Damien Smith's Off the line


It was raining. Hard. I’d squelched up through the woods to Dingle Dell and was waiting for the cars to arrive, resigned to the fact that I couldn’t really get any wetter. Strangely, it occurred to me that I couldn’t be happier. Perverse, but you understand, don’t you?

The thing is, Brands Hatch has always been my local circuit, a home from home. So when there’s a rare meeting for ‘proper’ cars on the mini-Nordschleife Grand Prix circuit, I’ve just got to make the most of it – come rain or shine.

With no tannoys on this far side of the track I could only listen for the growl of racing engines to tell me that the practice sessions had started. I didn’t exactly have to strain to hear them – not with 19 Formula 5000s heading my way. The Derek Bell Trophy, proudly sponsored by this magazine, had attracted perhaps the best grid of these 1970s monsters ever seen – at least until the following weekend… With a field bolstered by Formula Two and Atlantic cars, it was clear that I was in for a treat.

The cars, including nine gems shipped over specially from New Zealand, began splashing their way through the fast right-hander. As ever, driving abilities varied wildly, but the quick boys hammered past, glorious rooster tails hanging in their wake. Brave, I thought, even though Simon Hadfield had told me earlier that driving these brutes in the wet isn’t so bad thanks to the width of the bulbous rear tyres.

Happily, conditions dried out for racing and as usual the HSCC’s Superprix brought a fantastic display of action – all but a couple of races were decided on the last lap. A pity the crowd was so thin, but perhaps the weather was a factor in that.

The very next weekend the F5000s, the Group C cars and the rest turned out again, this time with both the Thoroughbred Grand Prix and Grand Prix Masters series, for the first Silverstone Classic meeting. Around 30,000 turned out over the two days to herald the arrival of this new festival of historic racing. The BRDC has a worthy successor to the Coys Festivals of the 1990s on its hands, although as Simon Taylor points out on page 109, there is room for improvement.

Now our attention turns to the Goodwood Revival, the meeting by which all are judged. In our preview issue we have focussed on the rich heritage of the Glover Trophy Formula One races. The 1.5 litre formula may not have been popular with drivers, but it sure entertained, and continues to do so in historic form. I watched last year’s Glover at St Mary’s. I suggest you do the same this time – whatever the weather.