Great Escape Cotswold Car Rally - by Matt Nichols
Ten eagerly expectant teams assembled at Great Escape Cars northern Cotswolds base at 9:00am on Saturday 26th March to be greeted by hot tea and coffee, bacon sandwiches, croissants and perhaps most importantly of all a truly mouth watering selection of classic cars that had been assembled for this inaugural event. The main plan for the day was to navigate 120 miles in a circular loop starting and finishing at the Great Escape Cars main business unit taking in some of the most stunning scenery and picturesque towns and villages this part of the world has to offer whilst enjoying a fine selection of motor vehicles en route.The day itself was split into six pre-defined stages, each providing varied driving experiences from fast flowing routes right through to single track lanes so that each team could experience their allotted cars in different ways.
The event format, which was similar in style to the corporate days Great Escape Classic Car Hire organises (one for the employee suggestion scheme at work maybe…!) gave each of the ten teams the chance to get behind the wheel of half a dozen classic cars over six stages, each lasting on average 45mins and covering around 20 miles. As a bonus, because with 6 stages and 10 cars no one would be able to drive every car, there was an additional open session after the final stage where teams could take out any of the cars for a spin regardless of whether they’d driven them or not earlier in the day. So all things considered, and with the prospect of a tasty lunch included as well, there would be no losers on this the very first Great Escape Cotswold Car Rally.
The line up of cars also provided huge variety in driving experience, even the two Series 3 E-Type Jaguars on offer couldn’t have been more different with the first, an original white V12 roadster suiting Jaguar purists, whilst the black coupe fitted with a later fuel injected XJS V12 engine coupled to a sports exhaust finding favour with those who preferred something a bit rawer. The words rocket and ship both springing to mind. Elsewhere a Jensen Interceptor covered off the big V8 coupe end of the spectrum, whilst the svelte like Alfa Spider took a lot of people by surprise in just how good it was on the road despite its modest power claims.A rare by anyone’s standards XJ6 Coupe caught me out the most and I personally think delivered the most complete Jaguar experience combining classic and coherent styling with cosseted ride and comfort whilst pulling you along with the legendary Jaguar straight six motor. Completing the Brownshill line up was an earlier 3.8 Mk2 and a later XJS convertible. Stuttgart was also represented in the form of a mint air cooled 911 Carrera Targa in gleaming white, a car that served as the perfect reminder of what this mark was really all about before middle aged spread and obsessive horsepower battles with Italian supercar manufacturers took over. With the left field choice on the day delivered by none other than a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit giving passengers the chance to choose whether they rode up front or sat in back…‘left here James’.
Last in the line up and by no means least was a late entry only there to fill the shoes of a second 911 that was unable to participate, but one that generated a huge reaction from everyone who got the chance to drive it, enter one TVR Tuscan in pearlescent paint. A car best described as a road legal GT2 racer minus roll cage and harnesses, truly awesome.
A far more conservative Mercedes 300SL performed the role of trailer car, just in case of breakdowns, of which happily there were none.Teams each had a route map with spare copies stored in all of the cars and before setting off everyone was advised where the next meeting point would be and roughly how long it would take to get there. To maximise driving pleasure whilst minimising the number of things to remember in swapping from car to car, all driving advice was delivered on a one to one basis at the start of each stage.
Teams were then left feeling confident about how to operate all of the different alarm systems and, for convertibles, roof mechanisms whether electric or manual.The day ran like clockwork with everyone respecting the arrival times at each stage and only too willing to share their own experiences and views on the cars they’d driven thus far. A momentum also seemed to build, particularly in the afternoon, with each changeover being quicker than the last as teams were eager to start their next stint of classic car driving.
Everyone I talked to throughout the day left on a high, even the lunch at Washbourne Court in Lower Slaughter was superb with most dwelling on their favourite car, TVR, E-Type Coupe and 911 Carrera featuring strongly here, as well as the cars that had surprised them the most, with the Alfa Spider a clear winner in this category. The Great Escape Cotswold Car Rally is certainly something to look out for in the future and offers a lot of advantages from satisfying basic petrol head needs and desires with the wide selection of cars on offer that in turn may also help narrow choices on which cars to rent out for longer durations. As well as providing the opportunity to exchange views whilst enjoying the company of others, the day also came with the additional selling point to those nearest and dearest of the promise of lunch at a suitably selected hotel and restaurant.
Overall this event ticked all the boxes and so comes highly recommended.
Verdict: 2011 Great Escape Classic Car Rally
The range of cars on offer was quite superb, from the raucous V12 E-Type Coupe and totally full on TVR Tuscan right through to the Jaguar XJ6C, a car to be enjoyed best at a much more relaxed pace.
Good planning coupled with some luck on the day meant that except for a hold up going into Stow the roads selected were incredibly free of traffic and able to be enjoyed to the full. Pro’s
Fine selection of very well prepared cars from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 00’s (TVR) driven across well chosen routes with like minded enthusiasts to share your experience with.
None that I could see.
Overall 4 out of 5
“What a fantastic day it was. My son and I loved it”. Peter Geary.
“The Alfa Spider. Having driven a ‘72 GTV Coupe, I was very keen to see how the Spider compared. A real surprise package and I have to say a great all rounder”. Peter Geary.
“The lovely Jag MK 2 3.8. That lovely straight 6 engine and I remember thinking that no car would look better against the Cotswold back drop than the elegant lines of this car. Pure Morse. The temptation to do a bank job 60's style was very tempting indeed - roaring off into the mist like one of the Krays. A lovely car with an interior that would do a gentleman’s club justice. Better than I thought it would be for such an old girl”. Peter Geary.
"The TVR. Sheer raw power, a brute of a car, Oh my god, raw and unforgiving, one moments lapse of concentration and that would be it. What a drive, the slightest move of the wheel sent the car off in a different direction, the noise, the drive, everything about this car made you grin. I still haven't got all of the adrenalin out of my system bonkers fun”. Peter Geary