Shakespeare County Raceway
4th-5th July 2014
words by Edd Thorpe. photos by Scott Savage.
If there was ever a close call on what my personal favourite show at Shakespeare County Raceway is then this epitomises it. Gary’s Picnic, incorporated into the Yanks Weekend and public track day, seems to draw such a wide variety of cars not normally present at some other more Volkswagen-prominent events.
That’s not to say that VWs were sparse on the ground – far from it! A real eclectic mix of street driven hot VWs and club cars from the likes of the Outlaw Flat Four championship and SAS Rennwagens were out to play. This makes for some spectacular flat-4 vs V8 battles that must have been de rigueur back in the day when VWs were competing for such as the NHRA Drag Racing Championships in the U.S, alongside homebrewed factory backed Chevrolet and Ford race cars.
We are incredibly lucky to get a glance into what the past must have been like, recreated in the sleepy town of Stratford upon Avon among the beautiful English weather. Yeah, about that..!
A team of 4 of us made out way down the M1 from Air Monkeys HQ in a complete downpour and hurricane force gales – not normally associated with Saturday 4th June esque weather really is it? Delaying pitching the tent to allow the ground to dry off a little, we made full use of the open pit access to scoop some of the stunning machinery around, and had a good catch up with the SCR crew. They were understandably nervous about the weather situation, although the rain had ceased, the track was aflood and a noticeably large puddle had formed in the shutdown zone at the top end of the strip – far from ideal! The guys worked their butts off to dry off the strip and had set to implementing a drainage system in the shutdown zone o deal with that problem.
Eventually racing managed to get underway around 2:30pm, by which time Air Monkeys camp had been set up and cameras were at the ready trackside having signed on.
A few tentative first passes were put in before the sun finally broke though and some impressive times were being laid down! This show is certainly one to tickle the fancy of Hot Rod and American Muscle cars, and VW’s alike. Few things can prepare you for being stood between two Supercharged Outlaw cars in the burnout boxes as it’s not only the noise that pummels you but that ground is literally shaking as multiple thousand horsepower is trying to dig 22” slicks through solid concrete!
Some truly bonkers cars come out of the woodwork here, and whilst on our pre-race walkabout we caught up with one chap who had built a pro-mod style Triumph Herald! A 2 door, street legal, door slammer pro-mod, built on something you’d expect to see on Heartbeat – mental! We were lucky enough to be shown around the small-block Chevy powered behemoth, complete with roll cage, ally race seats and harnesses, yet with a tax disc in the windscreen..! When this came down the fire up lane our lenses were firmly pointed in its direction that’s for sure.
The racing made way for the night around 6pm as an extension had been set allowing for the severe delays, and we watched as the atmosphere changed from race day to party time! Kenny’s Bar provides a great place to unwind post-race and with beer at a reasonable price you can’t go far wrong. We however headed off site for a meal first off, into the centre of Stratford as it’s only 5 mins away from the strip – I thought I’d done my homework and hooked up a really nice looking pub but figured it was a chain and wouldn’t be expensive, right? Wrong! Cheapest steak in the house – £25! Oops! Once we’d severely dragged down the tone and etiquette of the regular clientele we headed straight back to the strip in my ’67 bug to down some beer at a price that didn’t involve one of the Queens larger denominations of currency!
Working on a Sunday to the sound of V8s firing up is a rare and beautiful thing! The sun was firmly out and we headed straight strip-side to make the most of the gorgeous weather on offer for the day! Again more machinery had turned up, especially with the prospect of continuing racing onto the Bank Holiday Monday many had written off the Saturday and made their respective treks down to the track for the Sunday and Monday.
A day full of street legal muscle cars, out n out racers, Rail dragsters and altered fuel supercharged outlaws with little humble bugs thrown in for good measure makes for a spectacular sight indeed! An oil down incident from one of the retro Ford fraternity saw an early and extended lunch break, but that aside the day ran smoothly and without a hitch! A credit to the SCR track crew.
If Gary’s Picnic is something which you haven’t done before be sure to make the dates in 2015 free! There is something for everyone, with affection for Yank metal to Wolfsburg’s finest – a stone’s throw from Shakespeare’s’ town what could possibly be better than that?