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.
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.