ormskirk

The Ormskirk MotorFest is great – but it could be even better

The MotorFest has evolved into a real success story for Ormskirk

YOU CAN’T help but love a show that picks a Vanden Plas Princess – basically a posh Austin 1300 – above a Ford Mustang, Opel Manta and Rover P5 as its concours champion.

Even the 1957 Vanwall Formula One car in which Stirling Moss won that year’s British Grand Prix briefly had to step aside while the beautifully polished BMC baby hogged the limelight. It was a crushing victory for the plucky underdog (and its owner, of course), and one of the many reasons why I loved last weekend’s Ormskirk MotorFest.

I go to far too many car shows for my own good and all the best ones have a single snappy nugget of brilliance that sums them up neatly in a nutshell. Le Mans is a big Brit petrolhead party – that just happens to be held in France. The Goodwood Revival is an overdose of 1960s nostalgia. The NEC classic show is Britain’s big season-ender. And the MotorFest?  Your chance to see the world’s coolest cars parading around Ormskirk, of course. It’s a winning formula that seven years on is still packing the crowds into West Lancashire. Job done.

But even if it ain’t broke there’s still ample opportunity to muck about with it, of course. There was nothing wrong with the original 911 but it’s a far cry from the tarmac burners Porsche puts in its showrooms half a century on.

Which is why the formula’s changed ever so slightly since Ormskirk’s first MotorFest outing back in 2011, even if you hadn’t noticed. An autotest’s been tried to add a little tyre-screeching drama, there’s now a concours for anyone who cherishes their Vanden Plas Princess, and for anyone who (like me) preferred Top Gear 20 years ago the event now comes with added Steve Berry.

But what I think it needs more than anything else are the long gaps between the parades filling in. It’s time to nick a page out of Goodwood’s book and send all those lovely cars out one at a time, so there’s always something doing the rounds on Ormskirk’s big day.
I’d love to see Steve Berry and motor sport commentary legend Neville Hay bringing all those Astons, Jags – and yes, the bubble cars – to life as each heads out around the one-mile circuit. You’d get to see a lot more, as long as nothing breaks down there’d be no awkward gaps, and hopefully you’d learn a few pub facts about the Ferrari F40 while you’re at it.

The MotorFest is a superb event that does Ormskirk proud, but I reckon it can be even better still. Oh, and more Vanden Plas Princesses, please!

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Closed roads motor sport is a good thing for Britain

F1 cars have long been a big draw at the Ormskirk MotorFest

GIVE the Government credit where it’s due. It’s stuck to its promises and handed power back to Britain’s towns and cities – about 475bhp, by my reckoning.

That’s roughly how much the Cosworth V8 in a Saudia-Williams FW06 F1 car makes, as driven by Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni in the late 1970s, when they’d have been able to use every last inch of its power on the world’s race circuits. But if you’d seen the same car doing its lap of honour at Ormskirk’s MotorFest event it would’ve been limited, for legal reasons, to the same 30mph your mum’s Fiesta does on the town’s one-way system.

Until now. After years of talking about it Whitehall’s finally gone ahead and lifted the ban on cars doing more than the speed limit at one-off events.

In recent years it has technically been possible to have Ferraris and Jaguars do high speed runs on closed-off British roads, but as it was very complicated and involved obtaining an Act of Parliament very few actually bothered. But as of last Monday it’s now much easier to stage races, sprints and various other forms of motorsport on public roads and in town centres – which I reckon is definitely a good thing.

Take the MotorFest. Every year it brings roughly 15,000 of you into the West Lancashire market town for a bit of high-octane fun, making it Ormskirk’s busiest trading day. It’s a great event, but imagine how much more compelling it’d be if you could watch F1 cars, Jaguar D-types and rally-prepped Subaru Imprezas being given the beans on the one-way system. Obviously these closed-off roads would be properly policed and ‘elf ‘n’ safety checked until the organiser’s desk creaks under the weight of paperwork, but the adrenalin rush of great cars being driven as their makers intended would boost all the businesses nearby.

In fact enterprising so-and-sos could use these new powers for all sorts of things. I’d love to see Lord Street in Southport turned into a sprint course for an afternoon – my bet’s that a Lamborghini Huracan would easily beat a Ferrari 488 in a dash from Duke Street to the fire station. Half Mile Island in Skelmersdale could easily host a round of the British Drift Championship. And what about the Parbold Hill Climb?

I’m sure that precisely none of these ideas will end up anywhere other than the bottom of a beer glass, but it’s nice to know we’re legally allowed to.

A Triumph TR4 or a year of parking tickets? I know which I’d take

Being stretched for time is no excuse for poor parking

IT MIGHT not buy you a house any more but £24,500 still bags you a lot these days. A mid-range BMW 1-Series, for instance, or a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport with most of the options chucked in.

Classic car nuts like me would probably end up with a Triumph TR4 or Jaguar Mk2 for that sort of money. Or you can follow Carly Mackie’s lead and blow the lot on roughly a year’s worth of parking for the car you already have. That’s something in the region of £65 a day for a car that’s not even moving.

The punishment administered a court up in Dundee this week is widely being described as Britain’s biggest ever parking penalty – but it does (in Scotland at least) scotch the myth that parking tickets issued by private companies on private land are legally unenforceable. All it’ll take is one court case of a similar nature either here in England or over in Wales to make the precedent Britain-wide, and I don’t think any of us want to test it out.

Yet I think this is no bad thing. Too many people on the internet have been perpetuating the idea you should refuse to pay these private penalties under any circumstances, but I’d much rather take the precedent of a court ruling over some self-appointed internet legal eagle and – while it’s unfortunate for Ms Mackie – this does at least clear things up. It also highlights how bad the situation in most town centres has ended up if people are prepared to run this parking gauntlet.

On a busy day Southport and Ormskirk are particularly tricky to find spaces in and I’ll inevitably end up circulating like an automotive vulture, waiting to swoop down the instant someone’s Fiesta backs out and frees up a space. Skelmersdale does rather better, with its swish multi-storey at the Concourse – but it’s a shame the spaces were designed for an age when everyone drove Austin 1100, not BMW X5s.

But there is a solution both to the parking precedent and to another news story that’s been doing the rounds this week. Apparently a third of us are so fat and lazy these days that we’re costing the NHS a billion quid a year, largely because we can no longer be bothered to stroll to the corner shop.

So let’s walk more. I’ve spent years parking on the fringes of Southport on my shopping trips, saving a couple of quid in parking and doubtless extending my life slightly at the same time. If you’re a mum with three prams to push around or someone with a wheelchair or crutches then go ahead and use the town centre, but for the sake of a few minutes I’d much rather enjoy some exercise. Bit rainy? Use an umbrella. Lots of shopping to carry? That’s what bags are for.

I know this new-fangled walking thing is going to take a while to catch on, but just think of all the money you’ll be saving. Enough to buy a Triumph TR4 within a year, if the latest precedent is anything to go by.

The MotorFest is Ormskirk’s slice of petrolhead heaven

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ROUGHLY 15,000 of you had to put up with my waffling over the weekend. This year’s Ormskirk MotorFest was a hit – but someone thought it was a good idea to let me into the commentary box!

That someone is Steve Berry, who still holds the record for the most northern person ever to present Top Gear. So for the bits of this year’s parades when you weren’t being deafened by BRISCA’s stock cars or applauding the bubble cars you were treated to me rambling on about classic cars while Steve flicked through the event notes, trying to work out who the Jensen Interceptors belonged to.

One thing we agreed on was how much West Lancashire’s day of petrolhead heaven has evolved since I first got the phone call from an Ormskirk councillor six long years ago, letting me know the powers-that-be were thinking of putting on a car show. 

What’s resulted since is one of the busiest days on Ormskirk’s calendar – and persuading all those people and their cash into West Lancashire has got to be a good thing. Folk who aren’t necessarily car geeks like you and me. The free-for-all format and the town centre location meant a lot of the showgoers I saw were young families learning about the joys of cars.

Take the Jaguar Mk2 that won the car category of the MotorFest’s concours last weekend – it might not be a Ferrari or an F1 racing car, but the fact the owner’s transformed it in the eight year’s he’s owned it from a box of bits and a rolling shell into a shimmering slice of Sixties nostalgia is genuinely inspiring stuff. Same goes for the 1906 Franklin Model E Runabout – at 110 years old it’s easily the oldest car that’s ever taken part in the MotorFest, but it still did the same parade laps as all the Subaru Imprezas and the Ferrari 458 Italia.

There are things that would make the MotorFest even better still – there are still too many long pauses between the parades, and I’d love to see the organisers take advantage of scheduled changes to the law to allow the event to have a more competitive element – but having an event that puts F1 cars, Aston Martins and race bikes onto Ormskirk’s one-way system is a real achievement.

Even if it involves having to listen to that chap from Classic Car Weekly who does The Champion’s motoring column rambling on over the loudspeakers. Sorry about that.

Ormskirk MotorFest 2016 – in pictures

IMG_2494MASSIVELY enjoyed this weekend’s Ormskirk MotorFest – and so did you, if the number of petrolheads lining the Lancashire market town’s streets was anything to go by.

There’ll be more on this year’s event in this Wednesday’s edition of The Champion and in Classic Car Weekly, but for now here are few snaps from the classic car parades around the one-way system:

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Keep an eye on Life On Cars later this week for a full report on the 2016 Ormskirk MotorFest.

 

Why grass and classic cars don’t mix

grassy eventFACEBOOK is a wonderful thing sometimes. Everyone had asked me whether I’d be taking my MGB over to the Leisure Lakes this weekend – but if I hadn’t checked the other night I’d have taken it to a postponed show in a waterlogged field.

No harm done; I stuck the show’s new dates in my diary and pointed the MGB’s nose up the M6 instead, and had a top day out at the Lakeland Motor Museum’s classic car gathering. Spare a thought though for the poor souls – and I know some of them came from right here in the North West – who headed off to Birmingham for an event called Pride of Longbridge.

It’s a brilliant event where you can see Austins, Rovers and so on in their thousands, but a combination of torrential weather the night before and a local authority rightly worried about ‘elf ‘n’ safety meant the park was out of the question. All this about three hours before the show was due to open. Months of hard work quite literally got washed away overnight.

The last thing I want to do is turn Life On Cars into a forum about global warming, but it’s the third time in the last 12 months I’ve encountered a car show that’s been canned due to the rain wreaking havoc the night before. In one instance the event was pulled just an hour before it was due to start – by which point I was already halfway down the M6. Nobody likes a show being shelved by the weather, but it does seem to be happening more often.

Blaming the show organisers clearly isn’t the answer – if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have all these brilliant events to take our cars to in the first place. Nope, I reckon the problem is right beneath us, it’s green and about three inches long.

Apologies if you’re a green-fingered type, but I’ll just come out with it. Grass is a rubbish material to hold events on.

For starters it makes every car show look the same. Whether you’re in Ormskirk or Inverness a field full of old cars is just that; a field full of old cars, with nothing to distinguish what part of the world you’re in. It’s also difficult to divvy up between all the various Triumph clubs taking part in an event without either spraying lines all over it or whacking wooden posts into it, and when you do it inevitably rains and then all your hard work is ruined.

Why aren’t we using town centres more? Ormskirk does a cracking job at drawing in shoppers with its MotorFest and I know Burscough Wharf’s hosted car displays to great effect – and if it rains on either, the show goes on. Why aren’t more empty car parks being freed up for car events? The costs and the public liability are the roughly the same – but you don’t get your shoes muddy.

It’s Britain, for goodness’ sake. We know it rains here every other day. Freddie Mercury was right when he said the show must go on – would he have cancelled because the grass was a bit soggy?