Words and Pictures by Ben Albone
One of the shows of choice for me last year was apex festival at Lydden hill. I went up with a couple of friends with some track cars that had been invited to go into some demo sessions during the Sunday. This can be marked as the start of my track experiences, going out as passenger in an old track spec corolla, the bug was seeded.
As a massive shock to me, this year I was contacted by Simon Sergides who runs the show and asked if I would be happy to supply my pics from last year in exchange for a media pass, the grin on my face went from cheek to cheek. Then to follow, Michael Flynn who set up the demo track sessions contacted me and offered me a slot in the sessions, my grin by this point went from ear to ear.
The weekend of Japfest came around and as all the Jap faithful all headed along the m4 to Castle Coombe, I loaded up the rented transporter and headed for Dover. After 4 or so hours I arrived to an already buzzing show, lots of clean old school vw's parked up and the track action in full swing. I had missed the bad weather in the morning and the rest of the weekend was fine with the right amount of breeze and sun to make for an enjoyable and friendly atmosphere.
Over the two days there is plenty to see and do. The show area comes alive on the Sunday with the show and shine alongside the trade areas. On display were some very clean, rebuilt masterpieces alongside barely road worthy rusted versions of the same cars, but with as much love and care given to them.
As you walked around you could work your way down the aisles of the pit area, feasting your eyes on the retro drift cars, beetle racers, sprint formulas and demo berg cars. Each area full of people either working on repairing broken parts or having a friendly discussion in multiple languages.
My weekend was made by the several track sessions I had, Lydden hill is a fun little circuit and really suited the mx5 with its great cornering ability. Being out on track with several berg cars was an interesting point, but what a great view I had of this moving demonstration. Michael manages to pull together such an enclitic mix of cars with his various connections and true passion for Berg racers and underlying love of Motorsport.
Among the cars Michael had persuaded to make the journey to Lydden were a selection of Berg inspired golfs. The Berg cup hails from Germany and is essentially a hill climb series, but the machines that compete are true works of art, even inspiring one of the biggest Motorsport suppliers, Forge, to do their own take on this style of vehicle. There was also a really nice old Berg style BMW. However the highlight of the demo cars for me was an ex BTCC laguna. Being from the days when i remember getting into BTCC it was truly a dream to see this machine in the flesh, still sporting the old team livery. Watching it blast round the track with its low stance and massive centre locking wheels, i found a new goal to aim for in my own track fun.
The other highlight was being stood in the middle of the track as the retro drift challenge had a session. To be within reaching distance of a car in mid drift is a great place, the only downside is the lung full of rubber and smoke after they have passed. This was the 2nd round of the retro drift challenge and although I had no idea who was winning or how it was judged, it took nothing away from the awesomeness that comes with a car being thrown into a bend sideways and powering through, and I'm sure the crowd would agree with me on that one.
Although it is a distance to travel, and for some the fact you may have to miss Japfest is not great, it really is a great weekend. A show this friendly and getting good international recognition in Europe is a good place to be and just in a year it has already got bigger, and I can only see this getting even more popular. If you like your old vw's and track action it's worth a day at least, and to be fair where else will you see a break dancing Frenchman drift a beetle.
Massive thank you to Simon Sergides and Michael Flynn for giving me all the hook ups, and to all the drivers on the weekend for putting on some great track action.
Words and Pictures by Ben Albone
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