Delta-Golf stood silent in the Surrey sunshine, the patina of her livery displaying the signs one would expect of an aircraft that hasn’t moved under her own power since 1981, completing her final landing on Christmas Eve of that year. Delta-Golf may have been her designation, but to you and I she is simply Concorde and regardless of the ravages of age she still looks fantastic. Underneath her, a group of excited children ran about, too young to even remember DG’s siblings cutting majestically through the air, as it has been nearly 20 years since the last time the super-sonic airliner flew. They were transfixed nonetheless, and who knows what they made of this aircraft sat in a museum, a relic of another time, yet somehow looking like something from the future.
DG’s resting place is within the shadow of another remnant of a time when the nation was obsessed with speed, the monolithic Brooklands banking. It dwarfs everything around here but is sadly also in a state of perpetual decay and will never again serve the purpose for which it was built. But tomorrow morning, part of the concrete megastructure will again reverberate to the sound of engines and old engines at that. The London to Lisboa rally will depart from the hallowed grounds of Brooklands, and these fabulous old cars that are still in use will transfer some of their audible energy to the casts of this old track and the transport vestiges that lie within her boundaries.
They too are from a bygone era, particularly cars such as the beastly 14 and half litre American LaFrance driven by John and Catherine Harrison, and whilst most entries on this rally don’t come anywhere near the 105 years of age of the LaFrance, the point is that these classics are still living and breathing as nature intended. Over the next 10 days they will be cutting ribbons across a 3500 km route through France, Andorra, Spain and Portugal showing that they are anything but ready for the stationary shackles of a museum just yet.
The event too harks back to those road races and rallies from yesteryear, events like the blue train runs, the marathons and the other great point to points and rallies that were celebrated and enjoyed by different cultures across the world as the advances in transportation accelerated and the globe contracted. Our band of competitors won’t be racing of course, as an element of speed control is vital in this day and age. But it will be a test of reliability and of navigational skill, all whilst being in the right place at the right time – no mean feat in cars that are usually used for Sunday drives.
Over 10 days there will be mountains, national parks, eucalyptus forests and roads that would delight even the most reticent road user. The mountains of Andorra, the Picos de Europa and roads that have history as rally stages and hill climbs before even Concorde was a sketch on BAC draughtsmen paper.
It is a celebration of automotive history, a moving memoire but, the London to Lisbon 2022 also represents a step forward, a move towards some sort of freedom as the world wakes up from the constraints of Covid. There are perhaps more sinister things looming in the east, but for now, for all of those involved in this rally, there is a sense of freedom on the horizon, and for the next ten days at least we will feel the sun on our faces and the winds of the freedom trail blowing freely. Goodbye Brooklands, tomorrow morning and onwards it is either Lisbon or bust.