Happy New Year to you all. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my blog readers a prosperous 2013.
The third part of my review series see’s my team and moment of the year from last season. As with the previous posts, feel free to get in touch and let me know who your team of the year were and what your moment of the year was.
Team of the year: This, for me has to go to the Toyota LMP1 team. On the back foot from at the beginning of the year with little time to develop the car before the start of the World Endurance Championship, it looked like Audi were going to go unchallenged all year thanks to the withdrawal of rivals Peugeot. No one expected much from Toyota and with Sebring being used as a test and the team not entering the Spa race to concentrate on getting the car ready for Le Mans, Audi had nothing to worry about.
However, Toyota showed glimpses of things to come, and despite not finishing either car, one due to ‘That Crash’ the Toyota team did lead the race at one point. Since then, the team have become stronger and stronger. Podium finishes at Silverstone….. And Finally a race victory at Fuji underlinded their ability and now have Audi looking over their shoulder. The German marque’s years of Dominance in Endurance racing looks under threat from a Team who are now serious LeMans and WEC championship contenders.
See who the rest of the Checkered Flag Team picked as their Team of the Year Here.
Moment’ of the year: There have been a number of great moments this year and I am grateful to have experienced some personally. There are too many to mention and it is difficult to pick out one in particular, but personally, my first visit to the Nurburgring for the 24 hour race is a stand out moment and one that bought many memories I will never forget. But I also think the 40th running of the Nurburgring 24 hour race produced my moment of the year in terms of the overall result. Finally Audi had conquered the Green Hell and took their first victory in the notoriously gruelling race. This contributed to a remarkable chain of results this year for the German car giants as 2012 saw them also take wins in the Bathurst 12hr, the Spa 24hr, the Zolder 24hr And of course a 1,2,3 and 4 at Le Mans. It just underlines the true extent of German efficiency and reliability.
What were the moments of the year for the TCF team? Find out Here.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me so as I sit down to write this blog it seems like the topic was a long time ago now. However, I couldn’t let it pass without me writing about how great the Silverstone Classic was this year.
It is always a highlight of my year and this year was no exception. I have a fondness for classic cars and it is great to see so many of these awesome machines from my childhood and well before, doing what they were designed to do. Race. This year’s event saw the addition of a new race category for Touring cars from 1970-2000. This was to be a hugely popular race with the spectators and the addition of current BTCC favourite, Frank Wrathall to the field in a 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier enticed support even more.
For me, the headline race was the Saturday evening Group C race into dusk. I love the awesome 1980’s Le Mans cars and there was an awesome array of Group C and C2 cars taking part. A favourite had to be the Jagermeister Porsche 962. An Iconic car of the time in an iconic livery. A Peugeot 905 with Nicolas Minassian at the wheel on the entry list was also of huge significance. Sadly, despite qualifying second on the Friday, the car was not to take to the track for either of the two races during the weekend. A bitter blow to many, but Minassian was to take to the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit for Sunday’s race in one of the three Lancia LC2’s.
Another popular race was the Grand Prix Masters race for formula one cars of the 70’s & 80’s featuring cars such as McLaren M26’s, Arrows A4’s and Williams FW07’s. Remarkably this race was to be the first ever to feature two six wheeled formula one cars. A Tyrell P34 and a March 2-4-0 were to take part much to many people’s delight.
With 13 races on the Saturday and a further 11 on the Sunday there was plenty of on track action to keep the crowed entertained and the high quality and close racing in some of the world’s most beautiful, recognisable and valuable cars, whether it classic GT’s or pre 1956 sports cars or even pre 1961 front engined Grand Prix cars along with many well known drivers past and present, there was something for every motorsport fan young and old.
As if all the on track action wasn’t enough, the many thousands of cars on display from various car clubs was magnificent to see. Cars from Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, AC Cobras even a bselection of Lancia Delta’s. This year’s Silverstone Classic celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40. One of the world’s most recognizable super cars and the stuff of fantasy for every boy, like myself, who grew up in the 80’s. To mark this occasion, a parade of F40’s took to the track on Sunday setting a record for the most Ferrari F40’s on track together at the same time. There were over 60 in total from all over the world and what a brilliant sight they were under the hot sun. An experience I will not forget in a hurry.
There were trade stands a plenty for you to spend your money and activities for all ages to keep the whole family occupied. The Sun came out to make up for the wet Friday and the weekend was another fantastic event. The Silverstone Classic goes from strength to strength and I am already looking forward to next year’s event. If you haven’t been, then I would highly recommend it. You won’t leave disappointed.
I havent got round to sorting all my photos from the weekend yet, but you can see some Group C ones here. Also, If you like the Chris Gurton Photography page on Facebook, you will be updated when new galleries will be added.
After their separate European exploits, the British GT & F3 cavalcade rolled into Corby at the weekend for their next round of the 2012 season. I was of course in attendance and it turned out to be another good weekend.
The weather turned out to be nice albeit a little chilly and windy on the Saturday, the racing was good, the cars looked great and the B&B I had booked for the weekend was great despite initially giving myself and James a double room when I had specifically booked a twin. This wasn’t the first time it’s happened but it was all sorted without hassle.
It was nice to catch up with friends again and I even met a few new ones. The joy of twitter is that you sometimes get to meet people you chat to on there. I have a great following of motorsport fans and have been lucky enough to meet some of them in person at race weekends. It’s always nice to meet the people you chat to online who share your love of motorsport. I have met some really great people thanks to twitter and I hope to meet many more in the future.
This weekend was the first time I had seen the F3 cars in action this season. I had missed the Oulton Park round at Easter and wasn’t at the European rounds either so it was good to shoot them. Carlos Sainz JR headed into the weekend the championship favourite, but had a disappointing round at the Rockingham circuit. With three races held over the weekend, there were three different race winners. Jazeman Jaafar took the first race victory and Tops the current driver standings whilst British duo Harry Tincknell and Jack Harvey took race two and three honours with the latter moving into second place in the standings ahead of Sainz JR. Race reports can be read here with an album of photos of the F3 on my Facebook page here or on my Flickr album here.
One of the great things about having Carlos Sainz JR in the British F3 championship is that his father isn’t far away. It’s great to see one of my motorsport hero’s strolling around the pits and paddock with designer sunglasses and smart/casual attire looking like a film star. What also pleases me is that he often poses for photos with fans young and old.
On their return from Germany, the GT’s were to compete in a two hour race rather than the usual two, one hour race format. Ex BTCC and Porsche Carrera cup racer Stephen Jelley partnered Steve Parish in the number 10 Motorbase Porsche in place of Nick Tandy and with his only two BTCC race wins coming at Rockingham, it was clear he gets on well at the Corby circuit as he set the pole position time. The race took place on the Sunday afternoon and despite the sky clouding over, the rain held off for a dry race. Alex Buncombe stormed through the field from ninth on the grid in the RJN Nissan GT Academy GTR to take the lead and Anthony Reid was going strong in the plucky Chevron GR8.
Unfortunately disaster struck. The safety car was deployed thanks to a big impact. The Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard suffered a slow puncture which sent the car into the wall at turn one on the banking at high speed. The car was left in a bad way, but Andrew Howard was thankfully left unscathed if a little dazed and confused. A real testament to the safety technology within motorsport these days.
As the safety car returned to the pits, the pitstop window had opened with a number of cars taking advantage of the bunched up pack to make their stops. Unfortunately a brake balance issue in the RJN Nissan GTR left GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough having to fight the car whilst dropping down the field before finishing in fifth place. As the race progressed, it was getting close at the front. With minutes left it could have gone either way, but at the Chequered flag, it was Joe Osborne at the wheel of the 32 Trackspeed Porsche he partnered with Steve Tandy closely followed by the Ferrari 458 of Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen and the second Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn and Phil Keen. In fact, the top four places were separated by less than five seconds with Championship leaders, Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin and their Mtech Ferrari 458 taking the fourth spot. This was pretty close after 2 hours of racing. Whoever says endurance racing is boring needs to reconsider and with five different winners from the five races so far this season, it looks set to be a real thriller of a championship. The race report can be read on the Checkered Flag website here with photos on my Facebook Page and Flickr Album.
I won’t be trackside this weekend so my next race will be the British GT & F3’s at Brands Hatch on June the 23rd & 24th. My favourite British race series on my favourite British circuit, The Brands Hatch GP layout, I cannot wait.
In the mean time, there is a small race taking place this weekend across the channel. It is of course the Le Mans 24 hour race. I am of course greatly disappointed that I won’t be there this year but I’m not sure it will be such a close race as it was in 2011 with the absence of Peugeot. However there are lots of other things that make the race so awesome and I will be trying my best to watch as much as I can online. The GT classes look set to be close as does LMP2 and with lots of British drivers and teams taking part, it really is worth watching what you can.
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.
Having spent last weekend at the Rockingham Stages Rally, I now have to accept that my motorsport season is finally over. It was a great way to see out an eventful year with some great cars having entered the 12 stages over Saturday and Sunday including 2 night stages.
Although the entry numbers were down on previous years, the action was by no means in short supply. A host of superb rally cars from Classic Mark II Escorts to Modern Subaru Impreza’s and Peugeot 205’s to Vauxhall Astra’s and many more all took to the tarmac stages during the bitterly cold winter’s weekend. A close fought battle between the Dave West and his Peugeot 306 Maxi Kit Car and the Escort MkII of Pete Raynor throughout saw the latter clinching Victory over the last 2 stages of the weekend. It was also a good chance to meet up with friends before the winter break and listen to funny stories from Steve Cressy’s crew from previous Rallies. (It’s the way they tell ‘em).
This was my second Rally event for me, the first as media, after my recent Mull Exploits and hopefully won’t be my last. I’ve always been interested in Rallying and although Rockingham is not your typical rally, I hope I will get to shoot some more events in the future. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to go to Belgium with Cat and Andy and their new Rally Car next year so fingers crossed. More photos from the Rockingham Stages can be seen here.
So as I sit and contemplate the long winter until the motorsport season roars back into action next year I can’t help but reflect on the past season’s escapades. Having covered well over 20 race weekends plus various other motorsport events (I daren’t count all them up) it has been a very busy year. I have met many great people along the way and shared some great experiences. I think it is only fair to thank some of them who have made 2011 a great experience.
Firstly, a huge thanks to Vince Petit, editor of The Checkered Flag, for giving me the opportunity to work for the site and the superb experiences I have had thanks to it, I look forward to many more seasons working with him and helping the site go from strength to strength by providing images and the occasional report. I’d also like to thank my partner in crime, James Broomhead, writer for The Checkered Flag. We’ve spent many weekends away at race events and he has been great company, even when our deep and somewhat geeky motorsport discussions have meant we have totally missed junctions on motorways and turnings en route. Also, thanks go to all the other contributors to the site who have worked hard providing coverage and have been patient whilst I sort out images for their reports. It’s been a pleasure working with them.
Another thanks to James Mappin and all the guys and gals at BTCCCrazy who I have provided various pieces of work for this season. They are a great bunch and I hope to continue working with them in the future. Thanks go out to fellow media room buddies, too numerous to mention all but special mentions to Pete Mainey, Karl Bowdrey, Jon Hobley, Chris Enion, Adam Pigott, James Warnette and Louise Rich who have all provided many a laugh, discussion, debate and help throughout the year.
Other people who I must thank are Cat Lund and Andy Rowe who gave me the amazing experience of my trip to the Mull Rally despite the unfortunate retirement it was a great week and I hope to join you again for a more successful rally in the future. Thanks to Matt Smith who has become a good friend and always handy to get some inside knowledge off. I wish him and his father Peter, the very best for next seasons attack on the Britcar Championship. Also a massive thank you to Nick Underwood from Tin Tops UK. (Look out for him as he attempts to get behind the wheel of a racing car next season.) He has been such great help and has supported me hugely this year, not only with my photography and Karting exploits but also personally. The last couple of months have been very difficult time for me personally so it is great to know there are people like Nick along with Ian Cook (Popbang Colour) who are very supportive and helpful. Thanks to them both.
Finally I would like to thank you and all the readers of my blog. Thank you all for your feedback and comments and I hope you have enjoyed reading my mutterings throughout the season. I’ve been very surprised at how popular it has become since its inception less than a year ago which couldn’t have been achieved without you. Sorry for lack of posts recently but as mentioned the last couple of months have been really difficult but I should hopefully be back next year with renewed confidence and enthusiasm. In the mean time I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year and I may well see some of you at the Autosport Show in January.
Last weekend I made my second trip to Le Mans for the 24 hour race along with my girlfriend Liz who was making her first trip to the world’s best motor race. It was certainly a great race to attend for the first time and no doubt Liz will be going again. That’s the trouble with Le Mans, once you’ve been once you just want to go back again and again. Obviously there is some great racing on show, incredible cars and world class drivers, but couple that with the fantastic atmosphere and the amount of things to see and do and you have the recipe for petrol head heaven.
We drove down on Thursday morning and those of you who have been will know that if you took one of those Eye Spy books on Supercars then you will probably have filled it all in by the time you got there. We pulled up at the channel tunnel check-in behind a Lamborghini Murchialago and the services area was filled with various Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lotus’ and Aston Martin’s to name a few. Boarding the train we were loaded on right behind a bright orange 200+ mph Ultima, which according to the driver was his toy for bombing down to Le Mans in. Apparently he has already lined up an ex rally Lotus Talbot Sunbeam to take next year.
Having stocked up on food and supplies in Calais, we opted to avoid the toll roads en route to save a few quid. The route was certainly scenic and took us through some nice areas of France. You have to be very careful on the way as the Gendarmerie (the French rozzers) are out in force to cash in on speeding Brits as the drivers of the BMW Z3 and Lotus Elise found out to their cost as the booted it past us only to be pulled in half a mile later.
After arriving at the camp site, setting up and eating/drinking, we headed over to the circuit to catch Thursdays night qualifying session. I’d been waiting months to see the new Audi R18 in the flesh and you had to pay close attention to catch a glimpse as it passed by. They were spookily quiet which meant you couldn’t hear it coming. Just a gentle whoosh could be heard as the menacing beast gracefully sped past. All of the cars were looking great and the two hour session had really got us excited for the race. Funnily enough as we wandered behind the grandstands I spotted my friend James. To be honest, he’s not that difficult to spot as he towers above most people. If you ever go to see a British GT race, keep an eye open for him. He’s usually seen in the paddock or pits wearing a gilet and surrounded by a bevy of beauties. He’s a bit like British GT’s Bernie Ecclestone except twice as tall. Literally.
Friday is the drivers parade so we headed into town for lunch and beer and met up with James and his cousin. We watched the hubbub of everyone setting up the route and the array of classic and supercars on show in the square. Liz and I decided to head for a good location along the parade route and managed to get a spot right at the front getting a great view of the 1991 Mazda 787b roaring past through the French streets. It’s always nice to see the parade and good to see the drivers get involved with the crowd, signing autographs, handing out posters, pictures and gifts. The car carrying the RML drivers had stopped in front of us and Ben Collins was surprised to hear us call his name amidst the mostly French locals, but gave me a great photo opportunity. As did Aston Martin driver Darren Turner. Liz was particularly excited see Giancarlo Fisichella and was in good spirits as we headed back to the campsite on a packed tram. If you are planning on going to Le Mans in the future, I can thoroughly recommend going to the driver’s parade and if you do go to Le Mans and don’t take in the parade then you are missing out.
So race day was upon us and after the morning’s brilliant Classic race, the excitement, tension and nerves were beginning to build. We had seats in one of the Grandstands at the start of the pit straight right next to one of the many big screens and although a grandstand seat isn’t a necessity as there are many good viewing points, it’s nice to have a guaranteed good view especially during the Start and Finish when the crowds are very deep. It was funny to see Jean Todt struggle with the huge Tricolore to start the race as it was as big if not bigger than he was.
As the race began it was clear it was going to be a close battle between the Audi and Peugeot’s and also between the front runners in the other categories. The first hour passed in a blur until disaster struck. An attempt to pass his team mate and a GTE Ferrari at the Esses went wrong and sent Allan McNish and his Audi careering towards the barrier. The subsequent impact sent debris flying everywhere and the dreaded hush descended as thousands of spectators were left reeling in shock. It seemed like an age as we all waited for any sign of McNish to emerge from the mangled wreck but thankfully cheers ensued as he pulled himself out and walked clear. I real testament to the safety of modern racing cars. The image of Audi Team Boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich wiping away tears of relief on the big screens as McNish got out is one that will stay with me.
Unfortunately, this was not to be the end of the Audi woes. As the race headed into darkness and Myself and Liz had took up a spot at Tertre Rouge, the big screen showed a safety car heading out. The guys on radio le mans were as surprised as everyone to see it but then an image appeared on screen. Something was trackside as marshall’s flocked around. It was unclear as to what it was for a while until collective gasps followed by the awful hush as realisation hit that it was the remains of a Car. Eventually onboard footage came up of Mike Rockenfeller heading at full speed towards Indianapolis flashing his lights at another GTE Ferrari. Unfortunately the as the Audi took the inside line at the second kink, the Ferrari move across and clipped Rockenfeller sending him head on into the barrier at 200mph. The car was sent spinning across the track and into the barriers on the other side before coming to a rest. Everyone waited patiently for news before finally it had filtered through that Rocky had got out of the car unaided but was off to the medical centre for checks. A two and a half hour safety car period ensued as over 120 pieces of Armco barrier were replaced. Liz and I took a night time trip on the Ferris Wheel just as the safety cars came in at 1 am and despite not looking it very big from the ground it was a long way up at the top but you are rewarded of great views, so that is another recommendation.
As day broke the racing was still close as the lead was changing with each pit stop and there were a number of battles throughout each class taking place. From my Grandstand seat I witnessed the unfortunate mistake from Jan Magnussen in the lead Corvette exiting the Porsche curves before the Ford Chicane. Losing the back end the Corvette took out the GTE-am Felbermayr Porsche which smashed into the concrete wall on both sides of the track leading to another safety car period as the cars and debris were recovered.
As the race went on and despite the remaining Audi having to pit slightly more frequently than the chasing Peugeots, it was holding onto the lead. Then, into the afternoon and as the race drew near, I witnessed probably one of the most disgraceful events in motorsport I have ever witnessed. The leading Audi had caught the number 7 Peugeot which was running in fourth place with Marc Gene at the wheel. Already three laps down the Audi attempted to pass at the second chicane on the Mulsanne straight to put four laps between them. Gene had already been weaving to kept the Audi at bay and give the second place Peugeot a chance to catch up slightly. However, this time they were side by side with the Audi on the inside line. This didn’t deter Gene, who was no doubt under instructions to hold the German team up, to cut across the front of the leading car on the turning leading to slight contact. Thankfully it was only minor bodywork damage but had Andre Lotterer not reacted quicker it could have been game over. It was a disgraceful move especially after the other two Audi’s had succumbed to dreadful accidents. The guys on Radio Le Mans were incensed and rightly so and sent their pit reporter to ask the Peugeot team boss Oliver Quisnel why that had happened. His casual response was that there were no blue flags. This was a poor excuse as the TV screens had shown there were indeed blue flags being waved. It was an utterly disgraceful show of sportsmanship and totally dangerous. Possibly a result of Peugeots win at all cost attitude at Le Mans maybe?
With half an hour left on the clock the leading Audi and the leading Peugeot in second place pitted for a final fuel stop. It was to prove very close as Audi had decided to put fresh tyres on which, under the rules you cannot do whilst the fuel hose is attached to fill up the car so their pit stop was longer. This was obviously carefully calculated as the Audi left the pit lane just 2 seconds ahead. Thankfully they held on and took the victory by just 13 seconds. The closest finish since 1969.
Other stories worthy of note were, the second placed LMP2 Oreca Nissan and the third placed GTE AM Robertson Racing Ford GT. The Oreca Nissan featured Lucas Ordonez as one of their drivers who less than three years ago had only raced a car on his Playstation. He won the Nissan GT academy and was picked out and trained up to race in the Dubai 24hr race a couple of years ago as the prize. He impressed so much he has since become a professional racing driver and made his Le Mans debut complete with a podium finish in second place. From PS3 to LMP in a couple of years is seriously impressive stuff and shows what a great initiative the GT Academy is. Other debutants were the Robertson Racing team. The Husband and wife team of David and Andrea Robertson were achieving their dream of racing in the 24 hour race alongside fellow American David Murray. Many, including myself had written the team off before the race and assumed they wouldn’t even finish. But, at 3 o’clock on Sunday, Andrea took the Chequered flag and with it third place on the podium in their class. What made it even more special was that they were also celebrating their Wedding anniversary. They were the first husband and wife team to compete in the race and Andrea was the first woman to take to the podium since the early 1930’s.
So the 79th Le Mans 24 hour race had drawn to a close with some great stories and history being made. A drive along the Mulsanne straight round to Indianapolis, through Arnage corner and up to the Porsche curves in my Astra on the Sunday evening completed the weekend and left both me and Liz looking forward to next year.
It’s been a busy week in the Formula One world. Although it is still an agonizing five week wait till the season opener in Bahrain, the teams have been unveiling their new cars and heading on to the Valencia tarmac for testing.
We all know how these big car reveals go, the drivers stand beside a big sheet in front of the worlds media waiting with eager anticipation. Then when everyone is about to burst with excitement, the drivers pull off the sheet and Ta-Daa, the new car is on show. That’s when everything goes a bit flat. Is that it? All this excitement and being whipped into frenzy, you get a car that makes you look hard to notice any difference from the previous year’s entry. With the exception of a few technical differences due to rule changes, not a lot has changed. Let’s face it, the only thing that’s going to get the average fan excited is a livery change. The only team to do this is of course the team formally known as Renault. As part of their ongoing argument over the Lotus name, they have decided they will go with the classic John Player Black and Gold Lotus livery. ‘It’s coloured like a Lotus, therefore it must be a Lotus’ seems to be their argument.
McLaren were an exception to the rule when it came to big unveiling of their new championship contender. In front of the large crowd in Germany, a team of mechanics put the car together, whilst others bought along a few bits to attach. Finally Jenson and Lewis turn up and there it is, the New McLaren. Personally, I think it would have been better if they arrived with a handful of nuts and bolts and asked where they were supposed to go.
Not only was the McLaren’s launch different, they have produced another big talking point. On the whole the car looks similar to the last, however this one has one large change. The side air intakes. These come in an L shape and give the car a unique look. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this design so whether it makes any difference will remain to be seen, but it has given something for fans to discuss.
One thing I really don’t understand from the world of F1 now is this. Why are so many teams announcing so many reserve and test drivers? With a limit now put on testing in Formula One, what is the need for all these guys on the payroll. There are some teams that have three or four test / reserve drivers. But why? I know there is simulator work to be done and a reserve driver is there to step for a driver suffering injury or illness for example, but there are only two first team drivers on the grid, so there is no need for more than two reserve drivers. If you ask me, two reserve drivers is one too many.
Also this week, Peugeot also unveiled their new Le Mans Series challenger, the 90X and with their disappointment of last year’s Le Mans 24 hours, they will be hoping this new car will bring them victory. Unlike the New Audi R18 who have changed from an open cockpit car to a closed cockpit, the Peugeot doesn’t look massively different to the last. It’s only the new compulsory centre fin that has made much of a difference. But with their driver line up of Alex Wurz, Marc Gene, Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Minassian, Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Bourdais, Pedro Lamy and Simon Pagenaud, no one can write off their chances.