The racing season at Thruxton gets underway with the arrival of the Classic Sports Car Club (CSCC) over the weekend of Saturday 22 – Sunday 23 April.
There will be a full programme of qualifying and racing each day, with Saturday featuring more recent cars from the Tin Tops, New Millennium, Magnificent Sevens and Modern Classics. On Sunday it’s the turn of the historics as the Swinging Sixties, Future Classics, Classic K and Open Series take to the circuit. The Special Saloons & Modsports and Jaguar Saloon & GT Championship race on both days.
The CSCC is in rude health for 2017 with a record-breaking 350 cars signed up across the club’s 10 series. This brings tremendous diversity. Expect cat and mouse chases between rumbling V8s that monster the straights and the lightweight, more nimble cars that gain their time through the corners.
Races offer a happy medium between sprints and endurance. Most series use 30 minute qualifying sessions followed by a 40 minute race for one or two drivers in which each car must make a mandatory pit stop. In order to stop one car from monopolising a series race winners must sit stationary for a further 30 second penalty before re-joining the action.
The paddock is open to the public with access included in the ticket price. Advance tickets - £10 per day for adults (£15 on the gate) or £18 for both days with children under 15 going free. This makes it easy to get close to the cars and the people behind the wheel. Here the CSCC sets a gold standard, with drivers and mechanics universally friendly and presenting an opportunity to see the immaculately prepared cars up close. To call this ‘amateur motorsport’ is to do a great disservice.
Thruxton is the UK’s fastest race track so expect the on-track action to match the high standards of the cars in the paddock. It’s set to be a great weekend.
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Headlining Saturday’s racing will be a capacity grid of saloons and hatchbacks in the Tin Tops with The Enduro Series for Ford cars. With the class structure accommodating a range of states of tune, some entries run at over twice a car’s standard power, so even a Ford Fiesta ST in the right hands is nothing to be sniffed at. Last time out Richard Wheeler was forced to give up a dominant Snetterton race lead when his driveshaft failed, so watch out for a resurgent #53 car.
The Gold Arts Magnificent Sevens celebrate Colin Chapman’s enduring Lotus Seven design. 2017 is its diamond anniversary and it is testament to the Seven’s legacy that a plethora of other manufacturers continue to build variants. The fastest of the numerically dominant Caterhams run over 300bhp; combine that with a lightweight construction and you get some of the fastest cars on the club’s billing. Up front Gary Bate and Christian Pittard will likely fight it out once more.
For production saloons, hatchbacks, sport and GT models built up until the end of 1999 is the Modern Classics. Another packed grid churning out diversity and close competition. Club stalwarts David Whelan and Aidan Farrell will again drive the howling Porsche 911 993 RSR and Stuart Daburn’s Rover V8-powered TVR Tuscan Challenge will be a sure-fire front-runner too. During the race keep an eye out for the Nextec Puma Cup. The Ford coupe competes for separate honours within Modern Classics. Luke Johnson won both this season’s opening round and at Thruxton last year making him favourite.
The RSV Graphics New Millennium series is typically for production cars and their racing variants from the year 2000 onwards, although older, similarly-specced cars also feature. Consequently, the likes of Thomas Houlbrook’s 1998 BMW M3 E36 can run toe-to-toe with the Porsche 911 997 Cup Car of Peter Challis. With the added incentive of a £200 voucher awaiting the race commentator’s ‘Driver of the Day’, expect to see some formidable on-track action.
Sunday’s racing features the Adams & Page Swinging Sixties. Launched in 2003 it is the club’s oldest category. Split into pace-based groups, it attracts sports cars, saloons and GTs from the 1950s and 60s. At Snetterton Ian Everett took the Group 1 win in his BMW 1502. A long-time member of the club, Everett has scored podiums and even won the series outright in that car, but the East Anglian win was his very first. Meanwhile, the driver pairing of Mark Halstead and Stuart McPherson topped Group 2 in their Ginetta G4.
Purists rejoice for the Mintex Classic K Series, which caters for pre-1966 GT and touring cars running to FIA Appendix K regulations - meaning all cars must be preserved in original form. Expect a strong contingent of Lotus Elans up against other icons of yesteryear such as the TVR Grantura and Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint, making for a crowd-pleasing favourite.
2017 is the tenth anniversary for the Advantage Motorsport Future Classics. The field is split into categories for cars from the 1970s and the 1980s. Not only are cars divided by age but there is a mix of front and rear-wheel-drive and engine layout with turbo-assisted and rotary drivetrains featuring too. It showcases a time when the automotive industry was a more interesting place. Cars such as the Morgan Plus 8 and Ford Capri are expected to feature.
With three races across the weekend, Thruxton is the first time the Special Saloons & Modsports run in anger this season. For many it is the Club’s jewel in the crown as it keeps the immensely powerful Super Saloons, Thunder Saloons, Donington GTs and Modsports cars of the 1970s and 1980s alive. Engines must date from pre-1993 but the cars remain an engineering tour de force. Last year veteran racer Ian Hall in the Darian-Wildcat T98 and Paul Sibley in the Lotus Elan Modsports shared the wins.
Finally, the Toyo Tires/Watchdogapp.com Jaguar Saloon & GTs, run by the CSCC on behalf of the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club, provides the only championship action of the weekend, a contrast to the other non-points series. The 4.0-litre XJSs of James Ramm and Colin Philpott are expected to be the ones to watch having diced for lap after lap at the two Snetterton rounds, Tom Butterfield, who won both Thruxton rounds last year en route to the title, is another contender.
Tickets available on the day:
Images courtesy of David Stallard