I’m a child of the 1980s, which means I’m a bit bored of modern F1. In my day the engines were deafening, the cars were smothered in cigarette advertising, and the drivers fought, smoked and… well, did other things that made them quite interesting. We didn’t hear those guys tell their teams they couldn’t be bothered to race as they had already won the championship. Different world.
However, in this job I sometimes get a glimpse back into the past through the people I meet and the stories they tell. Earlier this month, I found myself in one of the finest events for the motor racing nostalgic: The Motor Sport Hall of Fame Awards at the RAC Woodcote Park.
The event was great straight from the off. As I climbed out of my car (late) I was immediately hit by a wall of engine noise; I dashed as quickly as I could in black tie round to the end of Captain’s Drive to see a group of the great and good driving some extraordinary machines down the road in the manner for which they were designed. Brian Redman was there driving a Ford GT40, followed by John Watson in a Chevrolet Camaro. Prodrive’s rally success was represented by a Porsche 911 and a Metro 6R4, while most of the noise I had heard emanated from the ex-Bruce McLaren M6B Can-Am car driven by Dario Franchitti. Bringing up the rear was John Surtees’s 1960 MV Agusta, ridden by celebrity baker Paul Hollywood.
Soon after the run concluded we were called into dinner. I was being hosted by Hagerty partners H&H Classic Auctions who had just completed their first Woodcote Park auction, with some superb cars consigned. The evening was great- not only were the awards intelligently presented by Motor Sport Editor Nick Trott and TV presenter Jennie Gow but the audience was a who’s who of motor racing.
All in all, the feeling was the right people won the awards. Nigel Mansell was a popular winner in the F1 category, and as he reached the stage to collect his award it was touching to see his wife Roseanne standing to get a better shot on her digital camera. After all, even F1 World Champions and Hall of Fame inductees have families on Facebook.
Barry Sheene was a very popular inductee in the motorcycle category, and his award was collected by his sister Margaret Smart and his former mechanic Martyn Ogborne.
The Sports Car Racing award went to Brian Redman, the US Racing award to Roger Penske, and the Inspiration award to Murray Walker. Finally, David Richards of Prodrive was named the Industry Champion inductee.
For me, the highlight of the evening was talking to people about their experiences of motor racing. I had a fascinating conversation with Christopher Marshall who had, in his words, “Tried to manage the unmanageable James Hunt.” His stories demonstrated a great deal of fondness for Hunt, and a nostalgia for the relative simplicity of the time.
There was only one slightly sombre note cast over the evening, and that was when good wishes were passed to Sir Stirling Moss, who is still recovering from a serious chest infection. We wish him the very best of luck and hope he recovers fully soon.