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Car-Fest North 2014

Welcome to my party, everybody!!!!

Welcome to my party, everybody!!!!

Food. Music. Cars. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that just about everyone is going to be an ardent fan of at least one of these topics, and that’s exactly what Car-Fest has to offer – all three and more.

Paul Hollywood states his case in Cakes vs Pies

Paul Hollywood states his case in Cakes vs Pies

 

I’m one of those people that’s passionate about them all, but as much as I enjoyed the annual ‘Cakes vs Pies’ competition, and the live performances by the likes of Simple Minds and Seasick Steve, this is a site about cars, so that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.

Some very valuable noses on display - just some of the Magnificent 7

Some very valuable noses on display – just some of the Magnificent 7

Now in its third year (second to be based at Oulton Park), Car-Fest North is unique in its approach to getting the maximum enjoyment out of petrol and what it propels. It’s easy to draw comparison to the likes of The Goodwood Festival Of Speed – the quality and quantity of cars on-site is genuinely breathtaking, but you’ll not find any competition or racing at Car-Fest – that’s just not in the spirit of the event.

£1million...£2million...£3million..........

£1million…£2million…£3million……….

The whole point is to make high-performance and achingly beautiful cars as accessible as possible to everyone present, showing off just what they’re capable of, including their sometimes blisteringly quick performance and how quickly it can decimate tyres,  whilst maintaining an atmosphere that even the youngest festival-goers will feel at home in.

Lower than a snake's belly

Lower than a snake’s belly

Using Oulton Park to host the event may take away some of the garden-party spirit that Chris Evans is keen to offer at his Car-Fest events (CF South is held in Jody Scheckter’s back garden), but I personally feel that the advantages of having a professional grade racing track for the drivers to show off on, including its run-off areas, barriers and pits, far outweigh anything that might be lost by not using a quaint driveway and some pretty fields.

Previous owner: Mr. A Senna

Previous owner: Mr. A Senna

Anyway, back to the cars. As I said, there’s no timing or racing to report on so I can’t give you any results, but this doesn’t detract from Car-Fest in the slightest. It sometimes seems as if Chris Evans has flicked through his address book, selected his utmost petroleum-loving mates and invited them to his party to unashamedly show-off their most treasured cars. And what’s wrong with that?

Almost priceless Ferrari on a racetrack - not for the faint-hearted owner

Almost priceless Ferrari on a racetrack – not for the faint-hearted owner

Nick Mason of Pink Floyd is an ever-present at Car-Fest, this year bringing his Ferrari 250 GTO – a car regularly described as the most beautiful ever made, and recently estimated at being worth between £30 – £50 million. You wouldn’t blame Mr Mason for leaving the car on static display with a barrier around it, regardless of how much he’s worth, but does he? Does he heck – it was out there on the track doing what it was made for – being driven on the edge.

Nick Mason and Paul Hollywood; "My Ferrari's shinier"  - "No, my Ferrari's shinier"

Nick Mason and Paul Hollywood; “My Ferrari’s shinier” – “No, my Ferrari’s shinier”

Various other TV stars including Paul Hollywood and Edd China can be found propelling their pride and joys around the track and, in-keeping with the whole accessible spirit of the show, they’re more than happy to chat and have pictures taken with the public once the driving’s finished and it’s safe to open the paddock up.

5th gear's Jonny Smith in his 'retired moonshine runner' Dodge Charger

5th gear’s Jonny Smith in his ‘retired moonshine runner’ Dodge Charger

The unique atmosphere of Car-Fest truly has a magical element about it, probably due to both its insistence that nothing is taken too seriously, and the fact that it’s all to raise money for The BBC’s Children in Need. If you weren’t fortunate enough to get tickets this year, I can’t implore you enough to try again next year. Chris Evans gives regular updates on ticket sales via his Radio 2 breakfast show, or you can go to http://www.carfest.org to keep abreast of things.

Ready for takeoff!!

Ready for takeoff!!

Seasick Steve

Yes – that guitar has just one string…..

To all those going to the sold-out Car-Fest South event at the end of August – have fun!

By Ben Harrington

 

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Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2014

Cholmondeley CorvetteThe 13th – 16th of June once again saw the peace and quiet of the usually tranquil grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire shattered, as thousands of horsepower were unleashed on the ground, in the air and on the water, the Pageant of Power had returned.

Some of the Rally Car class

Some of the Rally Car class

Ticket sales were apparently up an impressive 30% on last year’s event and a record 67,000 people attended over the three days. Holding the event on the Father’s Day weekend could be very helpful in this department as it really is accessible motor sport that the whole family can enjoy.

Cholmondeley race carSporting an Italian theme this year partly due to the legendary motoring brand – Maserati celebrating their centenary, the organisers were kind enough to provide a giant screen for attendees to watch England vs Italy in the World Cup. The result was irrelevant.

Some of the Super Car class

Some of the Super Car class

The Saturday night entertainment is fast becoming one of the highlights of ‘CPOP‘ and this year the volume was cranked up a notch with the evergreen Status Quo providing the soundtrack. Possibly a good job that Cholmondeley’s nearest neighbours aren’t within earshot!

There were many new, previously unseen entrants in this year’s event, not least of which being the Formula Ford drivers Sam Brabham and Max Marshall who did what any 19 year olds would do given an empty track and a Ford GT – they made the most of it.

Classic BentleyAnyone who’s attended CPOP before would have recognised some familiar faces also; ‘Mavis’ the crowd-pleasing Bentley Packard is an ever-present at the event and those deafening, fire-spitting exhausts never disappoint.

Justin Law Jaguar XJ220LMOn the more serious side of things, the father/son combination of Don and Justin Law brought a couple of cars down for all to see, including the ultra-rare Lancia Delta Integrale Rally Car- possibly the ultimate car for getting around the tight, slippery Cholmondeley track. They also brought with them what was probably the star of the show for me – the painfully beautiful Jaguar XJ220 LM. Justin explained to me that the car was only 99% finished but that he and his father had worked around the clock to make sure it was prepared to compete at Cholmondeley (the finished result competed at the Goodwood FOS – if you want to have a look). No matter how many cars Don and Justin get involved with, their enthusiasm for motor sport is infectious. I was lucky enough to be a passenger in one of their other XJ220s a few years ago – these guys are serious about the brand and Justin never holds back when he’s behind the wheel.Jumping Jaguar XJ220

Overall winner of the weekend was once again Robbie Kerr in the Radical SR8 RX, who also won it in 2013. His time of 56.41 on the warm Saturday afternoon wasn’t enough to beat his own record of 55.29 set last year, but tightened chicanes and the usual Saturday night rain meant that he was unable to push the car to its limits on the Sunday.

Not forgetting the bikes........

Not forgetting the bikes……..

Once again, there was enough going on at the Pageant to keep everyone happy; here’ s to next year when it’ll hopefully be even bigger and better.

By Ben Harrington

For updates about 2015’s show and details on how to buy tickets, go to http://www.cpop.co.uk, follow them on Facebook or follow @PageantofPower on Twitter 

 

A selection of images from Car-Fest North 2013

Chris Evans Carest4

Chris Evans Carfest1

Chris Evans Carfest2

Chris Evans Carfest3

Chris Evans Carfest5

Countach Carfest 2013

E type Jag Carfest 2013

Ed China desk Carfest

Ed China Pete Waterman Carfest 2

Ed China Pete Waterman Carfest 3

Ed China Pete Waterman Carfest 3

Ed China Pete Waterman carfest

Ferrari 250 GTO Carfest 2013

Grey Ferrari Carfest 2013

Jaguar XJ15 Carfest

Line up Carfest 2013

Loud dragster Carfest

Mcrae Impreza Carfest

Nick Mason Carfest 2013 2

Nick Mason Carfest 2013 3

Nick Mason Carfest 2013 4

Nick Mason Carfest 2013

Silver Mercedes Carfest 2013

The Feeling Camaro Carfest (2)

The Feeling Camaro Carfest 3

The Feeling Camaro Carfest

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2013

Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera CPOP

Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera

So, last Sunday represented that time of year again. A time for card makers to rejoice and all the dads of the world to enjoy breakfast in bed and other such pleasantries – it was, of course, father’s day. There is a slight element of irony then, in the fact that I spent most of last sunday at the mother of all pageants – the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power.

Now in its sixth year, the format continued in the same vein as previous events with copious amounts of fossil fuels being sacrificed in the air, on the water and on land, all in the name of competitive entertainment. The main focus of the Pageant (CPOP) is the many millions of pounds worth of automotive exotica, split into various classes and all racing against the clock around a twisty, hay-bale lined, 1.3 mile section of Cholomondeley Castle’s very own driveway.

Fortunately for me, the rain that blighted the first two days had very much dissipated by the time of my arrival on the Sunday. The sunshine is always a very welcome sight at CPOP, not only for raising the spirits of the ever-increasing crowds, but also to keep the action on-track moving without delays for puddle removal. Previous years had also seen heavy rain causing issues off-track, with certain areas of the grounds descending into a bog-like state as it was trampled underfoot. Not this year though; tell-tale grooves across the estate were obvious signs of just how much work had gone into improving drainage and the results were impressive with very few areas of mud.

Racing Truck jumps over bridge CPOP

Truck + 1000bhp + Narrow Bridge = Very brave driver

Some of the cars competing around the track are, quite literally, priceless and it’s hardly surprising that many owners want to take it a little steadier than others, particularly when negotiating the first bend that, very inconveniently leads straight onto a bridge over the mere – it certainly looked narrow from where I was standing!

Then there’s the other type of driver – the ones who harbour that competitive instinct that just refuses to die. The likes of Justin Law, always looking to win at not only CPOP but Goodwood too, in his family-owned collection of Jaguars that include XJ220s and an XJR15. Special mention must also be given to David Jenkins who piloted his 1000bhp, Man TGX truck around the fairly narrow track without letting up for a second – a very brave man.

Ford Fiesta R5 Rally car

Elfyn Evans shows that half the cost can equal twice the fun!

This year saw the arrival of Wales Rally GB at CPOP and they had their own village section with a wide selection of rally cars from the ’70s, 80’s and 90’s on display, including a couple of WRC cars driven by a certain Mr McRae. This November will see the forests of Wales festooned with a new breed of rally cars including the Ford Fiesta R5. Rallying has been hit with financial issues in recent years and this new breed are roughly half as costly as WRC cars of the past. If you’re under any illusions as to how this will affect the appeal of rallying, I can assure you that these cut-price cars are just as exciting as their predecessors and their drivers seemed to be determined to show off the new machines’ capabilities around the CPOP track.

Aston Martin and Lamborghini have been celebrating this year as they are 100 and 50 years old respectively. Both marques were displaying models past and present at CPOP, possibly most notably being the first public appearance in the UK of Lamborghini’s all new, 700bhp Aventador LP700-4 Roadster.

Robbie Kerr Wins CPOP in Radical

Overall winner Robbie Kerr flying through the air on his way to a record lap

Overall winner around the track went to racing driver Robbie Kerr in his Radical RXC. Not only did he win the event overall, but he smashed the previous circuit record by 6.6 seconds with a blistering 55.29 lap, racing through the speed-trap at 129mph.

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2013 – Overall Race Results

1. Robbie Kerr, Radical RXC – 55.29 seconds

2. Scott Mansell, Caterham SP/300.R – 56.53 seconds

3. Gary Thomas, Force PC – 58.59 seconds

4. Christian Iddon, Husaberg FS 650 Factory – 59.40 seconds

5. Jordan Witt, Chevron GT3 – 60.71 seconds

6. Niki Faulkner, Ariel Atom 3.5 – 61.18 seconds

7. Oliver Webb, BAC Mono – 62.15 seconds

8. Tim Marshall-Rowe, Lamborghini LP570 Superleggera – 62.64 seconds

9. Richard Blakeman, KTM 450 – 62.89 seconds

10. Chris Hodgson, KTM – 62.95 seconds

Top Gear Live – Racing Cars, Crashing Cars and Flaming Cars

Top-Gear-whiteIf the rumours are to be believed, the waiting list to be in the audience for the Top Gear television show is of sufficient length to populate over 100 years worth of episodes. Statistically, this makes the odds of ever seeing Jeremy, James, Richard and The Stig working their magic not too dissimilar to winning the Lottery. Twice.

‘What’s the answer then?’ I hear you cry. Well, the answer is simple – buy a ticket, get yourself down to the appropriate venue and witness the spectacle that is Top Gear Live.

Now in its fifth year, Top Gear Live has, prior to 2012, accumulated a total audience of over 1.5 million people of all ages in 18 cities across the globe. From the 25th to the 28th of October, it was the NEC in Birmingham’s turn to host this visual and aural assault on the senses and I went along to the maiden show to see for myself what it’s all about. Being at the very first of this year’s shows meant I was lucky enough to witness  something very special, but more about that later!

Even with nine live shows spread over the four-day event, the enduring  popularity of Top Gear ensured that the majority of performances were sell-outs and the rest were extremely close. The live shows aren’t all you get for your money though, far from it. The voluminous nature of the NEC allows a  large indoor show to be erected featuring, amongst other things, a vast array of supercars, the actual stage and cool wall from the TV show and many of the vehicles used by Jeremy, Richard and James for various challenges over the last decade. ‘Some say’ this could warrant an entrance fee on its own.

Tiff and Vicki

Tiff Needell and Vicki Butler-Henderson

The stage show itself is split into two parts, the first of which is ably hosted by ex-Top Gear presenter Tiff Needell and Vicki Butler-Henderson. Together, they not only introduce, but also participate in, a wide selection of races, challenges and demonstrations around an indoor track. Some serious, some not so serious.

If you’ve ever wondered what delights half-car racing could bring this is definitely the show for you. If not, and you would simply like to experience automotive delights such as WRC cars, drift cars and hot-hatches showing off what they do best, you wouldn’t be disappointed either.

Motorsport is definitely one of those spectacles that’s best viewed first hand. When the visual aspects are combined with the smells and sounds associated, it’s hard to beat and Top Gear Live is fairly unique as it serves all of this up whilst surrounded by walls and a roof, thus amplifying the whole experience considerably.

Ken Block at Top Gear Live

Ken Block talks to Tiff and Vicki at Top Gear Live

The undoubted highlight of this first section of the show must be a certain rally driver called Ken Block in his purpose-built Ford. What that man can’t do on four wheels isn’t really worth bothering with and if you are one of the few people who’ve not seen a video of one of Ken’s ‘Gymkhanas‘, get yourself over to YouTube and join the tens of millions who have seen this awesome display of car control.

After a brief interlude, it’s onto the familiar Top Gear TV format that we all know and love. There’s the affable trio with their own brand of tomfoolery, cars by the bucket-load and even the TV show’s stage, albeit powered by a V8 engine. (It was actually capable of performing donuts until Jeremy broke it and it had to be abandoned).

Jeremy James and Richard on stage Top Gear Live

Jeremy, James and Richard on their V8 powered stage

This format lent itself perfectly to some live visual treats that wouldn’t otherwise be capable in front of a live audience. The three tried their hands at car sling-shot, motorbike polo and even allowed three snipers from the British Army to use Jeremy for live target practice. This feature proved very popular for some reason!

The lighting and pyrotechnics that contribute to the show are a large part of its dramatic impact with cars, motorbikes and sometimes even people on fire as they perform stunts and tricks for the crowd’s entertainment. This clever use of effects was probably best demonstrated in Top Gear Live’s own, unique tribute to James Bond and it’s cars which this year turns 50.

flaming Porsche at Top Gear Live

I suspect you may have a slight fuel leak sir!

The conclusion of each Top Gear Live show was something rather special this year. It involved a rather brave man on a motorbike performing a rather impressive stunt. He would not only negotiate a loop-the-loop, but then progress onto another identical one, resulting in something called a Deadly 720+. You may recall that earlier in the year, this feat was achieved in Durban in a car, setting a new World Record. Similarly, if this stunt were successful, it would also be a new World Record but, obviously, only the first time it was achieved. As I mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough to be at the first show and, luckily enough for the rider, it was pulled off with apparent ease. A great piece of riding to behold.

deadly 720 Top Gear Live

The trio watch nervously as a new World Record is set

Top Gear Live has something to offer anyone with the slightest hint of petrol coursing through their veins and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. Personally, I can’t wait to see how next year’s show will better this one.

By Ben Harrington

Some photographs of when Nick Mason met Petter Solberg at Carfest North

Nick Mason meets Petter Solberg Carfest1

Nick Mason meets Petter Solberg Carfest2

Nick Mason Meets Petter Solberg Carfest 3

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest 2

Nick Mason Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest 3

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest 4

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest 6

Nick Mason in WRC Carfest 2

Nick Mason in WRC Carfest 3

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest 5

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest 7

Nick Mason in Fiesta WRC Carfest

Nick Mason and Petter Solberg in WRC Carfest

Nick Mason passenger in WRC Carfest

Petter Solberg and Nick Mason head off in WRC Carfest

Petter Solberg sliding WRC 1 Carfest

Petter Solberg slides WRC 2 Carfest

Petter Solberg Slides WRC 3 Carfest

Nick Mason after drive with Petter Solberg Carfest

Petter Solberg exiting WRC Carfest

Nick Mason chats with Petter Solberg Carfest

Nick Mason chats with Petter Solberg Carfest 2

Nick Mason chats with Petter Solberg Carfest 4

Nick Mason chats with Petter Solberg Carfest 5

Petter Solberg signing autographs at Carfest

Cholmondeley Pageant Of Power 2012

Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GTR at Cholmondeley Pageant of Power

Jann Mardenborough’s Nissan GT-R

‘Yesterday was really wet, not like today. It’s not the slipperiest track I’ve driven on in the wet of course, that’d obviously be Silverstone‘ GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough is talking me through the previous days events that resulted in his slight coming together with an Armco as I nod in complete and blind agreement with his analysis of the perils of a wet Silverstone. Having been a passenger of Jann’s in the past whilst he demonstrated the insane Nissan Juke-R, I get the feeling that he’s here to win; coming second in his opinion is simply the first loser.

The reason I’m comparing notes with Jann is because he’s competing in the 5th Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, an annual celebration of anything with an engine including motorbikes, planes, powerboats and, of course, cars. The main focus of the three-day event which this year ran from the 15th – 17th of June was, as always, the timed run competition. Raced over a 1.2 mile section of the Cholmondeley Castle driveway, the cars are split into eight classes ranging from pre-war, all the way up to modern supercars including the raucous Ferrari 458 Italia and the Nissan GT-R being piloted by Jann.

Original 1960's AC Cobra in Black

One of the seven AC Cobra’s competing

New features for 2012 included the Top Gear Experience, the Gran Turismo Academy and Bond in Motion which showcased some of the more exciting vehicles that have appeared with 007 over the years. My personal highlight was the seven AC Cobras that had been accumulated to not only celebrate 50 years since its inception but to pay tribute to their creator – the late, great Carroll Shelby.

One other change from previous Pageants was the single-tier entry fee; in Pageants past there was an option to purchase a cheaper ticket which gave access to most areas but meant the car paddock was out-of-bounds. This year, all tickets included paddock entry which, in my opinion, was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, all visitors to the event could get better acquainted with the competing exotica, rather than only seeing them roar away from the start line and up the driveway. On the other hand, I spotted a few rather nervous looking car owners as the hugely swollen crowds bustled past their pristine paintwork, including parents, pushing prams and trying to control their understandably excitable children.

By all accounts, the weather on the first two days of the Pageant was cursed with persistent rain showers which resulted with some thrills and spills on the track but also some rather restricted timed runs. Thankfully however, the sun sporadically revealed itself from behind the clouds on the final day and as the track temperature went up, the driver’s times inevitably came down. Try as he did, Jann was helpless to prevent the impressive Scott Mansell take overall victory in the 300bhp Caterham Superlight SP/300.R with a time of 61.89 seconds. Not only was this time fast enough to win on the day, it also smashed the previous track record of 62.68 seconds, set by Nikki Faulkner in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.

47 Litre Brutus competing at Cholmondeley Pageant of Power

Brutus – 47 litre BMW engine!

Some rather slower yet no less spectacular cars competing at the event were the four monstrous, pre-war, aero-engined vehicles, most famous of which is the 47 litre ‘Brutus’ who’s previously appeared on the BBC’s Top Gear programme. No matter how many times I witness these behemoths in action, the effect is always the same, shock and awe. It’s possibly best likened to standing behind the start line as a top-fuel dragster launches down the quarter-mile. The performance is somewhat more limited but with slightly ineffective, cable operated brakes to halt proceedings, that’s maybe for the best.

Other winners included the RAF who put on a hugely impressive display to win the Tri-Services Helicopter Agility competition. The opportunity to see just how well-trained and skillful our armed services are should never be passed up and the RAF were deemed to have executed their handling tests just slightly better than the competition.

The most deserving winner of the weekend was undoubtedly the Pageant itself however. The organisers and sponsors efforts were quite rightly rewarded with record crowds of over 50,000 people. In spite of the unseasonal weather, the public came in their droves to witness over 120 cars and bikes competing on the track and to be wowed by the 1000+ vehicles on display. Here’s to next year when some overdue sunshine would surely see the Cholmondleley Pageant of Power go from strength to strength.

By Ben Harrington

Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GTR after collision with armco

Oops!!!

Don Law's Jaguar XJ220 in full Martini livery

Jaguar XJ220 in full racing colours. One of Don Law’s impressive array of cars

Bentley Speed 8 Le Mans car

Bentley Speed 8

Frankfurt Motor Show 2011

Ferrari 458 Spider

Well well well, the Frankfurt motor show opened its doors to much fanfare on Tuesday and I’m delighted to say that it appears to have on show some of the most interesting new models I’ve seen for years. There really is a plethora of eye-catching cars, not always for the right reasons but hey, it wouldn’t be a motor show without the weird and wonderful, would it?

‘All new’ Porsche 911 991

To name but a few of the headline grabbers on display, Porsche left us all dumbstruck with their, ahem, all new 911….wing mirrors.

Ferrari’s decided to take their styling cues from Renault these days by emulating the very clever folding hard top as previously seen on the Wind. Joking aside however, this is one of those very rare occasions when I’m prepared to admit that a car looks better in convertible guise than hard top.

Land Rover DC100 Concept

It was inevitable that this day would come eventually. Some poor soul at Land Rover has finally been tasked with replacing the iconic 67 year old design of the Defender. Re-inventing the wheel seems preferable to me as you’re only going to upset millions of purists, however good the replacement may look, drive or feel.

Ford Evos Concept

Having been brought up on a staple diet of Capris, I was very excited when Ford unveiled their latest design concept, the Evos. As usual, Ford were keen to deny that this would go into production and even more keen to distance themselves from the Capri name. Why Ford, why? Embrace this much loved icon and do us all a favour by dispelling the memory of, I can barely say it, the Cougar!

Jaguar CX-16

Undoubtedly the star of the show for many people, myself included is this car, the Jaguar C-X16. I know I keep saying it but the way Jaguar has been turned around of late is nothing short of staggering. If it performs anywhere near as well as it looks, I can honestly say that if I was in the market for a car of this genre, I would march straight past the Porsche 911’s in their showroom and place my order for one of these, and that’s saying something.

Bugatti Veyron L’Or Blanc

One for those of you who were reluctant to invest in a Veyron due to its abhorrent lack of porcelain, this one’s got it in abundance, inside and out. There you go, your prayers answered. I did say that not everything was in good taste!

By Ben Harrington

Simples!

Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

The last few weeks have been quite eventful for me in motoring terms. Firstly, the Audi has moved on to pastures new. It was a great car but, although neither of us wanted to say it, we both knew deep down that it was time to move on. Sometimes that just happens in relationships, no-one knows why. This of course left me car less (except for the other two cars in the house but they don’t really count) and after two unscrupulous individuals attempted to swap their lies for my cash, I decided to leave the hunt until my return from a well earned rest in Spain. Thankfully some very good friends of ours came to my rescue and offered me the loan of an S-class Mercedes that they happened to have lying around, as you do. For two weeks I stumbled from one petrol station to the next, trying desperately to satisfy the 4.3 litre V8’s insatiable appetite for fuel, groaning at the slightest incline as this would inevitably result in actually pressing the accelerator. A magnificent car, effortless to drive with blistering performance (so I’m led to believe!) but I don’t mind admitting that it was almost a relief when our time together came to a premature end as the car was required elsewhere.

Brutus at Cholmondeley

Brutus + Rain = Terrifying!!

On Sunday the 17th of July, I attended the final day of the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power. The rain was incessant but the action continued regardless with most drivers simply adjusting their driving to suit. The fastest run of the weekend went to Nikki Faulkner in his Lamborghini LP570-4 Performante, beating other modern day super-cars such as the Nissan GTR and the Lexus LFA. The thing is though, lovely as they are, it wasn’t this modern exotica that the crowds had come to see. Their times were impressive but it became apparent to me that it’s the romance of the purer, rawer cars that appeals. For me, the sound of a car is a major part of the attraction and manufacturers are so stifled by bureaucracy today that even Lamborghinis are practically silent. Huge thanks must again go to John Hanlon of Hansport for taking me on the rally stage in Hannu Mikkola’s actual Audi Quattro. Having previously had a ride in it on the press day, John assured me he’d give it 100%, ‘No holding back this time’. I’ve captured it on video but I’m not sure it does justice to the speed of this machine and the skill of it’s driver. One thing’s for sure though, he didn’t hold back!

opel_combo_front

Our Opel Combo Rental Car

The next day was holiday time and off the Harrington clan flew to sunnier climes in Spain. This brought about some motoring experiences in itself, starting with the stifled laughter of our rental car rep when he introduced me to our steed for the week. ‘Is it this Focus?’ I enquired cheerfully, a sensible guess as they had provided us with this exact car last year. ‘Oh no’ he replied, avoiding eye contact, ‘Yours is an Opel Combo’ I mulled this over for a minute, wondering if this was the Spanish name given to an Astra or an Insignia. The gentleman obviously noticed my confused expression and simply said in reassuring tones ‘It’s very big’. He wasn’t joking. Turns out we do have Opel Combos in Britain, they’re obviously called Vauxhall Combos and they are vans. My prior worries about luggage space evaporated instantly and to be honest I really grew fond of the Pope-mobile. It was nippy, efficient and most importantly of all, the air conditioning was ice-cold.

Buggy safari Marbella

Buggy Safari

My other motoring experience of our week away came about when my friend Mark and I went on a mini adventure, or more accurately, a buggy safari. This basically entails driving what consists of some scaffolding, a 260cc engine, two seats, four chunky tyres and a steering wheel over the dusty back roads and through the river beds of Marbella. You very rarely get much speed up, the brakes may as well not be there and our buggy cut out regularly but I can honestly say that the fun factor was immense. Point in case again being that you don’t need huge expense and modern technology to have fun on four wheels, simplicity is best. Huge thanks to Mark for organising it, hopefully same time next year.

Back in blighty and the hunt for a car is back on. My very generous friends who lent me the Merc mentioned that there was also a redundant Ford Ka on the driveway that I was welcome to use so this has bought me yet more time. I don’t remember ever driving a Ka before and I’m sure I would if I had as it’s just so much fun. I can honestly say that I wish I’d bypassed the S-class and gone straight for the blue oval. Yes, it would probably fit in the Mercedes’ boot but again, it’s beauty lies in it’s simplicity. The levels of grip are relentless and the feed back through the wheel is reminiscent of the 205 Gti I owned in the nineties, it really is that good.

So I’ve decided to make a sort of summer resolution, from now on, I’m going to be less blinded by big numbers and impressive performance stats and get back to the real thrill of driving, however slow or antiquated that may be. Oh yes, and I’m buying a Vespa………..

By Ben Harrington

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power 2011 – Press Day

Bentley, Lotus and Lamborghini on Cholmondeley Start Line

An impressive line up at Cholmondeley Castle

Friday the 15th of July sees the start of this year’s Cholmondley Pageant of Power, held at Cholmondley Castle. For those of you unfamiliar with the event, it’s possibly best described as Cheshire’s answer to Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, only with a more generous variety of fast, loud attractions for lovers of machinery in general.Founded in 2008, the Pageant is now in its fourth year and this week I elected to attend the press day to find out what we can look forward to next month.

Following on from the success of previous years, this year’s event is a full 50% longer than ever due to the addition of a third day. The gates now open on Friday, not Saturday as has been the case at prior Pageants of Power. This will give even more people the opportunity to enjoy the action and the event organisers are keen to emphasise that the Friday will offer the same levels of excitement as the following two days.

Hannu Mikkola's Audi Quattro Rally Car

The actual Audi Quattro as used by Hannu Mikkola

Another new feature for 2011 will be the purpose built tarmac rally stage, specially designed to offer spectators optimum viewpoints at various positions. I was lucky enough to hitch a ride in John Hanlon’s works Audi Quattro Rally car and I can wholeheartedly confirm that these 350+ hp beasts are not to be missed. Over 30Lombard rally cars are expected and giving them their own natural habitat will surely provide even more of a spectacle.

Thundercats powerboats on the lake at Cholmondeley Castle

Thundercats on the lake

For those of a more nautical persuasion, the Castle’s own Deer Park Mere provides the setting for powerboats of all shapes and sizes including hydroplanes, monohulls and catamarans, some of which are capable of 125mph! Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the wetbike from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, but that’s just me.

Helicopter landing at Cholmondeley Castle

Helicopter landing at Cholmondeley Castle

Looking skywards, there will be aerobatic displays from, amongst others, the Breitling Wing Walkers and the Arbarth Aerobatic display team. A team from RAF Valley will also be putting on a marine search and rescue display (HRH Prince William will hopefully pop along for the day). The Pageant is actually Europe’s largest helicopter event so is undoubtedly a must for anyone with a passion for these amazing machines.

Sir Jackie Stewart and four time World Rally Champion, Juha Kankkunen are just two of the famous names attending the event this year, no doubt putting the rest of us to shame with their god-like driving abilities. With ticket sales already 40% up on last year, organisers are confident they can top the £75,000 they raised in 2010 for Help the Heroes, with this years chosen charity being Combat Stress.

With further attractions for both young and old on offer around the grounds and a little bit of luck with our ‘summer weather’, this year’s Pageant looks set to be bigger and better than ever. Anyone who’s never been should undoubtedly take the family down and I’m fairly certain that if you have been before, you won’t be able to resist this year’s show.

Full details and ticket sales can be found at www.cpop.co.uk

I’d like to thank both Thunder Cats UK (www.thundercatracing.co.uk) and Helicentre Liverpool (www.helicentre.com) for allowing me the unique experiences they kindly provided me.

Special thanks must go to John Hanlon and the rest of the HanSport team. A truly friendly bunch who allowed me to fulfil a boyhood dream – a high speed rally stage in an Audi Quattro!

By Ben Harrington

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