Think “street circuit” and it will most likely evoke images of rooftop swimming pools, bikini-clad models and buckets of champagne. Monaco is without a doubt the globe’s most famous and illustrious street race, although the true petrol head may go one further and picture the stone walls snaking their way around the Isle of Man and the daredevil bikers risking life and limb to top the TT sheets.
Think “street circuit’ and you certainly won’t think of Coventry, a UK city situated in the West Midlands; however, take a step back in time and it’s surprising the city hasn’t hosted street races sooner.
Before we take a brief trip back in time, I’ll explain why Coventry is at last set to host the first street race the UK has seen in years.
Up until the end of July 2014, it was a criminal offense in Britain to promote, host or take part in any motor racing format on a public highway without specific legislative approval – despite street racing passing legislation in the past via a Private Member’s Bill, it was a lengthy process, often taking 18 months.
Now the law has changed, local authorities have the power to suspend the Road Traffic Act, enabling competitive racing on public roads.
I had a look into Coventry’s past and quickly uncovered its rich history surrounding the wheel and its innovation. Two wheels, four wheels, and everything in-between, the West Midlands city is perfect for hosting a motor race.
All modern bicycles are descendants from John Kemp Starley’s Rover safety cycle, a machine invented way back in 1885.
Some more Coventry design firsts come in the form of the first tank, the first car indicators and the first tipper truck. In fact, the first motorised funeral took place there too.
Coventry 1896 saw Daimler found Britain’s car industry in a disused Coventry cotton mill and, maintaining its heritage, Coventry Transport Museum now boasts the biggest collection of British-made motor vehicles and cycles in the world.
Although Coventry is a fairly big city and only offers an open-air Speedway oval for motorsport, the 2015 event director, Motofest’s James Noble has hailed the city as the “spiritual home of the British motor industry”.
Street racing is always popular, the Monaco Grand Prix the highlight of the F1 calendar. Boasting the globe’s most dangerous circuit, the Isle of Man attracts visitors from all over the world, the tiny island’s roads lined with spectators awaiting the 200-mph blurs of kamikaze bikers. There’s just something about street racing the tracks can’t emulate – the lack of rumble and run-off strips inject that element of danger where ‘all or nothing’ could mean victory or an expensive collection of bent metal. The fact a crash could be fatal also adds that superhero factor to the professional racer, the days hailing back to the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Next May will see a two-day racing programme taking place around Coventry’s ring road, which having just celebrated its 40th birthday, will host time trials along a 2.1-mile route.
The sight of Formula 3 and British Touring cars racing at 150-mph will be a rather incongruous sight for residents used to waiting for the number 9 bus.
Motofest and partners, British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) have ensured Coventry’s residents will witness the snorting, growling and wailing of race engines, the squealing and burning of rubber, and an atmosphere only a combination of these can create.
Apart from the competitive Formula 3 cars, the old-timers and classics will put in an appearance too. Keeping things interesting, the streets will also see modern day drift missiles alongside V8 stock cars and supercharged V8 rally cars. So when Cherished Vehicle Insurance recently asked me to submit my favourite UK motoring event to their map of Britain’s finest classic drives and vehicle events (see here), it was the perfect opportunity to submit Coventry’s up and coming street racing event.
Check out the video clip below for the BBC’s report.
Motofest have also revealed some of the cars registered, and as a petrolhead excitable by just about anything with four wheels, the list of entrants made me tingle in places it really shouldn’t.
Below, I have featured a trio from some of the competitive cars tickling my fancy.
If you fancy a slice of the action and want to get close enough to breathe in the fumes, ensure you find the pedestrian areas set up at the side of the ring road and on some of the bridges – personally I’d hit the ring road, as you’ll see the cars braking and accelerating, capturing that pure essence of speed.
Arrive early, grab a guide, and plug your ears, for Coventry is going to be alive with thunder.