Cholmondeley gets serious

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A display of rare racers from Tom Wheatcroft’s estate added quality and depth to the Pageant of Power line-up

For its third edition, the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power stepped up a gear as the appearance of some significant and rare racing cars gave the event genuine sporting significance.

The presence of a dozen of Tom Wheatcroft’s favourite cars in a special tribute really added quality and drama to the two-day speed event in the grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire. The sight and sound of some of the finest Grand Prix cars of the 1930s through to the ’60s thrilled the major crowd, none more so than the first public run of the rear-engined Vanwall for 49 years.

“It has only run in private at Donington with Tom,” said Rick Hall of Vanwall VW14. The car’s sole race was at the 1961 Silverstone International Trophy in the hands of John Surtees, so here was a remarkable opportunity to see it running with Kevin Wheatcroft, son of Tom, at the wheel.

“These were Tom’s favourite cars,” said Hall, for 30 years the man charged with tending Tom’s toys, as he surveyed a line-up that included the V16 BRM, Maserati 8CM, Thinwall Special, Alfa Romeo P3, Vanwall Streamliner and Ferrari 500/625. Rick’s son Rob wowed the fans with some runs in the stunning Auto Union D-Type of Abba Kogan, another car tended by the Hall family operation.

On Saturday morning, Rick Hall was left speechless when presented with the Tom Wheatcroft Trophy, the annual award given to an individual sharing Tom’s love of the sport. The unassuming engineer followed on from Sir Stirling Moss, Bernie Ecclestone, Murray Walker and Motor Sport’s Founder Editor Bill Boddy in receiving the accolade.

The Wheatcroft cars alone made the Pageant of Power a runaway success, but there was much to see on track as well as powerboats on the estate mere and helicopters in the sky above.

Two more stars of the show were outrageous aero-engined monsters making their public debuts. Running for the first time after a seven-year gestation period was the latest creation from the seriously intrepid Chris Williams, a 42-litre Packard Bentley special called ‘Mavis’. From the Sinsheim collection in Germany came ‘Brutus’, the 46.5-litre BMW aero-engined device based around a 1907 La France chassis. Both thrilled on and off the track, and Williams also ran his now seemingly modest 24-litre Napier Bentley with typical gusto.

The Lamborghini Gallardo of Nick Faulkner topped the serious competition, but the chasing pack featured some truly attacking drives including those of Nigel Bancroft (Cooper T51) and Crispin Harris (Lister Jaguar), while Joe Ward had ‘Baby Bertha’ nicely wound up as he chased Jan Van Nierop’s Audi 80 in the touring car class.

Year by year, the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power gets better and better, but the 2010 edition is going to take some beating.

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