What is it that makes Historic and Classic Car racing one of the fastest growing areas of motorsport?

It's not just a peculiarly British form of nostalgia, for the rapid expansion of historic racing is now Europe wide with many international and dozens of national championships, dedicated competitors clocking up thousands of miles to give their wonderfully restored cars a reasonable numbers of airings each season.

Is it purely nostalgia by a group of racers and fans who are re-living the racing seen in their youth or can this form of racing stand entirely on it's own merits. Well, having visited several of the biggest national gatherings and judging by the size of the crowds gathered at each and the wide diversity of their ages, I believe this type of racing can, indeed, stand entirely on it's own merits.

It appeals to all ages, large audiences thrilling to the sight of massed grids of wonderfully restored Formula 1, 2, classic Le Mans sports racers, GT's and racing saloons of the sixties, seventies and early eighties.

From my conversations with many fans the consensus view seems to be that there are many elements to the attractions of historic motorsport, in part the sounds - wondrously full throated sounds which modern racing cars generally seem to lack -, the colours - for all of these older cars seem somehow more colourful than their modern counterparts- and the historical associations - particularly for those F1 cars which have won races or championships in the hands of illustrious drivers of the past, names now, sadly, lost to the sport, like Jim Clark, Graham Hill and other World Champions, their cars now being piloted with verve by new owners, some of them former drivers who have returned to competition in historics at the close of their careers purely for the fun and camaraderie of it.

Another factor that draws the crowds is the raw speed of these veterans. On many U.K. circuits the times recorded by today's drivers in restored F1 machinery are not very different from those recorded by the same machines in their heyday, nor for that matter from some modern racers.

It certainly couldn't be said that a reason for the attraction is low cost. While probably true that many forms of classic saloon racing and rallying are fairly cheap, more so than their modern counterparts and therefore attractive to relatively impecunious racers, this explanation for the rapid growth cannot be advanced in respect of the top end of this revival.

The F1, 2 and GT car's costs are quite astronomical and an almost train spotter - like dedication and some very serious money are needed to compete at this level. Some owner/drivers even go so far in ensuring historical accuracy as to restore - and use - the original transporter lorries.

Typically, an F1 car - or a top GT car - with any reasonable history can cost £ 25000 - £ 100, 000 to buy, a similar sum to restore and not very much less for a season's racing given the distances involved in any European championship.

But historic racing has saved many such cars from the crusher, the available supply being rather more than is enough to satisfy the needs of museums and private collections.

If you only go to a couple of race meetings this year, try to take in one of the historic meetings, you'll be hooked, I promise!


Article © Graham Benge

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