Racing at the Silverstone Classic is on the “Bucket List” of many. But rest assured, racers will never be disappointed if the opportunity arises, as the quality of the “stonking” grids of racecars invited is like the ultimate racing “dream team.” The weather for this past July’s event brought intermittent rain at times, but most drivers had a dry track to qualify and race on. Silverstone Circuit was a massive former WW II RAF Bomber Station Airport, but it was in 1948 that the first official race was held by the Royal Automobile Club on the airport tarmac. The very complex 3.66-mile long circuit, with its 18 turns, has also two very long straights, which is an overwhelming learning curve for a “first timer” driver. Because Silverstone is a very flat race track, it is impossible to see ahead or around the upcoming apex of a turn, while the fast turns very abruptly arise in your view! It is like the mythical mermaid beckoning you in at the corners, enticing you to go deeper and deeper into the turns than is wise or prudent, which can lead to an off track excursion in a blink of the eye.
The distinctly different scenes at Silverstone included the many highly elevated F1 fan viewing stands, huge County Fair size concessions/vendor areas, and big amusement sections for fans along with the accompanying concerts in the evenings. This event is considered the largest Historic Racing event globally and the entrants are treated to racing on the British GP F1 circuit with expansive run-offs and very high speed corners. One of the many monumental tasks facing the organizers was the tech inspection of the over 1,000 racecars. What sets this historic race aside from other events was the unmatchable blistering speeds and the majority of the cars in full 4-wheel drifts with corrections at the high speed turns and “kinks.” Traveling in the UK, one hears “Mind the Gap” often, but mind you there is not much of a gap with the very “close quarters” during the very competitive racing with crunched fenders from time to time.
The staging of the 22 races for some of the most iconic racecars was an impressive feat. This year there were over 100,000 race fans (or “punters,” as they call them), attending on Sunday alone, as part of this huge, 3-day event. Also in attendance were 120 Car Clubs with vast and ample areas for the clubs to share their cars and displays… even the Gaz 21 Club from Russia was participating this year!
We raced the 1959 Old Yeller II Buick Special on Saturday in the competititive Stirling Moss Trophy Race for “Pre-61 Sports Cars” which of the 49 entrants included 13 mighty Listers, 10 Lotus, 5 Lolas and 2 “D-Type” Jaguars. We also raced the 1958 Kilpatrick Speedster Sunday in the “Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for Historic Cars- Pre-63” GT Race with a grid of 53 race cars including five Aston Martin DB 4s, six E-Type Jaguars, a Cobra and a Ferrari 250 GT. Our races were 50 minutes long and a two driver race option. The 50-minute race with fast long straights was a test for the Old Yeller II drum brakes, even with new Porterfield linings, as the brake fluid cooked by the end of the race. We had to be alert to watch for the Pit Board sign to come in for the driver change, as one lap is 3.66 miles around. The Old Yeller II took home 2nd place in the “Stirling Moss Trophy Race- Drum Brakes over 2500cc category.”
The Kilpatrick Porsche Speedster started well but soon “went off song” and with only two-thirds power, we came back into the pit lane. We pushed the Speedster all the way back to our Pit Space. Sean and Mike were not to be denied—or “gutted” as they say in UK—and they dived under the Speedster to check the problem. They decided to pull off the right side valve cover, which was the correct guess as one rocker bolt was loose and they found the nut in the cover. The crew said to me…”Keep your ‘kit’ on and we will see…” They quickly fixed the problem and guessed on clearances and I drove back to the pit lane and entered the race again, as it was a 50-minute race.
I drove for a short while, but going into the “Maggots” kinks, I went for thirrd gear and could not catch any gear at all, as all gears were locked out. The clutch “was toast” and I sadly pulled off of the track, in a safe area. The most frequent comment I heard, throughout the race weekend, was, “In all the many years of watching racing, this is the very first time seeing a Porsche Speedster on track.”
Silverstone Classic is a classic indeed and a mind-boggling racing experience. It can bring moments, during the fiercesome racing, that force you to check how many “brave pills” are left in the pockets. The opportunity to race at Silverstone is not without bringing humbling moments, as we felt “our clocks were cleaned” more than just once during the amazing weekend.
Silverstone is still special and “the bees knees,” as they say in U.K.