Silverstone Classic, July 26-27: a neophyte embraces Britain’s biggest bygone beano
A minor landmark, this, for never before had I been able to attend the Silverstone Classic. Formula 1 has traditionally kept me away – usually Germany, but this time it was Hungary that clashed and for the first time since 1997 I would not be on duty in Budapest. Thus was I drawn towards Dadford rather than the Danube.
In recent years visitors have talked about Silverstone’s twin paddocks causing logistical headaches, but arrangements seemed suitably streamlined: you need ample space when you have 24 scheduled races, average grid sizes of 40-plus and more than 1000 racing cars to accommodate. And among that four-figure assembly there is little but elegance. As with any historic meeting, there are some driverswho intend simply to savour the moment… and others whose greater ambition is artfully conveyed by their cars’ body language.
It’s tricky to pinpoint highlights. One or two entries fail to materialise for the FIA Masters Historic F1 race, but there are still 33 drivers on the grid – seven more than were licensed to start at Silverstone in period. And while 1960s saloons are ever beguiling, there is something particularly delicious about the sight of Mini drivers – not least Nick Swift and Rob Huff – giving assorted American V8s a hard time at a ‘power’ circuit.
Car club displays and fairground carousels add a splash of welcome colour to Silverstone’s customarily scaffold-grey backdrop, but the overriding memory is this: every time the assembly area gates opened, they dispensed a field that stretched beyond your wildest hopes.