A rather special day out in the Riley…
A few months back whilst attending a classic car show in the Riley, I was approached by one of the organising members of ‘Friends of Mike Hawthorn’ who asked if I would mind bringing my car to a forthcoming local event which promised to be a bit special.
The Grand Prix de Farnham was that event – a celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Mike Hawthorn winning the Formula 1 World Championship. On 19 October 1958 the Moroccan Grand Prix was held on a circuit near Casablanca.
Mike Hawthorn driving a Ferrari, attained pole position but the race was won by a certain Stirling Moss driving a Vanwall. Mike took second place. Rather excitingly that second place was enough to make him the first British driver to become Formula One world champion which he achieved by a single point! Having achieved this accolade, Mike then retired from F1. Interestingly this was the only time Morocco have hosted an F1 event, but I have no idea why.
Why was the celebration event at Farnham? Mike’sparents moved to the town when he was two, and opened the ‘Tourist Trophy garage’ in Farnham, which became the base of his motorsport activities but was also a local garage open to the general public. Mike lived in Farnham for the rest of his life.
The people of Farnham celebrated the world championship win with cars from Mike Hawthorn’s era driving through closed streets in the centre of town on a wet Sunday afternoon. There was a fabulous range of cars from the Riley Imp he used to compete in the Tourist Trophy competitions, numerous Jaguars right up to the thin wall Vanwall used in F1. I think my favorite car of them all though was a huge 1930’s V12 Lagonda special running no silencers whatsoever. I was lucky enough to follow this car throughout our laps of the town and at times, I could barely hear my car above his bellowing exhaust, I think I have mentioned my own car is rather noisy but it paled to insignificant in comparison.
I am pleased to say, this was my first event where the car was running properly, allowing me to red line the engine for the first time and to increase the fun, I was joined by a fellow Jaguar enthusiast Lewis, who excitedly took the passenger seat plus the son of the fellow owning the car next to me in the paddock took one of the rear seats. The weather was horrible, it pretty much poured with rain all day but because I was an early bird I was offered a ‘garage space’ in a long gazebo which kept the car dry. Early on in the day, I was approached by a gentleman gesturing with a large microphone, who went by the tag of ‘Mr T’. But sadly it was not BA Barracus from the A-Team, this Mr T produces ‘entertaining’ PodCasts, mostly about grand railway journeys in foreign climes, but he asked if I would mind being interviewed for a new PodCast, to which I agreed with mild apprehension.
What I didn’t appreciate when I agreed to the interview was just how difficult it is to simply talk, without coming across as a complete idiot. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much (or maybe I did), I am sure you will tell me. I rather suspect I would not get a job on TopGear either way.
You can hear the interview here: Mr T Podcast – Grand-Prix de Farnham.
I also mounted the Go-Pro onto the car for the first time and uploaded the unedited video onto YouTube. You get a drivers eye view of a couple of the laps through the town with the V12 Lagonda in front of me – turn up the volume and dont forget to wave to the soaked spectators…
I had a great day, The Riley did what it was designed for; having fun, being noisy and entertaining people. It was cold, very wet, the windscreen did nothing to stop the rain or my lap gaining a puddle, the tyres threw up a magnificent plume of water behind me and we had constant grins. Marvelous aah-ooo-gah.
Below are a few pictures from the event:
The Blue Riley parked next to mine in the first picture belonged to Mike Hawthorn – note the ceramic bow tie on the radiator grill.
The V12 Lagonda
Mike Hawthorns D-Type Jaguar, which won at LeMans, following his Tourist Trophy garage van
An unknown Ferrari that I simply liked the look of. A Monza perhaps?