A few years back, through the Mercedes Club, dad found out that the SL Shop, a UK parts supplier, were organising a run for Mercedes SL owners. He mentioned it to me and we decided to book in and drive Dad’s beloved 350 to the start in Stratford Upon Avon. We signed up and had a wonderful few days in the company of some great people. The event ended at Brooklands and we stayed on a second night and attended the Double Twelve meeting. We noticed that a number of the competitors in the Driving Test event were driving relatively modern, certainly by Brooklands standards, machines and wondered if we could enter the Merc following year. I am not sure why, but we didn’t make it last year but this time round, buoyed by our recent roadtrips to Deja Vu Killarney and the Wild Atlantic Way, we were really up for it and I contacted the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) who run the sporting element of the event. Having joined the VSCC, I received the entry forms, filled them out and mailed them back and was delighted to receive a return mail a week or so later informing us that our “entry had been accepted for in the Post War Long wheelbase Class”
A search on youtube showed us what the concept of “Driving Test” was- pretty much an Autotest but, thankfully, with no reversing. We booked the ferry, using a frequent user discount (thanks Irish Ferries), Autocare gave the SL a once over and new brakes all round and we were off! We booked Club Class for the trip and that meant we boarded first and had nice seats and wifi and a great view of the Irish Sea from the Lounge windows at the front of the Ulysses- which dad, having done his research, informed me was he largest capacity car ferry in the world! As we rolled off on the far side, we decided to lower the roof, as the weather was incredible- and was to stay that way for the duration of our trip. The SL, as it always does, excelled on the Motorway- easily sitting at 70mph for hours on end- even though almost everyone seems to drive at 80 on UK Motorways. It seems to use far less fuel too at that speed, maybe that is what it was built for. Anyway, despite hitting a bit of the usual Motorway traffic, we reached my sister’s house in Saffron Walden about 6 hours later, allowing for the odd comfort break of course. The next morning we washed and polished the Merc and headed off on the two hour trip to Brooklands. We were not competing until the second day of the Double Twelve but decided to visit day one and stay in the wonderful Brooklands Hotel for two nights instead of one. We arrived, parked up and had a wander around. The Sprint event was underway on the main Mercedes circuit- a brand new layout right in front of Mercedes World. There was a vast array of very exclusive machinery including ERAs, MG K3s and even the famous flame throwing “Beast Of Turin” Fiat racer.
We collected our tickets and made our way the short distance back to the Hotel where we had the usual glass of white and a superb meal too. There was a bit of a panic the next morning when we realised Dad had left his medical kit and insulin at my sister’s house but Marco, the manager of the Hotel, organised everything and after a quick stop off to pick up a prescription we picked some up at Boots- with no charge- thanks NHS!
Anyway, we arrived at Brooklands and parked up our designated spot in the paddock. We had left the names on the car and even the front grille badge from Deja Vu Killarney, which attracted plenty of attention and probably make us look like experts unfortunately!! We signed on and received our number- 285- and headed of for tea to have a look at the maps for the tests.
Test one was probably the reason we decided to enter the competition- the test hill. We had both read about it for years and also watched some of the Double Twelve competitors tackling it on our previous visit. As soon as the man in the white coat dropped the flag, I nailed it and we were off. The gradient increases the further up the hill you go so even the SL’s 3500 V8 had to work hard to gain any speed. The diagram showed a line just beyond the top of the hill, we had to stop astride this and then turn 90 right for a short blast to the finish line. Despite lifting a bit too early as we couldn’t see the line on the approach we made a reasonable fist of it and headed off to test number two- which was on the famous banking. This one was more like an autotest with bales instead of pylons though and a few gates to stop astride. We watched a few cars go through it and then lined up for our go. The Merc was much better than I had expected, the power steering helping almost as much as the big torquey V8. We made it with no mistakes and the marshal at the end nodded in approval as the wrote our time on Dad’s timecard.
When we got to test three, we were in for a shock. Tests three, four and five were next to each other, and led immediately into the next- so no chance to stand and view the final two as the finish line of one was pretty much at the start line of the next! We tackled test three and again the SL was far better than we had expected. I has assumed it would be all tyre screech and body roll, but the V8’s torque was enough to unsettle the rear just enough to aim it prefectly around the bales, much to the approval of the large crowds! Apart from one mistake on test four, where we almost missed a gate and had to reverse, we had a great run. Then it was back to the paddock for a spot of lunch and an ice cream- the heat was incredible!
Second time round, we knew what to expect and managed to knock two seconds off our time on the test hill- mainly because we knew what to expect over the crest at the top! Onto test two and the gentleman with the impressive mutton chop sideburns at the finish seemed impressed. “Well done chaps, that’s an FTD!” We managed to complete the second loop with no penalties and had great fun in the process! We parked the car back in the paddock and wandered up to the newly rebuilt Finishing Straight, which was officially opened over the weekend with an incredible array of historic vehicles blasting up and down it!
As we returned to the hotel later on, we were wondering if we could have got somewhere near a class win. The following day, an email from the VSCC arrived and I couldn’t open it quickly enough! Having opened the attachment and scrolled down through all of the Sprint and Concours results, I found the Driving Test listings and Dad and I were delighted to see that we had indeed taken the class win- with 8 of 10 fastest times. In fact we were second overall, only beaten by a Sierra XR4i. We may have even had a second bottle of wine with dinner in the hotel to celebrate before heading off on the Monday morning. We stayed with my sister on the Monday night, telling all of our stories over a barbeque before pointing the Merc for Holyhead the next day.
So the trusty SL racked up over 1,200 kms with no issues and is now a Brooklands winner- as is Dad, the car being entered in his name. I think I will get a T shirt printed saying “My Dad won at Brooklands”
We have no idea what our next adventure will be– but suggestions are welcome. Have SL, will travel!
until the next time,
Images thanks to Brooklands Museum.