Festival puts circuit back on track

TV Presenter Steve Berry with a gathering of classic and sports cars and motor bikes at Oliver's Mount in Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew
TV Presenter Steve Berry with a gathering of classic and sports cars and motor bikes at Oliver's Mount in Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew
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It is the last remaining street circuit on the British mainland, but nearly six decades have passed since Scarborough’s hilltop track hosted its last major car race.

While renowned for motorcycle racing, Oliver’s Mount has been largely overlooked by the car world since 1956 when it held its second and last Formula Three race.

Jonathan Turner from Ripon drives his 1953 Austin Healey. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Jonathan Turner from Ripon drives his 1953 Austin Healey. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Now a former Top Gear presenter hopes to lure “petrolheads of all persuasions” back there for a new motoring festival he is launching next year.

Steve Berry, who presented the BBC2 show’s motorbike features in the 1990s, said he “fell in love” with the circuit after visiting it for a photo shoot.

“For most people in the car world it’s undiscovered,” he said. “It’s such a special place. The course is untouched by time.

“You can drive a 1950s car on this course and if somebody takes a picture you could be in the 1950s.

“The 21st century doesn’t intrude on this circuit and that makes it unique.”

Mr Berry said the 2.5 mile-circuit was like a miniature version of his “favourite track in the world”, the 37.75-mile Isle of Man TT course.

“It’s almost as if you’ve shrunk it,” he said. “As a driver or rider it’s an incredibly challenging circuit. It’s very tough. There are tight bends and there is no margin for error.

“It is not like places like Silverstone where there are massive gravel traps and barriers – it is just roads lined with trees.

“It certainly concentrates the mind when you see all those trees whizzing by at speed.”

The two-day East Coast Classic will feature all kinds of cars from classic motors to the latest supercars when it comes to the town next September 20 and 21.

“You will see some very special cars – it will be quality rather than the quantity,” said Mr Berry.

“There will be the kinds of cars that, if you walked past them in the street, you would stop and get your camera phone out,” said Mr Berry.

“That could be a Noble M600, which is one of the fastest cars in the world, or a brand new Bentley Flying Spur.

“But it could also be 1960s Ford Escort or 1980s Renault rally cars. It is a festival for petrolheads of all persuasions.”

The event, which aims to bring the spirit of the Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed in Sussex to the North, is expected to attract “many thousands” of motoring fans to Scarborough.

Mr Berry said the “fantastic drive” to the coastal resort and the accessibility of the circuit from the town centre and its facilities were a big part of what would make the event a success.

“This could be an event where the journey to Scarborough is almost as big a part of the event as the festival itself,” he said.

The festival, themed “What Makes Britain Great”, has already attracted support from major car brands such as Jaguar, which sent an XFR-S sports saloon to a launch event held yesterday at the circuit.

It was part of a line-up of modern and classic British-built cars and motorcycles at the preview, including a historic Jaguar C-type vehicle.

“Having Jaguar involved is very important to us,” said Mr Berry.

“There are certain essential marques, and we can’t have a British theme without Jaguar.”

Other British car-makers with a presence at the launch included Bentley and Vauxhall.

“The fact I’ve managed to persuade these manufacturers to come and they’ve responded in that way is because I think I’ve transferred some of my enthusiasm for this event and this circuit to them,” he said.

“I really want to root this event in the north of England and we really want to celebrate the fact that there are still great cars being produced in Britain.

“That will be a big feature of what we do next year.”