EGP06 on reflection

EGP06 - on reflection

With a guest list including 1990 Lotus F1 Driver Martin Donnelly, racing car constructor Brian Lister, GT40 historian Ronnie Spain ( Ronnie is wonderful company and the world awaits the updated version of his book ‘GT40: An Individual History’ which actually hung around his neck on a USB memory stick ! ), Lotus UK sales manager Heathcliffe Robertshaw and the doyen of motorsport journalists Alan Henry , the weekend could not fail to deliver and deliver it did ,surpassing the four previous annual Garden Parties in all respects.

Ronnie Spain

Our aim, apart from having fun was to to improve on last year’s figure of £4300 raised for The Little Havens Childrens Hospice in Southend.

The weekend remains an invitation only free event and the organisation started in August 2005. First of all I needed to arrange an after dinner speaker and fit the event date around his availability. I only had a list of one..Alan Henry ,editor of Autocourse for the last 20 years, F1 correspondent for Autocar and the Guardian and the author of over 50 books on motorsport and it’s personalities. Alan lives in manorial splendour on the Essex marshes.

One email and he agreed…no fee,no expenses expected. The weekend the following summer had to be Grand Prix free to fit in with Alan’s schedule…..hence May 20/21.

Next..invitations out to all that attended in 2005. For the Saturday night supper the limit was 120….this was taken up quickly with a further 80 asking to attend.

Next..venue had to found. Horham Hall on the outskirts of Thaxted was chosen. A gorgeous castellated mansion on the edge of the village. A fee of £300 was agreed. We has used the Hall in 2005 as a Sunday morning starting point for our tour.

However in April  disaster struck in the name of Health & Safety…a limit of 80 people had been imposed by the Hall’s insurance company. So 6 weeks before the event and ‘we were all dressed up with nowhere to go’

Within a few hours of this catastrophic news I had found Sibbards Farm , two miles from Thaxted and for free.

I will always be grateful to Chris and Pam Gale for the use of their stunning converted barn complex at such short notice. Fate had intervened and provided us with a more suitable, and could I say more user friendly venue.

Barns

On Saturday May 20 at 5pm the gates opened and a flood of Elises and other marques poured in.

Paul and David Marshall from Cardiff arrived in a concours Gordon-Keeble and silver Ferrari 456, historic racer Ray Potter bought his red 246 Dino ( worried about the weather he had opted out of bringing his Jaguar SS100 ) Ferrari were also represented by Mark Piper and Jennie Ingram in their black 308GTB.Our local dealer Castle- Lotus Stansted , had lent us a new laser blue Exige S, a chrome orange Sagaris and the boss Peter Hilton had lent his blue DB9 as a course car.A couple more Astons .. the DB6 Mk11 of Paul Dunk and a DB7 belonging to Colin George. Lotus collector Ron Welsh bought his Lotus Cortina and his son Kevin chassis No 1 Lotus 6 . Philip Stacey again drove his 1955 Lotus 6 which used to belong to his brother Alan, who was tragically killed in an F1 Lotus at Spa in 1960. 

Our two visiting Nobles of Ash Woodman and Owen Thomas had both blown up in unison 90 miles away. We were happy to greet them in an Astra hire car.

Porsches were represented by my black 996TT and Dan Harman’s very pretty white GT3RS. Jon Malbon bought along a Ronart Lightning..a very limited production car powered by a quad cam V8. I certainly had never seen one before.

As one of our guests was Brian Lister , JD Classics of Maldon had very kindly sent along a fantastic 1958 Lister-Jaguar YOB 575. Brian knew nothing of this and when he arrived he was quite touched…these cars are now worth £400,000. Brian had sold a few of these many years ago for £1500 each something he is not allowed to forget by his wife Jose. Brian is 80 in July and still very sprightly and enthusiastic about motorsport.

 My wife Rachel and her four helpers Nicola,Sue,Helen and Lisa again surpassed themselves with the preparation of food and when , at 7pm supper was called 120 ‘Gannets’ descended….some wanting to start on the vast array of homemade puddings first.

After Supper Charlotte Davies from the Hospice gave a five minute tearjerker on the day to day running of the Hospice….this bought us all back to the real world and the unsung heroes within. Costing £5000 a day to run they need all the help they can get.

Alan Henry then gave an absorbing 45 minute speech on F1. He was about to attend his 525th GP at Monaco the next weekend so he is well positioned to give his views….and outspoken they were! There were questions afterwards and the obvious question..’ who in your opinion is the best driver of all time’ was answered ‘Ayrton Senna ‘. He also had some interesting comments on the psyche of Ralf Schumacher and Nigel Mansell. Some wag from the audience asked him to dare auction his written speech…he did..£50. He also offered a programme of the upcoming Monaco GP signed by Jenson Button….£75

In fact he so enjoyed his evening he asked if he could attend next year……….

The big money earner for us on the night is the auction.

I had asked both Martin Donnelly and Brian Lister to auction the lots they had donated. This they readily agreed to do and both were magnificent, making a huge difference to the money achieved. Martin with his dry Belfast humour was a huge hit with the audience. My son Barney had collected him and his very attractive wife Julie from Norwich so he could get in the auctioneering  mood with red wine followed by Smirnoff and tonic ! After his auctioneering stint he offered a day  with him at Hethel …..£375. A Camel polo shirt was slow to make a good price until he said his wife had slept in it……£50.

 Brian auctioned each of his seven donated lots with stories of the David and Goliath battles between his driver Archie Scott Brown and the works Astons and D-Types. The ride/drive in the Lister-Jaguar went for £400.

Wonderful nostalgic stuff.

Halfway through the auction my daughter Holly announced ,to a great cheer, that we had already hit our target of £5000.

The evening ended at 11.30 with the Thaxted Community Minibus ( £8 hire charge !) called into service to run those to their lodgings that were unable to distinguish between night and day.

Sunday morning greeted us with grey skies. Thirty cars were off to North Weald airfield for an activity morning run by Andy Walsh of carlimits.com, the rest went in convoy to Maldon on the other side of Essex to visit two sites both so different. The first was the showroom and restoration workshop of JD Classics. This is a three storey purpose built facility which cost £5 million and took 5 years to build. The place was packed with marvellous sights raging from Eddie Irvine’s F1 Jaguar to an original  Jaguar D-Type. Every thing is done on site from fabrication to engine building…..as it happened the hour spent there was not long enough.

Next stop was TDH Classics run by renowned Ferrari restorer Terry Hoyle. Wow ! what a Aladdin’s cave this turned out to be.

 

Being worked on were a Miura SV, the 1964 Le Mans Ferrari 330P of  Surtees/Bandini ( valued at $10 million  and having it’s original engine installed which would add $2 million to its value ) many 275GTBs, a NART spider (one of 10),Lussos,250GTEs,Daytonas. Fangio’s 1957 Ferrari ($6 million),Cobras, a Lamborghini LM002 (the Countach engined Jeep), and many more.

 Terry also looks after the 27 Ferrari car collection of Frenchman Pierre Bardinon. Monsieur Bardinon also has his own circuit, Mas du Clos in the French countryside. He was also the co-minder of that scallywag Lord Brocket’s collection of Ferraris…some genuine, some not. Trouble with his Lordship was that he sometimes forgot to say which was which when selling….then of course we all know what happened…..he was £18 million in debt to Midland Bank and chose to make a bogus insurance claim on the cars…result was 7 years in the clink.

 Terry was an exceptionally genial host with no holds barred answers to questions. It was very good of him to open up on a Sunday morning. For those at North Weald that missed the tour…maybe we can address that next year

Next off to Hedingham Castle for our Hog Roast BBQ. The weather was now becoming increasingly threatening and we were fortunate to get a two hour window between 2 and 4pm to eat without rain…after that the heavens opened .

 

 All in all everyone agreed it was a fantastic weekend. The icing on the cake?…we are on to raise £10,000 for the Hospice. Enough to operate it for 2 days.