Grand Prix Masters cars, 1966-1978

Racing Drivers Rewrite History

3rd July 2009

The Silverstone Classic arrives on the start line on 24 July for a race meeting that includes some of the world’s most iconic cars and marques, and celebrates over 90 years of historical racing. Both young and seasoned drivers, as well as celebrities and racing heroes, will be taking the wheel during three days of thrilling on- and off-track action… over 20 races with 700 cars and 900 drivers, more than 80 car clubs and 4000 cars on display, plus automobilia sales and a classic car auction.

As the competitors polish up their vehicles one last time, Emma Carter finds out from a range of motorsport heroes how they’d like to rewrite the past…

Mark Blundell, ex-driver and commentator, is nostalgic for early Formula One. “I’d love to have done more in F1,” he says. “I grew up a child of the Scalextric era, passionate about cars such as the March and JPS Lotus. Imagine lining up on a ‘70s Formula One grid alongside the likes of James Hunt, Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi.” He pauses. “I reckon the social scene was pretty extraordinary, then, too…”

Martin Brundle, like Blundell (with whom he has collaborated in a driver management company) an ex-driver and commentator, fixes solely on the driving experience. He has Le Mans in mind: “I’ve driven many of Jaguar’s finest racing cars from E-Types, the XJS touring cars throughout Europe, and the sublime Le Mans and Daytona 24-hour winning masterpieces. I’ve even driven the Jaguar F1 car at Silverstone and through Regent Street, London, of all places! A 1950s D-Type at Le Mans would have completed the set nicely!”

Tom Kristensen is a Danish driver, and the only person to have won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans on eight occasions, six of which, astonishingly, were consecutive: the years 2000-2005. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Le Mans features in his driving dreams too: “I wish I could have… enjoyed both racing and the camaraderie of the Bentley Boys in the Le Mans 24-hour races of the 1920s.” It’s not just place or vehicle that matters, though. Kristensen also recalls some of the more interesting personalities of the past: “I had the privilege of practising driver changes with Woolf Barnato’s extraordinary aviator daughter Diana, before she sadly passed away aged 90: imagine if I’d got her to actually race with me!” As Diana Barnato had more than a passing fondness for speed (she was the first British aviatrix to break the sound barrier, for example, and was known to have practised for her first flight test by driving her Bentley at speed along the Egham bypass) that might have been some race!

Other drivers think immediately of particular cars. Nick Mason, drummer with Pink Floyd, whose first love was cars, not music, and who has owned and raced around 30 ‘serious’ historic cars over the years, confesses, “I’d love to have driven a Maserati T60 Birdcage on its first outing, and enjoyed the astonishment of fellow competitors at its performance. I’d also love to have driven the Ferrari GTO at Le Mans in 1962, maybe driving it from Maranello to the circuit to run it in!”

Stirling Moss in a BRM P25, 1959 *

Sir Stirling Moss – a name that should need no explanation – is nostalgic for an early Jaguar. “I remember thinking, when the XK120 was launched, how amazing it was for such a beautiful car to have twin overhead camshafts, 120 mph top speed and only cost £1000. The XK was so far ahead of its time and the car ‘to have’.” Moss was very keen to race one, especially after the XK120 had won in its first race at Silverstone in 1949. “I managed to borrow one the year after,” he continues, “and win the TT, which was my big breakthrough.”

Allan McNish, the current official Audi Sportscar Driver in the European Le Mans Series, and twice winner of 24 Hours of Le Mans, thinks back to the early 70s: “…probably one of the coolest eras to race in: drivers showed their personalities as well as the cars. I watched a film showing the 1972 Maserati and Ferrari sports cars battle from Sebring to Le Mans to Watkins Glen: those cars were so stylish and sexy to look at, and I’m sure fun to drive as well.”

The Silverstone Classic features some fabulous original vehicles, including Formula One cars from the eras of Hunt and Lauda; a Jaguar feature race that celebrates the XK120’s first win at Silverstone 60 years ago; a pre-‘63 GT grid featuring the original Aston Martin Project 212 and no less than five SWB Ferraris; thundering Le Mans endurance racers, touring cars and Minis plus a full range of add-on events for a family day out…

* Reproduced from the
Stirling Moss Scrapbook, 1956-1960,
to be launched by Sir Stirling at the Silverstone Classic

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