VSCC Prescott, August 3-4: a superior strain of antiques roadshow
Warning: traffic queues ahead…” It’s a sign of the kind you associate with the M6 rather than a Gloucestershire lane, but pastoral landscapes can be deceptive and local meadows – temporarily converted into parking lots – will soon be packed.
VSCC Prescott is a perennially effective magnet. The paddock atmosphere is irresistible, the scent of Castrol R permeating as drivers wander around asking rivals whether they have such and such a spanner they might use. It’s a gathering of the world’s largest toolkit, albeit spread across several fields. Anyone seems able to borrow anything from anywhere, though, so it works.
Some marshals scurry around asking folk to refrain from smoking in the paddock, where fuel canisters are potentially within range of a flicked butt. It’s a far cry from the assembled cars’ heyday, when mechanics would have a cigarette on the go (and, conceivably, a pint nearby) as they tweaked carburettors.
The no-smoking rule doesn’t extend to the machinery – and at a VSCC event that’s just as well. Some spectators are of similar age to the cars, but have grandchildren (or, possibly, great-grandchildren) in tow. It’s the very definition of trans-generational appeal.
A few metres from the paddock’s central clatter, the Prescott clubhouse serves fine cooked food – £6.50 for chicken curry, washed down with a mint-chocolate cone from the ice-cream van just outside. The following morning I pay £5 for fried breakfast plus a cuppa, with no extra charge for terrace views across the Cotswolds. It’s not quite as homely as the Mallory Park café, but the Leicestershire track’s perceived culinary supremacy is henceforth open to debate.
Saturday’s practice runs take place in glorious weather – cars, venue and climate all wholly complementary – and Sunday begins brightly, too. I reach the parking area before security is in place and drive straight in, but am stopped somewhat promptly. “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but only pre-war cars are allowed in here today.” A 54-plate Fiat Punto doesn’t qualify apparently, but as a reward for being early I’m surreptitiously siphoned into the officials’ designated area, within an easy stroll of the paddock.
I’m also close to the Aston Martin centenary display, between the start straight and the sprawling trade village, wherein wonderful old books and photographs vie for custom with immaculately preserved Corgi Toys and slightly faded copies of Motor Sport. The star exhibits are soon lining up to take their place: it’s rare to see a traffic jam comprising nothing but 1930s Astons.
Breakfast is not long digested when rain sets in, but low cloud does little to dilute Prescott’s appeal. Sunshine cedes to misty splendour and cars remain just as beguiling to behold. Many drivers persist with bold doses of throttle through Semi-Circle, the final right-hander that has an earth bank on one side and a steep, grassy descent on theother. Mac Hulbert sets the day’s briskest time – 43.78sec – in ERA R4D, with Robin Baker (Hispano Amilcar Special, 45.15sec) and Brian White (Frazer Nash TT replica, 45.71sec) next up. In Class 14 (for pre-1941 racing cars of 1101-1500cc), runner-up Charlie Martin merits special mention. His Morgan Special might just be history’s most perpetually sideways racing car.
Early on Sunday afternoon, with the 250-plus field embarking upon their fourth and final runs of the weekend, I opt to take my leave. Pandemonium occupies all lanes of the M25 and much of London is closed for a cycle race, so traversal won’t be the work of a moment.
As I head down the hill towards Gotherington, a few stragglers are still queuing to get in.