Classic Historic vintage

Automotive masterpieces from yesteryear – raced at Silverstone by Vintage Car Club

You might think that it is fairly amazing just to see pre-war cars being driven on the roads. After all, these are vehicles that are over seventy years old. However there is a group of enthusiasts who not only drive pre-war cars, they race them – at various circuits around the country and the world. The Vintage Sports-Car Club has existed since 1934 and organises a whole season of races for pre-war and historic cars. The ‘Spring Start’ was their first meeting of the year. Held at Silverstone it gave the cars a chance to blow off the dust of a long winter under wraps.

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Ben Fidler in an ERA AJM1, race 3

On the weekend of 20th – 21st April hundreds of vintage cars in superb condition filled the Silverstone paddock, arriving on trailers, inside lorries and even under their own steam (Not that I saw any that were actually steam-powered…) Everywhere you looked there were superb examples of old marques and models, with the public able to get close to the machinery and talk to the drivers. The weather was unusually fantastic in that unexpected way that England can suddenly hand out. Months of frost and drizzle were suddenly forgiven as Silverstone basked under bright blue skies.

Saturday had eleven races scheduled in the afternoon, with the morning devoted to practice sessions and qualifying.  It is astounding to see these beautiful cars being taken to – and occasionally beyond – their limits by drivers who are taking part for the love of the sport and the cars. There was also a Bonhams stand showcasing several fantastic cars that they will be selling later in the year at Goodwood. These included a 1934 Alfa Romeo BC2300 and an ex-John Wallinger Brooklands Special 1934 MG NA Magnette. Both were in the check-with-your-bank-manager-first price category but were great examples for aficionados to examine and photograph.

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NOJ 392, Austin Healey 100 Special Test Car for sale by Bonhams

This year the Spring Start lasted two days and had a special race celebrating the racing career of George Abecassis. This was an invitation event that brought together as many as possible of the cars that Abecassis had driven, along with cars of the same model to race against them. The race would last for forty minutes and had a pit-stop so that each car could be driven by two drivers. But that was not until race 10 – there were nine more events to enjoy before the Sports Altas, Aston Martins, HWMs and Healey Silverstones hit the track.

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Terry Crabb driving an ERA R12C, race 3

The first race was a short five lapper for pre-war racing and sports-cars to get everyone in the mood. After that was the Commander Yorke Trophy Race for F3 (500) Racing Cars – a twenty-five minute race for 500cc F3 cars. With 36 cars starting the race, pole sitter Steve Jones said it was the biggest grid since the Goodwood Revival.  With entrants from Europe and the USA this was eagerly anticipated and provided entertaining racing for the drivers and the spectators. Steve Jones took the honours in his Cooper Mk10 from Nigel Ashman in a Mk11.

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Charles McCabe in his Cooper Mk3

The 20th running of the Patrick Lindsay Memorial for pre-1961 front-engined racing cars attracted a cast of beautiful machines which fought the 12-lap race in glorious conditions. Last year’s winner Philip Walker in his Lotus 16 was always the man to beat, and nobody managed to catch him as he won from pole over a second ahead of Julian Bronson’s Scarab. At an average speed over 80 miles an hour these cars provided a magnificent spectacle as they slowed for Luffield before opening the throttle down the National Pit Straight.

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David Lamb (Riley Brooklands) and Neil Twyman (Alfa Romeo 8C), Race 4

The Historic Grand Prix Cars Association organised the grid for race 8, along with race 4 on Sunday afternoon. Set up to preserve and race the Grand Prix cars of 1920s – 1965 the HSPCA grid was made up of over cars with impeccable heritage. John Harper started in second position but fought his way to take the chequered flag. With an average speed of 91mph these cars still provide exciting wheel-to-wheel action and can be seen at circuits around the UK and Europe all season.

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Steve Hart in a Cooper T43 from 1959, HGPCA race

Handicap racing is an exciting way to allow very different cars to race together. Raced over five laps the entrants are given staggered start times, with the last to get away starting 70 seconds behind the pole sitter. If the handicappers have got their maths right all 34 cars in the field should be crossing the finish line 34 abreast! Such a format is a fun alternative to a normal race and allows spectators to see many different cars out on track at the same time. Marshals are kept busy showing blue flags to warn drivers that a faster car is about to overtake.

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David Saxl (Riley 12/4 Special) Handicap race 6

Race 10 was the much anticipated George Abecassis Centenary Trophy. Invited cars were allowed one or two drivers, but all cars had to make a pit stop of a minute’s length, even if they were not changing drivers. Five classes of cars took part which represented the different types of cars that Abecassis himself drove. Lasting forty minutes this was a test of the cars endurance as well as speed.

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Andrew Sharp in his Aston Martin DB2, 1953, Race 10

Won by Mark Midgeley and Chris Martin in a green Aston Martin DB3, Midgeley survived a scare at the start when having to swerve around a stalled car on the grid. The rear of the car touched the pit wall, but this didn’t prevent it from averaging 75mph and winning by almost 2.5 seconds. Winners of all classes were presented with laurels – for the cars – and decanters – for the drivers!

The final race of the day – race 11 – included an unusual twist. All drivers had to complete a pit stop, in which they had to change a spark plug with the help of their two-man pit crew! Not actually a race in the strictest of terms, each class of car entered competed against the clock to try and complete a set number of laps. This Regularity Trial was designed to give inexperienced drivers time on the track without full wheel-to-wheel racing.

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Paul Baker in a 1938 Frazer Nash Sport, race 11

The change-a-spark-plug requirement was a reminder that the Spring Start is a celebration of historic motoring and that it is definitely the taking part that counts. That these cars are still able to hurtle around Silverstone at high speed is amazing. The fact that very few cars left the track at undesignated exit points shows that their handling abilities can still cope well with the Silverstone circuit.

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The pit crew perform a mid-race spark plug change on David Johnson’s 1928 Lea Francis P Type Avon Tourer

If you are interested in vintage cars then a VSCC event might just be the ticket. Every year they organise over 40 social and competitive events, including races, hill climbs, sprints, road rallies, trials and driving tests. If you’d like to watch an event (or if you’re not sure of the difference between a race , a sprint and a trial), then you can get more details from the VSCC website.


European Le Mans Series Race 1: Too much British weather

‘It’s always very special to race here at Silverstone as a British driver’ Oliver Turvey, winner with Simon Dolan.


On Saturday the European Le Mans Series which races over three hours took place at Silverstone. Won by the all British Zota Sport Zytek Nissan of Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey it was unfortunately run on a typical British Spring day when there was enough water on the track to hold canoeing lessons. As downpours go it was not the heaviest, but the rain was horribly persistent, with drivers saying afterwards that it was some of the worst conditions they had experienced. LMGTE driver Johnny Mowlem went so far as to say ‘The only time I’ve ever seen worse conditions was in 2001 at Le Mans’. 2013 is the 10th season of the European Le Mans Series and this year there are five three-hour races spread over the season, at Silverstone, Imola, the Red Bull Ring, Hungaroring and Le Castellet.

After months of waiting and a couple of days testing at Paul Ricard twenty-five cars were on the grid for the first race of the season. This is many more cars than competed last year and shows that the endurance series is in good health. Each race lasts for three hours! That’s like driving from London to… well, I’m not sure where, it would depend on the traffic, and the roadworks but the point is it’s a very long way.

The track was wet from the start, with Oliver Turvey commenting that even the first lap ‘was really tricky just to stay on,’ and it wasn’t long until cars #62 and #47 spun, bringing out the safety car. Even at the lower speeds behind the safety car the plumes of spray must have been blinding, and with the headlights blooming out of the murky light it was amazing the drivers could see anything. At around third distance the leader Franck Mailleux in the Morand Racing Morgan aquaplaned off and hit the wall. It was the type of conditions where just keeping the car on the track was a success.

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Spray during the bad weather of the ELMS race

With one hour to go the conditions were awful, with lots of standing water on the track that wasn’t draining away. The bright yellow lights of the cars shone out through the gloom and the water as fans hoped that the water would disperse and the safety car could come in and let the racing recommence. The weather didn’t improve however and when 75% of the race had been completed it was red flagged. As winner Simon Dolan pointed out afterwards, the safety car was probably the quickest car on the track in the conditions, and it was certainly the most comfortable with the drivers in the open cockpits getting drenched. ‘There was no visibility,’ Dolan added, ‘But we won’t really remember the conditions, we’ll only remember that we won!’

In the LMPC class Soheil Ayari and Anthony Pons brought their Team Endurance Challenge car home in first place, Ayari claiming that despite the extreme conditions he had ‘had a lot of fun behind the wheel. I enjoyed myself on this track even though it was quite tricky.’ Honours in LMGTE went to Christian Reid, Nicholas Tandy and Gianluca Roda. When the safety car came out ‘It was almost impossible,’ Tandy commented of his first drive in the ELMS, before adding that he really enjoyed driving when conditions were changing as ‘It’s a real good challenge.’ The Ecurie Ecosse BMW won the GTC class with Alasdair McCaig, Ollie Millroy and Andrew Smith sharing the driving duties.

It was great to see the European Le Mans Series back, and a shame that the British weather conspired to reduce the spectacle of these great endurance cars. But like cricket motor racing is at the mercy of the weather. Reigning champions Thiriet By TDS Racing came third and were happy to be on the podium in such a tricky race. It was a great weekend for Oliver Turvey in his first ELMS race and the teams now look forward to the next round at Imola on 17-18th May, when a full race should be possible and the relative strengths of the teams will become more apparent.

Extras Other

FIA F3 European championship and the Space-Time Continuum: Silverstone

Not having seen a live F3 race before I was excited to get out and watch the action at Silverstone this weekend. F3 is a series with tight racing and exciting overtaking that belies its status as one of the junior formulae. It was half-way through April, but in Northamptonshire it was a decidedly chilly, although fairness forces me to admit that the sky was blue as the cars were prepared for the first race. The day before I had walked much of the Silverstone circuit and decided to start watching the race at the exit of the pit lane. There the cars are  limited to 60 kph which gives the man who hasn’t quite mastered panning the chance to take some photos of the cars whilst they are (relatively) stationary. F3 is seen as a feeder formula for F1, with half of the F1 field having competed in F3 in the past. Current F1 champion Sebastian Vettel took part but was beaten to the championship by Paul di Resta. F3 has close racing of its own, but has an added frisson – drivers know that they are competing for a place in the higher series. Recognisable names with motorsport pedigree are involved this year, from Tom Blomquist, Lucas Auer – nephew of Gehard Berger – to Josh Hill, scion of British motorsport royalty. A man wearing shorts walked out to the pit wall as I waited for the race to start. In England in April that is a brave sartorial decision. The sky clouded over to suggest he had made an error of judgement, but as Radio Silverstone said, ‘If you don’t like the weather at Silverstone just wait five minutes and it is bound to change.’ Cars started revving in the pits and soon raced out onto track, as reports came in that the finest of spots of rain had started to fall out at Woodcote. The cacophony increased. It was a good cacophony though, the sort that signals excitement and large engines poised for action. Then the green flag was dropped and the cars thundered towards Abbey corner. Hundreds of them appeared to shoot past me, although having checked the programme it seems there were actually only twenty-eight. From my position just past the pits I watched them hurtle round the first corner, led by pole sitter Harry Tincknell in his Carlin. The awareness that the drivers have to have with so many other cars in the field is phenomenal. Most cars got through this first test, with only one incident as three cars spun off after tangling. F3 first corner action First Corner F3 incident Race 1 photo Flaneur F3 has three 35 minute races spread over the course of one weekend. The main story for the first race was the all-British front row. Harry Tinknell was on pole, with Alex Lynn’s Prema second. The man everyone was watching was Lynn’s Prema teammate Raffaele Marciello, who dominated the Championship kick-off at Monza three weeks ago and leads the Driver’s Championship. The 18 year old Italian who is supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy only managed 3rd on the grid for race one and his start down into turn one was eagerly awaited. He soon slipped back and spent much of the race battling William Buller and Lucas Auer for fifth place. The cars came past again and again. They were quickly spread out and I realised that it takes more to watching motor-racing than just looking. You have to remember the car numbers and their track position. This I had neglected to do, and now I had no idea which group of cars was in the lead. I knew the pole sitter was in a blue car, but suddenly almost half the cars in the race seemed to be blue. I didn’t like to turn to my neighbour and say, ‘Excuse me, is that car winning? Or has it been lapped?‘ It wouldn’t have shown the level of expertise I was trying to exude. Thanks to the images in the programme I worked it out. Harry Tinknell, blue car, number 3. There was no overtaking at the front and Harry Tinknell and Alex Lynn made it a British one-two, with Felix Rosenqvist third. Full results can be found here. Race two of the weekend’s serving of F3 was scheduled for 13.20 and I planned to watch the start from a window overlooking the grid. From the starting gantry the drivers were shown a 5 Seconds sign and the engine noise suddenly reverberated through the window. Five seconds isn’t much of a warning, I thought. Whenever anything is about to happen I prefer to have much more than a five second warning, but the drivers seemed to be OK with it and set off on the formation lap. The cars were soon back in position and lining up on the grid. ‘It’s better for the one’s at the back,’ said a girl watching the grid form. ‘They don’t have to sit there for so long.’ She had a point, but actually none of the cars had to sit there very long and the race was soon underway. Or at least it was in real life. I must have lent on my radio and it had stopped working. When I turned it on again the commentary was half a lap behind. This confused me. Were F3 cars so quick that the commentary couldn’t keep up? Was I in a parallel universe? There was clearly some time-space continuum issue as there had been a crash on the grid involving Mardenborough, Giovinazzi and Serralles which I had witnessed on the the first lap. Even though the cars were already at the other side of the circuit the radio was discussing it as though it was happening at that moment.   F3 race 2 tractor F3 Grid incident Race 2 photo Flaneur Alarmed at the turn life had taken I turned the radio off and watched the action. The cars were behind the safety car, which led them in a long snake through the pits beneath me. As there was no racing on track I fiddled with the radio and tried it again. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was back in sync with real life. Having studied the instructions it seems I had lent on pause. Which is odd as I didn’t know the radio had a pause. So be warned. Accidentally lean on pause and it can cause existential problems. Then the cafe where I was watching the race from was taken over by the WEC Team Manthey Porsche drivers. I was uncertain where to concentrate, but then I was handed a delicious custard tart. That was enough to get my attention and I found myself discussing the finer points of sports car steering wheels with Patrick Pilet. Did you know that they can have fourteen buttons on one steering wheel? And each button can have three positions? That’s a lot to remember when you’re racing flat out in the rain. I find it hard enough to remember that the wipers are on the left. Or is it the right? Another pastry and it was back to the race. I had missed some of the excitements that make up an F3 outing. Rosenqvist had messed up his restart behind the safety car and been overtaken. But he had fought back and passed Buller and Tincknell in a determined drive and brought his kfzteile24 Mucke car home in first place, with Marciello in second and Auer happy with third. Race three had to wait until Sunday morning. There was a bit of sun but the track was damp and several drivers slid off, leading to a safety car deployment. Racing only started again on lap five when Marciello overtook his team mate Lynn. He then closed the gap to the leader and after several unsuccessful attempts managed to overtake Rosenqvist on lap 15. These two finished first and second, with a disappointed Alex Lynn only managing third, having started the race on pole. F3 now moves on to Hockenheim on the 4th-5th of May. After Silverstone Marciello has extended his lead in the driver’s championship, with Rosenqvist moving up to 2nd after his successful weekend. Tinknell retains his third position. F3 is an exciting formula and is a great introduction to motorsport. For more information about the championship and how to buy tickets to see future rounds visit the official FIA F3 European Championship website here.
Endurance FIAWEC

The Six Hours of Silverstone – electric hybrids at the British Le Mans #FIAWEC

FIA World Endurance Championship 2013 First round: Silverstone, UK, Sunday 14th April 

When most people think of Endurance racing they think of Le Mans, the race that has been run on the Circuit de la Sarthe in Northern France since 1923. However there is now a complete endurance championship that takes place every year of which Le Mans is only one race. Completing the championship are seven other races around the world at famous tracks like Silverstone and Sao Paolo.

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Whilst only Le Mans lasts for 24 hours, the other races last for a still-incredible six hours of high speed racing. All cars are driven by more than one driver over the course of the race, driver changes being an exciting part of the pit-stops. Drivers become real team-mates, working for each other, with the added pressure of knowing that their performance directly impinges on the success of their fellows.

The opening round of this year’s championship was held at Silverstone on 12-14th April. It was a real festival of motor sport, with the European F3 series and a three-hour European Le Mans race helping to build excitement for the main event. Endurance racing is where the newest technologies in electric hybrid power are being pioneered with cars from Audi and Toyota harvesting energy under braking. Toyota use a super capacitor system which can charge the equivalent of a full 3 hour Prius charge in just 11 minutes! This technology will be refined and make its way into the road cars of the future. Audi use an electric flywheel accumulator and the e-tron technology being refined in the WEC race series is already being tested with a view to use in high-volume production.

A marching band on the grid struck up the National Anthem as the drivers sat in their cars waiting for the rolling start. An aeroplane flew overhead trailing a banner celebrating the centenary of Aston Martin, who had four cars in the race. Endurance races begin with a rolling start, so at 11:55:55 precisely the cars started around the track on their formation lap. When they returned to the pit straight the timing was such that as the lead car crossed the line the time ticked over to 12:00 and the race was on!

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Owing to a bad qualifying session the Strakka racing LMP1 was starting out of position on the fifteenth row on the grid. Jonny Kane gave a demonstration of the abilities of the LMP1 class as he had overtaken two GTE cars before he had even reached the start-finish line!

The two Toyotas had started in the first two positions but Allan McNish in the #2 Audi quickly made his way past the #7 Toyota. He bore down on Alex Wurz’s Toyota and was past before the end of the first ten laps! This was not the contest that had been expected between the two big manufacturers, but is explained by the fact that Toyota were running their 2012 spec car. When asked later in the race ‘What can you do about the Audis?’ Toyota driver Anthony Davidson honestly replied ‘Finish behind them.’ Toyota will be bringing one new car to Spa and a truer picture of the LMP1 class will appear then.

I’d watched the start of the race from above the grid, inside in the warm. But Silverstone is a large track of exciting corners and I felt the urge to get out in the action and experience these super cars at close hand. I walked up to Club corner and then sat in the Stowe Lakeside grandstand, watching the cars brake hard for the Vale sharp left-hander after accelerating down from Stowe, sometime three abreast. Vale

An IMSA Performance Matmut LMGTE AM Porsche rounds Vale ©Flaneur

The speeds that these cars travel is astonishing, especially to someone who has spent much of his life driving a VW Golf. But the prototype classes even make the Porsches, Ferraris and Astons look a tad staid. Even more impressive than the straight line speeds are the speeds that all the cars can take around corners. The entrance to the pit lane is at Vale – if the drivers continue straight on instead of turning they enter it, and many was the time I assumed a car was entering the pits, only for the driver to suddenly brake and throw the wheel to port. The cars zipped left as though attached to the asphalt, a great compliment to the engineers who model the downforce and have created a grid of automotive masterpieces.

By the second hour of the race the Audis had consolidated their lead in the LMP1 class with the #2 car 15 seconds ahead of the sister car. The Strakka had crashed out, leaving the Rebellion Racing pair to fight it out for 5th and 6th behind the two Toyotas. Wanting to see as much of the action as possible I wandered along the inside of the track towards Stowe, where the ground rises and creates a superb viewing area, well peopled by photographers with huge lenses. If you like cameras then Silverstone on race day is probably the best place in England to spot some rare examples.  Great views of the action along the Hangar straight and around Stowe can be had from the roof of the centre where the medical cars wait in case they are needed. By now the sun was out, although it was windy. But this is England, and any time when it is not actually raining counts as good weather.

In both of the the GTE classes Aston Martin were on schedule to celebrate their anniversary with home class wins, with Bruno Senna lapping the PRO car consistently even though the #97 car was reported to be suffering from traction control issues. In the AM class the all-Danish team were keeping the British marque in top place.

With Radio Le Mans at 87.7 FM keeping me informed of what was going on in the race I continued to walk around the circuit. I soaked in the atmosphere and the noise, several times thinking a very loud car was coming up the internal road I was walking on. It wasn’t. I  watched some of the action on the Hangar Straight from a great little grandstand just past the bridge. A small boy in a perfect replica McLaren racing suit was enjoying the action as the cars roared nose to tail towards the bridge. The trust that each driver places in the hands of his competitors is huge, and with the different classes all competing at once there is a lot of overtaking. Drivers in all classes except LMP1 have to spend a lot of time looking in the mirrors and the marshals are often waving blue flags to show drivers when a higher class car is approaching them.

Walking past the Heliport with its welcoming Danger of death signs I listened to the race on the radio. It said that one of the Toyotas was suffering from porpoising. I thought I must have misheard, but it turns out that porpoising is a legitimate condition that cars can suffer, when the front end bounces up and down. I think though that I definitely misheard when the commentator claimed that one of the new drivers was getting into his car with ‘a small book and a cushion for his back.‘ I can imagine the cushion, but I can’t see a team manager being happy with a driver taking a book into the cockpit. There’s very little time on a lap of Silverstone to have a quick read.

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A great shot of an Audi pit stop © ALEXANDRE GUILLAUMOT – DPPI MEDIA

To watch the last hour I returned to the International Pit Straight. The race at the front had come alive since Allan McNish had spun avoiding a slower car, and it had become a high speed game of poker with team managers making judgement calls on pit stops, new tyres and how much to fuel the cars for the final stint. In the end the spin that McNish had suffered played into his hands by forcing him to come in for new tyres. He wouldn’t have chosen to pit and it gave him a mountain of seconds (or maybe a hillock – it was 30) to climb before the end of the race, but once he caught the sister #1 Audi his newer rubber let him get past easily. Or as easily as anything is at 200kph. Which probably isn’t much. It turned out the #1 car had suffered a hybrid driveshaft fault and was unable to make proper use of its electrical power.

When the six hour race time was almost up I was carefully positioned by the finish line to get a snap of the winning Audi. There was no chequered flag waiting though, which should have told me something. Motor races always end with a chequered flag, which I have read descends from an old chequered tablecloth waved at the end of 19th century American horse races. True or not I waited for the flag to appear. It didn’t and when the commentator said that the race was over and Allan McNish and Audi had won I realised that although I was looking at a perfectly good white line across the track, right by the start, it wasn’t the white line… So yes, after six hours I missed the finish. Oh well, there’s always next time.



Endurance racing is the peak of motorsport, testing drivers, technology and equipment to the limit. This race had been chosen as the 2013 Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy and McNish, Duval and Kristensen’s names will now be added to this historic trophy. You can find out more about the TT trophy here.

The next race in the enthralling FIA World Endurance Championship is at Spa-Francorchamps on 4th May 2013. The teams will move on knowing that Toyota will have made a big step forward just by arriving with this season’s model. It is a legendary circuit, and being only two hours from Toyota’s base in Cologne they will be hoping to put on a good show. The other classes will be pushing for improvements and with Rebellion, Delta-ADR and Aston taking all the remaining class wins there will be lots of teams out for revenge in Belgium.

Extras Other Speed

Donald Campbell: Speed King – Haunted like Hamlet? BBC 2 TV

‘Put what you’re trying to do first’

The name Campbell is synonymous with daredevilry and the pursuit of speed records. The first record-breaker in the family was Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald continued the family tradition with speed attempts on land and water. This documentary assumes that the viewer knows that Donald Campbell’s life ends tragically, looks at his obsession with speed and sets out to examine what drove him to take such high risks.

The documentary opens with newsreel footage of Campbell and Bluebird on Coniston in the Lake District. Voiceovers by Campbell himself talk about the risks of record attempts. Within five minutes of the film’s start and before the opening title we are seeing the shocking original footage of Bluebird racing down the lake before flipping over and cartwheeling to destruction. Campbell’s calm words from the cockpit about the noise and lack of visibility are played as the boat approaches the crash, with contemporary eye witness accounts conveying the horror of what was happening.

We are then taken back to learn chronologically about Campbell’s history. His father attempted feats of speed in an earlier age, when such behaviour was adulated. Malcolm Campbell broke the 300mph land speed record in 1935, took more records on water and was regarded as a hero and one of the ‘race of pioneers’. But although Donald was his father’s biggest fan, Malcolm was a difficult parent. One contributor to the film, John Pearson describes Malcolm as being an old bully and remarked that Donald was haunted by his father’s ghost, rather like Hamlet.

After his father’s death Donald took on the challenge of setting a new water speed record in his father’s old boat. Unfortunately it ended in disaster with the boat sinking. This is seen to have spurred Donald on. He gave up his job and poured his life and money into a new machine – Bluebird K7, designed by Ken Morris – a high-tech jet-powered hydroplane. Success at 202mph now drove him on to attempt more records on land as well as water, with financial rewards from Billie Butlin paid at each new record.


Bluebird Campbbell CN7, Beaulieu

Although Campbell died in 1967 he had already survived the fastest crash known to man on the Bonneville salt flats in 1960. He lived in the age of film and there is a lot of footage available of both him and his exploits. This has given the film-makers a lot of images that with their muted, grainy colours work well in a film that ends in tragedy. Combined with interviews with Campbell’s wife and daughter, as well as people on his team, the archive footage is used to great effect to bring a sense of the period with its pre-Health and Safety attitudes.

Donald Campbell: Speed King tells of a driven life that almost seems to have to have ended in tragedy. After all, once you start breaking speed records will you ever be satisfied? It was always possible to try and achieve a slightly faster speed.  Campbell believed that once mankind lost the urge to attempt these sorts of records then it would stagnate rapidly. He saw speed records as a sign of a nation’s virility. He is quoted as saying that it is vital to ‘put what you are trying to do first’. Like his father he became obsessed by breaking records – and luckily for us there is lots of film of his attempts.