As I returned turned home yesterday I was greeted by a huge parcel waiting for me. As I had not been waiting for anything and hadn’t ordered anything, especially of this size, recently I was somewhat confused by it. On inspection it appeared to have come from Germany. I still hadn’t twigged what it was until I saw the senders name. A sudden rush of excitement filled me as hurriedly but carefully opened the huge box. I wasn’t quite prepared for what was inside.
Carefully wrapped and packaged inside was two large 3ft by 2ft framed and mounted prints. No ordinary prints though. One was of an Audi R8 GT3 and the other of a Mercedes SLS GT3. What’s more was that these prints were of paintings by the incredibly talented German motorsport artist Steffen Imhof and were based on two of my photos I had taken at last year’s Nurburgring 24 hour race.
They both looked stunning. I was overwhelmed by Steffen’s generosity as he had agreed to send me copies of the finished artwork but I wasn’t expecting anything quite like this. He had even enclosed a copy of the huge Mahle racing wall calendar which featured twelve amazing motorsport paintings Steffen had created, including the two that were now sitting in front of me in their magnificent brushed aluminium frames. It was safe to say I was very proud and delighted with them. It is an incredible feeling to have had a photo I have taken turned into a spectacular piece of art such as this.
This isn’t the first time it has happened though. Some of you who read this bloke may have read about the amazing Toyota Avensis artwork the Ian Cook, aka Pop Bang Colour, created which was based on my photo of Frank Wrathall. I’ve spoken to people who saw it being created and some of you may even have a copy. It is a very special feeling indeed. So these three beautiful pieces of art will be taking pride of place on the wall where everyone can see. Even my mum, who has no real interest in cars and motorsport loves them, telling me ‘I wouldn’t want a big photo of yours on the wall but these look fantastic and will look really good on the wall.’ You, can always rely on my Mum to speak her mind, no matter how brutally honest she is. But this was a huge compliment to Steffen and Ian’s work. Not so much on mine though.
The sense of satisfaction I have had from seeing all three of these works of art in incredible and to actually have them to display on my wall too is a great feeling. As someone who loves art, visiting galleries and had great respect for real talent such as that shown by Steffen and Ian, this is something quite special. I can’t wait to show my friends and family.
So on that note, if there are any artists out there who may be interested in turning any of my photos into paintings, drawings or art work, then feel free to get in touch. For the rest of you, I strongly suggest you go and check out both Steffen Imhof’s AutomobilArt website and Ian Cook’s Pop Bang Colour website to check out their stunning work. You could do a lot worse than part with some money in exchange for having their artwork on your wall. Especially if you are a car and motorsport fan.
The arrival of March means one thing to Motor Racing fans. The new season is upon us after the long winter break. The first round of the Formula One season gets underway this coming weekend along with the Sebring 12hours and some club events have already taken to the track.
For me, the start of the new season got underway last Thursday at the British GT & F3 media launch. The event took on a different format from the usual media days with it being held in central London during the evening. It was great event and a good chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances from the media, teams and circuits. Some of whom I hadn’t seen since last season.
Outside the venue were not only a London Taxi and Double Decker bus looking resplendent in British GT & F3 Liveries and advertisements, but also two of the cars set to take to the GT grid this year. One of United Autosport’s McLaren MP4-12C’s along with Barwell Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage that this year will be raced by series new boys, Richard Abra and Mark Poole who took last year’s Britcar 24hour title. The cars were certainly getting plenty of attention and rightly so. The Streets of South Kensington and Knightsbridge are often adorned with flash cars such as Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Bentleys as the capital’s elite cruise around in luxury. Those who saw the documentary a few months ago on TV about London’s supercar culture will testify to that. But who has ever seen two fully race prepared GT3 racing beasts parked up on the side of the road in the capital city? Even the guy in a Mercedes CLK who tried to turn heads by revving and roaring past failed miserably as gazes were fixed on the two show stoppers.
Passers by stopped to take photos with iPhones and many posed to have their photo taken beside the powerful monsters. Some even just stood, watched and stared for ages in awe. Traffic almost came to a standstill as people slowed to see the reason for flash guns going off and catch a glimpse of the race car. Bus and taxi drivers, even motorcycle couriers slowed to have look. But for me, the woman in a beat up Fiesta who drove past at a snail’s pace while her young son in the back seat, hands and nose pressed up against the window as he stared open mouthed at the Aston Martin and McLaren just underlined what motorsport was really about and the effect it has on people.
Inside, the presentations were underway and despite only four races on the F3 calendar, it seemed a necessary step to save the series from disappearing altogether and signs for next year are looking positive so a step back should hopefully mean at least two forward next season.
As for the season ahead for the British GT, things are going from strength to strength. New and established teams are joining this season to add to the already impressive field of cars. The likes of AF Corse and Vita4one Team Italy along with new teams from Blendini Moto & Nigeria Racing Eagle will be some of the new runners among the packed grid. Many teams are now running more cars and the likes of Fortec, who are well known for running single seaters are stepping into the fray with possibly a pair of Mercedes SLS’s. Toyota have joined the GT4 ranks with a GT86 and M-Sport, the team who ran the Ford WRC package have joined in the fun and will initially run an Audi R8 LMS Ultra with the intention of taking on the new Bentley Continental GT3 when it is ready later in the season.
Well over 30 cars look set to take to the grid at Oulton Park over Easter weekend with more set to join throughout the season. Throw in a European Round at Zandvoort which British GT will have main billing for and better TV coverage including Two rounds shown live on Motors TV, it is clear the British GT is really going places so it’s best you all make even more of an effort to head out and see this series in action at your nearest Circuit because you won’t be disappointed.
I’d like to thank Benjamin, Lauren and James at SRO along with everyone else who helped put on a great evening and I really cannot wait for Easter weekend at Oulton Park when the season Kicks off. It is going to be awesome.
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.
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.
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.
The Monaco Grand Prix has drawn to a close and to be honest I feel very disappointed. The win was handed, gift wrapped to Red Bull with a bow on top. Had the race been able to run the course, no doubt Jenson Button would have taken the win with both Alonso and Vettel running on very worn tyres against Button’s fresher ones.
However, the weekend threw up few talking points but this blog entry will discuss one major issue in formula one and motorsport in general. Most people will have seen Sergio Perez’s accident in qualifying three on Saturday which ultimately bought safety into the forefront of people’s minds. Thankfully safety within motorsport has improved immensely as the years have passed and rightly so. Cars get faster and faster so the risk to drivers would ordinarily get higher and higher. But thanks to the improvements in car and driver safety the risks have been reduced.
Gone are the days when Formula One and the death of drivers went hand in hand and dreadful images such as those of Zolder in 1973 as David Purley tried in vain to free Roger Williamson from his burning car whilst marshall’s stood idly by are a thing of the past. Safety within motorsport is evolving rapidly and coupled with the training given to marshall’s and their ability to deal with all situations are a testament to all involved.
Unfortunately, some improvements can only be made as accidents happen. It takes an accident to make people aware of a certain problem before that issue can be addressed, therefore there will always be freak accidents coupled with the fact divers push cars to the limit it is an inevitability accidents will happen. But thanks to current safety features those accidents rarely see serious injury. It never ceases to amaze me at how a driver can walk away from huge accidents such as the recent Indy 500 practice accident involving Simona de Silvestro and the huge Porsche crash at San Marino.
It is the incredible safety features in place that meant Perez only suffered minor injuries at Monaco and had that happened 20 years ago, the results could have been a lot worse. Although many improvements have come too late for all the great drivers who have given their lives doing something they love, but ultimately motorsport is dangerous and we all know that. But the great work behind the scenes developing improvements mean that the fatalities and serious injuries have become rare. It’s those who develop new safety features and the marshall’s trackside on hand to step in when needed that are the unsung heroes of motorsport and all drivers need to be thankful for it. Long may these improvements continue to help make this sport so great.Finally, due to the start of the motorsport season, my model making has been neglected. However, this week I managed to complete my model Toyota 88C. I’m not sure what will be my next build but I will be keeping an eye out for a new project.
Like most people, I rely on my car. I don’t live in the governments ideal world where you can walk to the end of the street, wait a couple of minutes and hop on a bus or tube and get to where ever I need to get to. I have to drive. I have to drive to work, to earn money to pay for my car and its usage which gets me to work in the first place.
Although it is expensive to run a car, it would cost me more to catch 2 different busses to work or get three busses to visit my girlfriend 32 miles away. I could catch the train but that would cost even more and would mean two changes and three different trains. Added to the fact it would take an age. If the government want people to use public transport why don’t the help make it cheaper? Simple answer, they don’t want you to use public transport. They want you to use your car. Money spent on public transport goes to the companies who run it. Money from using your car goes to the government. A lot of money at that!
It cost me £60 to fill up my car yesterday. That will probably last me a week to 10 days. The latter if I’m lucky. I often wonder how much a year I spend on fuel and how this year’s fuel bills will compare to those of years passed. Then I quickly realise that I don’t want to know at all. It’s probably best I don’t if I want to avoid slipping in to a depressive episode. Whilst I appreciate the cost of oil is high at the moment, I also realise the government know that people rely on cars and will still pay for fuel regardless of the amount of tax they slap on it. Here’s an interesting fact, despite the cost of petrol and diesel per litre, Shell petrol stations make more money from the sale of snacks and drinks than they do from the sale of petrol.
We might as well get used to it too, because it is highly unlikely that petrol prices will fall by more than a few pence and if it does the fuel duty will be increased again. So what are we to do? Many car companies are developing more fuel efficient engines which will help to some extent, but I can’t afford a brand new car so it will be a long time before these cars become affordable for me, by which time fuel prices will be so high, the economical engine will make no difference.
This week I read with interest, an article about a new car made by Volkswagen which does over 300 miles to the gallon called the XL1. Now that’s more like it. This could well be the future of motoring. There is just one problem though. It is hideous! To say it was an ugly car is being too kind. This leads me on to a major issue I have with new environmentally friendly, hybrid and economical cars. They look awful and aren’t very practical.
Why can’t car manufacturers put this new engine technology into their current range of cars? Volkswagen make some nice looking cars, so instead of putting a new engine that does 300mpg into an ugly car the size of a Polo, why not actually put it IN a Polo? I drive an estate car so when I photograph at an event I can get all my equipment in. I would happily buy a car that could do 300 miles to the gallon, but a small car is no use to me. As for the larger ones, well they look horrible. The Toyota Prius doesn’t exactly turn heads and what on earth was the designer thinking when he came up with the Honda Insight? Let’s not even mention the G-Wiz!
I appreciate that development of new engines are high on the list of priorities within car company HQ’s, I just wish designing a good looking car to put the new engines in was as high on the list too. So until then, I guess will have to continue throwing money at my car.