Behind the scenes at the London Classic Car Show
It's out of bounds for visitors but we managed to sneak a look around the diverse 'dressing room' paddock area at the London Classic Car Show
If the ‘Grand Avenue’ cutting through the middle of the London Classic Car Show is akin to a catwalk at any fashion show, then the paddock has to be the dressing room.
Separated from the rest of the show by a large partition wall, it’s where some of motoring’s most iconic cars are sat waiting to roll out in front of the public.
First stepping in, it’s hard to fixate attention as your eyes dart from a Peugeot 205 T16 to a Jaguar XJ220 side-by-side with a Group C-derived XJR-15. In some form or another, most branches of the classic car world and motorsport is covered off.
The majority of the line-up starts at the turn of a key and so it’s a case of waiting their turn to parade through the show as organisers choreograph the order for the next run. A Lamborghini LM002 towers over an Eagle Speedster as a Miura S, built to original Bob Wallace Jota trim, ticks over next to 2010 Nissan GT-R Nismo GT1.
For some, it’s a more complex operation. At the back of the paddock sit three Formula 1 cars. From right to left, a 1989 Dallara BMS 190, a same-year Lotus 101 and then a 1993 Benetton 193B as driven by Michael Schumacher and Riccardo Patrese. By comparison, they appear to be plugged-in to a life support system as warm oil and water are pumped around their engines prior to firing into life.
The F1 cars are notoriously fragile. A quick sprint around an indoor circuit offers nothing like a perfect heat cycle and so they have to be specially prepared by two or three mechanics each. The drivers are zipped up in their appropriately-livered and sponsored race suits.
Despite it being ‘behind-the-scenes’, everyone is perfectly affable too. Steve Griffiths, about to step in the 101, explains how he bought the car as a pension fund at Autosport International in 2010 and then how he promptly thumped it into the hay bales on his first run up the Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb that same year – and hasn’t been invited back since.
Those lucky enough to have the right passes are being talked around the paddock by former Fifth Gear presenter Jonny Smith – guiding them through the significance of Alfaholics’ GT-R 290 among others.
It’s unfortunate that the paddock isn’t open to the public, but in part that’s understandable with cars manoeuvring constantly and show organisers running to a tight schedule. But for a brief glimpse, it’s like touring a hall of fame.
The good news, however, is that the real show is out on the Grand Avenue. Its slippery exhibition hall floor seems too enticing for many not to dump the clutch and spin the rear tyres.
The tight confines where cars are meant to turn around encourages a stab of throttle and controlled oversteer as drivers attempt to avoid a three-point turn. All the while, engine notes bounce off the ExCel’s walls and drown out all other noise.
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