The story of the formation of the 96 Club is the stuff of legend. When sports car driver Ray Bellm was “done” for speeding on the public highway back in 1976, his Ferrari was clocked at 96 mph. The resulting ban left Ray with the dilemma of how to enjoy the performance of his new steed. His friend, Michael Scott, had the bright idea of forming a ‘track club’ for circuit driving – the first of its kind. The subsequent club name followed as a matter of course.
From the first, membership of the 96 Club was exclusive, as it was passed on by word of mouth by those “in the know”. It was never driven by status in any way however. If you were mad about cars and driving and you were introduced by an enthusiastic member, you were in. Thereafter, the delights (and damage!) of the track were yours to enjoy – as was the camaraderie and warm welcome afforded to all who turned up. Members were privy to the magic of an early morning blast to a track followed by coffee and a bacon buttie with like-minded pilots of all kinds of exotica – old, new, expensive or rare. Then – mounting anticipation – as the Clerk of the Course declared the track ‘OPEN’ and you were off – to sample the excitement of full throttle acceleration, a “dab of oppo” and the narcotic effect of adrenalin coursing around your being.
In time, the concept of track club circuit days was copied but the style and panache could never be reproduced. Where else could you chat about the secret of attaining greater corner exit speed through Church, Madgewick, Hawthorns or Woodcote with a world famous rock star or movie star? Even better, a champion track driver would jump in your car and show you precisely how to do it. Bliss it was, never to be repeated elsewhere.
Sadly Michael’s heart attack and subsequent recuperation put paid to our enjoyment. Yes, it was inconsiderate of him to spoil our fun. Fortunately though, he made a magnificent and much welcome recovery. And with it, he has revived the 96 Club. ‘Scottie’, founder and ‘soul’ of the club, creates the same special ambience still, albeit applied to slightly more sedate driving conditions. The Rendezvous at Chelsea are a treat for anyone with a love of cars or an allegiance to a favourite marque. 96 Club events will always be different not just because of the cars, but because of the people. You can be one of them.