The third annual Autumn Classic meeting at Castle Combe racetrack provided a feast for the senses with fabulous cars, outstanding racing and a wonderful period atmosphere. Sponsored by Bristol Forklifts and Heritage Classic Car Insurance the event also attracted record competitor numbers.
The racing paddock atmosphere at the Autumn Classic was unlike any other event I have been to at the Wiltshire circuit. It felt like I was in another era, a time of the gentleman racer, where motorsport was more a ‘seat of your pants’ affair as drivers would grip onto a wooden steering wheel and go like the wind.
For 2014 the occasion boasted one of the largest gatherings of the locally made Bristol marque. It gave present day circuit owner Pat Strawford the opportunity to recreate the historic original lap from 8th July 1950 when Mrs Kay Thomas opened the new Castle Combe track in her white Bristol 401 Farina drophead.
Great British marques Aston Martin, Jaguar and Austin Healey were well represented by owners clubs in the Heritage Insurance Featured Club Village and a wide variety of classic car clubs brought along their fabulous cars to display on Club Avenue.
On circuit there were many demos including a rare 1955 Le Mans Bristol 450, event sponsor Bristol Forklifts boss Julian Bronson’s 1960 2.5 litre Offenhauser powered Scarab F1 which had just won at Spa and Nick Mason’s 1957 Maserati 250F Grand Prix car driven by Mark Hales. The stunning 16.5 litre Fiat Isotta land speed record car and the 1905 steam powered ‘Whistling Billy’ also added a unique edge to the action on track.
There was local rivalry with the Mason family taking to the circuit in the Jon Gross Memorial Trophy for Historic Aston Martins race. Annette Mason competed against her two daughters, Holly and Chloe in Aston’s from 1934 and 1935 as part of the Ten Tenths team. Amanda Hadfield added to the lady racers in her Elva Courier as an invitation entry. The race was won in outstanding style by Simon Hadfield in his Aston DB3S.
Wiltshire driver Peter Campbell, from Westbury, took third in the Fifties Sports Car club’s inter-marque event in his unusual Wingfield Bristol Special and Tim Wadsworth from Minety raced his Lagonda 2 litre SML in the Vintage Sports Car Club’s race for pre-war sports cars.
1988 Le Mans winner Andy Wallace took the wheel of the sole Jaguar D-Type in a packed field of pre 1966 Jaguars. Wallace ran a strong 3rd for most of the race, but was unlucky to lose two places as a result of an incident which brought out the ‘safety car’.
John Moon, part of the Autumn Classic team at Castle Combe Circuit, was delighted with how the meeting went. “We are all still on a high after the event, as it exceeded even our most ambitious expectations. The positive comments and congratulations continue to pour in and it is beginning to sink in that we are now absolutely on the map as one of the classic and historic racing scene’s premier events. We intend to continue building on what we have created and can see many ways in which we can enhance and improve it without destroying the event’s unique, relaxed atmosphere. The 2015 date will be announced shortly”