Fewer liberties were taken around the back of the circuit, where the consequences of such exuberance would require more than a damp cloth to fix. And here, well-driven GT3 cars are in their element, a broad range of silhouettes linked by a baritone bark, a sonic presence unmatched by almost anything else in the sport.
He qualified 17th for the race he started, little more than a second from pole, and sharing with Frédéric Vervisch he finished 13th and eighth. (Victories went to Ferrari F488 duo Ulysse de Pauw/Pierre-Alexandre Jean and the Mercedes of Timur Boguslavskiy/Raffaele Marciello).
Kurt Mollekens, the 1996 British F3 runner-up, is nowadays jointly responsible for running GT operations for WRT, a team that runs four Audi R8s – including the Vervisch/Rossi car. “You know,” he said, “I’m very impressed that Valentino is within about a second of the pace so quickly, especially when you consider how much experience some of the guys at the front have in these cars. He says he’s doing it for fun, but that’s not the impression you get when you watch him working with the engineers.
“It’s incredibly easy dealing with him and the time he devotes to the fans is just amazing. When he agreed to sign up for 10 races, I think it took about three phone calls to raise a full budget for the season. It must have been one of the easiest sponsorship deals in history, which tells you everything about him…”
Classic Racing Motorcycle Club
Brands Hatch, May 7
One week beforehand, the circuit had been packed to the rafters as folk flocked to watch a motorcycling legend drive an Audi. The chance to watch gifted amateurs ride legendary motorcycles appeared to be somewhat less of a magnet, but this sense of calm did nothing to dilute the event’s charm. For starters, the programme – decent value at £4 – looked like something that might have been produced when some of these bikes were new, a minor but complementary detail.
During one early practice session, for smaller bikes, the commentary team mentioned that some riders were able to extract “as much as 20bhp” from their steeds, a boast rarely heard at any circuit in the third millennium.
Sidecars of any vintage are photogenic – but some of the older ones are also prone to leaks, perhaps a corollary of running Hillman Imp engines, and period temperament inevitably leads to a few delays. This, though, is surely a barometer of authenticity.
Events such as this might not command much attention, but they bristle with commitment – and the irresistible musk of Castrol R is on its own sufficient to justify attendance.
Historic Racing Drivers Club
Mallory Park, May 15
The clock hasn’t quite turned full circle, back to the days when Britain’s competitive calendar was peppered with meetings run by such as the Mid Cheshire Motor Racing Club or Nottingham Sports Car Club, but there is an increasing tendency for smaller promoters to run their own events in conjunction with other clubs – and this was one such (the HRDC hooking up with the BRSCC)
First things first, though: a new catering team recently took charge of operations at Mallory’s Lakeside Diner, but the breakfast matches the high standard that has been set across many generations. Assorted fried fragments and a mug of tea for £7? Works for me.
The rest of the menu featured four sets of cars (HRDC Allstars, Classic Alfas, Pre ’66 Minis and Jack Sears Trophy) racing twice apiece, with a soggy afternoon succeeding a sunny morning.
“I absolutely love these meetings,” said regular campaigner and past BTCC race winner Mike Jordan, out in his unmissable orange Mini. “Later this year our team will be running a selection of cars in the Le Mans Classic, which clashes with the HRDC meeting at Lydden Hill. I’ve told the rest of the crew they can look after Le Mans; I’ll be going to Lydden…”
There was some fine, spirited action throughout the day, the highlights perhaps being the two Alfa races, in which Angelo Perfetti (2000 GTV) and Chris Snowdon (Alfetta) each took a narrow win. Perfetti clinched aggregate victory by little more than half a second after a cumulative total of 43 laps.
There was a delay of about 60 minutes after Mini drivers Will Dyrdal and Bill Sollis left the road at the Esses, inflicting significant damage to the circuit furniture (as well as both cars), but the Minis were sensational to watch through that part of the lap, the quickest drivers maintaining extraordinary momentum from an equally extraordinary variety of angles.
Appropriate to see such poetry in motion at a location Lord Byron once graced, albeit 140-odd years before it became a racetrack…
Oulton Park, May 21
The sky looked fairly clear at 4am, so the choice was obvious: one of the benefits of an 11-year-old car with a folding lid is the availability of cool, bracing weekend starts, as effective a form of ignition as several espressos, but without the downsides of caffeine.
Next stop would be Oulton Park’s warm (not necessarily true in the literal sense), welcoming embrace. The paddock might have moved on from the days when its constituent parts were rutted grass, puddles and charm, but the cars at an Equipe GTS meeting (run in conjunction with MSV Racing, similar to the HRDC model above) hark back to the days when the pecunious used vans and trailers, while others drove to the track, stuck numbers on their MGBs’ flanks, raced them and, all being well, returned home in the manner they came