26 May, 2016

British Grand Prix Cars Reunited After 90 Years


It’s a little-known fact that only 108 days separate the birth of the Queen and the inaugural British Grand Prix.

Both 90th birthdays are being commemorated at an eagerly anticipated event staged at Windsor Castle this autumn.

The Concours of Elegance 2016 (September 2-4) is set to bring together four classic racing car survivors which were earmarked for that epoch-making race.

Never have so many originals from that day congregated in one place since the 1926 race itself.

The fab four

The original quartet of British Grand Prix racers coming to Windsor are the:

  • Delage 155B: a brace of these cars propelled two teams of two - yes, racers were allowed to race in pairs back then - to first and third place
  • Halford Special: Brit Frank Halford’s “mount” retired 82 laps into the race with a damaged propeller shaft U-joint
  • Talbot 700: Another Brit, Henry Segrave was faring OK until he developed supercharger glitches on lap 60
  • Thomas Special: this didn’t even make the grid as it could not be made ready in time. The Thomas car had the last laugh, however, still being around nine decades later

What else is on the Concours of Elegance 2016 menu?

  • 10 of the best: the show will parade cars considered to be among the most trailblazing over the Queen’s reign. They inched the McLaren F1, Mini, Land Rover Series I and 1920s Bentley 3-litre
  • 60 of Planet Earth’s greatest cars: these will congregate in Windsor Castle’s Quadrangle. We don’t know the final line-up yet. What we do know is that the peer-leading old Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Zagato and the one-of-a-kind art deco Hispano Suiza Dubonnet Xenia (1937) will be there
  • And, of course, the concours itself: Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and other leading British car clubs will be there displaying a total of over 800 classic machines

The first British Grand Prix facts

  • it was held at Surrey’s famous Brooklands motor venue and seen as the Grand National motor racing equivalent of its day with just three cars completing the race.
  • Delage 155B drivers Robert Senechal and Louis Wagner comfortably romped home by over 10 minutes in a time of 4 hours 0.56 seconds.
  • Were the cars of the time really that slow? No, it had more to do with the fact that there were 110 laps
  • 18 years earlier Frenchman Wagner had also won the inaugural US Grand Prix
  • Even more remarkable is that Wagner had to keep stopping the car to prevent bad burns to his feet
  • There wasn’t an advertising logo in sight