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.
Last weekend saw the last race of the year on my hectic 2012 calendar, the Britcar production cup night race at Brands Hatch. Despite the miserable weather, it was a good day and a great race. However there was one part of the day that left me somewhat disappointed. It was announced that there would be no Britcar 24hr race next season.
The UK has a thriving motorsport scene and is probably the hub of motorsport technology. Lots of F1 teams are based in the UK, there are superb championships such as British GT, Formula 3, and British Touring Cars going all the way down to well entered grass roots level. The UK is also home to some great circuits such as Brands Hatch and Silverstone. Yet next year there will be no 24 hour endurance race in Britain.
There are successful 24 hour races held across the globe, which are always well attended. Obviously the likes of Le Mans and Daytona 24 hour are massive events and so too is the Nurburgring 24. But races in Belgium, Dubai and Spain are also becoming increasingly popular. Endurance racing has a huge following of hardcore racing fans across the globe and also within the UK. There are thousands who make the trip across the Channel to Le Mans or Nurburgring each year to get their much needed fix of live 24hr racing. So why, when the UK is such a big player in the word of Motorsport can we not host a popular and well supported 24 hour race?
Without going into details, I understand costs and budgets have a huge influence on the demise of the Britcar race, but fields have been in decline and with less than 30 cars taking part in this year’s race, it was, to be more than fair, a poor turnout. It also felt like the spectator numbers had also taken a nose dive too compared to previous years. But even when the field was 60-70 strong, the crowd numbers still, personally speaking, seemed somewhat disappointing. Maybe more could have been done to advertise the event, maybe more could be done to create awareness of the series as a whole, or maybe the lack of big European teams and well known drivers that enter the other 24hr races doesn’t generate interest. Perhaps Top Gear could come back and have another stab at racing round the clock.
I know it’s hard to organise a high profile event and it takes a long time to but create a quality race that attracts big names and manufacturers, but sure the UK deserves something of that scale? Ok, so the UK circuits probably don’t have the charm that the likes of la Sarthe, Spa or the Nurburgring Nordschleife but it’s not that that’s causing the stumbling block. It needs a backing from a good motorsport organisation. Whilst I really like the Britcar race series, would they ever be able to take their 24hr race to the next level? Recent years suggest not. I know the likes of the SRO already organise the Spa 24hr race as well as a number of superbly run and supported race series including the British GT that is continually getting stronger and stronger, more high profile and increasingly well supported and entered. So with a series of this nature running in Britain that already has the rest of Europe standing up and taking note, maybe there is still chance of a top 24 hour race in the UK becoming a regular feature that will get fans not just across Britain in attendance, but fans across Europe too.
The baton has been dropped and is in need of some steady hands to pick it up. Or maybe, there are just too many 24 hour races already?
Finally, if you are a fan of endurance and GT racing, then there are still a few remaining copies of my limited edition 2013 A3 calendar available, featuring images from the Nurburgring 24, British GT, GT Open, FIA GT1 and WEC. Also you will receive a free A4 mounted print with every copy ordered. Just visit my website here for more details. Also, a range of prints from the race events I have covered this year are also available to purchase and would make an ideal gift for any petrol head and motorsport fan this Christmas.
Every now and then in life you have to face some tough decisions. Its just part of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Without the benefit of hindsight, you often never know which one is the right decision to take or the outcome until it has happened. This week I’ve been faced with such a decision. Do I go with my heart or my head?
Last week I was booked up to cover a three day equestrian event at the beginning of August. That wasn’t a problem. Its the same event I do every year, well almost every year, but I’ll come back to that later. I was more than happy to do it. After all, I need the money and in tough economical times, who would turn that down? However, this week, I was asked to do another Equestrian event over three days the week before. I also usually do this event each year too. So surely it was a simple decision to make right?
Wrong. This event was to be in late July during a time when I was making plans for something else. I was planning on going to Belgium for the Spa 24 hour race and the British F3 round there the same weekend. I was really looking forward to going and you are all probably well aware of my love of sportscar and endurance racing. I had even sacrificed my trip to Le Mans this year to help pay the costs. I was also going to go with my friend James who writes the race reports that I provide the photos for. I knew he was looking forward to the trip too. But could I turn down the money that the Equestrian event would bring me? It was a difficult decision. Do I go with my heart or my head. I’ve never been to Spa and I missed out going last year due to other commitments and I was pretty gutted about that. Do I miss out again this year?
I do enjoy photographing Equestrian events and it is something I used to do a lot of. In fact, its where I started with my photography business. It was only until years later that I started the motorsport photography and that was only due to more and more competition for work and less events coming my way. Despite keeping my costs down and coming up with unique products, bookings were becoming less frequent. So it is always nice to keep my foot in the door and the Pony Club who book me for these events are always very good to me. They are kind, polite and often provide me lunch. We all know the way to a Man’s heart is through his stomach, so I’m always happy to be there. I wasn’t booked for one of the events two years ago though, and I assumed that was it and my time as an Equestrian photographer was numbered. It was a pity, because I always enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise, so naturally I was disappointed. Was it something I did wrong? Were my photos not good enough? Was I just too expensive? I knew that the latter wasn’t the case. I’d checked the price of other photographers prints and I was one of, if not the cheapest around. After all, I’d rather sell two photos at £10 each than one at £16. I also knew I was always kind, polite and acted professionally at all times, so it probably wasn’t something I did wrong either. My natural lack of self confidence meant that I had assumed no one liked my photos and there were photographers a lot better than me getting the work.
So you can imagine my surprise when I get a call a year later almost begging me to come back. It had turned out that the previous years organiser had changed and she knew a photographer so asked him to cover the event. Apparently he was more used to taking pictures of minor celebrities falling out of nightclubs late at night, rather than horses and their riders. According to the woman on the phone, she had bought a number of my photos over the past few years and really liked them so when she took over as the new organiser knew who to ask first to cover the event. This actually really cheered me up. Maybe my work wasn’t so bad after all. So when she called again last week it was a yes straight away. I’m more than happy to repay other peoples kindness.
It was the other event booking causing me the problem though. Again, the organisers are very kind, friendly, treat me well and the atmosphere is always very good. But it would mean missing the Spa 24 hours. I needed the money the event would bring, but I felt that I would be letting James down if I told him I couldn’t go to Spa after saying I would. Deep down I knew I had to go with my head over my heart and if I turned down the event, the chances were I wouldn’t be asked back again and I know I would miss not doing the occasional equestrian event. Thankfully, although James was disappointed when I told him, but he understood the situation and that although it was a tough choice to make had to do what I thought was best.
The decision was made, I wont be going to Spa. I know a few other motorsport photographers have raised a few eyebrows at my choice, but despite the disappointment of missing the 24 hour race, I’m pretty sure I’ve made the right decision. It is the one that makes the most financial sense anyway. I am looking forward to doing the events though. Yes there is a lot of work to be done but they are always good fun and the weather is usually really good.
I would probably have chosen Spa if I wasn’t going to the Nurburgring 24 hour race in a couple of weeks. So at least I will be at one European 24hr race this year and I can’t wait. I’m sure there will be other opportunities for me to go to the iconic Belgium circuit in years to come anyway.
So it is now upon us. The Motorsport season is here after a long winter of waiting. Of course there are some series that have already started, such as the World Touring Car Championships and the British Rally Championships, but for many, the first Formula One race of the season really marks the new season.
With new rules and regulations, new faces, teams and cars on display throughout the various race seasons, there is no doubt 2012 will be a great year filled with action, excitement and controversy. No matter which series is your favourite, who your favourite driver is, and which cars you like best, all motorsport fans long for this time of year to arrive. We’ve had sneak peeks of new cars and liveries, driver announcements and got our heads around any new rule changes and we just want the season to start.
My first race of the season won’t be just yet though. It will be round one of the MSA British Endurance Britcar championships at Silverstone on the 24th of March. A race series I enjoy covering and one that has seen some changes this year. The new production championship will be running alongside the series, and new class categories’ for the endurance races. New teams and cars will be lining up and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the new Bullrun Lotus Evora. With a 90 minute production race and a 3hr Endurance race to take place on the grand prix circuit at Silverstone, it is set to be a good way to kick off my season. If you are keen to get out and watch some great racing then I would recommend heading to the home of motorsport on that Saturday.
For me the start of the new motorsport season is a bit like going back to school to start the new year after the summer holidays. But in a good way. Meeting up with friends to swap stories of the closed season and share predictions for the year ahead, catching up with teams and drivers to get information on what’s new and their hopes for the coming year and seeing what changes have been made to circuits and facilities etc.
Having filled in my calendar with dates of race weekends I’m hoping to be covering this year, there aren’t many blank weekends. Although I won’t be going to Le Mans this year, which I am disappointed about, it has been sacrificed for a reason. Two reasons in fact. The first being the Nurburgring 24hr race and the second being the Spa 24hr race. As I have never been to either of these iconic circuits for these two amazing races, it would be rude not to go and I can’t wait. The British GT series is running a European round at the Nurburgring the weekend of the 24 hour race which works out nicely. I will cover the British GT and stay for the quite mental 24 hour race. A similar situation occurs at Spa. The British F3 championship will be holding their race in Belgium the same weekend of the 24 hour race so for a huge endurance racing fan, this has worked out well.
On the subject of endurance racing, there has been some major developments in this discipline over the winter months. The new World Endurance Championships looks set to be a great series. However the news that Peugeot has pulled the plug on its endurance racing team comes as a disappointment for most fans. I will admit to not being a huge Peugeot fan after some disappointing race tactics I have witnessed, but I am sad to see their withdrawal. The French Marque are probably the only team who could challenge Audi and it now looks like the German’s will go unchallenged all season. The reforming of Toyota is of some comfort but it would be unrealistic to expect them to be challenging for overall victories in their first year. Also the recent unveiling of the new ‘Deltawing’ car set to take part in the 80th Le Mans 24 hour race this June is a radical new innovation within motorsport. Could this be the future of endurance racing? I guess time will tell. I’m not a big fan of the design myself though. If Batman was to own a race car, I’m pretty sure this would be it.
So it’s time to settle into the new season of motorsport as Formula One from Melbourne is beamed to our TV’s and the 12hrs of Sebring takes place across the Atlantic and take comfort from the fact that motor racing is here. It’s good to have it back.
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.