Tom Hudsonn and I got lost on the way; a friend of ours, who only lives down the road from the event AND had a free ticket, got so fed up of waiting for us he just went home rather than roll down to Brands Hatch and see what was going on. It would seem he wasn't the only New Mini owner on the scene that was less than excited about the whole thing either; the turnout of modified New Minis was pretty poor to say the least.
You would think given the location; once home to the British Grand Prix and the fact that there was professional track racing involving both Classic and New Minis, that big numbers were to be expected; but it just wasn't as busy as I thought it would be.
So Tom and I make it, later than planned, to the front gates of Brands Hatch. The nice girl in the kiosk quickly relieves us of £22 each on the gate. Yes. Twenty Two hard-earned Great British pounds. So we'll judge the show against that price of admission at the end of the report.
As we enter the South Bank, the classics are already racing hard on the track. The sound of high revving race classics accompanied by commentry crackling over the tannoy creates a nice ambience as we lock the Bogie up and go looking for some epic Mini action.
It's obvious from the out, that the Classic Mini owner's clubs are dominating this event.
Now, I can appreciate a well kept or modified Classic, but, as a New Mini enthusiast, it leaves me disappointed that there's a big gaping hole in a community where we spend huge amounts of time talking about racing and modification of our cars on internet forums but can't actually get out to support these shows and show off our pride and joys.
Do we spend too much money on our Minis instead of actually chucking some fuel in to get out and enjoying them a little? Well if you've read my Welsh Hoon article, you know my views on that subject already!
However, I digress.
As we walk through the club stands, the standard of Minis range from brilliantly simple to simply gash. I've saved your eyes from some of, what I can only presume to be attempts at 'individuality', by only posting pictures of the cars I would hope you will deem to be worthy of being featured on the front page of Minitorque.
The truth is, you can get away with a lot more attempted individuality on the Classic Mini; is it because they've had 54 years to perfect that art and new Mini owners are only just finding their feet? Or could it just be that the lines of the classic and everything they have represented in the past allows them a little more 'wiggle room'? One thing I know for sure, the Classic Mini owners showed the New Mini generation how to get shit done, this time around.
We make our way to the rear of the show, which is where the race Classics are kept; it's easily the busiest and most impressive part of the Mini Festival. The race specification of some of the cars is a joy to behold, with the bright sponsor colours and race numbers all looking like they should have come from the factory in similar form. These cars are obviously as much fun to own and to drive as their sometimes zany colours indicate.
It was hard work trying to get pictures of some of the cleanest classics - As soon as I get the camera out and start snapping away, owners and their chums can't resist touching, fettling or wiping the dribbling rain from their freshly polished chrome; You can see that some classic owners have a real affinity with their cars and they don't care who knows about it.
With a memory card already heaving with snaps of Classic Mini goodness, we make our way from the race village and though to the traders area.
We expect to find the usual 2nd hand classic parts, newly built classic panels and Minilite alloy wheel displays, and nothing for us poor, deprived, R53 owners, but hark, what is this? MiniTorque sponsors Lohen have bought their trailer of next generation treasures to the show, putting on a drool-worthy display of some of the latest Gen 1 and Gen 2 parts, all while the Lohen team buzz around their marquee, busily delivering the fantastic customer service and advice we've come to expect from them.
KW also provide us with an understated display filled with suspension pornography - it would seem that the penny is starting to drop with suppliers, retailers and tuners of the new Mini that there's demand for advice and products at these events. About time too.
We're into the afternoon, and after a wander around the owner's club cars we're ready for Mini Challenge - the race team's Cooper S line up at the front of the grid, with the Cooper cars grouped behind. I'll let the videos do the talking (turn your speakers up).
So, what did I think of the day as a whole? Well, it was a really good day out, but, for me, it just lacked a proper festival atmosphere and I didn't feel like I'd gotten my money's worth.
In it's defence, there's some nice touches from the organisers; who allow the public onto the race track before the start of races, so that they can check out the challenge cars whilst on the grid. Afterwards, the clubs are allowed a celebration slow lap in their Minis before home time. These are things that other venues just DO NOT deliver and make the whole event feel that little bit more special.
There were some great cars, some bog standard factory spec and some cars that just needed of setting on fire - but you can expect this at any car event most of the time. The standard of the Classics was better than I've seen at any other event in the UK, but boy, the New Generation Minis needed some work.
The GP Owner's Club probably put on the best display out of all the New Mini clubs, but even they, with their exclusive club of 2,000 cars struggled to generate anywhere near the numbers they deliver for Mini in the Park. The comparison is hard to avoid, but if we are comparing it to Santa Pod, I'd argue this venue was actually the better laid out and more professional out of the two
So what's the problem? The Mini Festival, as an event, doesn't actually do anything wrong, but I would argue that £22 per person on the gate would have put a lot of people off. All in all, the day out from the Midlands cost me well over £100 - not exactly loose change!
Cost aside, the truth of the matter is that these shows need more support from the Mini community as a WHOLE - both Classic AND New Mini enthusiasts need to realise this for things to move forward. We all need to just learn to get along and we all need to start taking advantage of the fact that these events are happening.
For me, community is what makes these things work. The banter shared between people on an internet forum is not lost in the real world if you can get together regularly. I actually felt pretty sad that the majority of the awesome cars owned by the members of MT weren't on show for everyone to see and enjoy, so we can share our philosophy and style with others on the scene. There are people out there that still just don't get what we're all about;and it's because we just don't get out there often enough to show them.
I know one thing for sure, MiniTorque needs to be at Brands Hatch Mini Festival next year and show the rest of the Mini community what they're missing.
Was it worth £22 on the gate? Well, no, not quite. It was a really well organised show with plenty going on but for me, it is still 2nd to Mini in the Park in terms of atmosphere and popularity. I probably wouldn't be grumbling as much if we'd arranged club tickets and I'd gotten in for a tenner instead - for that admission fee, the Brands Hatch Mini Festival is unmissable.
With Mini in the Park just over a month away and the Big Mini Show dedicating itself to the New Generation Mini community; 2013 could finally turn the Classic Mini -vs- New Mini balance in our favour. But without people getting out and taking part, we could all be missing out on events that could actually become quite memorable.
To book tickets for Mini in the Park on 11th August 2013 click here
To find out more about the BigMiniShow, the UK's ONLY event dedicated to New Generation Minis click here
To visit Lohen's website and treat yourself to some goodies click here