A Day at Silverstone Classic

It was a bright and early start to Sunday as I headed to meet photographer and fellow Mechanist, Tom Hains at the Mile End tube station. From there we would be headed to this year’s Silverstone Classic, one of the best automotive events in the UK. Tom had hinted at the possibility of our ride for the day being a gorgeous and desirable classic, so I was more than a little confused and disappointed when I emerged from the train station to find him standing next to what would have been a silver ’99 Honda Aerodeck, if it wasn’t covered in a metric tonne of plane tree seeds. Upon first impression, the Aerodeck is not a particularly exciting car; its dull corporate Honda exterior taking very few risks in deviating from the bland family estate template. However, the coating of plane tree excrement was hiding something. As I discovered on the way to the track, the Aerodeck has a few little decals on its side that say V-TEC, and as you may know, V-TEC is what arouses Honda nerds above all else. It is also what allows Tom’s boring estate car to rev to a very non-boring EIGHT GRAND!

I was so sold on the Aerodeck by the time we arrived that I was basically willing to fight anyone who attempted to tarnish its good name – and what a name Aerodeck is. It sounds like an amalgamation of fighter jet terminology and luxury yacht vocabulary, which is a pretty good indication of the quality you can expect from the car. Moving on, we retrieved our orange “official photographer” bibs from the media shed and headed for the track, bolstered by the ultimate authority to do anything and go anywhere that our new accessories had given us. We arrived at Copse corner in time to catch a pair of D-Type Jaguars duking it out with a few Aston Martin DB4s, Jaguar XK150s, AC Cobras and best of all, two Ferrari 625 TRC Spiders; the sound was nothing short of heavenly.

Beaming with excitement, we made our way through the jungle of exotic metal known as the National Pits to the end of the Wellington Straight by Brooklands Corner, just in time for the Under 2 Litre Touring Car race. That meant a swarm of Lotus Cortinas, Minis, and a few Alpha Romeo GTVs trying their best to outbreak each other at the end of the straight. This was real racing: with so many of the cars evenly matched in terms of power to weight, the drivers really had to adopt the large cojone mentality, which often meant the breaks locking up entering Brooklands, and in the case of the Minis, one or even two wheels lifting off the tarmac. Despite many of the cars being the same model, it was fantastic to see how each owner had translated their personalities onto their rides; each car was instantly distinguishable from the rest, both in terms of appearance and sound, with some great exhaust notes and liveries alike.

By midday the sun had finally managed to burn off the cloud cover above Silverstone, dramatically improving the light, which was great news for Tom and I as we headed to the International Pits. What wasn’t so great, as we soon discovered, was that while we had been distracted by the equally beautiful aroma of race fuel and roar of internal combustion, the sun had secretly been burning off our outer layer of skin too. Taking refuge in the shade of the international pits, we wandered among some utterly gorgeous historic Formula One cars. As they prepared to head out onto the track, so did we, coating our ruby exteriors in as much sunblock as possible. Looking like two lobsters covered in béchamel sauce, we managed to position ourselves no more than 3 metres away from the apex at Abbey Corner at the end of the Start/Finish straight, all thanks to our orange bibs. Despite being around 40 years old, the F1 cars still carried such tremendous pace as they came howling into turn one that it almost wasn’t possible to whip your head around fast enough to track them with a camera. Nevertheless, Tom pulled through and got some great shots, as you can see.

Having baked some more in the uncharacteristic English sunlight, we headed back to the international pits to meet with another fellow Mechanist and all-round great guy, Max Girardo, before he was due to head out in a V10-powered Dallara LMP1 car. After a quick chat and a few words of encouragement, we followed Max as he pushed his car into starting position in the pit lane. The Dallara was without question the loudest car I heard all day, no matter how many times I heard it start I still jumped with fright, something I saw even a few of the pit crew do as well. Headed back to Abbey, we watched as Max hurled himself around the corner, along with a pair of Ferrari 550 Prodrives, some Mazda, Aston, and Audi LMP1 cars, and my personal favourite, a Ferrari F40 Evo, just to name a few. Unfortunately, Max experienced gearbox issues and had to retire from the race early, but he still managed to give us a great demonstration of the ferocity and speed of his Dallara.

Having watched a few more races, Tom and I called it a day and headed back to the Aerodeck. We were pretty dehydrated and severely sunburnt, but I can safely say I’ve never been happier to have Tinnitus, and as a final addition to an amazing day the Aerodeck absolutely demolished both a Ferrari Mondial and a Porsche 911 on the highway back to London. Granted, the Porsche was 40 years old, and the Mondial is widely accepted as the worst Ferrari ever, but I think it still counts.