The increasingly popular Cholmondeley Pageant of Power has been dogged for the past four years of its five-year existence by terrible weather. And so it was again last weekend.
But this was the year people stopped worrying about it. The bumper audience arrived on the Saturday, during the worst weather of all, attracted by a fascinating programme including a Lotus-Lamborghini F1 and an extraordinary collection of aero-engined cars. A vast 42-litre Packard-Bentley which would spit foot-long flames its 24 exhausts, was a perfect antidote to the damp weather.
The most popular, and arguably most competitive class was the new-this-year Autocar-sponsored supercar category, featuring 17 timed competitors. Cars ranged from Simon Dickinson’s Aston-Martin One-77 to our own Matt Prior’s Ariel Atom V8.
The road cars set some of the course’s best times, which proved how highly developed today’s performance cars are, and how comparatively easy to drive, compared with the most potent classic racing cars, which were present in large numbers.
Matt didn’t quite take first prize, but nevertheless covered himself with glory in the Atom. Conditions were tough, but the fastest car was Duncan Tappy’s locally-built BAC Mono at 63.06. That’s two seconds slower than Andy Mitchell’s Hasaberg motorbike, which was fastest of all.
Vauxhall man Simon Hucknall surprised many by posting a time of 72 seconds in the enormous yellow 6.2 litre Vauxhall Maloo “ute” and another stand-out was Jann Mardenborough. He was chosen from tens of thousands of computer-game competition entrants to drive a Nissan GT-R for real. He was fourth fastest and drove on the limit, as an Armco brush-mark on the Nissan’s right rear flank illustrated.
My own official duty was to pilot a Renault Twizy around the circuit as part of a parade of low of zero-carbon vehicles. I managed to achieve a top speed of 49mph down the back straight (against an official top speed of 52) and I’ll swear no car on such skinny tyres ever zipped so quickly through the chicane. Another shock was to be asked to drive a Daf 55, because the regular driver had withdrawn at the last minute.
I had expect a low-powered, Dutch-built economy saloon, but it turned out to be Tony Hazelwood’s famous Daf V8 supersaloon, complete with 5.0-litre engine and a rear axle from a March F2 car. It sounded fantastic, and I did my best with it despite mechanical gremlins.
Still, between the Daf and I, we enjoyed one of the great weekends of the motoring year at Cholmondeley.