As mentioned in my blog about this year’s Autosport Show, good friend of mine Nick Underwood of Tin Tops Uk took part in the Charity Kart race. I thought this would be a great opportunity for Nick to share his experience and invited him to write a guest blog for Trackside Views. He duly obliged and here it is:
As I came into the final corner I lifted, turned in and then got back on the power. After advice from my team mates and watching members of Alastair Rushforth Motorsport I was assured this was the quickest way through the corner. The kart behind me (which happened to be ex-Stig Ben Collins) had clearly decided that he was going to be using me as his brakes this lap. The resulting shunt sent me through the barriers and meant than any lingering hopes of a podium where well and truly gone. But there was so much more to my karting adventure which had started a couple of hours before.
The Autosport International show is the start of the UK motorsport year and one of its highlights is the charity kart race run by racing4charity in support of race2recovery. This year tintops.co.uk was lucky enough to have entered Team Tin Tops featuring top BTCC drivers Gordon Sheddon, Dave Newsham, Andy Neate, Ali Rushforth and Neb Bursac. We were competing against 20 other teams with drivers of the calibre of David Brabham, Andy Jordan and Michael Lyons. But we were up for the fight and fancied our chances of success. After meeting the team we gathered for the drivers briefing partly done by my soon to be ‘friend’ Ben Collins. When he had taken the drivers briefing he had said it was a ‘no-holds barred’ race and I felt the full force of those words later on. We were called for a team photo, lining up with the BTCC guys was a happy if awkward moment! I’ve never been that comfortable in front of a camera so having 20 odd photographers taking the team photo was the most frightening part of the day! However, with that nonsense over and done with it was onto the serious business of racing.
We had 20 minutes of practice followed by 5 minutes of qualifying. The biggest problem was working out who should do the qualifying! Dave Newsham went out first and was quickly lapping in the low 25s. When he came back in he confirmed what we already thought, there wasn’t much grip on the indoor circuit. I went out in the middle of the session hoping to get a feel for the track and quickly find a rhythm. That plan was quickly deemed useless by a pack of karts coming right up behind me as I left the pits. I lifted for a corner I quickly found out was flat as two karts passed me – thank goodness it was only practice. I blindly found my way round the rest of the track and on the longest straight I allowed the pack to pass, hoping to hang onto their exhaust pipes. I did my best to keep up then peeled into the pits to end my practice. We decided that Gordon should go last, doing our qualifying laps. At one point we were up to third and the team was rocking, although rather like a bad movie plot at this point the public timing screen went down. When the screen eventually came back up where in 11th, there was talk of us being punished for some ‘unknown reason’. Whatever – we were happy in the middle of the grid and with ‘Flash’ in the driving seat we knew things could only get better. Or so we thought.
21 karts on a small indoor circuit sounds like a recipe for carnage and it was. Considering touring car drivers have a reputation for panel bashing and general aggression our boys where very clean, quick and well behaved. One thing that struck me was how fast our BTCC stars were. Karts strip away all the BS with no driver aids, turbos or other nonsense. A lot of the other racers were single seater racers and the BTCC drivers where more than a match for them. Despite the race being for charity racing drivers are massively competitive and sometimes the mark was over stepped. The turn into the pit straight was a possible flat, possible lift corner. Many people decided to go with the flat option early in the race not taking into account the lack of grip. The pit wall was hit on practically every lap, on some occasions harder than others. The biggest incident came when 5 karts decided they all wanted the apex at the same time. How no racers or karts where damaged is beyond me. Watching all this was an interesting way to prepare for my turn, as if I wasn’t nervous enough about being quick there were people trying to remodel the circuit!
But my turn did come, the rest of the team had done a great job and before the kart was brought in for my time we were running in 5th. Straight from the off I was in the thick of it and battling with karts in front for position. Every lap felt quicker and I was growing in confidence, I’m told my lap times where around 25/26s. Then came the fateful moment, coming into the final bend I lifted, turned into the apex and felt a huge shunt from behind. There was no life flashing before my eyes moment, all I can remember is breaking through the barriers on the inside of the corner and seeing all the karts behind me overtaking me. That was it – podium chance gone. It felt like an eternity until the marshals pointed me back in the right direction, I must have been overtaken by every kart in the race whilst I was stranded and screaming and shouting inside my helmet at the marshals didn’t help.
When I was put back on the track I think I was actually quicker than before I was shunted off, I overtook a few people and had a good battle with those who were trying to get round me. I was flagged in as my time was up and swapped for Ali Rushforth. Ali brought Team Tin Tops home in 10th.
I didn’t do anything to give the pro’s sleepless nights but I didn’t embarrass myself either. Something that struck me after I’d gotten out of the kart was how easy the pro’s make it look. When I was out on the track I felt like I was constantly battling to keep it pointing in the right direction, the pro’s always looked in control. That’s the difference between an enthusiastic amateur and a true racer – making it look easy and still being quick.
Team Tin Tops was by far the best supported team in the race and so I’d like to thank Matt Rushforth, Jay Mooney, Simon Wilson, Tony Rushforth, Pam + Keith Underwood, my wife Gina, Tony Hurcombe and tracksideviews main man Chris Gurton.
The Autosport International Show is the first sign that the motorsport season is heading towards us. With driver announcements, new car unveilings and teams setting out their plans for the year ahead, it is a good place for media to get the inside track on what to expect this year and the public’s chance to see new cars and drivers and to get excited about the 2012 season.
I headed to the NEC in Birmingham on Thursday to catch up with friends, colleagues and acquaintances and to set out plans for the coming season. There was certainly plenty to see and keep me busy so much so that I didn’t get a chance to see everything. After signing in and chatting to a few good friends from BTCCCrazy and BTCCBlogs it was time to head to the JRM stand for the unveiling of their new car.
The car that was to be announced was their new Nissan GT-R GT3 car which had already been seen in action as a three race development programme had seen it compete last year including at the Blancpain race at Silverstone in October. Sporting a new Red and Black paint job and a few slight aerodynamic tweaks, the car looked fantastic. With the announcement that the Nissan GT-R will be available to buy I hope to see a few on track this season.
The next announcement came in the form of a new Driver. The AMD Milltek BTCC team had lined up their new driver announcement for the show and Shaun Hollamby unveiled Ollie Jackson as their new driver to mount a charge on this seasons British Touring Car Championship. Ollie drove last season in the British GT Championship in the Lotus Evora GT4 alongside Phil Glew as well as a couple of races in the BTCC at the end of last year so it seems like a good acquisition for a team who are targeting top 10 finishes this year.
After taking a few photos of Ollie on the Pipercross stand, it was off to the Sunoco press conference to hear about the Sunoco Challenge and how Felipe Nasr and Aaron Steele were getting on with their preparations for the Daytona 24 hour race and Grand Am Challenge respectively. It seemed that the pair were taking to it like a Duck to water during the practice days recently, especially Nasr who was setting some incredibly fast times which had regular Daytona 24 hour drivers slightly nervous. It was also good to hear from Mark Blundell during the conference and his take on it all. The challenge, setup by Sunoco, offers a great opportunity for the winning drivers to experience racing in America and help them gain exposure. We all know it is hard for racing drivers to secure drives and sponsorship deals and by being given the opportunity to race at Daytona can open up new avenues in their career’s so it is great to see Sunoco provide this.
Before a meeting to discuss plans with the guys at Britcar, there was time to have a look around the show for a bit. There is certainly plenty to see, from classic rally and race cars, the Ayrton Senna display with a collection of his race cars on show, the new Drayson Racing electric powered LMP car and a number of trade stands to keep everyone busy and entertained. Again this year Ian Cook (Pop Bang Colour) was there on his hands and knees painting some more incredible cars in his unique style. It was good to catch up with him and to see him paint the 1982 Jacky Ickx & Derek Bell Porsche 956. It is one of my favourite ever race cars and the car that won Le Mans the year I was born so I think I will be treating myself to a copy for my 30th birthday later this year. The finished painting is stunning and would look great on my wall.
Having had a productive meeting with Britcar, myself and James were invited for a coffee at the Sunoco stand where it was nice to catch up with Louise who does a lot of their PR during race weekends. Whilst I was sitting down I glanced over to the Corbeau Race Seats stand next to us and my attention was grabbed by an image of the Team Lotus GT4 Evora from the British GT on the back wall. I instantly recognised it as my photo. This was somewhat surprising as it was the first time I knew of it being used. Despite this, it was good to see it up there.
Before heading over to the Charity Karting Race, I bumped into Becki Mitchell who was there working for Radio Silverstone and Kevin McGlone of Red Square Images. It was great to catch up with them both and hopefully will be able to catch up with them again at various times this season. If all goes to plan I’ll be off to the Nurburgring in May for the British GT and 24hr race with Kevin.
As it got late in the afternoon, the Karting Race was due to start and with my friend Nick from Tin Tops UK in a team with Alistair Rushforth, Dave Newsham, Andy Neate & Gordon Sheddon, I went to watch and give him some support. There was a lot of driver talent on show and it was good to see them all fighting it out in the karts. Nick will be writing a guest blog for Trackside Views about his experience so look out for that soon.
As the race came to an end and the NEC started to close its doors, it was time to head home with renewed optimism and excitement for the oncoming season. I can’t wait to back out with my camera and for all the motorsport championships to start up again. However, it will be sooner than I expected for me this year as I will be at Brands Hatch for the Brands Hatch Stages Rally next weekend. I will of course be bringing you news and photos from that in due course.
Many of you will know that I was fortunate enough to be part of the crew for Andy Rowe and Cat Lund at last year’s Mull Rally. It was a fantastic experience and despite the disappointing result, I had a really great time. With this in mind, I thought I would share with you my latest report for TheCheckeredFlag.
Head of Operations at Rockingham Motor Speedway, Cat Lund, has been nominated for the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club (BWRDC) Gold Star Club award for the second year running. Cat, who won the prestigious award last year after her double rally championship winning campaign in 2010 will be up against fellow BWRDC members Sarah Franklin, Lorraine Gathercole, Gail Hill, Jo Hodgson and Louise Inch for the coveted prize.
Along with Driver Andy Rowe in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III, Cat took both the Flanders International Rally Challenge (FIRC) and BWRDC Rally Co-Driver champion in 2010 and retained the FIRC title for the second year running in 2011. This year the pair and their crew hope to make it three in a row as they enter a new Evo III, having retired the previous one after 24 events with it, starting at the ORC Canal Rally in Oostrozebeke, West Flanders in May.
Cat who joined the team at Rockingham in 2007 said “Winning the award last year was a real surprise and it was extremely gratifying to see rallying recognized in this way. As the Goldstars Club Award winner, the BWRDC were a great source of advice and inspiration throughout 2011.” She then continued, “It would be fantastic to win for a second time, especially in such an important year for the BWRDC but there are some other extremely deserving members nominated for the award, so I do not expect to win.”
John Surtees OBE, the only man to win World Championships on both two wheels and four will be presenting the award during a ceremony that will take place on Friday January 13th at the Autosport International Show. The presentation will commence at 11am on the Motor Sport Association (MSA) stand where visitors are welcome to attend.
The GoldStars are the BWRDC’s way of bringing the attention to talent within motorsport and help the winners to promote and progress their careers. The winner will receive a generous package of sponsors products, special BWRDC Goldstars stickers for their competition car, a dedicated webpage at www.bwrdc-goldstars.co.uk to help attract potential sponsors and mentoring from international dual sportswoman and broadcaster Liz Halliday who added, “I have been very impressed with how well Cat has done in 2011. She has clearly embraced her GoldStar status as she and her rally driver partner have successfully taken the FIRC championship for another year running! It’s fantastic to see so many of the GoldStars winners continue to have great success, and that says to me this award helps to inspire these women to work even harder to achieve their goals.”
So, with the Autosport International Show starting this week, those of you who are heading there on Friday, why not head to the MSA stand and show your support. I know it would be greatly appreciated by all.
Yesterday was my first visit to the Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham, and despite the 5 am start and the 290mile round trip, I was not disappointed.
It was a great way to kick off the new year of motorsport and also great to catch up with the guys from TheCheckeredFlag, BTCCCrazy and BTCCBlogs. It was also great to catch up with Ian Cook of Pop Bang Colour. For those of you who dont know about him, he creates stunning paintings of cars using wheels, tyres, remote control cars and even real racing cars as paint brushes. Ian is painting throughout the weekend and is streaming himself at work so you can see what he’s up to. Its seems like an age since I was behind the camera shooting cars.There was so much to see and cram into just a single day and with hindsight I should have perhaps spent 2 days there and booked a cheap hotel for the night.
One of the highlights of the day was the unveiling of the new Renault Lotus livery. A nod to the days of old, when a young Brazilian in the form of Ayrton Senna took to the wheel of a Black and Gold John Player Sponsored Lotus, as the iconic colour scheme returns. Other unveilings included a new offering from Caterham, certainly something a bit different from them, a new Radical sports car, and the rebranded British F3 series. I was however a little disappointed that the new Ginetta G55 car was on the stand minus the body work as I was looking forward to see what the final product would look like.
I took a few moments to stare in awe at the cars on offer at the Coys auction whilst there with some magnificent cars for sale, including an immaculate E-Type Jag, Ford Escort Mk 1, Ferrari’s Porsches and my favourite on offer, a Martini Liveried Lancia Delta Integrale Rally car.
As well as the new cars, racing cars, trade stands and motorsport products on show, there was also the live action arena to visit. On show was a variety of motorsport action including Grass track and Rally cross racing, Stunt driving and the Nissan GT-R. After this action, later in the afternoon was a Charity Carting race in support of the Starlight Foundation. Lots of Big name, and lesser known drivers along with some members of the public who had paid for the privilege of taking part, did battle in a team event Karting challenge. The likes of David Brabbham, Emanuelle Pirro, Paul Drayson, Matt Neal and Gordon Sheddon battled hard against each other for race winning honours.
It certainly was a great day and if you are heading there this weekend, I hope you have a great time. If not, then perhaps you will consider going next year. In the meantime, there are some more photos on my Flickr account, so why not have a look here and feel free to add me as a contact if you also have a Flickr account.