If you struggle to get in to see some of the bigger classic car race events then it might be time to see what a circuit local to you has to offer at a fraction of the entrance fee, like for instance the 2013 Castle Combe Autumn Classic.
Launched last year in 2012 the Castle Combe Autumn Classic got off to a terrific start and yet this year there were more classic cars on display, fuller grids and bigger crowds, even the sun shone brighter. The racing was something else to behold and the International Big Healey Challenge in particular was simply sublime, 45minutes of wheel to wheel action more on which later. Our role from an early and misty 7:30am start was to meet and greet the 38 or so cars that had responded to Bristol Motor Club’s call to fill their ‘Essence of Dyrham’ display. A tribute to the events held up until the 1960s at the now National Trust property located on the A46 near Bath (UK).
Bristol Motor Club filled the space allocated to them at the Castle Combe Autumn Classic with cars that either competed or at least were around when the famous Hillclimb took place. There were Jaguars, MGs, Turners, Austin Healeys, Aston Martins, Morgan 3 and 4 wheelers, Triumphs, Singers and even two 1950s Jap 500 single seat racing cars. An eclectic mix indeed and all destined to enjoy a parade lap or three during the lunchtime break. For one owner and car, Bill Woodhouse, accompanied by his wife Ann and their Tornado Talisman, this was made even more special because it marked fifty years since Bill raced a Tornado Talisman at Castle Combe circuit. His only comment afterwards was that the track seemed to be much smoother these days:
Talking to Bill revealed that is was perhaps no surprise he either raced or indeed had one of these rare beasties today with just 80 remaining, most as project cars. Because Bill was founder of Tornado Cars Ltd and designer of the Talisman no less. A pretty coupe style body attached to a dual rail chassis with an early Cosworth sourced 3 bearing crank Ford pre-cross-flow engine located up front. When Colin Chapman was ordering engines in one or two’s from Keith Duckworth, Bill ordered a tidy one hundred for his initial production run of cars. In the accompanying video we join Bill during the parade lap on board his Tornado Talisman, a car donated to him by the Tornado Owners Club. Bill was a terrific person to talk to and has since shared tales of his time at Aston Martin Lagonda looking after the gadget filled DB5 used in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Apparently the development team responsible took the brief literally and made the rear bullet proof screen actually bullet proof leaving the car very heavy and unsuitable for high speed filming.
Also on display at this increasingly significant event were the Austin Healey Owners Club (UK), Jaguar Enthusiasts Club (JEC) who proudly sported a modern day F-Type, Classic Car Weekly and Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC), all with real gems from members and guests. Delights were not limited to official displays either and when walking through the public car park we enjoyed an impromptu conversation with an enthusiastic Porsche 993 owner whose totally mint 135,000 miler still put a smile on his face every single day. You cannot beat the passion of people who love their classic cars can you?
Located on the Bristol Motor Club stand between Tower and Camp corners meant viewing the racing between a sea of classics, a view every bit as good as one enjoyed at the Silverstone Classic for instance. Whilst venturing into the paddock we saw mechanics in white overalls with others wearing period outfits, was the Castle Combe Autumn Classic starting to look like an early Goodwood Revival meeting? Which when you consider the £15.00 entrance fee (£10.00 for over 65s) with entrance possible on the day really makes you think doesn’t it. The racing was superb, and although not the only show in town the International Big Healey Challenge an absolute corker.
Names synonymous with the 3000 like Chatham were joined on the grid by professionals like Dan Cox and Nigel Greensall and for 45minutes the action was relentless, wheel to wheel flag to finish including driver changes at the mid-point. In Dan Cox’s case that meant driving one car to the mid-point and a second from the driver change to finish an impressive second overall no less. I didn’t even know that was possible to do, but clearly it is. A collision towards the end of the second stint forced a safety car that bunched the group for a sprint finish to the line and in the end the International Big Healey Challenge finished as; Grace/ Schildt (44:03), Chatham/ Cox (44:13), Clarkson/ Williams (44:14), Karsten Le Blanc (44:24), Hunt/ Blakeney-Edwards (44:38), Nyblaeus/ Greensall (44:41), Thorne/ Todd (44:42), Chiles C & C Jnr (44:50), Parry-Williams (44:20), Tom Walker (44:21).
Anyone who thinks they can drive fast might need to wake up and smell the coffee. OK sliding a lively front engine rear wheel drive on the exit of every slow in fast out corner might be within your abilities, but deliberately putting the car sideways whilst entering the fastest turn at Castle Combe, Camp Corner, and in the dry, absolutely priceless to see and only surely doable by very few:
With an atmosphere that was electric, range of cars on display eclectic and racing Scalelextric the Castle Combe Autumn Classic is definitely an event to look out for next year and beyond.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Proud
As a favourite meal: Sausage bap late morning did the trick from one of the many outlets found at Castle Combe circuit on any race day.
Anything Else: Privileged to be part of an event that is accessible whilst so many now are not and one that still delivered in terms of the cars on display and racing played out on track.
Key Ingredients: Open and friendly, low entrance fee and superb cars on display with Bristol Motor Club, Austin Healey Owners Club and Jaguar Enthusiasts Club (JEC) all standing out combined of course with a backdrop of top racing from some top drivers. On a sunny day you cannot beat it, quite superb.
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