The Silverstone Classic is an event on a massive scale where instead of the usual two or three examples of a particular marque provides whole sections of paddock dedicated to cars like the E-Type, Jaguar XK, classic Aston Martins and Porsche 911 all while exciting wheel to wheel action plays out on-track.
2013 was our first year attending and boy is it big. Even the walk in from the car park is on a scale bigger than most and when you do get a glimpse of the first stands you cannot help but be impressed. Lancia Stratos rally cars sat next to Chevrolet Corvette’s and triumph TR’s near to a very long line of TVR’s located by the entrance, which involves crossing the old Bridge Corner Bridge, sadly no longer part of the modern circuit. In fact at the Classic that section of track had been turned into a make-shift drag strip for demonstration runs and motorcycle stunt displays. We arrived at 9:00am sharp on the Saturday and the racing was already underway in the form of Historic Formula Juniors which were clearly allowed to run with absolutely no silencing whatsoever.
A feature of this event is that the races continue all the way through the day and into the evening with competing cars located at both the original (national) paddock area and new international (F1) ‘Wing’ building which also houses Silverstone Auctions. We did walk between the two, which was quite tough in the heat of the day, but thankfully had the sense to hitch a lift on one of the complementary buses on the way back. On the racing front our main interest was the ‘Under 2.0 litre Touring Cars’ which was made up of a very large grid of Lotus Cortina MK1’s, Mini Copper S’s and BMW’s.
Walking through the assembled cars we got chatting to a few entrants including engine builder and recent convert to racing Neil Brown who in the end fought hard in his Fortec Racing Cortina to finish 8th having started 17th on the grid. Neil also did both stints of the 50mins endurance race himself which is why on the video you will see him get out and run around the car once before being strapped back in. Other series on the day had the sense to use a mandatory minimum 1 minute stop allowing solo drivers to stay seated and safely strapped in, which has got to be far more sensible and possibly for Neil much more suitable as he admitted himself that was the slowest part of his race often costing him time and places.
In the crowd was a very well looking and equally well presented Sir Jackie Stewart which is always nice to see, as was the fact he was largely being left alone and not mobbed. The Touring Car grid must have taken him back to his Lotus Cortina days with Alan Mann and fittingly there were a few of the red cars present. Marshalled purely for safety it was amazing to be in pit garages one minute watching mechanics at work or mid-stint driver changes and then strolling amongst a new grid of cars being assembled the next.
From the national paddock area it was a short walk to watch cars navigate Copse Corner where one parking area was dedicated to Jaguar XK’s, plus one F-Type, and the next E-Types. Walk further away from this section of the event and you find a whole area of Aston’s, including the new One-77 and original James Bond DB5, another of Morgan’s and a very large third for 911’s. This really was filling your boots time, like being at a large beer or sausage festival for classic car enthusiasts.
Such is the size of this event it was a surprise to find a relatively small ‘Village’ of stores selling model cars, tools, accessories, T-Shirts and art as well as specialised services. Included was a guitar workshop housed in a tent resembling a Tee-Pee as an alternative for any wan-a-bee rock stars which was certainly busy when we walked past. Although you’d have to say overall it was nothing on the scale you might imagine for ‘The World’s Biggest Classic Motoring Racing Festival’.
Across in the ‘Wing’ was Silverstone Auctions impressive display of cars and we watched with interest as an immaculate Porsche 912 went for more than its estimate at £23,575 to a very happy new lady owner, and a really well prepared MK1 Escort RS1600 replica that included a genuine BDA no less just cleared its reserve at £17,250 representing a lot of car for the money. All while the racing continued on the circuit underneath us, accessible via a viewing area above the new narrow looking pit lane, confirming that Formula 1 cars really are much smaller than you think.
The Silverstone Classic is for anyone who literally wants to enjoy not just one, but one hundred E-Type’s or as was expected on Sunday nine hundred and eleven 911’s all while historic racing continuously plays out on track in the background. The circuit may not have the romantic feel of Goodwood but it does have the space and facilities to accommodate a lot of classic cars whether competing or simply on show and so definitely comes highly recommended.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Full
As a favourite meal: Sausage and egg bap on arrival and Chinese noodles for lunch, our new festival favourite
Anything Else: Just the size and scale of it really, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of classic cars.
Key Ingredients: Large circuit facilities that can easily swallow an event like this, continuous racing action and most importantly lots and lots of lovely cars.
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It`s almost impossible to convey just how awe-inspiring the Silverstone Classic event is as you`re confronted by owners club gatherings of literally hundreds of examples of each of the most famous marques in automotive history – Morgan, Aston Martin, Porsche, Mercedes and Jaguar to name but a few, plus representative examples of just about every other car manufacturer and model you could name – Panther Solo, anyone?
With celebrations this year for Aston Martin`s centenary and 50 years of the Porsche 911, the sheer numbers of each marque present was staggering, with over 1200 911`s taking to the track for a record breaking parade lap and over 350 Astons of all types also making their way to the Northampton Circuit.
The scale of the event is just mind blowing but certainly warranted the large amount of walking around we did as we made our way through the numerous club gatherings, the retail village and pit and garage areas as we filmed and photo`d for the website, all to the accompaniment of the most glorious of background soundtracks as the various races proceeded.
The long, hot and somewhat gravelly walk to the other side of the circuit to the new ‘Wing’ building for the Silverstone Auction was definitely worth the discomfort and although not all lots met their reserves, with an overall sale value of just over £2m some healthy prices were certainly being realised, which included a shell of a Mini that had been abandoned in a tunnel under the Longbridge Factory back in the 70`s fetching just over £1,600 for something that looked as if it had spent its life as a target for military heavy weapons practice!
My personal Auction favourites were a 1960`s ‘Day Of The Jackal’ Alfa Romeo Giulietta and a truly pristine Jaguar XK150 S Roadster that had a mere 580 miles on the clock – ‘Dear Lord, about that lottery win…’
Finishing up late afternoon, post-noodles and relaxing in the blistering sunshine on a grass bank near Stowe Corner as GT40`s, Lola T70`s, Corvettes, 911`s et all thundered past during their race provided the perfect Le Mans style end to our Silverstone Classic visit and we missed the torrential downpour that was to hit the circuit later in the day by just a hour or so, perfect!