Last weekend saw the last race of the year on my hectic 2012 calendar, the Britcar production cup night race at Brands Hatch. Despite the miserable weather, it was a good day and a great race. However there was one part of the day that left me somewhat disappointed. It was announced that there would be no Britcar 24hr race next season.
The UK has a thriving motorsport scene and is probably the hub of motorsport technology. Lots of F1 teams are based in the UK, there are superb championships such as British GT, Formula 3, and British Touring Cars going all the way down to well entered grass roots level. The UK is also home to some great circuits such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Yet next year there will be no 24 hour endurance race in Britain.
There are successful 24 hour races held across the globe, which are always well attended. Obviously the likes of Le Mans and Daytona 24 hour are massive events and so too is the Nurburgring 24. But races in Belgium, Dubai and Spain are also becoming increasingly popular. Endurance racing has a huge following of hardcore racing fans across the globe and also within the UK. There are thousands who make the trip across the Channel to Le Mans or Nurburgring each year to get their much needed fix of live 24hr racing. So why, when the UK is such a big player in the word of Motorsport can we not host a popular and well supported 24 hour race?
Without going into details, I understand costs and budgets have a huge influence on the demise of the Britcar race, but fields have been in decline and with less than 30 cars taking part in this year’s race, it was, to be more than fair, a poor turnout. It also felt like the spectator numbers had also taken a nose dive too compared to previous years. But even when the field was 60-70 strong, the crowd numbers still, personally speaking, seemed somewhat disappointing. Maybe more could have been done to advertise the event, maybe more could be done to create awareness of the series as a whole, or maybe the lack of big European teams and well known drivers that enter the other 24hr races doesn’t generate interest. Perhaps Top Gear could come back and have another stab at racing round the clock.
I know it’s hard to organise a high profile event and it takes a long time to but create a quality race that attracts big names and manufacturers, but sure the UK deserves something of that scale? Ok, so the UK circuits probably don’t have the charm that the likes of la Sarthe, Spa or the Nurburgring Nordschleife but it’s not that that’s causing the stumbling block. It needs a backing from a good motorsport organisation. Whilst I really like the Britcar race series, would they ever be able to take their 24hr race to the next level? Recent years suggest not. I know the likes of the SRO already organise the Spa 24hr race as well as a number of superbly run and supported race series including the British GT that is continually getting stronger and stronger, more high profile and increasingly well supported and entered. So with a series of this nature running in Britain that already has the rest of Europe standing up and taking note, maybe there is still chance of a top 24 hour race in the UK becoming a regular feature that will get fans not just across Britain in attendance, but fans across Europe too.
The baton has been dropped and is in need of some steady hands to pick it up. Or maybe, there are just too many 24 hour races already?
Finally, if you are a fan of endurance and GT racing, then there are still a few remaining copies of my limited edition 2013 A3 calendar available, featuring images from the Nurburgring 24, British GT, GT Open, FIA GT1 and WEC. Also you will receive a free A4 mounted print with every copy ordered. Just visit my website here for more details. Also, a range of prints from the race events I have covered this year are also available to purchase and would make an ideal gift for any petrol head and motorsport fan this Christmas.
The weekend just gone saw the Britcar 24 hour race take place at Silverstone. Sadly the entry list was down on previous years which is disappointing for the most High Profile 24 hour race in England. Make of that what you will. But the racing was still close with a variety of cars from each class capable of battling for class honours and even an overall podium spot.
As per usual, I was in full support of the plucky Honda Jazz from Synchro Motorsport and this year the support was turned up an extra notch in light of the sad passing of Dave Allan. The Jazz still bore Dave’s name as tribute to the driver who had raced many times for the team and this year was sporting a Matt Black livery. Normally a look of disgust crosses my face when I see a Honda Jazz as they are normally holding up a queue of traffic as the pensioner in the driving seat hesitates way too often whilst trying to negotiate a roundabout or takes several attempts to park in an empty Tesco car park. But this Honda Jazz is different. Possibly the only Jazz in the country that isn’t owned by a pensioner and features a number of optional extra that prove it means business. I can’t help but give a wry smile every time I see it.
Sadly, the Jazz was disqualified from the race overnight. Amazingly, for breaking the set sound level’s for the race too often. Yes, you read that right. The Jazz was just too loud in a race including a GT3 Aston Martin and a Mosler! I was gutted. The car had been running quite well until the sound issues and I so desperately wanted it to achieve a good finish just for Dave’s sake who was no doubt watching on somewhere.
This meant I had to put all my support on another car. A car that had attracted my attention a few weeks back during the Snetterton round of the Britcar Production Cup. A car with a bit of previous history with some drivers who were a little more novice but fully deserving of a huge amount of support.
The Mission Motorsport team and their Nissan 370z were formed to bring together and aid the recovery, help rehabilitate wounded service personnel and aid the return to an active life. The driver line up consisted of; Major James Cameron, co-founder of Mission Motorsport who set about combining his love of motorsport and dedication in helping others who have been effected by experiences or injuries whilst serving their country, Trooper James Gillborn who lost a leg after standing on an IED in Afghanistan last year and can now add Racing Driver to his list of achievements during his rehabilitation period. Lance Corporal Martyn Copleston who was injured after the Armoured Vehicle he was driving hit an IED last year and Sergeant Gary Dunning who after a number of years service suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a huge motorcycle accident leaving him with massive injuries.
This was a team everyone was proud to get behind and indeed they did including Paralympian Gold Medal rower Pamela Relph who was there in support. I was really hoping they would have a good race and they were always one of the car numbers the media room checked on in the bank of timing screens. With the RJN Motorsport team behind them, the guys were doing a grand job with the Nissan.
Sadly, during the early hours of the morning, Disaster Struck. With the Nissan heading round Copse Corner, it was confronted by a Marco Mantis that was broadside across the track after a spin. Heavy breaking and quick reactions just weren’t enough to avoid a collision and impact between the two was unavoidable. It was game over for the Marcos, but the Nissan and the Mission motorsport team had other ideas. These guys just don’t give up. It is not an option for them. With the car back in the garage with damage that cause most teams to pull the garage door down and call it a day, the team set about the task of getting the car back out there. With a lot of team work and a spare road going 370z in the paddock that was cannibalised the job was done and the team were back out to the delight of everyone.
The hours passed and the Nissan continued on even during the heavy rain over the last few hours that was catching out the more experienced drivers and as the Chequered flag dropped at 3.30pm the Mission Motorsport team had achieved an impressive 17th place overall. It was a warming sight and to top it off, James Gillborn won driver of the race, nominated by the Radio LeMans team. It was Mission Accomplished for Mission Motorsport. As I stood on the Pit wall as the podium presentations were taking place, the Nissan was being pushed back to its garage and I overheard Major Cameron provide the best quote of the weekend. He turned to the woman walking back to the garage with him and said “Now, we must talk about this 48 hour super endurance race in Spain”
For More Information about Mission Motorsport, visit their website www.missionmotorsport.org where you can read more and even see onboard footage, including the moment of the ‘Incident’ at Copse.
This weekend see’s the final round of the British GT Championship at Donington Park. With seven teams in with a shout of the title, it’s going to be a big one. Oh, and you know it’s quite a big deal when the FIA GT1 guys add themselves to the support list! I cant wait.