On Thursday 5th March, motor racing legend, Sir Stirling Moss, opened A Chequered History, a new display section in the National Motor Museum celebrating the adrenaline-fuelled world of motor sport, devoted to two stories, Grand Prix Greats and Road, Race & Rally.
Sir Stirling was joined in a ribbon cutting by veteran F1 commentator, Murray Walker, after they had taken a nostalgic look back at Sir Stirling’s glittering racing career, in front of an invited audience of guests.
In opening the display, Sir Stirling said: “I am delighted to be opening Beaulieu’s new motor sport displays featuring fabulous cars from both F1 and rallying, including several that I had the privilege to drive during my own racing career. It brings back many happy memories for me.”
Grand Prix Greats tells the story of Grand Prix motor racing from the Edwardian pioneers through to 21st century F1 cars, exploring the engineering excellence of these phenomenal machines and the men who drove them to their limit. Among the iconic racing cars on display are the 1912 Sunbeam Coupe de L’Auto, the 1924 Bugatti Type 35, the 1950 BRM V16, the Lotus 49, famously driven by Graham Hill in the 1967 F1 season and the Lotus E20, driven during the 2012 season by Kimi Räikkönen.
Road, Race & Rally features competition cars from many different disciplines displayed alongside historic road-going sports cars and honours the courage of their fearless drivers. Vehicle highlights include the 1981 Ford Escort rally car driven by Ari Vatanen and the 1983 Audi Quattro driven to victory by Stig Blomqvist in the 1984 Rally of Argentina, the pioneering British Allard Chrysler dragster of 1961 and road-going sports cars as diverse as the tiny 1930 MG M Type Midget and the 1974 Ferrari Dino.
Complementing the displays are two Fords, a 1970 GT70 and 1984 RS200, on loan from the Ford Heritage collection, a BMW 320i Super Tourer, driven to victory by Steve Soper, Joachim Winkelhock and Peter Kox in the 1995 24 Hour Race at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, the 1997 BRM P301 and a 2009 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport. One of just 150 built, it is recognised by Guinness World Records as the fastest roadster in the World with a top speed - with the roof down – of 229mph!
Accompanying the vehicles are displays of some of the museum’s vast collection of historic photographs and objects associated with motor sports, supported by items from McLaren and the Williams Heritage Collection. Unique memorabilia from the titans of the track includes trophies, race suits worn by Graham Hill, Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard and Kimi Räikkönen as well as a display of helmets including those worn by seven F1 world champions.
There is rolling film footage from the 1930s onwards, a Grand Prix Leader Board for the start of the 2015 F1 season and interactive photographic panels which include contributions from BBC F1 commentator, Murray Walker, and motoring authors and journalists, Graham Robson and Doug Nye.
In the Start-Up Area, visitors will be able to watch the Beaulieu engineers at work and hear some of the iconic vehicles roar into life.
The National Motor Museum’s Chief Executive, Russell Bowman, said: “We are very pleased to be opening this latest phase of our re-development programme. A Chequered History will bring to life the excitement of motor sport in all its forms, something at which this country excels. This follows the great reception received by our new Land Speed Record gallery in 2014.”
Lord Montagu added: “This new chapter in the life of the Museum covers two of the most electrifying and glamourous genres of motoring which have a wide appeal. I’m sure they will be very popular with all our visitors.”
A Chequered History can be seen as part of a visit to the whole Beaulieu attraction, which includes the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, Beaulieu Abbey, Palace House and gardens.
The new motor sport displays have been generously supported by the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.