If petrol-heads were an official religion (it certainly has all the appearances of one - fatwa coming?- when judging from the devotion in the car owners and the regularity and intensity with which we all mass up to pray at our grand masses, the respect we pay to our lesser vicars and reverence we reserve for our cardinals) then the Festival of Speed ("FoS") would without a doubt be Christmas - in early July! We all got the surprises we were looking for and a few of us had even peeked in advance in the boxes to make sure they were getting the toys they were looking for. The theme of the year (why is there a need for a theme when the point of the FoS seem clearly made in its very name, while said theme does not appear to influence the structure of the show is a separate question that will not get answered here today) was "True grit -epic feasts of endurance" appears to have captured several of the salient traits of Suixtil and we were therefore compelled to actively participate and so we did!
Certainly the FoS is not, as we heard several times, the classic party that the Revival represents, but it is hard not to commune in the infectious fervor demonstrated by the faithfuls who come in greater numbers every year. On the other hand it is an unbridled cornucopia of everything motoring. Where else but in the beautiful estate of Lord and Lady March could such a comprehensive party be held for 150 or more thousand people to stroll around with abandon, picnic and gape at every extravagant piece of machinery, whether racing or not, as man can have ever dreamt. And God, are some of these machines beautiful, for age, condition or sheer form! Leonardo would have been suitably impressed at how far mankind has taken to the pursuit of speed and form. The best of them were gathered like steeds in a separate enclosure as part of the onsite Concours d'Elegance, even though we all know their breeding abilities to be nonexistent, too bad though, come to think of what they could come up with. At the other extreme, the BloodHound, chasing a land speed record of 1,000 per hour, and just after that a gathering of F1 racing cars that track back through the history of the sport and where one can witness the evolution of the sport and where, contrarily to general fashion, the skirts only get longer to always come nearer to the ground and reduce and direct the air flow underneath the car. Around these beauties of all ages are teams of mechanics performing a slow and controlled dance. Our friends at Hall and Hall ever cooler with 8 cars (can a 4 letter word really reflect what we are talking about when it truly amounts to a précis of unmatched historic importance for the sport?) under their watchful care. Each man is completely in control of the moments and yet, you can feel, proud beyond words of the association and history entrusted to them, committed to letting the beast only in the best of light for this special moment for which they have all been gathering speed under their silent hood. Overhead the RAF stroke the skies in antics and acrobatics probably aimed at striking the envy of the earth-bound bolides of all ages.
The "race" element of the Festival is more than a sideshow though and it is certainly stunning to watch: a 1.2 Mile hill climb full of bends and treachery (especially for the older elements of the species that were not conceived off with the modern trimmings and equipped with technologies to afford a comfortable), especially as their pilots all want to push the outside of the mechanical envelope for both sportsmanship and good showmanship. Billows of burnt rubber accompanied with the unmistakable perfume of oil float in the air during the days as each, in turns, rush up to the (still unbroken after 10 years) record of speed. The crowds scream along with the engine both in delight.
This year was probably even more exciting as the weather blessed the event with a sun that was only briefly hidden by showers so short they barely cooled of the tempers, certainly not the engines.
The Suixtil team in all this: so many facets it makes it hard to sum-up on paper:
- Colors: Did you see us? Did you see us? Thanks to the immensely kind consideration of Rob Hall, our colors were racing again under his expert hand at the Festival of Speed, in a Pantheon of greats on a great itself: Frank Williams' first F1, made by a legendary constructor and fanatic of Argentine origins (the stripe racing down the middle of the car prominently and proudly confirming the fact): the 1970 DeTomaso was exhibiting our logo on both its front flaps and the side of its back spoiler. It made us burst with pride while also instilling us with a new found dose of respect for the whole sport and the consideration of the great and well respected brands of this industry that will lift up smaller players like us without a second thought, just happy to aid. Having met Rob's father and mother -where else but on the paddock, it is easy to understand where the gentleman-ness comes from - once again Rob, thank you, so "at life speed" from you!
- Participating at the Festival of Speed: is heaven (to pursue the initial religious analogy) but holding a stand there relegates you to purgatory as you can hear the music but barely see the orchestra. Being here after we re-launched the brand a mere 8 months ago is bliss though and infuse us with a sense of accomplishment that gets comforted when we hear the emotions pouring out of older members of the public who come to share their recollection of events and memories with us, evoke their heroes (most of the time also ours, considering how far reaching Suixtil was during its heyday) or favorite machines (again - so much we share…). Time seem to stop and in fact, in our changing room it even seems to go back as if by donning on our racing uniforms they shed the years that have passed and went back to the root of our shared history.
- Legends: again, where else could we have thought to be blessed with the visit of such great as the legendary Sir Stirling Moss. Again, with a twinkle in his eye, fresh as ever and between two rushes up the hill the great man gives us in 10 minutes a lesson in our own history that is probably worth of our bookworm research. Why were the Suixtil gear so omnipresent during the 50s and 60s do we ask him? "Because they were the best in world" does he answer! Certainly a result of having been designed taking into account all the request of El Chueco himself, a high, elasticized waistband for comfort and to avoid a belt cutting in the belly when driving for long stretches, ankle cuffs that keep the trousers' fabric from getting caught in the pedals during driving and pockets so deep they could almost feet the road books of a rally (if we did not already have great touring bags for that). Sir Stirling Moss then gracefully receives a gift from us that seem to bring back such a flood of memories we are all left at a loss for words. By any account a visit we could not have dreamt of and that, rather than comforting us in a false sense that we "have arrived" inject us with a greater than ever sense of urgency about the need to spread the good news: Suixtil Is Back - at life speed!
- Celebrities: we welcome a few celebrities from yesterday and today, all more pleasant than another, some exchange views on their races, others on their passion, in all cases they express their surprise at the magnitude of our undertaking and welcome us back. Certainly a soothing balm on our tired spirits and burnt skins.
- Paddock: the Suixtil team was genially hosted in a castle that Sussex only can engender and driving back there after 20 hours days was certainly a soothing thought. The grounds were beautiful and many excited conversations took place under a watchful full moon while we rested our tired bones and ears. Better it could not have been, save for the perfidious passing of Petsworth on the way, that many a time took us on a long and winding road where we raced rabbits and chased magpies laughing at our lost caravan. Thank you again to the Lord and Lady of the Manor who so gracefully hosted us and left their mansion in our care, likely deserting us to ensure we did not feel remorse at waking them up when we left or finally made our way back to what we could only hope to some day call a home.
- Friends: we have met many we knew well, few we knew already and many more we did not yet know we had, but with whom we felt such kinship it would be hard not to call them that, even after a 10 minutes conversation. We left amazed to find out after such an event that there is an unreported pandemic of worrying proportion: countless numbers of people, throngs of young and old alike are going around looking normal but with their blood tainted, a worryingly high level of octane coursing through their veins. Come to think of it, under such a scorching sun it has to be a miracle we did not get to witness any instant combustion! The Suixtil team well aware of its affliction was racing back at regular intervals to take refuge in the shade, but how many did we see not taking such precautions… Again, it had to be a miracle.
A conclusion, if one is possible as it is near impossible to close a subject on which so much more could be told, and as I nurse blisters the size of 2 pound coins borne from walking these hallowed (for us worshippers at the automotive altar) grounds: go to Goodwood! Go to the Revival (we might even be there, at least our Suixtil gear will be, look for the stand of Andrew McDowall and if you need kit at any point to make sure your appearance matches your commitment and state of mind, then go visit the store in Chichester, where our whole Heritage line can be found along with unmatched service), Go to the Festival of Speed, Just Go as the experience is transformational. You will drive away with a head full of roar, a heavier foot (watch out for unexpected and undesirable side effects) and new dreams to nurture. Just Go - at life speed!