“We’re delighted with the way things came together,” said event director, James Hall. “The weather kept improving through the weekend. When on Saturday morning I saw Brutus, the 46-litre BMW aero-engined special from Germany, set fire to the grass as it drove away, I knew the weather was going to be with us this year. And Sunday — Father’s Day — was truly fantastic.”
The headline battle for fastest time of the meeting — and because of the ideal conditions, a new course record — was between Caterham’s SP/300R and Radical’s RXC. Radical’s Robbie Kerr, a well-known single-seater driver, settled the argument with a time of 55.29sec, beating Scott Mansell’s second-fastest Caterham by 1.3sec on a storming final run of the weekend, which also chopped around five seconds from the existing outright record.
The same field featured a deadly battle between an Ariel Atom 3.5 (not the V8 this year but the more affordable supercharged Honda version) and one of its marketplace rivals, the BAC Mono. Both are road-going cars whose waiting lists have defied parlous economic times, with victory in a three-day battle going to Niki Faulkner’s Atom with the remarkable Sunday time of 61.18, that shaded the Mono by a second.
“It’s a terrific result for us,” said Ariel boss Tom Siebert. “Our car’s a genuine road-going machine with an MoT — you could drive it home — and it costs a fraction as much as others in the business. We proved something today.”
As usual, the Cholmondeley pageant was stuffed with cars rarely seen in the ‘soft south’, prominent among them Kevin Wheatcroft’s magnificent W125, a nut-and-bolt recreation of the most evocative of all pre-war “Silver Arrows” (diplomatically not sporting a Mercedes-Benz star on its bonnet), which sounded fantastic, even on gentle shakedown runs. The car can be seen most days at the nearby Donington Collection of singe-seat racing cars.
Peter Neumark brought his famous Jaguar D-type, OKV1, a finned, short-nose which was the second D ever built and the earliest of a trio entered at Le Mans by the factory for 1954. It finished second in the 24-hour classic.
As ever, automotive anniversaries partly guided this year’s Cholmondeley car selection. Aston Martin led the whole event with a class of a dozen fine cars, from pre-war Ulster to the very same Vanquish, registered 100YRS, which Autocar used to cover the recent Nürburgring 24-hour race. Aston owners energetically supported it in a special trackside parking areas.
Bentley marked its decade-old win by bringing its Le Mans-winning Speed Eight — and had winning driver Guy Smith on hand to demonstrate it with verve — hitting 112 mph on what, for a car like this was an exceptionally tight track — and chatting cheerfully to fans on all three days.
They also showed an extremely promising-looking racing Continental GT3 racer, due to make its race debut later this year. Lamborghini, 50 years old this year, was well represented by dealers and owners, and a mighty Maserati 250F, driven with verve by Andy Willis, showed what the greatest Italian grand prix cars looked and sounded like 60 years ago.
As usual, the Autocar paddock for road-going supercars attracted the biggest crowds, and many showed a surprising turn of speed on what was for them a narrow track that demands lots of acceleration and excellent brakes.
Tim Marshall-Rowe brilliantly defended Lamborghini’s honour with the outstanding time of 62.64 seconds in an LP570 Superleggera to beat a field of what featured big names like Andy Wallace (Bugatti Veyron), Guy Smith (Bentley Continental GT Speed), Anthony Reid (Noble M600) and Derek Bell (Bentley “ice record” cabrio).
The event concluded in streaming sunshine, with the Fathers’ Day punters universally regretting it had ended. “I’ve had an amazing time,” said one. “At one stage I was trying to watch Brutus, a bloke on a flyboard, and the Avro Lancaster — all at once. That’s not a problem you have anywhere else...”