On Saturday I was at Silverstone photographing the first round of the MSA Endurance Britcar championship on the full Grand Prix circuit. You can read the qualification report and both GT and Production race reports along with seeing a few of my photos here.
It was a great race and there were some fantastic cars on show, but it was a yellow Seat Leon that was one of the hot topics of conversation in the media centre and around the garages. It was driven by four Women who won a competition run by Seat UK and TV programme fifth gear Called Seat Sex Drive. Now, I had heard of the competition but wasn’t too sure about what it entailed. Having read a little bit about it and talking to a couple of people on Saturday the competition pitted men against women. The winning team would then go on to gain their race licences and compete in the 2 hour race at Silverstone. Now at this point you would have thought the competition was about driving ability and racing. But no, it seemed to be ridiculous tasks like who could clean the car the best and reversing around corners. Ultimately the women won and they gained their racing licences ready to compete.
So onto race day and a few eyebrows were being raised. This was to be the first time they have ever raced so is it really wise to let these four women with no race experience out on track with Ferrari’s, Mosler’s, Lamborghini’s and the like? Not only did this seem rather stupid but also highly dangerous too. The women themselves seemed unfazed however as talk in their Garage seemed to focus on whether it was better to plait your hair or have it in a ponytail whilst wearing a helmet.
Qualifying came and went and the Seat failed to post a time. It was on track, as I witnessed it almost collide with two cars who caught up with it very quickly after pulling across the racing line in front of them. It seemed to be trundling around causing a mobile chicane for everyone else.
Starting from the back of the grid, the race got underway and the Yellow car set off at a somewhat casual pace. It didn’t take long before it was lapped. They hadn’t even passed the start line twice before the lead cars had put a lap between them. The prize winners were painfully slow. In fact, it was starting to become an embarrassment. As cars were streaming past them lap after lap the pace didn’t seem to pick up at any point as the women got used to the car. They were breaking so early for each corner they had to take their feet of the brake pedal 50-100 yards before they reached the point to turn in.
Amazingly, the highlight came when the Women were given a drive through penalty for pit lane speeding of all things! Even the race commentator found it highly amusing. Also, as the production class ran a two hour race along with the GT class running a three hour race, the Sex drive team were given a black flag for continuing after the chequered flag. Finally the women finished and were unclassified as they were a full 15 laps down with an average speed of just 61mph. I reckon I averaged more than that during the drive up to Silverstone!
I’m not against women in motorsport, far from it. There are some great female race drivers at all levels who are extremely competitive and very talented, from younger racers like Sarah Moore and Louise Richardson who have excelled in Ginetta’s to oval racers Pippa Mann and Danica Patrick to Endurance racer Vanina Ickx. I like to see a good mix of male and female drivers and its good to see great women drivers on track giving the men a run for their money. The real issue I have is awarding a prize like this to people who clearly aren’t that interested or have any ability when it comes to racing when there are thousands who would love to be given an opportunity. It has been a total flop and quite frankly Seat UK should be embarrassed, because I certainly was. Apparently the women were coached by Fifth gear presenter Vicky Butler-Henderson. Was she there to support them on Saturday? No she wasn’t. She was probably sparing her blushes and keeping well away. If only the four competition winners did too.
The World of motorsport has well and truly kicked into life. Last weekend I was at Snetterton for the first race on the new layout and you can read my report here. People have asked me what I think about the new layout and to be honest, I’m still not sure. Obviously it will look a lot better when the grass has germinated and it looks less of a building site, but that’s not the issue I have. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that bugs me but there is something I’m not overly happy with regarding the new layout. Maybe it’s just change and it will take a bit of getting used to but it just feels like there is too much in such a small space. Yes it’s good from a photographer’s point of view and for the spectators, particularly those on the new viewing banks but it gives it a bit of a go-kart track feel. It’s good that the circuit is being developed and Jonathan Palmer wants to bring bigger and more exciting race series to the Norfolk track and I understand there is a lot more development needed such as the pit and paddock area before these big race series will be attracted but after being there I am not totally convinced. I am very fond of Snetterton as a race track and always felt it had a unique charm, but to me it feels like that charm has gone.
So on to this weekend, Formula One makes its much anticipated return and I am actually watching the free practice on BBC iPlayer as I write. (Other television Channels are available) It looks like it will be a great season with a number of drivers fighting for the title and I’m sure, a few surprise packages along the way. At least at the time of writing this, the McLarens seem to have surprised those who seemed to write them off already with their fast pace in FP2. I guess we will only know for sure how well they are running come the Chequered flag at Albert Park.
As for me, I’m off to Silverstone on Saturday to cover the first round of the Britcar Championships and it will be great to be back with a great racing series. A big grid is confirmed and a great selection of cars will be on show so I hope to get some good photo’s. I’ll be looking forward to see the Synchro Motorsport Honda Jazz. I had a bit of an obsession with that car during the 24hr race last October and it was fantastic to see it keep up with an Aston Martin Vantage for a number of laps until it came in to pit. Also, amazingly for a Honda Jazz, there wasn’t a pensioner in sight!
The BTCC media day took place on Thursday and a huge grid was announced to be lining up on the grid this season. The fantastic YourRacingCar.com team announced a huge coup in the form of last year’s championship contender Tom Onslow-Cole. The VW Golf struggled a bit last year in their first season but if anyone can get the best out of the car then Tom can. I’ll be looking forward to seeing him battle for points with the fan backed team. Other good news is that of TechSpeed running two ex RML Chevrolet Cruze’s with John George and fans favourite Paul O’Neill. Paul got a couple of podiums last season in an older Honda Integra so perhaps he will consistently be a front runner in a very competitive car. However, I point this out to those getting too excited. If O’Neill is fighting for the championship come the end of the season along with the likes of Jason Plato, I don’t think we will see O’Neill fighting too hard against Plato. Let’s not forget who supplied TechSpeed with the cars and have given a lot of assistance to. Yes, Plato’s RML guys!
Finally, a quick update on my Juke Challenge. A very respectable amount of £80 has been raised for Comic Relief, so as much as I hate the car and the experience, I am happy to have been able to raise the money for a very good cause.
So I’ve done it. I’ve faced my fear and got behind the wheel of the ugliest car ever made.
Thanks to the guys at Glynn Hopkin Nissan I drove a new Nissan Juke, and to be honest, after driving it, my opinion hasn’t changed. I still hate it. The Juke doesn’t even know what it is supposed to be. It isn’t four wheel drive, but it is bulky, noisy and looks like it was designed to be a small soft roader. The boot is small and there isn’t much room in the back for passengers. The interior is nothing to write home about, and it drives like a vehicle twice its size. I guess it would be ideal for those people who can’t decide whether to get a Nissan Micra or a Nissan Pathfinder!
So now it is done and I’m glad it’s over. Video evidence can be seen here and my Facebook and Twitter profile photos have now been changed to me behind the wheel. So if anyone still wants to donate to Comic Relief then you still can here.
So the motorsport season starts for me this weekend. I’ll be photographing the MSVR ‘season starter’ weekend at Snetterton this coming weekend. It will be the first race weekend for me this year and I can’t wait to get back trackside. Also, I will finally get to see the new circuit layout at the Norfolk track. On this note, the names of the new corners have been unveiled today so I’ll have to learn them too. In the meantime, I’ll have to get all my equipment ready, batteries charged up and memory cards formatted in preparation. I’ll blog about the weekend and post a few photos next week.
The MSVR weekend will include great racing from the Lotus Elise Trophy, the Lotus Cup UK, Project 8 Saloons, Production BMW Championship, MSV F3 Cup and others. So if you’re chomping at the bit to get out and see some racing then why not get yourself down there. £16 for a weekend ticket is a bargain. You couldn’t watch a league football match for that and they are only 90 minutes!
In other news, I’ve completed another model for my collection. The 1994 Larbre Competition Porsche RSR that was raced at Le Mans. I’m pretty pleased with it and it doesn’t look too bad. I found a great website with all the information on cars, drivers, times etc of all the Le Mans races over the years as well as photos. I was pleased to find some pictures of the car I’ve just built, so if like me you love the 24hr endurance race, then check out www.lemans-history.com Next up, a 1988 Minolta Toyota 88C.
Finally, I’ll be driving my most hated car tomorrow. The Nissan Juke will be taking place with currently £55 pledged to Comic Relief for me to go through with it. Not looking forward to it, but it’s for a good cause. If you wish to donate anything, even just a pound, then you can do here and you will be in with a chance to win a framed A3 Motorsport Print. You can’t say fairer than that surely?
The generosity of others cannot be underestimated. What started out as a joke on Twitter has now turned into a pledge of £50 to Comic Relief. In return for what? Well here’s the story.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know there is one new car that I really hate. Some say hate is a strong word, but in this case it’s just not strong enough. It is the worst car I have ever seen and I mean EVER! It is ugly and pointless. What is the car? It is the new Nissan Juke.
I mentioned Comic Relief on Twitter this week and the new twitrelief thing where people bid to have a celebrity follow them on the popular social networking site. I had a reply one follower, @OldGrumpyTroll said he would give me £5 to the charity if I drove a Nissan Juke. My response was that I’d pay more not to drive one. That £5 was upped to £25, but I still didn’t want to. However, with the £25 doubling to £50, I couldn’t refuse. To me and a lot of others £50 is a lot of money and would go a long way to help Comic Relief.
So, with a call to Glynn Hopkin, the Nissan Dealers in Colchester they agreed to let me drive the motorised monstrosity. What’s more, I need to put up a photo of me behind the wheel as my Twitter and Facebook profile picture for 90 days. Photos and a Video will be taken for evidence.
So as one person has been so kind as to donate a large sum for me to do this, I have set up a comic relief donation page for anyone else who would like to chip in. Now I know some may not be convinced by donating towards me driving a car so I will be making it worthwhile to anyone who does donate. If you donate even just £1 on my page towards Comic Relief then you will be in with a chance of winning a framed A3 sized motorsport print of your choice from my collections. You can’t say fairer than that surely? A pound to a very good cause and the print could be yours. When the final total has been reach I will also be donating to round the figure up to the nearest £10.
So please support a great charity by donating anything you can and feel good that you are helping such a good cause. You can visit my Juke Challenge page here.
On a final note, Today we have all seen the devastating pictures from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and my thoughts are with those who have been caught up in this and affected by it in anyway.
As I write this blog entry, I ought to add a disclaimer before you read on. The views on the following topic are solely my own and whilst I do not wish to upset readers, I sincerely hope you appreciate my opinion, do not take anything personally and except I am not discriminating against anyone.
Insurance has hit the news twice recently as you may well know and I just wanted to put my opinion on the matter forward as they are both issues I feel strongly about.
The first matter is that of the EU wanting to make it illegal to discriminate against your sex when it comes to insuring your car. This has caused a lot of discussion and an obvious divide on opinions. Obviously as a male this has come a bit late to have any effect on me but I would like to raise a few matters. Yes, the stats state that more men have accidents than women. No, the stats don’t take into account the fact that there are more men on the roads than women so there is a higher chance of an accident involving a male than a female. Secondly, young women have been very vocal in their disgust of this issue as it means they will have to pay more.
Let’s have a think about this. Women have always fought for equal rights, they do not want to be discriminated against or treated differently to men and rightly so. This is only fair and I have been bought up to respect this and treat all people as equal. So why are they happy for a young man to be discriminated against because of his sex? Women also moan about the increase in retirement age. It is still less than that of a male despite a female having a higher life expectancy. Surely there retirement age should be the same at the very least. That’s only fair right?
Back on topic, Yes, there are boy racers out there but there are also girl racers. Yes there are some young lads who drive like idiots and have accidents but there are also young women who drive like it, but why should all young lads be tarred with the same brush? Instead of causing arguments between men and women about who is or isn’t the best driver the onus has to be put with the insurance company. I have heard young women on the radio and TV lately stating that it’s not fair because I have never made a claim and I am good driver so why should I be punished. There are young men who have never made a claim too you know, and does not making a claim make you a good driver? If you have not made a claim then the insurance company should be rewarding you with no claims discounts. This should help you keep your insurance down. I say should as last year I protected my no claims discount, however my insurance still went up this year. So instead of arguing and complaining it’s not fair, put that energy into something that would be more beneficial. Shop around for your insurance. If you are not happy with the premiums or the way you are being treated by your company look elsewhere for your insurance. These companies want you to be their customer so tell them if you want a better deal and you’ll go elsewhere otherwise. The companies will soon be battling out for your custom.
The second matter regarding Insurance in the news is the Government’s new initiative is to fine uninsured drivers £100 if caught, then confiscate the car if you are caught a second time. This makes me very angry. Is this really a deterrent for uninsured drivers? These people are the reason insurance is so high in the first place. They don’t care if they crash into someone leaving the victim to pay the price and they don’t care if their car gets taken away as they can get another one for a few hundred pounds.
Now unlike the previous insurance topic above, this really is not fair! I have had to pay thousands and thousands of pounds on my insurance in my 10 years of driving, mostly to cover the cost of these selfish people who think it’s ok for them to drive without insurance. If they can’t afford the insurance then don’t have a car. I’ve had to go without stuff to be able to pay for my motoring so what makes them think it’s ok not to pay? How would they feel if someone smashed into their car and they had to foot the bill because the culprit couldn’t be bothered to pay for their insurance?
A £100 fine is no deterrent as it would probably cost more than that per month in insurance. If it was down to me then the fine should be huge. More than the cost of a year’s Insurance, so at least £5,000 plus a driving ban on top of that. Having no insurance is dangerous and irresponsible and should be really stamped out. The police need to do more to sniff out the uninsured and the punishments should be exactly that, a punishment. That way motoring will become fairer and insurance premiums should drop.
So there, I’ve said it and got it off my chest, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Am I the only one who feels this way about both issues? Feel free to leave a comment.