ECHOES OF THE PAST
The most obvious Covid-19 measure at Brands was a strict lockdown on pit and paddock access to all bar competitors and race officials, while races had rolling starts rather than the usual static grids to prevent a potential ‘mass gathering hotspot’. Marshals were limited to two per post, but the usual allocation of track and emergency vehicles ensured there was no obvious compromise on safety. And then when the races started, we were transported back to simpler and happier times.
Historic racing is particularly well suited to Brands, given how strongly past echoes linger there and how little the place has changed. For enthusiasts, the Kent circuit really is special. I’ve been lucky to travel the world reporting on motorsport but, when push comes to shove, there’s nowhere I’d rather be than Brands. An F1 venue since 1960, it held its first British Grand Prix in 1964, then continued to alternate as host with Silverstone until 1986, during decades when it was also the scene of countless, fondly remembered long-distance sports car world championship races.
The memories stretch far beyond the big international events, too, from the Formula Ford Festival and end-of-day Champion of Brands FF1600 thrashes to six decades of lairy, hairy saloon car action.
For me, a racing-mad lad growing up in the 1980s, Brands was a second home.
Forty years ago, Thundersports gave a new lease of life to ‘big-banger’ sports cars made obsolete by the Group C era and was a particular favourite for this impressionable boy.
The HSCC’s welcome series revival has pulled off the same trick, bringing together a diverse selection of beautifully prepared 1970s sports cars. But there was little surprise that even the fastest failed to beat Dean Forward’s 8.0-litre ‘big block’ Chevrolet-powered M8F, which rumbled through a misfire and a lost fourth gear to a Superprix win – although it was Jonathan Mitchell’s rapid Chevron B19 that took the honours on Sunday, after a fuel leak sent Forward backwards.
James Hagan’s ex-Hunt Hesketh was the lone F1 car that lined up for the Aurora single-seater series that taps into the spirit of the 1970s British F1 Championship, which originally carried the same exotic name, courtesy of title sponsor and cult model car maker Aurora AFX. But Hagan’s open-goal victory against a libre mix of Formula 2, Formula 3 and Formula Atlantic cars was undone by Michael Lyons, who took over his mother Judy’s 5.0-litre Gurney Eagle FA74 F5000 after crashing his own car in practice.