Nestling just off the busy M5 motorway not very far from Birmingham is a gloriously eccentric hotel – Chateau Impney. The story goes that this elaborate former stately home was built by the wealthy owner of a local salt-mining operation to make his homesick French-born wife feel a little more comfortable. To that end he employed a French architect and the resulting house certainly looks as if it’s been dropped into the English midlands landscape from somewhere in the Loire Valley.
Back in the late 50s and 60s a hillclimb was run on the lengthy and picturesque driveway – but circumstances changed and the sound of racing cars vanished for 5 decades. In July 2015, they were back. And in style. The car-mad Spollon family now own the place (as well as an ERA, a BRM and a lot of other wonderful machinery) and they really went to town on creating one of the most attractive motor sport venues you could every imagine
So the course (longer than it was back in the day) was in a great location, overlooked by the Chateau and thousands of happy spectators . The Chateau itself was also in a great location, a mere five minutes off a major M5 junction and about the easiest motor sport venue in the country to actually find. We were selling books and photos (as usual) in a trade-area sited in large car park between the end of the course and the paddock with about 80 other traders…. sadly that wasn’t a good location. In fact is turned out to be a dreadful location. Missed by most of those who came through the gates it was tucked away without signs and out of reach of commentary and food outlets.
Some you win. Some you lose. I’m sure next year will be a different matter. This was first and foremost a motor sport event and it was a cracker.
All the entries were pre 1967 to reflect the venue’s history and there were so many eye-watering cars in the paddock it was hard to know where to look next. ERAs , Maseratis, Lotus’ (Loti ?) Coopers, Jaguar C and D Types (one driven by historic racing doyen Willie Green – right) Bugattis, Morgans, a Grand prix Scarab(right) and lots and lots of spidery little “Shelsley Specials” based round JAP engines and GN cyclecar chassis’ (above left). Most popular however were the wild and wooden-wheeled Edwardians, bellowing away with drive chains rattling and driver perched up in the fresh air, looking a bit odd in modern helmets and fireproofs.
The car everyone talked about was “The Beast of Turin” a recreation (using original engine and contemporary parts) of Fiat’s unsuccessful S76 Land Speed Record challenger from pre WW1. It is HUGE. It also has no actual exhaust system as such, just open ports on the side of the very tall aero engine that belch out flames a yard long. It’s truly a sight to behold. Parked alongside it in the paddock was it’s near contemporary, the much more successful 200hp Darraq V8 which did hold the coveted record in 1905 and is now owned by crowd favourite Mark Walker. Mark’s driving style “does the car justice”, shall we say? Untill now it’s always seemed to be THE monster in the Vintage paddock but the Fiat now dwarfs it completely. The ‘big’ Darraq now looks trim and compact.
If you like your ERAs then this event was a dream. There was the ex Bira R12C (seen here outside my stall) , the ex Gerard R4A(top right) , the daddy of them all, the ex Raymond Mays R4D(bonnet raised) , the super-sleek GP1, Barrie Williams at the wheel of R3A, the ex Wharton R10B, the ex Dobson R7B and the AJM1 which is a 1980s recreation that has seen a lot of action in the meantime.
Sadly Barry Williams’ event was curtailed after one run when the transmission failed on his car but that gave him time to call round to our stall and have a chat “You’re in the wrong place here mate!” he said.Earlier in the day AUTOSPORT’s famous snapper Jeff Bloxham said exactly the same thing . Late in the day, not long before I started packing up one of my regular customers Jim Pantel appeared “I didn’t even realize you were here” . Quite.
Next year… Next year I am sure the location of the trade stalls will be sorted. This is too good an event to leave such an obvious loose end flapping Here’s to 2016 and more motor sport at a very English Chateau.
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