remains a wonderful opportunity to see period cars in a complementary setting. Stand to the outside of Shell (Esso, to those of a certain age), look across the lake towards Cascades and it might be 1974. There’s little in the way of advertising, even less in the way of debris fencing.
Much of the racing is good, too – particularly during the second phase of the Derek Bell Trophy, in which Neil Glover defends beautifully in his F5000 Lola T330/332, keeping the potentially brisker F1 cars of Greg Thornton (March 761) and Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E, up from the back of the grid) at bay for longer than should have been possible. The balance of power is eventually restored and Lyons goes on to win, but the spectacle is terrific while it lasts.
Over in one of the hospitality suites, respected photographer Keith Sutton is hosting an anniversary luncheon at the circuit where he cut his teeth. It is 50 years since his father Maurice first took him to the Gold Cup – Jim Clark won for Lotus in 1963, from the BRM s of Richie Ginther and Graham Hill – so he has organised a table for dad and several of his long-standing racing friends, a chance for all to rewind the clock.
It transpires that I’m not the only one to whom this event still matters.