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.
It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of David Allan this week whist testing a car at Millbrook.
The Honda racing driver competed in the 2001 & 2002 British Touring Car Championship with Synchro Motorsport and more recently with the same team in the MSA Britcar Championship in their Honda Civic and the much loved Honda Jazz.
He will be missed by many and I send my best wishes and deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
Rest In Peace Dave.
This weekend saw the second round of the British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park. After the explosive start to the season a fortnight ago at Brands Hatch, the next instalment was eagerly anticipated.
As the high drama unfolded, the series didn’t disappoint. Although, it wasn’t necessarily the quality of driving that was the main talking point as the weekend drew to a close. It was the lack of quality driving that was high on the agenda and caught up in the centre of it was the championships very own pantomime villain, Jason Plato.
Unfortunately there were a number of drivers involved in ‘Incidents’ throughout the weekend and penalties and license points seemed to be handed out more frequently than sweets on Halloween. Worryingly, it seems to be happening more often in what is without doubt the most supported British race series, with tens of thousands of fans attending race weekends and even more tuning in to watch the live coverage on TV. After incidents at Bands Hatch and subsequent penalty points handed out, you would like to think that these actions would help but a stop to poor driving.
The main culprit, as at Brands Hatch, was again Jason Plato. I read a very good star letter written by Steve Burden in last week’s Autosport magazine regarding the matter of driving standards. To quote some of the letter, Steve wrote; ‘In an era where budgets are hard to find and grids hard to fill, I felt exasperated to hear Jason Plato saying that “Rubbin’ is Racing”. That might be ok if you’re a paid driver with a works team, but not when you’re a privateer scraping every penny just to make it to the next meeting and a shunt could mean the end of your season.’
This is a very good point raised and I certainly agree with this. I will also admit that one of the reasons the BTCC is so well supported is the close racing which makes it exciting for the fans. Of course, you will get the occasional nudge, bump and rub as cars jostle for position in the short races. However, there is a big difference between Rubbin’ and Barging others off the circuit. After Plato’s somewhat ambitious (at the very best) move at Brands Hatch which left Dave Newsham in the gravel and with no points after being on target for a huge haul in race one, he was at it again in race three at Donington.
It was clear to see that the MG was quick around the East Midlands circuit and after Turbo arguments last season, there will without doubt be more uproar as some teams have different restrictions than others. The Issue of parity will still very much play a part this season. After a solid race one, Plato was to start race two well up the field. However, early contact with Collard sent the MG into the wall on the final Chicane Exit. This meant he would start the last race of the day from the back of the grid. Most people had written off a podium for Plato but with points for the top 15 finishers, there was definitely a chance for a few for Plato. The question was, just how many.
Love him or loathe him, you cannot deny that behind the wheel of a touring car, Jason Plato is one of the best. So as the lights went out, Plato was on a mission and was to gain a few places early on within the race. A short safety car period after a few laps was to help bunch the field back up. After the safety car had gone in, the MG driver had set to work. Expertly picking off driver one by one, he expertly charged up the order. This was without doubt Jason Plato at his very best and the crowd were loving it. The charge had led him all the way up to third place with a few laps remaining. Mat Jackson was leading with Gordon Shedden in second place. Shedden was keen to hold on to this position and he did a great job of holding off the MG in his Honda Civic. The laps ran down and it looked like Plato was going to have to settle for a very impressive third place. He had other ideas though.
At the start of the final straight, Plato lined up Shedden for a move. Sitting right on Shedden’s bumper, Plato nudged the Honda down the back straight. Had he moved out, the MG would surely have passed the Civic with ease due to its superior speed, but he didn’t. As the cars reached the breaking point, it seemed that it was going to end in tears for one or both of them. It did. Shedden braked, but Plato seemingly didn’t. The result meant Shedden was pushed straight on and forced to take to the gravel at the final Chicane. Plato also overshot slightly and had to take to the gravel, a sign that he carried too much speed and did not brake when he should have, perhaps, but has he didn’t go as far into the gravel as his rival, he took the place away from the Scot to finish second. During the interviews, Plato seemed quite pleased with himself. A very different reaction to a similar situation last year at Knockhill, when Plato himself was defending a ‘Talentless Pikey’ before being nudged off and into a tyre wall.
A two second time penalty was given to Plato after the event to demote him down to third, but with Mat Jackson’s exclusion for technical infringements, Plato would regain his second place so lost nothing. I’m not here to discuss the penalties given out though. Whilst I think some could and should be heavier do deter poor and overly aggressive driving, these supposedly talented racing drivers should instinctively know the difference between right and wrong. My point raises perhaps a bigger issue.
As such a hugely supported series, there are many BTCC fans, all with their favourite drivers. As one of the top race series, there are many young drivers aiming to reach the level these drivers are at. Without doubt these drivers are role models to many. So is this kind of behaviour acceptable from a role model? Ironically, a huge talking point within football recently is that of Diving. No one likes to see it and all football fans will agree that diving to win a free kick or penalty is cheating. So surely pushing another driver off to gain a place is also cheating? Is this a good example to set others? To show people that it is ok to cheat to get what you want? Also, should smaller teams suffer at the hands of bullying tactics from others? On a similar line as the letter mentioned earlier, a good finish can mean the difference between securing a lucrative sponsorship deal to help pay bills and enable a few more race weekends for small teams. Is it fair to have that taken away by someone who doesn’t want to play by the rules?
So what impression is all this behaviour leaving with onlookers? Surely it is one that is damaging to motorsport. Something has to be done and attitudes need to change. A good example should be set, rather than that akin to a spoilt child. Not just from Jason Plato, but from all drivers within the higher echelons of the sport. Hopefully sooner rather than later as I’d much prefer to be talking about the exciting action and driving ability on show.
And this is all before I even mention the drivers and social media…..
More images from the weekend can be seen on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook Page.
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.
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!
The World of motorsport has well and truly kicked into life. Last weekend I was at Snetterton for the first race on the new layout and you can read my report here. People have asked me what I think about the new layout and to be honest, I’m still not sure. Obviously it will look a lot better when the grass has germinated and it looks less of a building site, but that’s not the issue I have. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that bugs me but there is something I’m not overly happy with regarding the new layout. Maybe it’s just change and it will take a bit of getting used to but it just feels like there is too much in such a small space. Yes it’s good from a photographer’s point of view and for the spectators, particularly those on the new viewing banks but it gives it a bit of a go-kart track feel. It’s good that the circuit is being developed and Jonathan Palmer wants to bring bigger and more exciting race series to the Norfolk track and I understand there is a lot more development needed such as the pit and paddock area before these big race series will be attracted but after being there I am not totally convinced. I am very fond of Snetterton as a race track and always felt it had a unique charm, but to me it feels like that charm has gone.
So on to this weekend, Formula One makes its much anticipated return and I am actually watching the free practice on BBC iPlayer as I write. (Other television Channels are available) It looks like it will be a great season with a number of drivers fighting for the title and I’m sure, a few surprise packages along the way. At least at the time of writing this, the McLarens seem to have surprised those who seemed to write them off already with their fast pace in FP2. I guess we will only know for sure how well they are running come the Chequered flag at Albert Park.
As for me, I’m off to Silverstone on Saturday to cover the first round of the Britcar Championships and it will be great to be back with a great racing series. A big grid is confirmed and a great selection of cars will be on show so I hope to get some good photo’s. I’ll be looking forward to see the Synchro Motorsport Honda Jazz. I had a bit of an obsession with that car during the 24hr race last October and it was fantastic to see it keep up with an Aston Martin Vantage for a number of laps until it came in to pit. Also, amazingly for a Honda Jazz, there wasn’t a pensioner in sight!
The BTCC media day took place on Thursday and a huge grid was announced to be lining up on the grid this season. The fantastic YourRacingCar.com team announced a huge coup in the form of last year’s championship contender Tom Onslow-Cole. The VW Golf struggled a bit last year in their first season but if anyone can get the best out of the car then Tom can. I’ll be looking forward to seeing him battle for points with the fan backed team. Other good news is that of TechSpeed running two ex RML Chevrolet Cruze’s with John George and fans favourite Paul O’Neill. Paul got a couple of podiums last season in an older Honda Integra so perhaps he will consistently be a front runner in a very competitive car. However, I point this out to those getting too excited. If O’Neill is fighting for the championship come the end of the season along with the likes of Jason Plato, I don’t think we will see O’Neill fighting too hard against Plato. Let’s not forget who supplied TechSpeed with the cars and have given a lot of assistance to. Yes, Plato’s RML guys!
Finally, a quick update on my Juke Challenge. A very respectable amount of £80 has been raised for Comic Relief, so as much as I hate the car and the experience, I am happy to have been able to raise the money for a very good cause.
Like most people, I rely on my car. I don’t live in the governments ideal world where you can walk to the end of the street, wait a couple of minutes and hop on a bus or tube and get to where ever I need to get to. I have to drive. I have to drive to work, to earn money to pay for my car and its usage which gets me to work in the first place.
Although it is expensive to run a car, it would cost me more to catch 2 different busses to work or get three busses to visit my girlfriend 32 miles away. I could catch the train but that would cost even more and would mean two changes and three different trains. Added to the fact it would take an age. If the government want people to use public transport why don’t the help make it cheaper? Simple answer, they don’t want you to use public transport. They want you to use your car. Money spent on public transport goes to the companies who run it. Money from using your car goes to the government. A lot of money at that!
It cost me £60 to fill up my car yesterday. That will probably last me a week to 10 days. The latter if I’m lucky. I often wonder how much a year I spend on fuel and how this year’s fuel bills will compare to those of years passed. Then I quickly realise that I don’t want to know at all. It’s probably best I don’t if I want to avoid slipping in to a depressive episode. Whilst I appreciate the cost of oil is high at the moment, I also realise the government know that people rely on cars and will still pay for fuel regardless of the amount of tax they slap on it. Here’s an interesting fact, despite the cost of petrol and diesel per litre, Shell petrol stations make more money from the sale of snacks and drinks than they do from the sale of petrol.
We might as well get used to it too, because it is highly unlikely that petrol prices will fall by more than a few pence and if it does the fuel duty will be increased again. So what are we to do? Many car companies are developing more fuel efficient engines which will help to some extent, but I can’t afford a brand new car so it will be a long time before these cars become affordable for me, by which time fuel prices will be so high, the economical engine will make no difference.
This week I read with interest, an article about a new car made by Volkswagen which does over 300 miles to the gallon called the XL1. Now that’s more like it. This could well be the future of motoring. There is just one problem though. It is hideous! To say it was an ugly car is being too kind. This leads me on to a major issue I have with new environmentally friendly, hybrid and economical cars. They look awful and aren’t very practical.
Why can’t car manufacturers put this new engine technology into their current range of cars? Volkswagen make some nice looking cars, so instead of putting a new engine that does 300mpg into an ugly car the size of a Polo, why not actually put it IN a Polo? I drive an estate car so when I photograph at an event I can get all my equipment in. I would happily buy a car that could do 300 miles to the gallon, but a small car is no use to me. As for the larger ones, well they look horrible. The Toyota Prius doesn’t exactly turn heads and what on earth was the designer thinking when he came up with the Honda Insight? Let’s not even mention the G-Wiz!
I appreciate that development of new engines are high on the list of priorities within car company HQ’s, I just wish designing a good looking car to put the new engines in was as high on the list too. So until then, I guess will have to continue throwing money at my car.