Bits and Pieces

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The distinct unsilenced rumble of brute American muscle cars will be celebrated at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion on August 12-15 as Ford Motor Company presents ‘Ford in Trans Am - a 55th Anniversary’.

Created by the Sports Car Club of America in 1966, the Trans Am series initially spotlighted mostly European under-2.0-litre cars, yet it was the mighty V8s that catapulted the series into prominence. Ford led the way, capturing the over-2-litre manufacturers’ title in 1966 and 1967, led notably by Jerry Titus behind the wheel of the Shelby American Team Mustang.

George Follmer in the Ford Mustang Boss 302 leads the Plymouth Barracuda driven by Dan Gurney in the 1970 Trans Am Championship race at Laguna Seca Photo Courtesy WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

There are few race groups that captivate all audiences more than historic Trans Am with its all-American line-up and drivers who were household names in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The mantra “Win on Sunday - Sell on Monday” was more than a slogan, it was true for the carmakers of these production-based racers.

“Mustang is one of the biggest success stories in automotive history and its success began on this very racetrack in Trans Am’s early days,” said Jim Farley, Ford Motor Company CEO. “We’re so proud to return to Monterey this August to re-live a memorable chapter in our history -- some of the best racing ever witnessed -- and a significant contributor to the Mustang story.”

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 Rally organisers Rallystory have announced a unique opportunity for participants to drive two laps of the full Le Mans circuit.  A tour with no competitive element on August 15th, the official test day for the 24 hours, entrants are offered breakfast and lunch at the Panoramic restaurant in a VIP area with the best view of the start line and the Dunlop curve.  After a tour of the museum, entrants are invited to take their own cars out on the track, after which they will have a guided tour of the paddock to meet the teams and see the cars.   See www.rallystory.com for details.

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The 50th anniversary of the Times Trophy race will be the centrepiece at the Bentley Drivers Club’s 73rd annual race meeting at Silverstone, on Saturday 7 August.  The Times Trophy encounter, a Bentley scratch race incorporating a contest for pre-war cars, is the meeting’s blue riband event and will undoubtedly be the high point of an 11-race programme – the biggest in recent years.

The list of multiple Times Trophy winners down the years reads like a who’s who of the BDC’s most celebrated drivers, but in recent times, Michael Higginbotham has remained undefeated since 2017 in his imposing black Mk VI Special.  Indeed, ‘The Gadget’ itself hasn’t actually been beaten since 2016 when Michael’s father Mike Haig triumphed.

This year the competition should be hotter than ever, with a staggered start being introduced to allow the older cars a greater chance of winning against the more modern machinery.  The popular ‘garden-party’ style club meeting will also feature two races each for the Aero Racing Morgan Challenge and MGB GTV8s along with grids for FISCAR (Fifties Sports Car Racing Club), Ecurie Classic Racing, BDC Classic Challenge (incorporating the Morgan Techniques Trophy) and Allcomers scratch plus TVRCC Challenge.

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The BSH is a Berlinetta designed by François Benais and Max Saint Hilaire who combined their initials to name it.  Offered for sale as a kit or built-up car in 1970, this sports car, on a tubular frame, weighed in at just 600kg, and with running gear from the Renault 8 Gordini, R12 and R16, was very competitive in hillclimbs and rallies against the Alpine of the time.  In 1971, BSH # 2137150 took the start of the Tour de France with Le Mans and Tour de France regular driver, Segolen,  Unfortunately, it didn’t make it to the end of the rally due to an engine failure.  So, 50 years later, the driver and the car will be back to seek his revenge, this time in the event’s historic version.  On 30 August-4 September Segolen will be accompanied by Thierry Guitton to tackle the famous Tour Auto stages. 

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The international vintage automotive collectibles show, held each August as part of ‘Automobile Week’ in Monterey, California has been cancelled for what would have been its 18th year this summer, due to continuing Covid-19 governmental regulations, particularly restricting large indoor events.  What does this mean for the many other festivities during that week?

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Former American driver and current championship team owner Roger Penske will be a focal point as he attends the 2021 Goodwood Festival of Speed on 8-11 July.  Penske’s attendance comes as the event celebrates “The Maestros – Motorsport’s Great All-Rounders”, a theme consistently exemplified by Penske and his race teams.  As a driver, Penske enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic, winning in NASCAR and making it to Formula 1.  But ‘The Captain’ is perhaps best known as the leader of Team Penske, having achieved unprecedented success across a number of motorsport disciplines, including INDYCAR, NASCAR, Trans-Am, Sports Cars, Australian Supercars and Formula 1.

Goodwood will assemble some of the team’s most famous cars at the Festival.  These will include Team Penske’s first Indy 500 entry from 1969, the four-wheel drive Lola T152; the McLaren M16B representing the first of the team’s 18 Indy 500 wins in 1972; the Penske PC23 that dominated the 1994 Indy 500; as well as the 2006 and 2018 Indy 500 winners.  Also confirmed is the Pontiac Catalina honouring the car that Penske himself drove to a NASCAR victory at Riverside in 1963, as well as the 2008 Daytona 500 winner.  Representing Team Penske in Formula 1 will be the Penske PC1 from 1975, the first car manufactured by Penske Cars UK, and the PC4, which won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix driven by John Watson.  Penske himself will take to the Goodwood Hill in the Porsche RS Spyder that won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2008.

Penske commented, “I have wonderful memories of racing at Goodwood in 1963 and am honoured to be invited to return this summer.  I am very much looking forward to sharing in the celebrations with Goodwood’s passionate fans as they return for the 2021 Festival of Speed.”

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The UK Pre-war trials season was able to make a delayed start in April with a rescheduled Exmoor Trial and Herefordshire Trial organised by the Vintage Sports-Car Club.

Some serious racers took the opportunity to get some action on the muddy hills, trading the driving seat of some fearsome historic racing cars for that of the ubiquitous Austin 7.   Martin Hunt of Historic TT HWM fame and son Theo were getting to grips with a lovely Austin 7 Ulster whilst Jaguar C-Type racer Ben Cussons of the Royal Automobile Club had his daughter Grace and son Alexander out in Austin 7 Chummys.  Patrick Blakeney-Edwards is itching to race his hairy BMW CSL ‘Batmobile’ this season, but was getting his pre-season kicks, with daughter Scarlett and son James, in his Austin 7 saloon, which has a potent supercharger!

The Cussons family seem to be nding itself in a spot of difficulty

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MotorSport Vision (MSV) has purchased the freehold of the Donington Hall Estate comprising Donington Hall itself, former office building Hastings House and the Lansdowne workshops building.  The estate is set in 28 acres of grounds next to the MSV operated Donington Park race circuit in the East Midlands.

A magnificent 18th century mansion house with historical ties to the adjacent racing circuit, which is within the estate’s original grounds, MSV plans to develop the Grade II listed Donington Hall into a 40-bedroom hotel with a range of accommodation.  The hotel is planned to open for the 2023 season.

Hastings House was built in 1990 as the main administrative headquarters for the British Midland International airline.  MSV plans to transform the 45,000 square foot building into the state of the art Donington Hall Motorhouse, a storage facility for supercars, classic road and racing cars and motorcycles.

The Lansdowne workshops, totalling 18,000 square feet, will be available to let for high-end motor engineering businesses that support the preparation and maintenance of vehicles kept at the Donington Hall Motorhouse and used on the race circuit.  Both the Hall and Motorhouse will benefit from a direct route to the circuit paddock areas, in addition to direct access from the Hall to the circuit by the original Starkey’s bridge.  This will allow race cars to be driven directly to Donington Hall for awards presentations and special events.

MSV Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer said, “We will be creating an extraordinary and unique facility.  Car owners will be able to fly directly into East Midlands airport, view their cars within 10 minutes of landing before settling into, for example, the Rosemeyer Suite at the hotel.  Their car will be prepared and warmed up, waiting outside the front of the Hall after breakfast, from where they can drive it up the original carriage drive and directly into the Donington Park circuit.  After a day’s circuit driving or racing, our team will return the car to the workshops for cleaning and a check over before returning it to storage, while our visitors are on their way home.”

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We have long admired the French for their unpretentious attitude to their cars and to our sport. They are not worried at all about turning up in a modest car and joining in, whether it be a rally, tour or concours, or even a race on a circuit. Indeed many French organisers actively encourage the more modest cars, as these are often more rare than their superstar counterparts due to the fact that no one thought of preserving them at the time.

Less prevalent in the UK, where cars often seem to get entries based on their perceived value, (we say perceived because many are replicas anyway and don’t have the same value as the ‘real’ car), classic car insurance specialists Hagerty have been trying to redress this by running the Festival of the Unexceptional for the last seven years. Celebrating the mundane, the Festival’s centrepiece is the Concours de l’Ordinaire, open to classic cars, motorcycles and light commercial vehicles built between 1966 and 1996. The Festival of the Unexceptional remains the only concours that prefers a Dolomite to a Diablo, a Tagora over a Testarossa and where a Victor is preferable to a Vantage.

“Hagerty believes in basic and understands the labour of love needed to keep these cars on the road. Every city has an Italian supercar specialist, but you’ll struggle to find spares for a Talbot Solara regardless of where you live. You may think a supercar is a rare sight on the roads, but when did you last see a Datsun Cherry? The cars that were once every day transport are now on the verge of extinction and it takes a committed enthusiast to keep them alive.” said a Hagerty representative.

The chosen location for the 2021 Festival of the Unexceptional, which will take place on 31 July, is Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, with its expansive grounds and formal gardens. See the Hagerty web site and navigate to the Festival of the Unexceptional for entries. But be quick, places on the concours lawn are highly coveted by owners of the ordinary!

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In what has now become a solid tradition, French classic car owners turn up in their country’s capital twice a year, winter and summer, for the Traversée de Paris.  This is a huge and joyful manifestation, made an even happier occasion this time, because it seemed right up to the last minute that it wouldn’t take place at all.  Organised by Vincennes en Anciennes, as the French lockdown was being eased owners of 580 classic cars, 89 motorcycles, 1 tractor, 41 bicycles and 3 buses finally got permission to gather in Vincennes for le Grand Départ to take them on a parade through the streets of Paris on the frosty morning of 31 January.  Though they were confined to their vehicles, instead of making the customary stop at the café, the mood was happy just to be out and about

Photo VEA

Photo Francis Guilbot