The long awaited debut of the 21st Century approach to racing in the UK finally came to be at Rockingham Motor Speedway for the Coys Historic Festival on May 27-28.
The pundits were mixed in their reactions to the oval/road circuit combo, but everyone appreciated the work it had taken to get the new venue operational. The Coys move from Silverstone looked in doubt right up until the last minute. The circuit amenities were just completed in time – though the run-off areas were far from finished, resulting in some serious damage.
A featured “Monzanapolis” clash between the road racers and the American oval cars wasn’t quite the reproduction of the 1957/58 event at Monza. Nevertheless, it was a good race, with victory going to the Lister-Chevy of Julian Bronson over the similar car of Stuart Graham. The average speed of only 85 mph on the combined circuit was a far cry from the speeds of the past, but the 17-lapper was enlivened by a series of battles that included the Kurtis-Offy of John Guyatt, who went on to win the “American” class. Also part of the mix was Californian Tom Malloy, who brought over his 1948 Kurtis “Don Lee Special” and a 1962 Watson Indy roadster to join in the spectacle.
While Nigel Mansell provided a sample of what the Brits have in store when Champ cars come to Rockingham in September (he set a new British lap record of 163 mph), the meeting lost some of its buzz when the Euro-NASCAR cars suffered from serious reliability problems and had to run demos instead of real races. With the historic cars somewhat dwarfed in the large speedway, it’s going to take the oval machines, and some finish work, for Rockingham to make its mark. Especially after a series of management disputes and terrible weather, which put the opening at risk. Roll on September.