I concluded my piece on last year’s Silverstone Classic by saying that it had “raised the bar as far as historic race meetings go,” and that I did not “envy those whose job it is to ensure that Silverstone Classic 2012 is equally successful.”
Well, it looks like the event’s organisers have risen to the challenge and will, remarkably, push that metaphorical bar even higher, because with a greater array of huge grids and new attractions, this year’s Classic has all the hallmarks of being the best yet.
Taking place at the home of British motorsport during the weekend of July 20-22, it will once again utilise both Silverstone’s National and International Wing pits and paddock facilities, which will house more than 800 of the world’s finest vehicles that span almost eight decades of motor racing heritage.
In the hands of some of the top drivers in the sport, these old-school racers will be battling it out around the full Grand Prix Circuit in no fewer than 24 races – many of which will boast full 58-car grids – that will showcase the development of motor racing.
From early Alfa Romeos and Maseratis in the HGPCA pre-1961 race to the rear-engined Coopers, BRMs and Lotuses in the pre-1966 event, before the trip down memory lane concludes with more modern machinery fighting for glory in the Grand Prix Masters series – look out for James Hunt’s McLaren M26 – and the newly devised touring car races that will feature iconic tin-tops from European, British and German Touring Car Championships.
Also new this year is the F5000/Formula 2 race which bears the late Peter Gethin’s name. Perhaps best known for his triumph in the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, Gethin was also victorious in the British F5000 Championship in 1969 and 1970, as well as the Tasman F5000 Series in 1974. To honour these titles with a new race in his name is a highly fitting tribute.
Another respected figure that will be honoured at this year’s Classic is Alan Mann, who sadly passed away in March. In celebration of his team’s achievements – not least clinching three BTCC titles – this year’s double helping of Under 2-Litre Touring Car (U2TC) racing action will be dedicated to the memory of Mann.
Other highlights that feature alongside the U2TC category on the race-card again this year include the immensely popular Jaguar E-type Challenge series, the ultra-competitive Formula Juniors and, of course, the awesome spectacle that is the Group C Racing Series, whose dusk race is a mouth-watering prospect indeed.
Laying down some rubber before the chest-reverberating Group C monsters take to the circuit on Saturday evening will be a string of high-profile stars from the worlds of music, sport, media and show business in the annual Silverstone Classic Celebrity Challenge.
The race may have its detractors, but there is no denying that it is entertaining to watch, and with funds being raised to support the likes of the Bobby Moore Fund, the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and both Crohns and Colitis charities, you would have to be a bit of a grumpus to complain about its inclusion on the schedule.
Famous faces who will be lining up on the grid this year include: film and stage actor Sir Patrick Stewart, Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole, chef Heston Blumenthal, AC/DC rocker Brian Johnson, Coronation Street’s Tony Hirst, Olympic skier Chemmy Alcott and ex-England footballer Steve Bull.
Aside from the plethora of on-track racing action, the infield will play host to more than 120 car clubs who will be displaying over 7,000 fine specimens of automotive eye-candy. These range from the exotic marques such as Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche to the equally intriguing and cherished models from the likes of Sunbeam, Morris and Rover.
There are also plans to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of a number of treasured British sportscars this year, such as the Lotus Elan, Triumph Spitfire and AC Cobra, with celebrations for the latter taking on an even greater significance with the recent passing of car design legend Carroll Shelby.
This year’s Classic has also been selected by the MGB50 Committee as one of just three official celebrations to mark 50 years of the much-loved MGB. And if that wasn’t enough, there will also be a world record gathering of more than 70 fabulous Ferrari F40s who will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of what many – including myself – regard as being the greatest supercar the world has ever seen.
Joining the car clubs, trade outlets and fairground attractions on the infield this year will be the AA, who will be staging their interactive AA World automotive theme park behind the Wing pits and paddock complex.
This brand new, family-orientated, attraction will provide visitors of all ages with a selection of free driving experiences ranging from electric cars for toddlers and taster driving lessons for teenagers, to hot laps around the Stowe Circuit in a collection of performance vehicles. There will also be an F1 simulator, pit stop challenges, a giant Scalextric track and a host of other amusements that should make AA World a must-visit.
And if all that wasn’t enough, the evenings will once again be packed with live music from a bevy of top acts such as Mike & The Mechanics, Adam Ant and Roy G Hemming’s Motown Show. While on the final day of this three-day event, visitors can munch on a picnic to the sounds of the all-female Tetra Electra Quartet who will perform classical favourites on Sunday afternoon.
Remarkably, I have barely even begun to scratch the surface in so far as highlighting some of the activities and events that are taking place at this year’s Classic, and with so much going on at competitive admission prices, it is little wonder that advance ticket sales are up 31% on the same period last year.
It goes without saying that Silverstone Classic 2012 sounds like it will be a memorable occasion and it is an event that deserves to succeed. And that’s where you come in.
There is one small problem with any form of racing at Silverstone. The place is so vast that you can sometimes feel like you’re never actually involved. It nearly always feels empty without a capacity crowd and what are needed are bums on seats and faces behind the fences to form part of the spectacle.
So, if you haven’t done so already, treat you and your loved ones to some tickets, get yourself down to Silverstone, ogle at some wonderful classic cars, witness some fantastic racing and indulge in some toe-tapping live music. You won’t regret it.
I’ll see you there.
Ticket details and further information
Day tickets for Silverstone Classic 2012 start from £35 in advance (£50 upwards on the gate), while weekend tickets cost just £95 in advance (£125 on the gate). Tickets for children aged six to sixteen are £5 upwards, whilst those under five get in for free.
For more information, and to book tickets, visit www.silverstoneclassic.com or call the ticket hotline on 0871 231 0849. Advance ticket sales close at 5pm on Thursday 19th July.