One of the most talked about and hotly anticipated race for many was the Celebrity Trophy Race on Saturday. Since the media day back in March when some of the names were released, Silverstone had been drip feeding our insatiable appetite with names. Some names which had been connected did not actually materialise such as actor Patrick Stewart and adventurer Charlie Boorman and some new names were released later on in the months such as Take That member Howard Donald (177) and ‘Dragons Den’ entrepreneur Theo Paphitis (128).
The race would see celebrities from the worlds of racing, TV, literature music and media race Austins to raise funds for Prostate Cancer UK; the official charity sponsor of Silverstone Classic, so far this has created over £20,000 for the charity.
The cars in question were all equally race tuned Austin A30’s and A35’s, these well known racing cars were introduced a few years ago as a cost effective way into historic racing by the Historic Racing Drivers Club. The celebrities were split into teams with their moniker relating to their profession. You’ll find the team names and members below. This sprinkle of stardust over an already celebrated institution was a bold move from the organisers and ensured that classic racing was suddenly being followed by many who previously had no interest, hopefully encouraging the future generation to get involved.
Previous to racing all celebrities were put through their paces by the country’s leading Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS) at Silverstone Motorsport Academy to gain their MSA race license; unless of course they already had one such as well known racing drivers Tiff Needel (192) or Tony Jardine (150).
After a short qualifier and familiarisation with the 3.66 mile Grand Prix track in beautiful weather, the stars took to the tarmac for their second time on Saturday. With much anticipation the crowds gathered to see if these illustrious individuals had what it took to rule the corners and straights of the mighty Silverstone track. Unfortunately the light evening drizzle quickly turned to a shower of rain as the celebrities took off around the hallowed track. Adding to the excitement was a short red flag intermission and safety car restart due to the difficulties some drivers were experiencing. Gripping the wet tarmac in these conditions would have been hard for the racing pros among the teams with the less experienced seriously coming up short, as Wheeler Dealers presenter Ant Anstead (124) said “…the track suddenly went from grippy to ice-rink when the rain started…”. Anstead unfortunately fell foul to the change in weather and took a tumble coming into the Copse after overtaking three other cars, he couldn’t correct the wobbles and the car flew through the air, almost as if in slow motion to those watching. You could hear the gasps of shock from the viewing public and everyone waited with baited breath to discover if he was ok. Anstead suffered from some bruising and needed stitches in his finger, the car suffered some dents and the loss of a door however Anstead states it’s his pride that hurt more “…the worst injury is my pride.”
Another notable face who took a tumble was legendary AC/DC singer Brian Johnson (159). Johnson lost control whilst negotiating a bend during the qualifier leaving the car and racing fanatic unscathed but unable to take part in the main race for his team ‘Rocking and Racing’. ‘Going for Gold’ team members Jonny Searle (126), Greg Searle (151) and Mark Hunter (116) all failed to control the insidious conditions with both Searle boys not taking the re-start at the red flag along with ‘Bike Legends’ Maria Costello (105) and ‘Sky Sports Stars’ Orla Chennaoui (178). Jonny Searle recalls the events of his tumble “Well, everything we got taught sort of went out of the window – literally – once the rain came down. Prior to that, I was really getting into the racing spirit and with it came a healthy dose of competitive red mist! Maria [Costello] was in front of me and I went to overtake her, got excited and started to spin. I tried to correct and overdid it – and the next thing I knew I was rolling. The windscreen came out, which was fortunate as I couldn’t get out of my door! I feel bad that I broke the car but delighted to have taken part and, yes, I’d do it again. The whole experience makes you just want to get better at this whole thing!”
This racing baptism of fire was an enthralling and thrilling race with the notorious names attempting to overtake the safety car. With such perilous track conditions it was no wonder that the more experienced members of the teams took to the forefront with Grand Prix drivers Mark Blundell (127) and Martin Donnelly (114) along with touring car legends Steve Soper (104) and Anthony Reid (143) fighting for the top spot and dicing energetically to the front, exchanging positions in a spirited fashion. The thrills continued in this four person face off as Soper triumphed and a last lap spin for Reid pushed Donnelly to second and Blundell to third.
Luckily with the bad weather and lack of experience no-one was seriously hurt and will all hopefully take to the track again in the future.
Congratulations to team ‘Screen Stars’ headed by Formula One ace and Le Mans winner Mark Blundell who won overall and Steve Soper of ‘Bike Legends’ who was the individual winner.
Winner Soper said “That was very, very tricky. It was all about trying to find the grip, with different drivers finding it in different corners. It was huge fun – my heart was really pumping and the adrenaline was flowing. Everybody who finished did a fantastic job, so all credit to them. I know he was in my team, but for Wayne Gardner (174) to finish fourth was incredible.” Winning team captain Blundell who came third went on to say “That was great fun, but they were extremely difficult conditions. Out of all the races I’ve done, it was probably one of the most difficult because of the cars’ limited grip and the conditions. That made it impossible to predict. Just about everybody was sideways and for the rookies, I think, it was particularly hard work. Hats off to those that finished – they’re in good company!”
Congratulations to all who took part!
Going for Gold
Anthony Reid (Team Captain)
Amy Williams (MBE)
Jason Kenny (CBE)
Jonny Searle (MBE)
Greg Searle (MBE)
Mark Hunter (MBE)
Rocking and Racing
Martin Donnelly (Team Captain)
Steve Soper (Team Captain)
Maria Costello (MBE)
Mark Blundell (Team Captain)
Sky Sports Stars
Rupert Keegan (Team Captain)
Carl Froch (MBE)