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Brands Hatch, 6th – 7th of July

Last week we reported on the Centenary Celebration of Aston Martin in Kensington Gardens and as mentioned there this was just the conclusion of a variety of events celebrating the jubilee of the marque. Already 2 week earlier, on the first weekend in July the sporty part of the festivities was held at the Brands Hatch race park about 20 miles south-east of London.

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Again the Aston Martin Owners Club in association with the factory was responsible for the race meeting with 10 races on the two days both on the Indy and the GP Circuit. Beside the different races held by the Club on their race weekends this included a couple of GT and Centenary races as a special for this event.

Certainly some of the most attractive races of the weekend were the St. John Horsfall Memorial Trophy and the Team-Challenge for pre-war cars. St. John Horsfall is known for racing his personal 2 Litre Speed Model before the war to several class wins in major races when the official race program was stopped. More important he brought Aston Martin back on the map when he won the first race with the new 2 Litre Sports (the “Spa Special”) in 1948 at Spa at the beginning of the David Brown Era, unfortunately he died soon after racing an ERA at Silverstone. Since that time the Aston Martin Owners Club has an annual race in memory of Horsfall open for pre-war Aston Martin during their main race weekend (usually in Silverstone). The practice on Saturday morning was not just for the Horsfall race but also for the team- challenge when the Astons were racing against some Invicta, Frazer Nash and Bentley for a team price just as in the 1930s.

Frontrunners at the St. Horsfall Trophy were the race prepared 2 Litre Speed Models, especially the single seater and “Red Dragon”, raced by Dick Seaman in the 1936 TT. These races were held on Saturday on the smaller Indy circuit.

Further major races were the two centenary races, one for the historic Astons and one for the modern GT cars.

The historic Centenary Race on Sunday was open for all Astons built before 1965 held on the full GP circuit in a 30 minutes race. Some of the pre-war cars stayed for this race but most of the entries were lightweight conversions of DB4 road cars and from the DB2-series plus a DB3 and a DB3S that were also entered in the 50s sports cars race that included the Jaguar XK Trophy with many XK120-150. The race was finally won by a DB4 GT Zagato replica built on a normal DB4.

The two main races were the 100 minutes (for 100 years) races of the British GT4 Challenge on Saturday and the Centenary GT Race on Sunday. Unlike the historic races these were for the latest Aston Martin V8 in GT race configuration attracting a grid that is usually not seen on historic race club weekends. These were also the cars the paddocks at the pit lane were reserved for as they certainly needed more room and preparation with the huge team trailers in the back than most of the historic racers that were arriving on a small car trailer behind a tow car.

In addition to the pure Aston Martin races a few more races from the AMOC club calendar were held in Brands Hatch, for example a multi marque race were the DB4 had to face Porsche 964 or 928 plus Ferrari 355 or Austin Healey 3000 giving the grid a wild mix of different eras.

More homogenous were the touring races of the HRDC All-stars and Touring Greats with different classes of touring cars from the 1960s including Jaguar MKI, Austins, Morris Minor or Fiat Abarth. These races are fun to watch even without the multi celebrity entrants of the St. Mary´s Trophy at the Goodwood Revival were these cars are shown later that year.

Aside from the racing a timeline (although not comparable with the one in Kensington Gardens), small demonstration displays of the Aston Martin Racing history and the connection to the James Bond movies were located in the infield behind the paddock buildings. A few pre-war Astons were lined up with the later DB4/5/6 to run a demonstration lap of 100 cars during the lunch break. They were joined by the Nimrod, AMR1, a prototype DB7, the famous DB4GT Zagato “2VEV” and a V8 GTE driven by Bruno Senna who was on hand to sign autographs in the Aston Martin tent.

When looking back to the Brands Hatch Race Meeting this was some entertaining racing for the spectators showing some interesting races but it was more a normal Club racing weekend than a special event like the one in Kensington Gardens two weeks later. The fact that the most interesting race cars are getting to expensive and are rarely seen on club races these days does also affect the races of one of the oldest and most active single car clubs in the world. Cars like a DBR1 (DBR1/5 was seen in the paddocks but not driven) are seen nowadays on major events like the Goodwood Revival but otherwise more often on the concours lawn. For those expecting to see several of the DB3S or DBR1 racing the meeting might have been a little bit disappointing but for the realistic ones this is what you get today when visiting a race meeting.

Report & Images ... Peter Singhof www.ClassicCarPhotography.de