Two years after launch in 2012 I’m pleased to report that the 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic held Sunday 5 October delivered on many levels from the racing to the, new for this year, club stands to position itself a notch or two higher on that all important must see calendar of events. A relatively modest entrance fee of just £15.00 (£10.00 for over 60s) plus two for one deals online also aimed to get people through the gate, it worked; I’ve not seen the circuit as busy on a race day in years.
Wearing my Bristol Motor Club Chairman’s hat, well actually a neighbour’s flat cap to go with eBay sourced sports jacket and Amazon cravat, my role was to organise the BMC’s ‘Essence of Dyrham’ array of what turned out to be 34 vintage and classic cars plus guests on the day. An opportunity to celebrate a time when the club ran Hillclimbs at nearby Dyrham Park up until the late 1960s with the cars on display and lunch time parade representing motoring and motor racing from that bygone era we all love so much.
On display were Triumphs, Turners and a Tornado, Austin-Healey Sprites to Austin-Healey 3000s, AC Ace and AC Cobra, Singer Sports to Singer Gazelle plus Jaguars, MGs, Supercharged TR2, even an immaculate Porsche 356 the owner of which benefitted from joining us on day with an invitation to take part in the lunchtime parade. Something he said made it very special as he hadn’t driven around any circuit since he stopped racing bikes a good number of years ago. Comments like that make everything worthwhile.
Our assembled group of enthusiasts arrived between 9.00am and 10.00am and duly listened to their host’s 11:00am briefing before the lunchtime parades which were scheduled to start just before mid-day. The briefing was true to its name and easily summarised as; make sure you’ve signed-on, follow the car in front once out on track, no overtaking and most importantly enjoy yourselves. I think they did and an ingenious display layout worked a treat on the way out as cars left like thread flowing from a spinning bobbin only to leave the circuit partially blocked on their return. More work on that next year taking account manoeuvring in a relative tight space, still not a bad effort for a first year at the helm.
The Bristol Motor Club pièce de résistance had to be the unveiling of David Fry’s Freikaiserwagon. Under stewardship of current owners Steve Lister and Mike Sythes; the ‘Freik’ is in the process of being rebuilt to its late 1937 specification using many original parts. The 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic was its first outing and astounded everyone, owners included; by completing one whole lap of the circuit having not been driven since its untimely demise all the way back in 1950.
In current re-built form the car is fitted with a unique v-twin 1100cc Blackburne engine that was designed and built by Robin Jackson of Brooklands fame. The ‘Freik’s’ own claim to fame though remains that it was the first mid-engine British racing car and arguably one of the most successful, the ultimate achievement being when Joe Fry set a new Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb outright record in a time of 37.35sec on 11th June 1949.
Perhaps not too surprising, considering the high quality of cars on display, crowds would fill our designated area in between races peering into open cockpits and through side windows of closed cars whilst also enjoying any work being completed on the ‘Freik’ live, or as occurred later on in the afternoon an engine fire up. Itself a complex routine of fuelling, gear selection and an electric rolling wheel start. Something witnessed by a Shelsey Walsh scrutineer interested in the quality of the rebuild before the car’s return outing in anger there next year. No need to fret as a full re-build is planned taking account of a list of improvements drawn up by Mike and Steve after the lunchtime parade. Apparently vibration is the biggest concern after a number of items managed to work loose, that and a number of fuel leaks. Still it did complete an all-important lap of Combe, so very well done both.
The 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic must be viewed by the organisers as being a major success easily able to compete with the Donington Historic and if space around the circuit was not so tight even knock on the door of the Silverstone Classic. Our display was a great place to spend a day with friendly folk and fantastic cars in all their glorious forms.
I’ve always liked Combe and as the Bristol Motor Club display and parade worked so well this event for me was a definite winner.
How does this event make you feel:
In one word: Fulfilled
As a favourite meal: Interesting array of tasty tit-bits courtesy of our man Chris.
Anything else: Brilliant bunch of people and cars assembled together. Briefing was a breeze as everyone listened carefully. Parade laps went down well.
Key ingredients: Classic motorsport, not that we saw much given other duties, cars on display, parades, the weather, in fact a glorious day.
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2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic – 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic – 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic – 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic – 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic – 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic – 2014 Castle Combe Autumn Classic
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