On the road: events not to miss in 2019by Simon Arron on 1st March 2019
It has been an unusually quiet month for Simon Arron, but that will soon change. Here are a few things he has pencilled into a somewhat fluid diary…
All photographs: Simon Arron
The headlines tend to be dominated by race meetings of high profile – the British Grand Prix, obviously (assuming it survives beyond this summer), the Isle of Man TT, MotoGP, Silverstone’s Classic, anything at Goodwood – but the world is ripe with motor sport beyond the spotlight’s glare that has the capacity to engage. There’s so much, in fact, that it is impractical to attend absolutely all of the best stuff.
February proved to be tranquil, with only the revised Race Retro rally stage on my live agenda, but with the dawn of a fresh season imminent here are a few nuggets that merit investigation.
March 9-10, Brands Hatch
’Twas long a tradition that UK racing campaigns began with the opening round of the British F3 Championship at a freezing (perhaps even snow-bound) Silverstone, but the car community has over time delayed its emergence from hibernation. Bikers, however… Three of Brands Hatch’s opening four race events cater for two and three wheels – and the first, organised by the British Motorcycle Racing Club (aka Bemsee) – is usually a blueprint for how meetings should be run: slick and efficient, with practice and 20 races on Saturday followed by another 21 on Sunday. Grids are usually packed and, if you book early, a two-day adult pass is yours for £20.
April 21, Cadwell Park
There are obvious attractions at Cadwell every year (Vintage Sports-Car Club and British Superbike Championship, to name two), but this is a little different. There could hardly be a greater contrast than that between superkarts and Citroën 2CVs – the former buzzy and energetic, the latter soft and languid – yet both seem perfectly suited to the Lincolnshire venue’s undulating contours. Some circuits have gravel in their run-off areas; Cadwell has rabbits.
April 27-28, Prescott
The opening hillclimb fixture of the season at Prescott is a qualifying round for both the British & Midland championships. Located just up the road from sleepy Gotherington, a few miles north of Cheltenham, Prescott retains its natural magnificence throughout the year. It looks especially good in spring, however, when the course is lined by a carpet of bluebells. Plus, of course, you can sit and watch cars leaving the start from the comfort of the clubhouse terrace, while feasting on a locally farmed breakfast.
May 25 & 27, Oulton Park
It has been mentioned before, but the Classic Sports Car Club is one of the success stories of national racing in the modern age, combining an open mind with a willingness to adapt. Its motto is ‘racing for cars of all ages’ and the success of its methodology can be gauged from the number of entries its meetings attract. The Bank Holiday timetabling isn’t ideal in this instance, as Oulton is limited to four racing Sundays per annum and these are absorbed by BSB (twice), BTCC and the Gold Cup, but that gives you a chance to combine two days of racing here with a trip to Chester Zoo, Tate Liverpool, the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park in Manchester… or a BARC meeting at Anglesey, featuring Legends and Citroën C1s.
June 1-2, Thruxton Motorsport Celebration
Full details have yet to be released, but this will be the first in what is planned to be an annual series of historic race meetings devised in-house. Like Goodwood, which shares its airfield perimeter origins, Thruxton suits historic racing because its brisk sweeps highlight the elegant body language of cars with old-fashioned quirks (suspension movement, for instance). The downside is that the meeting clashes with American SpeedFest VII, Brands Hatch’s increasingly popular US showpiece – a family day out with motor racing, including the marvellously loud NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, at its core.
July 13-14, Anglesey
The Historic Sports Car Club flits all around the country, but this heralds its first visit to the challenging – and photogenic – circuit. It isn’t the most easily accessible of venues unless you live in North Wales, but when you arrive you’ll appreciate that every second on the road was well spent. The meeting features two stand-alone Formula Atlantic races… and the F5000 cars in the XL Aurora Trophy might well be audible from Dublin.
July 27-28, Lydden Hill
The World Rallycross Championship felt it had outgrown Lydden’s compact charms… but has lost most of its star turns since decamping to Silverstone. This branch of rallycross’s spiritual home, Lydden returns to the international fold this season with the arrival of Global Rallycross Europe, which has risen from the ashes of a similarly named – but presently defunct – US-based series. Spectators can get close to everything, including the track, and a naturally amphitheatrical setting means most of the action can be seen from almost wherever you stand.
August 4, Darley Moor
Not exactly a household name in the motor sport pantheon, but worth taking the trouble to find (not difficult, as it’s adjacent to the A515, about four miles south of Ashbourne, Derbyshire). It offers a proper flavour of how racing used to be, with spectator galleries close to the circuit’s perimeter, little in the way of debris mesh and an old-school paddock diner. It’s primarily a motorcycle track, though karts also feature. It’s a tough call on a weekend such as this, mind, with the clashing Retro & Classic Weekend (formerly Croft Nostalgia) in North Yorkshire and VSCC Prescott in the Cotswolds. For other under-the-radar mainland bike tracks, see also Aberdare Park, Aintree and East Fortune…
August 17-18, Mondello Park
A blend of bygones on two and four wheels, including the Historic Racing Car Association’s Pre ’55 series, Future Classics and Minis, plus a Formula 1 demonstration. And you can fly from the UK mainland to Dublin for about the price of a tank of fuel, or perhaps slightly less…
August 25-27, Oulton Park Gold Cup
No, it doesn’t have the lustre it did when the Gold Cup was contested by such as Moss, Clark, Brabham or Surtees, but this is still an event: three days of parkland nostalgia, with The Red Lion a five-minute stroll from the Lodge Corner gate if you feel the urge to nip away for a pub lunch washed down with a pint of Robinsons bitter (a well-known Stockport delicacy).
September 1, Knockhill
One day, 16 races: the Scottish Motor Racing Club proves that it’s possible to run a car meeting with the same kind of vim that comes naturally to motorcycling counterparts. It is also something of a novelty. BTCC aficionados will be accustomed to watching touring cars race clockwise around the Fife track; this meeting will be only the third at which the SMRC has run races in the opposite direction…
October 26-27, Donington Park
Another Classic Sports Car Club beano, with the added attraction of racing into the night. And whether it’s at Le Mans, Sebring, Daytona or beneath the flight path at East Midlands Airport, competitive twilight is always something to savour.
November 2-3, Silverstone
The Walter Hayes Trophy is the best meeting of the year at Silverstone, bar none. It has the spirit of peak-era Formula Ford Festivals, with (usually) about 120 entries, six heats, a fantastic atmosphere and even better racing. On top of which, the organising HSCC throws in a couple of old-style anything-goes races, so you encounter Triumph Dolomite Sprints sharing the track with Le Mans prototypes. Which is just as it should be.
December 26, Mallory Park
You could spend the morning queuing outside Next, to save £15 on a pullover… but the Plum Pudding meeting is a superior option. What else could you possibly want to do on Boxing Day?