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.
It’s been nearly a month now since I bought my new car and most of you will know I am very proud of it. That’s just as well as it is the single biggest purchase of my life to date. However, there is one gripe I have. Despite the fact that I love driving it, I love the way it looks, and the fact that it is the SRi version so it has the big alloy wheels, the sports seats and trim, there are some people who have turned their nose up at it just prior to a comment along the lines of ‘Huh, it’s only a Vauxhall Vectra’
So what? It’s my car, I have to drive it, you don’t, that’s why it’s my car and not yours. Cars are very much a form of art in that they are subjective. What one person likes, others may not. Let’s be honest, I hate the Nissan Juke, I think it’s ugly, pointless and resembles the warthog from the Lion King. That hasn’t stopped others buying it though. Why? Because they like it. No one is forcing you to buy a car you don’t like.
I don’t have a massive budget and I know I will never be able to buy an Aston Martin V12 Vantage, so being sensible I bought a car that ticks all my requirements. If I’m honest, Kelly Brook may be stunning, but I imagine she is expensive to maintain and if she can’t cook at all, then for me, she probably isn’t really marriage material. So the Vectra is practical for what I need and the SRi variant makes it just that bit more special and I think looks great. Ever seen the film ‘She’s all that’? Average looking girl (who I thought was quite pretty anyway) gets asked to the High School prom by a Jock, has a bit of a makeover, then becomes über hot. (I promise you an ex girlfriend made me watch that film) Anyway, I guess to me the SRi is a bit like that. If you have an expensive flashy car then yes, maybe to you it is ‘Only a Vauxhall Vectra’ but with your trophy wife on your arm kitted out with expensive clothes and jewellery looking like a million dollars you may not take a second look at that gorgeous girl working at the checkout in your local Sainsbury’s. That doesn’t mean she isn’t hot and it doesn’t mean a lot of other blokes don’t fancy her.
Whilst testing the new sporty Vauxhall Corsa on Top Gear recently, James May got into a Fiat Panda and stated that life is about ‘Taking pleasure in the simple things’. He is of course right. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, a petrolhead is still a petrolhead. Whether you own a Citroen Saxo or an Audi RS4, you can still enjoy driving and taking pride in your vehicle. James May can probably afford any car he wants, yet he owns and drives a Fiat Panda. That’s the beauty of being a car fanatic. Your tastes can vary, you’re needs can differ, but we all share a passion for cars. I love seeing old cars that have been kept in immaculate condition and have been well looked after on the road as much as a brand new offering from the likes of Ferrari or Bentley. There is a guy in my Village who drives a 1983 Ford Fiesta Ghia in pale gold. It is as immaculate, if not more so, than the day it rolled off the production line all those years ago, but it still makes me smile when I see it. It may be just an old Ford Fiesta, but it’s obviously his pride and joy. I also saw a Triumph Dolomite Sprint in pretty good condition at the weekend doing what they were designed to do, being driven. Ok, So like all British Leyland products that is rare but, I still enjoyed seeing it.
So with a free Sunday, and having spent the day before cleaning and polishing my new pride and joy to within an inch of her life, I decided I would take her out and do two things I really enjoy. Driving and taking photos. I packed my cameras, lenses, and a few bits of other kit and headed out. I love to get motion photos and although I have built a car rig to take photos with, there are a few issues that need ironing out plus it’s pretty hard to fit it all and mess about with it on your own, so instead I took a pump cup, a few clamps and my Magic Arm with quick release plate. Using a quiet road on an industrial estate I set to work fitting my camera to various parts of the car and using a slow shutter speed and timer so I had time to jump back in the car and drive it before the shutter released. I spent quite a while trying different things with varying degrees of success whilst getting odd looks from passers by. Being restricted on what I could do on my own, I went away with a few hopeful looking shots for me to play about with on the computer when I got home. That was not before I went for a drive in the unseasonal weather we’ve been experiencing, the perfect excuse. Some people see driving as a chore or something to be avoided if they can, but I love driving. Even more so in my new car. It was good to get out and explore places and find new roads you didn’t know of before, you get to see quite a lot, and what’s more, you get to see lots of other cars and the people who drive them. Sunday was a good day.
Regardless of whatever car you own, whether other people like it or not, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. So, I may just have a Vauxhall Vectra, but…..It’s MY Vauxhall Vectra.
At the weekend The Mail on Sunday decided to announce some braking news. Something that would rock the world of TV. Or so they thought.
They revealed that Top Gear presenters use racing drivers whilst filming high speed supercars at 200mph and made it look like, Clarkson, Hammond or May were behind the wheel. Big deal. Did they think this would surprise people? Did they think this would cause national outrage? Were they trying to incite anger towards the BBC? It really must have been a slow news day because Fans of Top Gear don’t really care. I was more interested in the fact that one of the racing drivers was Aaron Scott. A top GT racer who many will know competes in the British GT championships, the MSA Endurance championships, the GT trophy and many other events. He’s also taken to the wheel of a 1986 Group C Spice SE86 for a few historic events. He’s a really nice guy and its good publicity for him so at least the Mail have done something decent for a change.
However, It seems quite clear that those who work for the Daily Mail don’t even watch Top Gear. Next they will be telling us that caravans are deliberately destroyed whilst trying to make out it is all a hilarious accident, or that a Morris Marina was purposely parked under a crane that wasn’t in shot which dropped a piano on its roof. Do they think that viewers believe that it was Jeremy Clarkson who drove the red Renault Twingo into the sea whilst trying to jump onto a departing ferry? Will they tell us that the original Stig, Perry McCarthy, didn’t die whilst driving a car off the end of an aircraft carrier? Come on guys, the viewers aren’t stupid. We know its all set up but that’s what makes the show so great.
Top Gear is no longer the serious car buyers show it used to be and that’s fine by me. If I want to know what a Ford Mondeo diesel estate drove like, I’d pop to the local dealer and take one for a test drive. I want to see amazing supercars being thrashed around an airfield regardless of who is driving. Top Gear is an entertainment show based around cars and the format works. The viewing figures show this and so does the waiting list for being in the shows audience. It makes you laugh, it makes you drool and it leaves you wanting more. The presenters work so well together and compliment one another so well. Each with their own kwirks and traits which make you able to relate to them. I’m sure they have a great time acting like the kids that every petrol head has inside them which makes for great telly. I know a certain Mr Clarkson is not to everyone’s liking which is fine. Its because he’s opinionated and speaks his mind. All opinionated people are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. I’m sure Jeremy isn’t losing any sleep over those people who don’t like him as there are plenty of people do.
The only gripe I have is that the series isn’t long enough. The 6 episodes fly by and I’m left with nothing to fill the void. Yes there are other car programmes but none are a patch on the BBC’s offering which for me is well worth the slice of licence fee it uses. The show has become a cult phenomenon and generates a huge amount of money for the beeb. Hopefully Top Gear will continue to go from strength to strength and provide myself and millions of others great entertainment for many years to come. Why drive around in fifth gear when you can slip it into Top Gear and leave everyone else trailing in you’re wake?
Everyone hates Sunday evenings right? Let’s face it, it’s the last few hours of the weekend and you’ve got to set your alarm clock and go back to work in the morning. However, thanks to the BBC, the next few Sunday evenings have been made a whole lot better.
I am of course talking about the return of Top Gear to our screens. Of course, the new series is as good as ever with Clarkson, Hammond & May up to their usual tricks, which included landing a helicopter on a car, dropping a VW Beetle from a mile up and finding Sienna Miller in the glove box of a Skoda Yetti. No doubt the local Skoda dealers have been inundated with enquiries about said car from men wondering if Sienna comes as standard or is an optional extra.
However, the big talking point was the new Stig. We all know the reasons behind the departure of the previous one, which led to a hilarious drive by Stig shooting challenge during the American special show at Christmas, but now everyone is trying to work out who the new one is.
Tongues are wagging, forums are buzzing and social networks are full of suggestions as to who is the mysterious man in white, ranging from Indian F1 driver Karun Chandhok, to James Mays mum, who featured in an early series test driving small cars. Everyone seems to have an opinion on who it may be. Despite Tiff Needel featuring in the most recent episode and a prior one too, could it be a bluff and actually be him? Another popular opinion is former F1 driver and current Peugeot LMS driver Anthony Davidson, and the probably the favourite, or at least amongst every male petrol head is the Queen of the Nurburgring, Sabine Schmitz. After all, she has featured a few times on the show, but would it be so obvious?
One thing I can categorically say for fact is that the Stig is none of the current HRT F1 drivers. Last I heard they still have 15 laps of the Belgium Grand Prix to complete so they are far too busy. Also, Sakon Yamamoto was offered a drive in the reasonably fast car, but after the first bend he stopped, got out and ran away in fear of the raw speed of the Kia C’eed. 45mph was just too much for him to handle. Needless to say, the bosses at HRT were not happy to have to spend money from their almost none existent budget on 2 weeks in rehab to aid his recovery.
As for me? Who do I think the new Stig is? Well, having seen the making of the Jeremy Clarkson DVD ‘The Italian Job’ there is a racing driver they used for a few of the pieces involving Ferrari’s. Now, I could well be wrong, but Clarkson obviously thinks highly of this guy and I have sneaky suspicion it could well be him. Will we be reading books about his life in a few years to come? That remains to be seen, but my guess is firmly with this bloke.