July 22nd, 2010

Pageant of Power 2010: The North’s big secret

We have already discussed that the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the best car show in the world. What some people don’t know is that it has competition – and it is Northern.

The Pageant of Power is held in the grounds of a Lord’s big estate like Goodwood, but Lord Cholmondeley has one better over Lord March as he lives in a stunning castle which is surrounded by lakes where you can see a host of water-based machinery honing around. Lord Cholmondeley also lives in the middle of Cheshire where not a lot goes on in the skies, so there are a lot more air displays. Only being in its third year the Pageant of Power has got better and better and this year was no exception.

The Pageant of Power is a lot different to Goodwood in many ways. It is smaller, doesn’t have the same reputation and can’t pull in the big names such as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. But I am sure that will come in time as it has such a great atmosphere.

There is no pompousness; it is like walking in to a big motoring fete rather than festival. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to do, there is loads and more variety than Goodwood. The Pageant of Power is not just a showcase of cars; there are boat races, bikes, planes and a strong military theme with loads of gun demos and Tanks rolling around churning up the pristine grass. It is more of a family day out than Goodwood because there is literally something for everyone and it is a lot more relaxed.

Obviously we were there for the cars and we were not disappointed. With the paddocks stocked with over 15 million pounds worth of cars they were hardly short of stock. For an event which has only been going three years and pulls in 50,000 visitors there is some Über rare and wacky automobiles on show and going around the course at full chat.

The 1.2 mile track is the same length as Goodwood but a lot faster and less crowded offering amazing access to the squealing and flame spitting cars. Justin Law; winner of the 2009 Sports Racing Car Post 1960 Class and Fastest Lap of the weekend gave his take on the Cholmondeley track…

“The lights go out and wheel-spin from the start line is shortly followed by a narrow tabletop-like bridge the car snaking and losing traction as it goes light.  Then it’s full power and a fast run down Chestnut Avenue, the trees whistling by. A slight kink right and a hesitant right foot on the approach to Lodge Corner, the car wanting to overtake itself under hard braking.  A stab of the throttle sends the car into a 4 wheel slide, using an inch of grass on the exit of The Vicarage.  The approach to The Chicane is again very fast with no signs of an apex.  Eventually the apex appears and after turn in its full on with the throttle sliding through the right, left of the chicane. A short burst along polo straight is followed by the slow and threatening Chapel corner, the car Power over steering on exit. Then it’s another fast run through the tightening Lozenger with a bump shortly before the tight left of chapel. A split second lift of the throttle as the car takes air over the hump back bridge and back on the gas for the short stretch to the finish.”

With the cars being driven by the very lucky owners instead of a bunch of journalists, they really go for it on the track. With cars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds wheel-spinning off the line, jumping over the bridge, locking up the brakes on entry to a corner and then sliding around it to get out, you get to see a side of the vintage and exotic cars which you don’t see at many other events.

This year’s highlights included the three vintage aero-car specials. These were some of the craziest contraptions I have ever seen. After WWII, when the world was simple and men got bored in sheds, men covered in oil started plonking massive aeroplane engines in cars. It wasn’t a good idea, it was a great idea. These things were massive, chain driven and had ridiculous amounts of power going through the wooden wheels.

The three on display this year were Chris Williams’s ludicrous 42-litre Packard/Bentley. At idle the flames stood off at least two feet from its 24 open exhaust stubs and several witnesses to this fiery spectacle found their trainer laces mysteriously fused together. There was also the 47-litre BMW aero-engined special “Brutus” making a welcome first visit to the UK from the Sinsheim Museum in Germany and the amazing ex-Llewellyn/Morley Napier Bentley, now owned by Chris Williams. This 24-litre W12 Napier Lion aero engine-powered machine was smaller, but visibly the more sorted racer and several military types looked admiringly at the smoke screen of cremated tyres it put down at the start as they tried to put the power down. It was awesome.

It wasn’t just classic road and race cars on display as there was a collection of today’s finest road and race going machines. A new course record was set by Nicky Falkner, driving the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, completing the twisting 1.2 mile circuit in 62.68 seconds and getting very airborne over the second bridge. You can check that out in our videos section.

Event Director, James Hall said, “This year’s Pageant has exceeded all expectations – it was thrilling to walk around the park over the weekend seeing thousands of people enjoying the amazing entries.”

The Saturday evening quite literally ended with a bang as a fill firework concert was laid on. It was like Proms in the Park with more drinks, picnics and Northerners – it was fantastic. They even managed to pull off a linked helicopter fly past in time to Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ and then firing of the Royal Artillery cannons to accompany the 1812 Overture. It was epic.

I hope this shows that the Pageant of Power isn’t just a wannabe Goodwood. It is a more varied show, which isn’t so much centred around cars but on having a great day out. So if you live up North and complain that Goodwood is too far away, you have nothing to complain about as the Pageant of Power is more than an adequate replacement.

For more photos check out our Flickr page.

Words: Rowan Horncastle

Photos: Rowan Horncastle

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