The arrival of March means one thing to Motor Racing fans. The new season is upon us after the long winter break. The first round of the Formula One season gets underway this coming weekend along with the Sebring 12hours and some club events have already taken to the track.
For me, the start of the new season got underway last Thursday at the British GT & F3 media launch. The event took on a different format from the usual media days with it being held in central London during the evening. It was great event and a good chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances from the media, teams and circuits. Some of whom I hadn’t seen since last season.
Outside the venue were not only a London Taxi and Double Decker bus looking resplendent in British GT & F3 Liveries and advertisements, but also two of the cars set to take to the GT grid this year. One of United Autosport’s McLaren MP4-12C’s along with Barwell Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage that this year will be raced by series new boys, Richard Abra and Mark Poole who took last year’s Britcar 24hour title. The cars were certainly getting plenty of attention and rightly so. The Streets of South Kensington and Knightsbridge are often adorned with flash cars such as Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Bentleys as the capital’s elite cruise around in luxury. Those who saw the documentary a few months ago on TV about London’s supercar culture will testify to that. But who has ever seen two fully race prepared GT3 racing beasts parked up on the side of the road in the capital city? Even the guy in a Mercedes CLK who tried to turn heads by revving and roaring past failed miserably as gazes were fixed on the two show stoppers.
Passers by stopped to take photos with iPhones and many posed to have their photo taken beside the powerful monsters. Some even just stood, watched and stared for ages in awe. Traffic almost came to a standstill as people slowed to see the reason for flash guns going off and catch a glimpse of the race car. Bus and taxi drivers, even motorcycle couriers slowed to have look. But for me, the woman in a beat up Fiesta who drove past at a snail’s pace while her young son in the back seat, hands and nose pressed up against the window as he stared open mouthed at the Aston Martin and McLaren just underlined what motorsport was really about and the effect it has on people.
Inside, the presentations were underway and despite only four races on the F3 calendar, it seemed a necessary step to save the series from disappearing altogether and signs for next year are looking positive so a step back should hopefully mean at least two forward next season.
As for the season ahead for the British GT, things are going from strength to strength. New and established teams are joining this season to add to the already impressive field of cars. The likes of AF Corse and Vita4one Team Italy along with new teams from Blendini Moto & Nigeria Racing Eagle will be some of the new runners among the packed grid. Many teams are now running more cars and the likes of Fortec, who are well known for running single seaters are stepping into the fray with possibly a pair of Mercedes SLS’s. Toyota have joined the GT4 ranks with a GT86 and M-Sport, the team who ran the Ford WRC package have joined in the fun and will initially run an Audi R8 LMS Ultra with the intention of taking on the new Bentley Continental GT3 when it is ready later in the season.
Well over 30 cars look set to take to the grid at Oulton Park over Easter weekend with more set to join throughout the season. Throw in a European Round at Zandvoort which British GT will have main billing for and better TV coverage including Two rounds shown live on Motors TV, it is clear the British GT is really going places so it’s best you all make even more of an effort to head out and see this series in action at your nearest Circuit because you won’t be disappointed.
I’d like to thank Benjamin, Lauren and James at SRO along with everyone else who helped put on a great evening and I really cannot wait for Easter weekend at Oulton Park when the season Kicks off. It is going to be awesome.
Those who can, do, and those who can’t, talk about it. Or in my case, photograph it. That phrase was quite apt last night as thanks to Nick at Tin Tops UK, I was taking part in a two hour into the night endurance Karting race in Brentwood. It was my chance to be a racing driver rather than photographing and talking about them.
It’s been many years since I last went Karting and I have never done it on an outside circuit. I was hoping not to disgrace myself and upon finding out during the signing in process there was to be 10 teams, I was hopeful we weren’t going to finish last. However, as other divers turned up carrying their own helmets, race suits and racing shoe’s all hope quickly turned to despair. These guys must have done it before! Some were even entered as a single competitor. I was hoping they would tire before myself, Nick and Rich the third member of our team.
With a 15 minute warm up/qualifying session before heading straight into the race, it was decided Nick would warm up last and start the race for us. The plan was to do two 20 minute stints each to keep us fresh. Well, like I said, that was the plan! After my initial five minutes I came in fearing the worst. Although it felt I was going quite fast, the karts that overtook me told a different story. I looked at the time screen with Rich. 41.5 seconds. We were last. How far off the pace was that I wondered. About 3-4 seconds that’s how far off. Oh dear, it was not looking good. Thankfully Nick was out there getting quicker and a lap in the 37 second area meant we weren’t going to start last. We started Eighth.
A good start took Nick up a place on the first lap and a couple of drive through penalties meant fifth place was looking respectable. One of the guys with his own gear was hitting Nick from behind and getting cross, this upset our WAGS and left them wondering how loud they needed to shout for him to hear their torrent of abuse. With this irate 40 something year old let through, Nick proceeded to tail him proving he was no faster. After the first driver change I asked Nick where his braking points were. ‘What braking points?’ he responded. ‘Its flat out all the way around except the hairpin, but you only need to lift off for it.’ It was clear I had a lot to do to set a respectable lap time.
Before long I was out on track. It took me a while to learn the circuit and at times it was hard to ignore my brain telling me to brake. The first of my 20 minute stints was spent trying to work out if it was better to let the car run wide exiting certain corners or keep it in tight, where the limits of the Kart were and which is the best line to take. All this whilst trying not to be a mobile chicane for those lapping me. I was beginning to feel like Takuma Sato. After handing over to Nick for his second stint I was told my best lap was about 38.9s however we were in ninth place. I wondered if I could actually go any faster or was I on my limits.
After slurping on energy drink, looking at the timing screens and hoping Hispania Racing don’t call, it wasn’t long before I was getting ready for the final handover and my last go. By then we were running close to the team in eighth place. A few laps into my last run was beginning to get into the grove. I’d changed my line into the long sweeping corner before the straight which was helping and I was beginning to master the tricky sections. I even managed to overtake someone turning into the hairpin. I was beginning to hold my own out there and if it wasn’t for sliding occasionally here, or running a little wide there then perhaps I could have caught one or two others.
The Chequered Flag drop and the two hours was up. We finished ninth but the eighth placed team were apparently worried as I was catching them and with a few more minutes, I could have snatched an extra place. Never mind, I had got my best time down to 38 seconds dead and was lapping quite consistently. Our best lap as a team was set by Nick which was 36.800s. The fastest of all was a 35.950 We were told by one of the other teams who go there often that they had never seen such a fast race and hadn’t seen every team set a lap time below 37 seconds. I guess we could take some crumbs comfort from that.
It was a great evening and I loved every bit of it, I’d like to thank Nick and Tin Tops UK for inviting me along to take part and hopefully I will be back to set a 37 something lap time soon. In the mean time, I’m off to Snetterton to photograph the British F3 & GT Championship’s at the weekend to see the real racers at work. After racing a Kart you certainly gain a lot of respect for those guys. It was hard enough to consistently set good lap times in a 20 stint at 40mph and not tire, but to keep your concentration for over an hour at more than four times the speed is something I am in awe of.
It’s been a busy weekend for me as It was my Brother’s wedding on Saturday. It was a great day, the weather was fantastic, the church and marquee looked brilliant and much fun was had. It all went smoothly including the set up and clear up.
I won’t bore you with the details as more importantly, in terms of this blog, I was back trackside at Snetterton on bank holiday Monday for the MSVR F3 Cup, GT Trophy and MSVR Team Trophy. It’s only been the second time I’ve been there since the new layout and you all know I had my doubts as to whether I like it or not. However, its less scruffy, the grass is growing and although there is still a lot of work to be done, it seems to be improving. I have also found some good spots for taking photos from. I’m still not sure about the new corner names though! I should be back there again later this month for the British GT and F3 championships so let’s see how the first major series on the new layout goes.
The F3 cup was dominated by Aaron Steele, much as it was in March when they were last at Snetterton. With 2 pole’s, 2 fastest laps and 2 race wins, Aaron led both races from start to finish. It was another dominant performance in the GT Trophy as Leon Price and Rob Barff had entered a new Ferrari 458. It was the first time I had seen one on a race track and it blew the opposition away. Leading from start to finish in each race it took both race victories. Disappointingly there were only 9 entries in this event so the field was somewhat sparse. Aaron Scott was taking part in a Ferrari 430 and took third place in race one but failed to make race two due to a clutch failure. He told me that it’s still early days for the GT Trophy and the fields should grow in the near future, the sister GT Cup series attracts large fields so hopefully it will be a matter of time before more take part in the two diver Trophy series. Let’s hope so as you will know by now how much I love GT racing.
The other race series at Snetterton was the Team Trophy. Run by MSVR the Team Trophy is a two driver equivalent to the Trackday Trophy. Both of these series are run for novice racers as a cheap way of getting into motor racing. The vast array of cars taking part makes for some interesting action from Clio’s to BMW’s and Mazda MX5’s to Porsche’s. The days 40 minute race was won by Dan Surridge and Julia Penfold in an MG ZR190.
This weekend I head off to Donington for the third round of the Britcar Championship. Its going to be a full race weekend with support races from the Mazda MX5’s, The Dutch Supercar Challenge, the first ever Smart 4two cup race and the BOSS GP. I’m really looking forward to The BOSS GP as BOSS stands for Big Open Single Seaters and includes a field of ex F1 cars including a 1995 Tyrell 023, a 1991 Jordan 191, a few Benetton’s and a couple of 2000 and 2001 Arrows alongside a few Champcars and Indycars.
Unfortunately, a few teething problems arose this season within Britcar as this year they are now running under the MSA banner. A few rule changes have been made after the season has started and timetables changed with little notice. Hopefully they are just that, teething problems and these can be sorted out without too much issue. The field within Britcar is looking strong and I hope the series will only continue to grow in stature. The last thing I or anyone else wants to see are teams leaving the series due to goal posts being moved halfway through a season.
I was going to write about the BTCC at Thruxton but to be honest, I think I should just leave it. Yet again Plato blamed his race one puncture on the Turbo Powered cars and then saying it’s a total joke. The only joke is his ridiculous moaning!
My humble mutterings have gained some recognition. As you may well know this blog was nominated to be part of an online survey by Longlife Exhausts to find the best car blog.Thanks to the guys at Tin Tops UK who made the nomination, Trackside Views made the list of 20 in the vote. Amazingly, by voting close this blog came out top by just two votes. Therefore I would like to thank all of you who voted and enjoy reading my thoughts. I hope I can continue to bring you an enjoyable blog which you will all continue to read and hopefully some more recognition will follow. A special thanks goes to Tin Tops UK for not only their initial nomination but their continued support along with my good friend and fellow motorsport photographer Pete Mainey.
Not a lot else has happened this week for me as I was unable to attend the Season opener of the British GT and F3 championships at Oulton Park. Those who know me well will know I particularly love GT racing and this year’s line up is super impressive. Audi R8’s join the grid along with a Corvette, Mercedes SLS, a Ferrari 458 and a pair of Lotus Evora’s in the GT4 Category adding to the existing cars the field is awesome. It was the reigning champion Trackspeed Porsche that took the race one lead whilst the Scuderia Vittoria Ferrari 458 took the honours in race two after starting from the back. It looks to be a close battle for the title again this year and I can’t wait to be shooting them all again when they head to Snetterton for round two in a few weeks.
Before then, I will be off to Donington again for the third round of the Britcar championships the weekend of May 7th and 8th and on May 1st I’ll be at Snetterton for the MSVR GT Trophy and F3 Cup. It always seems like an age since I was last trackside when I have a weekend when I’m not so I can’t wait to be back out there. I wonder if my opinions of the new layout at Snetterton will change.
In the mean time there is a small matter of a wedding that will be happening. I’m not talking about a balding bloke called William and a posh girl called Kate, I am of course referring to my Brother Tim’s wedding to Sophie. It is the day after the Royal wedding and although I’m not bothered about Friday’s festivities, it is handy to have been given the day off before my brothers big day. I’m going to be an Usher so I will be having to scrub up well. I’m not sure what is expected of me apart from handing out matchday programmes at the church and driving my brother there. To be honest, my Astra Estate isn’t going to look great with a ribbon on it, but I’ll give it a clean. I’m hoping the weather stays nice as the reception is in a marquee and it will be good to be able to be outside too.
It’s going to be a good bank holiday weekend for me and I can’t wait. Not sure how much I will remember afterwards though. Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you have a good one, and if anyone will be at Snetterton on Monday, come say hello if you see me about.