The 2015 Coventry MotoFest
Imagine the outcome of approaching a typical local authority and requesting that it not only shuts a ring-road surrounding a major city for three days but that it also permits motor racing to take place on a 1.5 miles-long section of freshly-laid tarmac. It is something that I thought would have had the event organisers laughed out of the civic offices – but no. Amazingly, permission was granted and 2015’s Coventry MotoFest was given the go-ahead.
Held from Friday 29th May, until Sunday 31st May, the Coventry MotoFest may have been only in its second year, but it still treated over 100,000 local, national and international motoring fans to a free weekend of culture, live music (including Reef, the Stranglers, Toseland and Commonjets, plus a special performance of the Opera, Carmen, at Coventry Cathedral) and, of course, cars. Yet, it is easy to think of Coventry as being somewhat down-at-heel, with an evaporating motor industry (rather like the watchmaking and other manufacturing disciplines that preceded it), as it lives in the shadow of our second city, Birmingham.
Coventry MotoFest highlighted that this is, emphatically, not the case. Yes, there were many displays of classic and vintage vehicles displayed in all public areas (and pedestrianised zones) all over the city, including impressive displays from both the Coventry Transport Museum and Heritage Motor Centre of Gaydon and one of the major exhibits was the gas-turbine Rover BRM, which was driven later around the ring-road.
However, this was not just a celebration of the past but also of both the present and the future. Jaguar celebrated its 80th anniversary at its home city, by displaying historic vehicles worth over £40m and it opened the event, with a procession of Jaguar cars being driven around the Coventry Ring Road, led by the 1988 Le Mans-winning XJR-9LM, with its original driver, Andy Wallace, at the controls. The company was also looking forward, by using the event as the world debut for the F-TYPE R Bloodhound rapid response vehicle being used on the latest World Land Speed Record attempt.
Looking at fostering new talent, the event’s formal pace car was designed by a local seven years-old schoolgirl after she won the Young Innovators’ competition to build a futuristic vehicle, which was lifted from the design pages to a full-scale working vehicle by Jaguar Land Rover. Coventry City College and Peugeot/Citroen’s Academy (also based in Coventry) also showed off their prowess in producing first-rate technicians for the future and Coventry University’s school of Art and Design showcased its current graduates’ work, covering the visual arts, design and media, as well as its respected Automotive and Transport Design course.
While closed to traffic, Coventry’s Ring Road was far from unused, doubling as both a pit lane and race circuit. Throughout the weekend, various events and cavalcades took place, including those from Jaguar Heritage, the British Touring Car Championships, the Renault Clio Cup, historic Group B Rally Cars, Mission Motorsport (which aids the recovery of personnel injured in military operations to rehabilitate and recover through motorsport activities), the TVR Car Club Speed Championships, the Falken International Drift Team (pictured), Rally Cross BTRDA and the British Automobile Racing Club’s race series.
The newly-elected Lord Mayor of Coventry also lent his support to the event and many attendees appreciated him not only visiting personally but also taking the time to talk with them about their interests, their cars and his willingness to take on board feedback about the proceedings. MP Geoffrey Robinson also addressed the crowds through the PA system.
If you missed this year’s event, I can report that the MotoFest was busy, fun and immensely enjoyable, which showcased one of our finest cities in a very positive light. GEM understands that even more ambitious plans are envisaged for next year, including competitive time trialling, therefore lookout for further news, as the event enters its fourth year.