The Wednesday lunch venue for Tour Britannia has now been confirmed and, in keeping with so much of this stylish event, it is in a striking venue - the Orangery at Blenheim Palace. Competitors will go there from Cornbury Park, which is the second of two speed tests that morning, and then leave from Blenheim to go to the races at Silverstone.
The construction of Blenheim Palace was started in 1705, a gift to the Duke of Marlborough for winning the decisive battle of Blenheim against the French and Bavarians - Audi owners might like to note that the venue is fifty miles west of Ingolstadt and is now called Blindheim - and Marlborough chose his friend, John Vanbrugh to be the architect. As well as being an architect, Vanbrugh was a well-known playwright who had spent four-and-a-half years locked up in the Bastille for alleged spying. In his plays and other public writing, he actively espoused women's rights, a topic that was not universally popular in 18th C English society.
While Blenheim Palace is more of a male fortification than a country house, the Orangery is perhaps an expression of Vanbrugh's finer feelings with its arched windows, tiled floor and high glass ceiling. The Orangery is not normally open to the public and thus this is an ideal opportunity to appreciate its light and airy attraction. Its terrace looks out onto the magnificent private Italian Garden and it will doubtless afford Tour Britannia competitors a tranquil hour before they get back to the serious business of competition in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Tour Britannia's entry list has been gradually swelling. Alan Rivers has maintained the A.J.Rivers entry of a Chevrolet Camaro Z28 that was originally to have been shared with Richard Lloyd but this will not be the only American muscle car on Tour Britannia's route come September. There is a Ford Falcon Sprint of the kind that shocked the rally world in 1963 and 1964 by its performance on the Monte Carlo Rally in the hands of Bo Ljungfeldt. And there are three variations on the Cobra theme that, like the two other V8s, are in the competition section of the event. In fact, just over two-thirds of the entries so far received are in that section with the others lining up to tackle the regularity section.
One attraction of Tour Britannia is the variety of its entry. The most popular marque is, naturally, Porsche with 356s and 911s of different types and even a 904. It seems likely, in the absence of an out-and-out racing car like John Grant's Chevron B16 that won the 2007 Tour Britannia that a Porsche may well be in the running for an outright win this time around. Prior to that, a Morgan and a Ford GT40 have won Tour Britannia but with determined drivers like Callum Guy, Nick Faure and Paul Howells in 911 Carrera RSs, perhaps this time Stuttgart products will triumph. But there are Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lotus Elites, Alfa Romeos and BMWs all ready to deny them, not to mention a Mini Cooper, Jaguar E-type and an Alpine Renault. It would also be folly to discount the extremely rapid Lotus Elan of John Sheldon which is sure to be in contention for the lead at some point and certainly have a prospect of winning the Index of Performance.