The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

Posts tagged “Mercedes

Just because you can Drive a car, doesn’t mean you can ‘Drive’ a car.

So Lewis Hamilton has won Sports Personality of the year 2014. And deservedly so in my opinion. That is not to say any of the nominated sports men and women didn’t deserve to win it. They have all achieved greatness in their field.

Lewis Hamilton 2014 Sports Personality of the Year

Lewis Hamilton 2014 Sports Personality of the Year

But there are many people moaning and saying he shouldn’t have won it. Why? Firstly, it was a public vote. He received the most votes and therefore won. Which is how a vote works right? Secondly, some are saying he has no personality. I assume these people know him personally. But we all know that although it is called the ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, it is really down to sporting achievement. After all, Andy Murray won it last year and in the year Jenson Button, the guy who is seemingly one the nicest guys in the world, won his world championship, Ryan Giggs scooped the award. A bloke who speaks in monotone and sleeps with his Brothers wife!

Lastly though, and perhaps most frustratingly, is the people who say Lewis Hamilton only won because he had the best car. That’s just like saying Kelly Gallagher only won Paralympic gold because she had Charlotte Evans to guide her or that Charlotte Dujardin only had success because she had a good horse. Which we all know isn’t the case. Every successful sportsperson will benefit from the best tools available. But it takes someone special to use those tools to become the best in the world. Yes, we all know Mercedes provided Lewis with a great car and he probably wouldn’t have won a single race if he was in a Caterham. It would be naive to think otherwise. But it is the same in all sports. The British cycling team have people who provide them with some of the best and most technologically advanced bicycles in the world. As great as Sir Chris Hoy is, undoubtedly he wouldn’t have been so successful on a Raleigh Chopper. However, I’m certain he would still beat many of those who think it’s all down to the machine.

It’s not just sports that involve technical equipment though either. A good footballer needs a good team behind him. Gareth Bale has won major trophies with Real Madrid, but he won’t ever win the world cup with Wales. Every sportsman or woman at the top of their game have a plethora of people behind them helping them to achieve their greatness. Coaches, Nutritionists, Psychologists, Physiotherapists, Medical Personnel, the list goes on. And these people know what they are doing. I’m not just talking about Dad’s giving you encouragement or Mum’s cooking high a protein dinner before a big event. This support network are also amongst the very best in their field too. But what all great sportsmen and women have in common is natural talent. That spark, that raw potential and that natural ability that projects a good sportsperson to world beater.

A good team will always help an athlete improve.

A good team will always help an athlete improve.

I heard an argument that Rory McIlroy deserved the award more than Lewis Hamilton because he had achieved more this year. For a start, Lewis Hamilton has been at the top of his sport longer than Rory McIlroy has in his. But what people need to realise is that in a golfing calendar there are tournaments most weeks of the year and amongst that are the four ‘Majors’. There is only one Formula One world championship a year and Lewis Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races in that championship to win. Rory McIlroy may have achieved more this year but he has had more opportunity to do so. He had four attempts at a Major win this year and he won twice. Lewis had one attempt this year and won it, even with three retirements in that ‘Best’ car of his. You don’t criticise an Olympic gold medallist for ‘Only’ winning one gold medal in the last four years do you? Even McIlroy benefits from the best equipment, coaching and backroom staff. He has custom made and fitted clubs, he has golf balls design to suit his style of play, his entourage is huge and he has a lot of financial support and backing. Just as Lewis wouldn’t win the world championship in a 1960’s Ferrari, Rory wouldn’t win a major with a set of Hickory shafted golf clubs and a ‘Gutty’ ball.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

The trouble is with many sports is that the pro’s make it look easy. We sit and watch on the TV where the margins between victory and defeat can be minimal. We therefore think those who loose are rubbish and think we can do better, not thinking that the margins of defeat would then be vast chasms measured in light years and we would quickly start to look foolish. When you watch golf on TV, it looks a doddle. I used to play golf and had a relatively decent handicap of 10. But I can tell you it is extremely frustrating. Consistency is key, and whilst it’s great to see a 300 yard drive boom down the fairway, I would still stand on the tee not knowing if that was going to happen or if I would hook one into the long rough. Colin Montgomerie once said, ‘There is no difference between a good shot a pro hits and a good shot an amateur hits. The pros just hit them all the time’. And that’s the difference between the Pros who make it look easy and the millions of weekend golfers at golf clubs around the world dreaming of winning a major while the hunt for their ball in the thick stuff. I also had an ex girlfriend who was a very competent cross country and show jumping rider. I would watch as she and her horse Jeffrey would glide over fences with ease. But whilst I have ridden horses on the odd occasion, could I get Jeffrey to even trot over a pole lying on the ground on the ground? Could I heck.

So let me tell you this. Just because you have a driving license and can drive a car, doesn’t mean you can actually drive a car. Let alone try and race one. There is a reason that Formula One is timed to the nearest thousandth of a second and that’s because it is all that can separate a winner from a loser. The difference between pole position and second on the grid. The margin between a great lap time and total disaster. It looks oh so easy on the TV when drivers guide their car round a circuit for lap after lap putting in near identical lap times one after the other. How hard can it be? After all, you’ve driven on a journey that lasted two hours or more right?

People don’t seem to think about the G forces experienced inside the car the driver deals with under braking and acceleration dozens of times each lap, the alertness needed to pick the precise braking point to within the metre at each corner for the fastest possible lap time, or the knowledge needed to adjust that braking point depending on car set up, tyre wear or fuel load. They don’t think about the skill needed to guide a car inch perfectly at high speed to clip the apex or place the car in the exact spot for the perfect racing line. They don’t think about the skill involved in knowing when to defend or attack while doing all of the above. The concentration needed to do this for two hours, the ability to feed back information to the team to enable them to help make adjustments or improvements for that competitive edge, the ability needed to make fine adjustments to brake balance, gear ratio and other car set up options whilst on the move, or the supreme fitness needed and the nerves of steel to be good at it lap after lap after lap.

Being a world beater at 200mph isn't as easy as many think.

Being a world beater at 200mph isn’t as easy as many think.

If you think that is easy, go down to your local outdoor karting track, race for 2 hours and then see how you feel. See how your lap times match up with the best, see how many of your laps were within a tenth of a second of your best lap time and see how tired you are. Then think about doing that at speeds of up to 200mph rather than speeds of up to 40mph. You’ll soon realise it isn’t easy. Very few of us could do it. Very few of us could be half as good as Lewis Hamilton or any of the others at their sports.

So just think about these things before criticising anyone who has achieved something truly great. Especially someone who has spent a lifetime reaching the goal at being the best. Be pleased for them instead of shooting them down. And if you think I’m only writing this because Lewis Hamilton is getting criticised and I love motorsport so much then you are very much mistaken. I admire everyone of those nominees. In fact, I often admire many people who achieve sporting greatness and think about how I wish I was truly good at something like that.

So embrace greatness and success. Applaud it, don’t criticise it, and if you still think Lewis Hamilton didn’t deserve to win it because you don’t like him, Just think about how Ryan Giggs’ brother feels.


Are 2014 Formula 1 Cars the Ugliest we have seen?

With the second Bahrain test now completed, F1 fans have now seen enough of the new 2014 challengers to still hold a strong opinion that they are the ugliest car the grid has ever seen.

Torro Rosso's 'Anteater' Nose

Torro Rosso’s ‘Anteater’ Nose

Many of us believe that Formula 1 cars need to be a thing of beauty which stand out from the crowd and resembles a work of art. Williams were the first to shock the F1 community with their FW36 challenger which featured a peculiar anteater nose. McLaren followed suit with a weird looking tripod-effect nose and Lotus with its twin tusks diffidently caught the eye within the paddock, but the worst in my opinion was the Torro Rosso and the Caterham, it just looked wrong and it definitely didn’t look like an anteater. Even the great designer Adrian Newey who ensured his cars where aesthetically pleasing conceded that ‘this year’s Red Bull is unfortunately ugly’.

Caterham's take on the new nose

Caterham’s take on the new nose

So why have the new cars become so unbelievably ugly? Well, it’s all down to the new aerodynamic regulations for the 2014 season with the aim to increase safety. The regulation stipulates that the nose tip has to be 365mm lower than its predecessors.  The rule was introduced to prevent ‘T-bone’ crashes as well as cars launching over the top of others. The regulations instructs designers that ONLY the nose has to be a certain height and not the suspension or the front end of the monocoque, thus resulting in the radical designs of the nose we are seeing.

The new nose designs are to make the cars safer if involved in a collision

The new nose designs are to make the cars safer if involved in a collision

A lower nose will greatly reduce/block the aerodynamic flow under the car, therefore in order to maximise the airflow designers have retained the maximum permitted front monocoque then adding the minimum and amount of carbon fibre to comply with the nose height regulation whilst being strong enough to pass the crash test.

However, not all the cars have the weird anteater, finger whatever you want to call it nose. Both Mercedes and Ferrari have gone conservative with their design, by sloping the whole front section into a flat nose to create more down force enabling the car to have more front end grip through corners.

Ferrari have managed to make a half decent job of the new nose regs.

Ferrari have managed to make a half decent job of the new nose regs.

The odd one out from this is Lotus with its twin tusk design which attempt to presents slightly more total cross sectional area to the airflow, which I believe is a very clever design. The design as you will see has one of the two tusks slightly longer than the other; this is to comply with the minimum height regulation, a brilliant example of F1 designers pushing the design to the limit.

The 'Twin Tusk' offering from Lotus

The ‘Twin Tusk’ offering from Lotus

The 2012 Ferrari nose caused initial horror.

The 2012 Ferrari nose caused initial horror.

The thing with Formula 1 cars is that we all grow into the design and by the mid-season we end up loving them. In 2009 when the cars changed to taller slimmer rear wings and wider front wings we all hated, we all said (including myself) it didn’t look like F1 cars anymore and I personally ended up loving the new look. In 2012, the stepped noses where slaughtered by the F1 community especially with Ferrari’s Lego nose, but I ended up loving it and to this day I think it’s one of the most beautiful F1 cars I have ever seen. That’s why this year although initial reaction is negative, fans will accept the design and love it.

Guest Post by Hiten Solanki

Back to the Track

So the motorsport season is back with a bang and a big one at that for my return trackside for the first round of the British GT championships at the weekend. Oulton Park was my destination to kick off the season and I was pretty excited. It was a bit like the first day back at school when you were a kid. Catching up with friends and seeing what was new.


It was to be my first visit to the Cheshire track and despite the five and a half hour journey up on the Friday and the 5.30 am fire alarm at the hotel on Saturday morning and having to stand around in sub zero temperatures in my PJ’s (Zoe Wenham and David Ashburn look similarly unimpressed) I was looking forward to checking out what Oulton Park had in store. Although it was cold, I was glad. I had packed my thermals, the sky was blue, the sun was out and the wind was still. Conditions were good as I headed out to shoot the first BGT practice session.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Blue Skies and new angles for my first trip to Oulton Park.


The field was impressive, despite one or two entries pulling out and the cars looked and sounded great in the morning sun. It was good to be back. Some even sported new liveries. A nod to the Tartan livery of Gregor Fiskin & Richard Westbrook’s Trackspeed Porsche which everyone seemed to like, unlike their team mates Porsche of David Ashburn & Nick Tandy who’s spotted entry divided opinion. I myself was a fan of the new look works Ginetta entry with a white, black and orange livery. Also, the Optimum BMW Z4’s look great in Carbon Black showing that you don’t need to do much to make a GT race car look good.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The great looking Carbon Black BMW Z4 hops the kerb at Britten’s


It became apparent early on that I liked the circuit. Spending the first session at Deer Leap and Lodge Corner, I was getting some nice angles and the session seemed to pass by rather quickly. My head was full of thoughts about where to go for the other sessions over the weekend. I didn’t want to miss some good spots and I still had so much to explore.


Discussions were had in the media centre as to where were good places to photograph and I needed opinions from other photographers who knew the circuit a lot better than an Oulton Park newbie like myself. I had decided to head round to the outside of the circuit on the far side to photograph down the hill towards the first chicane and to spend the hour long second practice working my way towards the Shell Oils hairpin. Just that section itself was a joy as again, there were so many different perspectives and angles to get and before long the session was drawing to a close. I was loving this circuit and was wishing it was a lot closer to home. I didn’t have chance to even think about how cold it was.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The United Autosports Audi R8 heads towards the Shell Oils Hairpin.


Qualifying was soon upon us and with cars all at maximum attack it was a good chance to head over to Druids where the crest on exit saw a few of the cars get light at the front and lifting a wheel or two. I was hoping to try and get a few shots of this. Soon after the first qualifying session got underway, a big accident from one of the GT4 Ginetta’s was to delay the session. It played into my hands somewhat as the sun was starting to set. I was thankful that the clocks hadn’t gone forward just yet as I had found a spot amongst the trees with the setting sun behind the farm on the opposite side of the track ready for the return of the cars. Despite the split second I had to capture the cars after appearing from view and then as quickly disappearing again, I was pleased with what I had managed to capture. Then, as the second qualifying session got underway, it was time to try and capture the cars over that crest.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The spot amongst the trees as the sun set paid off.


The day drew to an end and I couldn’t wait till Monday to get back and photograph the two races, but in the mean time, I was happy with my days work. Saturday night involved a drive round Runcorn to try and find a supermarket so we could get some food for the next couple of days. Avoiding drunken and mischievous juveniles I was worried about stopping at traffic lights and junctions in case I got hijacked at knifepoint or had the wheels stolen off my car in a time that would make the Red Bull F1 team proud. After eventually finding not one but 4 supermarkets all close together it was time to stop at the local McDonalds for something to eat. It felt like I’d stepped into the holding room for the next episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was pretty sure they could tell I wasn’t from round these parts before I had even said anything. Needless to say I ate my Big Mac as quick as possible at a window seat so I could keep an eye on my car, before getting out of there sharp-ish and back to the hotel. People think my home county of Essex is bad? I’m used to a lot of stuff but I was genuinely feeling uncomfortable.


We were staying in a Holiday Inn and we had noticed the previous evening that it was apparent that there was a Wedding and a reception being held there on the Saturday. The latter in full flow as we had got back. Despite the Hotel being nice, I had questioned whether a Holiday Inn was really the sort of place you’d want to get married, but each to their own. There was enough fake tan around to keep Amy Childs beauty salon stocked up for a year and I noticed a popularity for drawing on eyebrows with black marker pen giving the wearer a permanent angry expression which amused me as the angry looking orange faced girls struggled to walk properly in their ridiculous platform high heeled shoes. Even an Essex boy like myself was out of my comfort zone and decided to leave the hotel bar and head for bed.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Some of the cars were lifting their front wheels slightly on exit at Druids.


With no track action on Sunday, the day was spent watching the British Touring Car Championship on the TV in the hotel room before a meal out in the evening with friends. I struggled to get to sleep that night trying to work out the best places at Oulton to shoot the two races on Monday.


The morning was again very cold and this time the skies were cloudy and overcast. Not as good conditions as Saturday but I was grateful it wasn’t raining. I headed to the pit lane to shoot the 10 minute warm up session before deciding where to got for Race One. It was soon upon us and a few minutes were spent on the grid as the cars lined up before I headed down to the first corner. I wanted to capture the impressive Class of 2013 as they headed into the first corner of the season. They looked fantastic as they headed towards myself and the other photographers around me. I fired off shots of the first half of the field heading into the bend before turning to shoot them disappearing down the hill. Big mistake.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The Class of 2013 heading into Old Hall Corner.


With myself pointing my camera down the hill I was unaware of what was happening to my right. The first indication of something not being right was seeing the two photographers to my left out of the corner of my eye suddenly run for cover. I wasn’t up against the barrier but stepped back just as a Mercedes SLS and an Aston Martin appeared and hit the tyres and Armco in front of me. I hadn’t heard the shout of ‘Incoming’ and had been taken by surprise. Thankfully no one was hurt and despite the Aston being able to carry on, only to retire a few laps later, the Mercedes had managed to move to a safer spot on the other side of the track, but is was clearly game over with too much damage to continue. Not the best way to start the new season for them and certainly an unexpected one for me.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The aftermath of the Mercedes and Aston Collision right in front of me.


I spent race one photographing while heading down the hill towards cascades. It wasn’t long before more drama unfolded though. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air from the other side of the circuit as the LNT Ginetta G55 had burst into flames. Again though, thankfully no one was hurt. The hour had passed quickly and the race had come to an end as I was at the bottom of the hill at cascades. Plenty of action had taken place for the season opener and it was only a few hours until race two was about to get underway.


I took up position for the second race at the bottom of the hill at cascades, only this time on the inside of the circuit to shoot the cars heading down the hill and enabling myself to then photograph the second chicane and Knickerbrook before making my way up the hill towards druids. The first half of the race seemed to go to smoothly before major incidents broke out. The second Ginetta G55 burst into flames leaving driver Colin White to leap out quickly whilst heading up the hill to Deer leap. Also, there was a big accident involving Jon Minhaw’s Trackspeed Porsche and Andrew Howards Aston Martin at the chicane I had been at earlier in the race, so I didn’t manage to get that on camera and one of the Mtech Ferrari’s collided heavily with the APO Ginetta G50. It seemed to me that I had been too close to the action or too far away in the wrong place to capture any of it.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

GT4 Double winning Ginetta G50 of Zoe Wenham and Declan Jones heads up Clay Hill.


But it didn’t matter, I had a great weekend and I had experienced a new circuit which I loved. Oulton is now threatening Brands Hatch GP as my favourite UK circuit. Next up for me, the World Endurance Championships and European Le Mans Series at Silverstone.


You can see more images from the weekend on my Facebook page and purchase prints via my website. To read race reports and more head to The Checkered Flag website.

Works Of Art

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.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

My photo of the Audi R8 at the Nurburgring 24 hour race.

Steffen's Painting of the Audi R8

Steffen’s Painting of the Audi R8

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.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

My photo of the Mercedes SLS during the Nurburgring 24 hour race.

Steffen's painting of the Mercedes

Steffen’s painting of the Mercedes

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.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

My photo of Frank Wrathall’s Toyota Avensis.

Ian's finished painting of the Toyota Avensis.

Ian’s finished painting of the Toyota Avensis.

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.

Back to the Track & Team Orders

With the 12 hours of Sebring having taken place, the first two rounds of the Formula One world championship and round one of the World Touring Car Championship having passed, the motorsport season is well underway. That means my winter break is also over and this Easter weekend I’ll be back trackside and behind the camera.

Usually I’ve normally got my first round of the year under my belt by now but the wait will no doubt be worth it. I’ll be heading up to Oulton Park for round one of the British GT championship and I cannot wait. I’ve never been to Oulton Park before so I am looking forward to experiencing a new circuit. I missed last year’s round due to other commitments but the heavy rain the experienced there meant I wasn’t too disappointed. Bizarrely it seems to be snow that might cause trouble at the weekend and thermals will be going in the bag with me.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

I’ll be back Track side for the first time this year as British GT heads to Oulton Park for round one.

A huge field of gorgeous cars are set to take to the grid this Easter weekend for two 1 hour races at the Cheshire circuit and I’m really looking forward to seeing and photographing them in action. I just hope I haven’t forgotten how to do it, although it’s questionable if I did in the first place! With the track action taking place on the Saturday and the Monday rather than the usual Saturday and Sunday, it will be a long weekend, but it will definitely be a fun and exciting one. I’ll hopefully posting photos on my twitter account – @ChrisGurton and my facebook page over the weekend as well as providing images for The Checkered Flag, so feel free to give me a ‘follow’ or a ‘like’ to keep up to date.

Whilst some head to Cheshire for their racing fix, many will be heading to Kent this weekend as the first round of the British Touring Car Championship takes place at Brands Hatch. Like the British GT, a large field is expected for the BTCC even though a couple of teams have opted out of the first round. 2009 Champion Colin Turkington makes his return to the series in a rather nice looking BMW 1 Series with West Surrey Racing, the team with whom he won his title. I was surprised at how nice the new 1 series looks, although I’m still unsure on the livery. The BTCC media day stirred up a lot of excitement last week and I know the faithful army of fans are chomping at the bit to see them back in action. Let’s hope there are no controversies to kick off the new season and hopefully driving standards will be improved.

2009 Champ Colin Turkington returrns to WSR and their Ebay Motors BMW 1 Series.

2009 Champ Colin Turkington returrns to WSR and their Ebay Motors BMW 1 Series.

On the subject of controversy, I can’t help but mention the Malaysian Grand Prix. Formula One is the biggest motorsport series on the planet which grabs the attention of millions worldwide. Round one in Australia proved to be a good one with seven different leading drivers during the race. Then, the dreaded team orders come into play in Malaysia. Surely round two is a bit early for team orders? Fans want to see racing not a parade of cars that aren’t allowed to overtake because there might be a risk of crashing. All motorsport has risk and that’s probably why so many enjoy it and take part in it. Surely team orders spoils it for the fans, without whom, the sport would be nothing.

I like Mark Webber a lot, he comes across as the complete professional and he’s one of my favourite drivers. He defended his lead superbly and fairly, but it was clear to see Sebastian Vettel was quicker. So why were the team against him overtaking for the lead? Why did they want him to just sit behind him for the remainder of the race? That isn’t what the fans want to see. The Mercedes team proved this point by making Nico Rosberg stay behind Lewis Hamilton despite being faster. Even Lewis himself admitted it wasn’t the way he wanted to achieve his podium finish. I don’t care if there is a chance that contact might be made between two team mates. I want to see racing. These guys are at the pinnacle of the sport through skill and talent. Or maybe some huge financial backing. They should be able to battle it out for honour and pride regardless of what car the other guy is in.

Vettel & Webber aren't so friendly after Sundays Malaysian Grand Pix

Vettel & Webber aren’t so friendly after Sundays Malaysian Grand Pix

Team orders can ruin motorsport. I can understand towards the end of the season you want to protect your lead drivers chance of championship glory, but with 17 rounds still to go? Let drivers do battle and give the paying fans what they want. If this is going to become a regular occurrence in Formula one, I won’t be giving it much attention in the future. Match fixing is illegal in sport, surely what Red Bull were trying to do was to fix the race result. I can’t blame Vettel for wanting to race. That’s what he’s paid to do after all. Personally, I’d like to see the FIA step in and put a stop to such blatant team orders, again, for the good of the sport and the fans.

British GT Media Evening

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.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The United Autosports McLaren was in unfamiliar territory.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

The BGT & F3 Liveried Bus

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.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Head Turner – The Barwell Aston Martin tries to blend in.

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.

Image Copyright Chris Gurton Photography

Many Supercars can be seen on the streets of South Kensington & Knightsbridge, but on Thursday, all were well and truly ‘Trumped’

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.

The British GT Finale

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.

There were some nice new angles for me to capture on the full Donington layout.

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.

This sign pleased me greatly

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 Ecurie Ecosse cuts a forlorn figure on the run down to the Melbourne hairpin.

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.

If you could bottle and sell a sound, I’d buy a bottle from these two! Heaven.

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.

The Nissan had the title so cruelly taken away.

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.

Allan Simonsen wasnt going to let Mat Griffin have an easy run in his chase for the championship.

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.

Eventual ace winners Alvaro Parente & Zak Brown’s United Autosport’s McLaren hops the kerb at the chicane.

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.

2012 Bitish GT Champions. Michael Caine & Daniele Perfetti’s Motorbase Porsche.

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.

More Images from the British GT Practice and Qualifying Sessions can be seen here on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page and Race images can be seen here.