It seems that recently some local residents to Mallory Park race circuit have become annoyed and are taking action against the circuit. The reason for their annoyance? Noise.
Yes, that’s right. These morons bought a house near a motor racing circuit and are complaining it is noisy. They now want the circuit to cut the amount of times it is used and impose further noise restrictions. The owner has stated that any further cuts in usage of the circuit will deem the circuit unprofitable and not worth running. An option to sell the circuit for housing is tabled as an alternative if the circuit was to be sold.
The most annoying thing is, what kind of moron buys a house by a race track and then complains it is noisy? Do people buy houses next to Airports, Motorways & Railway lines and then demand the council put a restriction on their usage because they don’t like the noise? I’m sorry, but if you by a house in a noisy area, it is your own fault. Don’t go complaining and ruining other peoples enjoyment of something they love. Just move somewhere else. After all, there are many race fans who’d love a house next to a circuit.
Most of you will know that all race circuits in the UK have to adhere to strict rules and regulations imposed by local authorities regarding usage and noise levels. Curfews are put in place, some race cars have to have silencers fitted to bring them within the noise level set for a race meeting and the likes of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix loop can only be used a certain number of times per year. All this is usually because a load of moaning residents don’t like race tracks to be noisy. Ironically, even Donington Park has curfews and noise limits and that is right next to the East Midlands Airport.
Most of the circuits in this country have been in place for many years. Long before these residents even moved to the areas. Racing on the whole, in past decades was a lot noisier than it is these days too. Some circuits like Silverstone, Goodwood and Snetterton were built on the site of old airfields, which, when in use, would have been noisy too. I really don’t understand the mentality of some people. Do people buy houses next to football stadiums and then phone up the council when the home team scores a goal because the crowd are being too loud? If you ask me, the noise restrictions in place at many circuits already spoil motor racing. I want the cars to be loud. I want to hear engines rumble or scream. In fact, I would love to live in one of the houses that back on to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Loop and I would be more than happy for it to be used every weekend so I find it unlikely that these factors would de-value a property as there are many other petrol heads like me who would love that.
What’s more, is that these killjoy NIMBY types don’t think of the bigger picture. These circuits bring a vital boost to the local economy. Not only do they provide jobs, but local Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, Pubs, Restaurants, Shops and Business’ all benefit. Thousands of fans flock to race meetings each weekend, many, along with teams, drivers, mechanics and even media such as myself, will often want somewhere local to stay, eat and drink. I often book myself into a local B&B or Hotel and eaten in the Pubs or Restaurants nearby and I have seen teams and fans alike do the same. Yes, some race weekends are bigger that others, but they all help. I’ve tried to book somewhere to stay overnight for some race weekends only to find that every hotel or guesthouse in the vicinity is fully booked. Think about the impact it would have on many people if a circuit was to close down.
A fine example, albeit on a grander scale, is the Isle of Man. Just think of how many tourism business would cease to exist if it wasn’t for the TT and the Rally. The locals embrace it and let’s face it, most have to in order to make a living. And how about LeMans? How many people would even know where that town was, let alone visit if it wasn’t for the 24 hour race? I can imagine tourism, due to motorsport, is one of the biggest sources of income for both these places.
You can’t tell me local businesses in Silverstone Village and the surrounding area would be thriving if the circuit wasn’t there and I imagine takings in the local guesthouses and eating and drinking establishments during the Formula One or Moto GP weekends are sky high! Some places probably even rely on the trade the circuits bring in and if the circuit was to close down so would they. Surely no one wants to see that happening. So it is much more than just a case of a noisy circuit being forced to close and sold off for housing development.
Whilst I appreciate talks over the future of Mallory Park is in the early stages, I sincerely hope that the Circuit does not fall foul of a few moronic locals who should just move away if they don’t like it rather than spoil other people’s enjoyment of something they love. We can’t lose Mallory Park and I hope sense will prevail. Otherwise who knows what the consequences will be for other Circuits and the sport we love.
Save Mallory Park.
We all know a bit of snow brings our country to its knees and chaos breaks out as people switch into blind panic mode. Never is this more noticeable than on the roads. All form of rational thought behind the wheel seems to disappear with the appearance of Snow and Ice and unsurprisingly the media is adorned with images of car accidents. Whilst I appreciate the driving conditions can be tricky and many roads go untreated so the risk of accidents will be increased and some cannot be avoided. But sadly, with the increased risk, there is no increase in sensible driving.
Today I drove into work on untreated roads. I had to make a few detours as my car struggled to grip up some hills so I tried to take busy routes that weren’t completely covered in snow. This was difficult at times as my route to work is predominantly back roads, but after an hour’s journey that usually takes me 15-20 minutes I arrived. I was the only one there. I live the furthest from work but made it in without major issue despite knowing that the golf course I work at will be closed and there wouldn’t be anything for me to do there anyway. I waited for a few hours and still no sign of anyone so I came home again. But whilst on the road it became very apparent that many drivers give no regard to the adverse conditions on the road and then blame the weather when they crash.
There are many cars driving around covered in snow with just the windscreen cleared. I saw some that had the side and back windows still covered and not even all of the snow cleared off of the windscreen. This is ridiculously dangerous. You need to see as much as possible, even more so in poor conditions. You can’t even see your mirrors in these conditions. Also, with snow on your roof, that can slide down and cover your windscreen so you can’t see a thing causing a danger to yourself and others. People still have lights covered too. Lights are there for a reason. For others to see you as well as for you to see the road ahead if needed. They are no use when they are covered in snow and dangerous when people can’t see your indicators or brake lights. Also, number plates are covered. What makes you think it is acceptable to drive around with effectively no number plate? Number plates are there for a reason and it is illegal to have them obscured or not visible. Clear all snow off of your car before driving. It is dangerous to yourself and others to not do so. We all know our county is obsessed with the weather and I’m sure you can’t wait to show people at work how much snow you had because it is all piled high on your vehicle, but no one at work will see it when it is stuck in a ditch or being recovered after you hit something pretty solid that you didn’t see.
I have an annoyance of people who drive around with their fog lights. Section 226 in the Driving in Adverse Conditions section of the Highway code states: “You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 meters (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves (see Rule 236). Law RVLR regs 25 & 27” Some seem to think that snow means they must use fog lights. Why? Yes there is snow about but you can still see more that 100 meters so turn them off you ignorant idiot.
Another thing that annoys me in winter conditions is the amount of people who seem to think that because they have a 4×4 vehicle that snow and ice doesn’t affect them and therefore will drive around in the same way as normal. Ice will affect any vehicle regardless. Let’s face it, a lot of Chelsea Tractors that School run mums use are barely any better in muddy conditions than your average car and ground clearance isn’t much better so why people think Ice is no issue is beyond me. With this comes the worrying opinion that Wide Tyres are best in snow and ice. Since when? A basic grasp of physics and common sense will tell you this is totally wrong. Yes, I wide tyre is good on tarmac as there is a wider contact point to give more grip, but in ice there is nothing to grip. A narrow tyre means more weight on a smaller contact point allowing the tyre to cut through the ice better. Why do you think Rally Cars use very narrow tyres during Snow Rallies? This of course does not mean you can fit narrow tyres to your car and can continue to drive like an idiot however.
Finally, I noticed a number of people today driving ridiculously fast for the conditions. I drove a steady 30mph on the roads that weren’t too bad but there were still icy patches about and I was considerably slower on the snow covered smaller roads. Even then my car slid about a bit and the last thing I wanted was to skid down some of the hills. Yet there were still people catching me up and worse still sitting on my bumper! I also passed a Van and a Vauxhall Corsa in the opposite direction doing about 60mph. If you skid on ice at a slow speed and hit something then chances are you will walk away unscathed. Skid on Ice at 60mph and that telegraph pole you are heading towards is going to kill you. Are you really that desperate to get into work? Leave the high speed snow driving to the Rally professionals. Even they make mistakes too though.
I know not everyone is perfect, including myself, but if everyone took a bit more care and used a bit more common sense in these conditions, the roads would be a bit safer. I don’t care if you crash your car driving like an idiot. I just don’t want you take me, or anyone else with you when you do.
During last weekend, one of the world’s greatest sporting events took place. However, many people didn’t even realise that this great event was even taking place. Why? Well because whilst the media were so busy boring everyone to death with excessive coverage of 22 men and one ball, the fact that over 150 men with two balls, made of steel, had descended on a small town in France to take part in a real challenge of attrition had been over looked.
I am of course talking about the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. One of, if not, the greatest motor race in the world. I had hoped to be writing about the amazing race. The return of Toyota and the promise they had shown. The future of the sport with the running of the Nissan Deltawing. Race safety following Anthony Davidsons huge crash. The great battles throughout the strong field and the winners and losers in each category alongside the fact that I genuinely believe that Andre Lotterer could claim Tom Kristensen’s crown as ‘Mr Le Mans’.
Unfortunately one thing really got to me over the weekend and the following few days which I have turned my attention to as it is a subject I feel quite strongly.
The coverage Le Mans got within the British Media was minimal. Many motorsport fans will know there are many websites out there that provide motorsport news as well as magazines like Autosport and Motorsport News are easily accessible. Also, Eurosport need to be applauded for their full coverage throughout the 24 hours, despite the constant advert breaks. However, not everyone has access to sky, including me. I only managed to see what I could by subscribing online. But what about reaching the wider audience? I saw nothing about the race on the BBC News. I was at work over the weekend and whilst there I listen to radio 5 live all morning. They have a half hour slot at 5.30am-6am for a sports round up. There was not mention of the race that was going to take place on Saturday morning and only a brief mention on Sunday morning, which was probably only down to the Anthony Davidson accident. They mention his incident quickly before saying British driver Allan McNish was currently leading the race. At that point, Allan McNish was not leading the race, his number two Audi was actually a lap down on the leading Audi.
I checked the Sunday Times sport supplement. Quite a few pages full of sport. Not a single mention about Le Mans. Nothing. The Monday papers weren’t much better either and if it wasn’t for the huge Davidson crash, then I’m pretty sure there would have been no mention of the race at all. Is this an example of what the public really want to read about? A few paragraphs about a huge accident and one sentence on the winner?
Unfortunately, the refusal of the mainstream media to acknowledge the existence of Motorsport outside of Formula One and Moto GP is having an adverse effect on the sport at all levels. I say Moto GP, because despite what someone told me on twitter, the race at Silverstone over the weekend did actually get a lot of coverage. There was even a section on my local news, Look East, about the upcoming race and again on the Monday after. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk and coverage of the race on 5 live and again, on BBC Radio one, it was mentioned in every half hourly sports bulletin on Monday morning. I am of course not complaining about this. It is of course a good thing, but a quarter of a million fans were at Le Mans and it is deemed not news worthy? Give me a break!
I am a great believer in supporting motorsport from club level upwards and in tough economic times any support is of great benefit. I also believe that the mainstream media have a role to play in this too. The reasons most sports are widely supported is the coverage they get. Football gets a huge amount of coverage on the TV, in the News, the papers and on the radio. This coverage gets people interested, excited and pumped up about the sport. The current European championships is a prime example. The papers are plastered with front page news of the England team and the news coverage is encouraging people to back their country and be proud. The Olympics will of course be the same and so will Wimbledon. Seeing these sports on TV and in the news gets people interested and wanting to see more or get involved.
Football fans seem to have no real issue with forking out three figure sums to see their team play for 90 minutes, but do many Formula one fans who know that the price of tickets to see it live realise they could go and see some of the sports stars of the future for a fraction of the cost for a weekends ticket at your nearest circuit.
ITV have done a great job with their BTCC coverage and since they took over the TV rights, crowds at the circuits have steadily grown and it is being well supported. It shows that the coverage gets people through the gates. But what about other British Race series? The British GT and F3 championships are both top race events with the latter a proving ground for Formula One with many current F1 drivers having raced in the F3 series. Both the GT & F3 get a 25 minute highlights programme at 7am on Saturday mornings on channel 4, but is this really that great? Most people are still in bed then. Below these race series, coverage is pretty much non-existent. Unless you have Sky of course which not everyone else. Motors TV do a great job of covering club events but this channel alone probably isn’t enough for those who don’t have sky to fork out for a full sports package just to get access to it.
We all hear about drivers struggling to scrape together funding and sponsorship, but who is going to sponsor something that just doesn’t get any coverage? It’s a vicious circle. To get the coverage it needs the fans. To get the fans, it needs the coverage. Online media can only do so much. The national media need to step up to the plate. Apparently the BBC have a rally correspondent. How much rally news do you get on the BBC? I also heard they had a reporter at Le Mans. What was his Job? Did he do anything apart from stock up with booze at Calais?
There was a time when the BBC had a lot of Motorsport coverage at weekends including F1, BTCC, Superbikes, Rally, Motocross, Rallycross, Isle of Man TT, Sportscars, Trails and even Hillclimb. What do they have now? Moto GP and F1. They can’t even provide a full season of Live F1 anymore and it looks likely that when their contract runs out they will lose all live F1 coverage all together. So why don’t they start to show a bit of live motorsport from other British race series? The British F3 and GT’s would be a great start. Quality Championships featuring great drivers and stars of the future battling it out in awesome cars. Or how about a couple of Le Mans Highlight shows? Is that even too much to ask? The newspapers need to pull their fingers out too. How about cutting back slightly on the football overkill and dedication just one page to non F1 motorsport? And by that I don’t mean just writing about big crashes!
There are so many motorsport fans crying out for more coverage and so many more still to be reached. There are millions of motorsports fans throughout the world. They just don’t know it yet.
For extensive news and coverage of the Le Mans 24hr race, check out The Checkered Flag Website.
We all know Rallying is a real test of a driver’s skill and mechanical reliability. But one event takes this to the extreme. The Dakar Rally pits man and machine against some of the toughest terrain on the planet as competitors from all corners of the globe race bikes, cars and trucks across South America, taking in Argentina, Chile and Peru. Covering more than 9000km over two weeks, you need more than just stamina, determination, reliability and attrition to get anywhere near the podium. Just finishing is a real feat in itself as the Dakar stakes its claim as the most demanding motorsport event in the world.
The sad loss of Argentinean rider Jorge Martinez Boero on the first stage of the rally had overshadowed the early stages of the 2012 event somewhat. The 38 year old had suffered a heart attack whilst competing, underlining the grueling nature of the Dakar. This year’s rally was set to be no easier than usual with all competitors having to push to the limit and sometimes over it to be in with a chance of glory.
The soaring temperatures, extreme conditions and challenging terrain all took its toll on Riders and Drivers alike as they battled through each stage for the two week competition. However, Red Bull rider Cyril Despres conquered all and used all his experience to take his fourth title beating fellow Red Bull riders Marc Coma and Helder Rodrigues who finished second and third respectively. Despres underlined the grueling nature of the Dakar by telling the media afterwards ‘The 2012 Dakar is without a shadow of a doubt the toughest Dakar I have ever raced in. It was very demanding physically but also such an intense psychological battle. Every day, I had to rise to the challenge and that takes its toll on the mind. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint because even when you do a good job one day, you have to go out there and repeat it tomorrow and the next day for two tough weeks.’
Stephane Peterhansel took the honours in the car category ahead of Joan Roma, both competing in Mini’s, whilst 2009 winner, South African Giniel De Villiers, bought the reliable Toyota Hilux home in third place in its first Dakar event. Proving that it is not just driver ability and stamina that is needed in such event but machine reliability, De Villiers stated that the Hilux ran without any technical problems or issues throughout the race and praised his mechanics for all their hard work. 'Our trump card was the reliability of the Toyota Hilux’ he said.
For more news and features on this year’s Dakar Rally, Including video’s, photos and competitor blogs from Cyril Despres, Marc Coma and Giniel De Villiers, visit Red Bull’s Dakar 2012 site here.
A lot of people think competing in motorsport is pretty easy. The Dakar proves it isn’t.
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.
I’ve been very fortunate to have been given a number of great opportunities within the world of motorsport and recently I was given another.
Having had a number of days holiday saved up and work keen on me to use them up before the end of the year I was left wondering what to do with them. Cat Lund got in touch and asked if I was interested in being part of their chase crew for the immanent Mull Rally. Although I do like Rallying I’ve never been to a rally before and it was a great opportunity to get firsthand
experience of one as part of a team, so naturally I jumped at the chance.
Cat, the co-driver along with driver Andy Rowe were competing in the Mull Rally for the first time in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo3 which has seen them to great success over the past four years and it was to be the car’s last hoorah before being replaced. Being a new rally to the pair a lot of work was needed to be put in on pace notes etc so we headed up on Sunday night to allow plenty of time to reccie the stages.
Having stayed overnight and picking up the mechanic Dan Green, we arrived on Monday. After issues with the Initial accommodation plans, Richard at Crannick Farm was able to come to our rescue at the last minute for which we were all very grateful for. With our new accommodation came a great spot which served as a service area for the car which was ideal and with Richard’s fantastic hospitality we settled in well.
Whilst Andy and Cat spent the next few days out and about perfecting pace notes and checking the stages, Dan and myself were left to sort out the Car. Well, as I know pretty much nothing about mechanics, Dan did most of that side whilst I did odds and sods like sorting out the onboard camera, cleaning wheels and bodywork and as I like to call it, applying race tape to strategic areas on the bodywork etc. We also had to go and check out the services areas for the rally and the emergency service points where we would need to refuel the car. As well as that we needed to get some mud flaps too. So we spent a long time driving around the island which is deceptively large and only has a few roads which, with the exception of the stretch between Salen and Craignure and a few miles into Tobermory are all single track with passing places. Mud flaps were exceedingly hard to come by and almost at the point of giving up on our quest to find some and having asked almost every Mull resident where we might find any, we were tipped of about a guy who repairs Land Rovers. After eventually arriving at said yard, we managed to acquire a pair of Land Rover mud flaps which eventually proved to be a great fit to the rear. The front mud flaps were slightly less desirable though as those had been fashioned with a pair of car mats. But they still did the job.
Friday morning soon came round which meant heading to Tobermory for scrutineering. With 117 entries ranging from Subaru’s and Mitsubishi’s to Mini’s and more Mark2 Escorts you could shake a stick at, the bay was heaving. The scrutineering took place within the yard of the Islands distillery and the Evo3 passed without major issue. Dan spent some time making sure the light pod was fixed securely to stop it vibrating and after we had taken the van to the first leg’s service area, we were back in Tobermory ready for the Rally start that evening.
With Andy and Cat being number 17 they were one of the early starters and after watching them head off to start Stage 1 Dan and I headed off to the service area in Craignure. On the way the team mobile phone rang. My heart sank as I knew it would only be a call from one other phone, that of the phone in the rally car and it would only ring for one reason. Sure enough, there was a problem. The alternator belt had gone on stage one and despite assistance from some ever enthusiastic rally fans, too much time had been used on stage getting it repaired. Stage two was completed before the car made it into service and a great feeling of dejection was hanging in the air. A full fix was carried out by Dan and Andy before the car was ready to continue. It was decided that only a few more stages were to be contested that evening as after going over time meant the car wouldn’t be classified and it wasn’t worth taking a risk and damaging the car further when entry to the trophy rally the following day was a very viable option.
The trophy rally was indeed the option taken which enabled the retirements from Friday to still be able to continue behind the field on the remaining stages so despite the disappointment of Leg One, there was still plenty to do. It was a pretty miserable day and a steady rainfall had caused difficult conditions so wet tyres were put on and the Car headed off to Bunessan for the start of Leg two as Dan and myself packed up the van ready to head off to the service point. On the way we needed to get fuel for the Rally Car and the dreaded phone went again. A rally organiser was on the other end. The car had gone off and had suffered serious damage about a mile into the first stage of the day. Thankfully Cat and Andy were ok but the Rally was definitely over this time. It turned out that upon landing after a jump, the car slid on mud and the rear went into a ditch. The impact then spat the car back out across the road and another rear impact with a concrete post sent the car into a spin. The onboard footage can be seen here.
As the car arrived on the back of a recovery lorry the damage was clear to see. Both rear wheels were pointing outwards in opposite directions. It was a sad way to mark the car’s final rally but thankfully no one was hurt. Clearly the Mull Rally was a tough one and very unforgiving as over half of the field that entered failed to reach the end. Over the course of the week many people asked how many Mull Rally’s Cat and Andy had done and we were met with the same reaction on the response of it being the first. A sharp intake of breath. They all knew something we didn’t and so it proved.
With the final leg to take place on the Saturday night, the team headed into Dervaig for dinner, to watch the remaining runners come through and to drown our sorrows. I was able to get some photos of and watch the section of the Glen Aros stage which came through Dervaig which was good fun, although I would of course have preferred to have been sitting in the Service area waiting for the Evo3 to arrive before sending out to complete the rally but it wasn’t to be. The village was packed with spectators, and so was the pub creating a great atmosphere, despite the local chav’s, girls of loose morals, drunkards young and old and the fact I’m sure I was charged more for a round of drinks because I was a southerner. The same round Dan bought, who’s a northerner, cost less.
As we headed off the Island on Sunday at the start of the long 13 hour trek home, underneath the sense of ‘What could have been’ I took great pleasure in what I had experienced and I thank Cat and Andy so much for giving me that. I’d like to think I will be back at Mull in the future for the rally even just as a spectator. But secretly I’d like to think it will be with Cat and Andy as they give it another crack of the whip.
Have you ever been in a situation whilst on a night out, you notice an extremely hot girl that you can’t help but keep staring at? And whilst staring you get the feeling you recognise her? Then it hits you. It’s the girl who lives down your road or it’s the girl you go to college with? The same girl you’ve seen walking her dog, or wandering between lectures in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt? Only this time, she’s done her hair, put on her make-up, is wearing a figure hugging dress and wearing killer heels which make her legs look like they go on for miles. Does this sound familiar? You take notice because all of a sudden you realise how gorgeous she is, right?
Well this happened to me recently. Twice in fact, and ever since it has been playing on my mind. The girl in question? The Audi R8.
I’ve never really been interested in the R8. It just seemed to be an average supercar. Similar Audi styling you see on various other Audi models and nothing much to make me stop and stare. That was until I was at Donington a couple of weekends ago and more recently, Snetterton last weekend. At Donington, entered into the Dutch Supercar Challenge races was an Audi R8. I didn’t think much about it whilst browsing the entry list until I saw it. Wow! It was beautiful. A vision of Red and Black. The R8 had made me stand up and take notice.
It happened again at Snetterton. Having not been at Oulton Park for the first round of the British GT championships, it was the first time I got to see the two United Autosports Audi R8 GT3 cars in the flesh. They looked awesome. Everything a GT Race car should be, aggressive but sleek at the same time. They sounded good too. But what was it that transfixed me and left me staring? To be honest I don’t know. Maybe it was the racing body kit, the huge rear wing or the vented GT40 style bonnet. Or maybe it was just something simple, a decent livery or a combination of them all. Whatever it was, they looked fantastic and I had noticed.
This got me thinking. A good livery on a race car can make big difference to how the car looks. Stripes, straight lines, swirly patterns, two or more different colours, can all change not only the look of the car but also the perceived design of the car.A nice colour scheme will ultimately prove popular among fans and can be liked more than the next car because it looks better. I know some colour schemes can be down to the team sponsors and perhaps this might force a car to be a specific colour. But sometimes, a sponsor can create a colour scheme that is just perfect. I am of course referring to the light blue and orange Gulf colours. It has become iconic and makes any race car noticeable. It is world renowned and has probably become the most famous livery of all time, particularly within GT and endurance racing. There are of course many other Iconic colour schemes throughout motorsport history, but there have been some howlers too and some that just don’t look right. One example within the British GT championships is the two GT4 Lotus Evora’s. They run in a red and white livery which I don’t like much. I know that they would look a lot better in the iconic British racing green with gold trim.
Another topic of thought led me on to the fact that within motorsport, there seems to be the ability to make your average day to day road car look so much better when it’s race prepped. The addition of a body kit, aerodynamic improvements, lowered suspension and big spoilers is something every Chav or Wideboy tries to add to his old Vauxhall Corsa or Ford Escort to make it look ‘Cool’ yet fails miserably.Rallying is probably the best example of motorsport that can turn your average family run-around into a pure monster. The new WRC cars have turned the humble Fiesta, C3 and Fabia into objects of desire. You wouldn’t give another glance if you passed a Fiesta in the street, but if you saw the WRC version drive past, you may well have had an accident in your pants! Within GT racing, they improve what are usually great looking cars in the first place. Much like being the stylist for Kiera Knightly or Katy Perry, they already look great so you can’t go far wrong, but within rallying, you get given Susan Boyle and Janet Street-Porter to work with! For example, let’s face it, the Metro was a rubbish looking car, but the 1980’s group b 6R4 car was just incredible! Everyone loved it. It had been pumped so full of steroids, its veins were on the verge of exploding. It was a shadow of its former self, but everyone noticed it. There are many examples and I could go on for ages, but I won’t. We all have our favourites.
Throughout history, motorsport has been taking normal cars and turning them in to real head turners. This time motorsport has for me, made me turn my head and notice the Audi R8 and I’m glad it has.
Recently the World Rally Championship (WRC) announced a new deal with TV Channel ESPN who are now set to provide coverage of the Championships. The news announced on the web states that ESPN will provide more coverage of the WRC for UK fans than even before. Hang on a minute, I’m a fan of WRC and rallying in general. It is motorsport after all! But I, like many other fans won’t be able to see any of the coverage at all. Why? Because I do not have Sky TV. So the one hour’s worth of highlights and additional programming which was shown on terrestrial TV, has now been replaced, for many of us, with nothing. WRC is now bringing the spectacle of the sport to a smaller audience and therefore reducing the possible fan base and income that fan base brings to the sport.
It seems that greed has set in and money is driving force behind this decision. It also seems that it doesn’t matter about the fans as long as the powers that be have their pockets filled with money. I unfortunately cannot afford a Sky TV subscription, and to get the sports channels, you have to pay for the most expensive Sky package. Very Crafty, as no doubt, the sports channels is what most Sky customers want. So I will be going without and missing a truly magnificent form of motorsport. To say I am disappointed is quite an understatement.
I remember in the nineties as a child, the BBC sports programme Grandstand would provide live, yes LIVE coverage of the Network Q RAC Rally of Great Britain. Hosted by the likes of Tony Mason and Steve Rider I used to love watching Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol and a very young looking Colin McRae powering around the muddy stages in great cars like the Toyota Celica and Ford Escort Cosworth. It facinated me and I was gripped by it. Unsurprisingly, it was coverage like this that boosted the popularity of the sport by bringing it to the masses.
A casing point on this subject is the British Touring Car Championships (BTCC). The sport was thriving in the nineties with the likes of James Thompson, Alain Menu, Rickard Rydell, Frank Beila and even Nigel Mansell doing battle in works based teams from Audi, Ford, Renault and Honda to name a few. Unsurprisingly, the series was covered live on the BBC with commentary being provided by legend Murray Walker. Unfortunately, the BBC coverage came to an end and so did the BTCC on terrestrial television. The championship hit a slump over the following years and teams began to pull out. Crowds dropped and so did the BTCC’s popularity as only the hardcore fans stayed loyal. At the start of the 2005 season, only 12 cars lined up on the grid, mostly consisting of privateers and independent teams. Disappointing when you consider the popularity only a few years prior.
However, ITV came to the sports rescue. It struck a deal to provide live coverage of all three races at each weekend and now currently shows seven hours of action from not only the BTCC but the support races too on ITV4. In recent years, and no doubt thanks to help from ITV, the series is being revived. Crowds at races have increased and more teams are now taking part. The grids now consist of over 20 cars and is still growing whilst the fan base is becoming ever more increased. Would this have happened if the TV rights were sold to a Sky TV channel who would show an hour’s highlights programme after each round? Probably not.
So shouldnt motorsport be about the fans? Do we have a right to see coverage of the sport on TV? Or is it all about how much money series organisers can get? After all, sponsors want to be seen by as many people as possible so will screening action to smaller audiences have an impact on this? I guess only time will tell.