Variable weather and fantastic cars always seem to go together at the annual Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, and this year’s event, the sixth, excelled in both things, featuring a crop of remarkable machinery never seen at the event before, plus a selection of weather that ended for once on the best possible note.
Things looked distinctly iffy on the opening Friday, when a cloudburst briefly halted a supercar cavalcade from Manchester to the event site, but perfect conditions on the climactic Sunday showed at last just how welcoming and enjoyable the Cholmondeley Castle estate, near Chester, can be in streaming sunshine, and how quick and challenging the track is when completely dry.
This increasingly popular all-comers motoring festival-cum-sprint — which also features regular air displays and watersports events on the large lake that flanks the start-line — led to a titanic battle in most classes, notably in the Autocar-sponsored classes for supercars and track-day cars.
The three-day audience topped 60,000 people for the first time (a 15 per cent increase) and as a result the event was better supported than ever by the motor industry’s big names, starting with Bentley, celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Le Mans win in 2003, and whose HQ is only about 15 miles away in Crewe.
“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.”