Jason Barlow29 August 2012

Blog: TopGear.com goes to Car Fest

We headed off to Chris Evans' inaugural car festival. Watch out Goodwood...

Chris Evans launches Car Fest

Chris Evans is a hurricane on legs, a man who generates ideas as relentlessly as Usain Bolt runs 100m, a human being who seems capable of revving consistently to 9000rpm without spontaneously combusting or blowing a gasket.

We've witnessed it. TopGear joined him a few years ago on one of his Magnificent Seven ‘Drive and Dine' charity days, in aid of Children In Need. Not only was he delighted to hand the keys to his various, mostly extremely valuable Ferraris to the complete strangers who had bid a minimum of £25k for the chance to take part, he also personally furnished each of them with a bacon and egg sandwich in his back garden before the off. Free range, they were too.

We were then invited to follow this extravagant convoy in his 599 GTB. Ridiculous generosity, looking back on it. In his efforts to get a cracking tracking shot, TG's photographer - who should probably remain nameless at this point - subsequently managed to tear a hole in the Ferrari's leather door-trim with his belt buckle. To recap: we stuck 500 miles on a £200k Ferrari, then handed it back slightly damaged. Chris just shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and said, ‘Did you get everything you needed?'

So I wasn't remotely surprised when I heard him unveil his plans for Car Fest. It's just the sort of madcap scheme he would come up with and, Chris being Chris, push through on a gale-force gust of sheer personality. It's possible someone may have said no to him at some point along the way, but I doubt it.

Topgear.com travelled down on Saturday afternoon, and having battled those twin British evils the M25 and the weather, spent a highly enjoyable few hours at what's probably best described as Glastospeed. OK, so the bloke from Ocean Colour Scene and Scottish troupers Texas aren't Green Day or The Stone Roses when it comes to 2012 music festival pre-eminence, but the Rockaoke guys were much funnier than I'd predicted, and as the whole shebang was happening on Jody Scheckter's Laverstoke Park Farm, the on-site catering was a cut above the usual flatulent falafel. (Visit the farm shop on the way out, and you could even buy Jody's buffalo mozzarella, made in a machine, would you believe, that was sourced in Maranello. ‘You can imagine the sort of service I get from those guys,' Jody once told me.)

Then, of course, there were the cars. Not quite a Festival of Speed - yet - but still, there was more than enough to keep the 20,000-strong crowd entertained. Watching the 1979 F1 world champion Mr Scheckter power his own Ferrari 312 T4 up one of his farm's service roads - humane abattoir and grass laboratory as the back-drop - was equal parts thrilling and surreal. As well as Chris's supercar fleet - an ever-changing line-up that currently numbers the SA Aperta, 550 Barchetta and 288 GTO among others - there were countless other big names to gawp at, including the new Aston Vanquish, Lambo Aventador, Noble M600 and more. Nick Mason had brought along various of his cars, personal favourites being the Le Mans-starring Ferrari 512 S he rescued in an abject state from a French warehouse.

In fact everywhere you looked there were fascinating and often oddball cars. I never get bored of seeing '80s Group B rally cars, there was a fleet of Deloreans, and, as at both Goodwoods, the stuff parked in the fields was as tasty as the big names on display.

This was clearly an event that came together in a hurry, so much so that some of the locals in the nearby village of Overton apparently didn't even know it was happening, and decided to moan about it to the Daily Mail. Oh well. The £1m or so that it (and Car Fest North) will raise for Children In Need will hopefully make up for a little local disturbance. Though if said disturbance happens to have a V12, we could happily live with it.

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