Many race circuits around the UK have a classic meeting in their calendars but not many combine it with a full military display, aerobatics and even a Vulcan bomber fly by, introducing the 2015 Croft Nostalgia weekend.
There Friday to Sunday as part of our HSCC 70s campaign efforts I travelled solo for a full six hours covering 260miles to reach Croft-on-Tees on 7 August. Even on the Friday there were scores of khaki green vehicles arriving, including a tank under escort, something you don’t see every day. The part of the paddock where we were located combined with the military displays and also backed onto the circuit’s own airfield, which hidden from our spot by the temporary toilet block came as quite a surprise when the first light aircraft landed apparently just a few metres away. What the…
If quiet on the Friday, well basically just people setting up, the public arrived on mass Saturday before filling the venue Sunday. The Friday was also test day and once that had finished there was an opportunity to walk or cycle around the track. I chose the latter which when combined with knowledge gained on YouTube meant I had a pretty decent idea of the circuit layout well before a time had to be set. I might do that again, highly recommended.
Elsewhere there was a mix of more paddock areas as well as car club displays with Imp, Jaguar, Jowett, Mini, Triumph, and Vauxhall nicely represented. The car clubs taking part in parade laps on the Sunday morning in between qualifying sessions. People were also encouraged to dress up in period costumes which many did wondering around, pretty girls in pretty dresses as well as members of the armed forces sporting most commonly Royal Airforce blue. Behind the main paddock was a large white marquee open to anyone and serving tea and cakes accompanied by songs from the war being sung live which provided a terrific and truly atmospheric combination, especially with all the classic cars parked immediately outside.
The North East of the UK has a justifiable reputation for friendliness and that really stood out and counted for much having travelled up to the 2015 Croft Nostalgia weekend on my own. Once established conversations ensued not only with fellow competitors but also members of the public, some of whom owned or had owned TVR 3000Ms. Then there was the team who serviced the nearby loos who always stopped for a quick chat, in fact safe to say I never felt alone once, and at times even struggled to make it from toolbox to car often forgetting what I was doing when I got there, oh yes I remember; bleeding the brakes.
The same could be said for nearby Halnaby Hall where I stayed, looked after by Rosie Lister and her family. Once we’d overcame some initial confusion on my booking, which was very quickly and jovially resolved and included an offer to help finish off their dinner by way of compensation. Great breakfast incidentally and the dinner, well let’s just call it 10/10. Rosie’s daughter Vickie and partner Chris Wightman also attended thee 2015 Croft Nostalgia on the Saturday and were kind enough to video and photograph my efforts in the HSCC 70s. In fact I have to say and I know I am doing so right now; you couldn’t write it, the welcome was that warm.
If you’ve never driven Croft then you must. The circuit is a maze of tight and technical bends with some straight bits thrown in for good measure. Due I suspect in part to poor preparation but also a result of the continuous cycle of hard acceleration, up two gears, hard braking back down one or two lap after lap. This was the first outing where I’ve seen engine temps climb too high, brake fluid boil and the fuel tank run dry. Normally only one of those shows its ugly head and up until now the brakes have been fine.
The racing itself was great, especially after qualifying which was very busy being shared with Historic Roadsports, when following a half decent start and some early battles I ended up duelling with Jon Wagstaff once again in his Alfa Romeo GTV. I even managed to get the upper hand this time right up until literally crossing the line when the TVR said in a series of coughs and splutters, sorry too much air in the fuel as Jon sailed past. Doh!
Cover shot: Chris Wightman and Vickie Lister.
Unfortunately cantering the tank even further meant it ran poorly virtually the whole race on Sunday, despite creating a nice trough in its otherwise flat alloy bottom both pumps were left with no head of fuel. Investigations will have to follow, but priority must be to raise the tank up and add a swirl pot underneath to feed the pumps and ensure a continuous supply of petrol. The high engine temps I’m sure are just due to low coolant levels which are tricky to check on our car. Brake fluid will be replaced with AP600, a paddock recommendation and all in all the continuous learning cycle continued as steep as ever at the 2015 Croft Nostalgia weekend.
Sunday also included our first impromptu trip into a cornfield; the first excursion this year was at the BMC Hullavington sprint in May, but that was freshly mown grass, totally different. Having managed to get past Neil Brown in his Lotus Eclat we were making ground quickly to catch up with the next five cars bunched tightly together providing some potential rich pickings. Things were looking good when on the exit of Tower Bend Peter Richards in his Clan Crusader span to end up bang in the middle of our planned trajectory. Two choices; inside or out. I played safe and headed off into the field, the result of which put me back behind Neil once again taking a few laps to catch and eventually pass the Eclat and ultimately where we finished up. Oh 2015 Croft Nostalgia, what could have been?
Interesting, and perhaps a good indication of what the Croft circuit is all about, is that in both the HSCC 70s and Historic Roadsports the winning car was a Lotus Elan, being small light and nimble. Julian Barter in our 70s race and Peter Shaw in his second race later on in the Historics, Peter himself being squeezed down to 4th driving his own TVR Tuscan in the first of those.
2015 Croft Nostalgia weekend combines military and classic car nostalgia with excellent racing viewed from well placed grassy banks and seating areas interspersed with people wearing period dress and the occasional Vulcan Bomber overhead.
How does this event make you feel?
In one word: Fulfilled.
As a favourite meal: Rosie Lister’s roast dinner on Friday was very nice although arguably the pie and chips on Saturday more fitting don’t you think?
Anything else: Don’t be overly disappointed if you can’t get tickets for say CarFest or Goodwood, instead keep an eye out for what your local circuit can offer because the 2015 Croft Nostalgia weekend had the lot.
Key ingredients: Decent grids, great viewing areas, the sunny weather, military displays, classic car parades, atmospheric tea room and oh so friendly people.
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