6 Hours of Silverstone – the opening round of the FIA World Endurance Championship – was dramatically clinched by Toyota, who skilfully kept their cool despite the torrential rain.
Although the race was ended early due to torrential rain, Team Toyota, which consists of Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre, not only left Mark Webber’s Porsche and both of the stunning Audi R18 e-trons in their wake, but they also clinched the win from their sister team too, Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima.
Considering the difficulty of the weather and track conditions, the legendary Mark Webber seemed content with a podium place on his debut WEC race, sharing the glory with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. In comparison, this year’s Silverstone was Audi’s worst performance in 3 years.
Straight from the green, Audi’s Lucas Di Grassi set off at a record pace, immediately attacking Alex Wurz of Toyota in his TS 040 Hybrid. This excitement was short-lived for Di Grassi however, as he took the Club Corner too wide towards the end of the first lap, allowing Sebastien Buemi of Toyota to claim second place. Porsche were also disappointing towards the end of the first lap, with Neel Jani dropping from third to sixth position.
Running into traffic on lap 14, Toyota’s Alexander Wurz lost first place to Andre Lotterer, and Audi has their first lead in the race. However Audi decided to gamble while other cars were being called into the pits for wet tyres, and soon after Di Grassi crashed heavily into the barriers, sliding off the track at Woodcote. The Audi driver managed to get the R 18 e-tron back to the pits for some quick cover , however with a damaged monocoque the car was too badly damaged to continue the race, with Di Grassi looking understandably devastated.
It wasn’t just Audi that experienced car damage at Silverstone either; Porsche’s Neel Jani suffered severe tyre failure and subsequently lost his left wheel, but after 15 minutes in the pit Porsche successfully retuned to the track. Audi’s day continued to go from bad to worse however, as Andre Lotterer lost 25 seconds to Sebastien Buemi after sliding off the track at Stowe. Finishing sixth overall after a lengthy stint in the pits, Lotterer and Audi certainly had 6 hours to forget at Silverstone.
Timo Brenhard was replaced by team mate Brendon Hartley after Porsche’s 52nd lap pit, with the New Zealander showing his talent behind the wheel by hauling the R 18 e-tron back to fourth. With three hours to go, WEC Silverstone then settled into the traditional endurance test, and it really was anyone’s race. However Audi’s bad luck wasn’t quite over, with Treluyer hitting the barriers at Copse and bending both front wheels.
After 21 minutes of the safety car, Porsche’s Hartley pitted and gave up the seat to the fan favourite Mark Webber, allowing the Australian his first taste of WEC racing in 15 years. As the final two hours of Silverstone positioning remained the same, the rain made conditions unsafe to say the least, with the safety car came out once again, followed by red flags stopping the race.
After a summer break away from the circuits of the UK, giving me some time to indulge in another passion of mine, it was soon back to being trackside and behind the camera to shoot two great motorsport events in the space of three weekends.
First up was the Silverstone Classic. An event I have covered for a few years now and one I really enjoy. There is always so much to see and do, even before you consider the 24 races taking place on track. The highlights for me are always the Classic GT cars and the Group C Endurance cars. But the races include all genre’s including F1 cars from the 60’s to the 80’s, Formula Juniors, F2 and Touring cars, with much more in between to satisfy all tastes in class motorsport.
It always pleases me to see multi-million pound race cars doing what they were designed to do, race. Rather than seeing them sat in a museum and not being used. The racing is still close and exciting, despite the huge costs involved in running such beautiful pieces of motorsport history and the crowd really appreciate the spectacle. Sadly, the adverse weather conditions on the Saturday evening meant the Group C ‘Dusk’ race was cancelled, much to my disappointment, but the rain was torrential and racing such powerful and expensive cars in the conditions would have been a risk too far. Thankfully, there was an extended Group C race on the Sunday to make up for it.
A highlight of the Silverstone Classic weekend, along with the track action is the car clubs who arrive in their droves and display their cars for all to see, from classic Aston Martins, to modern Lamborghini’s and so much more, including some incredibly rare makes and models of car all looking in immaculate condition. A track parade took place on the Sunday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911. The aim was to have nine hundred and eleven Porsche 911’s on track, but the actual figure was over 1200!
It was a great weekend and I, along with the many thousands of fans and spectators will be looking forward to next year’s event.
Two weeks after the Silverstone Classic was another exciting weekend for me and another I really look forward too. After their summer break, it was the British GT championship race at Brands Hatch. My favourite British race series at my favourite British Circuit. It was also great to have two good friends and fellow photographers stay over for the weekend to make it even more enjoyable.
The gorgeous GT machines were bathed in sun all weekend and the action on track was just as hot as the weather. Another large grid of competitive cars and drivers was enough to whet the appetite of any motorsport fan. We also saw the new liveried Audi R8 of Warren Hughes and Rembert Bert which is now run by WRT and I must say, I liked it a lot. It was also nice to see each car sporting a number with a tribute to Allan Simonsen.
I really enjoy photographing the Grand Prix Circuit at Brands Hatch. It provides you with a number of great angles, backdrops and elevations. The two hour GT race also meant I could walk much of the track to get many different angles and viewpoints to photograph from.
An action packed two hour race seemed to fly by and a win for Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam in their Beechdean Aston Martin saw them climb to the top of the championship standings, but it is still close and with the next two races in Zandvoort next month before the season finale at Donington Park, it is still all to play for. As it is with the GT4 category where there is much battling for places in this hotly contested championship. You can read the race report from the British GT at Brand Hatch on The Checkered Flag website here.
The next race for me will be the British GT again at Zandvoort in a couple of week’s time. It’s a new circuit for me so I’m really looking forward to visiting it. In the mean time, I will be with my camera trackside, but a track of a very different nature. All will be revealed soon.
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.
Having not shot a single race weekend in the whole of October and with a number of championships having finished for the season, I still haven’t finished for the year.
I know it is pretty much unheard of to have two weekends away from the track during the season so a whole month is unchartered territory. Various reasons have kept me away, including a well earned holiday comprising of just me, my bike and some awesome tracks in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. But I’m ready and rearing to go as there is one Championship that still has two races left and those two races are a little bit special. So if you are a motorsport fan I would recommend you check them out.
The MSA British Endurance Championship (Britcar) & the Production Cup head to Donington park this weekend. The first race of the Championship since the 24hr event at Silverstone sees the Endurance Championship compete in a four hour into the night race. It’s a unique race experience that many motorsport fans won’t have witnessed. It’s a bit like a mini 24hr race where you can experience the conditions of day and night racing but in four hours. It’s a definite charm to it and well worth going to check out.
As usual, the Production Cup will be there in support who will have their own into the night race later in November at Brands Hatch so there will be another chance to see the night time racing. With this weekend’s entry list boasting cars from the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Mosler, Aston Martin, Audi and Marcos, it is sure to be an exciting event with some great racing. I’m really looking forward to it as last year’s into the night race was a great success.
On another note and following up from a previous blog post last week, my A3 calendars are now available to order from my website. The very limited edition calendars featuring images from the British GT, World Endurance Championship, GT Open & the Nurburgring 24 hour race is priced at £29.99 including postage & packaging. You can see the calendar and every months image as well as order your copy here: http://www.chrisgurtonphotography.com/2013_calendar.html
Most of you will know about my love for GT & Endurance racing & in particular my love for the British GT Championship, which this year in particular has proved just how fantastic it is, so it was with mixed emotions as I headed to Donington Park for the final round of the season. Excitement, as the Title would be hotly contested between the seven, yes seven teams still in with a chance of taking the 2012 honours, and Sadness as the exhilarating season was now coming to an end. You just knew the season would end on a high and the weekend didn’t disappoint. Even the FIA GT1 boys rocked up to take part in the weekend’s event to add a little extra excitement to GT fans like myself.
I like Donington Park as a circuit. Its undulating track provides many great photo opportunities and after a disappointing weekend behind the lens at Silverstone the previous weekend, I was determined to make amends and capture a good set of images. What’s more is that the racing was to take place on the full circuit at Donington and despite the numerous visits there I have never shot the full layout so I was hoping to get some new and interesting angles.
Concentrating on just the two GT series over the weekend, I headed out for the GT1 Qualifying session at the start of the day. The noise was just awesome, how I had missed the unrestricted engine noise and the rumble of the Mercedes SLS in particular. Despite only being a 12 car line up, there was still a nice selection of cars on show from Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini McLaren and Ford. Exploring the GP loop of the circuit during this session I tried to find a few different angles and I was enjoying this part of the circuit I had never shot before.
The first British GT practice session was used to get photos of the cars for a spotters guide that I was helping with along with the guys from l’endurance & Daily Sportscar much like the one we had produced for the Britcar 24hr. Thankfully the hour session enabled me enough time to get some side on shots of the cars and try and bag something a bit more creative at Redgate corner and further down towards the Craner Curves. The time passed pretty quickly and before long I was uploading the shots I had to my laptop back in the media room so the spotters guide could be completed. It looked pretty good even if I do say so myself and you can see it here.
The second British GT practice session took place before the lunch break so I headed out to the Melbourne Hairpin and the GP loop that I had been at to capture the GT1’s earlier to try and get the British GT cars in similar angles. I even managed to find a few new ones too. A quick break after that session and it was back out for the First of the weekend’s two GT1 races and I decided to shoot from the First corner and work down to the old hairpin by the end of the race. Thankfully the rain stayed away and the racing was good. I had got some photos in the bag that I was happy with.
The final session of the day was the qualifying for the British GT. I usually shoot this session from the pitlane as the cars come in and out frequently and this weekend was no different. However I was to regret this decision. Some friends came back into the media room after the session with photos of the cars with a glorious sunset backdrop. I knew the sun was setting, but didn’t realise just how good it looked behind the main pit buildings. Although I was happy with some of the photos I had got, I wished I had gone out trackside and caught the sunset.
Sunday kicked off with two warm up sessions for both the GT series. I shot these short sessions from the inside of Goddards Hairpin and the approach. Again, an area I hadn’t shot before so It was good to try it out. Even though it was mid morning, you could still capture brake discs glowing on the GT1 cars as they braked hard for the slow hairpin before the pit straight.
The second GT1 race took place that afternoon after the lunch break and I headed out to the far side of the circuit to cover the race from there. A big accident between the Ford GT and one of the BMW halted the race for about 40 minutes whilst repairs to the tyre wall was made and the cars were recovered. The race resumed and I shot from the Coppice and McLeans area of the track. However with about 20 minutes of the race to go, disaster struck. The two Championship contenders, the All-Inkl Mercedes of Marc Basseng and Markus Winklehock collided with the remaining Vita4one BMW of Michael Bartels and Yelmer Buurman on the exit of Regate. The latter impacted with the wall hard enough to dislodge the concrete and the session was red flagged whilst medical crews extracted Buurman from the mangled BMW. Thankfully he OK having been taken to hospital and kept in overnight. I then realised the concreted that had been wiped out was all that was separating the circuit and photographers trackside. It is an area that is popular with photographers and one where I have stood on many occasions. Thankfully no one was there at the time or there could have been a very serious outcome. It is times like this that you realise actually how close to danger you can be and you have to be aware at all times.
As I walked up to Redgate for the start of the final British GT race of the season, I could see the impact zone and the debris. The wall hadn’t been replaced properly and I knew I wouldn’t be standing there for the upcoming race. The pile of debris from the BMW scattered everywhere left a stark reminder of how dangerous motorsport can be, but thankfully the outcome was not as bad as it could well have been.
Putting all that to the back of my mind, it was time to concentrate on the big race. Seven cars in with a chance of Championship glory, five of which knowing all they need to do is win and the title is theirs. Add in the front two cars being non championship points scoring additions to the weekends grid which could put a spanner in the works of the overall outcome and the race was set to be a tasty encounter with the 26 car field represented by 14 different manufacturers.
From the off the gauntlet was laid down. Starting from 14th on the Grid, the Nissan GT-R, one of the 5 cars just needing the win to claim the Championship, with Alex Buncombe at the wheel was on blistering pace and within three laps had taken the lead and was pulling away. With the rest of the field battling away and the other championship contenders fighting to get near the front, Buncombe was stretching out a healthy lead. The other results were starting to look irrelevant as the Nissan was looking unstoppable and the win was all that was needed. At the pit stops Buncombe bought in the Nissan to hand over to Jann Mardenborough, last year’s Playstation GT Academy winner and hugely talented, with a lead of over 12 seconds. But disaster was to strike.
Just a couple of laps after the hand over, the left rear shock absorber on the Nissan broke. That was it. Game over for the Championship aspirations. It was gut wrenching stuff, and despite the RJN team fixing the issue and sending the rapid Welshman back out, they had lost far too much time and were a few laps down on the lead. With Nissan out of contention, this handed the current Championship lead to the MTech Ferrrari of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. All it needed was to hang on to current race position of fourth and they would clinch the Title by half a point.
But Allan Simonsen in the Rosso Verde Ferrari was to have a say in matters. A battle between the two ensued with Griffin clinging on to the vital place needed for the championship win and was only halted by the appearance of the safety car a couple of laps later bunching the field up. This meant that another title contender, the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, had closed in and was keen to snatch the honours away.
After the safety car had come back in and the field had bunched up, the BMW was keen to make up places for the points needed for victory. An audacious move from Ollie Bryant in the Ecurie Ecosse car at Goddards saw him dive up the inside from a long way back to try and take the place from the MTech Ferrari. Sadly he came from just too far back and made contact with his rival sending Griffin into a spin causing him to haemorrhage places from the bunched up field and with it the championship hopes had faded. This now meant the BMW was on course for the title with not long left in the race. But the upper hand in the title race was to be a short lived for the Ecurie Ecosse team as a one minute stop go penalty was handed out to them as punishment for the contact with Griffin.
This now meant the fourth change of championship leader in the race and this time the Motorbase Porsche of Michael Caine and Daniele Perfetti was to be the grateful recipient. Despite being fourth place in the race, the top two places were occupied by the two non points scoring cars of Alvaro Parente and Zak Brown in their United Autosports McLaren and the Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Nico Pronk. Third place was the second United Autosports McLaren of Charles Bateman and Matt Bell and although they too were Championship contenders coming into the weekend, they needed others to drop points and with the Caine and Perfetti car behind in Fourth, the points deficit was too much to be overturned. So Michael Caine only needed to bring the car home safely and the Title was theirs.
As the chequered Flag dropped, he had done it. Dave Bartrum and the rest of the Motorbase team were delighted. Probably not one of the favourites to win the title coming into the race despite being a real contender but it had showed just how close this season had been and it had all come down to the very last lap of the last race before the champions were crowned. Add to this the Motorbase Porsche had not won a race this season, the second year in a row that the eventual Champions had not won a race, you can see just how tight the championship battle had been throughout the season and that reliability and consistency are key.
So the British GT season has drawn to an end and what a season it has been. Truly Epic. There won’t be many championships this hotly contested and so close right down to the very last corner. With 15 different manufacturers having taken part and eight different winners from ten races, it is easy to see why this championship is a stand out event in the UK and Europe. Hopefully it will continue to go from strength to strength and be even bigger and better next season if that could be even possible. I for one cannot wait.