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You could just take the motorway and save about ten minutes but where would be the fun in that? Best to arrive from the north (even if you are coming from the south) as the drive through the country lanes in the South West Sussex Downs is just splendid. You motor through the rolling hills & valleys that are so green they are almost glowing then pass the stunning Horse racing facility. Down another hill and you enter a dark green tunnel of trees through the forest where only a few rays of sunlight break through, exit and pass the Golf course on your left and yet another tunnel of vegetation, ignore the cops attempting to herd you in to the wrong parking area and arrive at your destination.

You are met by extremely polite attendants in long white coats who direct you to your correct allocated space (This way if you please, Sir.) If you have timed it right you exit the car to the growling roar of a couple of Rolls Royce Merlin Supercharged 16 cylinder aero engines thundering their way past at maybe 50 feet or so. As the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs do their aerial dance you are again welcomed at the gate by white coated attendants ( no crowd controllers here) who check your credentials and politely enquire into your health and day so far and allow you to pass into --- Heaven.

Stroll past the ancient busses, breath in the scent of cooking bacon, past the child playing on the swing made from rope & an old tyre, past the mods squabbling with the rockers, past the military medical tent surrounded with jeeps, past the Bobbies directing traffic, head straight into the March enclosure and have a Pint. It may be early but it is already hot. Open the gate, stroll across the track to the assembly area with your flat cap at a jaunty angle and sports jacket over your shoulder and start working. Working???? Not entirely sure that taking close up photos of Alfas, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Maseratis and Bentleys or chatting to folks like Brabham, Moss, Stewart, Arnoux, Tambay, Attwood or David Piper (who owns probably the collection of most beautiful cars imaginable) can be described as work. Some of these guys I have met before & they recognise me from the kilt - I told you it was useful. Former Le Mans winner & Grand Prix driver Richard Attwood wanders over to say hello. I sit with David Piper next to his fabulous Ford 3 Litre sports prototype and chat about the performance of that car now that it has been sorted out. It was bloody evil in its day as it was never truly set up correctly. Every bit as good as his Ferrari P4 he claims. Big claim. He wonders if I am going to Spa next weekend as he will be running his P4 and his Porsche 917. I bury my head in my hands and weep, if bloody Dom (a friend of mine that I'm meeting in Paris on Thursday) wasn't coming over on Thursday I would probably change my plans & go. Ah well, maybe next time.

Turn on the micro cassette recorder I have with me and tape the sounds of the Keift Grand Prix car with its Coventry Climax FPE V8 2.5 litre engine being warmed up. What a marvelous racket, almost as good as the old BRM 1.5 litre supercharged V16 but yet again, sadly this fails to turn up. Have a quick chat to the driver of the Keift (who appears to be a cousin of some description of mine) Greg Snape but he is about to go out onto the track so he promises to catch up later. We never got around to that but not to worry I left him my card and we will sort something out.

Wayne Gardner is sweating profusely after his race and tells me he has a cold and he "feels like shit but (he's) not coming all this way to lie in bed". A huge red 1930's Napier Bentley backfires like a small artillery division every time it exits the chicane, there are huge grins and outbreaks of laughter along the pit wall each time. Rene Arnoux hops out of his little Alfa in the TT Race, eyes ablaze and grinning like a loon. Not the tired and jaded Rene from the end of his Grand Prix days but one that has just rediscovered what he loved about racing in the first place. "When I was a Grand Prix driver people used to say come and look at my car in the museum. I think car in a museum is dead car. Here I come and race live cars and see many thousands of people with big smiles. I think this is fantastic. See you next year."

Another convert.

A little red Austin A35 wins the saloon car race from the rear of the field just holding off the spectacularly sideways Grant Williams Jaguar on the last lap for the lead. The final lap was extraordinary with both cars being hurled about in power slides through every corner. Sadly Win Percy never got to start. After his back operation went wrong and he was paralysed there was a huge effort to convert a Jaguar over to hand controls and get him started. "Good luck and have fun." I tell him in the assembly area. Christ did I put the mockers on the poor fellow or what, the Jag lasted just 2 laps before it blew its engine. He looked desolate as he got out of the car. "Sorry mate." was all I could say to him then. He just nodded and gave a resigned smile.

I thumb a lift in the course car, a little 1961 open topped Daimler V8 sports car and we go for a pretty quick lap of the circuit. Handles beautifully, doesn't wallow as it is power slided through the bends and the sound and smell of the burbling V8 up front is bliss. I step out, eyes ablaze and grinning like a loon! Funny that!

Glover Trophy is red flagged and there is an ominous silence. 3 cars off and 1, a Lotus 18 is a mess. The driver is trapped with broken legs and the fuel lines have ruptured so he is sitting in a bath of petrol. Takes an unpleasently long time to get him out but he is basically OK. During the brake Barrie Williams wants to have the dust on the track in front of his car swept away. I suggest that he gets it swept under Frank Sytner's Brabham on the row in front of him. He laughs. A couple of minutes later I take a shot of him & Richard Attwood doing just that. I am at this time attacked by a mad Irish road worker who is trying to thrust a toilet brush up my kilt. I pointed out that he should at least have the good manners to chat me up in the usual way but thanked him anyway as it was the best offer I have had in quite a while. Sytner still goes on to win this race.

He also wins the final race, the Witsun Trophy in his Lola T70 beating home a somewhat scarred Ford GT40. Drinkie time has arrived and the pretty Verve Cliquot girls make a grand site and we all stand about swapping stories and guzzling champers as fast as it can come out. "They are like jackals" one of the girls exclaims as she only made it about 10 yards before her tray was empty.

The driver of the Napier Bentley says driving it "is a bit like herding cats". I guess you had to see and hear it to fully appreciate his comment. Derek Bell reckons "You should be careful, the real world is just outside those gates." Got Stirling Moss to sign a copy of the programme for his former mechanic, Mal Simpson, who is a mate of mine. Moss writes, "Mal, we had a lot more fun and crumpet, Stirling."

Lord March presents the trophies and yet again the astonishingly sideways Grant Williams is the Driver of the Meeting. There is a spontaneous 3 cheers for Lord March from the crowd. There is a red glow in the West as the sun is setting and you slowly make your way out of the car park and into the green vegetation tunnel to start your drive back through the South West Sussex Downs and Heaven is over for another year.

Ah well just another 365 days until I can suspend reallity once more and greet my Gods in the only Heaven that I ever want.

SAM SNAPE 10-9-04