Lydden is by no means as muddy as it was when rallycross was born here more than half a century ago, but it is otherwise little altered – and some of the cars retain a sense of familiar antiquity, not least Simon Hart’s Haynes of Maidstone-flavoured Mk1 Escort and James Harrold’s VW Beetle, the same car his late uncle Peter raced many years ago.
At the opposite end of the evolutionary scale, British Touring Car Championship star Matt Neal and serial Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy were among those on hand to test the Ford Fiesta-bodied STARD electric rallycross car developed by former World Rally Championship driver Manfred Stohl (and eligible to race in this season’s BRX).
It is audible in terms of tyre noise and the clatter of gravel upon inner wheel arch, but the power unit was quieter than whinnying horses in an adjacent meadow (and, indeed, a couple of pheasants that were being particularly boisterous somewhere nearby).
As a bundle of kinetic energy, though, it created a wonderful spectacle as it bucked around on the loose.
A torque show, one might say.
Historic Sports Car Club
Snetterton, April 17
In truth, the racing wasn’t particularly close – one of the fiercest battles of the day was that between a buzzard and a crow, above the Wilson hairpin early in the morning – but some of the driving was of an exceptionally fine standard.
One of the most successful domestic racers in 2020, Cam Jackson started where he left off by winning all five events in which he took part – two victories apiece in Classic and Historic FF1600 (aboard Van Diemen RF80 and Winkelmann WDF2 respectively), plus one in Formula Junior (Brabham BT2). And if he happened to be out front, on his own, he’d simply start throwing the car around, because he could. Andy Smith (March 783) adopted a similar approach en route to winning the opening Classic F3 race.
Customary diversity in the HSCC’s ’70s Road Sports Championship, with Paul Tooms (Lotus Europa) and Tim Child (Alfa Romeo GTV) to the fore at Snetterton
The most interesting ‘new’ car was perhaps the ex-Beppe Gabbiani Chevron B38 of Neil Jenkins, running at the back of the Classic F3 field as he adjusted to his recent acquisition. Run by Simon Hadfield Motorsport, which was responsible for a recent restoration, it looked absolutely pristine. “Beppe apparently started the 1977 F3 season with a red B38,” Hadfield said, “but he trashed it at Monza so his dad went out and bought him this blue one. We put a picture of the car on Facebook when we finished the rebuild and he responded straight away.”
The next task, surely, is to give the Italian a run in it?
NG Road Racing Club
Brands Hatch, April 18
In recent years, it has been tradition for Brands Hatch’s racing season to commence with a volley of motorcycle meetings, but a couple of the smaller organising clubs have folded of late and Covid wiped out March 2021. Even so, the year still began on a blend of two and three wheels, courtesy of NG Road Racing and its clutch of well-supported championships.
Remember when car meetings used to be organised by such as the Peterborough Motor Club, Nottingham Sports Car Club or Mid-Cheshire Motor Racing Club? The NG in this instance stands for North Gloucestershire, though with events all over the land and more than 600 competing members it is less parochial than that might sound.
Eric Higson leads Suzuki Bandit rivals through Clearways at Brands Hatch’s first race meeting of 2021
Among the many privileges associated with a trackside tabard, one of the greatest is being able to stand to the inside of Surtees (South Bank Bend, to those of a certain age) when bikes are tearing past, the quickest riders canted over with eyes looking through you, glued firmly to some apex a few seconds in their future.
The racing varies from fiercely combative to intermittently processional, but the fusion of body language between rider and machine means bike racing can never, ever be categorised as dull.
And in the slipstream of this marvellous spectacle, it was time to dash home to catch the F1 highlights and watch live Indycar action from Birmingham (Alabama, unfortunately, rather than a revived version of the Superprix course in the West Midlands).
It’s what Sundays are for.
MG Car Club
Brands Hatch, April 24-25
Mike Williams’s effective 1.8 Metro heads the MG ZS of Morgan Short – son of veteran racer Martin – on his way to the first of two MG Cup wins at Brands Hatch
To anybody out there that thinks motor racing ‘isn’t as good as it used to be’, please reconsider. The MG Car Club might be more than 90 years old, but its events remain an energetic blend of big grids and fine racing, with a healthy dollop of suspension travel thrown in.
With the enforced cancellation of its planned Silverstone opener in March, the MGCC’s season began instead at Brands Hatch, with several of its own championships running alongside Equipe Classic Racing’s excellent and expanding portfolio.
The first morning was subject to a series of unfortunate interruptions – it didn’t help that some gearbox oil-coated Paddock Hill Bend during practice for the MG Trophy – but once the meeting got into its stride it showcased some of the very best of British club racing, with some epic tussles between such as Ford Falcon, Ford Mustang, TVR Grantura and MGB as different parts of the track played to contrasting individual strengths.
Last year’s Formula Ford Festival winner Rory Smith was out in a Turner Mk2 in the first Equipe Pre ’63 race, his effervescence perhaps matched only by that of Mike Williams, who overcame late pre-weekend engine dramas (and a quick spin at Graham Hill Bend) to take a brace of MG Cup victories in his 1.8-litre Metro.
And no, you wouldn’t have found one of those in a period Austin Rover sales brochure…