Now that VR has editorial offices in the U.S., the UK and Australia, I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of new racing friends from around the world. It seems like wherever I go, either in the U.S. or abroad, the one question that everyone seems to ask is, “What differences do you see between racing here and back home (or overseas).” It’s a natural question, as everyone’s curious to know how different their own form of historic racing is from that in other parts of the world.
However, I think people are always somewhat surprised when the answer is that historic race meetings are amazingly similar between the three major English-speaking countries. Obviously, some of the finer points are different: in the UK you WILL race in the rain; in Australia, kangaroos and wombats are occasional on-track hazards; and in the U.S. you will always start a race, with a rolling start. But with this said, all three countries do share the immutable, core commonalities of the occasionally overly officious tech inspectors, ever-shifting program schedules and track-side “cuisine” guaranteed to coagulate your arteries faster than a big-block burning nitromethane.
However, there is one unique area where striking differences do exist. Surprisingly, not necessarily the cars, but how the cars get to the track. As an example, I remember my first trip to the Goodwood Festival. It was the set-up day before the event, and I was wandering around the grounds, marveling at all the impressive machinery that was gathering for the weekend. Walking up toward one of the paddocks, I spied a very average-looking Ford sedan, pulling a small, open trailer with a green formula car atop it. As I walked by, I literally did a double take, when I saw the name “Clark” on the side of the car. Upon closer inspection, I was startled to discover that this was, in fact, Jim Clark’s Lotus 25, which he had raced to victory in the 1963 International Trophy race—sitting on a rinky-dink trailer, out in the rain! Had this car been in the United States, undoubtedly, its owner would have had it sequestered away in a 60 foot semi-truck transporter, with climate-control and air-ride suspension!
Sure enough, as my travels expanded, this turned out to be no isolated example. In both the UK and Australia, the vast majority of racecars are transported to the track by their owners, on small, open, or tarpaulin-covered trailers, just big enough to enclose the car in question. And rather than towing that trailer with a 1-ton, 350-horsepower, crew-cab, dually pickup truck, most owners choose to haul their cars with either the family sedan or some small SUV-type vehicle.
One obvious reason for the dramatic differences in transport methods is, I think, economic. With gasoline being US$5.65/gallon in the UK and US$2.70/gallon in Australia, fuel efficiency is a concern. With historically cheap fuel in the U.S., we’ve grown accustomed to being able to afford to haul tall, enclosed trailers that have the aerodynamic efficiency of a supertanker. In the UK, not only would this type of trailer be difficult to afford from a mileage standpoint, but it would also be highly impractical to try and drag a 40-foot-long fifth-wheel trailer through the twisting, tight streets of a medieval village. “Sorry, Guv’nor, didn’t mean to topple your turret; I thought I cleared that corner…”
Along a somewhat related vein, the historic racer is not unlike a goldfish, he’ll grow to fill the size of his container. The larger the trailer that you can haul, the more “stuff” that you can bring with you. In the UK and Australia, racers tend to bring with them a bare minimum of supplies and spares, with some opting to bring nothing but the car and their driving gear. Whereas, in the States, we tend to fill our large trailers with not only cars, but also pit vehicles, tools, spares, generators, barbeques, welding equipment, temporary flooring, entertainment systems, inflatable pools (no joke, I’ve seen it!), Easy-Ups, chairs, tables and the like. While the average historic racer in the UK and Australia can have his entire paddock occupy not much more space than that of his car, the average American racer tends to need a little over a half-an-acre to establish his nomadic beachhead.
However, with the prospects of American gasoline prices quickly approaching those endured in Australia and the UK, I can’t help but wonder if we Americans will soon be economically forced to “downsize” our traveling kit. I can just see a Ferrari GTO being towed with a towbar, behind a Toyota Hybrid! I suppose I could live with a smaller trailer, like the rest of our English-speaking brethren, but I’ve eaten at the trackside diner at Mallory Park, and under no circumstances do I intend to let the similarities extend that far!