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Nick Mason's Column: The Enthusiast

  • Nick Mason - August 2008 - 0
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The race season got off to a really rather average start at VSCC Silverstone, as both Mr and Mrs Mason managed to return to the paddock with a certain amount of battle damage...

The race season got off to a really rather average start at VSCC Silverstone, as both Mr and Mrs Mason managed to return to the paddock with a certain amount of battle damage. The good thing was that at least we didn’t run into each other, which might really have spoilt the day. Having said that, most of the damage is now repaired, and the nose of the 250F was not in fact some original piece made in Italy 60 years ago but something turned out by a local artisan near Swindon; and the Aston wheels needed a rebuild anyway…

More annoying was Geraint Owen’s T35B exploding in a truly magnificent way shortly before the finish line. The spectators were treated to a display of the reciprocating parts of a T35B engine laid out neatly along the pit straight – and if only it had happened 500 metres earlier I might have lifted that Itala trophy.

Rather to my astonishment I have been elected to the post of president of the Guild of Motoring Writers. Despite not having been issued with full regalia as yet, I have been able to enjoy the perks of the post with a visit to the Mercedes center at Brooklands for the AGM, where I had the opportunity to try out the skid pans in some rather nice Mercs. This was followed by a trip to Millbrook for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ test day, where a host of journalists were able to have a quick evaluation of a range of interesting cars.

I realized I was in with the professionals when the opportunities for the Prodrive Alfas, Audi R8 and RS6, and all the Porsches were swallowed up before the doughnuts, but as I’d driven up in the stunning new 8C Alfa I probably didn’t deserve those rides anyway. There’s not much point in delivering a sales puff on the 8C, as Alfa seems to have flogged the lot already.

So, instead of sulking, I set about having a go in a number of motoring wallflowers that were shyly waiting to be asked to drive. The Vauxhall Vectra in full police regalia was a must. What it lacked in performance was more than made up for by the lights and siren. Even on the high-speed bowl it took a real effort of will for the fastest Porsche driver to press on and overtake those fluorescent stripes at 130mph… and who needs a wheelbarrow when you could have the Piaggio tipper truck?

If you start tipping on the move you can really add some excitement for the driver following, who thinks he’s about to attack an unbelievable gradient.

I liked the electric car that had the advantage of not requiring a driving licence, which might suit those with a plethora of points, and the 100bhp Smart car that you might get away with pretending couldn’t possibly do more than 40mph, even if it was clocked at over the ton.

Trying to avoid the fact that we had regretfully turned down a magnificent invitation to watch the Monaco GP from a suitable yacht, various assorted Masons in various assorted Bugattis struggled up Prescott hill during The Bugatti Owners Club’s La Vie en Bleu weekend, including number one son in his first competitive event driving a Type 13. If he still has an appetite for vintage motoring after Prescott’s tropical (by which I mean monsoon) conditions, he is probably hooked. I do remember my doctor dealing out the medical for my race licence. He said that by rights he shouldn’t really sign the document, as anyone driving these cars would have to be clinically insane.

Prescott also gave me the inside track on front runner for car salesman of the year. Ian Patton managed to sell Ten-Tenths’ Mr Hallowes a 1925 Sima Violet 500cc cyclecar, despite the fact that the new owner can’t fit in it. Not only that, but the seller then acquired the position of works driver in the car he had just sold. It was unfortunate that this remake of the Ken Tyrrell/Jackie Stewart partnership was marred by the car having insufficient power to ascend further than halfway up the hill. I expect Ian asked for extra money for the indignity… A particularly fetching detail is that, due to the transverse engine layout, the front registration number has been painted on the exposed flywheel – which might make a policeman’s neck ache.


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