So the motorsport season is back with a bang and a big one at that for my return trackside for the first round of the British GT championships at the weekend. Oulton Park was my destination to kick off the season and I was pretty excited. It was a bit like the first day back at school when you were a kid. Catching up with friends and seeing what was new.
It was to be my first visit to the Cheshire track and despite the five and a half hour journey up on the Friday and the 5.30 am fire alarm at the hotel on Saturday morning and having to stand around in sub zero temperatures in my PJ’s (Zoe Wenham and David Ashburn look similarly unimpressed) I was looking forward to checking out what Oulton Park had in store. Although it was cold, I was glad. I had packed my thermals, the sky was blue, the sun was out and the wind was still. Conditions were good as I headed out to shoot the first BGT practice session.
The field was impressive, despite one or two entries pulling out and the cars looked and sounded great in the morning sun. It was good to be back. Some even sported new liveries. A nod to the Tartan livery of Gregor Fiskin & Richard Westbrook’s Trackspeed Porsche which everyone seemed to like, unlike their team mates Porsche of David Ashburn & Nick Tandy who’s spotted entry divided opinion. I myself was a fan of the new look works Ginetta entry with a white, black and orange livery. Also, the Optimum BMW Z4′s look great in Carbon Black showing that you don’t need to do much to make a GT race car look good.
It became apparent early on that I liked the circuit. Spending the first session at Deer Leap and Lodge Corner, I was getting some nice angles and the session seemed to pass by rather quickly. My head was full of thoughts about where to go for the other sessions over the weekend. I didn’t want to miss some good spots and I still had so much to explore.
Discussions were had in the media centre as to where were good places to photograph and I needed opinions from other photographers who knew the circuit a lot better than an Oulton Park newbie like myself. I had decided to head round to the outside of the circuit on the far side to photograph down the hill towards the first chicane and to spend the hour long second practice working my way towards the Shell Oils hairpin. Just that section itself was a joy as again, there were so many different perspectives and angles to get and before long the session was drawing to a close. I was loving this circuit and was wishing it was a lot closer to home. I didn’t have chance to even think about how cold it was.
Qualifying was soon upon us and with cars all at maximum attack it was a good chance to head over to Druids where the crest on exit saw a few of the cars get light at the front and lifting a wheel or two. I was hoping to try and get a few shots of this. Soon after the first qualifying session got underway, a big accident from one of the GT4 Ginetta’s was to delay the session. It played into my hands somewhat as the sun was starting to set. I was thankful that the clocks hadn’t gone forward just yet as I had found a spot amongst the trees with the setting sun behind the farm on the opposite side of the track ready for the return of the cars. Despite the split second I had to capture the cars after appearing from view and then as quickly disappearing again, I was pleased with what I had managed to capture. Then, as the second qualifying session got underway, it was time to try and capture the cars over that crest.
The day drew to an end and I couldn’t wait till Monday to get back and photograph the two races, but in the mean time, I was happy with my days work. Saturday night involved a drive round Runcorn to try and find a supermarket so we could get some food for the next couple of days. Avoiding drunken and mischievous juveniles I was worried about stopping at traffic lights and junctions in case I got hijacked at knifepoint or had the wheels stolen off my car in a time that would make the Red Bull F1 team proud. After eventually finding not one but 4 supermarkets all close together it was time to stop at the local McDonalds for something to eat. It felt like I’d stepped into the holding room for the next episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was pretty sure they could tell I wasn’t from round these parts before I had even said anything. Needless to say I ate my Big Mac as quick as possible at a window seat so I could keep an eye on my car, before getting out of there sharp-ish and back to the hotel. People think my home county of Essex is bad? I’m used to a lot of stuff but I was genuinely feeling uncomfortable.
We were staying in a Holiday Inn and we had noticed the previous evening that it was apparent that there was a Wedding and a reception being held there on the Saturday. The latter in full flow as we had got back. Despite the Hotel being nice, I had questioned whether a Holiday Inn was really the sort of place you’d want to get married, but each to their own. There was enough fake tan around to keep Amy Childs beauty salon stocked up for a year and I noticed a popularity for drawing on eyebrows with black marker pen giving the wearer a permanent angry expression which amused me as the angry looking orange faced girls struggled to walk properly in their ridiculous platform high heeled shoes. Even an Essex boy like myself was out of my comfort zone and decided to leave the hotel bar and head for bed.
With no track action on Sunday, the day was spent watching the British Touring Car Championship on the TV in the hotel room before a meal out in the evening with friends. I struggled to get to sleep that night trying to work out the best places at Oulton to shoot the two races on Monday.
The morning was again very cold and this time the skies were cloudy and overcast. Not as good conditions as Saturday but I was grateful it wasn’t raining. I headed to the pit lane to shoot the 10 minute warm up session before deciding where to got for Race One. It was soon upon us and a few minutes were spent on the grid as the cars lined up before I headed down to the first corner. I wanted to capture the impressive Class of 2013 as they headed into the first corner of the season. They looked fantastic as they headed towards myself and the other photographers around me. I fired off shots of the first half of the field heading into the bend before turning to shoot them disappearing down the hill. Big mistake.
With myself pointing my camera down the hill I was unaware of what was happening to my right. The first indication of something not being right was seeing the two photographers to my left out of the corner of my eye suddenly run for cover. I wasn’t up against the barrier but stepped back just as a Mercedes SLS and an Aston Martin appeared and hit the tyres and Armco in front of me. I hadn’t heard the shout of ‘Incoming’ and had been taken by surprise. Thankfully no one was hurt and despite the Aston being able to carry on, only to retire a few laps later, the Mercedes had managed to move to a safer spot on the other side of the track, but is was clearly game over with too much damage to continue. Not the best way to start the new season for them and certainly an unexpected one for me.
I spent race one photographing while heading down the hill towards cascades. It wasn’t long before more drama unfolded though. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air from the other side of the circuit as the LNT Ginetta G55 had burst into flames. Again though, thankfully no one was hurt. The hour had passed quickly and the race had come to an end as I was at the bottom of the hill at cascades. Plenty of action had taken place for the season opener and it was only a few hours until race two was about to get underway.
I took up position for the second race at the bottom of the hill at cascades, only this time on the inside of the circuit to shoot the cars heading down the hill and enabling myself to then photograph the second chicane and Knickerbrook before making my way up the hill towards druids. The first half of the race seemed to go to smoothly before major incidents broke out. The second Ginetta G55 burst into flames leaving driver Colin White to leap out quickly whilst heading up the hill to Deer leap. Also, there was a big accident involving Jon Minhaw’s Trackspeed Porsche and Andrew Howards Aston Martin at the chicane I had been at earlier in the race, so I didn’t manage to get that on camera and one of the Mtech Ferrari’s collided heavily with the APO Ginetta G50. It seemed to me that I had been too close to the action or too far away in the wrong place to capture any of it.
But it didn’t matter, I had a great weekend and I had experienced a new circuit which I loved. Oulton is now threatening Brands Hatch GP as my favourite UK circuit. Next up for me, the World Endurance Championships and European Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
As I returned turned home yesterday I was greeted by a huge parcel waiting for me. As I had not been waiting for anything and hadn’t ordered anything, especially of this size, recently I was somewhat confused by it. On inspection it appeared to have come from Germany. I still hadn’t twigged what it was until I saw the senders name. A sudden rush of excitement filled me as hurriedly but carefully opened the huge box. I wasn’t quite prepared for what was inside.
Carefully wrapped and packaged inside was two large 3ft by 2ft framed and mounted prints. No ordinary prints though. One was of an Audi R8 GT3 and the other of a Mercedes SLS GT3. What’s more was that these prints were of paintings by the incredibly talented German motorsport artist Steffen Imhof and were based on two of my photos I had taken at last year’s Nurburgring 24 hour race.
They both looked stunning. I was overwhelmed by Steffen’s generosity as he had agreed to send me copies of the finished artwork but I wasn’t expecting anything quite like this. He had even enclosed a copy of the huge Mahle racing wall calendar which featured twelve amazing motorsport paintings Steffen had created, including the two that were now sitting in front of me in their magnificent brushed aluminium frames. It was safe to say I was very proud and delighted with them. It is an incredible feeling to have had a photo I have taken turned into a spectacular piece of art such as this.
This isn’t the first time it has happened though. Some of you who read this bloke may have read about the amazing Toyota Avensis artwork the Ian Cook, aka Pop Bang Colour, created which was based on my photo of Frank Wrathall. I’ve spoken to people who saw it being created and some of you may even have a copy. It is a very special feeling indeed. So these three beautiful pieces of art will be taking pride of place on the wall where everyone can see. Even my mum, who has no real interest in cars and motorsport loves them, telling me ‘I wouldn’t want a big photo of yours on the wall but these look fantastic and will look really good on the wall.’ You, can always rely on my Mum to speak her mind, no matter how brutally honest she is. But this was a huge compliment to Steffen and Ian’s work. Not so much on mine though.
The sense of satisfaction I have had from seeing all three of these works of art in incredible and to actually have them to display on my wall too is a great feeling. As someone who loves art, visiting galleries and had great respect for real talent such as that shown by Steffen and Ian, this is something quite special. I can’t wait to show my friends and family.
So on that note, if there are any artists out there who may be interested in turning any of my photos into paintings, drawings or art work, then feel free to get in touch. For the rest of you, I strongly suggest you go and check out both Steffen Imhof’s AutomobilArt website and Ian Cook’s Pop Bang Colour website to check out their stunning work. You could do a lot worse than part with some money in exchange for having their artwork on your wall. Especially if you are a car and motorsport fan.
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.
The arrival of March means one thing to Motor Racing fans. The new season is upon us after the long winter break. The first round of the Formula One season gets underway this coming weekend along with the Sebring 12hours and some club events have already taken to the track.
For me, the start of the new season got underway last Thursday at the British GT & F3 media launch. The event took on a different format from the usual media days with it being held in central London during the evening. It was great event and a good chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances from the media, teams and circuits. Some of whom I hadn’t seen since last season.
Outside the venue were not only a London Taxi and Double Decker bus looking resplendent in British GT & F3 Liveries and advertisements, but also two of the cars set to take to the GT grid this year. One of United Autosport’s McLaren MP4-12C’s along with Barwell Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage that this year will be raced by series new boys, Richard Abra and Mark Poole who took last year’s Britcar 24hour title. The cars were certainly getting plenty of attention and rightly so. The Streets of South Kensington and Knightsbridge are often adorned with flash cars such as Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Bentleys as the capital’s elite cruise around in luxury. Those who saw the documentary a few months ago on TV about London’s supercar culture will testify to that. But who has ever seen two fully race prepared GT3 racing beasts parked up on the side of the road in the capital city? Even the guy in a Mercedes CLK who tried to turn heads by revving and roaring past failed miserably as gazes were fixed on the two show stoppers.
Passers by stopped to take photos with iPhones and many posed to have their photo taken beside the powerful monsters. Some even just stood, watched and stared for ages in awe. Traffic almost came to a standstill as people slowed to see the reason for flash guns going off and catch a glimpse of the race car. Bus and taxi drivers, even motorcycle couriers slowed to have look. But for me, the woman in a beat up Fiesta who drove past at a snail’s pace while her young son in the back seat, hands and nose pressed up against the window as he stared open mouthed at the Aston Martin and McLaren just underlined what motorsport was really about and the effect it has on people.
Inside, the presentations were underway and despite only four races on the F3 calendar, it seemed a necessary step to save the series from disappearing altogether and signs for next year are looking positive so a step back should hopefully mean at least two forward next season.
As for the season ahead for the British GT, things are going from strength to strength. New and established teams are joining this season to add to the already impressive field of cars. The likes of AF Corse and Vita4one Team Italy along with new teams from Blendini Moto & Nigeria Racing Eagle will be some of the new runners among the packed grid. Many teams are now running more cars and the likes of Fortec, who are well known for running single seaters are stepping into the fray with possibly a pair of Mercedes SLS’s. Toyota have joined the GT4 ranks with a GT86 and M-Sport, the team who ran the Ford WRC package have joined in the fun and will initially run an Audi R8 LMS Ultra with the intention of taking on the new Bentley Continental GT3 when it is ready later in the season.
Well over 30 cars look set to take to the grid at Oulton Park over Easter weekend with more set to join throughout the season. Throw in a European Round at Zandvoort which British GT will have main billing for and better TV coverage including Two rounds shown live on Motors TV, it is clear the British GT is really going places so it’s best you all make even more of an effort to head out and see this series in action at your nearest Circuit because you won’t be disappointed.
I’d like to thank Benjamin, Lauren and James at SRO along with everyone else who helped put on a great evening and I really cannot wait for Easter weekend at Oulton Park when the season Kicks off. It is going to be awesome.
Most of you will know about my love for GT & Endurance racing & in particular my love for the British GT Championship, which this year in particular has proved just how fantastic it is, so it was with mixed emotions as I headed to Donington Park for the final round of the season. Excitement, as the Title would be hotly contested between the seven, yes seven teams still in with a chance of taking the 2012 honours, and Sadness as the exhilarating season was now coming to an end. You just knew the season would end on a high and the weekend didn’t disappoint. Even the FIA GT1 boys rocked up to take part in the weekend’s event to add a little extra excitement to GT fans like myself.
I like Donington Park as a circuit. Its undulating track provides many great photo opportunities and after a disappointing weekend behind the lens at Silverstone the previous weekend, I was determined to make amends and capture a good set of images. What’s more is that the racing was to take place on the full circuit at Donington and despite the numerous visits there I have never shot the full layout so I was hoping to get some new and interesting angles.
Concentrating on just the two GT series over the weekend, I headed out for the GT1 Qualifying session at the start of the day. The noise was just awesome, how I had missed the unrestricted engine noise and the rumble of the Mercedes SLS in particular. Despite only being a 12 car line up, there was still a nice selection of cars on show from Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini McLaren and Ford. Exploring the GP loop of the circuit during this session I tried to find a few different angles and I was enjoying this part of the circuit I had never shot before.
The first British GT practice session was used to get photos of the cars for a spotters guide that I was helping with along with the guys from l’endurance & Daily Sportscar much like the one we had produced for the Britcar 24hr. Thankfully the hour session enabled me enough time to get some side on shots of the cars and try and bag something a bit more creative at Redgate corner and further down towards the Craner Curves. The time passed pretty quickly and before long I was uploading the shots I had to my laptop back in the media room so the spotters guide could be completed. It looked pretty good even if I do say so myself and you can see it here.
The second British GT practice session took place before the lunch break so I headed out to the Melbourne Hairpin and the GP loop that I had been at to capture the GT1’s earlier to try and get the British GT cars in similar angles. I even managed to find a few new ones too. A quick break after that session and it was back out for the First of the weekend’s two GT1 races and I decided to shoot from the First corner and work down to the old hairpin by the end of the race. Thankfully the rain stayed away and the racing was good. I had got some photos in the bag that I was happy with.
The final session of the day was the qualifying for the British GT. I usually shoot this session from the pitlane as the cars come in and out frequently and this weekend was no different. However I was to regret this decision. Some friends came back into the media room after the session with photos of the cars with a glorious sunset backdrop. I knew the sun was setting, but didn’t realise just how good it looked behind the main pit buildings. Although I was happy with some of the photos I had got, I wished I had gone out trackside and caught the sunset.
Sunday kicked off with two warm up sessions for both the GT series. I shot these short sessions from the inside of Goddards Hairpin and the approach. Again, an area I hadn’t shot before so It was good to try it out. Even though it was mid morning, you could still capture brake discs glowing on the GT1 cars as they braked hard for the slow hairpin before the pit straight.
The second GT1 race took place that afternoon after the lunch break and I headed out to the far side of the circuit to cover the race from there. A big accident between the Ford GT and one of the BMW halted the race for about 40 minutes whilst repairs to the tyre wall was made and the cars were recovered. The race resumed and I shot from the Coppice and McLeans area of the track. However with about 20 minutes of the race to go, disaster struck. The two Championship contenders, the All-Inkl Mercedes of Marc Basseng and Markus Winklehock collided with the remaining Vita4one BMW of Michael Bartels and Yelmer Buurman on the exit of Regate. The latter impacted with the wall hard enough to dislodge the concrete and the session was red flagged whilst medical crews extracted Buurman from the mangled BMW. Thankfully he OK having been taken to hospital and kept in overnight. I then realised the concreted that had been wiped out was all that was separating the circuit and photographers trackside. It is an area that is popular with photographers and one where I have stood on many occasions. Thankfully no one was there at the time or there could have been a very serious outcome. It is times like this that you realise actually how close to danger you can be and you have to be aware at all times.
As I walked up to Redgate for the start of the final British GT race of the season, I could see the impact zone and the debris. The wall hadn’t been replaced properly and I knew I wouldn’t be standing there for the upcoming race. The pile of debris from the BMW scattered everywhere left a stark reminder of how dangerous motorsport can be, but thankfully the outcome was not as bad as it could well have been.
Putting all that to the back of my mind, it was time to concentrate on the big race. Seven cars in with a chance of Championship glory, five of which knowing all they need to do is win and the title is theirs. Add in the front two cars being non championship points scoring additions to the weekends grid which could put a spanner in the works of the overall outcome and the race was set to be a tasty encounter with the 26 car field represented by 14 different manufacturers.
From the off the gauntlet was laid down. Starting from 14th on the Grid, the Nissan GT-R, one of the 5 cars just needing the win to claim the Championship, with Alex Buncombe at the wheel was on blistering pace and within three laps had taken the lead and was pulling away. With the rest of the field battling away and the other championship contenders fighting to get near the front, Buncombe was stretching out a healthy lead. The other results were starting to look irrelevant as the Nissan was looking unstoppable and the win was all that was needed. At the pit stops Buncombe bought in the Nissan to hand over to Jann Mardenborough, last year’s Playstation GT Academy winner and hugely talented, with a lead of over 12 seconds. But disaster was to strike.
Just a couple of laps after the hand over, the left rear shock absorber on the Nissan broke. That was it. Game over for the Championship aspirations. It was gut wrenching stuff, and despite the RJN team fixing the issue and sending the rapid Welshman back out, they had lost far too much time and were a few laps down on the lead. With Nissan out of contention, this handed the current Championship lead to the MTech Ferrrari of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. All it needed was to hang on to current race position of fourth and they would clinch the Title by half a point.
But Allan Simonsen in the Rosso Verde Ferrari was to have a say in matters. A battle between the two ensued with Griffin clinging on to the vital place needed for the championship win and was only halted by the appearance of the safety car a couple of laps later bunching the field up. This meant that another title contender, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, had closed in and was keen to snatch the honours away.
After the safety car had come back in and the field had bunched up, the BMW was keen to make up places for the points needed for victory. An audacious move from Ollie Bryant in the Ecurie Ecosse car at Goddards saw him dive up the inside from a long way back to try and take the place from the MTech Ferrari. Sadly he came from just too far back and made contact with his rival sending Griffin into a spin causing him to haemorrhage places from the bunched up field and with it the championship hopes had faded. This now meant the BMW was on course for the title with not long left in the race. But the upper hand in the title race was to be a short lived for the Ecurie Ecosse team as a one minute stop go penalty was handed out to them as punishment for the contact with Griffin.
This now meant the fourth change of championship leader in the race and this time the Motorbase Porsche of Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti was to be the grateful recipient. Despite being fourth place in the race, the top two places were occupied by the two non points scoring cars of Alvaro Parente and Zak Brown in their United Autosports McLaren and the Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Nico Pronk. Third place was the second United Autosports McLaren of Charles Bateman and Matt Bell and although they too were Championship contenders coming into the weekend, they needed others to drop points and with the Caine and Perfetti car behind in Fourth, the points deficit was too much to be overturned. So Michael Caine only needed to bring the car home safely and the Title was theirs.
As the chequered Flag dropped, he had done it. Dave Bartrum and the rest of the Motorbase team were delighted. Probably not one of the favourites to win the title coming into the race despite being a real contender but it had showed just how close this season had been and it had all come down to the very last lap of the last race before the champions were crowned. Add to this the Motorbase Porsche had not won a race this season, the second year in a row that the eventual Champions had not won a race, you can see just how tight the championship battle had been throughout the season and that reliability and consistency are key.
So the British GT season has drawn to an end and what a season it has been. Truly Epic. There won’t be many championships this hotly contested and so close right down to the very last corner. With 15 different manufacturers having taken part and eight different winners from ten races, it is easy to see why this championship is a stand out event in the UK and Europe. Hopefully it will continue to go from strength to strength and be even bigger and better next season if that could be even possible. I for one cannot wait.
Its been a busy few weeks for me and my blog has been neglected somewhat of late and the distraction of the Olympics hasn’t helped so I thought it would be time for a bit of a catch up before I head to Snetterton this weekend for the British Touring Car Championship.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking photos for the local Pony Club Junior and Intermediate camps. Not quite the fast paced adrenaline fuelled action I see trackside but it is still good fun. The weather was good for both weeks, and I’m always treated well there by the organisers. Despite the hard work it is always worth it and I do enjoy covering the Camps. I don’t get to photograph equestrian events as much as I used to and I do miss it at times so it’s always nice to go back to where my sports photography all began.
The weekend just passed It was back to the track and the first weekend of three in a row at Snetterton. The British GT & F3 Championships headed to the Norfolk circuit and I was there to photograph my favourite UK championship. Initial weather forecasts were promising, but those who have been to Snetterton will know how unpredictable the weather can be there. The place seems to have its own micro climate and the best option is to pack for all conditions.
This was definitely the case as despite the dry relatively sunny conditions all morning, black clouds gathered during second practice for the GT’s and when a red flag was put out for an off from Ollie Milroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, the heavens took this cue to open. Thankfully I could see this and the thunder and lightning coming and as soon as the red flag made an appearance I made a bee line for the safety of the media centre. Within minutes the down pour had flooded the circuit and the pit lane. The GT cars were not going to head out in those conditions and the session finished. Subsequent race and qualifying sessions were to be delayed until after the rain stopped so areas of standing water on the track could be pumped away.
The rain delay meant the GT qualifying, due last on the timetable had to be dropped. Grid positions for both 1 hour races were to be decided by the 2 practice session times. This played into the hands of the Trackspeed Porsches as it was pole in race one for the 31 car and pole in race two for the 33 car.
Sunday was to be a new day but the unpredictable weather returned. Heavy rain returned and disrupted the rescheduled timetable meaning the second Ginetta Challenge race of the day had to be dropped to avoid breaking the curfew. It also meant the F3 cars had to take on the elements but Both GT races avoided the wet and had two dry races. The new McLaren MP4-12C of United Autosports Charles Bateman and Matt Bell took a debut win for the car in the championships meaning it was a remarkable seven different winners from the seven races so far in the season. It looked to be a possible eight different winners from eight races in race two as after the pit stops the Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey led comfortable but a fuel pressure problem meant they dropped back to second place leaving team mates Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy to take their second win of the season. For full race reports, visit the Checkered Flag website here.
With just two points separating the top five drivers in the championship, it is all up for grabs over the remaining two rounds at Silverstone and Donington Park and it looks set to go right down to the wire. Despite Lotus not making an appearance in GT4 at their home circuit and the Jones Brothers Mercedes also absent an addition to the field was the Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini LP600 of Hari Prozcyk and Marco Attard. It was a welcome addition and even with the absentee’s 12 different manufacturers were represented on the grid with the possibility of this increasing to 14 for the next round. As you can see that is a pretty impressive field and one of the reasons British GT is so great.
So next for me is the British Touring Car Championship back in Norfolk after their long summer break. I haven’t photographed the Touring cars for some time due to calendar clashes and it seems like a long time since I last shot them at Donington. I really hope the weather stays dry and I’m sure the thousands of fans who I know will be heading there will be hoping the same.
Photos from the F3 and GT Races and sessions can be seen on my Facebook page.
On Wednesday morning I received an email which took me by surprise. It was somewhat unusual and at the time didn’t quite know what to make of it. But now, I see it as one of the highest compliments I’ve received to date.
The email was from a guy called Steffen Imhof in Germany. I have never heard of Steffen until now but the email header and footer made me take notice. You see, Steffen is a motorsport artist and he had written to me after seeing one of my photographs of the Hankook Mercedes SLS at the Nurbugring. He was enquiring about the use of the photo so he could paint his own interpretation of it. With this, I had to check out his website as I was curious as to what his work was like.
I was pretty gobsmacked. His work was fantastic. The paintings he had created were beautiful and he has done work for some high profile clients. Paintings include classic and modern race and road cars, with the Jo Siffert Porsche 917 a particular favourite. It was easy to see that Steffen was one of the best motorsport artists around. I was flattered that he wanted to use one of my images to recreate in his own style.
After an exchange of emails an agreement had been made and Steffen will be working with my photo. I am really excited by this and I cannot wait to see how it turns out when he has finished. Nothing like this has happened to me before and those who know me will know that I am not very good at taking compliments. But for me, without anything having to be said, for an artist of Steffen’s calibre to want to use one of my photos is quite possibly one of the best compliments I could receive.
I will of course keep you up to date on the progress Steffen makes, but in the mean time you can see his excellent work on his website here: steffenimhof.com
With my Nurburgring trip now seeming like just a distant memory and my screensaver acting as a constant reminder of great the place really is, it was time to head out for my first race trackside since the German 24hr race.
It was the Britcar Endurance and Production cup races at Brands Hatch on the Indy Circuit last Saturday and as much as I like Brands Hatch I couldn’t help but think that Druids didn’t have quite the same lure as the Karussell and that Paddock Hill wasn’t that steep in comparison. But I can’t shoot at the Nordschleife every weekend so I was just happy to be trackside again.
However, tales of the trip and the race in the media room, along with Guy Povey’s BMW still bearing the Bilstein and Gran Turismo 5 stickers from 24hr Epic, my withdrawal symptoms from the Green Hell weren’t being eased. I even spotted an Audi Sport Team Phoenix sticker in the pit lane. I had suggested to James that he sat in the media room and played the Nurburgring Pitlane siren that I have saved on my laptop every time he saw a car come down the pits. That place had really had an effect on me, much like an ex girlfriend you have very fond memories of. I was beginning to worry myself somewhat.
Thankfully, once the sessions on track had started and I was out with my camera I was soon back in the swing of things. Despite the gloomy and slightly damp start to the day the weather improved and by the afternoon the sun was beating down. I had prepared for rain so it was inevitable.
A new edition to the Endurance grid was a Ginetta G50. This had caught my eye. Not only was it red, but it was covered in Kit Kat advertising. To my surprise, whilst taking a few photos of it in the garage a team member approached and handed me a Kit Kat. I gratefully accepted the chocolate then thought to myself, ‘These guys can come again!’
With the sun out and the afternoon’s racing upon us, the Production Cup race took place. The 90 minute race was a competitive affair and a noticeable addition to the driver line up was Andy Jordan in the Eurotech Honda Accord who was standing in for his father Mike whilst he was racing with the Jones twins in their Mercedes SLS at Silverstone for the Blancpain series. The production cup race was eventually won by Michael Symonds in his Orange BMW M3. Photos of the Production Cup can be seen on my Facebook Album or on my Flickr page.
Soon the Endurance race was up and running. A two hour race this weekend as opposed to the usual three and the field look great in the sun that was now high in the sky and causing me to get a sweat on. I’m not sure about other photographers but I’ve noticed that cars with bright or unusual liveries always seem to catch my eye when I’m shooting races and the Red Kit Kat Ginetta was no exception. So here’s a tip if you enter a race car into a series. Paint it a bright colour, I’ve found Yellow is the most effective, and you will probably find that it will get photographed a lot. As with the Production Cup, the Endurance race was another captivating affair. I like Brands Hatch as I can tune my pocket radio into the radio station and listen to the commentary whilst trackside above the engine noises and follow what is going on. It’s always handy, especially in endurance races when the field soon gets spread out. I wish all circuits broadcast on a radio station like this. Silverstone is the only other one. Anyway, the race victory went to the ever impressive Mosler of Javier Morcillo and Paul White to increase their championship lead. More photos of the Endurance race can again be seen on my Facebook Page and on my Flickr Page.
Next up for me is Round 3 of the British GT championship at Rockingham. I’m really looking forward to that this weekend. I think I’ve conquered my withdrawal symptoms now. However, the last time I photographed the British GT championship was at………..
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.
Saturday was soon upon us. Race day! It was another early start for us as although the 24 hour race didn’t start until 4pm, the second British GT race was starting at 9.15am so we needed to be there before that to photograph it.
It was another great race and the field of British GT cars looked superb in front of the thousands of on looking fans. Hopefully this weekend will have helped raise the profile of the British GT championship. It was the Ferrari 458 of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin that took the victory overcoming the numerous Porsches which were seemingly going to dominate the second of the two races. A full race report can be read here.
After the race, there was time for some rest in the media room before the main event. The Porsche Carrera cup Deutschland and Renault Clio cup took place and we were able to watch the action out on the Nordschleife on the TV screens whilst sorting photos from the British GT race and making plans for the 24 hour race. I also went to the souvenir stands to pick up a few bits. My Laptop is now sporting an obligatory Nürburgring Sticker.
It was decided to shoot the start of the race from out on the Nordshleife rather than at the first corner where most of the photographers would be. So an hour or so before the race, I had packed what I needed and we headed out. We headed to the inside of Pflanzgarten but at the top of the hill to see the cars come over the crest. Opposite us on the other side of the track was a McDonalds Drive through sign. Not a made up one. An actually proper sign that lit up. Somewhere in Germany a McDonalds was missing their sign! The Germans who were camped out there were already on the beers and like most of the fans, probably had been since Monday.
As the race start neared the German national anthem came on over the tannoy system. The boozed up guys opposite us stood to attention and sang along proudly. After that they had realised we were English and so treated us to a rendition of God save the Queen. We gave them a cheer and showed our appreciation. I was quite impressed. Had this had been a football match we would have been on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse.
Pretty soon the unmistakable rumble of engines could be heard through the trees. I could sense the atmosphere change and the excitement grow. The course car appeared over the crest with orange lights ablaze followed close behind by the front running cars all weaving to keep their tyres warm like a mother duck leading her ducklings. But these were more like caged tigers desperate to be freed to unleash their fury amongst the German pine trees. The sun was beaming down on the paintwork of the cars as they streamed past and down the hill. Air horns, whistles, hooters and horns could be heard over the cheers. I was sure my cheeks would start to hurt soon from the constant grin that was plastered across my face. There was nowhere else I would rather have been at that moment. The next course car led through the second group of cars and soon the final group were to stream past. The field is so big that the rolling start has to be split into three groups to avoid mass carnage at the first corners.
I knew the next car to pass me would be the leading car under race conditions. I waited impatiently for it to come round. It seemed like an age as I readied myself. Then, before I knew it, Whoosh. The Schubert BMW Z4 flashed past in an instant. A couple of seconds passed before the chasing pack followed like greyhounds after the BMW hare. We were racing. Cars continually appeared over the crest towards me and I was firing of plenty of shots to capture them in the afternoon sun against the forest backdrop. A tried various angles and perspective to try and capture the gorgeous machines in an attempt to do them some kind of justice. But there were plenty of places to shoot from and angles to get. Even amongst the trees. I was really enjoying myself.
I wandered down towards the crest towards the bottom of the hill before the right hander which took the cars back up the hill. The majority of the cars were getting air at the crest and I could get pretty close to capture it. The fans opposite that adorned the numerous scaffolding towers and those standing below had a great view. Cheers erupted as cars took to the air. I got a good vantage point to capture the action. Everything had become quite surreal. I had never experienced anything like this before. The track, the cars, the fans, the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere. It was a culmination of the best bits of motorsport all together in the same place at the same time. I wasn’t sure whether to just stand there and take it all in or crack on with taking photos to capture this incredible experience.
I moved further on and round the corner. I was standing behind the Armco as cars were now making their way up the hill. The line they took made it feel like they were heading straight towards me. I was just feet away from them as the roared past. I’m no adrenalin junkie, far from it, I’m even scared of heights, but this was such a good feeling. I was buzzing. Quick glances at the screen on my camera gave me an idea of what I was capturing. I only hoped they would look as good, or better when I uploaded the images to my laptop. Time had flown by but in reality I had been at that section of the track for a few hours. It was time to move on and find another good place to shoot from.
I wasn’t to be disappointed with our next destination, Kleine Karussell. Not a hairpin like Karussell but still a banked left hander. Cars raced through like the wall of death at a fun fair. Like the corners bigger brother, some of the cars jumped out of the exit as the banking ended before they scampered up the hill. Like so many of the other area’s on the Nordschleife, you were spoilt for choice in terms of getting some good angles. I was still hoping the photos I was taking were doing this incredible place some kind of justice. As the evening drew in and the light faded it was a good time to head back to the media room to get something to eat and upload the photos we had taken. My excitement had caused me to forget that by now I was actually quite hungry.
Back in the media room, James was in his element. Making notes, checking timing screens, watching through the window and keeping track of the leading cars on the impressive Ipad car and driver tracker application. I scoffed down some hot stew that had been provided whilst I uploaded the photos and tried to get some kind of update as to what had been going on in the race and who was leading. The night had drawn in and I was pretty pleased with the photos I had taken as I was checking through some on my laptop. The Champions League final was on the TV at the end of the media room. From the German cheers and questions of ‘Are you English?’ followed by laughs on my reply, I assumed some Bloke called Brian Munich had scored. I wasn’t that interested though. Did these people realise what was going on outside? I took this as my cue to head down to the pitlane. As I did the Germans went quiet. Chelsea had equalised.
Down in the pitlane it was still a hub of activity. Some mechanics were catching a few minutes sleep whilst others bustled about or watched the football on TV’s. In fact, most of the garages had the Football on next to timing screens and onboard feeds from their cars. Even some pit walls had the football on. Outside the garages, the pit lane was crowded still. Photographers, Mechanics, Organisers and VIP pass holders all jostled for positions. How no one got hit by a car coming in or going out is beyond me. Or maybe people did get hit and I just never saw. I was conscious that I wasn’t going to be one of them so was on full alert throughout.
I was standing outside the Black Falcon garage as the team had prepared everything for a pit stop as it was obvious one of their Mercedes was due in soon. With up to six or more cars per garage space was at a premium. Some cars had to pit in at an angle between others and get pushed back in order to exit when the stop was complete. One of the Black Falcon team members wandered out with the lollypop board to indicate where their car needed to stop. As he peered up the pitlane into the darkness trying to identify their car from its headlights, two cars came in and filled the spot the team had prepared. Neither were the Mercedes they had been expecting and now there was no space for it’s imminent arrival. With that the whole team grabbed everything they could, tyres in their warmers, jacks, fire extinguishers and anything else they needed and sprinted down the pitlane to a clear spot further down. As they did, the Mercedes rumbled in close behind. It was an amazing piece of team work and I wanted to stand and applaud. Formula One drivers moan about pit stops? They need to experience this!
As I patrolled up and down with my camera in hand, I had become aware from the cheers and shouts that the football had gone to penalties and the Germans were doing well. I wasn’t surprised, were the English really going to beat the Germans on penalties in their own back yard? Of course not. By the time I had got down to the Aston Martin garage the team of mechanics and drivers not racing at the time were all huddled around the TV. There was some commotion. I wandered in and on tiptoes peered over the top of a gaggle of heads. It seemed that Chelsea had the chance to win with the last penalty. I was suddenly a bit interested. It was scored and the British Aston Martin team erupted, drowning out the cries of despair that reverberated from all of the other garages. Chelsea had won the Champions League on Penalties. Pretty Epic. In years to come people will ask, ‘Where were you when Chelsea beat the Germans on Penalties on that fateful night?’ To which I will take pride in being able to respond with ‘Standing in the Aston Martin Garage at the Nurburgring during the 24 hour race’. That response is even more epic. I smiled to myself and walked back into the pitlane.
Back in the media room I checked out the photos I had just taken and glanced at the clock. Midnight. It was now Sunday but there was still plenty of racing to capture……
The Easter weekend saw the return of the GT’s. Not just the British GT Championships at Oulton Park, but also the World FIA GT1 championship and the European GT3 series at Nogaro in France.
Unfortunately, do to work commitments, I couldn’t be at Oulton Park for found one of the British GT Championship. Although I was somewhat glad I wasn’t standing out in the dreadful weather they were experiencing, I was bitterly disappointed to be missing out on some great racing. New teams and cars have improved the field even more from last year, with BMW and Nissan joining the manufacturers and rather being there to see them in action, I was glued to the online timing screen, a race ticker and twitter to keep up to date on what was happening during both one hour races.
It was the United Autosports Audi of Matt Bell and Charles Bateman who took pole for the first race. They were to lead for all but one of the 32 laps. Unfortunately, the lap they didn’t lead for was the final one. The Audi had ran out of fuel on the last lap and coasted to a stop, gifting the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant victory in their maiden British GT race. Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen’s took second in their Ferrari 458 ahead of another Ferrari, that of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. GT4 Honours went the way of the impressive pairing of Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin in their Ginetta G50. At one point in this race, the top six was represented by six different manufacturers, show what a diverse field the series now boasts.
Experienced GT racer Richard Westbrook will partner current champion David Ashburn for as many British GT Races as his busy schedule will allow this season, and this was the pairing that were to start on pole position for Trackspeed in the Porsche 997. The pair also went on to take a flawless victory in the days second race ahead of Griffin and Cameron who performed well in the adverse weather conditions. Third place went the way of British GT New boys Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey. It was Hughes and Fannin on the top step in the GT4 class, ahead of the Lotus pairing of Phil Glew and Sailesh Bolisetti. An honourable mention must be made to Zoe Wenham. This was her first BGT race weekend and a mature drive in race two saw the 17 year old take third place in GT4 along with Mike Simpson.
Round two of the Championship see’s a trip to the Nurburgring in support of the 24hour race. My media application has been sent so hopefully I will be in attendance to see them battle it out on the iconic German Circuit.
Whilst the Brits were experiencing miserable weather in Cheshire, the FIA GT1’s were fairing slightly better in rural France at Nogaro. Victory in both the wet Sunday race and the dry Monday race, went to the Belgium WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor. It was a good weekend for the team as their second car of Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis took both second places as well completing a perfect start to the season.
The GT3 race was to feature ex British GT driver (and karting buddy) Michael Lyons who has made the step up to join Stefano Gai in the AF Corse Ferrari 458. Race one victory went to the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Sourd and Gregory Guilvert, but disqualification for Lamborghini pair Filip Sladecka and Gerhard Tweraser for ignoring a drive through penalty saw Lyons and Gai promoted to second place after taking the chequered flag in third behind them. Race two saw Maximilian Buhk and Dominik Baumann in the Mecedes-Benz SLS AMG victorious, but Lyons crossed the white line on pit exit after taking over from Gai and was handed a drive through penalty.
Hopes of a solid finish looked diminished for the young Brit, but an incredible drive saw Lyons haul the Ferrari into third place and a battle for second place with the other AF Corse Ferrari during the closing laps. It was just a little too much as Gaetano Ardagna Perez defended his position desperately to keep Michael behind, leaving him to settle for third and not break team rule number 1: Do not take out your team mate.
It was a superb debut for Michael and with two podiums finishes, takes a healthy points haul to the next round. Thankfully both the GT1 and GT3 races were streamed live on the internet so I was able to watch the superb GT racing. Some consolation for not being at Oulton Park.
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.