POST­CARD FROM EUROPE

Classic Driver - - OVERSTEER - BY ROGER WILLS PHO­TOS BY JEFF BLOX­HAM

The weekend of 3/4/5 May saw my his­toric race sea­son be­lat­edly get un­der­way at the Don­ing­ton His­toric Fes­ti­val af­ter the snow in­ter­rupted meet­ing at Oul­ton Park at the end of March. I was out in the McLaren M1C sports car, Mer­cury Comet Cy­clone in the pre-1966 tour­ing car race, shar­ing the Lo­tus Elite in a 75 minute race for pre1963 GT cars and rac­ing the awe­some Lan­cia LC2 Group C car which had been on pole and set fastest lap at Le Mans in 1984.

The Don­ing­ton Fes­ti­val is one of those great events that seem to tick all the Some­times it takes a tragedy to re­mind us that mo­tor rac­ing can be dan­ger­ous. In New Zealand the his­toric rac­ing fra­ter­nity was shocked by the re­cent loss of Stan Red­mond in a For­mula 5000 ac­ci­dent at Tere­tonga. It is easy to for­get that de­spite the safety of cir­cuits and fa­cil­i­ties hav­ing im­proved, some­times things can still go wrong boxes. Lots of ac­cess to great ma­chin­ery for spec­ta­tors and tons of mouth­wa­ter­ing ma­chin­ery to view, a cir­cuit for the driv­ers that ev­ery­one loves and the type of re­laxed low stress or­gan­i­sa­tion that makes it a plea­sure to be a part of and a most en­joy­able event to race in. For me, any meet­ing with longer races is al­ways a pref­er­ence so an op­por­tu­nity to do hour plus races on a cir­cuit I love, will be high on my to-do list. Also from the com­peti­tor’s point of view it must be bet­ter to watch high qual­ity grids in longer races than a pro­gramme crammed with a load of 15 minute sprint races which some or­gan­is­ers seem to favour.

Fri­day and Satur­day were fan­tas­tic fun and de­spite the usual me­chan­i­cal mal­adies to be ex­pected from cars up to 50 years old that we are try­ing to thrash within an inch of their lives, it was a great meet­ing. We also did the usual his­toric race stuff – big bar­beque Satur­day night shun­ning the spe­cial (read stuffy) driv­ers’ din­ner party, a few beers and glasses of wine and a lot of ban­ter with fel­low com­peti­tors.

Sun­day car­ried on from where Fri­day and Satur­day had left off and the fun con­tin­ued. But this all came to an abrupt end with the tragic death of a fel­low com­peti­tor in the pre-1966 tour­ing car race on Sun­day af­ter­noon. De­spite fin­ish­ing on the podium in sec­ond place, the race was marred when Chris­tian Dev­ereux lost his life in what seems to have been a freak ac­ci­dent be­tween his Mini and a Ford Mus­tang ren­der­ing ev­ery­thing else in­stantly mean­ing­less.

Ob­vi­ously there is still a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the crash so I’m not go­ing to com­ment or spec­u­late on what may have hap­pened. I was in the race and saw the crash scene af­ter the race was red flagged. It looked like any other crash scene that you see in al­most ev­ery race and you just ex­pect both driv­ers to step from their cars and only worry about the dam­age to their pride and joy and of course their wal­lets. Deaths just don’t hap­pen in his­toric rac­ing or any rac­ing come to think of it. It is all so safe now and noth­ing like the dan­ger­ous days gone by when th­ese cars were new. In­juries are rare and deaths don’t hap­pen. So the whole pad­dock was stunned when the air am­bu­lance ar­rived, then a sec­ond, then a po­lice car, and fi­nally the an­nounce­ment over the tannoy we all feared – Chris­tian had suc­cumbed to his in­juries.

Do­ing what he loves, Chris­tian Dev­ereux lost his life in his Mini dur­ing a his­toric tour­ing car race at Don­ing­ton

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