The 2011 Chelsea AutoLegends lived up to its billing as ‘London’s biggest show on wheels’. Staged yesterday (Sunday 4 September) at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the capital’s premier automotive-themed festival hosted a mouth-watering array of more than 600 of the finest and most celebrated classic, competition and supercars, live action as well as a host of motor sport personalities.
With so much to savour the event proved to be a major draw both with hardcore car enthusiasts and a wider family audience. Despite a poor weather forecast and the predicted heavy downpour of rain around lunchtime, over 8,000 delighted in the show and helped to raise significant funds for the Royal Hospital’s Chelsea Pensioners – a significant increase of more than 50 per cent on the 5,000 who attended the show in 2010.
Building on the successes of last year’s inaugural Chelsea AutoLegends, this year’s event opened with a special dinner on Saturday evening honouring many of the famous British patrons whose privately entered race teams took on – and often beat – the official factory entries in Formula One and all the major international sportscar races during the sixties. Many of the patron’s most celebrated cars were on display outside the Royal Hospital and surviving team and family members shared their memories during the dinner held in the spectacular surrounding of the historic Great Hall. During the special dinner Britain’s most famous racing driver, Sir Stirling Moss OBE, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
As official Patron of the 2011 Chelsea AutoLegends, Moss returned to the South Grounds on Sunday morning and was joined by a host of famous faces from motor sport past and present. Those savouring the show included rally champions Paddy Hopkirk and Russell Brookes, eight times World Champion bike rider Phil Read MBE, renowned sportscar veterans Richard Attwood and David Piper plus ex-Ferrari works drivers Tim Schenken and Peter Sutcliffe.
Right at the heart of the display was an impressive line-up of more than 30 iconic Le Mans cars ranging from the Bentleys of the 1920s, through the Ferraris and Porsches of the 1960s and 1970s right up to today’s state-of-the-art diesel prototypes that currently rule the French classic. As well as adding to the feast of Le Mans racing history, the large contingent of contemporary cars and drivers – including Peugeot ace Anthony Davidson – were promoting this weekend’s Autosport 6-Hour race at Silverstone. “It’s great that London now has a super show like this,” enthused an impressed Davidson.
As well as the central Le Mans grid and accompanying displays of winged racing saloons and fearsome rally cars from much-loved bygone eras, an amazing collection of the latest supercars was another of the many major attractions.
An eye-popping cavalcade starring the cream of current road-going exotica including Aston Martin One-77, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari 599 GTO, Pagani Zonda and the new McLaren MP4-12C all left the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall earlier in the morning as part of the PistonHeads Supercar Run. The power tour arrived at the Royal Hospital shortly before noon to be greeted by Sir Stirling Moss and a chequered flag. Moss then took a brief ride in the McLaren en route to the Sunday Times Supercar Paddock.
The arrival of two further cavalcades also added some vibrancy to the relaxed garden party atmosphere. The Ferrari Owners Club organised a convoy of Maranello’s finest along with a feast of other Italian models while a column of bikes arrived at the Thames-side home of the Chelsea Pensioners from the famous Ace Café appropriately led by members of the Royal British Legion Riders Branch – they were welcomed on the South Grounds by bike legend Read.
Other crowd pleasing highlights at this year’s Chelsea AutoLegends included special 50th birthday celebration displays of E-type Jaguars and Mini Coopers, a remarkable line-up of Invictas marking the 80th anniversary of the illustrious marque’s Monte Carlo Rally win in 1931 plus the presence of two film legends: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Pink Panther car – both are now up for sale via an on-line auction.
Adding to the show more than 350 members of the public bought their own classic cars to the Royal Hospital providing the thousands and thousands of showgoers with an amazing tapestry of past and present automotive creations from ACs and MGs to Porsches and Lamborghinis.
“It was our ambition to make this year’s show bigger and even better than last year’s event and clearly we achieved that objective with more amazing cars, an increased show area, more fund raising for the Royal Hospital and, despite the unhelpful weather, a greater public turn-out,” said Eric Verdon-Roe, Chairman of Chelsea AutoLegends. “The sights and sounds of the supercars arriving were a notable addition and the rare chance for Londoners to see a line-up of real Le Mans cars proved as popular as ever. That said it’s the total sum of all the individual parts that makes Chelsea AutoLegends so special. It’s the fabulous Royal Hospital setting, the presence of so many truly great race cars, the plethora of dramatic high-performance road cars, the mouth-watering collection of Italian classics, the huge number of much-loved British marques, the friendly atmosphere… it all adds up to a memorable day out for those of all ages and interests. As the curtain comes down on 2011 we would like to thank all our partners for their on-going support and assure all those who enjoyed last Sunday’s show that we are already making even more ambitious plans for 2012.”