The elderly man in the flat cap beside me laughs out loud and grins from ear to ear. His wife, not quite so vocal, beams her own approval. Beyond them a young family are craning over the barriers to watch as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo thats just let rip a huge anti-lag backfire, has eased up again clearly intent on provoking another a few yards up the high street in rural Bromyard. Now normally this kind of thing does’t get this kind of reaction from across the ages in such a location. But off it goes again , BANG-BB-BBB-BANG, and more laughter and smiles follow at the enormous flame that spits from it’s exhaust pipe. A little later the arrival of a 3 door Cosworth at a fair clip produces a chorus of “oooooh!” as it whooshes into sight over the uneven pedestrian crossing. It isn’t going very fast but the street here is narrow, the crossing creates a pinch-point not a great deal wider than it’s door-mirrors . The ancient buildings, some of them timber framed Tudor constructions, funnel the sound and so the impression of speed is far greater than the reality. You can almost feel engines breathing an arms-reach away . Well….maybe a bit more… but they are close.
The pavements along the main street are crammed with people. Thousands of them. The kind of crowd you only now see in old photos of bank-holiday carnivals or victory parades in the days before TV and sunday shopping. Photographers literally hung out of windows….and this is a little town quite some way out in the boondocks. It’s impressive. People love it. And not just ‘car people’.
The 140-odd entries are a mix of racing, rally, sports and classic cars, motorcycles and the odd kart and sidecar. There are a lot of Big Healey’s , Jaguars, Bentley’s masses of Morgans, a rorty Anglia rally car, a March 75B Formula Atlantic car and an assortment of single seaters from the nearby Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, a gorgeous mid 1960s Formula 2 Lotus and …..BLUE BIRD !
To me the March was the star of the show, it spoke to me – reminded me of happy childhood Easters at Thruxton watching the likes of Ronnie Peterson and Hans Stuck in similar looking March F2 cars. It sounded fantastic. The shrill exhaust note raising the hairs on the back of your neck – although the driver was apparently having a few issues with grounding and the car jumping out of gear. Never mind sir – your presence was much appreicated. To most however it was that big blue and silver beast which Sir Malcolm Campbell drove on Pendine Sands back in the 1920s which starred. The fact it hadn’t got the steering lock to negociate the tight cofines of the half-mile circuit and had to be three-point-turned (actually something more than three…) to return back up the main street wasn’t an issue. It spat flames from it’s twelve stub-exhausts and the polished alloy bonnet glinted in the spring sunlight. It looked great. It was great!
In the side streets nestled various little knots of interesting machinery: A row of autograss racers, a huddle of Autin 7s on the forcourt of a pub, a group of TVRs sharing the same street as the whole motorcycle entry. That boasted everything from two grasstrack machines to a drop-dead gorgeous Vincent Black Shadow. Kevin and Bob (the ice cream men…not the Minions!) were doing good trade, so was the bakery that I called into for a lunchtime cake. They had almost sold out and all the many pubs , bars and grills seemed to be packed.
The paddocks were located in assorted car parks out in the industrial area of the town. I bumped into several familiar faces out there , enthused over the glorious Alfa 6C 1750 and saw local hero Barrie Williams , 77 years young and still a star turn at Goodwood in anything they let him get his hands on. Barrie opened the event in his Mini Cooper rally car , passengered by his 100 year old mum. Later on her zipped round the course on (rather than in) a historic kart which seemed to have the most uncomfortable driving position ever devised.
Back at the restart after lunch Graham Jones, the man who devised and organised the whole event, is buzzing. He tells me the whole day is , so-far, working out very much as planned and as we watch the team from the National Motor Museum fire up the Blue Bird once again, he reckons the crowd is just about as big as you could comfortably squeeze into the town. The weather is fine, everyone is smiling. In short he could not have wished for more.
I have to agree. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event. Don’t miss next year!
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