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Car Events 2015 – Classic Nostalgia At Shelsley Walsh


Sunday saw us at our favourite Hill Climb venue – Shelsley Walsh – for their Classic Nostalgia weekend.

“Classic Nostalgia produces some wonderful sights, sounds and magnificent machines from over the years, in a pretty setting amongst the wonderful Worcestershire hills.” Sir Stirling Moss

This annual event is rapidly becoming a firm favourite on the racing calendar and is kindly supported by Classic and Sports Car magazine and Stewart Miller and Peter James Insurance. The action-packed weekend always attracts a very a wide variety of pre 1980s competition cars competing on the historic hill climb course, plus features spectacular static vehicle displays, trade stands, vintage-inspired entertainment, musicians, live bands and show dancers. The 2015 event certainly didn’t disappoint. We arrived in rain feeling a little frustrated and sat in our car for twenty minutes until it gave up. Thereafter the day burst into wonderful sunshine, which really helped the event achieve all it promised to be.

Action on the hill consisted of two one day National B events for pre-1980 cars. On each day, practice was in the morning, where all competitors were offered two practice runs. The competitive runs the took place in the afternoon, with each driver having two runs. We were there to enjoy the fun on the Sunday. The fun was enhanced by the presence of Derek Bell there to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first of his 5 le Mans victories. Also honoured was Jaguar who this year are celebrating a number of anniversaries.


The Midland Automobile Club celebrated the successes of 5 time Le Mans winner Derek Bell at the Classic Nostalgia event held at Shelsley Walsh, as he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his first Le Mans win.

Derek who went to school at Kings, Worcester, took to the hill in a variety of cars which included the Porsche 956 that he drove during the 1983 season, sharing it with Stefan Bellof who used the car to set the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record of 6 minutes 11.13 seconds. Of all the Rothmans Porsches, it is this car that is the most talked about.

Derek also drove the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C in which he competed in the 1976 Tourist Trophy at Silverstone.

Derek’s book, My Racing Life, is a highly readable autobiography in which he recalls a life in motor racing that spanned over 40 years and was packed with achievement and diversity, and was available to purchase throughout the weekend with opportunities to get copies signed on the Sunday. I had a mind to buy a copy and get it signed but I have to confess at £35 a copy I baulked and changed my mind. Shame I’m such a tight arse if I’m honest, as I think this would have made a great souvenir to remember what really was a cracking day.

Anyway enough of my miserly ways. Derek Bell is best-known as the consummate endurance sports car driver who won the Le Mans 24 Hours five times and the Daytona 24 Hours three times, teamed with racing greats such as Jacky Ickx, Hans Stuck and Al Holbert.

Besides sports car racing, he has competed in many different cars and categories, from a works seat with Ferrari in Formula 1 in 1968 to rally driving a Vauxhall.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Also throughout the weekend Shelsley honoured the marque ‘Jaguar’ with special displays to commemorate the brands numerous anniversaries this year, including the 80 years of the Jaguar name, 60th anniversary of the Jaguar Mk1, 60 years since the last Le Mans win for Jaguar Cars Ltd and the 40th anniversary of the Jaguar XJS, 40 years of the XJ Coupe, and 25 years since a Jaguar last won Le Mans.

As part of The jaguar celebrations, Norman Dewis OBE came to Shelsley on the Sunday appearing on the Philip Porter stand for interviews and book signing sessions throughout the day. In a career spanning 33 years, Dewis played a pivotal role in the development of 25 significant Jaguar cars including the E-type, D-type and XK models. As chief development test engineer at Jaguar for 36 years he is synonymous with the brand’s success – both on and off the track and widely regarded as Britain’s greatest test driver having completed more than a million test miles at an average speed of 100 mph-plus. This year the British engineering icon was finally awarded an OBE in the Honours List for his contribution to the automotive industry. His presence was much appreciated by the keen petrolheads at Shelsley.


Finally leaving PaceBeast in the field we meandered through the car club stands and headed for the paddock where a mindboggling collection of cars awaited our perusal. The smell of petrol pervaded the air a wonderful heady mix to delight the nostrils of any petrol head and we were no exception. We experienced this at Chateau Impney but it was even more intense here. Our cameras were put to high use. Peanut was armed with a 230mm zoom on the XE-1 and I shot from the hip tilting the rear screen on the XM-1 matched to a 35mm zoom. I thought we would also make use of the iPhone 6 as we did at Chateau Impney last week, but as we had both cameras the iPhone saw little use. For us the atmosphere was really exciting, somehow much more real than last week at Impney. Drivers were working on their cars, some were warming them up, regular queues were forming as the cars made ready for their practice runs up the hill and enthusiasts were milling around all of this snapping away with their cameras. Derek Bell was about and his Porsche was being warmed up too. The smells, the noises, the cars to be admired it was thrilling. It took me back to being at The Mille Miglia!

Time for a coffee and a sausage butty in the café and this was very civilised too with but a small queue.. The band was playing and through the door of the café we glimpsed the dancers having fun to the period music.


A walk up the hill followed to snap a few cars on the hill, then a walk around the club cars on the field as these had now filled up before we headed back to PaceBeast to enjoy the picnic we had brought. The sun was shining the fresh chicken sandwiches were good and we got chatting to the chap in the car next to us. Peanut managed to burn her knees and chest in the sun!


The afternoon was a repeat of the morning, this time with an ice cream and then a cup of tea in the vintage tea stand adjacent to the car club stands. The Elf’s favourite cars from the day were the Marcos sports cars, I didn’t have a highlight though I did like the Alfa Romeo which we had admired the previous week at Impney – I think I have little room in my head for anything except the Generation 1 MINI GP. Peanut also did not have a favourite though we did all love the gorgeous red Bentley on the Jaguar display.

A wonderfully great day out!


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Looking Back At Our JCW Checkmate

I have an itch, a real yearning and it is to own a Generation 1 MINI GP. For some reason we missed on getting this car first time round and instead plumped for a MINI Checkmate S Works.

To be fair CheckBeast as we named him was a very special car. A Checkmate limited edition given the Works treatment to enjoy 210 HP on tap. The car also benefitted from the JCW suspension and a mechanical limited slip differential. A works spoiler on the rear and 4 spots on the front gave it the appropriate looks and in truth it was a damned fun car to drive. Eventually we exchanged it for ClubBeast a very sexy looking pepper white and black Cooper S Clubman, which we went on to have a lot of fun with. However clutch issues sullied the experience a bit and when the Elf lay claim to our faithful red Cooper CooperBeast the way was paved for us to return to Works ownership with our MINI Coupe JCW. This has turned out to be a stunningly satisfying car to drive and the ClubBeast if I’m honest became a poor relation. Fast but not as fast, nimble, but not as nimble and while it could carry more stuff it wasn’t as handy as the hatch on the Coupe for supermarket shopping and so on. The writing was on the wall and we changed it for a Paceman SD. Now this is a delight for us and compliments the JCW Coupe perfectly. It doesn’t try to be as fast and furious its 2 litre diesel block delivering power in a very different way, but in the real world it is a comfortable, competent and fun car to be in and the semi command driving position is a joy and again completely different to the Coupe. Yep we have a perfect pair of MINIs.

A generation 1 GP for Sundays though would be nice, it has a supercharger and when new was 2/10ths of a second quicker than the Coupe, hitting 0-62 in 6.2seconds. It has a real fun factor and what do you want in a sporty car apart from fun? Yep in a perfect world our pair of MINIs needs to be a trio!

So here I am sharing some pictures of a beloved MINI Checkmate Works that got me hooked on superchargers. Hope you like them and forgive me my sadness as I lament the lack of a Generation 1 GP in my life…

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Car Events 2015 – Chateau Impney Hill Climb July 2015


Sunday saw us at Chateau Impney for the 2015 revival of the Hagley and District Light Car Club sprint that was first organised in the chateau’s grounds in 1957. Myself, Peanut and The Elf were there and we were excited both to be visiting Chateau Impney and also to be in at the start of the revival of this event. Before we even arrived we followed a couple in their lovely red Triumph TR4 and the chap drove it with a delightful panache. Not crazy silly but nonetheless with flair and style which made it fun following in his wake to the hill climb. It is cars like that which excite me and I was looking forward to seeing similar road cars racing the hill.
The Chateau itself was built in the heyday of the British Empire and the motor car was becoming the fashionable accessory of the nouveau riche. Chateau Impney has developed a rich motoring heritage over the years, a tradition that began with the first sprint on 29 September 1957. The event was a roaring success, with Autocar magazine hailing the Chateau as “easily the most picturesque of this country’s sprint and hill-climb venues”, and declaring that “with a little skill and ingenuity applied to the road itself it will quickly rival the best of them”. The event continued for ten years coming to an end in 1967. In 2015, this historic motoring event has been revived for a modern audience and as said we were there to enjoy it and soak up the atmosphere.


The Chateau Impney Hill Climb saw no less than 200 competitors sprint their way up the challenging 1,000-yard course against the clock,including the famous Beast of Turin! It was a high-octane display of power, speed and skill and some of the most famous and successful competition cars that raced between the inception of the motorcar and 1967 were put to the test. The winner of the Hill Climb was awarded a prestigious trophy, commemorating the part that the Hagley & District Light Car Club played in Chateau Impney’s motorsport heritage. After wandering past some car related stalls on a car park between the field where we parked and the hill climb paddock area, we then spent some time at the entrance to the hill climb photographing the cars as they lined up to race the hill. The vapours from the petrol at this vantage point were positively intoxicating and we loved the smell it was so evocative of old cars and racing. I think at the time we described it as perfume!

This new MSA-approved course is double the length of the original track at a distance of 1,000 yards and to win the fastest time of the day, competitors had to navigate a number of challenging twists and turns at high speed before eventually finishing their climb at the Footman James Finish Line. During the course of the day we selected a number of vantage points to watch the racing, from just by the side of the chateau where we saw a number of cars nearly get caught out by the wet weather, to closer to the finishing line where we could watch a tricky chicane turn. Seeing and hearing the cars was quite wonderful and my favourite was a red Alfa Romeo GT Sprint. Again it is because I like the cars that look like you could use them daily on the roads. We were always drawn to the cars that looked like road cars from the 50s, and 60s but in truth all were a delight to watch.


It was good to being able to mooch about in the paddock areas where the cars were parked up prior to racing and undergoing last minute modifications here and there. Lunch saw us on the hill eating pork rolls and being treated to a spectacular biplane stunt display overhead. After lunch we did another tour of the paddock area and spent some time admiring the cars that were up for auction. Finally satiated with old cars we headed for home with me vowing to add more stickers and some spot lights to our MINI Coupe JCW! Mrs P meanwhile wants to do a hill climb!

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This was our first ever MINI and what started out love affair with the modern MINI. Still probably our favourite. The balance between the driver’s capabilities and that of the car are the most closely matched in a Cooper. Since this car we have had two JCW cars and they are stingingly quick cars but in truth the car’s capabilities far outstrip those of the driver. Put another way you can drive a Cooper flat out say 50 per cent of the time and a JCW say 10 per cent of the time. This makes a Cooper a seriously fun car to drive.

The car now belongs to Peanut’s daughter The Elf, who is back with us for a short while. Nice as it is to have her around for a while, it’s really nice to have CooperBeast back in our lives for a bit. Miss this boy!

When we got PaceBeast we decided to make him an homage to our first MINI CooperBeast by recreating his colours right down to deliberately not ordering tear tinted glass to better match the original.