Bahrain GT Festival – Wednesday – Convoy!
Bulk of the images in a gallery here
Still no track time for the GT cars but instead something very special – a cavalcade of cars on public roads, under a rolling roadblock, from the circuit to the Seef Shopping Mall in central Manama.

This was no five minute parade though: the Mall is some 30 kilometres distant from the circuit and progress on a windy and overcast day was to be – brisk!

20 or so of the cars, both contemporary and historic, set off with a series of chase vehicles in hot pursuit.

Front and centre was the Toyota Previa of Greenlight Television, providing live TV for local audiences. At the wheel was a very familiar face – John Hindhaugh, enjoying himself thoroughly and setting off in hot pursuit with a devilish grin and a dsc deputy editor gripping the grab handle tightly.

The police escort was ruthlessly efficient and the Bahrain motoring populace was either (pardon our French) ‘jumped from behind’ or left ‘necks craning’ as the convoy blasted past in the opposite direction. More than once a cloud of smoke and a screech of brakes heralded the news that a local driver had left his eyes off the road for a little too long, roundabouts looming large!

The trip to Seef Mall, the journey being made rather more rapidly than the dsc hire car had previously managed, was without incident until…. the last 50 metres, when the Nick Adcock pedalled Eurotech Porsche suddenly overheated. We’ll know tomorrow whether any lasting damage was caused.

For the time being though, we were treated to the sight of the assembled cars being drooled over by the local populace – with an autograph signing session, pitstop demonstration and an opportunity to buy tickets for the race at bargain basement prices, all in a car park surrounded by Marks and Spencers and British Home Stores – Arndale Centre eat your heart out. Inside the Mall there was further evidence of the promotional effort going into this event, a stand (again prominently featuring the Colin (Bernard) Blower Motorsport Vauxhall VX220 – complete with branding) selling tickets and giving away GT Festival freebies.

3.30 and it was time to tour the city centre itself – on open roads mind you, and with a couple of dozen very quick and very loud GT cars.

This time the Hindhaugh / dsc Previa was to the fore, Greenlight’s cameraman and David Lord shooting from the open tailgate, with GT cars often inches from the rear bumper. Speeds were once again quite impressive, the Toyota’s ‘nanny’ speed warning buzzer sounding constantly and the unsilenced Ferraris, Porsches and Morgan sounding more like a strafing run from the Bahrain Air Force than a parade.

Using only the international language of hand signals, the cars were neatly marshalled for the cameras - as the motorcycle outriders did their best to outrun the cars and block intersections to allow the train by.

Hindhaugh was by now enjoying himself far too much – the Previa screaming along, jinking in and out of the stream of cars to give new angles, the sounds of cars accelerating hard past the camera car eliciting peals of laughter from Hindhaugh and Goodwin.

The Damax and JMB Ferraris were initially ahead (above), before the Gillet took its turn, followed by the astonishingly loud Morgan Aero 8, mechanic Billy enjoying the experience of opening the taps on the BMW V8 time and again – his passenger, Fiona Pawley from SRO, was enjoying the trip too. “She told me she was from Lewisham so nothing I could do was ever going to scare her,” said her gallant pilot later.

The Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car of Paul Mace was next to take its turn at the front of the queue: this car may well be dipping a toe in the water ahead of a British GT campaign in 2005. For now though it was impressing even the local pizza delivery guy, who may well need a quiet sit down with a garlic bread to recover from the experience of a full race prepped Porsche buzzing by his right ear!

The big guns were next up, the Viper Competition Coupe of Dutch Outfit US Carworld howling by, its V10 thundering along, with the Panoz Esperante of Bert Moritz in close company.

“I genuinely can’t believe we’re allowed to do this,” said Hindhaugh, as he experienced a close encounter of the slow moving JCB kind, threading the needle between a Ferrari 360 and a dawdling Toyota. “It beats the **** out of my usual Wednesday,” grinned Lordy.

With the light rapidly fading, the convoy exploded back towards the circuit, pace ever quickening: 160 km/h was seen more than once and still the leading GT cars were pulling away.

Back at the circuit and there was time to thank both the event organisers and the Bahrain Traffic Police for their efforts – Hindhaugh not at all sure that they hadn’t been racking up infractions for later reckoning (luckily not).

A very special day indeed. We had a convoy all right, but Rubber Duck and friends would have been left gasping in its dust.


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