Ex-Formula 1 drivers Damon Hill, David Coulthard, Mark Blundell, Derek Warwick and Perry McCarthy were amongst the sporting and TV stars who took part in charity event 'The Circuit' at Bedford Autodrome in support of the NSPCC's Child's Voice Appeal.
Motorsport fans paid to spend a thrilling day with celebrities – including boxer Amir Khan, Dragons' Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, chef James Martin, English Rugby Union player Austin Healey and Fifth Gear
and former Top Gear
television presenter Vicki Butler-Henderson – and professional drivers at PalmerSport.
There, six high-performance racing cars were put through their paces, from a Formula Jaguar single-seater capable of accelerating from zero to 60mph in a blink over three seconds to a 177mph Porsche 911 JP3, supercharged Jaguar XKR and 3.0-litre, V6 Palmer Jaguar JP1 sports prototype racer.
In-between conversations about whether Jenson Button can win the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship and singing 'Happy Birthday' to Damon Hill – now just a year away from the big five-O – guests enjoyed a lunchtime auction hosted by Perry McCarthy, Top Gear's
original black Stig.
Lots included three super-rides in a Palmer Jaguar JP1 and BMW M3 with David Coulthard, Damon Hill and HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) front-runner and 2001 champion Jason Plato, a visit to Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's legendary car collection which went to James Martin, and a Jenson Button-signed Honda plate from last year's RA108 contender which went the way of Deborah Meaden.
“I co-organised it with Nick Mason,” explained Blundell, speaking to Crash.net
. “We put the event on with the help of the NSPCC to support their Child's Voice Appeal and just to get more awareness, because they do a fantastic job. We had a great turn-out – a lot of friends turned up from the motorsport world, and some other people too from different walks of life – and they all gave their time up and lots of other people donated serious money, so it was a great day all-in-all.
“We had various things [in the auction] – helicopter trips, Rolls Royce trips, Jenson Button-signed rear wing endplates, which are going up in value as we speak obviously – so there were lots of things to be purchased, and lots of money raised with every lap we turned. There are over two million calls that go unattended during the course of the year, so the more money we raise, the more call centres can be operational and take the call which could make a difference to a child's life.”
“Guests really pushed the cars to the limits,” the former Brabham, Tyrrell, Ligier and McLaren ace went on, “and there seemed to be a few friendly rivalries out there on the track. Damon Hill and David Coulthard couldn't help themselves from slugging it out!”
“Some very, very generous people paid to have an experience of a lifetime and come and drive cars, have some fun and raise money for the Child's Voice Appeal for the NSPCC,” added 1996 F1 World Champion and 22-time grand prix-winner Hill. “I think it was very successful; everyone had a great time, we raised a lot of money in the auction and raised awareness of course for a good cause.