Celebrating Classic Racing with the Historic Race Weekend at Croft Circuit

The focus may have been on the south of England during the first weekend of September, the start of the UK’s Motor Month (Salon Privé, Concours of Elegance, RADwood, Beaulieu Autojumble), but the north made its contribution to proceedings as well — as the Historic Sports Car Club set up camp at Croft Circuit near Darlington for its annual Historic Race Weekend.

Various single-seater, sports car, and saloon categories took to the track, some with quite thin grids, some with fields of 30 cars or more. A highlight for me was the Historic Modsports & Special Saloons, featuring cars that competed (or could have) in series of the same name back in the ’70s and ’80s.

Proceedings were dominated by Paul Sibley in his mental MG Midget, its light weight, single-seater slicks, and proper aerodynamics overcoming an enormous power deficit to the cars behind. They included John Kinmond’s sideways Rover SD1 (2nd in Race 1) and Andy Robinson’s bonkers 7.0-litre Ford Falcon (2nd in Race 2) which appeared to fast-forward down the straights.

My award for Most Ludicrous Device went to Andrew Willis and his newly built, Ford V8-powered Austin A30. The cartoonishly proportioned machine seemed to have some handling issues in the first race, but they were cured for the second encounter when the car proved effective enough to finish in 5th place.

Most of the races were a bit processional at the front, but there were close-fought battles to be found. Of particular note was the duel over the third place in the Historic Touring Cars race, between Steve Platts in his diminutive Singer Chamois and Joseph Sledmore in a Ford Lotus Cortina.

Platts held the upper hand for the majority of the race, though Sledmore was rarely more than a car-length behind, sliding his Cortina through the corners at unlikely angles. Eventually, Sledmore was able to prise open enough of gap to slip through into third and pull out a bit of gap, though Platts made sure he was uncomfortable in his position until the chequered flag. York man Sledmore secured his second podium finish of the weekend, an impressive showing for a novice driver.

It wasn’t just the track action providing entertainment. An eclectic selection of several hundred classic cars were on show around the circuit including large displays from the local chapters of the Lotus and Jaguar Owners Clubs. Military vehicles and steam engines also featured, as did a Curtiss-Wright radial aero engine that ran several times throughout the day, its glorious racket audible from hundreds of yards away.

Personal favourites among the cars on show included a patinated AMC Matador Sportabout Gucci Edition of questionable taste, a deeply handsome dark green Aston Martin DB2/4, an oh-so ’80s Lancia Thema 8.32, and an immaculate Mk.2 Ford Escort RS200 in a rare shade of blue.

Elsewhere, there were vintage fun fair rides, a mechanical organ, and a couple of excellent musical acts — but there should have been more traders and a greater variety of food outlets. All-in-all though, several thousand spectators had a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Keep an eye out for the next edition of the Croft Historic Race Weekend in 2024.