Le Mans legend Derek Bell MBE wowed the crowds at The Classic & Sports Car Show with impressively rapid laps of the demonstration track in a 1965 Porsche 911 2-litre race car
Once again, over the weekend of June 23/24, the former RAF airfield at Bicester in Oxfordshire came alive with the sights, sounds, and smells of classic cars and aeroplanes to delight enthusiastic petrolheads and their families alike, with the return of the Flywheel Festival – now re-branded as the Classic & Sports Car Show in association with Flywheel.
The Flywheel Festival has gone from strength to strength in just a few years and, with the involvement of Classic & Sports Car Magazine this year has shifted up yet another gear to enhance its reputation as one of the most important classic events on the motoring and aviation calendars. With so much to see and do, visitors probably needed both days to appreciate the full experience of this unique event based at the best preserved WW2 RAF bomber station in the country.
Apart from static displays of classic, exotic – and some downright strange – road and track cars and motorcycles as well as aeroplanes from the earliest days, show attendees could enjoy the sight and sound of a wide variety of vehicles taking to a short figure of eight course overlooked by the airfield control tower and one of the impressively large aircraft hangars.
RAF Bicester was, and still is, a grass airfield, with no hard-surfaced runways ever constructed, and so is ideal for earlier aircraft types as they can land and take-off no matter which way the wind is blowing. A fact reflected in the two main aerial display teams taking part – The Tiger 9 Formation Team of nine Tiger Moths (reduced to seven this weekend due to problems with two of the team), and the Bremont Great War Display Team with the exciting re-enactment of WW1 aerial dogfights, complete with aerial pyrotechnics.
The skyward highlight however, especially for those of a certain age, was the impressive display by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who had flown their Lancaster (one of only two flying in the world), in formation with a Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane from their base at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to entertain the crowd with a formation and individual aircraft displays. The evocative sound of five Rolls Royce Merlin engines (plus one Griffon engine in the later un-armed, and un-armoured, Mk. XIX photo-reconnaissance version of the Spitfire) still gets the hairs to stand up on the back of your neck. Later in the day RAF Coningsby sent us the BBMF Dakota to give its own display.
We should have also thrilled to the sound of another Merlin engine, albeit one built under licence in the USA by Packard, in the beautiful ‘Miss Helen' P51 Mustang which was unfortunately declared ‘hors de combat’ and so Peter Borchert stepped in with his fabulous silver Super-Pitts Special to complement the earlier Pitts display by Lauren Wilson.
Back on the ground the crowd were treated to an eclectic mix of aircraft drawn up along the flight line, while a wide variety of vehicles took to the demonstration track, including the legend that is Derek Bell who showed us all how to drive a Porsche 911 at speed.
Speaking about the show, Bell said: “Seeing the old planes being flown in such a daring way and showing the real history of what made England what it is, is very special. The crowds are so excited to see the planes because you don’t see them very often so it is magnificent. Driving the 1965 Porsche 911 racer has also been a lot of fun today. When I look at Porsche’s race cars it is terribly impressive to see what they produced over the years. Because I know Porsche so personally I find the race cars the spectacular part, but that was my life; I fell in love with the race cars and now I love the road cars too. But to see all the classic cars from such a variety of marques here at the Show is beautiful to see – they are pieces of art.”
Away from the track and live airfield there was plenty to entertain with many of the businesses now present at Bicester Heritage throwing open their doors to the public together with loads of stalls selling everything from period motoring clothing to food and drink.
As ever a great event even though the best corner for media lenspersons to photograph from was declared out-of-bounds this year, although I did spy a couple of blue-tabared snappers within that no-go zone - hmm!
Next year’s show should be even better so put June 22/23 2019 in your diary now – you’ll not want to miss it! In the meantime enjoy a selection below of my photos from this year’s Classic & Sports Car Show in association with Flywheel.