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What’s your fastest speed?

What’s your fastest speed?

by Danielle Thompson (June 2021)

WHAT’S the fastest you’ve ever driven? 90mph? 100mph? Maybe a little more?  My own highest speed is 136mph, served up in the safe surroundings of a private test track where all 542bhp of a Jaguar XKR-S could really be let loose, but that’s a modern car with ABS, traction control and all sorts of other electronic armoury to help you should something go wrong.

Imagine what it’d be like going even faster in a Sunbeam racing car with no seatbelts, no roll cage and 1920s brakes and suspension - on Ainsdale Beach!

That’s the phenomenal achievement of Sir Henry Segrave, who in March 1926 managed to wrestle a single-seater Sunbeam to 152.3mph. On sand. It’s one of those drives that I always thought deserved more recognition, and until recently it was largely consigned to the history books and the name of the resort’s branch of JD Wetherspoon. 

Champion readers with longer memories will recall that back in 2016 the Sunbeam Tiger – the original racer and land speed record car, not an Alpine with a heart transplant – was successfully reunited with the seafront, where it finally got to roar down the beach again. It was the headline gig at a week of motoring-themed events called the Southport Festival of Speed, which included parades of classic cars, a talk by Gina Campbell, daughter of land and water speed record holder Donald, at The Atkinson, and a concours (judged by, erm, me). It was a wonderful celebration of the region’s motoring heritage which posed one big question – when were Aintree Circuit Club, the people behind Ormskirk’s MotorFest, going to do it again? 

Well, I’m delighted to say the answer is Sunday, October 10. 

The aim of the new Classic and Speed event isn’t to re-run the Tiger’s anniversary outing – although the club is hoping to bring it back to the North West – but a celebration of the Southport Speed Trials, which took place along Lord Street and the Promenade in the early 1900s. I’m not for a moment suggesting there are going to veteran racing cars dicing at high speeds just in front of the Royal Clifton, but what there will be is a classic car parade through the town centre, which for me was one of the real highlights of the 2016 event. There’ll be plenty of car displays at Victoria Park, too, including what Aintree Circuit Club are billing as a themed display of veteran, vintage, classic and modern cars as its centrepiece. 

It’s a welcome dose of normality at a time when car shows are only just getting back into their stride - and plenty of the bigger ones have had to either revamp their formats or skip a second year because of ongoing uncertainty over lockdown. 

Fingers crossed that the weather cooperates, too, because this is an event that deserves to succeed. Having said that, vintage car demonstrations are always that little bit entertaining in the wet… 

David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly 

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