10 reasons to go to the 2018 Silverstone Classic

Silverstone's historic extravaganza is the world's biggest classic motor racing festival. We run through the bumper grids, and who should be battling for the spoils

10 reasons to go to the 2018 Silverstone Classic

Super Touring stars

Rickard Rydell is back racing his 1998 British Touring Car Championship- winning Volvo S40. That in itself is enough of a reason to watch out for the brace of Super Touring Car Trophy races.

If, by some remote chance, you need more of a sell, add in that two-time BTCC title winner John Cleland will be out too in his period 1997 Vauxhall Vectra. Then, on top of that, consider reigning series champion Ash Sutton joining the grid in an ex-David Leslie Honda Accord from '96 as the icing on the cake.

It's a star-studded grid that reflects the prestige of the two-litre screamers and the draw they continue to have 20 years on. But it would be wrong to write the grids off as a mere show-pony parade. With historic Super Touring regulars such as the 1999 Accord of regular victor James Dodd and Gary Pearson's newly acquired Audi A4 joining too, it should be a fitting addition to the Classic's diamond jubilee celebrations of the BTCC.

Tin Top Sunday

The famous tin-top names are by no means exclusive to the Super Touring grid, with Sunday's schedule dominated by touring car races.

Of note, 1992 BTCC champion Tim Harvey is back in a Rover SD1 (similar to the car he raced when he made his series debut in '87) as he joins the Tony Dron Trophy fight within the Historic Touring Car Challenge event for cars raced between '66 and '90.

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Harvey's former BMW team-mate and Le Mans runner-up Steve Soper is entered in the Transatlantic Trophy in his Ford Lotus Cortina. More contemporary names Rob Huff (Ford Falcon) and Mat Jackson (Rover Vitesse) feature too.

The iconic colours of Alan Mann Racing will be out challenging for the Transatlantic spoils with son Henry Mann entering a 4.7-litre Ford Mustang from 1965. But he's by no means assured of honours, with the likes of historic aces Roger Wills (Mercury Comet Cyclone) and Andy Wolfe (Falcon Sprint) plus British GT champion Calum Lockie (Falcon) fighting for the same class.

And in with the new

Considering that the Masters Endurance Legends caters for prototypes and GTs that were built before 2012, you'd be forgiven for thinking it stretches the definition of historics. But that gripe will soon pale away.

The original Peugeot 908 from 2007 and the Audi R8 achieve immensely high speeds, and generate phenomenal downforce, so watching the field navigate the high-speed Maggotts and Becketts complex will be quite some spectacle.

In the top class, the driver roster is led by Martin Short in the sonorous Judd-powered Dallara SP1 that set the fastest time on the National circuit last year, while Formula 5000 ace Michael Lyons is reunited with the ORECA 03 LMP2 he raced in the European Le Mans Series in 2015.

Three-time Le Mans class winner Tom Kimber-Smith heads the GT field in an Aston Martin Vantage GT2, while Sam Hancock and Strakka Racing patron Nick Leventis share one of the marque's glorious DBR9s.

Grand prix memories

While there are parade laps to celebrate 70 years since Silverstone hosted its first grand prix in 1948, these cars were intended by their designers to be raced. Spectators will be able to get a more authentic feel for those early days thanks to the two Historic Grand Prix Cars Association encounters for pre-1966 machinery.

While it's the four Maseratis and Tony Best's stunning Ferrari Dino BR01 that are bound to draw the eye, expect the winner to emerge from the larger capacity, mid-engine entries. Able to stretch their legs down Hangar and Wellington Straight, the 2.7-litre Brabham BT11A of Barry Cannell and Peter Horsman's 2500cc Lotus 18/21 should be battling at the sharp end.

With historic racing aces Rob Hall, whose Hall and Hall company has restored and prepared many of the line-up, and Ben Mitchell driving a Cooper T43/51 and BRM P48 respectively, even the fights lower down the order should be tightly contested.

Cat-and-mouse GTs

The Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for pre-1963 GT cars is named after the oldest motorsport prize in the world, having been Inaugurated in 1905.

At the Classic, the grid ranges from a 997cc Ginetta G4 up to the 4.3-litre AC Cobra that Frazer Nash racers Martin Hunt and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards will share. But it's the potent double act of Sam Hancock and Gregor Fisken, who will share a '61 Jaguar E-type, that most expect to be battling at the front of the pack. That said, the Aston Martin DB4GT owned by Wolfgang Friedrichs, particularly in the hands of second driver Simon Hadfield, should offer stern competition.

Meanwhile, victory in the oversubscribed International Trophy for GTs built prior to '66 will likely be battled out between the 10 variants of Cobra. On the expansive Grand Prix circuit, their 4.7-litre V8s offer the grunt needed to edge ahead of the British fight - although in period, Lotus Elan 26Rs were affectionately nicknamed 'mongooses' for their ability to kill the snakes.

Masters Historic Sports Cars

Last weekend, a sizeable gathering of Lolas formed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to mark the constructor's 60th anniversary and to honour the life of the late Martin Birrane, who owned the firm from 1997. Unofficially, those celebrations continue at the Classic.

That's most notable with the T70-scattered grid for Masters Historic Sports Cars that raced between 1962 and '74. In fact, two-thirds will wear the yellow and blue badge and, of those, it's family ties that should produce the most potent driver combinations. Father-and-son team Grahame and Ollie Bryant will go toe to toe with brothers Gary and John Pearson in five-litre Mk3Bs.

Of the smaller-displacement cars, Chevron B19 driver Martin O'Connell heads into the weekend after an utterly dominant win in the Jaguar Classic Challenge race at the Le Mans Classic. Diogo Ferrao, who won Plateau 4 in his Ford GT40 Mk1 at the Circuit de la Sarthe, could be a threat for the best 1800cc contender with his Lola T292.

60 years of Formula Junior

Despite running for just six from 1958 to '63, Formula Junior shone brightly in its brief life. Future Formula 1 world champions Jim Clark, John Surtees, Denny Hulme and Jochen Rindt are all counted among the category's alumni and, to revel in that provenance, four FJ races will run at the Silverstone Classic.

It marks the climax of a three-year World Tour that visited 10 countries and ran for 100 races. But it's the Classic where the series will celebrate its 60th anniversary, and so each race is named in honour of those celebrated F1 title winners.

Formula Junior is now considered the most prolific historic class. Over 300 cars are actively raced around the world and there are more than 50 entries for each of the dedicated front and rear-engined Classic grids. Included in that, over 20 different chassis constructors are represented in the front-engined race alone. With 118 entrants signed up, the event is already on course to set an FJ record.

Senna and Piquet Formula 1

UK-based fans have been largely spoiled for Masters Historic Formula 1 action in recent months. After a run on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix layout in May, plus a British Grand Prix support slot, the grid returns to Silverstone for the Classic.

1995 and 2000 series champion Martin Stretton is out in his '83 Tyrrell 012, although it's Nick Padmore who'll be considered favourite for wins in the ground-effect FW07C with which Williams won the '81 constructors' title.

More modern machinery can be found in the Legends of Modern F1 high-speed demonstrations. A 2011 Sauber C30 is being piloted by LMP1 racer Oliver Webb, so expect some committed cornering speeds, although Steve Griffiths makes the rare outings in his ex-Nelson Piquet Lotus 101 count and could run him close. But the undoubted headline act is Alastair Davidson's Toleman TG184 (above), which was raced in its day by three-time champion Ayrton Senna during his rookie season.

Off-track entertainment

Although it's the racing that's without question the biggest draw for the Classic, Silverstone Auctions has an unsurprisingly large presence across the weekend with no fewer than three separate sales.

Alongside a road-car auction, around £220,000 could net a buyer an Andy Rouse Engineering-built Group A Ford Sierra RS500 (above) in the dedicated race-car sale. Driver Guy Edwards scored four podiums in the 1988 British Touring Car Championship with this RS500 and its new owner could add yet more success at the 2019 Classic as it's eligible for the Super Touring races.

To support the family of the late Henry Hope-Frost, special lots including a signed Lewis Hamilton race suit, donated by the Mercedes F1 team, also feature.

Expect a well-populated circuit infield too, as car clubs litter the space with some of the automotive world's greatest hits. In addition to the well-publicised Porsche and Silverstone grand prix 70th anniversaries, more than 30 separate dates will be commemorated.

Post-war sportscars

Those battling for Stirling Moss Trophy top honours in their pre-1961 sportscars are fighting for the very cup Moss was awarded for winning the '55 British Grand Prix - his first-ever world championship Formula 1 victory.

Roger Wills is the driver in form after winning at the Le Mans Classic early this month, despite just 2000cc to play with in his 1958 Lotus 15.

The second RAC race on the billing, the Woodcote Trophy, caters for sportscars from the post-war years up until 1956. The Ferrari 500 TRC of father-and-son team David and James Cottingham won its class at Le Mans 61 years ago, but it's likely to be outgunned for overall honours among a flurry of Jaguar D-types.

Timetable

Saturday July 21

0903-0923 Formula Junior 1958-60

0940-1030 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy for pre-1963 GT cars

1050-1140 Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-1961 sportscars

1235-1250 Formula Junior 1961-63

1305-1320 Legends of Modern Formula 1 demo

1425-1445 Masters Formula 1

1505-1535 Historic Sports Car Club Road Sports 1947-79

1540-1555 70th anniversary of the first grand prix at Silverstone parade

1605-1625 HGPCA for pre-1966 grand prix cars

1645-1705 Super Touring Trophy

1715-1735 Formula Junior parade

1810-1900 International Trophy for pre-1966 classic GT cars

1920-2010 Masters Sports Cars

2030-2100 Masters Endurance Legends

Sunday July 22

0903-0923 Formula Junior 1961-63

0940-1030 Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy for pre-1956 sportscars

1050-1140 Gallet Trophy for under-two-litre touring cars

1200-1220 Formula Junior 1958-60

1240-1325 Historic Touring Car Challenge

1425-1445 Masters Formula 1

1505-1525 Super Touring Trophy

1545-1615 Masters Endurance Legends

1635-1655 HGPCA for pre-1966 grand prix cars

1715-1800 Transatlantic Trophy for pre-1966 touring cars

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Series Historics
Author Matt Kew
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