Last weekend saw the last race of the year on my hectic 2012 calendar, the Britcar production cup night race at Brands Hatch. Despite the miserable weather, it was a good day and a great race. However there was one part of the day that left me somewhat disappointed. It was announced that there would be no Britcar 24hr race next season.
The UK has a thriving motorsport scene and is probably the hub of motorsport technology. Lots of F1 teams are based in the UK, there are superb championships such as British GT, Formula 3, and British Touring Cars going all the way down to well entered grass roots level. The UK is also home to some great circuits such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Yet next year there will be no 24 hour endurance race in Britain.
There are successful 24 hour races held across the globe, which are always well attended. Obviously the likes of Le Mans and Daytona 24 hour are massive events and so too is the Nurburgring 24. But races in Belgium, Dubai and Spain are also becoming increasingly popular. Endurance racing has a huge following of hardcore racing fans across the globe and also within the UK. There are thousands who make the trip across the Channel to Le Mans or Nurburgring each year to get their much needed fix of live 24hr racing. So why, when the UK is such a big player in the word of Motorsport can we not host a popular and well supported 24 hour race?
Without going into details, I understand costs and budgets have a huge influence on the demise of the Britcar race, but fields have been in decline and with less than 30 cars taking part in this year’s race, it was, to be more than fair, a poor turnout. It also felt like the spectator numbers had also taken a nose dive too compared to previous years. But even when the field was 60-70 strong, the crowd numbers still, personally speaking, seemed somewhat disappointing. Maybe more could have been done to advertise the event, maybe more could be done to create awareness of the series as a whole, or maybe the lack of big European teams and well known drivers that enter the other 24hr races doesn’t generate interest. Perhaps Top Gear could come back and have another stab at racing round the clock.
I know it’s hard to organise a high profile event and it takes a long time to but create a quality race that attracts big names and manufacturers, but sure the UK deserves something of that scale? Ok, so the UK circuits probably don’t have the charm that the likes of la Sarthe, Spa or the Nurburgring Nordschleife but it’s not that that’s causing the stumbling block. It needs a backing from a good motorsport organisation. Whilst I really like the Britcar race series, would they ever be able to take their 24hr race to the next level? Recent years suggest not. I know the likes of the SRO already organise the Spa 24hr race as well as a number of superbly run and supported race series including the British GT that is continually getting stronger and stronger, more high profile and increasingly well supported and entered. So with a series of this nature running in Britain that already has the rest of Europe standing up and taking note, maybe there is still chance of a top 24 hour race in the UK becoming a regular feature that will get fans not just across Britain in attendance, but fans across Europe too.
The baton has been dropped and is in need of some steady hands to pick it up. Or maybe, there are just too many 24 hour races already?
Finally, if you are a fan of endurance and GT racing, then there are still a few remaining copies of my limited edition 2013 A3 calendar available, featuring images from the Nurburgring 24, British GT, GT Open, FIA GT1 and WEC. Also you will receive a free A4 mounted print with every copy ordered. Just visit my website here for more details. Also, a range of prints from the race events I have covered this year are also available to purchase and would make an ideal gift for any petrol head and motorsport fan this Christmas.
As you will all be aware, there was a Formula One Grand Prix in Valencia at the weekend. You will also all be aware that Sebastian Vettel won it after leading from start to finish. You will be aware of this because it was plastered all over the back pages of the national newspapers and widely reported on the news.
However, some of you may not have been aware that in Germany, there was a fantastic motorsport event taking place on the world famous Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. It was the fantastic Nurburgring 24 hour race and probably the second best 24 hour race behind Le Mans. You may not have realised this as there has been precisely no media coverage. I even looked on the Autosport website today and there is nothing on there. Just pages and pages of guff on Formula One.
220 cars in over 20 classes took to the picturesque and challenging 25km circuit to do battle in a fantastic encounter. A whole variety of cars took part from the front running Mercedes AMG SLS GT3’s, Audi R8’s and Porsche 911’s to Volkswagen Golf R32’s and Scirocco’s, Seat Leon Supacopa’s, Renault Clio’s and even the new Mini Coupe. Many great racing drivers were taking part, including the likes of Johnny Herbert, Mark Blundell, Alex Wurz and the queen of the Nurburgring Sabine Schmitz.
Thankfully the race was streamed live on the internet and so was commentary from radio le mans so I could watch the great race unfold. Throughout Saturday afternoon and evening there were numerous lead changes between the front running Mercedes, BMW’s, Audi’s and even a Ferrari. Unfortunately due to other commitments I couldn’t watch that late into the night and Sunday morning, but the coverage I did see was very good considering. We all know that Le Mans hardly got any coverage at all in the media and if it were not for the huge Allan McNish crash then there would have been even less. There was a similar crash at the Nurburbring, maybe not as dramatic but as one of the front running Need For Speed BMW Z4’s came to lap one of the many numerous back markers, slight contact was made sending the BMW off track into and over the barrier and coming to rest upside down. Thankfully the driver was ok.
As the formula one Valencia bore-fest was taking place there was still all to fight for in the closing stages of the 24 hour race with a few cars still in contention. A remarkable feat for an endurance race on such a demanding and unforgiving circuit. At the end however it was the number 18 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Marc Lieb, Lucas Luhr, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas who took the win with the BMW M3 GT of Jorg Muller, Augusto Farfus, Uwe Alzen and Pedro Lamy just a few minutes behind and the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Basseng, Marcel Fassler, Andrea Piccini and Frank Stippler.
As much as a great race it was you’ll probably have to take my word for it because you’ll do well to find a race report. No doubt the next issue of Autosport will be rammed with pages and pages of Formula One and the uneventful race in Spain whilst a decent report on the Nurburgring 24 hour race will undoubtedly be lacking. Please media, do us a favour and give GT endurance racing the coverage it deserves. Many people, (remarkably F1 fans included) are of the opinion that endurance racing is boring. After an extremely close Le Mans and an epic Nurburgring 24 hour race in the space of 2 weeks, I can assure you it is not.