‘If you love car culture, hot rods, and the world’s most gorgeous models, this show is a must see.”
We ended the month by joining the thousands of petrolheads that poured into the city for the Coventry Motofest, a motoring extravaganza. This was the second year it had been run. We don’t know how we missed the first one. As Coventry was the birthplace of the British cycle and motor industry, a 3 day festival was dedicated to the city’s motoring heritage featuring pop-up racing and demonstrations events to static displays and fringe events like an Edinburgh Festival for cars, bikes and vehicles. There were motoring exhibitions, Ace Cafe burgers and PopBangColour dotted through out the city centre. The organisers had really taken advantage of Coventry’s unique heritage as the spiritual home of the British motor industry. The new Friargate-bridge deck and nearby Greyfriars Green were awashed with static displays of cars, motorbikes and simulators to keep fans of all ages happy.
“You’re safer in the race car than you are in cars going to and from the track”
The ring road became a dedicated course to showcase these memorable motors, which included a rolling show, a short oval action arena and a sprint circuit, as part of the event’s climatic pace car-led cavalcade. Demonstrations of motorsports took place on the ring-road although plans to hold racing there had to be scrapped. It was a pity that the legislation to allow them wasn’t passed on time. In July last year, the government granted local authorities the power to suspend the Road traffic Act, previously requiring an act of Parliament. It was hoped that competitive time trials would form part of the motoring festival making Coventry the first city to hold races under the new laws. Fingers-crossed next year, we will see the promised ‘wheel-to-wheel racing.
‘It’s all about racing on the track’
But first, since the infamous ring-road was closed to traffic, we’d to find a place to park. Thankfully, my colleague who lived within a walking distance, offered us to park at his place. Whoop… whoop. Thanks GLW. We walked past a huge military vehicle display at Grosvenor Road to where the action was. We hadn’t even reached the ring-road yet but the incredible noise of highly tuned engines revving up, the screeching of tyres, the smell of burnt rubber and exhaust fumes were in the air. Thousands of people were already packed on both sides of the ring-road but somehow we managed to squeeze in.
“The road is not certain, and the end of the journey cannot be seen”
As it was closed to traffic, the ring road was used as both a pit lane and circuit. The 1.5 mile long temporary track took in a section of the ring-road beginning just before the slip road on J6, before heading all the way down to J4 and then returning to finish at J6 again. The circuit’s official start line began at the slip road just before J6, setting off into the new Friargate tunnel. On the circuit, drivers negotiated chicanes before heading under J5 at Holyhead Road, with a ‘turn around’ in the central reservation. The track also featured a series of crash barriers and marshal points, along with various viewing areas and spectator zones along the route.
“There are no speed limits on the road to success”
~David W. Johnson~
Throughout the weekend, various events and cavalcades took place, including those from Jaguar Heritage, the British Touring Car Championships, the Renault Clio Cup, historic Group B Rally Cars, Mission Motorsport (which aids the recovery of personnel injured in military operations to rehabilitate and recover through motorsport activities), the TVR Car Club Speed Championships, the Falken International Drift Team, Rally Cross BTRDA and the British Automobile Racing Club’s race series. There were also rolling shows from BRISCA F1 and 2, Rebels, National Ministocks, V8 Hotstocks, Classics Hot Rods, UK Modifieds, Heritage F1 and 2 Stock Cars, Dragsters, Mission Motorsport. We were thoroughly spoilt.
“It’s always a little different, racing on your hometown track. It makes it more special.”
I was gutted that we missed Jaguar’s celebration of its 80th anniversary in its home city. The company had displayed historic vehicles worth over £40m and it opened the Motorfest with a procession of Jaguar cars being driven around the ring road, led by the 1988 Le Mans-winning XJR-9LM, with its original driver, Andy Wallace, at the controls. There was also the 1938 SS 100, the first car to bear the Jaguar name and launched in 1935, 80 years ago this year. I was also so looking forward to the world debut of its unique new sports car F-Type R Bloodhound SSC Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV). It was created by Jaguar Landrover Special Operations and was driven by Bloodhound SSC Chief Engineer Mark Chapman. Jaguar was a technical partner of the Bloodhound and will be supplying engines, engineering expertise and support vehicles for the world land speed record attempt in 2016.
“Le Mans takes the best out of everyone. Winning is important but it’s not everything’
We hung around the new Friargate-bridge deck waiting for things to happen. Below us we could see an exciting line-up of stock cars, dragsters, Hot Rods and racers from the British Touring Car Championship. We were waited and waited and waited for something to happen. Nothing seemed to be moving. In the mean time, a range of local bands were playing on the Radio plus 1 Live stage just opposite to where we were standing. The main problem we could see was that between the stage and us with thousands of spectators were the the side road into the city centre. The volunteers were having their work cut out to make sure that traffic ran smoothly and people weren’t wandering on the road. It was not the best place to have a stage. From what I could gather, everything was at a standstill because of confusion with communications, timings and locations. The organisers had a lot of learning to do.
‘It is difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving’
While they sort that out, we wandered around the ring road live action arena, where a welter of events were held. The Top Gear Experience Racing Aces was in action, Scalextric, diecast cars, a French Connection vehicle display, the latest from Coventry University Transport Design Degree Show, a Landrover experience showcase plus cool exhibits from the Heritage Motor which also included the team firing up the Rover-BRM jet turbine. Several car manufacturers too were in attendance and we collected some funky black balloons from the Mini stand and tied them to our rucksacks. To me, the main attraction to these exhibition was the golden opportunity for spectators to get up close and personal with the array of spectacular vehicles from the past, present and future with no barriers or viewing restrictions. It was a challenge taking photographs too because everything was photo-bombed:-)
“More books, more racing and more foolishness with cars and motorcycles are in the works”
Since it was still quiet on the road, we decided to venture into the city-centre stopping to check out the live performance art from Pop Bang Colour. There was a very long queue for the Landrover experience where spectators took part in the test drive of the famous 4x4. There were classic car displays in the Bullyard and more in Broadgate with a myriad of privately owned classics . It seemed that every public areas (and pedestrianised zones) had become a stage to celebrate Coventry’s automotive and engineering pedigree.
‘We all have our time machines
Some take us back, they’re called memories
Some take us forward, they’re called dreams’
There were also plenty of displays through out the city centre which we didn’t have the chance to visit. Coventry City College and Peugeot/Citroen’s Academy (also based in Coventry) showed off their prowess in producing first-rate technicians for the future and Coventry University’s School of Art and Design showcased their current graduates’ work, covering the visual arts, design and media, as well as the respected Automotive and Transport Design courses. The French Connection was at the University Square, classic car clubs at the Millennium Place, Triumph Dolomites 50th anniversary at Upper Precinct, Scalextric at Lower Precinct, car-themed family fun at Ikea, History of vehicle instruments at the Watch Museum and even a Jaguar Bonnet art collection at Fargo Village.
‘Drag racing has played a big role in In-N-Out’s history, and it is also an important part of my family history’
Then it was back at the ring-road to watch one of the highlights of the festival and a real treat for the spectators. The Falken International drift team which made the recent Nurburgring 24 hour race very exciting, was getting through sideways and smoky between Junctions 4 and 6. They created more tyre smoke that the ring road had ever seen. They were doing their their very best to ruin the freshly-laid tarmac around Junction 6 of the Friargate development. Spectators, us included, lining both sides of the road were breathing in lots (and I meant lots) of smoke. The UK team of former British drift champion Matt Carter, Paul Cheshire and Kirstie Widdrington, plus Irish Drift champion James Deane got all 4 cars Falken-shod cars simultaneously driving around the ring-road in a spectacular display of car control at speed of over 80mph---sideways. I bet the local boy racers were looking with great interest cos they were watching the very best :-). Smoking tyres and “donuts” were the order of the day and I bet these drivers, too, were having fun.
“If you don’t drift to win,
what do you drift for?
~Fast and Furious~
Drifting was the automotive equivalent of ice skating with points awarded for style and speed not outright lap time. But thankfully, these were just demonstrations. Just imagine if this was a competition. It was a bit crazy to watch them in action within a much tighter confines of the now slippery ring-road, hemmed in by concrete walls, barriers and spectators. The course laid out wasn’t technical for these experienced drivers but considering the speeds involved, the narrowness of the road and the unforgiving curbs and barriers on either side, they gave the spectators a glimpse into what drifting was about. Watching the DW86 emerged from the slip road’s tunnel sideways at the top end of an estimated wheel speed of 125mph before tucking into the chicane with all 4 wheels locked was not the sort of thing you expected to see on the ring-road. To be honest, the Driftworks team was a real treat for us and also for the rest of the spectators. There was a huge crowd, from the over head gantry bridge of Junction 6, the packed footbridge, to the the carriageway perimeter of walls and even the grassy banks along the ring-road.
“Speed defines everything”
We were here for 2 days. On Saturday, it was such a hot day that we were wilting by 4 pm. At first, we didn’t planned to come on Sunday as it was a miserable day and raining. But, Babe wanted to check them out again because he was hoping that it won’t be crowded due to the rain. Wishful thinking :-). We managed to find a parking space at Central Six (naughty, naughty) and walked straight to the footbridge where more rolling show featuring stock cars, dragsters and Shakespeare County Raceway was underway.
“Why did I take up racing? I was too lazy to work and too chicken to steal”
~Kyle Petty, Stock car driver~
Off course, everyone was waiting for the driftwork team and again they blew the crowd away. Heritage car wise, there was a good representation of the various era’s of F1’s along with a maximum capacity of 13 Junior cars. A real credit to all those youngsters that took part to support the event. The heavens opened and it got heavier and heavier that we decided to call it a day. Although Coventry lacked the glamour of Monaco , it hadn’t stopped the organisers going all-out to put on an amazing show. The fact that they got the beleaguered city council to agree to the motoring spectacular was a feat in itself. A big shout to the organisers. Well done and I’d already penned the 2016 date in my planner.
‘True happiness is singing at the top of your lungs in your car while the people in the car next to you are staring’
Off course, watching all these fast cars reminded me of the actor from the all-action blockbuster street-racing franchise, Fast and Furious, who died in a tragic accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. Paul Walker was a passenger in his friend’s, Roger Rodas, Porsche, in which both lost their lives on the 30th November 2013. I had seen the first two films which was shown on television. I don’t remember much of it but this quote will be a poignant memory of him. RIP.
“If one day speed kills me, do not cry because I was smiling”
~Paul Walker (1973-2013)~