There were more than 200 cars entered – everything from a ‘stretched’ Nissan Micra to a Vauxhall Victor FE estate via what might once have been a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. The final call for pre-race scrutineering came while some cars were still on the final approach through the Oxfordshire lanes, a laidback approach that contrasts markedly with the good-natured violence on the horizon.
Short-oval racing isn’t everybody’s cuppa, but it provides a fine education in the art of car control and provides a wonderful accompaniment to a warming flask of Heinz Cream of Tomato.
It was part of a January double-header that also embraced the third episode in Lydden Hill’s four-part Winter Rallycross Revival. The entry was significantly down on the previous event, not that this diluted the competitive intensity, but the meeting as a whole was enlivened by the supporting presence of the Rolling Thunder Show, which has moved to Lydden’s short oval since Arena Essex followed Wimbledon Stadium into oblivion.
This was another welcome throwback, the first time I’d seen this bit of Lydden in use since the motor sport festivals of the mid 1970s, when car racing shared the bill with karts, rallycross and bangers – a long-extinct cocktail, sadly.
It was a pleasing, gentle warm-up to the full racing season’s dawn. Or so I’d imagined…
British Motorcycle Racing Club
Brands Hatch, March 7
Time’s passage makes no difference. When first I began watching circuit racing regularly in the early 1970s, there was always a special feeling when it stirred from hibernation in early March – and almost 50 years later that same buzz persists.
The opening British Motorcycle Racing Club (Bemsee) fixture of the campaign always attracts a colossal entry, is always slick (41 races over two days) and invariably generates good racing. It’s a timely reminder of why ours is a sport worth loving.
In this instance, it also felt a welcome refuge from the growing hysteria affecting every Tesco in the land (other supermarkets also available). Had this been 1586, and Walter Raleigh had freshly returned from his travels with crates of new-fangled hand gel, I could perhaps have understood the fuss: “Forsooth! This should keep yonder pestilence at bay. Gadzooks!”
But this is supposed to be the modern world. Did people not wash their hands or wipe their backsides before? Sorry, I digress…
Conditions are irreversibly chilly and the haze from a swarm of MZs and small-capacity two-strokes creates only a false sense of momentary warmth, but the poise, grace and commitment of all participants swiftly diverts the senses – particularly when a 27-strong field of sidecars peels from the paddock.
Never have I admired a group of racers so much, nor wanted to emulate them less.
Winter Series Rallycross
Lydden Hill, March 14
Setting aside the evolving viral crisis, with bumbling ministers confirming that they intended to mandate postponement of sporting fixtures that had already postponed themselves, conditions could hardly have been worse as Lydden’s welcome seasonal rallycross initiative drew to its conclusion.