Category Archives: Notes from the Cellar

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Summer in the City

The arrival of the month of June heralds the arrival of summer and kicks off a series of grand classic car events. Last weekend saw the automobile opulence known as Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este held on the shores of Lake Como. This week features the slightly less grand but no less worthy London Concours.

The venue for this event is the home of the Honorable Artillery Company and has been since 1537. It is an oasis of tranquillity in the heart of the City, London’s financial centre. There may not be a lake in view but the Italians don’t have a cricket pitch. Indeed when one of the soldiers on duty was asked about the proximity of all the windows surrounding the cricket green and the danger of them being broken by a cricket ball he replied that their team was not very good, neither were their opponents. Bit like the current England squad came the sharp retort.

Sporting matters to one side the Concours, now in its second year, has matured and is set to become a firm fixture on the UK’s motoring calendar. A high standard of exhibits graced the grass, something for everyone to savour. Not all on show were high performance classics, some were a little more workmanlike.

There were a few familiar faces, the ex-Rob Walker Ferrari 250 GT SWB, immortalised by Sir Stirling Moss at Goodwood, now the proud possession of Ross Brawn.

The latest movement in the historic motorsport world, Global Endurance Legends, was also represented by a few GTs, this brace of Lotus BPR challengers attracting attention.

 

The show takes motoring excellence to the heart of London, it is a great way to spend a few hours in the company of like-minded machines and men………..roll on 2019.

John Brooks June 2018

Bringing Up The Half Century

Thruxton celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend. The super fast Hampshire race track has been a popular motor sport venue since becoming the BARC’s home after the closure of Goodwood in 1966.

Originally used for racing in the ’50s, a new track was opened in 1968. Like many other race circuits in the UK it was the site of a military airfield during World War Two. It was operated as a fighter base with the United States Army Air Force taking over from the RAF in 1944 in the run up to D-Day.

Since 1968 it has become a favourite venue for motor sport fans of two or four wheels persuasion. I recall many great days’ racing on the traditional Easter Monday Formula Two meeting. It was a fine way to welcome in a new season and to see the next generation of Formula One stars in the making.

In recent years there has a major investment program with the opening of the Thruxton Hospitality Centre.

The racing was its customary close, competitive self, with the inner hooligan of the Mini fraternity never far from the surface.

And what would a Formula Ford race be without a bit of rough and tumble?

Motorsport’s answer to Morecambe and Wise, Nigel Mansell and Murray Walker, were guests of honour, deservedly so.

The sun shone and another excellent weekend of racing and things generally automotive were enjoyed by an appreciative audience. Here’s a salute to the next 50 years!

As part of the tribute from those of us at DDC Towers we bring you another fabulous collection of imagery courtesy of the man of the moment. Simon Hildrew.

John Brooks June 2018

The Garden of England

Brands Hatch has always been one of my favourite tracks and there no better time to visit than in late spring/early summer.

2018 was no exception to this rule. A trip round the M25 a few weeks back was the answer, to enjoy the delights of the The Masters Historic Festival.

It would be difficult to say what the top event was as all the races and grids had something to savour. All the sizes, all the colours, be it Historic Formula 2.

Or Pre-66 Touring Cars.

Things got a little out of hand occasionally but fortunately only pride was damaged. Brands Hatch has always been ready to punish any small transgression.

My personal favourite was, not surprisingly, the Masters Endurance Legends. Old friends were on hand, like Paul Daniels, even if he had a shortened weekend with transmission woes.

The field was small, but perfectly formed, with not one but two Peugeot 908 in the pack.

Martin Short and Nigel Greensall put on a show for the decent-sized crowd in the Dallara SP1 and Riley & Scott MKlll. Screaming Judd and bellowing Oldsmobile playing a fine song for those present.

All things considered it was a great weekend, a proper festival of motor sport, even the weather played ball. So sit back and enjoy the slick camera work of Simon Hildrew………..

John Brooks June 2018

The House that Frank Built

This week I had both an AGM and a Committee meeting for the Guild of Motoring Writers, the location for these affairs was the HQ of Williams F1. A very impressive complex located at Grove near Abingdon housing one of the great Formula One teams of the modern era.

Employing over 1,000 people on site, Williams Grand Prix Engineering has grown enormously from the virtual cottage industry set up by Frank Williams and Patrick Head over 40 years ago.

One of the major attractions for visitors is a chance to stroll down Memory Lane and see the fantastic collection of Grand Prix racers from the past four decades.

In addition to the single seaters, my attention was drawn to the BMW V12 LMR that triumphed at Le Mans in 1999. Memories, memories………………

John Brooks, May 2018

Classical Times

The Silverstone Classic is the largest historic motoring festival on the planet………..every aspect of the car is covered somewhere in Silverstone’s flat fields. Motor racing, car clubs, automobilia, anniversaries, music, food, and, most importantly, people are the elements that combine to make the Classic a celebration of one of the most liberating elements of 20th Century life.

If there has been one issue that I have had with this festival in recent years it is the annual clash with the Spa 24 Hours. For 2018 they are on consecutive weekends, so I get to go to both ‘must-dos’. Woo Hoo!

There will be a new attraction in this year’s line up with Group C making way for its younger sibling Masters Endurance Legends featuring sportscars and GTs from the 1995 to 2012 period. The theme for this race will be a salute to the Daytona 24 Hours, with special appearances from former participants.

The Silverstone Classic is one of the great motoring events on the calendar so pop along if you can, there will be something to for you to treasure. Details can be found HERE

In the meantime I can recommend viewing Simon Hildrew’s excellent gallery from the 2017 event………..I anticipate more magic from him this year.

John Brooks May 2018

The Banks of Paris

One of the few drawbacks of running a site such as DDC is that there are never enough hours in the day, something has to give and usually it is my good intention to post a piece.

OK I am going to plough through the archives in the next few weeks to try and clear out the backlog………….we’ll see how long this impulse last is what I hear you say. Let’s make a start…………..

Montlhéry to the South-West of Paris is these days a place to look back at the rich history of the car. Various events are organised through the year, mainly with a very French taste, all the better for that rich cuisine.

So in late September there will be the fourth edition of Les Grandes Heures Automobile, currently a secret except those truly in the know. However I would suggest that a visit would be most enjoyable for those who enjoy all aspects of motoring, particularly involving competition.

Those of you with an adventurous spirit should give it a go…………..these fabulous images from 2016 shown the rich menu on offer for the automotive gourmet.

Information etc can be found here

Go on, you know you want to. PS photo courtesy of the organisers…………….

John Brooks, May 2018

Keeping it in the Family

 

 

The name Brabham has played a pretty big part in my interface with the world of motor sport. My first Grand Prix, the 1970 British held at Brands Hatch should have been a victory for Sir Jack. He ran out of petrol on the last lap, allowing Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 72 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Events a few months later when the Austrian was killed at Monza and eventually became the first (and hopefully the only) posthumous World Champion, gave that win a kind of legitimacy, no matter how cheesed off I was on the day.

Brabham became Bernie Ecclestone’s team. They were local to me and I adopted them and their buccaneering style. I then acquired a number of friends from the ranks of those who toiled for ‘The Bolt’.

Herbie, Harvey, Jerry, Robin, Roly, Charlie and others whose faces I can see but the mind cannot name.  I have been fortunate to share a beer or three with these guys in the past and learned a lot about the sport from them. Mechanics and engineers tend to be the most reliable of guides to what is really happening on track, certainly more so than clueless PR hacks such as I.

The association with the Brabham name continued with meeting Sir Jack’s son, David. He turned into one of the stars of endurance racing over the past 25 years, including the top step of the podium at Le Mans, living the dream I believe it is called. David was always one of the good guys, a pleasure to meet at the tracks, almost always with a big grin no matter how difficult things were going. A chip off the old block it used to be called.

Last week the latest chapter in this illustrious family’s history was revealed, appropriately enough at Australia House in London. To my frustration I was on the road heading towards Belgium and Spa while this launch took place but fortunately our Ace Photographer, Simon Hildrew, was there to catch the mood and the flavour of a great evening.

The focus of attention was the new supercar from Brabham Automotive, the BT62. This 700bhp track day only vehicle is the first evidence of a new power in the world of high performance cars. David Brabham is the driving force behind the new venture that is run out of Adelaide and backed by Fusion Capital.

The new car is squarely aimed at the territory occupied currently by the likes of the McLaren Senna. Powered by a 5.4 litre normally aspirated V8, the carbon fibre chassis and trick aerodynamics are evidence of the competition heritage that runs through the BT62. Michelin racing tyres, carbon brakes and an in-built jack system are further signs of the sporting dna.

The aim of Brabham Automotive is to create a road going version of the BT62 and then there is a goal to race at Le Mans but this is all in the future.

Complimenting the new car was a fantastic display of Brabham race cars and memorabilia.

And where there is a free drink you will find racing drivers and the media in numbers………..

 

Enjoy Simon’s great gallery and look out for the Brabham BT62 at a car show near you.

John Brooks, May 2018

Design and Conquer

One of the many benefits of being a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers is their organising of trips to places of automotive interest. Last month it was the turn of the Design Museum in Kensington and we were guests of our gracious hosts, Ferrari UK.

As part of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Ferrari it was thought a good idea to display this most cherished of Italian marques at the Design Museum in London. The angle would be looking at Ferrari,  the cars, the brand and even the mystique from a design perspective. Thus was “Ferrari: Under the Skin” conceived.

The myth has now overtaken the reality, like a motoring version of Hollywood, it creates and, perhaps satisfies, dreams of those who can afford it.

Ferrari is now a big, profitable part of the Italian economy and also the primary component in the dna of Formula One, no matter what those who say that it could live comfortably without Maranello might assert.

There is an examination of the way that Ferraris were crafted down the decades, from the early days…………

There was a look at how Ferrari impacted the lives of celebrities and stars………….Peter Sellers enjoys the company of a Dino…….and Britt Ekland in the courtyard of the old factory at Maranello.

Our party included the President of the Guild, Nick Mason, captured here in front of his F40.

Evidence of the visual influence of Ferrari was on display all over the walls.

Even a poster for that most unlikely of best supporting actors, the Ferrari 512S, from Steve McQueen’s epic, Le Mans.

In the final analysis it is the cars that we come to pay our respects to, not the collateral material, fascinating as that is.

So here are few personal highlights. This 250 GTO, now owned by Sir Anthony Bamford, has a rich competition heritage with two finishes at the Sebring 12 Hours, victories at Kyalami and Luanda in Angola, plus a fourth place overall in the 1962 Tour de France. It is a beautiful machine, now restored to the colours that it raced in originally for the first owner David Piper.

Unique is a much misunderstood and misused word but it applies to this Testarossa Spider, the only example built by the factory. I looked at this elegant GT a while back HERE

Perhaps the most iconic car on display was #2119GT, the 250 GT SWB first owned by Rob Walker and driven to victory in the 1960 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood by the incomparable Stirling Moss. Moss repeated this success at Brand Hatch later that month. He rounded off the season with victory in Nassau Tourist Trophy against very strong opposition. The car was then acquired by Tommy Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour, with Mike Parkes as the lead driver for 1961. Several victories ensued and the year was rounded off by a fine second place in Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, only being beaten by Moss in the latest Rob Walker 250 GT SWB. This most handsome of Ferraris is now owned by Ross Brawn who is generous with showing it to the fans at events such as that at the Design Museum.

While we were at the Design Museum it was announced that the concept of the exhibition will go on the road, to Europe and North America. The run at Kensington comes to an end in the next week or so. So if you missed out on seeing it in London, I strongly suggest you catch it if you can.

John Brooks, April 2018

General Winter

Since its reintroduction in 2014 The Goodwood Members’ Meeting has become one of the ‘must-do’ events on the motoring calendar. It features all the good bits of its more famous sibling, The Revival, without all the crowds that spoil that occasion, at least for an old duffer like me.

As with everything in life there is a price to pay for such pleasures. Held now in March, the Members’ Meeting is subject to the capricious late winter weather in Sussex. Some years that means sunshine turning the swathes of daffodils decorating the track into a golden ribbon.

This year that delight was not on offer. Instead bitter winds and snow greeted those hardy souls who braved the elements and displayed their stiff upper lips, though whether that was a voluntary state or the work of the climate is open to question.

I declared earlier that the Members’ Meeting was a ‘must-do’ however this year even the offer of a ticket on the eve of the weekend could not tempt me from my warm office. A combination of looming deadlines on a couple of assignments and the prospect of encountering “The Beast from East” ensured that discretion was the better part of valour. No Mentioned in Dispatches from the South Downs for me.

Which is what those who took to the track in F5000 cars on Saturday surely warrant. Bonkers does not even begin to describe this situation, but the show must go on, unlike NASCAR at Martinsville this weekend just gone.

Indeed for all the praise heaped upon the competitors, the real heroes of the weekend were the marshals, track workers, those on towing duty in the car parks, indeed everyone associated with making the event not only happen but making it a one to remember.

One figure that was absent from Goodwood was Henry Hope-Frost, who was tragically killed in a motoring accident a week or so before the event.

Henry was a thoroughly good bloke, the very definition of petrol head, with ‘#fever’ as his trademark. He had been the voice of Goodwood for a number of years and was, and will be, missed by all who frequent the track.

I managed to watch a fair bit of the action thanks to the comprehensive coverage provided by Goodwood on the interweb. Saturday afternoon was spent flicking between that tab on the browser and IMSA TV’s footage of the Sebring 12 Hours. Not sure which I missed the most but that is how the cards fall sometimes.

Highlights of the action…………I am always in awe of the pre-war racers………..the Bolster Cup was like watching a high wire act without the net.

As was the Caracciola Sportwagenrennen…………madness, utter madness but enthralling.

Touring Car hooliganism was on display in the Gerry Marshall Sprint, the old boy would have laughed his head off…………..and ordered another round.

Always eagerly anticipated the demonstration runs featured F5000 and Group 5 era sports cars. That would be worth the cost of the ticket alone, steep though that is.

Personal highlight was the irrepressible Rob Huff in an E-type, displaying all the car control that a World Champion should.

Despite the adverse conditions the 76th Goodwood Members’ Meeting was much enjoyed by all who witnessed it, from the hardy souls who braved the weather to the delicate flowers such as I who gazed at their screens, looking forward to 2019!

John Brooks, March 2018

Enjoy Simon’s fabulous gallery………………….

Excel as Expected

The classic car and historic racing scenes continue to grow like Topsy. Driven by enthusiasm for the past or speculation for the future, or a combination of both. They are like the Terminator, they cannot be stopped or reasoned with. How long this will go on for is anyone’s guess. But for now let’s enjoy the spectacle.

To cater for this wave of nostalgia a number of shows and events have sprung up in recent years. Some disappear almost as soon as they arrive but one or two survive, grow and thrive. A good example of this group is the London Classic Car Show, now with four editions under its belt at the Excel in Docklands.

In a smart strategic move it joined forces with the Historic Motorsport International thus achieving a broad appeal, covering all the bases.

The show is attractive to the dealers as it is in close proximity to London’s financial centre and the timing is optimal, close to bonus time too.

The ROFGO Collection has been one of the most popular features of shows and events over the past decade. In a recent development there has been a merger with the respected classic dealership, Duncan Hamilton. The collection and the business have relocated to Hampshire and are well positioned to be a major player in this market sector. I am hoping to pay a visit in the near future.

Celebrities seem to play an increasing part of the landscape in our daily lives. Some have more validity than others, and into that category would surely fall Sir Winston Churchill.  Widely regarded as the greatest Englishman of the 20th Century, his profile has been lifted by a recent Oscar-winning movie. Churchill was frequently seen in this Daimler DB18 Drophead Coupé during the years from 1944 to 1949 touring the country.

The car is one of just three survivors of the model and features unique bodywork from the Carlton Carriage Company, though the actor is an optional extra – allegedly.

At the 2017 LCCS there was a fabulous display of Ferraris to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Maranello’s finest, the curation being the work of Joe Macari. For 2018 the theme was less exclusive, being Getaway Cars.  OK the Excel sits somewhere between the ’60s Manors of the Krays and the Richardsons but I cannot be the only one who questioned the taste of this collection. Some of these cars were connected to actual crimes not film or TV make believe.

Perhaps the highlight of this group was the Volvo P1800 that was used in the first series of the British TV show The Saint. Dating back to 1962 this car is highly original, even featuring the number plates used during filming.

The Show was opened by Quentin Wilson and two blokes I had never heard of, celebrity power has its limits.

Mention of Joe Macari brings to mind Ferraris and Maseratis and all manner of Italian exotics but the car that caught my eye on his stand was this 911 GT2. It was dressed up in the livery that it ran at the 1998 Pokka 1000 Kilometres held at Suzuka. It was a familiar sight as Nigel Smith, one of its drivers, was a client back then.

A name from that time that was also a client was Lister. Now under new ownership it launched a new car, the Lister Thunder, at the show. There were claims of 200+mph and 666bhp, certainly it looked muscular, almost on steroids.

Another Jaguar-based special was the elegant XK140 with unique Pinnifarina bodywork, apparently inspired by the legendary Max Hoffman, North American importer of both Volkswagen and BMW during the ’50s and ’60s. Even in such company as this show attracts the XK140 was a standout feature.

Perhaps the biggest star of the show was Nigel Mansell, 1992 Formula One World Champion. He is seen here in conversation with Henry Hope-Frost. Henry was killed in a motoring incident last week, a good man gone way too soon, he will be much missed.

Simon Hildrew was on top form as ever with cameras in hand, so enjoy his stunning work in the following gallery.

John Brooks, March 2018