The Silverstone Classic – which in 2015 celebrated its 25th anniversary – is firmly established as the world’s biggest classic motor racing festival. The classic car celebration is staged at the famous Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire. Silverstone is the birthplace of the FIA Formula One World Championship and home to the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.
The three-day festival features the very best of historic racing covering more than eight decades of motor sport, as well as live music from iconic rock bands (this year it was The Boomtown Rats, Reef and The Stranglers) and a wealth of family entertainment. This includes a funfair, retail outlets, a host of interactive activities, a two-day classic car auction, air displays plus huge showcases of classic cars often celebrating important milestones in automotive history.
It all started at dawn on Saturday with 21 hot air balloons taking to the skies and ended after dusk with eighties chart-toppers, The Stranglers bringing down the curtain on another memorable day at the ‘Rocking and Racing’ Classic.
In between, the famous Grand Prix circuit hosted no fewer than 11 fiercely-fought races featuring something for everyone, ranging from early eighties DFV-powered F1 cars and fifties GTs, to slightly more modern Super Tourers and Group C prototypes. Spectators also witnessed three high-speed demonstrations and a succession of significant anniversary track parades.
Notable among these were the Lamborghini Club celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Miura plus 100 years since the birth of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, the Viper Club marking its 20th birthday and Porsche Club GB which was honoring Porsche’s first ‘transaxle’ sports cars 40 years ago.
Indeed, the German marque was out in force with a massive display fronted by its Le Mans winning 919 Hybrid plus a number of beautifully restored 924s, 944s and 968s. In total, no fewer than 2,500 club members were displaying 1,200 Porsches.
Barely had The Stranglers left the stage on Saturday evening, when Sunday’s equally spectacular historic motor sport action roared back into life at the Silverstone Classic.
Billed as ‘Tin Top Sunday’, the packed schedule featured a second mouth-watering feast. This time the unrivalled on-track show was headed by nine retro races. Living up to its billing, the race program featured a trio of evocative pit-stop races for packed grids of saloon cars from the sixties, seventies and eighties as well as second showdowns for many of Saturday’s highlights: including Group C, Can-Am, Super Tourers and an evocative F1 race that would be one of the most thrilling ever seen at Silverstone.
The parades and demos between the races included colorful cavalcades celebrating many motoring milestones. Among these were 50 competition cars honoring 50 years of the Historic Sports Car Club (HSCC), the Mercedes-Benz Club marking 20 years of the CLK and SLK, and the Morgan Sportscar Club hailing 80 years of the Morgan 4/4.
Rather faster were the star-studded World GP Bike Legends, with former MotoGP and World Superbike champions, such as Wayne Gardner, Freddie Spencer, Phil Read and Troy Bayliss among those riding an amazing selection of screaming 500cc motorbikes.
The sight and sound of Mika Häkkinen’s 2001 British Grand Prix winning McLaren MP4/16A was another of the day’s many acoustic high spots as were the 90s Endurance Legends – an amazing gathering of Ferraris, Jaguars, Porsches and other GT and sports prototypes, which also included touring car legend Steve Soper behind the wheel of Nick Mason’s fabulous McLaren F1.
The Classic, though, is not all about the racing and rocking. Show goers also savored a live restoration of a Range Rover Classic using only parts purchased on eBay as well as regular Car Clinics hosted with TV personality Mike Brewer, who hosts Wheeler Dealers.
Introduced last year to mark the festival’s 25th anniversary, the Stuart Graham ‘Scarf and Goggles’ Award is now presented annually to what is judged to be the most admirable car competing at the Classic. This year Graham – one of the inspirations behind the original Classic event staged at Silverstone and a TT winner on two and four wheels – presented the trophy to Harm Lagaaij for his astonishing Shadow Mk1 – the most astonishingly and innovative of the Can-Am cars competing in special races held at the festival to mark 50 years since the creation of the illustrious North American sports car series in 1966.
The day’s final award – the Motor Sport Magazine Driver of the Weekend – went to Rob Hall for his hat-trick of stirring victories in his pair of stunning Matra sports cars as well as his part in that exhilarating F1 encounter.
All we can say is roll on 2017 we can’t wait!