Its been a busy few weeks for me and my blog has been neglected somewhat of late and the distraction of the Olympics hasn’t helped so I thought it would be time for a bit of a catch up before I head to Snetterton this weekend for the British Touring Car Championship.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking photos for the local Pony Club Junior and Intermediate camps. Not quite the fast paced adrenaline fuelled action I see trackside but it is still good fun. The weather was good for both weeks, and I’m always treated well there by the organisers. Despite the hard work it is always worth it and I do enjoy covering the Camps. I don’t get to photograph equestrian events as much as I used to and I do miss it at times so it’s always nice to go back to where my sports photography all began.
The weekend just passed It was back to the track and the first weekend of three in a row at Snetterton. The British GT & F3 Championships headed to the Norfolk circuit and I was there to photograph my favourite UK championship. Initial weather forecasts were promising, but those who have been to Snetterton will know how unpredictable the weather can be there. The place seems to have its own micro climate and the best option is to pack for all conditions.
This was definitely the case as despite the dry relatively sunny conditions all morning, black clouds gathered during second practice for the GT’s and when a red flag was put out for an off from Ollie Milroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, the heavens took this cue to open. Thankfully I could see this and the thunder and lightning coming and as soon as the red flag made an appearance I made a bee line for the safety of the media centre. Within minutes the down pour had flooded the circuit and the pit lane. The GT cars were not going to head out in those conditions and the session finished. Subsequent race and qualifying sessions were to be delayed until after the rain stopped so areas of standing water on the track could be pumped away.
The rain delay meant the GT qualifying, due last on the timetable had to be dropped. Grid positions for both 1 hour races were to be decided by the 2 practice session times. This played into the hands of the Trackspeed Porsches as it was pole in race one for the 31 car and pole in race two for the 33 car.
Sunday was to be a new day but the unpredictable weather returned. Heavy rain returned and disrupted the rescheduled timetable meaning the second Ginetta Challenge race of the day had to be dropped to avoid breaking the curfew. It also meant the F3 cars had to take on the elements but Both GT races avoided the wet and had two dry races. The new McLaren MP4-12C of United Autosports Charles Bateman and Matt Bell took a debut win for the car in the championships meaning it was a remarkable seven different winners from the seven races so far in the season. It looked to be a possible eight different winners from eight races in race two as after the pit stops the Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey led comfortable but a fuel pressure problem meant they dropped back to second place leaving team mates Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy to take their second win of the season. For full race reports, visit the Checkered Flag website here.
With just two points separating the top five drivers in the championship, it is all up for grabs over the remaining two rounds at Silverstone and Donington Park and it looks set to go right down to the wire. Despite Lotus not making an appearance in GT4 at their home circuit and the Jones Brothers Mercedes also absent an addition to the field was the Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini LP600 of Hari Prozcyk and Marco Attard. It was a welcome addition and even with the absentee’s 12 different manufacturers were represented on the grid with the possibility of this increasing to 14 for the next round. As you can see that is a pretty impressive field and one of the reasons British GT is so great.
So next for me is the British Touring Car Championship back in Norfolk after their long summer break. I haven’t photographed the Touring cars for some time due to calendar clashes and it seems like a long time since I last shot them at Donington. I really hope the weather stays dry and I’m sure the thousands of fans who I know will be heading there will be hoping the same.
Photos from the F3 and GT Races and sessions can be seen on my Facebook page.
The weather has been pretty wet and miserable for the last few weeks and it has been a while since I was last out trackside. I was becoming irritable. However, yesterday was the Media Day for the 2012 Silverstone Classic so I was to head there with eager anticipation.
I love classic cars and of course classic racing cars. I love the fact that these iconic vehicles that are mostly from before my time and worth an absolute fortune, are still raced for everyone to see. Those who remember these race cars get the opportunity to see them again and to revoke past memories and those, like me who weren’t about to see them first time get the chance to experience what they were like and gaze in awe of how beautiful these machines are.
Last year’s Silverstone Classic was a huge success. Over 1100 race entries and a further 7000 plus classic cars on display from various car clubs and societies made it the biggest race weekend in the world. Throw in all the additional things to see and do such as trade stands, fun fairs, live music, driving experiences and simulators and the world record for the most E-Type Jaguars on circuit at the same time and you get a good idea of what a fantastic weekend it was. I enjoyed every minute of it and a real highlight for me was the Group C ‘Dusk’ race on the Saturday evening.
The weather back then was amazing, sun all weekend. A huge contrast to the weather that greeted us for the media day. But after parking up in the paddock behind the fantastic Silverstone Wing complex and catching a glimpse of some of the cars in the garages that were to be out on track during the day, the miserable weather was soon forgotten.
After signing on, having a coffee and catching up with friends, the press conference took place. During this, plans for this year’s event were unveiled. The last Silverstone Classic would be hard to beat, but it looks like expectations will be exceeded. A new partnership with the AA was announced and their commitment to the weekend was impressive. They are planning so many off track activities and driving experiences to keep everyone entertained if the racing wasn’t enough. A number of anniversaries will be celebrated such as 50 years of AC Cobra and to mark the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40 more than 60 examples of every school boy’s wet dream will be out on track. The celebrity race line up was also announced and joining regulars like Heston Blumenthal, Dave Vitty & Brendan Cole will be Chemmy Alcott and Sir Patrick Stewart to name just two.
After the press conference it was time to head down to the garages to see what machinery was about and to take part in a passenger ride. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go out in an awesome 1962 Jaguar E-Type driven by Andy Dee-Crowne. As I was getting strapped in, Andy told me he would need to take it a bit steady in the wet conditions as he had just spun at Stowe with the last passenger on board. I told him not to spare the horses for my sake, but obviously I didn’t want him to damage his beautiful car. The grin plastered across my face as we headed down the pit lane was not going to be moved for some time.
As we headed out onto the track the car sounded fantastic and despite the age of the machine ran smoothly and quickly. Very quickly. Andy told me the brakes would take a little while to warm up so would take it steady into the first few corners. This didn’t deter him from getting on the throttle as soon as possible though as the car squirmed on the exits as he expertly kept it under control. The conditions were wet and the original style cross-ply tyres the Jag runs on meant grip was at a premium. It also meant fun was in abundance! Drifting and sliding through the corners, Maggots and Becketts were especially fun, Andy was working the steeling wheel masterfully, whilst controlling the throttle to time the acceleration down the straights just right. Not only was I impressed with my chauffer’s ability as was in awe of this incredible machine. We all know how far technology has progressed over the years but this 50 year old beast still knew how to perform and put a lot of modern day machinery to shame. It really was a credit to Jaguar and their engineering.
With the brakes up to temperature on the second lap, Andy was happy to push that bit harder and was loving it. With speeds of 120mph on the straights in the wet the E-Type had impressed me immensely. It was great that people still raced these machines and following the AC Cobra along the Hanger Straight, I got my very own taste of what it would have been like to have raced these cars back in their hay day. The passenger ride was over too soon for my liking, mind you I would have stayed out there all day if I could and not got bored, but as we came back into the pits I knew I had experienced something very special for which I was truly grateful to Andy for. The E-Type Jag has now been added to my list of cars to buy when I win the lottery. If only eh?
After a nice lunch back up in the wing complex, I was back roaming around the garages to check out some of the cars there. This years Silverstone Classic will feature 1980’s & 90’s British Touring Cars, DTM cars and Super touring cars so there were some fine examples of these cars on show. Steve Soper’s BTCC & DTM BMW’s were there along with Tim Harvey’s Labbatt’s liveried Sierra Cosworth RS500, John Cleland’s Vauxhall Cavalier, Anthony Reid’s Ford Mondeo Super Touring car and Matt Neal’s Independent Nissan Primera along with a few others. A couple of Porsche 962’s were there along with some more historic Touring cars such as Mini’s & Ford Cortina Mk1’s as well as a selection of historic single seaters. Most of which took to the track for some test laps giving us a chance to take some photos despite the worsening weather. It was great to see just this handful of cars so it really whetted my appetite for the main event in July.
The day was over too soon but I left with a lasting memory and the excitement of this year’s Silverstone Classic. I cannot recommend the weekend enough to anybody. There is so much to see and do and it is a weekend that should be high on the ‘to do’ list for any car fan young or old. It will be a great event and you really don’t want to miss out.
You can find out more by heading to their website here: http://www.silverstoneclassic.com/ and you can see more of my photos from the day on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page or in my Flickr Album.
The Easter weekend saw the return of the GT’s. Not just the British GT Championships at Oulton Park, but also the World FIA GT1 championship and the European GT3 series at Nogaro in France.
Unfortunately, do to work commitments, I couldn’t be at Oulton Park for found one of the British GT Championship. Although I was somewhat glad I wasn’t standing out in the dreadful weather they were experiencing, I was bitterly disappointed to be missing out on some great racing. New teams and cars have improved the field even more from last year, with BMW and Nissan joining the manufacturers and rather being there to see them in action, I was glued to the online timing screen, a race ticker and twitter to keep up to date on what was happening during both one hour races.
It was the United Autosports Audi of Matt Bell and Charles Bateman who took pole for the first race. They were to lead for all but one of the 32 laps. Unfortunately, the lap they didn’t lead for was the final one. The Audi had ran out of fuel on the last lap and coasted to a stop, gifting the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant victory in their maiden British GT race. Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen’s took second in their Ferrari 458 ahead of another Ferrari, that of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. GT4 Honours went the way of the impressive pairing of Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin in their Ginetta G50. At one point in this race, the top six was represented by six different manufacturers, show what a diverse field the series now boasts.
Experienced GT racer Richard Westbrook will partner current champion David Ashburn for as many British GT Races as his busy schedule will allow this season, and this was the pairing that were to start on pole position for Trackspeed in the Porsche 997. The pair also went on to take a flawless victory in the days second race ahead of Griffin and Cameron who performed well in the adverse weather conditions. Third place went the way of British GT New boys Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey. It was Hughes and Fannin on the top step in the GT4 class, ahead of the Lotus pairing of Phil Glew and Sailesh Bolisetti. An honourable mention must be made to Zoe Wenham. This was her first BGT race weekend and a mature drive in race two saw the 17 year old take third place in GT4 along with Mike Simpson.
Round two of the Championship see’s a trip to the Nurburgring in support of the 24hour race. My media application has been sent so hopefully I will be in attendance to see them battle it out on the iconic German Circuit.
Whilst the Brits were experiencing miserable weather in Cheshire, the FIA GT1’s were fairing slightly better in rural France at Nogaro. Victory in both the wet Sunday race and the dry Monday race, went to the Belgium WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor. It was a good weekend for the team as their second car of Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis took both second places as well completing a perfect start to the season.
The GT3 race was to feature ex British GT driver (and karting buddy) Michael Lyons who has made the step up to join Stefano Gai in the AF Corse Ferrari 458. Race one victory went to the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Sourd and Gregory Guilvert, but disqualification for Lamborghini pair Filip Sladecka and Gerhard Tweraser for ignoring a drive through penalty saw Lyons and Gai promoted to second place after taking the chequered flag in third behind them. Race two saw Maximilian Buhk and Dominik Baumann in the Mecedes-Benz SLS AMG victorious, but Lyons crossed the white line on pit exit after taking over from Gai and was handed a drive through penalty.
Hopes of a solid finish looked diminished for the young Brit, but an incredible drive saw Lyons haul the Ferrari into third place and a battle for second place with the other AF Corse Ferrari during the closing laps. It was just a little too much as Gaetano Ardagna Perez defended his position desperately to keep Michael behind, leaving him to settle for third and not break team rule number 1: Do not take out your team mate.
It was a superb debut for Michael and with two podiums finishes, takes a healthy points haul to the next round. Thankfully both the GT1 and GT3 races were streamed live on the internet so I was able to watch the superb GT racing. Some consolation for not being at Oulton Park.
With some time till the motorsport season gets into full swing, a lot of you are probably trying to think of something exciting to fill the void. As Christmas and New Year are now just a memory, you may still have some left over alcohol kicking about and for those of you who received a motorsport review DVD as a Christmas present you can now take part in my newly devised drinking games.
The rules are quite simple and there are two variants of the game. A British Touring Car Championship drinking game and a British Rally Championship drinking game. To play either all you need is the corresponding review DVD for either championship and plenty of alcohol which you may or may not have left over from the Festive and New Year period. For the BTCC game simply stick on a recent review DVD and select your drink of choice. Then, every time Tim Harvey mentions Clerk of the Course Bob Kettleboro you simple down your drink as fast as possible. For the BRC version, the rules are similar although this time you down your drink each time Robbie Head does a piece to camera, beside a stage, holding a mobile phone or stopwatch and refers to timing the gap between each car through by saying ‘The splits are on’
These are great games to play with friends on a Friday night when you can’t decide whether to go out or not, and additionally, you can play the BTCC game live during the Sunday coverage on ITV4 for extra excitement. For those of you who are really hardcore you can always play the live F1 game. Simply play along during any live Formula One race screened on the BBC and down a drink every time Eddie Jordan says something stupid. I will point out that this game is not advisable for those who really want to see the race as by partaking in this game will mean that you will more than likely be in an alcohol induced coma, or worse, in hospital having your stomach pumped even before the race has started.
At this point I will point out that responsibility lies solely with the game player and I will not be held responsible for and long term side effects and health issues connected to playing this game.
Please Drink Responsibly.
The British Touring Car Championship’s seems to have thrown up a divide amongst fans recently thanks to the whole Turbo versus normally aspirated engine situation. Some seem to be annoyed with the rules being changed to restrict the turbo cars and some seem to believe they should be restricted even more.
Everyone has a right to their opinion, however after a post a couple of months ago about the situation one or two people decided to voice their opinions in response rather loudly and somewhat personally as they disagreed with my opinion on the matter. Therefore they believed they were right and those who said different were wrong, had no idea what they were talking about and knew nothing so should keep quiet. That said, before I continue, this blog is entirely my own opinion. Rightly or wrongly, agree or disagree, I am happy to accept your responses and thoughts and for you to leave comments. However, please keep them constructive and please don’t resort to personal attacks.
Rather than air my opinion on the whole performance issue within the BTCC, it’s the professionalism of some of the drivers that needs to be bought to people’s attention. After last week’s Monaco Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton’s subsequent and ill fated post race interview taking the headlines, it seems a few other ‘professional’ drivers should have taken on board the criticism Hamilton received within the media and fans alike.
Much like Lewis Hamilton in F1, Jason Plato is a big star and a popular driver with fans in BTCC, therefore he is in the spotlight all the time within the series. So is it really acceptable for Jason Plato to show his displeasure of the rules in front of the media and on live TV. Whether the rules are fair or unfair is irrelevant. The attitude and reaction from the ‘Star’ of the series is extremely unprofessional. Tim Harvey stated afterwards, that Plato is becoming fixated on parity within the series and must therefore have an effect on his focus and that he needs to calm down and focus on his own racing. Harvey talks sense and has hit the nail on the head. It is only the Honda’s that Plato is struggling against and is beating the other Turbo powered cars. The reaction seems to show Plato as a spoilt brat and is upset because he isn’t winning all the time. The fact that he has won more races this season than Matt Neal is something he fails to mention.
Lewis Hamilton and Martin Whitmarsh from McLaren had to make a grovelling apology to race stewards after the comments the 2008 world champion made and it is only right that Plato should do the same. To constantly make these comments on live TV and, particularly after the Oulton Park win, use questionable language, is surely bringing the sport into disrepute. If you have views on the rules, then discuss them in private and not berate the series director and ask him to explain himself on live TV. That shows extreme lack of professionalism and if he escapes punishment, then Plato needs to count himself lucky. There is much talk in the motorsport world of Lewis Hamilton needing someone to bring him back down to earth, I think Plato needs someone to do that to him to.
No one is bigger than the BTCC and that includes Jason Plato. He maybe a self confessed celebrity presenting Fifth Gear on TV, but he needs to drop the prima donna attitude and concentrate in getting his attitude into Top Gear and showing some respect. He is a role model to many but is currently leading a bad example of how to behave. He is a talented driver and has shown this by winning the championship twice and has claimed more BTCC race wins than anyone else, however the series can and will continue without him when he decides to retire or leave. But right now with his current behaviour, whether you agree with me or not, it is my opinion that the series would be better off without him until he changes his attitude and shows himself to be the complete professional that he should be.
Another headline from the weekend’s racing at Oulton Park is the Shock news that TOM Onslow-Cole has quit the AMD Miltek team to take up an offer elsewhere. Apparently Tom told the team just 15 minutes before the start of race three and did not take part in the final race of the day. The team have stated it was an amicable split and wished Tom the very best. However, if he did tell the team just before race three then it would seem it is not an amicable split. Surely it would only be fair and respectful to complete the final race of the day.
Rumours will now start as to where Tom might be going to and will he be in place for the next round at Croft? One team’s name flying about is that of Team AON. There has been mutterings of them running three cars for a while now but after the whole team order’s debacle of last season would Onslow-Cole really go back? Another popular rumour is that Special Tuning Racing will be running a third car and the Seat’s are putting in a good show this season and had some good results at Oulton Park. So surely he would only leave to go to one of the big teams as the VW is starting to show its worth with points finishes. A move to somewhere like the vacant seat in the Geoff Steel Racing BMW would surely be a sideways step? I guess we will find out soon.
On the flip side, who will take over at AMD Miltek? Let’s not forget there is a vacant seat. It would be great to see Tim Harvey take the wheel but that is just a pipe dream. It would also be amazing to see Matt Hamilton back in BTCC but I’m not sure his position regarding budget. My initial thoughts is that Phil Glew should get the vacant position. Glew drove for the Your Racing Car team in their first BTCC race at Silverstone last year and put in a good showing. The joint YRC and AMD Miltek partnership could pave the way for him to get back into the championship. One thing is for certain, the rumour mill will be running flat out until the official announcements so we all wait with baited breath to see what happens.