The Alford Speedfest is a summer favourite of Motormessenger’s, having already been enjoyed from a spectator’s viewpoint in 2013 and 2014. But did my time on the other side of the barriers give the show a fresh twist this summer?
As a human, it’s pretty much impossible to look graceful when you’re walking backwards. Potholes, puddles and uneven surfaces lie in wait to (all-too-literally) trip up the complacent walker. With two hours until Speedfest 15 opened, I was stuggling to wake up properly, until I heard a turbocharged four-cylinder fill the air with a fuel-rich idle.
The task of walking backwards is even more nerve-wracking when that agitated motor is attached to a Ford RS200 needing help to negotiate a rutted route, followed by a Lamborghini Aventador and Murcielago LP640-4 in close succession.
This damp, gritty path was also the sole point of access for a £1.8m Bugatti Veyron Vitesse and one-of-349 Ferrari F50 to reach the GT Scotland display.
Having donned my hi-vis vest and with a media pass shoved into my palm, I was no longer a spectator at an event I’ve attended since I was a child. Once our multi-million pound display was roped-off in place and the gazebo built, I set about recce-ing my surroundings.
Call me biased, but GT Scotland certainly had enough firepower to challenge the manufacturer displays from McLaren, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin and Maserati combined.
The two Lamborghinis, Ferrari, Bugatti and Ford mentioned previously were accompanied by a Porsche 911 (997.2) GT3 RS 4.0 and genuine ex-Group A Lancia Stratos rally car, with a mix of drivetrains and power sources providing something for all performance junkies to enjoy.
Porsche Centre Aberdeen unveiled the new 911 GT3 RS in Lava Orange at the event; choosing to display a freshly-restored 930-era Turbo beside it. For the best part of £100k, I’d really struggle to choose between one of these two:
Other highlights included a Musgravite Black McLaren P1 finished in a Dairy Milkesque shade of purple with McLaren Orange highlights. Signed by Frank Stephenson, it immediately commanded my attention in the morning sunlight as Clark Aitken of Polished Bliss worked his magic on the bodywork. With approximately 30 miles under its wheels, Clark had done his best to keep the hybrid showroom-fresh. Having seen the finished results of his labour on the Cerulean Blue P1 and a locally-owned Ferrari Enzo, there was no doubt that he’d do this P1 justice. I mean, just look at the sheen:
There were other less obvious automotive celebrities parked up in the paddock area, too. A display of ACs were somewhat overshadowed by their proximity to McLaren Glasgow’s display, but hidden in amongst the modern-day supercars (and in the foreground of this shot) was this AC A98 coupe – the only one of its kind in the world.
BPH 4B is a Cobra Coupe built by the small British firm to compete in Le Mans. During testing in the early 1960s in preparation for Le Mans, AC’s test driver Jack Sears took #3 to the M1 and ran it up to a speed of 185mph. Popular legend states that it was this incident that led to the introduction of the 70mph speed limit on British motorways, as the AC test made headline news in several papers.
This particular car was restored in the early 1970s, after a crash at Le Mans which resulted in the deaths of several spectators. Autocar did a feature story on the 185mph run, which includes Sears’s opinion on his drive.
It pays to look at the older stuff, huh?
Once out of the paddock area, it was soon time to commentate on the day’s action. Joining my media team colleagues Tom Norton and Pete Watt, we ascended the rattly staircase to the commentator’s platform above the marshal’s box. What a view!
Now, in the world of car enthusiasts, I’m probably a little more than an anorak. I mean, statistically speaking, I’d be wearing waterproof trousers along with my raincoat. I can say with certainty that commentating on the Alford Drag and Pursuit races around the little Alfordring will be the only situation in my life where knowing the details of the S54-engined Z4 M Convertible by heart is seen as A Good Thing.
Despite this, we still ran into some difficulties with missing information that stretched our automotive passion a little. To whoever heard me go on about the colour of the Jaguar XFR-S, I apologise. It was only because someone else was frantically flipping through our folder to find out the owner’s information while I filled the air! The commentary was fun, but clearly we need more practice for next time.
This year’s Speedfest was an odd mix of the familiar and the unusual. While some of the events and cars were recurring favourites from years past, it was novel indeed to get unrestricted access to all sectors of the show. Having spent nine hours on the same showground, I got a deeper appreciation of just how much effort goes into organising these events.
Lamborghinis edged off of delivery lorries with millimetres to spare. The caterers prepared the day’s food for the expected crowds more than three hours in advance. I realised that gazebos are hellishly difficult to de-assemble properly, and that there’s only so much that can be said about McLaren’s decision to use the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 in everything. Despite all this action, stress and excitement, some owners still fell asleep in their cars in the mid-afternoon sun.
As for me, I’m just happy that each GT Scotland supercar managed to leave with their splitter intact. Until 2016, Speedfest.
See the GT Scotland Speedfest display in this report