2013 Bristol Motor Club Grand Marques Day

Fitting don’t you think that on the weekend of 2013 Le Mans I was sat inside a quite superb GT40 Replica, courtesy of Dave Hensley, and about to go out on track. Admittedly things were a little less La Sarthe and more Laycock as we were much nearer to home in Wiltshire (UK) at Castle Combe Circuit attending Bristol Motor Club’s still impressive Grand Marques family day.

The location of this event is important because despite being a non-race day Sunday Bristol MC had negotiated access to the track for anyone displaying their classic to take part in any number of parade lap sessions for just £10.00. Absolute bargain. The circuit officials set the pace and as gaps appeared in the line of traffic three figures was possible, especially if like us you were at the front of the queue. Dave’s GT40 replica is something to behold and despite not being the genuine article has all the right ingredients; large mid-mounted V8, indistinguishable GT40 shape, mechanical gear-change, door mounted lever, wide dashboard, curvy front wheel arches and a noise to die for.

“The inspiration for this year’s event was very personal: I’ve been in love with the GT40 ever since it first appeared, and I was at Le Mans every year through the middle to late 60s, and witnessed the rise of the marque to its memorable victory in ’66 – and beyond. So when looking for a theme for the Family Day in my last year at the helm, the GT40’s anniversary seemed like it was tailor-made for it…” Allen Harris – Chairman Bristol Motor Club

View from Dave Hensley's GT40 Replica
View from Dave Hensley’s GT40 Replica

Sat waiting for the track session to begin gave a sense of claustrophobia and nostalgia in equal measures. Inside the cockpit things are very tight, although thankfully it was possible to fully extend both legs into the narrowing footwell. Looking forwards over the classically styled dashboard provided a tremendous sense of history, after all GT40’s took four consecutive wins at Le Mans from 1966 to 1969 and to be sat in a near identical copy at a circuit all while the 2013 24 Heures Du Mans entered its final few hours meant a lot. Then as the door closed to the side and above my head I got a distinct feeling of being trapped. Gulp.

The Cobra Rep's present were of a very high standard
The Cobra Rep’s present were of a very high standard

In total 300 cars turned up to Bristol Motor Club’s now annual event, impressive don’t you think, with most taking advantage of the parade laps. Wandering around was a reminder of marques like Turner that you rarely see outside of events like this, and others such as Morgan Cars who have been producing the same or very similar automotive products for 100 years now. Odd how some manufacturers continue to survive and thrive today, whilst others only just hang on to any existence at all because of the passion and dedication of enthusiastic owners and their respective clubs. On display were some particularly nice examples of iconic cars such as; David Franklyn’s mint Shelby Mustang GT 350 presented in dark green, a fine selection of AC Cobra Replica’s and a lime green Dodge Challenger that although looked larger than life was in reality only wider than the similar length MKII Escort it was sat next to.

Lime green Dodge Challenger stood out
Lime green Dodge Challenger really stood out

Our man Chris ‘Scrutineering’ Dymock provided the commentary and paddock announcements which gave an open and friendly style to the whole event, one that was designed to show the very existence of Bristol Motor Club (BMC) to a wider, non-motorsports, audience. A real challenge when you’re a niche club working hard to let other people with an interest in cars discover the benefits of becoming a member. This event is definitely one way of going about it, especially when located at the circuit where the club holds most of it events.

The parade laps were a terrific idea to turn what would otherwise be a static display into something a bit different. Cars are supposed to be driven after all, classic or otherwise and to see such a wide mix being piloted around the circuit at varying speeds was quite superb. We also really enjoyed our time sat in with Dave’s GT40 replica listening to the mighty V8 as it made easy pray out of the still relatively quickly driven pace car.

Superb Shelby Mustang GT350
David Franklyn’s mint Shelby Mustang GT350

Look out for this event next year as it is a great combination of static displays and on-track parades. Enter a car yourself and you automatically get the chance to take it out on this famous circuit and sample some truly excellent tarmac at a faster pace than you first imagine.

More from the Grand Marques Day:

How does this event make you feel?

In one word: Impressed (Seriously)

As a favourite meal: Chicken burger and chips sat down in the Tavern Bar and Restaurant. Very civilised.

Anything Else: Bristol Motor Club might be onto something here; a static display combined with live track sessions in the form of ‘spirited’ parade laps.

Key Ingredients: Free to attend and free to display, whilst parade laps were only £10.00 for as many goes as you wanted to take part in. Of course the chance to sit in a GT40 Replica for one of the 3 lap sessions; absolutely priceless. Thanks Dave.


With thanks to Bristol Motor Club and Dave Hensley (GT40)


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