An annual highlight of the historic motoring calendar, the 2017 Double Twelve Motorsport Festival saw the Vintage Sports-Car Club and Brooklands Museum join forces once more to organise a weekend of motoring competition set against the backdrop of the world’s first purpose-built circuit on 17th/18th June.
However, this year’s edition marked a particularly special occasion as the weekend was headlined by the well-publicised re-opening of the restored Finishing Straight on Saturday, 110-years to the day since Brooklands first opened on 17th June 1907.
A record turnout were in attendance to watch the Earl of March perform the opening ceremony during the lunch break, the first stage of the museum’s £8.1M Heritage Lottery-funded Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Race Track Revival Project. His grandfather, ‘Freddie’ March had been an apprentice at Bentley Motors and had won the Brooklands Double Twelve at the venue in 1931 in an MG Midget before going on to found Goodwood Circuit after WW2, regarded the spiritual successor to the, by then, defunct Brooklands.
This was followed by a re-enactment of the original Opening Parade of 1907, led by an Itala as in period, and a stunning array of Brooklands cars and motorcycles, such as the 1927 Delages which claimed the top three places in the second British Grand Prix at Brooklands 90 years ago, as well as a line-up of Land Speed Record racers, including the 1911 Fiat S76 ‘Beast of Turin’, Parry-Thomas’s ‘Babs’ and of course the Museum’s own Napier-Railton.
The gathered crowds were thrilled as much of the historic machinery was enthusiastically demonstrated over the bumpy surface of the original concrete, kicking up plumes of dust, with many drivers and passengers in period costume to create a wonderful nostalgic atmosphere.
Alongside the celebrations, the well-established competitions of the Speed Trials, Driving Tests and Concours again took place across the historic Museum site and neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World circuit over the two days.
In a change to previous years, the Paddock for Saturday’s Speed Trials had been moved to the Museum site to further incorporate that element into the weekend, with cpectators able to explore the competing machinery against the backdrop of the clubhouse. Cars were then led through the Museum site in convoy batches across to the MB World track to perform their runs against the clock.
The event had attracted another capacity entry across the VSCC classes with over 100 Pre-war Racing and Sports-Cars in action, forming another round of the Club’s 2017 Speed Championship, so the competition was sure to be fiercely fought, as the scorching temperatures added yet further challenge for the drivers.
Amongst the Sports-Car classes, there was success for Stuart Rose’s Austin 7 Ulster and the Morgan Three Wheeler of Simon Edwards, whilst Geoff Smith narrowly beat Simon Blakeney-Edwards in their Frazer Nash head-to-head. Regular frontrunners John Guyatt, Kevin Morton, Dudley Sterry and Ewen Getley enjoyed success again in the Darracq, Riley, HRS and Bentley respectively whilst Robin Gale continued to enjoy his first season of competition with class victory in his Riley Special.
VSCC stalwart, Hicky Hickling topped the ever-popular Pre-1918 Edwardian line-up in his 1911 Sunbeam 16/20 and local member Gary Clare defended his small capacity Racing Class title in his Vintage Special ‘Grannie’.
As anticipated, the overall accolades were decided by the day’s faster racing machinery with a number of the VSCC’s perennial challengers taking part. Terry Crabb was a class winner again, as he shared ERA R12C with son Jamie, who claimed runner-up spot as well as the ‘Fastest Under 30’ prize, showing real potential in the historic racer. In the same class, Sue Darbyshire demonstrated her skills at the wheel of her Morgan again to claim the ‘Fastest Lady’ title. Although he was unable to stake claims for the overall victory, Julian Grimwade took another class win in his Frazer Nash Norris Special.
Ultimately it proved a battle for the prestigious ‘Fastest Time of Day’ title between Ian Baxter in the ex-George Abecassis Alta Single Seater and Ben Fidler, making his competitive debut in father Brian’s hallowed ERA R4D with the latter prevailing by a mere 0.2 seconds to defend the car’s title of last year.
The following day saw several of the Speed Trials’ Sports-Car entrants take part in another entertaining Driving Tests competition alongside an eclectic gathering of other Edwardian, Pre-war and Post-war Sports-Cars, Tourers and Saloons.
Coordinated again by VSCC Director and Brooklands Trust Secretary, Kevin Lee – Clerk of the Course for the VSCC’s annual New Year Driving Tests at the venue – the day marked the first competitive motorsport on the original Finishing Straight since Brooklands closed in 1939, with three of the five tests located on the restored surface, alongside the familiar challenges set out on the Members’ Banking and, of course, Test Hill, each to be attempted twice.
Following his Speed Trials success the preceding day, Robin Gale was a winner once more as he led a competitive Pre-war Sports-Cars class, ahead of fellow 1st Class award winners, Colin Reynolds in his MG 12/12 M-Type and regular VSCC Driving Tests competitor, Jon Fleming’s Austin 7 Ulster, whilst Richard Wadman proved the best of the Touring Cars in his Alvis.
There were Post-war Class wins for Double Twelve regulars, Amelia Wooding (MG Midget), Paul Hopley (Rover Mini) and Marc Hanson (MG YB), and also for the Lotus Elan Sprint and Mercedes SL of debutants Bryan Smart and Jack Nulty, whilst Steve Taylor took the overall victory in his Ford Sierra XR4I.
Throughout the weekend, Jon Purser and his team of judges were working tirelessly to assess the entrants of the Double Twelve Concours competition, which featured another fantastic array of both racing and road-going machinery.
As tradition, each car was awarded marks on a range of familiar criteria, including both originality and condition of bodywork, interior, engine and chassis whilst a more subjective ‘Sprit of Brooklands’ score was also applied, taking into account patina, Brooklands and general historical interest and overall character, all in keeping with the ethos of the Double Twelve Festival.
Accommodating the usual selection of Classes for genuine Brooklands cars, Touring cars, Pre-1918, Vintage, Post-Vintage and Post-war, the winning line-up presented a wonderful selection depicting a golden era of motoring: the 1935 Aston Martin Mk II of David Bracey, John Clark’s 1958 Bentley S1 Flying Spur, John Dennis’s 1916 Packard Twin Six, the 1931 Bugatti Type 51 of Richard Collier, Timothy Jarrett’s 1939 Frazer Nash/BMW and Neil Manley’s 1962 Jaguar E-Type.
But a well-received overall victory was awarded to the 1927 Delage Grand Prix Car of Miles Collier, one of the three historic racers that had helped headline the weekend’s Anniversary celebrations.
With the best scores in two of the three elements counting towards the prestigious overall Double Twelve competition, Robin Gale was crowned this year’s Champion in Sunday afternoon’s winners’ ceremony on the Finishing Straight in front of Brookland’s Edwardian clubhouse, with his 1934 Riley one of just two cars to claim class victories in two events, ahead of Marc Hanson’s 1952 MG YB runner-up as the younger car, and Amelia Wooding, Top Lady Competitor for a third consecutive year in her MG Midget Roadster.