So my motorsport season has officially started. A trip to Silverstone to cover Round One of the MSA Britcar Endurance Championships saw the year get off to a good start. The early fog lifted and the sun shone to kick of my coming year behind the lens in great fashion.
It’s great to get back after the off season and to catch up with friends and fellow photographers. Its always nice to see what has been going on over the winter too. New teams, cars, drivers and liveries are finally on show as everyone is keen to show their hand and what they are capable of over the next eight or so months.
The Britcar series is always one I am very fond of. I love endurance racing and the atmosphere is always great. It’s nice to talk to teams and drivers in a slightly more relaxed environment than that the bigger series. However that is not to say it is any less competitive. The Motionsport team lined up with a new Ferrari 458 in their white and blue livery which looked great. I’m looking forward to them getting their full Aero Package on it. Bullrun and their drivers including last year’s BTCC Driver Martin Byford launched their assault on the title with a new Lotus Evora, as did father and son pairing Peter and Matt Smith in a new Ginetta G55. The merger of last year’s two Mosler teams meant they were to be a force to be reckoned with again this year and they were all joined by championship regulars such as the Topcats Marcos’ and the Intersport BMW. Even the SR2 Rapier had received a new Martini Racing style livery for the new year.
Another addition to the series was the Production Cup. A 90 minute race series for production cars. This saw a great field of various cars from Honda Integra’s and Seat Leon’s to Ginetta G40’s & Mazda MX5’s. It also had attracted well known drivers such as ex BTCC star Mike Jordan in a familiar Integra and Karl Breeze and Tom Howard in a Ginetta G40. The racing proved to be close and very exciting. The Cunningham’s Seat Leon Supercopa, a team who were regulars in last year’s Britcar series, led for most of the race, only to be passed by the quick BMW M3 CSL of Richard Abra and Mark Poole for victory. But there were battles throughout the field to keep the fans entertained.
It is always difficult to tell how good a spectator turnout there is on the GP circuit at Silverstone as it is so vast, however there did seem to be quite a few, helped by the glorious weather. They wouldn’t have been disappointed with the racing in the main three hour endurance race either. A close three way fight before the first round of pit stops between the Mosler, Rapier SR2 and the Paul Bailey Ferrari 430 was an exciting affair. However as with all endurance racing, it isn’t all about raw speed but reliability is a huge factor as the Bailey Ferrari was to find out. Radiator issues cost them dearly and whilst it was looking set to be a grandstand finish between the Mosler and the SR2, the Rapier also succumbed to issues as electrical problems saw them stop out on track in the last half hour.
That left the Mosler to win outright with the second placed Marcos Mantis taking class two honours for Topcats. The Evora won class 3 and Steve Gugliami’s Lotus Elise took the spoils in class 4. It was certainly a great weekend and a great way to kick off my year. Next stop, Brands Hatch for round one of the BTCC.
Production Cup race report can be seen here.
Endurance race report can be seen here.
Last week I was invited to a tweetup. Not just any tweet up though an Auto Tweetup. For those of you unfamiliar with the word Tweetup, it is a gathering of twitter users where you can meet up with the people you follow on Twitter and discuss interests. In this case, cars.
Being held at the superb 7 Hotel & Diner in Kent, Myself and Nick from Tin Tops UK headed down for an evening of Geek chat and discussion with fellow tweeters. It was a good turn out and there were many people from the world of cars, from Bloggers, Writers, Photographers, Representatives from Toyota, Seat and Audi and general car fans. It was also good to catch up with Ian Cook of PopBangColour fame who showed me the great photo of Frank Wrathall’s Toyota Avensis outside the pit garage on Sunday evening he took with his I-Phone. Not content with his amazing painting talent, he shows he’s bloody good with a camera too. Don’t you just hate people like that?!
The Car park outside the Diner was pretty impressive too. There was a selection of cars old and new including a Lotus Evora, TVR Tuscan & Clio Cup. But not only did the guys from Toyota bring along the awesome Castrol Liveried Supra, but a £320,000 Lexus LFA took pride of place out front, the only one in the UK which was great to see. Also, Abbie of Castella Images was working her magic with her long exposure low light photography and a range of glowsticks and fairy lights which looked like some odd voodoo car ritual but produces great results.
The food was great, the company was brilliant and atmosphere superb. It was great to meet new people and discuss a shared passion so many thanks to Tim Hutton for organising such a fantastic evening and all those who contributed to the rather cool goody bag we all received. I’m pretty sure Tim is organising many more of these evenings so if you fancy going along, check out www.autotweetup.co.uk to find out more. The date of the next one is already in the diary.
After my last blog post about Jason Plato and his disgraceful attitude and behaviour after the Knockhill round of the British Touring Car Championships, it seems that he just doesn’t know when to stop.
Despite writing an apology on twitter last week it seems it was totally meaningless as his column for The Sun newspaper shows. If you haven’t seen it, you can read it here. Yet again he takes the opportunity to have a go at Tom Boardman. Although using less offensive language, he still makes Tom look like a dreadful driver. He also makes out he was hit really hard and deliberately shoved into the barrier. As stated last week, contact was only slight and I have no doubt that there was no malice intended. Plato seems to forget the numerous times he has forced competitors off and then told the media that it was only a ‘Racing Incident’.
Plato also contradicts himself, by stating that the Turbo powered cars are 7mph faster than the normally aspirated ones yet complains that Boardman told the media he was faster than Jason. But what really annoys me is that Plato says tongue in cheek that Boardman’s statements to the media were ‘Real Class’. Come on, is Plato being serious here? Can someone please explain to him what a hypocrite is? You only need to read his nonsensical column to see what a total joke that statement is. Jason Plato wouldn’t know what ‘Real Class’ was if it roared up behind him and smashed his car into a barrier. Has Boardman criticised others? Has Boardman resorted to name calling on social media? Has Boardman moaned and complained bitterly about the pace of rival cars all season in the public spotlight? No. I just hope the readers of The Sun who aren’t fans of the BTCC don’t believe this garbage that’s been written.
It’s about time Plato just let it go. It’s also about time his team got him a good PR representative. If he already has one then I suggest they get the boot. I’m getting bored, frustrated and annoyed with all this now and he is making himself out to look like an idiot. However, rather cleverly, he has written off his title chances. We all know that with nine races left this season there are still a lot of points up for grabs. All it takes is for a front runner to have a dreadful weekend, as demonstrated by Matt Jackson last time out, and Plato can haul himself right back into the battle. He knows this too, but by saying he can’t win takes the pressure off him. If he doesn’t take the title at the end of the season he can turn round and say it wasn’t his fault and no doubt blame a certain driver. But if he were to win the championship, then he has given himself the opportunity to blow his own trumpet and tell whoever will listen how great he is by winning when he had no chance.
I’d like to think the Silverline Chevrolet driver will now keep his head down and concentrate on battling fairly for points rather than blurting out the guff he has of late but I doubt it. I know he is capable of getting back into the championship battle and would rather he put all his effort into his racing than taking as many opportunities to have a go at someone or moan about something as possible. I know that the turbo powered cars are faster than the normally aspirated ones, but the teams and drivers that run a turbo car are all abiding by the rules. They are doing nothing wrong so personal attacks are totally unacceptable. I only hope that there are no silly ‘revenge’ manoeuvres in the remaining events and the racing talks for itself.
This weekend I was at Rockingham for the British GT & F3 championships where I witnessed Felipe Nasr win the F3 title and ex BTCC driver Jonny Adam win the first race of the season for the Beechdean Aston Martin team alongside Andrew Howard. Also this weekend another ex BTCC driver Steven Kane won the American Le Mans series race at Baltimore with Humaid Al Masaood.
Meanwhile, it was all kicking off north of the border in Scotland as Knockhill hosted the British Touring Car Championships. Whilst there were many talking points throughout the event, the main one involved Jason Plato and Tom Boardman in race three. With the current champion leading, Boardman was close behind seeking his first race win. It was obvious the Seat Leon was faster in a straight line and as the pair started lap 4 the Chevrolet received a nudge from behind under braking for the first turn. However, a subsequent nudge further into the first complex was enough to send Plato off and into the tyre wall leaving Boardman to claim his first BTCC Victory.
Now whilst there was contact, it was slight and probably avoidable but on another day in another situation would not have led to a retirement. However opinions are divided as to whether there should have been punishment handed to Boardman as a result. Obviously, Plato himself was not happy, but had the roles been reversed, I’m sure he would have written it off as a racing incident. While he is never happy to be on the receiving end, he has given out more than his fair share of contact in the past.
We can all argue and debate this subject for a long while, as all the Plato fans will disagree with the non Plato fans and vice versa. That’s fair enough. We all love rivalries and let’s face it, you get heated debates in all sports from rival fans. However, I would like to think that nearly every fan of Jason Plato would agree that his angry response on Twitter that evening, plenty of time after the ‘heat of the moment’ was totally unacceptable. To call a fellow competitor a ‘Talentless Pikey’ stepped way beyond the boundary of professionalism. Whilst there maybe one or two drivers in the championship who’s talent could be debated, Tom Boardman is not one of them. Jason’s response to a BTCC fan and twitter user who told him it was a stupid thing to say was also unacceptable and showed him for the ungracious and sore loser he can be.
Jason is a well regarded driver, for that there is no doubt and a role model to many. Also, as a representative of the BRDC he should be setting an example and acting in a professional manner. There are many sports stars who have landed themselves in hot water over comments on twitter and I would like to think this situation doesn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be. At the very least, a public and personal apology should be made.
There are many good racing drivers out there that struggle to get sponsors and a budget together to enable them to get a race seat. Good PR and a strong fan base help these guys no end. This isn’t the case for Jason Plato, sponsorship deals and public exposure come along frequently to add to his extensive fan base and many teams would offer him a race seat at the drop of a hat. If a young upcoming driver had his attitude and behaved the way he does at times, then they would no doubt be kicked out of a team quite quickly. Unfortunately, Plato is a big draw for the BTCC and he knows that. He loves being a big fish in a small pond and is happy to voice his opinions when it suits him. He is quick to criticise others but doesn’t consider his own actions and their possible consequences. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, no man is bigger than the British Touring Car Championships and it will continue to survive without him. I have no problem with drivers showing passion, but he went beyond that and I hope someone makes him realise the error of his ways pretty soon.
On Saturday I was at Silverstone photographing the first round of the MSA Endurance Britcar championship on the full Grand Prix circuit. You can read the qualification report and both GT and Production race reports along with seeing a few of my photos here.
It was a great race and there were some fantastic cars on show, but it was a yellow Seat Leon that was one of the hot topics of conversation in the media centre and around the garages. It was driven by four Women who won a competition run by Seat UK and TV programme fifth gear Called Seat Sex Drive. Now, I had heard of the competition but wasn’t too sure about what it entailed. Having read a little bit about it and talking to a couple of people on Saturday the competition pitted men against women. The winning team would then go on to gain their race licences and compete in the 2 hour race at Silverstone. Now at this point you would have thought the competition was about driving ability and racing. But no, it seemed to be ridiculous tasks like who could clean the car the best and reversing around corners. Ultimately the women won and they gained their racing licences ready to compete.
So onto race day and a few eyebrows were being raised. This was to be the first time they have ever raced so is it really wise to let these four women with no race experience out on track with Ferrari’s, Mosler’s, Lamborghini’s and the like? Not only did this seem rather stupid but also highly dangerous too. The women themselves seemed unfazed however as talk in their Garage seemed to focus on whether it was better to plait your hair or have it in a ponytail whilst wearing a helmet.
Qualifying came and went and the Seat failed to post a time. It was on track, as I witnessed it almost collide with two cars who caught up with it very quickly after pulling across the racing line in front of them. It seemed to be trundling around causing a mobile chicane for everyone else.
Starting from the back of the grid, the race got underway and the Yellow car set off at a somewhat casual pace. It didn’t take long before it was lapped. They hadn’t even passed the start line twice before the lead cars had put a lap between them. The prize winners were painfully slow. In fact, it was starting to become an embarrassment. As cars were streaming past them lap after lap the pace didn’t seem to pick up at any point as the women got used to the car. They were breaking so early for each corner they had to take their feet of the brake pedal 50-100 yards before they reached the point to turn in.
Amazingly, the highlight came when the Women were given a drive through penalty for pit lane speeding of all things! Even the race commentator found it highly amusing. Also, as the production class ran a two hour race along with the GT class running a three hour race, the Sex drive team were given a black flag for continuing after the chequered flag. Finally the women finished and were unclassified as they were a full 15 laps down with an average speed of just 61mph. I reckon I averaged more than that during the drive up to Silverstone!
I’m not against women in motorsport, far from it. There are some great female race drivers at all levels who are extremely competitive and very talented, from younger racers like Sarah Moore and Louise Richardson who have excelled in Ginetta’s to oval racers Pippa Mann and Danica Patrick to Endurance racer Vanina Ickx. I like to see a good mix of male and female drivers and its good to see great women drivers on track giving the men a run for their money. The real issue I have is awarding a prize like this to people who clearly aren’t that interested or have any ability when it comes to racing when there are thousands who would love to be given an opportunity. It has been a total flop and quite frankly Seat UK should be embarrassed, because I certainly was. Apparently the women were coached by Fifth gear presenter Vicky Butler-Henderson. Was she there to support them on Saturday? No she wasn’t. She was probably sparing her blushes and keeping well away. If only the four competition winners did too.