Chevron, Ralt, March, Lola, Maurer, Reynard, Toj, AGS… to the wider world such names might not mean a great deal, but to anyone steeped in motor racing they represent a glorious, bygone age, a time when Europe – Britain in particular – was speckled with specialist manufacturers whose primary function was to build racing cars.
Over the past 25 years however, that once-thriving market has all but disappeared, and the cause is quite simple. The motor racing ladder is now populated by categories that permit competition between drivers, but not suppliers: to participate, teams must use identical chassis, engines and tyres and the cars can therefore be distinguished by livery and race number alone.
Yes, Formula One teams are all obliged to create their own individual cars, but with top teams such as AMG Mercedes and Ferrari spending an estimated $400 million (£314 million) per season, there isn’t exactly a queue to join in. This year’s Silverstone Classic (July 26 to 28) will illustrate the way the racing world used to be, with – for the first time – dedicated races for historic F1, F2 and F3.
While contemporary F1, F2 and F3 cars are in action at Hockenheim during the German Grand Prix weekend, their distinctive forebears will be on show 600 miles away. Aimed at cars that competed in the world championship between 1966 and 1985, when F1 was less specialised, the Masters Historic F1 Championship is a Silverstone Classic staple and features many iconic throwbacks – not least the Williams FW07, which 40 summers ago (also at Silverstone) gave the presently struggling British team the first of its 114 grand prix victories.