Race Week London is an event for the more discerning Formula One fan. A free glass of Pimm’s or sparkling wine, the latter being my preference, on entry showed that this would certainly be a rather civilised occasion.
While queuing to enter the Honourable Artillery Company Gardens you were greeted by the familiar sound of a screaming V8 Renault engine as the Lotus E21 was fired up repeatedly in preparation for its demonstration run later in the day.
The Lotus mechanics were clearly enjoying their day in the sun as they performed the cars party piece, playing the national anthem using exhaust notes.
After passing a Lamborghini Aventador, BAC Mono and Mercedes SLS you came to the cricket pitch. The cricket match was to be the main feature of the day as sons and grandsons of drivers who took part in the 1974 match took to the field.
Damon Hill was the most famous face in the crowd and he got off to a flying start, catching the first opponent out.
“I did ok, I got a catch so got one person out,” he said. “I’m not a cricketer. I played cricket at school and that was the last time I played cricket.”
Hill checked the score with his teammates and discovered that they had 12 runs and 5 players out. When asked if he could save the team he said, “I don’t think it’s possible, I think we’re doomed!” And indeed they were as Hill’s team lost by quite a large margin.
Aside from the cricket, there was a selection of rare F1 cars on display. Eddie Irvine’s Jaguar R1, Nigel Mansell’s Williams FW14B and Lotus 79 and James Hunt’s McLaren M26 were particularly eye catching exhibits. Fans could take pictures next to the cars, sit on the wheels and really see all of the tiny details that normally only a chosen few have access to.
The only time that you could get any space around these cars was when the demonstration runs were on.
Marlon Stockinger, a Lotus Junior and current Formula Renault 3.5 driver, was the pilot of the Lotus E21.
“I drove a Formula One car last year,” he explained. “I did a test with Lotus F1 at Paul Ricard and I also did a roadshow in my home country, the Philippines, so this is the third time I’m in the car. It’s the first time in the E21 though.
“I think it’s really cool to see a turnout like this. There’s loads of fans of Formula One, fans of cars in general and it’s always good to see the big crowds. England have some of the best fans so we just need to put on a show for them.”
Stockinger clearly enjoyed his stint in the Lotus as he spun up the wheels, doing donuts and burnouts for the crowd. Several times he came rather closer than he probably meant to the barrier but he managed to keep the car under control.
The other demonstration was by Oliver Webb, also a Formula Renault 3.5 driver, who recently finished on the podium in his first ever Le Mans 24 Hour race. Webb took the BAC Mono, the only current road legal single seater production car, for a spin.
“It’s fantastic, I love them [events like this]” he said. “A lot of drivers maybe don’t enjoy them so much or can’t do them because of their schedules. This fitted in perfectly for me. I’ve been on the road for about three weeks now, from Le Mans to Goodwood and then Silverstone tonight.
“It’s nice, it’s intimate. I don’t usually get to do donuts on a road, which is what it is. A licenced road. It’s really nice, we can be close to the fans and it’s a bit more of a casual day without the pressures of a race weekend.”
As if any more was actually needed, Sir Stirling Moss was in attendance. After Moss was interviewed by the Master of Ceremonies, we quickly jumped, in ahead of the BBC, to get his opinion of the day.
“It’s the first event I’ve been to like this, it’s rather amazing, I think it’s wonderful!” he said. “I had no idea this piece of land was here to start with, it’s worth millions, billions.
“I think the people who are here seem very happy, we’ve been very lucky with the weather but I think it’s very good and I hope they’ll continue with it.”
Overall then the day was an extremely good day out. Fans had unlimited access to the on site drivers and cricketers, pieces of history that they could touch and endless bottles of champagne. A great Formula One day in the sun!
Images courtesy of Sam Hall.