So the motorsport season is back with a bang and a big one at that for my return trackside for the first round of the British GT championships at the weekend. Oulton Park was my destination to kick off the season and I was pretty excited. It was a bit like the first day back at school when you were a kid. Catching up with friends and seeing what was new.
It was to be my first visit to the Cheshire track and despite the five and a half hour journey up on the Friday and the 5.30 am fire alarm at the hotel on Saturday morning and having to stand around in sub zero temperatures in my PJ’s (Zoe Wenham and David Ashburn look similarly unimpressed) I was looking forward to checking out what Oulton Park had in store. Although it was cold, I was glad. I had packed my thermals, the sky was blue, the sun was out and the wind was still. Conditions were good as I headed out to shoot the first BGT practice session.
The field was impressive, despite one or two entries pulling out and the cars looked and sounded great in the morning sun. It was good to be back. Some even sported new liveries. A nod to the Tartan livery of Gregor Fiskin & Richard Westbrook’s Trackspeed Porsche which everyone seemed to like, unlike their team mates Porsche of David Ashburn & Nick Tandy who’s spotted entry divided opinion. I myself was a fan of the new look works Ginetta entry with a white, black and orange livery. Also, the Optimum BMW Z4′s look great in Carbon Black showing that you don’t need to do much to make a GT race car look good.
It became apparent early on that I liked the circuit. Spending the first session at Deer Leap and Lodge Corner, I was getting some nice angles and the session seemed to pass by rather quickly. My head was full of thoughts about where to go for the other sessions over the weekend. I didn’t want to miss some good spots and I still had so much to explore.
Discussions were had in the media centre as to where were good places to photograph and I needed opinions from other photographers who knew the circuit a lot better than an Oulton Park newbie like myself. I had decided to head round to the outside of the circuit on the far side to photograph down the hill towards the first chicane and to spend the hour long second practice working my way towards the Shell Oils hairpin. Just that section itself was a joy as again, there were so many different perspectives and angles to get and before long the session was drawing to a close. I was loving this circuit and was wishing it was a lot closer to home. I didn’t have chance to even think about how cold it was.
Qualifying was soon upon us and with cars all at maximum attack it was a good chance to head over to Druids where the crest on exit saw a few of the cars get light at the front and lifting a wheel or two. I was hoping to try and get a few shots of this. Soon after the first qualifying session got underway, a big accident from one of the GT4 Ginetta’s was to delay the session. It played into my hands somewhat as the sun was starting to set. I was thankful that the clocks hadn’t gone forward just yet as I had found a spot amongst the trees with the setting sun behind the farm on the opposite side of the track ready for the return of the cars. Despite the split second I had to capture the cars after appearing from view and then as quickly disappearing again, I was pleased with what I had managed to capture. Then, as the second qualifying session got underway, it was time to try and capture the cars over that crest.
The day drew to an end and I couldn’t wait till Monday to get back and photograph the two races, but in the mean time, I was happy with my days work. Saturday night involved a drive round Runcorn to try and find a supermarket so we could get some food for the next couple of days. Avoiding drunken and mischievous juveniles I was worried about stopping at traffic lights and junctions in case I got hijacked at knifepoint or had the wheels stolen off my car in a time that would make the Red Bull F1 team proud. After eventually finding not one but 4 supermarkets all close together it was time to stop at the local McDonalds for something to eat. It felt like I’d stepped into the holding room for the next episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was pretty sure they could tell I wasn’t from round these parts before I had even said anything. Needless to say I ate my Big Mac as quick as possible at a window seat so I could keep an eye on my car, before getting out of there sharp-ish and back to the hotel. People think my home county of Essex is bad? I’m used to a lot of stuff but I was genuinely feeling uncomfortable.
We were staying in a Holiday Inn and we had noticed the previous evening that it was apparent that there was a Wedding and a reception being held there on the Saturday. The latter in full flow as we had got back. Despite the Hotel being nice, I had questioned whether a Holiday Inn was really the sort of place you’d want to get married, but each to their own. There was enough fake tan around to keep Amy Childs beauty salon stocked up for a year and I noticed a popularity for drawing on eyebrows with black marker pen giving the wearer a permanent angry expression which amused me as the angry looking orange faced girls struggled to walk properly in their ridiculous platform high heeled shoes. Even an Essex boy like myself was out of my comfort zone and decided to leave the hotel bar and head for bed.
With no track action on Sunday, the day was spent watching the British Touring Car Championship on the TV in the hotel room before a meal out in the evening with friends. I struggled to get to sleep that night trying to work out the best places at Oulton to shoot the two races on Monday.
The morning was again very cold and this time the skies were cloudy and overcast. Not as good conditions as Saturday but I was grateful it wasn’t raining. I headed to the pit lane to shoot the 10 minute warm up session before deciding where to got for Race One. It was soon upon us and a few minutes were spent on the grid as the cars lined up before I headed down to the first corner. I wanted to capture the impressive Class of 2013 as they headed into the first corner of the season. They looked fantastic as they headed towards myself and the other photographers around me. I fired off shots of the first half of the field heading into the bend before turning to shoot them disappearing down the hill. Big mistake.
With myself pointing my camera down the hill I was unaware of what was happening to my right. The first indication of something not being right was seeing the two photographers to my left out of the corner of my eye suddenly run for cover. I wasn’t up against the barrier but stepped back just as a Mercedes SLS and an Aston Martin appeared and hit the tyres and Armco in front of me. I hadn’t heard the shout of ‘Incoming’ and had been taken by surprise. Thankfully no one was hurt and despite the Aston being able to carry on, only to retire a few laps later, the Mercedes had managed to move to a safer spot on the other side of the track, but is was clearly game over with too much damage to continue. Not the best way to start the new season for them and certainly an unexpected one for me.
I spent race one photographing while heading down the hill towards cascades. It wasn’t long before more drama unfolded though. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air from the other side of the circuit as the LNT Ginetta G55 had burst into flames. Again though, thankfully no one was hurt. The hour had passed quickly and the race had come to an end as I was at the bottom of the hill at cascades. Plenty of action had taken place for the season opener and it was only a few hours until race two was about to get underway.
I took up position for the second race at the bottom of the hill at cascades, only this time on the inside of the circuit to shoot the cars heading down the hill and enabling myself to then photograph the second chicane and Knickerbrook before making my way up the hill towards druids. The first half of the race seemed to go to smoothly before major incidents broke out. The second Ginetta G55 burst into flames leaving driver Colin White to leap out quickly whilst heading up the hill to Deer leap. Also, there was a big accident involving Jon Minhaw’s Trackspeed Porsche and Andrew Howards Aston Martin at the chicane I had been at earlier in the race, so I didn’t manage to get that on camera and one of the Mtech Ferrari’s collided heavily with the APO Ginetta G50. It seemed to me that I had been too close to the action or too far away in the wrong place to capture any of it.
But it didn’t matter, I had a great weekend and I had experienced a new circuit which I loved. Oulton is now threatening Brands Hatch GP as my favourite UK circuit. Next up for me, the World Endurance Championships and European Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
Its been a busy few weeks for me and my blog has been neglected somewhat of late and the distraction of the Olympics hasn’t helped so I thought it would be time for a bit of a catch up before I head to Snetterton this weekend for the British Touring Car Championship.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking photos for the local Pony Club Junior and Intermediate camps. Not quite the fast paced adrenaline fuelled action I see trackside but it is still good fun. The weather was good for both weeks, and I’m always treated well there by the organisers. Despite the hard work it is always worth it and I do enjoy covering the Camps. I don’t get to photograph equestrian events as much as I used to and I do miss it at times so it’s always nice to go back to where my sports photography all began.
The weekend just passed It was back to the track and the first weekend of three in a row at Snetterton. The British GT & F3 Championships headed to the Norfolk circuit and I was there to photograph my favourite UK championship. Initial weather forecasts were promising, but those who have been to Snetterton will know how unpredictable the weather can be there. The place seems to have its own micro climate and the best option is to pack for all conditions.
This was definitely the case as despite the dry relatively sunny conditions all morning, black clouds gathered during second practice for the GT’s and when a red flag was put out for an off from Ollie Milroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, the heavens took this cue to open. Thankfully I could see this and the thunder and lightning coming and as soon as the red flag made an appearance I made a bee line for the safety of the media centre. Within minutes the down pour had flooded the circuit and the pit lane. The GT cars were not going to head out in those conditions and the session finished. Subsequent race and qualifying sessions were to be delayed until after the rain stopped so areas of standing water on the track could be pumped away.
The rain delay meant the GT qualifying, due last on the timetable had to be dropped. Grid positions for both 1 hour races were to be decided by the 2 practice session times. This played into the hands of the Trackspeed Porsches as it was pole in race one for the 31 car and pole in race two for the 33 car.
Sunday was to be a new day but the unpredictable weather returned. Heavy rain returned and disrupted the rescheduled timetable meaning the second Ginetta Challenge race of the day had to be dropped to avoid breaking the curfew. It also meant the F3 cars had to take on the elements but Both GT races avoided the wet and had two dry races. The new McLaren MP4-12C of United Autosports Charles Bateman and Matt Bell took a debut win for the car in the championships meaning it was a remarkable seven different winners from the seven races so far in the season. It looked to be a possible eight different winners from eight races in race two as after the pit stops the Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey led comfortable but a fuel pressure problem meant they dropped back to second place leaving team mates Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy to take their second win of the season. For full race reports, visit the Checkered Flag website here.
With just two points separating the top five drivers in the championship, it is all up for grabs over the remaining two rounds at Silverstone and Donington Park and it looks set to go right down to the wire. Despite Lotus not making an appearance in GT4 at their home circuit and the Jones Brothers Mercedes also absent an addition to the field was the Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini LP600 of Hari Prozcyk and Marco Attard. It was a welcome addition and even with the absentee’s 12 different manufacturers were represented on the grid with the possibility of this increasing to 14 for the next round. As you can see that is a pretty impressive field and one of the reasons British GT is so great.
So next for me is the British Touring Car Championship back in Norfolk after their long summer break. I haven’t photographed the Touring cars for some time due to calendar clashes and it seems like a long time since I last shot them at Donington. I really hope the weather stays dry and I’m sure the thousands of fans who I know will be heading there will be hoping the same.
Photos from the F3 and GT Races and sessions can be seen on my Facebook page.
With my Nurburgring trip now seeming like just a distant memory and my screensaver acting as a constant reminder of great the place really is, it was time to head out for my first race trackside since the German 24hr race.
It was the Britcar Endurance and Production cup races at Brands Hatch on the Indy Circuit last Saturday and as much as I like Brands Hatch I couldn’t help but think that Druids didn’t have quite the same lure as the Karussell and that Paddock Hill wasn’t that steep in comparison. But I can’t shoot at the Nordschleife every weekend so I was just happy to be trackside again.
However, tales of the trip and the race in the media room, along with Guy Povey’s BMW still bearing the Bilstein and Gran Turismo 5 stickers from 24hr Epic, my withdrawal symptoms from the Green Hell weren’t being eased. I even spotted an Audi Sport Team Phoenix sticker in the pit lane. I had suggested to James that he sat in the media room and played the Nurburgring Pitlane siren that I have saved on my laptop every time he saw a car come down the pits. That place had really had an effect on me, much like an ex girlfriend you have very fond memories of. I was beginning to worry myself somewhat.
Thankfully, once the sessions on track had started and I was out with my camera I was soon back in the swing of things. Despite the gloomy and slightly damp start to the day the weather improved and by the afternoon the sun was beating down. I had prepared for rain so it was inevitable.
A new edition to the Endurance grid was a Ginetta G50. This had caught my eye. Not only was it red, but it was covered in Kit Kat advertising. To my surprise, whilst taking a few photos of it in the garage a team member approached and handed me a Kit Kat. I gratefully accepted the chocolate then thought to myself, ‘These guys can come again!’
With the sun out and the afternoon’s racing upon us, the Production Cup race took place. The 90 minute race was a competitive affair and a noticeable addition to the driver line up was Andy Jordan in the Eurotech Honda Accord who was standing in for his father Mike whilst he was racing with the Jones twins in their Mercedes SLS at Silverstone for the Blancpain series. The production cup race was eventually won by Michael Symonds in his Orange BMW M3. Photos of the Production Cup can be seen on my Facebook Album or on my Flickr page.
Soon the Endurance race was up and running. A two hour race this weekend as opposed to the usual three and the field look great in the sun that was now high in the sky and causing me to get a sweat on. I’m not sure about other photographers but I’ve noticed that cars with bright or unusual liveries always seem to catch my eye when I’m shooting races and the Red Kit Kat Ginetta was no exception. So here’s a tip if you enter a race car into a series. Paint it a bright colour, I’ve found Yellow is the most effective, and you will probably find that it will get photographed a lot. As with the Production Cup, the Endurance race was another captivating affair. I like Brands Hatch as I can tune my pocket radio into the radio station and listen to the commentary whilst trackside above the engine noises and follow what is going on. It’s always handy, especially in endurance races when the field soon gets spread out. I wish all circuits broadcast on a radio station like this. Silverstone is the only other one. Anyway, the race victory went to the ever impressive Mosler of Javier Morcillo and Paul White to increase their championship lead. More photos of the Endurance race can again be seen on my Facebook Page and on my Flickr Page.
Next up for me is Round 3 of the British GT championship at Rockingham. I’m really looking forward to that this weekend. I think I’ve conquered my withdrawal symptoms now. However, the last time I photographed the British GT championship was at………..
The Easter weekend saw the return of the GT’s. Not just the British GT Championships at Oulton Park, but also the World FIA GT1 championship and the European GT3 series at Nogaro in France.
Unfortunately, do to work commitments, I couldn’t be at Oulton Park for found one of the British GT Championship. Although I was somewhat glad I wasn’t standing out in the dreadful weather they were experiencing, I was bitterly disappointed to be missing out on some great racing. New teams and cars have improved the field even more from last year, with BMW and Nissan joining the manufacturers and rather being there to see them in action, I was glued to the online timing screen, a race ticker and twitter to keep up to date on what was happening during both one hour races.
It was the United Autosports Audi of Matt Bell and Charles Bateman who took pole for the first race. They were to lead for all but one of the 32 laps. Unfortunately, the lap they didn’t lead for was the final one. The Audi had ran out of fuel on the last lap and coasted to a stop, gifting the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant victory in their maiden British GT race. Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen’s took second in their Ferrari 458 ahead of another Ferrari, that of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. GT4 Honours went the way of the impressive pairing of Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin in their Ginetta G50. At one point in this race, the top six was represented by six different manufacturers, show what a diverse field the series now boasts.
Experienced GT racer Richard Westbrook will partner current champion David Ashburn for as many British GT Races as his busy schedule will allow this season, and this was the pairing that were to start on pole position for Trackspeed in the Porsche 997. The pair also went on to take a flawless victory in the days second race ahead of Griffin and Cameron who performed well in the adverse weather conditions. Third place went the way of British GT New boys Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey. It was Hughes and Fannin on the top step in the GT4 class, ahead of the Lotus pairing of Phil Glew and Sailesh Bolisetti. An honourable mention must be made to Zoe Wenham. This was her first BGT race weekend and a mature drive in race two saw the 17 year old take third place in GT4 along with Mike Simpson.
Round two of the Championship see’s a trip to the Nurburgring in support of the 24hour race. My media application has been sent so hopefully I will be in attendance to see them battle it out on the iconic German Circuit.
Whilst the Brits were experiencing miserable weather in Cheshire, the FIA GT1’s were fairing slightly better in rural France at Nogaro. Victory in both the wet Sunday race and the dry Monday race, went to the Belgium WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor. It was a good weekend for the team as their second car of Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis took both second places as well completing a perfect start to the season.
The GT3 race was to feature ex British GT driver (and karting buddy) Michael Lyons who has made the step up to join Stefano Gai in the AF Corse Ferrari 458. Race one victory went to the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Sourd and Gregory Guilvert, but disqualification for Lamborghini pair Filip Sladecka and Gerhard Tweraser for ignoring a drive through penalty saw Lyons and Gai promoted to second place after taking the chequered flag in third behind them. Race two saw Maximilian Buhk and Dominik Baumann in the Mecedes-Benz SLS AMG victorious, but Lyons crossed the white line on pit exit after taking over from Gai and was handed a drive through penalty.
Hopes of a solid finish looked diminished for the young Brit, but an incredible drive saw Lyons haul the Ferrari into third place and a battle for second place with the other AF Corse Ferrari during the closing laps. It was just a little too much as Gaetano Ardagna Perez defended his position desperately to keep Michael behind, leaving him to settle for third and not break team rule number 1: Do not take out your team mate.
It was a superb debut for Michael and with two podiums finishes, takes a healthy points haul to the next round. Thankfully both the GT1 and GT3 races were streamed live on the internet so I was able to watch the superb GT racing. Some consolation for not being at Oulton Park.
Last weekend saw the long awaited return of the British Touring Car Championships. With everyone desperate to see what the season brings and who would set the pace in round one, the weekend wasn’t to disappoint.
The first shock of the weekend came in qualifying. It was Dave Newsham in the Team ES racing’s aging Vectra that claimed pole position against the likes of the new Honda Civic and the established teams of Ebay Motors BMW and Redstone Racing, formally Motorbase. With the new MG taking to the track without prior testing before the weekend, expectations were low, even from within the camp, but with the superb team of Triple eight and the highly experienced Jason Plato behind the wheel, there was always the possibility of a shock result. A solid sixth place on the grid for the first race showed this to be a real chance of good results. Despite its good looks, new team and driver pairing of John Thorne in the Thorney Motorsport in the new Vauxhall Insignia, struggled for pace and a huge off at paddock hill in practice meant there would be no qualifying session for the team and doubts were cast on the chance of seeing it take to the grid for the races. However, the team did well to get it repaired in time for race one the following day.
Rob Collard got the best start from race one and took the lead early on. Newsham had dropped to third behind Matt Neal with Plato doing well to gain places to reach fourth. But the main talking point from the first race came on lap 15. With places swapping throughout the race in the top few positions, an audacious move was to change the race in a big way. Newsham was doing well to stay in the front pack and on the start straight he had got the run on Neal to edge ahead for the lead. As the pair braked for Paddock Hill bend, Plato, who was third decided to try and take the lead and go up the inside of the pair from some way back. A move that just wasn’t there as Newsham was turning in. Plato inevitably made contact with the rear quarter of the yellow Vectra sending him into a spin and off into the gravel finishing his race.
Rob Collard went on to win the first race of the season, with Neal second, Tom Onslow-Cole third and Plato taking fourth. Collard was to receive a fine and points on his licence for celebrating with some doughnuts near pit entry, which seems excessive, but perhaps it was the fact that the doughnuts were, well, a bit rubbish that he got the fine. As for Plato, when asked about the earlier incident, he said he saw a gap and went for it. Well, yes, he may have saw a gap, but it was a long way away and was closing rapidly. He then stated that it was all part of racing. Maybe so, but the move ended Newsham’s definite chance of a podium. Do silly moves like that deserve to be part of racing? Hardly fair is it. No stranger to voicing his opinions on various aspects of the BTCC, I would have liked to have known what Plato’s response would have been had the roles been reversed. I think I could guess though and I am certain it would be an opinion that was very different. After the weekend, Plato was to be fined £750 and slapped with 3 points on his racing licence for his move on Newsham, but I couldn’t help feel that a drive through or time penalty would have been more of a punishment.
On to race two which again proved to be a close affair out front with Neal, Andy Jordan, and Plato tussling for positions. Plato did actually take the lead at one point. Very impressive for MG on its return to the championship. But eventually, Plato settled with third step of the podium behind the two new Civic’s of Jordan second and Neal first. Further down the field, Newsham fought back well from the back of the grid to claim ninth. Rob Austin took a very good fifth place in the Audi on a weekend when team made Mark Hazell announced his withdrawal from the championship leaving Rob Austin racing with a spare Audi. Many BTCC fans would love a certain likeable Liverpudlian to fill the vacant seat if a budget can be found. Lea Wood, shone in race two, also in a Vectra, running in the top 10 before a drive through penalty saw him drop down the field and Dan Welch in the Proton did well to recover after being tapped into an early spin to take 12th place. Nick Foster was also lucky to walk away unscathed from his BWM after losing control out of Druids and hitting the tyre wall on the run down to Graham Hill bend before coming to a rest in its roof.
Race three was also set to cause a major talking point and plenty of excitement. It was Ollie Jackson in the VW Golf starting from pole thanks to the reversed grid. Unfortunately he was to drop down a few places on the early laps. Then, a few laps in Mat Jackson ran wide at paddock hill which was to trigger some unbelievable consequences. Running through the gravel before making it back onto the track, Jackson had caused damage to the front of his Ford Focus which left a trail of fluid on the way up to Druids. Ollie Jackson was to find this fluid and lost control under braking sending him spinning into the gravel at the hairpin right infront of me. Ducking to avoid the shower of dust and gravel, I peered over the tyre wall to see a number of other cars follow suit. Protecting myself and my equipment, it wasn’t until the dust had settled before I saw the full extent of the incident. There now seemed to be a carpark in front of me with seven cars stuck in the kitty litter all in various states. The race was stopped while the Marshalls worked tirelessly and quickly to recover the cars and sweep the track.
From the restart it was Collard who took the lead before falling back behind the battle between Andy Jordan and Jason Plato, now for the lead. Jordan did well to keep Plato behind for a few laps despite constantly being put under pressure with a number of nudges from the MG6. It was eventually at clearways when Plato squeezed up the inside of Jordan pushing him wide and taking the lead to go on to take a victory that few would have thought possible from the new car on its maiden race weekend with no testing. Jordan was left very disappointed with his second place, despite it being his second visit to the podium during the day. Meanwhile, Dave Newsham was a man on a mission set to prove a point and after a superb drive, took third place and eventually got that podium place that was cruelly taken away from him in race one much to everyone’s delight. Jeff Smith took a solid fourth ahead of Rob Austin in fifth.
It certainly was an action packed start to the BTCC season which also saw carnage in the Clio Cup race involving a number of cars, which no doubt saw the Renault spare parts division working overtime on Monday, as well as a huge accident in the Ginetta GT Supercup which thankfully everyone walked away from. Usually, it’s the Ginetta Junior races that see the most incidents, offs and impacts but they were very well behaved in their close fought races.
As the Touring Car circus heads to Donington for the next round, there is still no clear favourite for the championship title and there are still a number of questions to be answered. Will the ES Racing Vectra still be on pace or was it a one off performance? Will Jason Plato in the MG be a real title contender? Can Gordon Shedden get used to the new Honda sooner rather than later after a poor weekend? And who, if anyone, will take up that spare seat at Audi? Only time will tell, but BTCC is certainly back with a bang.
So my motorsport season has officially started. A trip to Silverstone to cover Round One of the MSA Britcar Endurance Championships saw the year get off to a good start. The early fog lifted and the sun shone to kick of my coming year behind the lens in great fashion.
It’s great to get back after the off season and to catch up with friends and fellow photographers. Its always nice to see what has been going on over the winter too. New teams, cars, drivers and liveries are finally on show as everyone is keen to show their hand and what they are capable of over the next eight or so months.
The Britcar series is always one I am very fond of. I love endurance racing and the atmosphere is always great. It’s nice to talk to teams and drivers in a slightly more relaxed environment than that the bigger series. However that is not to say it is any less competitive. The Motionsport team lined up with a new Ferrari 458 in their white and blue livery which looked great. I’m looking forward to them getting their full Aero Package on it. Bullrun and their drivers including last year’s BTCC Driver Martin Byford launched their assault on the title with a new Lotus Evora, as did father and son pairing Peter and Matt Smith in a new Ginetta G55. The merger of last year’s two Mosler teams meant they were to be a force to be reckoned with again this year and they were all joined by championship regulars such as the Topcats Marcos’ and the Intersport BMW. Even the SR2 Rapier had received a new Martini Racing style livery for the new year.
Another addition to the series was the Production Cup. A 90 minute race series for production cars. This saw a great field of various cars from Honda Integra’s and Seat Leon’s to Ginetta G40’s & Mazda MX5’s. It also had attracted well known drivers such as ex BTCC star Mike Jordan in a familiar Integra and Karl Breeze and Tom Howard in a Ginetta G40. The racing proved to be close and very exciting. The Cunningham’s Seat Leon Supercopa, a team who were regulars in last year’s Britcar series, led for most of the race, only to be passed by the quick BMW M3 CSL of Richard Abra and Mark Poole for victory. But there were battles throughout the field to keep the fans entertained.
It is always difficult to tell how good a spectator turnout there is on the GP circuit at Silverstone as it is so vast, however there did seem to be quite a few, helped by the glorious weather. They wouldn’t have been disappointed with the racing in the main three hour endurance race either. A close three way fight before the first round of pit stops between the Mosler, Rapier SR2 and the Paul Bailey Ferrari 430 was an exciting affair. However as with all endurance racing, it isn’t all about raw speed but reliability is a huge factor as the Bailey Ferrari was to find out. Radiator issues cost them dearly and whilst it was looking set to be a grandstand finish between the Mosler and the SR2, the Rapier also succumbed to issues as electrical problems saw them stop out on track in the last half hour.
That left the Mosler to win outright with the second placed Marcos Mantis taking class two honours for Topcats. The Evora won class 3 and Steve Gugliami’s Lotus Elise took the spoils in class 4. It was certainly a great weekend and a great way to kick off my year. Next stop, Brands Hatch for round one of the BTCC.
Production Cup race report can be seen here.
Endurance race report can be seen here.
Last weekend I was photographing the Britcar into the night race, my last circuit race of the season. I have one more motorsport event to cover with a trip to Rockingham for the Rockingham Stages Rally. I’m clinging on to dear life to the remainder of the season but I have to accept defeat and let it go soon. I’m left with the frightening prospect of not having much to do at weekends until it all starts again next year.
The Into the night race was at Brands Hatch and was a three hour endurance race starting in the daylight at 3.30pm and finishing in the dark at 6.30. I really enjoy covering the Britcar races and it’s great to shoot at night too and get some cool light trail photos. This event also featured the first Britcar Production Cup race which will hold a full season next year. The idea is to produce great racing for production cars, with a one and a half hour race and qualifying session in one day and low entry fee’s this is aimed at encouraging those on a budget into endurance type racing.
I was really pleased to see such a great turn out from spectators at this event. Having been covering a number of race weekends this year, with the exception of the BTCC, I have always been disappointed with the seemingly poor spectator numbers. With tickets far cheaper than a premier league football match for a whole weekends worth of entertainment and children’s entry for free I don’t see why more people don’t come along to motorsport events. There is always great action whether it is the British GT or smaller club events. I guess the Into the night format appeals to many with the feel of a 24hr race in just one afternoon. It was good to see Britcar supported well and with an exciting calendar lined up for next year, I hope many more people will come along and see the race series next year.
The title was almost sown up before the race with the Dodge Viper of Aaron Scott and Craig Wilkins just needing to start the race to claim the Championship, which they did before mechanical trouble struck. The Barwell Motorsport team had entered the new look Ginetta G55 GT3 and promptly put it on pole only to suffer a driveshaft failure at the start of the formation laps. Another disappointment came in the form of the Honda NSX. A great car which suffered at Donington earlier this year and has not been entered since so it was great to see it back at Brands Hatch even if it was only for the practice and qualify sessions in which it went well before falling Victim of mechanical trouble and being forced to withdraw from the race. The full race reports from the Endurance and Production categories can be found on The Checkered Flag website here, and a few more images can be seen here.
So with only one more event to cover, I look back on what has been a great season of motorsport. I now have a chance to spend some time working on other projects of which I’m sure I will keep you up to date with. In the meantime I am pleased to tell you that some of my images are available on my website in print form which you can find them here. A selection of BTCC, British GT, Blancpain Endurance and Classic/Historic racing images can be purchased and until the 6th of December you can get 20% off orders using the code Discount20.
It was an action packed weekend of motorsport and high drama all round. The Chinese Grand Prix was an exciting affair with Lewis Hamilton halting Sebastian Vettel’s early dominance and Mark Webber overcame a disappointment in qualifying with a great drive to claim third spot on the podium. Also, it was great to see Mike Conway win in the Indycar at Long Beach after recovering from his huge accident last year.
As for me, I was at Rockingham on Saturday for the second round of the MSA Britcar Endurance Championship before heading to Donington for rounds 4, 5 & 6 in the British Touring Car Championship. It was a great race at a Sunny Rockingham with the Eclipse Ferrari 430 taking the win after battling it out late on with the MJC Ferrari for the honours. The race reports can be read at The Checkered Flag and although they have not been posted as I write this, they will be available very soon.
So on to Sundays action at Donington which gives me the topic of conversation in this blog post. I am talking about driving standards. There were so many incidents in both the BTCC and the Ginetta Junior’s both this weekend and the season opener at Brands Hatch that have bought the issue of the standard of driving in to question. There were a number of incidents during the racing and qualifying, including Jason Plato rolling his car three times after going off and hitting a bank which left drivers and teams alike extremely upset with lost points and thoughts of what could have been.
On Monday, fan favourite Paul O’Neill expressed his feelings on Twitter saying he was embarrassed to be a touring car driver, before stating that he and the other drivers were role models and should be giving a good impression. Also, the team boss of Ginetta Junior team Hillspeed has spoken out and condemned some of the driving standards in their series as totally unacceptable.
We all know that there is a certain amount of contact that takes place in touring cars and other race series but how much is too much? No matter who is involved, you all must agree that being punted off by someone charging up from behind you as you brake for a corner because they want to gain a few places is hardly fair. However, some of the incidents arent solely due to drivers being overly aggressive.Some have been caused by lack of awareness by drivers who are turning in on cars beside them or not being quite aware of what is going on around them. This also brings up a subject that I touched on in a previous blog about certain drivers. There are a lot of them who buy their way into a race series because of the money they can bring to a team despite their obvious lack of talent. Surely all drivers in the top race series need to have a proven track record. As for the Ginetta Junior drivers, the culprits seem to be those who have rich parents that are willing to fund their desire to be the next Lewis Hamilton despite showing little or no race craft knowledge. If they want to drive around smashing into people then may I suggest a far cheaper option of visiting the local funfair and having a go on the dodgems and leaving the racing to the talented youngsters with a desire to win fairly?
I don’t want to ruin the excitement and ban all contact but the line has to be drawn somewhere. It is unacceptable for someone to barge past others to gain a place without a care about putting the others in the gravel. I hope that something can be done to make it fairer with penalties such as grid drops, points deductions, points on licences or even race bans as punishments to eradicate poor driving and help separate the wheat from the chaff. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject so feel free to leave a comment.
All the race reports and news can be read on The Checkered Flag website along with some of my photos from the weekend so feel free to head over there.
Finally, if you like my blog, please vote for it in the poll held by Longlife Exhausts to find the best car based blog. Voting can be done here and I’d be very grateful.
So after the response from my last blog, I’m kind of feeling the pressure to make this one a good ‘un too. However I feel you may be disappointed. There are no amusing stories in this one but hopefully something that will cause interesting conversation and debate.
The British Touring Car Championships made its long awaited return this weekend at Brands Hatch and although I wasn’t there unfortunately, I was watching on the TV. Whilst watching, there was one thing that made me think and concerned me somewhat. It’s not just something that is happening in touring cars, but also in the support races and indeed right throughout motorsport all the way up to the pinnacle, Formula One.
I am of course talking about driver funding and sponsorship. I bring this up now as it is probably most noticeable in the BTCC. Whilst it is great to see a lot of drivers in the BTCC, there are a number of drivers there not because of their ability behind the wheel, but because of the amount of money in their bank account. Whilst I understand the need of funds to run a race team, it concerns me that a lot of young talented drives are missing out due to the lack of financial backing and drives are being given to distinctly average drivers who have wads of cash to help support the team.
Many of you will remember the Silverstone round of the BTCC last year and how the two Team AON Ford Focus’ dominated. Both on the front row of the grid and leading the field come race day. However it was Tom Onslow-Cole leading team mate Tom Chilton until the prior mysteriously slowed to let Chilton through to take the lead and ultimately, victory. There is a lot of speculation as to the reasons why, with the most common being Tom Chilton brings the most money into the team so he got preference. Despite Onslow-Cole’s exemplarily behaviour afterwards in post race interviews, the disappointment was clear. It was he who was ahead of Chilton in the Championship standings and the decisions made by the team that day were pivotal to the remaining couple of races that season and may well have cost Onslow-Cole the championship title. I will point out though that both drivers here are very talented and both very nice guys, but should preference not have been given to the diver ahead in the championship standings?
However, on the flip side of drivers in the series being able to buy their way into a series, there are drivers who have to pull out after the money dries up. You will no doubt notice the amount of small independent teams and drivers coming and going within the BTCC as they can only afford to compete in a few races. A case in point here is young Matt Hamilton. Having competed in a few races in 2009, Matt was ready and rearing to go in 2010 in a somewhat aging Honda Civic. Matt has competed in other race series, proved his worth and had made his way up to BTCC. His talent showed through during one particular race. At a rain soaked Brands Hatch, Matt carved through the field and kept his head whilst all those around were losing theirs and he took a very creditable ninth place and with it his first Championship points. This drive was to earn him the Dunlop Champagne Moment award from that race weekend as voted by the fans and rightly so. Unfortunately, the funds ran out, the car was sold and Matt, his family and friends, who had worked so hard to get him on the grid, were left to see out the remainder of the season as frustrated spectators. Those two championship points left him ahead in the final driving standings of some of those drivers who were able to buy a full season and trundle around happily towards the tail end of the pack.
Having mentioned Matt Hamilton, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without mentioning, Tom Ingram. Last year Tom was crowned the Ginetta Junior champion, whilst this year he was left trying to get a drive right down to the last minute. In fact, Tom had put a plea on social networking sites to try and help him get the funds together. Luckily it paid off and on Thursday a drive in the Ginetta Supercup at Brands Hatch in the G50 Class was put together and two days later he was in the car and claiming class pole position. Not only that but he then went on to win both G50 Class races. The lad’s talent is obvious yet he is struggling to get a drive. Why is this? I know there are a lot of teams and drivers needing sponsorship and most of the relevant companies already sponsor someone so it can be hard to find funding, but should it not be the responsibility of the team to organise the funding and let the drivers concentrate on the driving? It would be better for a team to have two talented drivers who can mount a challenge for titles rather than having to pick divers who can bring the team money. I’m sure Nico Hulkenburg will agree with this as we all know Williams dropped him from their F1 team because a different driver bought in more money from sponsorship despite Hulkenburg’s visible talent.
I know it is a difficult situation and it costs a lot of money to run a team. This isn’t a topic that I confess to know a lot about but I don’t like to see a talented driver miss out and believe me there are a lot who are. So what can be done? To be honest I don’t really know. But incentives like the Playstation Gran Tourismo Academy are surely a good thing. They spend time plucking out the best driver from a group of hopefuls to compete in a full race season and this ensures that talent doesn’t go unrecognised. This should be done more often. With the backing of major sponsors within the motorsport industry, surely some incentives can be formed to identify young driver talent and then help nurture and fund the driver to become the next big thing. This is why I had such an issue about the SEAT sex drive competition discussed in my last blog. Come on SEAT UK, make a competition to sniff out the real racing talent instead of wasting money on your stupid battle of the sexes gimmick!