In our quieter times, we’ve often idly speculated about how the historic 63-year-old Castle Combe Circuit would make a great venue for an old car racing meet. Well, thanks to all the hard work of those involved at the Combe – for once, we were right.
Friendly, intimate, relaxed and blessed with some cracking racing under a day of warm sunshine, the Castle Combe Autumn Classic 2013 was nothing short of brilliant. Think of it as a more compact, more laid back version of the Silverstone Classic and you won’t be far off imagining what this event is like.
As it’s early days, the race card is not be as extensive as Silverstone’s, but the venue – minus modern F1’s demanding infrastructure – just feels a lot more sensibly scaled and well, human. Factor in the complete absence of corporate hospitality – and this is a meeting which is aimed at the bona-fide old car enthusiast.
The Saturday of the weekend was occupied by ‘modern’ championship finals such as pre-1982 Formula Fords, Formula Ford 1600s, Project 8 Production BMWs, Sports & GTs, Saloon Cars, Intermarque, Formula Ford Carnival and the OPEN Sports v Saloon Challenge. However, Sunday was the day for us.
As per Saturday, Sunday morning was used for the qualifying rounds of the seven different historic formulae – to save repeating ourselves you can read about these in our Autumn Classic Preview Report – followed by a lunch break from 12-1.30pm. (Point of visitor interest: we’ve paid more for horse burgers in the south-east than the price of the good sit-down lunch in the Combe’s café, which also had proper cider at the bar – which got yours sincerely rather over-excited.)
During lunch there were on-track demonstrations and owner club parades. These included a ‘duel’ between a McLaren F1 GTR and Nick Mason’s Maserati 250F, Julian Bronson blasting around in a Scarab, Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis demonstrating the fabulous XJ13 plus a mods ’n’ rockers parade with a Wolseley 6/80 police car in hot pursuit – and yes, it was the turn of Dep-O’s resident scooter junky to get slightly too excited…
Castle Combe is known for attracting cars which are not seen elsewhere, due to the venue’s West Country location and owners understandable reluctance to venture outside the ‘Holy Land’. The club display area and the paddock served up cars which tickled both mine and Gez’s fancy – be they obscure GRP Fifties specials (Turners, etc), an Alfa-engined OSCA MT4 or a mouth-watering Tojeiro JAP (of the ‘Asteroid’ variety as raced by the late Archie Scott-Brown). However, for us it was the VSCC cars which really hit the spot – be they a quartet of C-type Midgets, a Chrysler G-70 roadster or a trio of chain-drive Frazer-Nashs.
Bumping into friends (thanks to the Smith family for the impromptu hospitality) and familiar faces only served to add to the enjoyment of the Autumn Classic – although the marathon jawing did distract us from some of the racing.
Some, but not all – thankfully – and the vast grid of Austin-Healeys and the FiSCAR Fifties Intermarque produced some eye-wateringly close racing. However, nothing really competed with Patrick Blakney-Edwards in his 1928 Frazer-Nash Saloon ‘Owlet’ for his ‘never give up’ sideways style.
So that was the second Autumn Classic. Doubtless it will get bigger and better, but for now we couldn’t have been happier with the event in its current form. Long may it continue.
(Below: To give you an idea of Mr Blakney-Edwards’ impressive style, here he is in action at the inaugural Autumn Classic in 2012.)