With the 12 hours of Sebring having taken place, the first two rounds of the Formula One world championship and round one of the World Touring Car Championship having passed, the motorsport season is well underway. That means my winter break is also over and this Easter weekend I’ll be back trackside and behind the camera.
Usually I’ve normally got my first round of the year under my belt by now but the wait will no doubt be worth it. I’ll be heading up to Oulton Park for round one of the British GT championship and I cannot wait. I’ve never been to Oulton Park before so I am looking forward to experiencing a new circuit. I missed last year’s round due to other commitments but the heavy rain the experienced there meant I wasn’t too disappointed. Bizarrely it seems to be snow that might cause trouble at the weekend and thermals will be going in the bag with me.
A huge field of gorgeous cars are set to take to the grid this Easter weekend for two 1 hour races at the Cheshire circuit and I’m really looking forward to seeing and photographing them in action. I just hope I haven’t forgotten how to do it, although it’s questionable if I did in the first place! With the track action taking place on the Saturday and the Monday rather than the usual Saturday and Sunday, it will be a long weekend, but it will definitely be a fun and exciting one. I’ll hopefully posting photos on my twitter account – @ChrisGurton and my facebook page over the weekend as well as providing images for The Checkered Flag, so feel free to give me a ‘follow’ or a ‘like’ to keep up to date.
Whilst some head to Cheshire for their racing fix, many will be heading to Kent this weekend as the first round of the British Touring Car Championship takes place at Brands Hatch. Like the British GT, a large field is expected for the BTCC even though a couple of teams have opted out of the first round. 2009 Champion Colin Turkington makes his return to the series in a rather nice looking BMW 1 Series with West Surrey Racing, the team with whom he won his title. I was surprised at how nice the new 1 series looks, although I’m still unsure on the livery. The BTCC media day stirred up a lot of excitement last week and I know the faithful army of fans are chomping at the bit to see them back in action. Let’s hope there are no controversies to kick off the new season and hopefully driving standards will be improved.
On the subject of controversy, I can’t help but mention the Malaysian Grand Prix. Formula One is the biggest motorsport series on the planet which grabs the attention of millions worldwide. Round one in Australia proved to be a good one with seven different leading drivers during the race. Then, the dreaded team orders come into play in Malaysia. Surely round two is a bit early for team orders? Fans want to see racing not a parade of cars that aren’t allowed to overtake because there might be a risk of crashing. All motorsport has risk and that’s probably why so many enjoy it and take part in it. Surely team orders spoils it for the fans, without whom, the sport would be nothing.
I like Mark Webber a lot, he comes across as the complete professional and he’s one of my favourite drivers. He defended his lead superbly and fairly, but it was clear to see Sebastian Vettel was quicker. So why were the team against him overtaking for the lead? Why did they want him to just sit behind him for the remainder of the race? That isn’t what the fans want to see. The Mercedes team proved this point by making Nico Rosberg stay behind Lewis Hamilton despite being faster. Even Lewis himself admitted it wasn’t the way he wanted to achieve his podium finish. I don’t care if there is a chance that contact might be made between two team mates. I want to see racing. These guys are at the pinnacle of the sport through skill and talent. Or maybe some huge financial backing. They should be able to battle it out for honour and pride regardless of what car the other guy is in.
Team orders can ruin motorsport. I can understand towards the end of the season you want to protect your lead drivers chance of championship glory, but with 17 rounds still to go? Let drivers do battle and give the paying fans what they want. If this is going to become a regular occurrence in Formula one, I won’t be giving it much attention in the future. Match fixing is illegal in sport, surely what Red Bull were trying to do was to fix the race result. I can’t blame Vettel for wanting to race. That’s what he’s paid to do after all. Personally, I’d like to see the FIA step in and put a stop to such blatant team orders, again, for the good of the sport and the fans.
So Sebastian Vettel has claimed yet another Formula One victory and looks set to claim the Championship Title as early as the next round in Singapore. We all know what happened in the race so there is little point in boring you with that. But I will talk about one or two other things that I noticed from the weekend at Monza.
Firstly, blink and you’ll miss it, yes it was a Hispania Racing Team car charging through the field from the start to take up its highest ever position in a Formula One race. On the weekend Eddie Jordan criticises the three newest teams to the F1 grid for their poor qualifying results, Antonio Liuzzi hits out at the critics by getting a storming start from the back of the grid to take eighth place into the first corner. Unfortunately for Petrov and Rosberg, he was coming in sideways and wiped the pair of them out. But not only did Liuzzi very briefly take the dizzyingly high spot of eighth, in the process he also gave HRT the most race exposure they’ve had all season. Colin Kolles must be proud and is now sitting waiting for his phone to ring with potential sponsors for their ‘Cool Spot’ on the side of the car. Yes, that’s right, your company could appeal to race marshalls worldwide as they pick up bits of car with your logo on!
This accident led to the most ridiculous punishment imaginable, a five place grid drop for the next race in Singapore. The team who boss the back row of every race grid have got to start five places back on the grid. How is this even possible? Will Liuzzi have to start from Silverstone? Can you even punish a team that are as bad as HRT anyway? There isn’t even any point in going out to qualify. Answers on a postcard for possible punishments please.
On a more serious note though, the battle between Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton drew a lot of attention. Lewis has been in for heavy criticism this season for what some may call overzealous driving style. However, despite being in a car that was struggling to close the gap on Schumacher’s Mercedes, Hamilton kept cool and avoided taking unnecessary risks. The same couldn’t be said for Schumacher. No stranger to controversy himself, the ageing German was determined to keep the young Brit behind him and in doing so pulled off some questionable moves. Not only did he move across Lewis twice on more than one occasion but he also forced him onto the grass at Curva Grande. Moves that no doubt would have landed Lewis in hot water with the stewards but went unpunished for Schumacher.
I have read in the papers this week that the sponging Tamara Ecclestone is to get a new bath for her £47m house. Of course, this hard working young woman who is always on the go needs somewhere nice to relax and unwind at the end of another hard day at work so it’s only right that she deserves something a little bit special. No trip to B&Q for Miss Ecclestone then. Oh no. Five men have been dispatched to the Amazon Jungle to bring back crystal to make the plush bathroom fixture at a cost of One Million Pounds. Not only that, but the floor has to be reinforced to hold the weight of the flipping thing! It’s a pity she’s not the same size as her father then she could save herself the hassle and bathe in the sink. So all of you, who like me are cross about the new Sky TV deal, fear not, you can rest assured the extra money that has been generated is being put to a good cause and helping those unfortunate soles who have to struggle through life. Meanwhile, I have news for you Mr Kolles, that extra £1m Bernie promised you next season thanks to the new TV deal, I hate to say it, but you might be left a little disappointed.
Finally, did anyone else see David Coulthard and Jake Humphrey on the BBC pre race coverage together in the feature about the simulator at Red Bull? Were my eyes deceiving me or was DC actually sitting on Jakes lap with his arm around him bouncing up and down like a kid in Father Christmas’ grotto asking for a pony?! I’ve heard of close working relationships and I know they like to wear matching pink shirts but that’s taking it a bit too far surely.
The British Touring Car Championship’s seems to have thrown up a divide amongst fans recently thanks to the whole Turbo versus normally aspirated engine situation. Some seem to be annoyed with the rules being changed to restrict the turbo cars and some seem to believe they should be restricted even more.
Everyone has a right to their opinion, however after a post a couple of months ago about the situation one or two people decided to voice their opinions in response rather loudly and somewhat personally as they disagreed with my opinion on the matter. Therefore they believed they were right and those who said different were wrong, had no idea what they were talking about and knew nothing so should keep quiet. That said, before I continue, this blog is entirely my own opinion. Rightly or wrongly, agree or disagree, I am happy to accept your responses and thoughts and for you to leave comments. However, please keep them constructive and please don’t resort to personal attacks.
Rather than air my opinion on the whole performance issue within the BTCC, it’s the professionalism of some of the drivers that needs to be bought to people’s attention. After last week’s Monaco Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton’s subsequent and ill fated post race interview taking the headlines, it seems a few other ‘professional’ drivers should have taken on board the criticism Hamilton received within the media and fans alike.
Much like Lewis Hamilton in F1, Jason Plato is a big star and a popular driver with fans in BTCC, therefore he is in the spotlight all the time within the series. So is it really acceptable for Jason Plato to show his displeasure of the rules in front of the media and on live TV. Whether the rules are fair or unfair is irrelevant. The attitude and reaction from the ‘Star’ of the series is extremely unprofessional. Tim Harvey stated afterwards, that Plato is becoming fixated on parity within the series and must therefore have an effect on his focus and that he needs to calm down and focus on his own racing. Harvey talks sense and has hit the nail on the head. It is only the Honda’s that Plato is struggling against and is beating the other Turbo powered cars. The reaction seems to show Plato as a spoilt brat and is upset because he isn’t winning all the time. The fact that he has won more races this season than Matt Neal is something he fails to mention.
Lewis Hamilton and Martin Whitmarsh from McLaren had to make a grovelling apology to race stewards after the comments the 2008 world champion made and it is only right that Plato should do the same. To constantly make these comments on live TV and, particularly after the Oulton Park win, use questionable language, is surely bringing the sport into disrepute. If you have views on the rules, then discuss them in private and not berate the series director and ask him to explain himself on live TV. That shows extreme lack of professionalism and if he escapes punishment, then Plato needs to count himself lucky. There is much talk in the motorsport world of Lewis Hamilton needing someone to bring him back down to earth, I think Plato needs someone to do that to him to.
No one is bigger than the BTCC and that includes Jason Plato. He maybe a self confessed celebrity presenting Fifth Gear on TV, but he needs to drop the prima donna attitude and concentrate in getting his attitude into Top Gear and showing some respect. He is a role model to many but is currently leading a bad example of how to behave. He is a talented driver and has shown this by winning the championship twice and has claimed more BTCC race wins than anyone else, however the series can and will continue without him when he decides to retire or leave. But right now with his current behaviour, whether you agree with me or not, it is my opinion that the series would be better off without him until he changes his attitude and shows himself to be the complete professional that he should be.
Another headline from the weekend’s racing at Oulton Park is the Shock news that TOM Onslow-Cole has quit the AMD Miltek team to take up an offer elsewhere. Apparently Tom told the team just 15 minutes before the start of race three and did not take part in the final race of the day. The team have stated it was an amicable split and wished Tom the very best. However, if he did tell the team just before race three then it would seem it is not an amicable split. Surely it would only be fair and respectful to complete the final race of the day.
Rumours will now start as to where Tom might be going to and will he be in place for the next round at Croft? One team’s name flying about is that of Team AON. There has been mutterings of them running three cars for a while now but after the whole team order’s debacle of last season would Onslow-Cole really go back? Another popular rumour is that Special Tuning Racing will be running a third car and the Seat’s are putting in a good show this season and had some good results at Oulton Park. So surely he would only leave to go to one of the big teams as the VW is starting to show its worth with points finishes. A move to somewhere like the vacant seat in the Geoff Steel Racing BMW would surely be a sideways step? I guess we will find out soon.
On the flip side, who will take over at AMD Miltek? Let’s not forget there is a vacant seat. It would be great to see Tim Harvey take the wheel but that is just a pipe dream. It would also be amazing to see Matt Hamilton back in BTCC but I’m not sure his position regarding budget. My initial thoughts is that Phil Glew should get the vacant position. Glew drove for the Your Racing Car team in their first BTCC race at Silverstone last year and put in a good showing. The joint YRC and AMD Miltek partnership could pave the way for him to get back into the championship. One thing is for certain, the rumour mill will be running flat out until the official announcements so we all wait with baited breath to see what happens.