With the bank holiday weekend ahead of us, it is that time when we all think of what we are going to do to fill the weekend. Thankfully for Motorsport fans and Petrolheads alike, this weekend has a lot to offer. Not only is there British Touring Car action at Thruxton and British GT at Rockingham as well as other club events around the country but on Saturday, there is something a little different you may be interested in checking out.
The Inaugural Warren Classic and Concours will be taking place on the 4th of May at The Warren Golf and Country club in Woodham Walther, near Chelmsford in Essex. On display at the 350 acre estate will be a unique collection of historic and supercars giving visitors the opportunity to get a closer look at some of the most beautiful cars in the world. If that wasn’t enough, the complete Le Mans Jaguar XJR works team will be present along with entertainment such as live music, games, an air display from the ex Red Arrows display team ‘The Blades’ sponsored by HastingsDirect and the chance to win a Mercedes Benz worth £30,000.
The Warren Classic & Supercar Family Experience will also be hosting the 2013 Warren Concours. Showing off a stunning array of Classic cars spanning ten decades of impressive automotive history for all the family young and old to drool over.
But if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, also in attendance will be British Formula One Star Max Chilton and a Marussia Racing Car. “I’m really looking forward to meeting visitors to The Warren Classic and Supercar Family Experience.” Says Max, “The event provides an excellent opportunity for families and car enthusiasts to see a wide selection of the worlds most magnificent automobiles. Both Classic and Supercars will be well represented and, given the Warrens setting, it should be a fantastic day!”
The Warren Golf & Country Club Managing Director, Tony Stanton, said: “It is a fantastic coup for The Warren to get both Max and Marussia along to the event along with the Le Mans XJR works team. These additions, alongside the selection of world-class cars and entertainment, only make for a more spectacular day!”
So if you fancy taking the opportunity to see this fantastic event in its debut year then here’s the details: Parking is free and public entry on the day is from 10.30am, with tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children aged 5-16 and £25 for a family of four. Entry for classic car owners is from 7.30am and priced at £20.00 per car with parking in a dedicated area on a first come basis, plus an invitation to enter a novel ‘Car Park Concours’.
With the 12 hours of Sebring having taken place, the first two rounds of the Formula One world championship and round one of the World Touring Car Championship having passed, the motorsport season is well underway. That means my winter break is also over and this Easter weekend I’ll be back trackside and behind the camera.
Usually I’ve normally got my first round of the year under my belt by now but the wait will no doubt be worth it. I’ll be heading up to Oulton Park for round one of the British GT championship and I cannot wait. I’ve never been to Oulton Park before so I am looking forward to experiencing a new circuit. I missed last year’s round due to other commitments but the heavy rain the experienced there meant I wasn’t too disappointed. Bizarrely it seems to be snow that might cause trouble at the weekend and thermals will be going in the bag with me.
A huge field of gorgeous cars are set to take to the grid this Easter weekend for two 1 hour races at the Cheshire circuit and I’m really looking forward to seeing and photographing them in action. I just hope I haven’t forgotten how to do it, although it’s questionable if I did in the first place! With the track action taking place on the Saturday and the Monday rather than the usual Saturday and Sunday, it will be a long weekend, but it will definitely be a fun and exciting one. I’ll hopefully posting photos on my twitter account – @ChrisGurton and my facebook page over the weekend as well as providing images for The Checkered Flag, so feel free to give me a ‘follow’ or a ‘like’ to keep up to date.
Whilst some head to Cheshire for their racing fix, many will be heading to Kent this weekend as the first round of the British Touring Car Championship takes place at Brands Hatch. Like the British GT, a large field is expected for the BTCC even though a couple of teams have opted out of the first round. 2009 Champion Colin Turkington makes his return to the series in a rather nice looking BMW 1 Series with West Surrey Racing, the team with whom he won his title. I was surprised at how nice the new 1 series looks, although I’m still unsure on the livery. The BTCC media day stirred up a lot of excitement last week and I know the faithful army of fans are chomping at the bit to see them back in action. Let’s hope there are no controversies to kick off the new season and hopefully driving standards will be improved.
On the subject of controversy, I can’t help but mention the Malaysian Grand Prix. Formula One is the biggest motorsport series on the planet which grabs the attention of millions worldwide. Round one in Australia proved to be a good one with seven different leading drivers during the race. Then, the dreaded team orders come into play in Malaysia. Surely round two is a bit early for team orders? Fans want to see racing not a parade of cars that aren’t allowed to overtake because there might be a risk of crashing. All motorsport has risk and that’s probably why so many enjoy it and take part in it. Surely team orders spoils it for the fans, without whom, the sport would be nothing.
I like Mark Webber a lot, he comes across as the complete professional and he’s one of my favourite drivers. He defended his lead superbly and fairly, but it was clear to see Sebastian Vettel was quicker. So why were the team against him overtaking for the lead? Why did they want him to just sit behind him for the remainder of the race? That isn’t what the fans want to see. The Mercedes team proved this point by making Nico Rosberg stay behind Lewis Hamilton despite being faster. Even Lewis himself admitted it wasn’t the way he wanted to achieve his podium finish. I don’t care if there is a chance that contact might be made between two team mates. I want to see racing. These guys are at the pinnacle of the sport through skill and talent. Or maybe some huge financial backing. They should be able to battle it out for honour and pride regardless of what car the other guy is in.
Team orders can ruin motorsport. I can understand towards the end of the season you want to protect your lead drivers chance of championship glory, but with 17 rounds still to go? Let drivers do battle and give the paying fans what they want. If this is going to become a regular occurrence in Formula one, I won’t be giving it much attention in the future. Match fixing is illegal in sport, surely what Red Bull were trying to do was to fix the race result. I can’t blame Vettel for wanting to race. That’s what he’s paid to do after all. Personally, I’d like to see the FIA step in and put a stop to such blatant team orders, again, for the good of the sport and the fans.
It seems that recently some local residents to Mallory Park race circuit have become annoyed and are taking action against the circuit. The reason for their annoyance? Noise.
Yes, that’s right. These morons bought a house near a motor racing circuit and are complaining it is noisy. They now want the circuit to cut the amount of times it is used and impose further noise restrictions. The owner has stated that any further cuts in usage of the circuit will deem the circuit unprofitable and not worth running. An option to sell the circuit for housing is tabled as an alternative if the circuit was to be sold.
The most annoying thing is, what kind of moron buys a house by a race track and then complains it is noisy? Do people buy houses next to Airports, Motorways & Railway lines and then demand the council put a restriction on their usage because they don’t like the noise? I’m sorry, but if you by a house in a noisy area, it is your own fault. Don’t go complaining and ruining other peoples enjoyment of something they love. Just move somewhere else. After all, there are many race fans who’d love a house next to a circuit.
Most of you will know that all race circuits in the UK have to adhere to strict rules and regulations imposed by local authorities regarding usage and noise levels. Curfews are put in place, some race cars have to have silencers fitted to bring them within the noise level set for a race meeting and the likes of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop can only be used a certain number of times per year. All this is usually because a load of moaning residents don’t like race tracks to be noisy. Ironically, even Donington Park has curfews and noise limits and that is right next to the East Midlands Airport.
Most of the circuits in this country have been in place for many years. Long before these residents even moved to the areas. Racing on the whole, in past decades was a lot noisier than it is these days too. Some circuits like Silverstone, Goodwood and Snetterton were built on the site of old airfields, which, when in use, would have been noisy too. I really don’t understand the mentality of some people. Do people buy houses next to football stadiums and then phone up the council when the home team scores a goal because the crowd are being too loud? If you ask me, the noise restrictions in place at many circuits already spoil motor racing. I want the cars to be loud. I want to hear engines rumble or scream. In fact, I would love to live in one of the houses that back on to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Loop and I would be more than happy for it to be used every weekend so I find it unlikely that these factors would de-value a property as there are many other petrol heads like me who would love that.
What’s more, is that these killjoy NIMBY types don’t think of the bigger picture. These circuits bring a vital boost to the local economy. Not only do they provide jobs, but local Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Pubs, Restaurants, Shops and Business’ all benefit. Thousands of fans flock to race meetings each weekend, many, along with teams, drivers, mechanics and even media such as myself, will often want somewhere local to stay, eat and drink. I often book myself into a local B&B or Hotel and eaten in the Pubs or Restaurants nearby and I have seen teams and fans alike do the same. Yes, some race weekends are bigger that others, but they all help. I’ve tried to book somewhere to stay overnight for some race weekends only to find that every hotel or guesthouse in the vicinity is fully booked. Think about the impact it would have on many people if a circuit was to close down.
A fine example, albeit on a grander scale, is the Isle of Man. Just think of how many tourism business would cease to exist if it wasn’t for the TT and the Rally. The locals embrace it and let’s face it, most have to in order to make a living. And how about LeMans? How many people would even know where that town was, let alone visit if it wasn’t for the 24 hour race? I can imagine tourism, due to motorsport, is one of the biggest sources of income for both these places.
You can’t tell me local businesses in Silverstone Village and the surrounding area would be thriving if the circuit wasn’t there and I imagine takings in the local guesthouses and eating and drinking establishments during the Formula One or Moto GP weekends are sky high! Some places probably even rely on the trade the circuits bring in and if the circuit was to close down so would they. Surely no one wants to see that happening. So it is much more than just a case of a noisy circuit being forced to close and sold off for housing development.
Whilst I appreciate talks over the future of Mallory Park is in the early stages, I sincerely hope that the Circuit does not fall foul of a few moronic locals who should just move away if they don’t like it rather than spoil other people’s enjoyment of something they love. We can’t lose Mallory Park and I hope sense will prevail. Otherwise who knows what the consequences will be for other Circuits and the sport we love.
Save Mallory Park.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me so as I sit down to write this blog it seems like the topic was a long time ago now. However, I couldn’t let it pass without me writing about how great the Silverstone Classic was this year.
It is always a highlight of my year and this year was no exception. I have a fondness for classic cars and it is great to see so many of these awesome machines from my childhood and well before, doing what they were designed to do. Race. This year’s event saw the addition of a new race category for Touring cars from 1970-2000. This was to be a hugely popular race with the spectators and the addition of current BTCC favourite, Frank Wrathall to the field in a 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier enticed support even more.
For me, the headline race was the Saturday evening Group C race into dusk. I love the awesome 1980’s Le Mans cars and there was an awesome array of Group C and C2 cars taking part. A favourite had to be the Jagermeister Porsche 962. An Iconic car of the time in an iconic livery. A Peugeot 905 with Nicolas Minassian at the wheel on the entry list was also of huge significance. Sadly, despite qualifying second on the Friday, the car was not to take to the track for either of the two races during the weekend. A bitter blow to many, but Minassian was to take to the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit for Sunday’s race in one of the three Lancia LC2’s.
Another popular race was the Grand Prix Masters race for formula one cars of the 70’s & 80’s featuring cars such as McLaren M26’s, Arrows A4’s and Williams FW07’s. Remarkably this race was to be the first ever to feature two six wheeled formula one cars. A Tyrell P34 and a March 2-4-0 were to take part much to many people’s delight.
With 13 races on the Saturday and a further 11 on the Sunday there was plenty of on track action to keep the crowed entertained and the high quality and close racing in some of the world’s most beautiful, recognisable and valuable cars, whether it classic GT’s or pre 1956 sports cars or even pre 1961 front engined Grand Prix cars along with many well known drivers past and present, there was something for every motorsport fan young and old.
As if all the on track action wasn’t enough, the many thousands of cars on display from various car clubs was magnificent to see. Cars from Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, AC Cobras even a bselection of Lancia Delta’s. This year’s Silverstone Classic celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40. One of the world’s most recognizable super cars and the stuff of fantasy for every boy, like myself, who grew up in the 80’s. To mark this occasion, a parade of F40’s took to the track on Sunday setting a record for the most Ferrari F40’s on track together at the same time. There were over 60 in total from all over the world and what a brilliant sight they were under the hot sun. An experience I will not forget in a hurry.
There were trade stands a plenty for you to spend your money and activities for all ages to keep the whole family occupied. The Sun came out to make up for the wet Friday and the weekend was another fantastic event. The Silverstone Classic goes from strength to strength and I am already looking forward to next year’s event. If you haven’t been, then I would highly recommend it. You won’t leave disappointed.
I havent got round to sorting all my photos from the weekend yet, but you can see some Group C ones here. Also, If you like the Chris Gurton Photography page on Facebook, you will be updated when new galleries will be added.
I was hoping my latest blog would be along very different lines than this, however, unfortunately I find myself writing down my thoughts about recent events.
You will all have heard about the accident at Duxford Airfield this week involving the Marussia Formula One team and their test driver Maria de Villota, who was taking part in her first test session for them. Unfortunately a collision between the car and a team lorry occurred and Maria was rushed to hospital to receive treatment for her injuries.
Details of the accident were and still are somewhat sketchy, as were the circumstances involved. Added to the fact a number of different views were passed around as to what may of happened or what may have caused the incident and the full details still aren’t fully clear. Despite this, sadly, a number of sexist comments were to appear soon after the event across social media sites about women drivers and their place within motorsport. All in poor taste especially as Maria’s condition was clearly still ‘Critical’.
Maria is a very capable and experienced racing driver and has proved her ability at a number of levels. The breakthrough into her role as test driver for a current Formula One team was and is a big step forward in seeing the return of a female racing driver at the highest level of the sport. This is something that all motorsport fans should be excited about, male or female. Although a number of female racing drivers compete successfully throughout motorsport at all variety of levels, it will probably only be until a female makes a return to the world stage of Formula One, that the majority will start to take notice. Desire Wilson was and is an Icon and a role model for women breaking into the sport for what she has achieved at the top levels and hopefully soon someone else will pick up that baton and perhaps go even further. Along with it, putting the un-called for sexist remarks of the mindless minority to rest.
Having been fortunate enough to have seen Maria in action and to have met her, I can say that her endearing friendliness and personality along with her ability behind the wheel is a great asset to the sport. So it is with sadness that news has emerged that she has lost her right eye. This will more than likely put an end to her Formula One aspirations. Despite this I wish her a speedy recovery and hope this will not put an end to her racing career. I’m sure her determination will spur her on despite this setback. Lord Drayson is proof that you can still race at a high level despite the loss of sight from one eye and no doubt, Maria will continue to inspire many for years to come.
Female racing drivers such as Alice Powell, Pippa Mann & Sabine Schmitz have all proven themselves against their Male counterparts and are all valuable additions to the sport despite having to overcome unnecessary pressure because of their sex. There is no place sexism in a world of equal opportunities and the addition of more females to motorsport will only improve the sport attracting more fans, support and backing to a male dominated arena.
So to the mindless few I refer, rather than criticise and abuse unnecessarily, step out of the dark ages and welcome new additions to the motorsport family and offer the encouragement and support they deserve. After all, it’s for the good of the sport we all love so dear.
With some big racing event going on over the weekend such as the Formula 1 in Valencia, the British Touring Cars at Croft and the British GT and F3 Championship at Brands Hatch, it was a good weekend for motorsport fans. However, my attention was bought to something that was not only disturbing, but concerned me greatly and made me question the mentality of some so called motorsport fans.
Whilst in the media room at Brands Hatch during some down time between races, I switched on the live streaming on the internet of the first BTCC race of the day at Croft. As I had the race on my laptop, my colleague had his laptop on running his live twitter feed. He, like me obviously follows a lot of racing fans on his twitter account so the feed was full of racing related tweets either about the F1 or the BTCC.
As the BTCC race got underway, there was a big collision on the start straight between a few cars causing terminal damage to at least two. Just after this, two tweets on the twitter feed to my right caught my attention. I was shocked and appalled. Both were very similar in content, and whist I can’t remember the exact wording of them, they went along the lines of ‘Wow, what a big accident. This is why I love BTCC and this is why it is the best racing series.’
Really? Is this some kind of joke? Do people really want to see big accidents in motorsport? Are these accidents what constitutes as a good racing series? More importantly, with this kind of mentality, can you really call yourself a motorsport fan?
Whilst I appreciate the close racing and contact nature of the BTCC can make it exciting to fans but do the fans want to see huge accidents that put people in danger? Yes, we all know motorsport can be dangerous but baying for accidents is just moronic. There have been a number of high profile deaths within motorsport recently and this is something surely no one wants to see, so to have fans wanting and getting excited by accidents is deeply disturbing. Thankfully the majority of drivers do walk away from big impacts unscathed, but not everyone is that lucky. My last blog touched on the fact that the mainstream media only reported on Le Mans due to Anthony Davidson’s huge crash in which he suffered some potentially career threatening injuries. But maybe the media realise that this is what people want to hear about. I sincerely hope this is not the case.
I’m pretty sure that If I went for a day out with a friend or family member and before leaving I turned and said to them ‘I really hope we have a big accident on the way, it would really make things more exciting’ they would think twice about getting in a car with me and would probably try to get me sectioned under the mental health act. So is it really acceptable to have this mentality when it comes to not only motorsport but any kind of sport?
Racing doesn’t need to have accidents to make it exciting. The British GT race at Brands Hatch proves this and I will be writing about that later in the week. So if you are one of these people who disagrees with this, then may I suggest you take a good look at yourself and stop calling yourself a motorsport fan. Failing that, put down the moonshine and look for another interest. I hear skydiving without a parachute is pretty exhilarating.
During last weekend, one of the world’s greatest sporting events took place. However, many people didn’t even realise that this great event was even taking place. Why? Well because whilst the media were so busy boring everyone to death with excessive coverage of 22 men and one ball, the fact that over 150 men with two balls, made of steel, had descended on a small town in France to take part in a real challenge of attrition had been over looked.
I am of course talking about the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. One of, if not, the greatest motor race in the world. I had hoped to be writing about the amazing race. The return of Toyota and the promise they had shown. The future of the sport with the running of the Nissan Deltawing. Race safety following Anthony Davidsons huge crash. The great battles throughout the strong field and the winners and losers in each category alongside the fact that I genuinely believe that Andre Lotterer could claim Tom Kristensen’s crown as ‘Mr Le Mans’.
Unfortunately one thing really got to me over the weekend and the following few days which I have turned my attention to as it is a subject I feel quite strongly.
The coverage Le Mans got within the British Media was minimal. Many motorsport fans will know there are many websites out there that provide motorsport news as well as magazines like Autosport and Motorsport News are easily accessible. Also, Eurosport need to be applauded for their full coverage throughout the 24 hours, despite the constant advert breaks. However, not everyone has access to sky, including me. I only managed to see what I could by subscribing online. But what about reaching the wider audience? I saw nothing about the race on the BBC News. I was at work over the weekend and whilst there I listen to radio 5 live all morning. They have a half hour slot at 5.30am-6am for a sports round up. There was not mention of the race that was going to take place on Saturday morning and only a brief mention on Sunday morning, which was probably only down to the Anthony Davidson accident. They mention his incident quickly before saying British driver Allan McNish was currently leading the race. At that point, Allan McNish was not leading the race, his number two Audi was actually a lap down on the leading Audi.
I checked the Sunday Times sport supplement. Quite a few pages full of sport. Not a single mention about Le Mans. Nothing. The Monday papers weren’t much better either and if it wasn’t for the huge Davidson crash, then I’m pretty sure there would have been no mention of the race at all. Is this an example of what the public really want to read about? A few paragraphs about a huge accident and one sentence on the winner?
Unfortunately, the refusal of the mainstream media to acknowledge the existence of Motorsport outside of Formula One and Moto GP is having an adverse effect on the sport at all levels. I say Moto GP, because despite what someone told me on twitter, the race at Silverstone over the weekend did actually get a lot of coverage. There was even a section on my local news, Look East, about the upcoming race and again on the Monday after. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk and coverage of the race on 5 live and again, on BBC Radio one, it was mentioned in every half hourly sports bulletin on Monday morning. I am of course not complaining about this. It is of course a good thing, but a quarter of a million fans were at Le Mans and it is deemed not news worthy? Give me a break!
I am a great believer in supporting motorsport from club level upwards and in tough economic times any support is of great benefit. I also believe that the mainstream media have a role to play in this too. The reasons most sports are widely supported is the coverage they get. Football gets a huge amount of coverage on the TV, in the News, the papers and on the radio. This coverage gets people interested, excited and pumped up about the sport. The current European championships is a prime example. The papers are plastered with front page news of the England team and the news coverage is encouraging people to back their country and be proud. The Olympics will of course be the same and so will Wimbledon. Seeing these sports on TV and in the news gets people interested and wanting to see more or get involved.
Football fans seem to have no real issue with forking out three figure sums to see their team play for 90 minutes, but do many Formula one fans who know that the price of tickets to see it live realise they could go and see some of the sports stars of the future for a fraction of the cost for a weekends ticket at your nearest circuit.
ITV have done a great job with their BTCC coverage and since they took over the TV rights, crowds at the circuits have steadily grown and it is being well supported. It shows that the coverage gets people through the gates. But what about other British Race series? The British GT and F3 championships are both top race events with the latter a proving ground for Formula One with many current F1 drivers having raced in the F3 series. Both the GT & F3 get a 25 minute highlights programme at 7am on Saturday mornings on channel 4, but is this really that great? Most people are still in bed then. Below these race series, coverage is pretty much non-existent. Unless you have Sky of course which not everyone else. Motors TV do a great job of covering club events but this channel alone probably isn’t enough for those who don’t have sky to fork out for a full sports package just to get access to it.
We all hear about drivers struggling to scrape together funding and sponsorship, but who is going to sponsor something that just doesn’t get any coverage? It’s a vicious circle. To get the coverage it needs the fans. To get the fans, it needs the coverage. Online media can only do so much. The national media need to step up to the plate. Apparently the BBC have a rally correspondent. How much rally news do you get on the BBC? I also heard they had a reporter at Le Mans. What was his Job? Did he do anything apart from stock up with booze at Calais?
There was a time when the BBC had a lot of Motorsport coverage at weekends including F1, BTCC, Superbikes, Rally, Motocross, Rallycross, Isle of Man TT, Sportscars, Trails and even Hillclimb. What do they have now? Moto GP and F1. They can’t even provide a full season of Live F1 anymore and it looks likely that when their contract runs out they will lose all live F1 coverage all together. So why don’t they start to show a bit of live motorsport from other British race series? The British F3 and GT’s would be a great start. Quality Championships featuring great drivers and stars of the future battling it out in awesome cars. Or how about a couple of Le Mans Highlight shows? Is that even too much to ask? The newspapers need to pull their fingers out too. How about cutting back slightly on the football overkill and dedication just one page to non F1 motorsport? And by that I don’t mean just writing about big crashes!
There are so many motorsport fans crying out for more coverage and so many more still to be reached. There are millions of motorsports fans throughout the world. They just don’t know it yet.
For extensive news and coverage of the Le Mans 24hr race, check out The Checkered Flag Website.
So it is now upon us. The Motorsport season is here after a long winter of waiting. Of course there are some series that have already started, such as the World Touring Car Championships and the British Rally Championships, but for many, the first Formula One race of the season really marks the new season.
With new rules and regulations, new faces, teams and cars on display throughout the various race seasons, there is no doubt 2012 will be a great year filled with action, excitement and controversy. No matter which series is your favourite, who your favourite driver is, and which cars you like best, all motorsport fans long for this time of year to arrive. We’ve had sneak peeks of new cars and liveries, driver announcements and got our heads around any new rule changes and we just want the season to start.
My first race of the season won’t be just yet though. It will be round one of the MSA British Endurance Britcar championships at Silverstone on the 24th of March. A race series I enjoy covering and one that has seen some changes this year. The new production championship will be running alongside the series, and new class categories’ for the endurance races. New teams and cars will be lining up and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the new Bullrun Lotus Evora. With a 90 minute production race and a 3hr Endurance race to take place on the grand prix circuit at Silverstone, it is set to be a good way to kick off my season. If you are keen to get out and watch some great racing then I would recommend heading to the home of motorsport on that Saturday.
For me the start of the new motorsport season is a bit like going back to school to start the new year after the summer holidays. But in a good way. Meeting up with friends to swap stories of the closed season and share predictions for the year ahead, catching up with teams and drivers to get information on what’s new and their hopes for the coming year and seeing what changes have been made to circuits and facilities etc.
Having filled in my calendar with dates of race weekends I’m hoping to be covering this year, there aren’t many blank weekends. Although I won’t be going to Le Mans this year, which I am disappointed about, it has been sacrificed for a reason. Two reasons in fact. The first being the Nurburgring 24hr race and the second being the Spa 24hr race. As I have never been to either of these iconic circuits for these two amazing races, it would be rude not to go and I can’t wait. The British GT series is running a European round at the Nurburgring the weekend of the 24 hour race which works out nicely. I will cover the British GT and stay for the quite mental 24 hour race. A similar situation occurs at Spa. The British F3 championship will be holding their race in Belgium the same weekend of the 24 hour race so for a huge endurance racing fan, this has worked out well.
On the subject of endurance racing, there has been some major developments in this discipline over the winter months. The new World Endurance Championships looks set to be a great series. However the news that Peugeot has pulled the plug on its endurance racing team comes as a disappointment for most fans. I will admit to not being a huge Peugeot fan after some disappointing race tactics I have witnessed, but I am sad to see their withdrawal. The French Marque are probably the only team who could challenge Audi and it now looks like the German’s will go unchallenged all season. The reforming of Toyota is of some comfort but it would be unrealistic to expect them to be challenging for overall victories in their first year. Also the recent unveiling of the new ‘Deltawing’ car set to take part in the 80th Le Mans 24 hour race this June is a radical new innovation within motorsport. Could this be the future of endurance racing? I guess time will tell. I’m not a big fan of the design myself though. If Batman was to own a race car, I’m pretty sure this would be it.
So it’s time to settle into the new season of motorsport as Formula One from Melbourne is beamed to our TV’s and the 12hrs of Sebring takes place across the Atlantic and take comfort from the fact that motor racing is here. It’s good to have it back.
With some time till the motorsport season gets into full swing, a lot of you are probably trying to think of something exciting to fill the void. As Christmas and New Year are now just a memory, you may still have some left over alcohol kicking about and for those of you who received a motorsport review DVD as a Christmas present you can now take part in my newly devised drinking games.
The rules are quite simple and there are two variants of the game. A British Touring Car Championship drinking game and a British Rally Championship drinking game. To play either all you need is the corresponding review DVD for either championship and plenty of alcohol which you may or may not have left over from the Festive and New Year period. For the BTCC game simply stick on a recent review DVD and select your drink of choice. Then, every time Tim Harvey mentions Clerk of the Course Bob Kettleboro you simple down your drink as fast as possible. For the BRC version, the rules are similar although this time you down your drink each time Robbie Head does a piece to camera, beside a stage, holding a mobile phone or stopwatch and refers to timing the gap between each car through by saying ‘The splits are on’
These are great games to play with friends on a Friday night when you can’t decide whether to go out or not, and additionally, you can play the BTCC game live during the Sunday coverage on ITV4 for extra excitement. For those of you who are really hardcore you can always play the live F1 game. Simply play along during any live Formula One race screened on the BBC and down a drink every time Eddie Jordan says something stupid. I will point out that this game is not advisable for those who really want to see the race as by partaking in this game will mean that you will more than likely be in an alcohol induced coma, or worse, in hospital having your stomach pumped even before the race has started.
At this point I will point out that responsibility lies solely with the game player and I will not be held responsible for and long term side effects and health issues connected to playing this game.
Please Drink Responsibly.
Happy New Year to you all! I hope you all had a good Christmas and enjoyed the break (those of you who got one) and are looking forward to 2012 with renewed optimism. Unfortunately January seems to be the Monday of the year and everyone seems to struggle with motivation. Especially as we head back to work and the motorsport season is still a while away. At least the Autosport Show offers a crumb of comfort to those pining for a motorsport fix.
As some may have noticed, I didn’t really do much of a review of last season. Each year the contributors at TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk provide their highlights of the past year which include; best race, best driver, moment of the year and one to watch next season. This year was no different and as our submissions have been appearing on the site over the festive break, I thought I would share mine with you now they are up.
Driver of the year: Many names spring to mind in various race series but the driver who sticks out for me is Jonny Adam. Making the switch from BTCC to British GT with a seat in the Beechdean Aston Martin he certainly took to the series like a duck to water. Quite literally, as his performances in the wet behind the wheel of the now aging DBRS9 proved as he was challenging the newer machinery at the front and claiming victory at a wet Rockingham. Adam certainly gave the Aston Martin a fitting farewell in its final season and with the teams switch to the new V12 Vantage Aston looks set to build on his impressive debut season in British GT next year.
Race of the Year: For me the race of the year has to be the Le Mans 24 hour. Set to be another ding dong battle between the Peugeots and Audi with their new R18 car, it didn’t disappoint. After two huge accidents involving the Audi number 3 of Allan McNish and the number 1 of Mike Rockenfeller the German marque was left with what some would say was their weaker driver line up of Fassler, Lotterer & Treluyer to bring home the sole remaining Audi. Up against the 3 factory backed Peugeot 908’s and the privateer Oreca 908 they certainly showed their true ability and maturity in the face of some quite remarkable and dangerous tactics from the French team to pressure the Audi into a mistake. With seconds splitting the front running Audi and the Bourdais, Lamy & Pegenaud Peugeot in second place the finishing margin after 24 hours of racing was just 13.8s. Those who think endurance racing is boring should think again.
Moment of the Year: I’ve been fortunate enough to witness and be part of a number of great moments over the past year within motorsport and will have many stories to tell my grandchildren. But one moment that I couldn’t let pass without mentioning was a real breathtaking moment which sums up just what it takes to be a great racing driver. I am of course talking about Mark Webber’s stunning overtake on Fernando Alonso during the Belgium Grand Prix. Having got a better exit from La Source, Webber was gaining on the Spaniard down the hill towards Eau Rouge tucked into the slip stream. Assuming he would wait for the run up to Les Combes and the DRS Zone to make his move, remarkably we witnessed Webber pull out and pass the Ferrari round the outside and through Eau Rouge in a move which would normally end in tears. It was a remarkable manoeuvre and one that many would never even consider but was executed with skill and precision by the Aussie.
What to look for this year: For me there are a number of things to look for next year. After the teething troubles of the new NGTC cars in the BTCC, a more level playing field next season and a big field should lead to an exciting championship. On the subject of touring cars, it will be interesting to see how Arena Motorsport and Special Tuning Racing cope with the step up to WTCC.
After an extremely close fought title battle in British GT, next seasons Championship will no doubt be an equally exciting and close fight. Look out for the new look Ginetta G55 GT3 and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage adding to the array of stunning cars throughout the field. For fans of endurance racing, the new World Endurance Championships should be something to look out for too.
Also, with driver moves and deals still being confirmed within Formula One, an exciting new driver to keep an eye out for is Jean Eric-Vergne. The Frenchman showed true class in the 2010 British F3 Championships on his way to the title and runner up at the end of a season in formula Renault 3.5 has shown his ability. With the backing and support of Red Bull, could he be the new Sebastian Vettel?
For the rest of the TCF contributors opinions pop along to the site. Just click on the following:
But what about you? Do you agree with mine or my colleagues choices? Or do you think we have overlooked one of your highlights or favourites? What are you most looking forward to this year? Feel free to get in touch and let me know via the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.
Those of you familiar with the British Touring Car Championships will be well aware of the new NGTC cars to the grid with rookie driver’s at the wheel. However, there is one in particular that really caught my eye. I am referring to the Rob Austin Racing Audi.
Initially, the car was to be piloted by BTCC regular Dave Pinkney but he decided to walk away early on in the process of getting the car out on to the track after initial teething problems. But for me, I’m glad of this. Why? Because it meant Rob Austin took to the wheel. No disrespect to Dave Pinkney but Rob is the king of cool and without doubt one of my favourite drivers.
With his long sideburns, Aviator sunglasses, cigarette in hand and his proven ability in historic masters Formula One racing, I can’t help but think that Rob was born 30 years too late. He would not look out of place rubbing shoulders and tyres with the likes of James Hunt and Nikki Lauda in Formula One during the Seventies. He will even be starring in the new F1 film depicting this era which in my eyes, makes him the king of cool!
Rob is a great addition to the BTCC grid in the ever improving Audi and despite a number of problems this season, he really shone at Rockingham. A fourth place on the grid at Knockhill gave us all a glimpse of what he and the Audi could do but he went one better at the Rock with a third place. A credible seventh place was great for the 30 year old but better was to come. Having been knocked down the order on lap one of race two, Rob fought back through the field to finish ninth which was subsequently good enough for second place on the grid for the final race of the day. Having took the lead on lap one he was eventually overhauled by James Nash but still took a superb second place on the podium to the delight of many of the on looking fans. But getting out of the car in Parc ferme, Rob remained as cool as ever and even had someone on and to pass him his trusty aviators just after he was handed the obligatory Dunlop yellow cap.
It was great to see the BTCC rookie take to the podium and I hope it won’t be long before he takes to the top step. He’s a nice guy and a great addition to the driver line up. With a lot of the petty stuff going on currently between certain drivers it’s great to see Rob come in, work hard, race fair, and now pick up points in the championships.
So Sebastian Vettel has claimed yet another Formula One victory and looks set to claim the Championship Title as early as the next round in Singapore. We all know what happened in the race so there is little point in boring you with that. But I will talk about one or two other things that I noticed from the weekend at Monza.
Firstly, blink and you’ll miss it, yes it was a Hispania Racing Team car charging through the field from the start to take up its highest ever position in a Formula One race. On the weekend Eddie Jordan criticises the three newest teams to the F1 grid for their poor qualifying results, Antonio Liuzzi hits out at the critics by getting a storming start from the back of the grid to take eighth place into the first corner. Unfortunately for Petrov and Rosberg, he was coming in sideways and wiped the pair of them out. But not only did Liuzzi very briefly take the dizzyingly high spot of eighth, in the process he also gave HRT the most race exposure they’ve had all season. Colin Kolles must be proud and is now sitting waiting for his phone to ring with potential sponsors for their ‘Cool Spot’ on the side of the car. Yes, that’s right, your company could appeal to race marshalls worldwide as they pick up bits of car with your logo on!
This accident led to the most ridiculous punishment imaginable, a five place grid drop for the next race in Singapore. The team who boss the back row of every race grid have got to start five places back on the grid. How is this even possible? Will Liuzzi have to start from Silverstone? Can you even punish a team that are as bad as HRT anyway? There isn’t even any point in going out to qualify. Answers on a postcard for possible punishments please.
On a more serious note though, the battle between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton drew a lot of attention. Lewis has been in for heavy criticism this season for what some may call overzealous driving style. However, despite being in a car that was struggling to close the gap on Schumacher’s Mercedes, Hamilton kept cool and avoided taking unnecessary risks. The same couldn’t be said for Schumacher. No stranger to controversy himself, the ageing German was determined to keep the young Brit behind him and in doing so pulled off some questionable moves. Not only did he move across Lewis twice on more than one occasion but he also forced him onto the grass at Curva Grande. Moves that no doubt would have landed Lewis in hot water with the stewards but went unpunished for Schumacher.
I have read in the papers this week that the sponging Tamara Ecclestone is to get a new bath for her £47m house. Of course, this hard working young woman who is always on the go needs somewhere nice to relax and unwind at the end of another hard day at work so it’s only right that she deserves something a little bit special. No trip to B&Q for Miss Ecclestone then. Oh no. Five men have been dispatched to the Amazon Jungle to bring back crystal to make the plush bathroom fixture at a cost of One Million Pounds. Not only that, but the floor has to be reinforced to hold the weight of the flipping thing! It’s a pity she’s not the same size as her father then she could save herself the hassle and bathe in the sink. So all of you, who like me are cross about the new Sky TV deal, fear not, you can rest assured the extra money that has been generated is being put to a good cause and helping those unfortunate soles who have to struggle through life. Meanwhile, I have news for you Mr Kolles, that extra £1m Bernie promised you next season thanks to the new TV deal, I hate to say it, but you might be left a little disappointed.
Finally, did anyone else see David Coulthard and Jake Humphrey on the BBC pre race coverage together in the feature about the simulator at Red Bull? Were my eyes deceiving me or was DC actually sitting on Jakes lap with his arm around him bouncing up and down like a kid in Father Christmas’ grotto asking for a pony?! I’ve heard of close working relationships and I know they like to wear matching pink shirts but that’s taking it a bit too far surely.
I’ve been really busy over the last two or three weeks so unfortunately my blog has been a little bit neglected. I’m sorry if you have been waiting with baited breath for my latest instalment and ramblings but fear not, here it is.
The one topic of conversation recently in the world of motorsport is of course the recent Formula One TV rights. I know I’m a little bit late on this but it has been annoying me greatly. Sky TV now have the rights to show all the races next season live whilst the BBC are allowed to show half of the races live whist the other half will be shown in the evening. Whether these evening shows will be extended highlights or full re-run remains to be seen.
There are a number of issues that really annoy me regarding this deal. Firstly, I don’t have Sky TV. I am not going to pay £45 a month to get it with the sports channels either. Money is tight as it is for a number of people and I am no doubt not the only one who doesn’t have sky and will not be getting it either, so will be missing out. Secondly, It is extremely hard to avoid hearing race results so having to wait, for an evening showing of the race without hearing the race result will be difficult. Particularly if you use facebook and twitter like myself. Thirdly, the BBC coverage is very good and provides the fans with everything. I have read a number of articles from Sky about F1 and they show how little people within the company know about the sport. Lewis Hamilton 2007 champion? I don’t think so. Then they begin to make comparisons between F1 drivers and Footballers. We know Sky are very good with their Football coverage but that is a totally different sport. I don’t want to hear talk about football when watching motorsport. Fourthly, I hate advert breaks and I hate them in the middle of a race. I want to see all the action and not risk missing any whilst some Idiots dance around a bank telling me how great they are with people’s money. Finally, and most importantly, it is taking the sport away from the masses. The real fans who will be missing out.
We all know how expensive it is to see a Formula One race at the circuit so it is only fair that people who genuinely have a passion for it to have easy access to it. Once again Bernie Ecclestone has shown how greedy he is by striking up a deal to make himself even more money. Perhaps he wouldn’t need to if he didn’t splash out on multi-million pound mansions for his two work shy daughters. The sport is becoming very elitist and we see this by the people who walk the grids before each race and are invited into the garages. Hundreds of celebrities adorn VIP access lanyards and flounce about despite not having the faintest idea about KERS, Downforce, Option and Prime or Oversteer. Genuine fans would love a chance to be able to get the experience these celebrities get and now the likes of you and me are being robbed of the chance of even seeing the races live on TV.
Colin Kolles, the boss at Hispania Racing Team told the media what a great deal it was and how Bernie has once again shown how great he is at providing the best for everyone. He even said that it will be better for fans as they would rather watch the race in the evening than get up in the early hours to watch. Don’t tell me what I want you idiot. I do want to get up early and watch the race live. I don’t want to wait until Sunday evening and argue with my other half because she wants to watch Strictly X-Factor or Antiques File on the other Channel. It is not better for the fans at all. What you mean to say Mr Kolles is that it’s better for you because the deal will mean an extra £1m for your cowboy outfit. Think of the rolls of gaffer tape that will buy to hold your crappy cars together. Bernie has been very crafty. The shared TV rights gets around the Concorde Agreement with the teams whilst still lining the deep pockets of his very short tousers. He has thought of what is best for him and not the fans.
Clearly the long term future has not been given much thought to. Viewer numbers will drop, advertisers won’t pay as much, fan support will be lost and it will only have a detrimental effect on the sport. Not just at the top in F1, but right the way through to grass roots level. Yes there are many motorsport fans who love other racing series too and will continue to support them. But to encourage new fans you need exposure. Show them what motorsport is about, draw them in, excite them. How are you going to encourage people into motorsport when the coverage of it is taken away?
I know the deal won’t be torn up and it pains me to think it will be in place until at least 2018. It is a sorry state of affairs and no doubt many World Rally Fans will agree as they have experienced a TV coverage shambles. We have all seen the disgraceful scenes of Rioting throughout Cities in England in the past few days as people destroy communities in greed fuelled frenzies. Take a long hard look at that Mr Ecclestone because this is what you are doing. Destroying Formula One because of your own greed.
The weekend just passed was the Silverstone Classic. I was fortunate enough to be there covering it for The Checkered Flag. You all know how much I love classic and Historic racing, so I was really looking forward to it. Hundreds of amazing racing cars that would grace many a museum were out on track doing what they were designed to do, race. Particular highlights for me were the Grand Prix Masters, the World Sports Car Masters and of course the Group C races. Thankfully the weather stayed dry and the action on track was fantastic.
It was to be my first visit to Silverstone since the much anticipated Silverstone Wing Complex was completed. I was looking forward to checking it out and seeing what the facilities were like. Having arrived on Saturday morning the Media car park was by the main entrance. Having walked through a few of the car club areas James, writer for The Checkered Flag and I waited to jump on one of the busses to take us to the new Pit and Paddock. On arrival it all looked very impressive. The garages were very clean, modern and pretty big too. The paddock area was smart and a number of teams had set up there for the weekend.
However, as we entered the building, which look stunning on the outside, it became a little less impressive as we headed to the media centre. It was clearly unfinished as bits of carpet were missing and paint jobs had yet to be completed. The media centre was huge and very well equipped with power and internet points and plenty of TV screens. The Canteen next to it was a nice touch too. Unfortunately though, the main issue was that you couldn’t see the circuit. A row of small soundproof commentary boxes stood between the media centre and the glass front looking onto the pit straight. Obviously commentary boxes are important but the only time all of them would be used is for the Formula One weekend and perhaps the Moto GP. None of them were used this weekend and perhaps only one or two would be used for the rest of the season. Also, did they need to be there? Could they have not gone upstairs? On inspection of the boxes, we found that the desks inside them were high and deep, so you couldn’t lean forward to see up and down the pit straight. You had a view of a very small section of the track right in front of the box itself.
So the media centre could have been designed better, a big race weekend has live TV which can be broadcast on the many TV screens inside the building, so it wasn’t a total loss not being able to see outside. But what happens on the smaller race weekends when there isn’t live TV feeds? I’ve likened the new Wing to Lindsay Lohan. Attractive, but one or two things missing upstairs. The bigger issue with the new complex though, which I heard from a number of photographers there was somewhat different.
Busses and courtesy cars were laid on for media and VIP’s to get to the new building from the car park 50A by the main entrance. Now those of you who know Silverstone will know that car parks 50A, 50B and 50C are almost right opposite the new Wing. So why the busses and cars? Simple. You cannot get to the new Pit and Paddock complex from the outside of the circuit. So that meant a drive through the main entrance, over the bridge on the Wellington Straight, around the back of Aintree and the loop, behind Village and Farm Curve and along behind the paddock to the entrance at the end near Vale. You could have walked from the car park in less than a quarter of the time and with much less hassle if there was a crossing point on the Start/Finish Straight. Add that to the fact that access to the track from the paddock was extremely hard, a long days walking was in store. This meant careful planning to get round in between races and some action was inevitably missed. Something that could be rectified very simply. I really hope the people at Silverstone will put in a bridge or some crossing point in the near future. It will be of great help to all and save a lot of time and effort for anyone wanting to access the new Paddock, whether they are public or media, VIP’s or team members.
Despite the disappointment of the much hyped Wing, it was a good weekend. There were lots to see and do away from the action on track, and thousands of classic cars from various car clubs around the country. So if it’s you’re interested in classic cars, it’s an event well worth a visit.
I won’t be trackside this coming weekend but the remainder of this week and most of next will see me shoot horsepower of a different kind. I’ll be photographing the local Pony Club’s summer camps. It’s been a while since I last did an equestrian event but its where my life as a photographer started so it will be fun to get back into it.
Everyone has their favourite racing circuit, whether you are a racing driver, spectator, photographer or marshal. There are a number of different circuits scattered throughout the UK and most of them have various layouts. But for me, my favourite of all is the GP circuit at Brands Hatch. I love it not just from a photographer’s point of view, but from a motorsport fan’s as well. For me it has great variety, numerous vantage points and some brilliant corners. Add to that the undulations, climbs and descents and you have a stunning race circuit.
I understand that a number of circuits are built on old airfields and to be fair, it is a good use of the land, however this leaves you with flat, but by no means featureless race tracks. The undulating layout at Brands however adds to the excitement. We all know what an awesome sight it is to see cars thunder round Paddock hill bend, down the hill and then up to Druids. It is akin (well almost) to Eau Rouge at Spa Francorschamps. Having been out in the Indy layout at Brands in a race spec Radical SR3 RS, I can tell you, it’s a rollercoaster ride.
The GP circuit, steeped in motorsport history, provides some fantastic viewpoints not just a trackside photographer but as a spectator too. Obviously being trackside provides me with great photo opportunities but there was I time before I had media access and I loved the circuit then too. From the Desire Wilson and Paddock Hill grandstands you can see a great deal of the circuit thanks to the high vantage point. Around Paddock Hill bend, along Hailwood Hill and on the outside of Druids Hairpin provide great spectator viewing despite the high catch fencing. But if you like to take photos, the large area on the inside of Druids provides a great opportunity to capture some shots without the fencing being a Problem. I also love the Southbank parking area. It is ideal if you have the family with you, as you can watch from the comfort of your own car (great if it’s pouring with rain) but is a good central point to start from if you want to wander around the track.
Head out into the woods and you can also get some great unobstructed views of the GP section too. You can walk round pretty much the whole of the inside section with many great vantage points for the budding photographer. If you are there for a touring car head out to Westfield Bend. It may be a bit of a trek but it’s great to see the likes of Andy Jordan launch his car on to two wheels as he catches the inside Kerb, plus you can see it from just a few feet away. Another good spot, and one of my favourites is Stirlings Bend. A banked 90 degree left hander before the blast to clearways always gives good opportunities for a nice photo.
There are so many aspects of the circuit that come together to make it a very spectator friendly race track. Many people tell me how hard it is to take motorsport photos as a spectator due to all the high fencing everywhere. My response to them is that whilst catch fencing can be the foe to any photographer, it is there for a very good reason. It can be frustrating as well I know as I was a spectator too and sometimes still am. However, get yourself down to Brands Hatch and you will find you are spoilt with the amount of area’s you can take unhindered photos from.
I’ve been to Brands Hatch twice in recent weeks and both race meetings have been run on the full GP layout. I like shooting it and each time I’m there I manage to find a nice place to shoot from that I wasn’t aware of before. The most recent visit was for the Historic Sports Car Club meeting. I love historic and classic racing and it is something that greatly interests me. Although you won’t see Formula One at Brands anymore, it was there just 25 years ago so it was a great thrill to be there to see some of those cars back there, along with the Group C monsters that used to take part in the famous 1000km race there. You can read my report from the weekend on the Checkered Flag website here.
I’ve given my reasons for why I love the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch so much and I know it is a favourite among many racing drivers too. Although I will more than likely never experience it as a racing driver, I have been out at racing speeds on the Indy loop which you can read in a previous blog post. However, thanks to Will at the Radical Owners Club, I will be experiencing the full GP loop on Monday. He has very kindly invited me to their trackday and I will be sampling first hand what it is like to travel round the famous track at high speed. Of course, I cannot wait and I will be writing about my second Radical experience, but until then, I will be running around like an expectant five year old on Christmas Eve.
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.
On Tuesday Liz and myself went to the Cinema to see the eagerly anticipated movie ‘Senna’. It wasn’t the nearest cinema as that wasn’t showing it, but it was the next nearest cinema and having seen that it was only showing the film on Tuesday we made sure the tickets were booked in advance.
Having Plumped for the 6.30 screening and arriving in plenty of time, the foyer was packed but I still bumped into my friend Alex, his wife and friend. Alex is the Britcar reporter and photographer for Racing Exposure so I know him quite well. It was good to catch up with him as I missed the Thruxton round of the Britcar championship and he had missed the Donnington round before that so it had been a while. The queue for the film was really long and zig zagged along the corridor, through the foyer and outside. People must have thought we were show offs as we stood talking out my trip to Le Mans and Alex’s trip to the Monaco Grand Prix.
I won’t go into detail about the film but it was great to see the footage that was in it. I was born in 1982 so don’t remember Senna’s early career. However I do remember bits from the late eighties onwards as I was a big fan of Formula One as a child. The film opened my eyes somewhat to the politics and the behind the scenes goings on in the sport. Something as a child you are unaware of. It pieced together the patchy memories I had as a childhood fan too. I actually remember the Martin Donnelly crash but always thought it was at Monza when in fact it was at Jerez. The image of him in curled up in a ball in the middle of the circuit upset me and even now it is still a haunting image.
Although the film didn’t chart Senna’s career in great detail it told the story well. There were some light hearted moments and some very serious issues raised. Some of the driver briefing footage was very good and will no doubt raise many an eyebrow. The eagle eyed will spot a very young looking Eddie Jordan too! Although everyone knows how the story ends it is still no less upsetting. I’m sure Liz was not the only one in tears. That fateful race weekend at Imola will have no doubt permanently etched itself into the memories of any motorsport fan who remembers it but it was tastefully portrayed by the director.
I have often wondered had Senna not been killed in that accident, how long would he have stayed in Formula One. Would he have won anymore championship titles and how would he have coped with Michael Schumacher who was establishing himself as one of the front runners in the sport. It is without doubt that Ayrton Senna was a hugely talented racing driver, but would he be idolised as much as he is if he was still alive today? Death makes people reflect on life and there was so much the Brazilian had achieved for so many to reflect on. One thing is for sure, after seeing the film I have a lot more respect for this truly gifted racing driver. The world legend is spread about far too often these days, but Ayrton Senna really was a Legend.
The film is a must see for any motorsport fan young or old so if you haven’t had the chance to see it yet, then it is definitely worth going. Only the front row of the cinema was empty and the queue was huge for the screening after so I would advise booking tickets in advance. It was a truly compelling and fascinating documentary and I cannot talk highly enough about it. I loved it and I am sure any motorsport fan will too.
The British Touring Car Championship’s seems to have thrown up a divide amongst fans recently thanks to the whole Turbo versus normally aspirated engine situation. Some seem to be annoyed with the rules being changed to restrict the turbo cars and some seem to believe they should be restricted even more.
Everyone has a right to their opinion, however after a post a couple of months ago about the situation one or two people decided to voice their opinions in response rather loudly and somewhat personally as they disagreed with my opinion on the matter. Therefore they believed they were right and those who said different were wrong, had no idea what they were talking about and knew nothing so should keep quiet. That said, before I continue, this blog is entirely my own opinion. Rightly or wrongly, agree or disagree, I am happy to accept your responses and thoughts and for you to leave comments. However, please keep them constructive and please don’t resort to personal attacks.
Rather than air my opinion on the whole performance issue within the BTCC, it’s the professionalism of some of the drivers that needs to be bought to people’s attention. After last week’s Monaco Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton’s subsequent and ill fated post race interview taking the headlines, it seems a few other ‘professional’ drivers should have taken on board the criticism Hamilton received within the media and fans alike.
Much like Lewis Hamilton in F1, Jason Plato is a big star and a popular driver with fans in BTCC, therefore he is in the spotlight all the time within the series. So is it really acceptable for Jason Plato to show his displeasure of the rules in front of the media and on live TV. Whether the rules are fair or unfair is irrelevant. The attitude and reaction from the ‘Star’ of the series is extremely unprofessional. Tim Harvey stated afterwards, that Plato is becoming fixated on parity within the series and must therefore have an effect on his focus and that he needs to calm down and focus on his own racing. Harvey talks sense and has hit the nail on the head. It is only the Honda’s that Plato is struggling against and is beating the other Turbo powered cars. The reaction seems to show Plato as a spoilt brat and is upset because he isn’t winning all the time. The fact that he has won more races this season than Matt Neal is something he fails to mention.
Lewis Hamilton and Martin Whitmarsh from McLaren had to make a grovelling apology to race stewards after the comments the 2008 world champion made and it is only right that Plato should do the same. To constantly make these comments on live TV and, particularly after the Oulton Park win, use questionable language, is surely bringing the sport into disrepute. If you have views on the rules, then discuss them in private and not berate the series director and ask him to explain himself on live TV. That shows extreme lack of professionalism and if he escapes punishment, then Plato needs to count himself lucky. There is much talk in the motorsport world of Lewis Hamilton needing someone to bring him back down to earth, I think Plato needs someone to do that to him to.
No one is bigger than the BTCC and that includes Jason Plato. He maybe a self confessed celebrity presenting Fifth Gear on TV, but he needs to drop the prima donna attitude and concentrate in getting his attitude into Top Gear and showing some respect. He is a role model to many but is currently leading a bad example of how to behave. He is a talented driver and has shown this by winning the championship twice and has claimed more BTCC race wins than anyone else, however the series can and will continue without him when he decides to retire or leave. But right now with his current behaviour, whether you agree with me or not, it is my opinion that the series would be better off without him until he changes his attitude and shows himself to be the complete professional that he should be.
Another headline from the weekend’s racing at Oulton Park is the Shock news that TOM Onslow-Cole has quit the AMD Miltek team to take up an offer elsewhere. Apparently Tom told the team just 15 minutes before the start of race three and did not take part in the final race of the day. The team have stated it was an amicable split and wished Tom the very best. However, if he did tell the team just before race three then it would seem it is not an amicable split. Surely it would only be fair and respectful to complete the final race of the day.
Rumours will now start as to where Tom might be going to and will he be in place for the next round at Croft? One team’s name flying about is that of Team AON. There has been mutterings of them running three cars for a while now but after the whole team order’s debacle of last season would Onslow-Cole really go back? Another popular rumour is that Special Tuning Racing will be running a third car and the Seat’s are putting in a good show this season and had some good results at Oulton Park. So surely he would only leave to go to one of the big teams as the VW is starting to show its worth with points finishes. A move to somewhere like the vacant seat in the Geoff Steel Racing BMW would surely be a sideways step? I guess we will find out soon.
On the flip side, who will take over at AMD Miltek? Let’s not forget there is a vacant seat. It would be great to see Tim Harvey take the wheel but that is just a pipe dream. It would also be amazing to see Matt Hamilton back in BTCC but I’m not sure his position regarding budget. My initial thoughts is that Phil Glew should get the vacant position. Glew drove for the Your Racing Car team in their first BTCC race at Silverstone last year and put in a good showing. The joint YRC and AMD Miltek partnership could pave the way for him to get back into the championship. One thing is for certain, the rumour mill will be running flat out until the official announcements so we all wait with baited breath to see what happens.
The Monaco Grand Prix has drawn to a close and to be honest I feel very disappointed. The win was handed, gift wrapped to Red Bull with a bow on top. Had the race been able to run the course, no doubt Jenson Button would have taken the win with both Alonso and Vettel running on very worn tyres against Button’s fresher ones.
However, the weekend threw up few talking points but this blog entry will discuss one major issue in formula one and motorsport in general. Most people will have seen Sergio Perez’s accident in qualifying three on Saturday which ultimately bought safety into the forefront of people’s minds. Thankfully safety within motorsport has improved immensely as the years have passed and rightly so. Cars get faster and faster so the risk to drivers would ordinarily get higher and higher. But thanks to the improvements in car and driver safety the risks have been reduced.
Gone are the days when Formula One and the death of drivers went hand in hand and dreadful images such as those of Zolder in 1973 as David Purley tried in vain to free Roger Williamson from his burning car whilst marshall’s stood idly by are a thing of the past. Safety within motorsport is evolving rapidly and coupled with the training given to marshall’s and their ability to deal with all situations are a testament to all involved.
Unfortunately, some improvements can only be made as accidents happen. It takes an accident to make people aware of a certain problem before that issue can be addressed, therefore there will always be freak accidents coupled with the fact divers push cars to the limit it is an inevitability accidents will happen. But thanks to current safety features those accidents rarely see serious injury. It never ceases to amaze me at how a driver can walk away from huge accidents such as the recent Indy 500 practice accident involving Simona de Silvestro and the huge Porsche crash at San Marino.
It is the incredible safety features in place that meant Perez only suffered minor injuries at Monaco and had that happened 20 years ago, the results could have been a lot worse. Although many improvements have come too late for all the great drivers who have given their lives doing something they love, but ultimately motorsport is dangerous and we all know that. But the great work behind the scenes developing improvements mean that the fatalities and serious injuries have become rare. It’s those who develop new safety features and the marshall’s trackside on hand to step in when needed that are the unsung heroes of motorsport and all drivers need to be thankful for it. Long may these improvements continue to help make this sport so great.Finally, due to the start of the motorsport season, my model making has been neglected. However, this week I managed to complete my model Toyota 88C. I’m not sure what will be my next build but I will be keeping an eye out for a new project.
The come down after a great weekend can leave you feeling pretty low, likened in ways to a hangover after a good night on the town. Today is one of those days.
This weekend was spent at Donington Park photographing the third round of the MSA Britcar championship. The 4 hour race was the longest of the season so far. That in itself makes for a great weekend in itself, but the support race line up made it very special indeed. The Mazda MX5’s were there as usual and the 4two cup made its debut, but the Dutch Supercar Challenge was also on the bill along with the Pièce de résistance, the BOSS GP.
For those of you who haven’t heard of the BOSS GP, it stands for Big Open Single Seaters. It is a racing series open to ex Formula One, Champcar, Indycar, GP2 and World series cars. Although the at racing wasn’t an official championship round and the entries had dwindled somewhat, there were still some awesome cars in the field, such as a pair of 1997 Benetton B197’s, a 1995 Tyrell 023, a 1998 Tyrrell 026 Cosworth and my all time favourite a Jordan 191. The car that a sprightly young man by the name of Michael Schumacher made his formula one debut in back in 1991. My childhood memories came flooding back to me of days as a nine year old I would sit in front of the TV transfixed by these amazing machines whilst listening to Murry Walker scream excitedly and a calm James Hunt offered words of wisdom. Never did I think that some 20 years later I would be watching as one of these cars would scream past me for real just a few metres away. My excitement however did change somewhat, as I began to worry that one of these gorgeous machine’s, the Jordan in particular might crash and would resign it to a museum or even worse, the great scrap yard in the sky!
Another great race series was the Dutch Supercar Challenge. Not a series that had registered on my radar, but it certainly left a great impression. Mainly because the Dutch are a bit bonkers! This is clear as you walk through the support paddock and see the mechanics with their head under the bonnet, a big cigar in mouth, a spanner in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. It is also quite clear when you see some of the cars that are entered. Split in to two race categories, the Sport Division and Supersport II division, with cars varying from Clio’s to BMW’s and Seat Leon’s to Ford Focus Sports, and the Supersport I and GT divisions that see the likes of Porsche 997’s Aston Martins, Corvette’s and Mosler’s. There were even a few Ford Mondeo’s in there. Well, I use the term Mondeo loosely, they may look like the Ford Saloon, but in fact they are just plastic body shells that house rear mounted V6 engines. It becomes clear that it’s only the body shell that defines a lot of them as underneath houses a space frame and whatever the biggest engine the crazy cigar puffing, beer swigging guys can fit in. My ears were drawn to an extremely loud rumbling and roar coming down the pit lane as an Audi A6 with a huge V8 growls by. Bonkers! Four hour long races with mandatory pit stops provided great entertainment.
Speaking of entertainment, but on a whole different level, as the first ever 4two cup, a race series for Smart cars. Although not particularly quick, the short wheel base and relatively tall height, they were partial to rolling over. In fact, two rolled in the first qualifying which bought out the red flag on both occasions as Marshalls pushed them back onto their wheels before they continued on their way. A third roll came in the second of the two scheduled races but as the race wasn’t going to be stopped, it had to sit on its side on the inside of Riches corner until the chequered flag came out.
As for the Britcar race itself, the main attraction, it was a race that didn’t disappoint. However, if you want to read the reports then they should be on The Checkered Flag website, with photos soon. Unfortunately I can’t make the next round at Thruxton as it clashes with a small race I’m going to again in France, you may have heard of it, it’s called the Le Mans 24 hour.
More excitement for me to come this week though as rather than watching the racing, I’m off to pretend I’m a real racing driver as I go karting with the guys from Tin Tops UK in Brentwood on Wednesday evening. I’ll report back with news on that later this week!
So the news is that within BTCC, the NGTC Turbo powered cars that were designed for a cost effective level playing field within the championship will be restricted ahead of the next round at Thruxton. Why? Because Jason Plato is upset that they are quicker than his S2000 spec engine car, that’s why.
The two engines were made available to teams well before the season started with the Chevrolet teams and the BMW’s opting to run the non turbo powered S2000 engines over the New Generation Touring Car option which has a turbo. Many people will remember the farce that occurred last season with the Team AON Gas powered Turbo Ford Focus constantly being restricted because it was a bit quicker than the rest of the field in straight line. Of course, Jason Plato didn’t like this and was more vocal than most with his dislike of this, despite Team AON running within the regulations and not in any way dominating the championship standings.
So now with the new regulations in place to create a level playing field, the whole situation has reared its ugly head yet again. Despite winning the first two races of the season at Brands Hatch, Mr Plato was yet again complaining about the turbo powered cars. Yes they were slightly quicker out of the corners, but the non turbo powered cars were quicker into the corners. Each car has unique driving characteristics and handling, we all know that. You have to work to the strengths of the car you have and try and improve the weaknesses. However this is clearly not good enough for the two time BTCC champion and qualifying in seventh place for the first race at Donington only made him angrier.
His moaning was even taken to a whole new level after suffering a puncture in the first race. He blamed the turbo powered cars for it. Apparently, due to their speed, he had to push the car to its limits to stay on the pace which then caused the puncture. Do me a favour. If you want to win a race then you have to push the car to its limits anyway. Is it fair to moan just because someone is quicker than you and you aren’t winning? He seems to forget that a few years ago he was running a Seat Leon Turbo, yes TURBO diesel which was quicker than the rest of the field in a straight line. Did he complain then? No he didn’t. The only reason he didn’t win the championship that year was due to the unreliability of the car.
Unfortunately, series director Alan Gow listens to this moaning and acts on it. The Turbo cars are being punished despite doing nothing wrong. They are running within the regulations but are being pegged back because a team who had the option to run a turbo powered car like everyone else, chose not to and are upset because at some circuits they aren’t the quickest. In what other sports does this happen? Does the FIA punish Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari in Formula one because they are quicker than the Sauber’s, Force India’s or the Toro Rosso’s? No. Does the IAAF tie Usain Bolt’s shoe laces together because he is the fastest man in the world? No. You stick to the rules and you get on with it.
If you ask me Jason Plato needs to learn how to be gracious in defeat and respectful to others. We all know he is a good driver, and winning more touring car races than anyone else goes to show that. But his moaning and complaining is making him look like a spoilt brat and quite frankly, I myself am getting embarrassed for him! He can win with the car he has got and we have already seen that twice already this season. So get your head down and put your effort in to racing instead of moaning Jason and more wins will follow. It’s nice to have a closely fought championship battle, the fans don’t want to see the same driver win every race and they certainly don’t want to see someone whinge and moan because they didn’t.
Finally, if you like my blog, you can still vote for it in Longlife Exhausts quest to find the best car blog here. I’d be very grateful if you did.