With the bank holiday weekend ahead of us, it is that time when we all think of what we are going to do to fill the weekend. Thankfully for Motorsport fans and Petrolheads alike, this weekend has a lot to offer. Not only is there British Touring Car action at Thruxton and British GT at Rockingham as well as other club events around the country but on Saturday, there is something a little different you may be interested in checking out.
The Inaugural Warren Classic and Concours will be taking place on the 4th of May at The Warren Golf and Country club in Woodham Walther, near Chelmsford in Essex. On display at the 350 acre estate will be a unique collection of historic and supercars giving visitors the opportunity to get a closer look at some of the most beautiful cars in the world. If that wasn’t enough, the complete Le Mans Jaguar XJR works team will be present along with entertainment such as live music, games, an air display from the ex Red Arrows display team ‘The Blades’ sponsored by HastingsDirect and the chance to win a Mercedes Benz worth £30,000.
The Warren Classic & Supercar Family Experience will also be hosting the 2013 Warren Concours. Showing off a stunning array of Classic cars spanning ten decades of impressive automotive history for all the family young and old to drool over.
But if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, also in attendance will be British Formula One Star Max Chilton and a Marussia Racing Car. “I’m really looking forward to meeting visitors to The Warren Classic and Supercar Family Experience.” Says Max, “The event provides an excellent opportunity for families and car enthusiasts to see a wide selection of the worlds most magnificent automobiles. Both Classic and Supercars will be well represented and, given the Warrens setting, it should be a fantastic day!”
The Warren Golf & Country Club Managing Director, Tony Stanton, said: “It is a fantastic coup for The Warren to get both Max and Marussia along to the event along with the Le Mans XJR works team. These additions, alongside the selection of world-class cars and entertainment, only make for a more spectacular day!”
So if you fancy taking the opportunity to see this fantastic event in its debut year then here’s the details: Parking is free and public entry on the day is from 10.30am, with tickets priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children aged 5-16 and £25 for a family of four. Entry for classic car owners is from 7.30am and priced at £20.00 per car with parking in a dedicated area on a first come basis, plus an invitation to enter a novel ‘Car Park Concours’.
It seems that recently some local residents to Mallory Park race circuit have become annoyed and are taking action against the circuit. The reason for their annoyance? Noise.
Yes, that’s right. These morons bought a house near a motor racing circuit and are complaining it is noisy. They now want the circuit to cut the amount of times it is used and impose further noise restrictions. The owner has stated that any further cuts in usage of the circuit will deem the circuit unprofitable and not worth running. An option to sell the circuit for housing is tabled as an alternative if the circuit was to be sold.
The most annoying thing is, what kind of moron buys a house by a race track and then complains it is noisy? Do people buy houses next to Airports, Motorways & Railway lines and then demand the council put a restriction on their usage because they don’t like the noise? I’m sorry, but if you by a house in a noisy area, it is your own fault. Don’t go complaining and ruining other peoples enjoyment of something they love. Just move somewhere else. After all, there are many race fans who’d love a house next to a circuit.
Most of you will know that all race circuits in the UK have to adhere to strict rules and regulations imposed by local authorities regarding usage and noise levels. Curfews are put in place, some race cars have to have silencers fitted to bring them within the noise level set for a race meeting and the likes of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop can only be used a certain number of times per year. All this is usually because a load of moaning residents don’t like race tracks to be noisy. Ironically, even Donington Park has curfews and noise limits and that is right next to the East Midlands Airport.
Most of the circuits in this country have been in place for many years. Long before these residents even moved to the areas. Racing on the whole, in past decades was a lot noisier than it is these days too. Some circuits like Silverstone, Goodwood and Snetterton were built on the site of old airfields, which, when in use, would have been noisy too. I really don’t understand the mentality of some people. Do people buy houses next to football stadiums and then phone up the council when the home team scores a goal because the crowd are being too loud? If you ask me, the noise restrictions in place at many circuits already spoil motor racing. I want the cars to be loud. I want to hear engines rumble or scream. In fact, I would love to live in one of the houses that back on to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Loop and I would be more than happy for it to be used every weekend so I find it unlikely that these factors would de-value a property as there are many other petrol heads like me who would love that.
What’s more, is that these killjoy NIMBY types don’t think of the bigger picture. These circuits bring a vital boost to the local economy. Not only do they provide jobs, but local Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Pubs, Restaurants, Shops and Business’ all benefit. Thousands of fans flock to race meetings each weekend, many, along with teams, drivers, mechanics and even media such as myself, will often want somewhere local to stay, eat and drink. I often book myself into a local B&B or Hotel and eaten in the Pubs or Restaurants nearby and I have seen teams and fans alike do the same. Yes, some race weekends are bigger that others, but they all help. I’ve tried to book somewhere to stay overnight for some race weekends only to find that every hotel or guesthouse in the vicinity is fully booked. Think about the impact it would have on many people if a circuit was to close down.
A fine example, albeit on a grander scale, is the Isle of Man. Just think of how many tourism business would cease to exist if it wasn’t for the TT and the Rally. The locals embrace it and let’s face it, most have to in order to make a living. And how about LeMans? How many people would even know where that town was, let alone visit if it wasn’t for the 24 hour race? I can imagine tourism, due to motorsport, is one of the biggest sources of income for both these places.
You can’t tell me local businesses in Silverstone Village and the surrounding area would be thriving if the circuit wasn’t there and I imagine takings in the local guesthouses and eating and drinking establishments during the Formula One or Moto GP weekends are sky high! Some places probably even rely on the trade the circuits bring in and if the circuit was to close down so would they. Surely no one wants to see that happening. So it is much more than just a case of a noisy circuit being forced to close and sold off for housing development.
Whilst I appreciate talks over the future of Mallory Park is in the early stages, I sincerely hope that the Circuit does not fall foul of a few moronic locals who should just move away if they don’t like it rather than spoil other people’s enjoyment of something they love. We can’t lose Mallory Park and I hope sense will prevail. Otherwise who knows what the consequences will be for other Circuits and the sport we love.
Save Mallory Park.
Happy New Year to you all. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my blog readers a prosperous 2013.
The third part of my review series see’s my team and moment of the year from last season. As with the previous posts, feel free to get in touch and let me know who your team of the year were and what your moment of the year was.
Team of the year: This, for me has to go to the Toyota LMP1 team. On the back foot from at the beginning of the year with little time to develop the car before the start of the World Endurance Championship, it looked like Audi were going to go unchallenged all year thanks to the withdrawal of rivals Peugeot. No one expected much from Toyota and with Sebring being used as a test and the team not entering the Spa race to concentrate on getting the car ready for Le Mans, Audi had nothing to worry about.
However, Toyota showed glimpses of things to come, and despite not finishing either car, one due to ‘That Crash’ the Toyota team did lead the race at one point. Since then, the team have become stronger and stronger. Podium finishes at Silverstone….. And Finally a race victory at Fuji underlinded their ability and now have Audi looking over their shoulder. The German marque’s years of Dominance in Endurance racing looks under threat from a Team who are now serious LeMans and WEC championship contenders.
See who the rest of the Checkered Flag Team picked as their Team of the Year Here.
Moment’ of the year: There have been a number of great moments this year and I am grateful to have experienced some personally. There are too many to mention and it is difficult to pick out one in particular, but personally, my first visit to the Nurburgring for the 24 hour race is a stand out moment and one that bought many memories I will never forget. But I also think the 40th running of the Nurburgring 24 hour race produced my moment of the year in terms of the overall result. Finally Audi had conquered the Green Hell and took their first victory in the notoriously gruelling race. This contributed to a remarkable chain of results this year for the German car giants as 2012 saw them also take wins in the Bathurst 12hr, the Spa 24hr, the Zolder 24hr And of course a 1,2,3 and 4 at Le Mans. It just underlines the true extent of German efficiency and reliability.
What were the moments of the year for the TCF team? Find out Here.
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.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me so as I sit down to write this blog it seems like the topic was a long time ago now. However, I couldn’t let it pass without me writing about how great the Silverstone Classic was this year.
It is always a highlight of my year and this year was no exception. I have a fondness for classic cars and it is great to see so many of these awesome machines from my childhood and well before, doing what they were designed to do. Race. This year’s event saw the addition of a new race category for Touring cars from 1970-2000. This was to be a hugely popular race with the spectators and the addition of current BTCC favourite, Frank Wrathall to the field in a 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier enticed support even more.
For me, the headline race was the Saturday evening Group C race into dusk. I love the awesome 1980’s Le Mans cars and there was an awesome array of Group C and C2 cars taking part. A favourite had to be the Jagermeister Porsche 962. An Iconic car of the time in an iconic livery. A Peugeot 905 with Nicolas Minassian at the wheel on the entry list was also of huge significance. Sadly, despite qualifying second on the Friday, the car was not to take to the track for either of the two races during the weekend. A bitter blow to many, but Minassian was to take to the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit for Sunday’s race in one of the three Lancia LC2’s.
Another popular race was the Grand Prix Masters race for formula one cars of the 70’s & 80’s featuring cars such as McLaren M26’s, Arrows A4’s and Williams FW07’s. Remarkably this race was to be the first ever to feature two six wheeled formula one cars. A Tyrell P34 and a March 2-4-0 were to take part much to many people’s delight.
With 13 races on the Saturday and a further 11 on the Sunday there was plenty of on track action to keep the crowed entertained and the high quality and close racing in some of the world’s most beautiful, recognisable and valuable cars, whether it classic GT’s or pre 1956 sports cars or even pre 1961 front engined Grand Prix cars along with many well known drivers past and present, there was something for every motorsport fan young and old.
As if all the on track action wasn’t enough, the many thousands of cars on display from various car clubs was magnificent to see. Cars from Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, AC Cobras even a bselection of Lancia Delta’s. This year’s Silverstone Classic celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40. One of the world’s most recognizable super cars and the stuff of fantasy for every boy, like myself, who grew up in the 80’s. To mark this occasion, a parade of F40’s took to the track on Sunday setting a record for the most Ferrari F40’s on track together at the same time. There were over 60 in total from all over the world and what a brilliant sight they were under the hot sun. An experience I will not forget in a hurry.
There were trade stands a plenty for you to spend your money and activities for all ages to keep the whole family occupied. The Sun came out to make up for the wet Friday and the weekend was another fantastic event. The Silverstone Classic goes from strength to strength and I am already looking forward to next year’s event. If you haven’t been, then I would highly recommend it. You won’t leave disappointed.
I havent got round to sorting all my photos from the weekend yet, but you can see some Group C ones here. Also, If you like the Chris Gurton Photography page on Facebook, you will be updated when new galleries will be added.
With some big racing event going on over the weekend such as the Formula 1 in Valencia, the British Touring Cars at Croft and the British GT and F3 Championship at Brands Hatch, it was a good weekend for motorsport fans. However, my attention was bought to something that was not only disturbing, but concerned me greatly and made me question the mentality of some so called motorsport fans.
Whilst in the media room at Brands Hatch during some down time between races, I switched on the live streaming on the internet of the first BTCC race of the day at Croft. As I had the race on my laptop, my colleague had his laptop on running his live twitter feed. He, like me obviously follows a lot of racing fans on his twitter account so the feed was full of racing related tweets either about the F1 or the BTCC.
As the BTCC race got underway, there was a big collision on the start straight between a few cars causing terminal damage to at least two. Just after this, two tweets on the twitter feed to my right caught my attention. I was shocked and appalled. Both were very similar in content, and whist I can’t remember the exact wording of them, they went along the lines of ‘Wow, what a big accident. This is why I love BTCC and this is why it is the best racing series.’
Really? Is this some kind of joke? Do people really want to see big accidents in motorsport? Are these accidents what constitutes as a good racing series? More importantly, with this kind of mentality, can you really call yourself a motorsport fan?
Whilst I appreciate the close racing and contact nature of the BTCC can make it exciting to fans but do the fans want to see huge accidents that put people in danger? Yes, we all know motorsport can be dangerous but baying for accidents is just moronic. There have been a number of high profile deaths within motorsport recently and this is something surely no one wants to see, so to have fans wanting and getting excited by accidents is deeply disturbing. Thankfully the majority of drivers do walk away from big impacts unscathed, but not everyone is that lucky. My last blog touched on the fact that the mainstream media only reported on Le Mans due to Anthony Davidson’s huge crash in which he suffered some potentially career threatening injuries. But maybe the media realise that this is what people want to hear about. I sincerely hope this is not the case.
I’m pretty sure that If I went for a day out with a friend or family member and before leaving I turned and said to them ‘I really hope we have a big accident on the way, it would really make things more exciting’ they would think twice about getting in a car with me and would probably try to get me sectioned under the mental health act. So is it really acceptable to have this mentality when it comes to not only motorsport but any kind of sport?
Racing doesn’t need to have accidents to make it exciting. The British GT race at Brands Hatch proves this and I will be writing about that later in the week. So if you are one of these people who disagrees with this, then may I suggest you take a good look at yourself and stop calling yourself a motorsport fan. Failing that, put down the moonshine and look for another interest. I hear skydiving without a parachute is pretty exhilarating.
During last weekend, one of the world’s greatest sporting events took place. However, many people didn’t even realise that this great event was even taking place. Why? Well because whilst the media were so busy boring everyone to death with excessive coverage of 22 men and one ball, the fact that over 150 men with two balls, made of steel, had descended on a small town in France to take part in a real challenge of attrition had been over looked.
I am of course talking about the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. One of, if not, the greatest motor race in the world. I had hoped to be writing about the amazing race. The return of Toyota and the promise they had shown. The future of the sport with the running of the Nissan Deltawing. Race safety following Anthony Davidsons huge crash. The great battles throughout the strong field and the winners and losers in each category alongside the fact that I genuinely believe that Andre Lotterer could claim Tom Kristensen’s crown as ‘Mr Le Mans’.
Unfortunately one thing really got to me over the weekend and the following few days which I have turned my attention to as it is a subject I feel quite strongly.
The coverage Le Mans got within the British Media was minimal. Many motorsport fans will know there are many websites out there that provide motorsport news as well as magazines like Autosport and Motorsport News are easily accessible. Also, Eurosport need to be applauded for their full coverage throughout the 24 hours, despite the constant advert breaks. However, not everyone has access to sky, including me. I only managed to see what I could by subscribing online. But what about reaching the wider audience? I saw nothing about the race on the BBC News. I was at work over the weekend and whilst there I listen to radio 5 live all morning. They have a half hour slot at 5.30am-6am for a sports round up. There was not mention of the race that was going to take place on Saturday morning and only a brief mention on Sunday morning, which was probably only down to the Anthony Davidson accident. They mention his incident quickly before saying British driver Allan McNish was currently leading the race. At that point, Allan McNish was not leading the race, his number two Audi was actually a lap down on the leading Audi.
I checked the Sunday Times sport supplement. Quite a few pages full of sport. Not a single mention about Le Mans. Nothing. The Monday papers weren’t much better either and if it wasn’t for the huge Davidson crash, then I’m pretty sure there would have been no mention of the race at all. Is this an example of what the public really want to read about? A few paragraphs about a huge accident and one sentence on the winner?
Unfortunately, the refusal of the mainstream media to acknowledge the existence of Motorsport outside of Formula One and Moto GP is having an adverse effect on the sport at all levels. I say Moto GP, because despite what someone told me on twitter, the race at Silverstone over the weekend did actually get a lot of coverage. There was even a section on my local news, Look East, about the upcoming race and again on the Monday after. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk and coverage of the race on 5 live and again, on BBC Radio one, it was mentioned in every half hourly sports bulletin on Monday morning. I am of course not complaining about this. It is of course a good thing, but a quarter of a million fans were at Le Mans and it is deemed not news worthy? Give me a break!
I am a great believer in supporting motorsport from club level upwards and in tough economic times any support is of great benefit. I also believe that the mainstream media have a role to play in this too. The reasons most sports are widely supported is the coverage they get. Football gets a huge amount of coverage on the TV, in the News, the papers and on the radio. This coverage gets people interested, excited and pumped up about the sport. The current European championships is a prime example. The papers are plastered with front page news of the England team and the news coverage is encouraging people to back their country and be proud. The Olympics will of course be the same and so will Wimbledon. Seeing these sports on TV and in the news gets people interested and wanting to see more or get involved.
Football fans seem to have no real issue with forking out three figure sums to see their team play for 90 minutes, but do many Formula one fans who know that the price of tickets to see it live realise they could go and see some of the sports stars of the future for a fraction of the cost for a weekends ticket at your nearest circuit.
ITV have done a great job with their BTCC coverage and since they took over the TV rights, crowds at the circuits have steadily grown and it is being well supported. It shows that the coverage gets people through the gates. But what about other British Race series? The British GT and F3 championships are both top race events with the latter a proving ground for Formula One with many current F1 drivers having raced in the F3 series. Both the GT & F3 get a 25 minute highlights programme at 7am on Saturday mornings on channel 4, but is this really that great? Most people are still in bed then. Below these race series, coverage is pretty much non-existent. Unless you have Sky of course which not everyone else. Motors TV do a great job of covering club events but this channel alone probably isn’t enough for those who don’t have sky to fork out for a full sports package just to get access to it.
We all hear about drivers struggling to scrape together funding and sponsorship, but who is going to sponsor something that just doesn’t get any coverage? It’s a vicious circle. To get the coverage it needs the fans. To get the fans, it needs the coverage. Online media can only do so much. The national media need to step up to the plate. Apparently the BBC have a rally correspondent. How much rally news do you get on the BBC? I also heard they had a reporter at Le Mans. What was his Job? Did he do anything apart from stock up with booze at Calais?
There was a time when the BBC had a lot of Motorsport coverage at weekends including F1, BTCC, Superbikes, Rally, Motocross, Rallycross, Isle of Man TT, Sportscars, Trails and even Hillclimb. What do they have now? Moto GP and F1. They can’t even provide a full season of Live F1 anymore and it looks likely that when their contract runs out they will lose all live F1 coverage all together. So why don’t they start to show a bit of live motorsport from other British race series? The British F3 and GT’s would be a great start. Quality Championships featuring great drivers and stars of the future battling it out in awesome cars. Or how about a couple of Le Mans Highlight shows? Is that even too much to ask? The newspapers need to pull their fingers out too. How about cutting back slightly on the football overkill and dedication just one page to non F1 motorsport? And by that I don’t mean just writing about big crashes!
There are so many motorsport fans crying out for more coverage and so many more still to be reached. There are millions of motorsports fans throughout the world. They just don’t know it yet.
For extensive news and coverage of the Le Mans 24hr race, check out The Checkered Flag Website.
After their separate European exploits, the British GT & F3 cavalcade rolled into Corby at the weekend for their next round of the 2012 season. I was of course in attendance and it turned out to be another good weekend.
The weather turned out to be nice albeit a little chilly and windy on the Saturday, the racing was good, the cars looked great and the B&B I had booked for the weekend was great despite initially giving myself and James a double room when I had specifically booked a twin. This wasn’t the first time it’s happened but it was all sorted without hassle.
It was nice to catch up with friends again and I even met a few new ones. The joy of twitter is that you sometimes get to meet people you chat to on there. I have a great following of motorsport fans and have been lucky enough to meet some of them in person at race weekends. It’s always nice to meet the people you chat to online who share your love of motorsport. I have met some really great people thanks to twitter and I hope to meet many more in the future.
This weekend was the first time I had seen the F3 cars in action this season. I had missed the Oulton Park round at Easter and wasn’t at the European rounds either so it was good to shoot them. Carlos Sainz JR headed into the weekend the championship favourite, but had a disappointing round at the Rockingham circuit. With three races held over the weekend, there were three different race winners. Jazeman Jaafar took the first race victory and Tops the current driver standings whilst British duo Harry Tincknell and Jack Harvey took race two and three honours with the latter moving into second place in the standings ahead of Sainz JR. Race reports can be read here with an album of photos of the F3 on my Facebook page here or on my Flickr album here.
One of the great things about having Carlos Sainz JR in the British F3 championship is that his father isn’t far away. It’s great to see one of my motorsport hero’s strolling around the pits and paddock with designer sunglasses and smart/casual attire looking like a film star. What also pleases me is that he often poses for photos with fans young and old.
On their return from Germany, the GT’s were to compete in a two hour race rather than the usual two, one hour race format. Ex BTCC and Porsche Carrera cup racer Stephen Jelley partnered Steve Parish in the number 10 Motorbase Porsche in place of Nick Tandy and with his only two BTCC race wins coming at Rockingham, it was clear he gets on well at the Corby circuit as he set the pole position time. The race took place on the Sunday afternoon and despite the sky clouding over, the rain held off for a dry race. Alex Buncombe stormed through the field from ninth on the grid in the RJN Nissan GT Academy GTR to take the lead and Anthony Reid was going strong in the plucky Chevron GR8.
Unfortunately disaster struck. The safety car was deployed thanks to a big impact. The Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard suffered a slow puncture which sent the car into the wall at turn one on the banking at high speed. The car was left in a bad way, but Andrew Howard was thankfully left unscathed if a little dazed and confused. A real testament to the safety technology within motorsport these days.
As the safety car returned to the pits, the pitstop window had opened with a number of cars taking advantage of the bunched up pack to make their stops. Unfortunately a brake balance issue in the RJN Nissan GTR left GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough having to fight the car whilst dropping down the field before finishing in fifth place. As the race progressed, it was getting close at the front. With minutes left it could have gone either way, but at the Chequered flag, it was Joe Osborne at the wheel of the 32 Trackspeed Porsche he partnered with Steve Tandy closely followed by the Ferrari 458 of Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen and the second Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn and Phil Keen. In fact, the top four places were separated by less than five seconds with Championship leaders, Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin and their Mtech Ferrari 458 taking the fourth spot. This was pretty close after 2 hours of racing. Whoever says endurance racing is boring needs to reconsider and with five different winners from the five races so far this season, it looks set to be a real thriller of a championship. The race report can be read on the Checkered Flag website here with photos on my Facebook Page and Flickr Album.
I won’t be trackside this weekend so my next race will be the British GT & F3’s at Brands Hatch on June the 23rd & 24th. My favourite British race series on my favourite British circuit, The Brands Hatch GP layout, I cannot wait.
In the mean time, there is a small race taking place this weekend across the channel. It is of course the Le Mans 24 hour race. I am of course greatly disappointed that I won’t be there this year but I’m not sure it will be such a close race as it was in 2011 with the absence of Peugeot. However there are lots of other things that make the race so awesome and I will be trying my best to watch as much as I can online. The GT classes look set to be close as does LMP2 and with lots of British drivers and teams taking part, it really is worth watching what you can.
As the clock ticked past midnight and into the Witching hour it was time to head back out of the media centre. We wanted to capture some light trails during the night and decided we would head out to the Karussell.
After parking up beside the muddy track and having stumbled through the trees and undergrowth in the dark, we were greeted by the English Marshalls there. They were quick to put the kettle on for us as I set about getting to work with my tripod and shutter release cable. The Karussell was just as awesome at night and sparks flew, brake discs glowed and engines echoed through the trees. The temperature was still warm too so it didn’t seem like we were up during the early hours.
I stood talking to the Marshalls with my knees up against the Armco barrier and I heard a clang then felt a thud. It was if something had come off a car and hit the barrier where we were. I wondered what it could be. It felt quite solid. A wheel nut maybe? A quick conversation by the Marshall’s over their radio revealed the source. A car had hit the barrier at the bottom of the hill. The impact was about three or four hundred meters away from where I was standing but could still feel it. I was glad I wasn’t standing any further down the hill. Tales from the Marshall’s soon followed about incidents where they have been hit by debris. It made me remember that being trackside can be dangerous. Especially as close as we were on the Nordschleife. Something that I don’t think about when I’m out shooting. The Marshalls even told us that at some points on the circuit which are particularly narrow and the Armco is close to the track edge, that when they wave yellow or white flags, some cars pass and clip the end of the flags! These guys in orange really need to be applauded.
I wandered down the hill to capture some light trails going up towards the Karussell. I could see the extent of the crash as I got down there. A BMW Z4 had it the barrier head on quite hard. The service crew were there and had the area coned off. Cars were forced to the other side of the narrow track but were very obliging of the safety crew and Marshall’s waved yellow flags slowing right down to a crawl past the scene before getting on the power past me and up the hill. The BMW was towed away in quite a mess. The scene was tidied up quickly and before long the only visible sign of an accident was a slightly damaged Armco and some sand on top of a fluid leak. Cars were back to full speed up the hill and I was standing pretty close. Knowing one car had hit the barrier and the possibility of a slippery surface due to the spilled fluid, I wasn’t going to hang about here for long and made my way back up the hill.
Time was passing by quite quickly and it would be first light soon so we decided to make a move and come back to the Karussell later during daylight hours. Parking up at the bottom of the hill near Hocheichen we walked up the hill through the campsite to Hatzenbach. Walking through the array of tents, small marquee’s and caravans, traversing piles of rubbish, empty beer bottles and bonfires as well as the occasional fan sleeping on the bare ground I was feeling surprisingly alert. It was about 5 am and I was starting to think to myself that I could last till the end of the race quite comfortably at this rate. Pausing to glance back at the cars snaking down the hill behind us and saying hello to the occasional fan, some of which still happily down beer I was in high spirits.
Having reached the top of the hill we headed to the outside of the first corner on the Nordschleife. The cars would come off the Grand Prix circuit, head towards us and then drop down the twisty first section of the ‘Green Hell’. As I paused to watch the cars head towards me with headlights ablaze it happened. I had hit the wall. All of my energy had been drained. I was struggling to focus let alone look through a view finder. But I was here. I had walked up the hill and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity of taking photos pass so I carried on regardless. I was firing off shots unsure if what I was getting was of any use. My eyes had given up even bothering to focus on anything and I couldn’t see if the images on the rear screen were any good either. I had glanced up at Kev. He was struggling too. I think he had become somewhat delirious as he had started singing odd made up songs. Trying to ignore the fact that my body was urging me to rest I carried on shooting in the hope something would be useable.
The decision to stop was soon made for us. I felt a few spots of rain. I wasn’t sure if it was actually starting to rain or I was just hallucinating. I could definitely fell it get a bit heavier and the Marshall’s were now waving the yellow and red Slippery surface flags. Time to head back. We got in the car and made our way to the media car park. We needed to sleep but weren’t sure to sleep in the car or the media centre. Realising James would be in the media centre and no doubt bouncing off the walls high on caffeine, chocolate and e-numbers it was decided best that we slept in the car. I was out like a light.
I woke up just as Kevin did. I actually felt pretty refreshed. How long had I slept for? Had I missed the race? The rain had stopped and the sun was out. Glancing at the time it was 9am. Phew, I was only asleep for two hours but thankfully it felt like longer and I was recharged. Time for some coffee and a bite to eat before heading back to the media centre to empty memory cards and catch up on the goings on.
I was right. James was still in a Sugar induced high and was loving every minute of the experience. I was slightly envious. How can he manage it but I can’t? He’s only a few years younger than me. Then I realised, He doesn’t walk miles lugging camera’s and kit around. I wasn’t complaining though. I wouldn’t change that for the world. I love doing it.
Having been fed and watered it was time to make a move again. We decided to head out to the Karussell again then one or two other areas before the race finish. Back at the banked hairpin and with the Marshalls again, I felt revitalized. The sun was beating down and the cars still looked magnificent. Albeit a little dirtier and some sporting a few dents, scrapes and a moderate amount of race tape. After all, this was endurance racing at it most difficult and cars still running at this point had achieved so much already. I was merrily snapping away, trying different angles and perspectives of the corner having a great time a number of other photographers were now at the hairpin all looking pretty happy. Life was good.
Time passed by rapidly and due to an unforeseen circumstance, we weren’t able to head to a different area before the race end. However we made it back to the media room for the race finish and in time to see the battle for third place between one of the Porsche’s and a Mercedes SLS in the dying minutes. It was exciting stuff but no one was prepared for what was about to unfold.
As the Clock ticked down, the Porsche powered down the long straight with the Mercedes right on its bumper. Into the last few corners before busting into the Grand Prix circuit. The clocked hadn’t quite reached the 4 o’clock mark and they would need to complete another lap. Game On. We moved to the windows to see the cars come down the pit straight to start their last lap. Or so we thought. The Mercedes roared past. Where was the Porsche? It had slowed. Coming towards the line it was almost crawling along. What was wrong? Was there a mechanical issue? Had it run out of petrol? Or had it completely miss timed everything thinking the chequered flag would be out and throwing third place away in the process? The lead Audi was yet to come through and the Porsche had crossed the line almost coming to a standstill towards the other side of the track from the pit wall. Cars were still coming through however. One of which was a Renault Clio still travelling at speed. I could see him coming towards the Porsche. He must have seen it. He’s definitely seen it right? Why isn’t he moving across? He didn’t see it. Smash. Gasps and groans reverberated around the Media Centre. The Clio ploughed into the back of the Porsche at high speed. Debris littered the track distracting everyone from the Leading Audi R8 that was about to take the flag and victory.
Confusion reigned as Cars took the chequered flag amongst the numerous waved yellow ones and Marshalls rallying around to clear up the mess which had now ruined the Grandstand photo finish for the factory Aston Martin team. As the Zagato, flanked by the two Vantages headed towards the line the left hand Vantage had to tuck in behind avoid the debris. The race was over in bizarre fashion.
It was a peculiar end to an amazing experience but it was now all over. Sitting outside the Italian restaurant that evening with a cold beer and a pizza I was left reflecting on my first experience of the Nurburgring Nordschleife and the 24hr race. It had been incredible. The place was just spectacular and I was spoilt with the variety of places to photograph from. You will never get a full appreciation for how incredible the place is until you see it for real. How narrow, twisty and undulating it really is. It gives you a renewed appreciation for racing drivers and the balls, guts, determination and fearlessness they must have to take on such circuit in the high powered machinery they do. A lot of people tell me that they think endurance racing is boring. Firstly, these people clearly have no attention span and secondly they have definitely never been to the Nurburgring to see the 24hr race.
This led me on to a new appreciation. That of the Fans. These people were incredible. They were friendly, likeable and their dedication know no bounds. They never ceased to amaze me throughout the week. They were proper hardcore motorsport fans and they were loving every minute of it. At the risk of upsetting a few people, they made the Le Mans 24hr look like a holiday camp. And I’ve been to Le Mans more than once!
Finally I’d like to thank everyone who made my first trip to the Nurburgring so amazing and special. From all the Germans who were friendly, kind and helpful, to all the media for the laughs and the teams for putting up with the photographers poking around and getting in the way. Last but not least I have to give a huge thank you to Kevin at Red Square Images. Without him my trip probably wouldn’t have been possible and his knowledge of the area helped me so much. Thank You Kev I really appreciate what you have done for me.
The Nordschleife is affectionately known as the ‘Green Hell’ but to me, the place was motorsport Heaven.
I will be going back.
So it is now upon us. The Motorsport season is here after a long winter of waiting. Of course there are some series that have already started, such as the World Touring Car Championships and the British Rally Championships, but for many, the first Formula One race of the season really marks the new season.
With new rules and regulations, new faces, teams and cars on display throughout the various race seasons, there is no doubt 2012 will be a great year filled with action, excitement and controversy. No matter which series is your favourite, who your favourite driver is, and which cars you like best, all motorsport fans long for this time of year to arrive. We’ve had sneak peeks of new cars and liveries, driver announcements and got our heads around any new rule changes and we just want the season to start.
My first race of the season won’t be just yet though. It will be round one of the MSA British Endurance Britcar championships at Silverstone on the 24th of March. A race series I enjoy covering and one that has seen some changes this year. The new production championship will be running alongside the series, and new class categories’ for the endurance races. New teams and cars will be lining up and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the new Bullrun Lotus Evora. With a 90 minute production race and a 3hr Endurance race to take place on the grand prix circuit at Silverstone, it is set to be a good way to kick off my season. If you are keen to get out and watch some great racing then I would recommend heading to the home of motorsport on that Saturday.
For me the start of the new motorsport season is a bit like going back to school to start the new year after the summer holidays. But in a good way. Meeting up with friends to swap stories of the closed season and share predictions for the year ahead, catching up with teams and drivers to get information on what’s new and their hopes for the coming year and seeing what changes have been made to circuits and facilities etc.
Having filled in my calendar with dates of race weekends I’m hoping to be covering this year, there aren’t many blank weekends. Although I won’t be going to Le Mans this year, which I am disappointed about, it has been sacrificed for a reason. Two reasons in fact. The first being the Nurburgring 24hr race and the second being the Spa 24hr race. As I have never been to either of these iconic circuits for these two amazing races, it would be rude not to go and I can’t wait. The British GT series is running a European round at the Nurburgring the weekend of the 24 hour race which works out nicely. I will cover the British GT and stay for the quite mental 24 hour race. A similar situation occurs at Spa. The British F3 championship will be holding their race in Belgium the same weekend of the 24 hour race so for a huge endurance racing fan, this has worked out well.
On the subject of endurance racing, there has been some major developments in this discipline over the winter months. The new World Endurance Championships looks set to be a great series. However the news that Peugeot has pulled the plug on its endurance racing team comes as a disappointment for most fans. I will admit to not being a huge Peugeot fan after some disappointing race tactics I have witnessed, but I am sad to see their withdrawal. The French Marque are probably the only team who could challenge Audi and it now looks like the German’s will go unchallenged all season. The reforming of Toyota is of some comfort but it would be unrealistic to expect them to be challenging for overall victories in their first year. Also the recent unveiling of the new ‘Deltawing’ car set to take part in the 80th Le Mans 24 hour race this June is a radical new innovation within motorsport. Could this be the future of endurance racing? I guess time will tell. I’m not a big fan of the design myself though. If Batman was to own a race car, I’m pretty sure this would be it.
So it’s time to settle into the new season of motorsport as Formula One from Melbourne is beamed to our TV’s and the 12hrs of Sebring takes place across the Atlantic and take comfort from the fact that motor racing is here. It’s good to have it back.
Happy New Year to you all! I hope you all had a good Christmas and enjoyed the break (those of you who got one) and are looking forward to 2012 with renewed optimism. Unfortunately January seems to be the Monday of the year and everyone seems to struggle with motivation. Especially as we head back to work and the motorsport season is still a while away. At least the Autosport Show offers a crumb of comfort to those pining for a motorsport fix.
As some may have noticed, I didn’t really do much of a review of last season. Each year the contributors at TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk provide their highlights of the past year which include; best race, best driver, moment of the year and one to watch next season. This year was no different and as our submissions have been appearing on the site over the festive break, I thought I would share mine with you now they are up.
Driver of the year: Many names spring to mind in various race series but the driver who sticks out for me is Jonny Adam. Making the switch from BTCC to British GT with a seat in the Beechdean Aston Martin he certainly took to the series like a duck to water. Quite literally, as his performances in the wet behind the wheel of the now aging DBRS9 proved as he was challenging the newer machinery at the front and claiming victory at a wet Rockingham. Adam certainly gave the Aston Martin a fitting farewell in its final season and with the teams switch to the new V12 Vantage Aston looks set to build on his impressive debut season in British GT next year.
Race of the Year: For me the race of the year has to be the Le Mans 24 hour. Set to be another ding dong battle between the Peugeots and Audi with their new R18 car, it didn’t disappoint. After two huge accidents involving the Audi number 3 of Allan McNish and the number 1 of Mike Rockenfeller the German marque was left with what some would say was their weaker driver line up of Fassler, Lotterer & Treluyer to bring home the sole remaining Audi. Up against the 3 factory backed Peugeot 908’s and the privateer Oreca 908 they certainly showed their true ability and maturity in the face of some quite remarkable and dangerous tactics from the French team to pressure the Audi into a mistake. With seconds splitting the front running Audi and the Bourdais, Lamy & Pegenaud Peugeot in second place the finishing margin after 24 hours of racing was just 13.8s. Those who think endurance racing is boring should think again.
Moment of the Year: I’ve been fortunate enough to witness and be part of a number of great moments over the past year within motorsport and will have many stories to tell my grandchildren. But one moment that I couldn’t let pass without mentioning was a real breathtaking moment which sums up just what it takes to be a great racing driver. I am of course talking about Mark Webber’s stunning overtake on Fernando Alonso during the Belgium Grand Prix. Having got a better exit from La Source, Webber was gaining on the Spaniard down the hill towards Eau Rouge tucked into the slip stream. Assuming he would wait for the run up to Les Combes and the DRS Zone to make his move, remarkably we witnessed Webber pull out and pass the Ferrari round the outside and through Eau Rouge in a move which would normally end in tears. It was a remarkable manoeuvre and one that many would never even consider but was executed with skill and precision by the Aussie.
What to look for this year: For me there are a number of things to look for next year. After the teething troubles of the new NGTC cars in the BTCC, a more level playing field next season and a big field should lead to an exciting championship. On the subject of touring cars, it will be interesting to see how Arena Motorsport and Special Tuning Racing cope with the step up to WTCC.
After an extremely close fought title battle in British GT, next seasons Championship will no doubt be an equally exciting and close fight. Look out for the new look Ginetta G55 GT3 and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage adding to the array of stunning cars throughout the field. For fans of endurance racing, the new World Endurance Championships should be something to look out for too.
Also, with driver moves and deals still being confirmed within Formula One, an exciting new driver to keep an eye out for is Jean Eric-Vergne. The Frenchman showed true class in the 2010 British F3 Championships on his way to the title and runner up at the end of a season in formula Renault 3.5 has shown his ability. With the backing and support of Red Bull, could he be the new Sebastian Vettel?
For the rest of the TCF contributors opinions pop along to the site. Just click on the following:
But what about you? Do you agree with mine or my colleagues choices? Or do you think we have overlooked one of your highlights or favourites? What are you most looking forward to this year? Feel free to get in touch and let me know via the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.
As you will all be aware, there was a Formula One Grand Prix in Valencia at the weekend. You will also all be aware that Sebastian Vettel won it after leading from start to finish. You will be aware of this because it was plastered all over the back pages of the national newspapers and widely reported on the news.
However, some of you may not have been aware that in Germany, there was a fantastic motorsport event taking place on the world famous Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. It was the fantastic Nurburgring 24 hour race and probably the second best 24 hour race behind Le Mans. You may not have realised this as there has been precisely no media coverage. I even looked on the Autosport website today and there is nothing on there. Just pages and pages of guff on Formula One.
220 cars in over 20 classes took to the picturesque and challenging 25km circuit to do battle in a fantastic encounter. A whole variety of cars took part from the front running Mercedes AMG SLS GT3’s, Audi R8’s and Porsche 911’s to Volkswagen Golf R32’s and Scirocco’s, Seat Leon Supacopa’s, Renault Clio’s and even the new Mini Coupe. Many great racing drivers were taking part, including the likes of Johnny Herbert, Mark Blundell, Alex Wurz and the queen of the Nurburgring Sabine Schmitz.
Thankfully the race was streamed live on the internet and so was commentary from radio le mans so I could watch the great race unfold. Throughout Saturday afternoon and evening there were numerous lead changes between the front running Mercedes, BMW’s, Audi’s and even a Ferrari. Unfortunately due to other commitments I couldn’t watch that late into the night and Sunday morning, but the coverage I did see was very good considering. We all know that Le Mans hardly got any coverage at all in the media and if it were not for the huge Allan McNish crash then there would have been even less. There was a similar crash at the Nurburbring, maybe not as dramatic but as one of the front running Need For Speed BMW Z4’s came to lap one of the many numerous back markers, slight contact was made sending the BMW off track into and over the barrier and coming to rest upside down. Thankfully the driver was ok.
As the formula one Valencia bore-fest was taking place there was still all to fight for in the closing stages of the 24 hour race with a few cars still in contention. A remarkable feat for an endurance race on such a demanding and unforgiving circuit. At the end however it was the number 18 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Marc Lieb, Lucas Luhr, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas who took the win with the BMW M3 GT of Jorg Muller, Augusto Farfus, Uwe Alzen and Pedro Lamy just a few minutes behind and the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Basseng, Marcel Fassler, Andrea Piccini and Frank Stippler.
As much as a great race it was you’ll probably have to take my word for it because you’ll do well to find a race report. No doubt the next issue of Autosport will be rammed with pages and pages of Formula One and the uneventful race in Spain whilst a decent report on the Nurburgring 24 hour race will undoubtedly be lacking. Please media, do us a favour and give GT endurance racing the coverage it deserves. Many people, (remarkably F1 fans included) are of the opinion that endurance racing is boring. After an extremely close Le Mans and an epic Nurburgring 24 hour race in the space of 2 weeks, I can assure you it is not.
Last weekend I made my second trip to Le Mans for the 24 hour race along with my girlfriend Liz who was making her first trip to the world’s best motor race. It was certainly a great race to attend for the first time and no doubt Liz will be going again. That’s the trouble with Le Mans, once you’ve been once you just want to go back again and again. Obviously there is some great racing on show, incredible cars and world class drivers, but couple that with the fantastic atmosphere and the amount of things to see and do and you have the recipe for petrol head heaven.
We drove down on Thursday morning and those of you who have been will know that if you took one of those Eye Spy books on Supercars then you will probably have filled it all in by the time you got there. We pulled up at the channel tunnel check-in behind a Lamborghini Murchialago and the services area was filled with various Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lotus’ and Aston Martin’s to name a few. Boarding the train we were loaded on right behind a bright orange 200+ mph Ultima, which according to the driver was his toy for bombing down to Le Mans in. Apparently he has already lined up an ex rally Lotus Talbot Sunbeam to take next year.
Having stocked up on food and supplies in Calais, we opted to avoid the toll roads en route to save a few quid. The route was certainly scenic and took us through some nice areas of France. You have to be very careful on the way as the Gendarmerie (the French rozzers) are out in force to cash in on speeding Brits as the drivers of the BMW Z3 and Lotus Elise found out to their cost as the booted it past us only to be pulled in half a mile later.
After arriving at the camp site, setting up and eating/drinking, we headed over to the circuit to catch Thursdays night qualifying session. I’d been waiting months to see the new Audi R18 in the flesh and you had to pay close attention to catch a glimpse as it passed by. They were spookily quiet which meant you couldn’t hear it coming. Just a gentle whoosh could be heard as the menacing beast gracefully sped past. All of the cars were looking great and the two hour session had really got us excited for the race. Funnily enough as we wandered behind the grandstands I spotted my friend James. To be honest, he’s not that difficult to spot as he towers above most people. If you ever go to see a British GT race, keep an eye open for him. He’s usually seen in the paddock or pits wearing a gilet and surrounded by a bevy of beauties. He’s a bit like British GT’s Bernie Ecclestone except twice as tall. Literally.
Friday is the drivers parade so we headed into town for lunch and beer and met up with James and his cousin. We watched the hubbub of everyone setting up the route and the array of classic and supercars on show in the square. Liz and I decided to head for a good location along the parade route and managed to get a spot right at the front getting a great view of the 1991 Mazda 787b roaring past through the French streets. It’s always nice to see the parade and good to see the drivers get involved with the crowd, signing autographs, handing out posters, pictures and gifts. The car carrying the RML drivers had stopped in front of us and Ben Collins was surprised to hear us call his name amidst the mostly French locals, but gave me a great photo opportunity. As did Aston Martin driver Darren Turner. Liz was particularly excited see Giancarlo Fisichella and was in good spirits as we headed back to the campsite on a packed tram. If you are planning on going to Le Mans in the future, I can thoroughly recommend going to the driver’s parade and if you do go to Le Mans and don’t take in the parade then you are missing out.
So race day was upon us and after the morning’s brilliant Classic race, the excitement, tension and nerves were beginning to build. We had seats in one of the Grandstands at the start of the pit straight right next to one of the many big screens and although a grandstand seat isn’t a necessity as there are many good viewing points, it’s nice to have a guaranteed good view especially during the Start and Finish when the crowds are very deep. It was funny to see Jean Todt struggle with the huge Tricolore to start the race as it was as big if not bigger than he was.
As the race began it was clear it was going to be a close battle between the Audi and Peugeot’s and also between the front runners in the other categories. The first hour passed in a blur until disaster struck. An attempt to pass his team mate and a GTE Ferrari at the Esses went wrong and sent Allan McNish and his Audi careering towards the barrier. The subsequent impact sent debris flying everywhere and the dreaded hush descended as thousands of spectators were left reeling in shock. It seemed like an age as we all waited for any sign of McNish to emerge from the mangled wreck but thankfully cheers ensued as he pulled himself out and walked clear. I real testament to the safety of modern racing cars. The image of Audi Team Boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich wiping away tears of relief on the big screens as McNish got out is one that will stay with me.
Unfortunately, this was not to be the end of the Audi woes. As the race headed into darkness and Myself and Liz had took up a spot at Tertre Rouge, the big screen showed a safety car heading out. The guys on radio le mans were as surprised as everyone to see it but then an image appeared on screen. Something was trackside as marshall’s flocked around. It was unclear as to what it was for a while until collective gasps followed by the awful hush as realisation hit that it was the remains of a Car. Eventually onboard footage came up of Mike Rockenfeller heading at full speed towards Indianapolis flashing his lights at another GTE Ferrari. Unfortunately the as the Audi took the inside line at the second kink, the Ferrari move across and clipped Rockenfeller sending him head on into the barrier at 200mph. The car was sent spinning across the track and into the barriers on the other side before coming to a rest. Everyone waited patiently for news before finally it had filtered through that Rocky had got out of the car unaided but was off to the medical centre for checks. A two and a half hour safety car period ensued as over 120 pieces of Armco barrier were replaced. Liz and I took a night time trip on the Ferris Wheel just as the safety cars came in at 1 am and despite not looking it very big from the ground it was a long way up at the top but you are rewarded of great views, so that is another recommendation.
As day broke the racing was still close as the lead was changing with each pit stop and there were a number of battles throughout each class taking place. From my Grandstand seat I witnessed the unfortunate mistake from Jan Magnussen in the lead Corvette exiting the Porsche curves before the Ford Chicane. Losing the back end the Corvette took out the GTE-am Felbermayr Porsche which smashed into the concrete wall on both sides of the track leading to another safety car period as the cars and debris were recovered.
As the race went on and despite the remaining Audi having to pit slightly more frequently than the chasing Peugeots, it was holding onto the lead. Then, into the afternoon and as the race drew near, I witnessed probably one of the most disgraceful events in motorsport I have ever witnessed. The leading Audi had caught the number 7 Peugeot which was running in fourth place with Marc Gene at the wheel. Already three laps down the Audi attempted to pass at the second chicane on the Mulsanne straight to put four laps between them. Gene had already been weaving to kept the Audi at bay and give the second place Peugeot a chance to catch up slightly. However, this time they were side by side with the Audi on the inside line. This didn’t deter Gene, who was no doubt under instructions to hold the German team up, to cut across the front of the leading car on the turning leading to slight contact. Thankfully it was only minor bodywork damage but had Andre Lotterer not reacted quicker it could have been game over. It was a disgraceful move especially after the other two Audi’s had succumbed to dreadful accidents. The guys on Radio Le Mans were incensed and rightly so and sent their pit reporter to ask the Peugeot team boss Oliver Quisnel why that had happened. His casual response was that there were no blue flags. This was a poor excuse as the TV screens had shown there were indeed blue flags being waved. It was an utterly disgraceful show of sportsmanship and totally dangerous. Possibly a result of Peugeots win at all cost attitude at Le Mans maybe?
With half an hour left on the clock the leading Audi and the leading Peugeot in second place pitted for a final fuel stop. It was to prove very close as Audi had decided to put fresh tyres on which, under the rules you cannot do whilst the fuel hose is attached to fill up the car so their pit stop was longer. This was obviously carefully calculated as the Audi left the pit lane just 2 seconds ahead. Thankfully they held on and took the victory by just 13 seconds. The closest finish since 1969.
Other stories worthy of note were, the second placed LMP2 Oreca Nissan and the third placed GTE AM Robertson Racing Ford GT. The Oreca Nissan featured Lucas Ordonez as one of their drivers who less than three years ago had only raced a car on his Playstation. He won the Nissan GT academy and was picked out and trained up to race in the Dubai 24hr race a couple of years ago as the prize. He impressed so much he has since become a professional racing driver and made his Le Mans debut complete with a podium finish in second place. From PS3 to LMP in a couple of years is seriously impressive stuff and shows what a great initiative the GT Academy is. Other debutants were the Robertson Racing team. The Husband and wife team of David and Andrea Robertson were achieving their dream of racing in the 24 hour race alongside fellow American David Murray. Many, including myself had written the team off before the race and assumed they wouldn’t even finish. But, at 3 o’clock on Sunday, Andrea took the Chequered flag and with it third place on the podium in their class. What made it even more special was that they were also celebrating their Wedding anniversary. They were the first husband and wife team to compete in the race and Andrea was the first woman to take to the podium since the early 1930’s.
So the 79th Le Mans 24 hour race had drawn to a close with some great stories and history being made. A drive along the Mulsanne straight round to Indianapolis, through Arnage corner and up to the Porsche curves in my Astra on the Sunday evening completed the weekend and left both me and Liz looking forward to next year.
So the motorsport season starts for me this weekend. I’ll be photographing the MSVR ‘season starter’ weekend at Snetterton this coming weekend. It will be the first race weekend for me this year and I can’t wait to get back trackside. Also, I will finally get to see the new circuit layout at the Norfolk track. On this note, the names of the new corners have been unveiled today so I’ll have to learn them too. In the meantime, I’ll have to get all my equipment ready, batteries charged up and memory cards formatted in preparation. I’ll blog about the weekend and post a few photos next week.
The MSVR weekend will include great racing from the Lotus Elise Trophy, the Lotus Cup UK, Project 8 Saloons, Production BMW Championship, MSV F3 Cup and others. So if you’re chomping at the bit to get out and see some racing then why not get yourself down there. £16 for a weekend ticket is a bargain. You couldn’t watch a league football match for that and they are only 90 minutes!
In other news, I’ve completed another model for my collection. The 1994 Larbre Competition Porsche RSR that was raced at Le Mans. I’m pretty pleased with it and it doesn’t look too bad. I found a great website with all the information on cars, drivers, times etc of all the Le Mans races over the years as well as photos. I was pleased to find some pictures of the car I’ve just built, so if like me you love the 24hr endurance race, then check out www.lemans-history.com Next up, a 1988 Minolta Toyota 88C.
Finally, I’ll be driving my most hated car tomorrow. The Nissan Juke will be taking place with currently £55 pledged to Comic Relief for me to go through with it. Not looking forward to it, but it’s for a good cause. If you wish to donate anything, even just a pound, then you can do here and you will be in with a chance to win a framed A3 Motorsport Print. You can’t say fairer than that surely?
After thinking about it for a few weeks now, a bought myself a model kit last week. I was surprised however at the lack of choice of model car kits in my local, but very good model shop. The bloke said there seemed to be less and less coming onto the market which to me was disappointing. I searched online to see what I could find a eventually decided to plump for a Porsche 956C raced by Stefan Bellof in the iconic orange Jagermeister livery.
It’s been a long time since I last made a model kit and this, surprisingly was the first kit of a car I have attempted to put together. I used to make a lot of model kits a few years ago, but they were all First and Second World War aircraft, so it was to be a slightly new challenge for me. After starting on it I wondered why I hadn’t made a model for so long as I really enjoyed it. It’s great to see it gradually take shape whilst putting together details like the cockpit and painting the dashboard. I became somewhat addictive and it was difficult to put it down.After a few days it was complete. The transfers were on and it was looking pretty good. I was feeling pleased with myself, but disappointed I had finished it. But fear not, after searching around online, I bought my self car number two. A 1966 Ford GT40 MKII, the car raced by Denny Hulme and Ken Miles to second place in that year’s Le Mans 24 hour race. This time the kit is a bit more complex than the previous so may well take me a little longer.
One thing is for certain though, I’m hooked on making models now and there will be plenty more to come and I will keep you updated on my progress.
It’s been a busy week in the Formula One world. Although it is still an agonizing five week wait till the season opener in Bahrain, the teams have been unveiling their new cars and heading on to the Valencia tarmac for testing.
We all know how these big car reveals go, the drivers stand beside a big sheet in front of the worlds media waiting with eager anticipation. Then when everyone is about to burst with excitement, the drivers pull off the sheet and Ta-Daa, the new car is on show. That’s when everything goes a bit flat. Is that it? All this excitement and being whipped into frenzy, you get a car that makes you look hard to notice any difference from the previous year’s entry. With the exception of a few technical differences due to rule changes, not a lot has changed. Let’s face it, the only thing that’s going to get the average fan excited is a livery change. The only team to do this is of course the team formally known as Renault. As part of their ongoing argument over the Lotus name, they have decided they will go with the classic John Player Black and Gold Lotus livery. ‘It’s coloured like a Lotus, therefore it must be a Lotus’ seems to be their argument.
McLaren were an exception to the rule when it came to big unveiling of their new championship contender. In front of the large crowd in Germany, a team of mechanics put the car together, whilst others bought along a few bits to attach. Finally Jenson and Lewis turn up and there it is, the New McLaren. Personally, I think it would have been better if they arrived with a handful of nuts and bolts and asked where they were supposed to go.
Not only was the McLaren’s launch different, they have produced another big talking point. On the whole the car looks similar to the last, however this one has one large change. The side air intakes. These come in an L shape and give the car a unique look. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this design so whether it makes any difference will remain to be seen, but it has given something for fans to discuss.
One thing I really don’t understand from the world of F1 now is this. Why are so many teams announcing so many reserve and test drivers? With a limit now put on testing in Formula One, what is the need for all these guys on the payroll. There are some teams that have three or four test / reserve drivers. But why? I know there is simulator work to be done and a reserve driver is there to step for a driver suffering injury or illness for example, but there are only two first team drivers on the grid, so there is no need for more than two reserve drivers. If you ask me, two reserve drivers is one too many.
Also this week, Peugeot also unveiled their new Le Mans Series challenger, the 90X and with their disappointment of last year’s Le Mans 24 hours, they will be hoping this new car will bring them victory. Unlike the New Audi R18 who have changed from an open cockpit car to a closed cockpit, the Peugeot doesn’t look massively different to the last. It’s only the new compulsory centre fin that has made much of a difference. But with their driver line up of Alex Wurz, Marc Gene, Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Minassian, Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Bourdais, Pedro Lamy and Simon Pagenaud, no one can write off their chances.