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 “Olympics

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.

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Missing Two Wheels & An Engine

Having spent the summer watching the incredible Olympians and Paralympians wow everyone with their achievements and putting most of us to shame, I decided I needed to get off my backside and participate in some kind of sporting activity. I guess this was the Olympic legacy that had been talked about.

So, it was time to get back into cycling. Well, Mountain biking to be precise. My old bike was getting on a bit and needed some work done to it. But rather than spending money on a bike that was over 10 years old, I thought I would treat myself to a 30th birthday present and buy a new one. Spending a while researching and looking for a new bike I eventually opted for a 2013 model, Specialized Rockhopper 29er. A lot of mountain bikes are now opting for 29 inch wheels over the standard 26 inches and although dubious at first of buying a 29er, after trying one, I was impressed.

My Olympic Legacy. A Specialized Rockhopper 29er.

With the new bike purchased it was time to set myself some targets. I needed to get a lot fitter, but ultimately I’d like to compete in some events. There is a winter race series in Thetford Forrest each year which I have attended before as a spectator. Four races, one a month from November to February with a choice of a four hour or two hour race and a leisure ride. Perhaps this was something I could take part in. Obviously  I wasn’t going to jump in at the deep end so I was thinking about taking part in the leisure ride at the end of January and the two hour race in February.

The Thetford Winter Series.

This means I have a few months to get fitter and train for the target I’ve set myself. Having bought the bike at the beginning of this month I thought a target of 50 miles of riding a week for the first month and upping that each subsequent month would be a good start. At the moment there are still a few motorsport weekends I will be in attendance at so most of my cycling is done after work during the week. However, last weekend, I wasn’t trackside so took the opportunity to take my bike to Thetford to ride round the Forrest.

There aren’t many bridleways or tracks near my house, so it was a good opportunity to take the bike off road on the miles of Forrest tracks, fire roads and single track. With four different routes ranging in difficulty there was a lot of chance to put my bike through its paces. I spent the morning on the two easier routes, mostly tracks and fire roads. It was good fun and I clocked up 22 miles before I stopped for some lunch. After my break I decided to tackle the two harder routes mostly single track with berms, dips, jumps, pits, and more! The smile plastered across my face showed how much fun I was having. The only low point was being overtaken at speed by someone who was clearly more experienced than me and the realisation following that I had a lot to do to get up to standard for the winter series. But, in the mean time, I was just having great fun.

A few things I have remembered since getting back out on my bike though are a bit more concerning. I remember now how arrogant some car drivers can be towards cyclists. I don’t appreciate having my elbow hit by wing mirrors because the driver hasn’t given enough room when passing or just can’t wait to get by and squeeze between you and oncoming traffic. Also, a car driver wouldn’t overtake on a blind bend, so why do they think it appropriate to overtake a cyclist on a blind bend? Because, let’s face it, if a car did come the other way, all drivers are going to swerve left, into the cyclist and not right into the oncoming car. But I won’t get preachy on you. I love cars and I love driving, I just wish a few others would be more considerate. One thing we can all agree on though, is who died and left horse riders in charge of the roads? Many times I have ridden down lanes to be confronted by horse riders in the middle of the road, sometimes two or more abreast and been given the most filthy of looks!

It is safe to say though, I’m loving being out on my bike and the fact I’m getting valuable exercise without paying a fortune for gym membership. As I write this, I have had my new bike just over two weeks and I love it. Although I sometimes come home feeling knackered after a ride, I also come home feeling really good and that is a positive thing. As for my 50 mile a week target, well, after two weeks and a day, I’ve done over 160 miles. I’m even going to take the bike with me on holiday next month. There are plenty of tracks and Bridleways in the Yorkshire Dales and although I’m pretty sure the hills will kill me, I can’t wait.

The Dales might well be the death of me.

In the meantime, the fact that my bike is missing a pair of wheels and an engine doesn’t mean my blog will take a change in direction and I will stop talking about Motorsport. Far from it. There’s still lots of track action to be seen before the season is over and next up this weekend is the Britcar 24 hour race. A highlight of my year and I am looking forward to it. Maybe I will see some of you there.


Hero, Legend & Inspiration?

A couple of weeks ago, the British Touring  Car Championship headed north of the border for its annual trip to Scotland and the Knockhill circuit. Again it was a weekend of high drama and yet again one man in particular was right in the centre of it all.

Plato: the centre of controversy at Knockhill

I initially decided not to write about this particular incident, which saw Aron Smith make contact with Jason Plato sending the latter off into the gravel and out of the race. Previous blogs expressing my opinions of Jason Plato and his attitude and behaviour have generally been met with agreement. However some fans of the outspoken racing driver, who’s lead has clearly been followed by those who support him and have decided to be very critical of my own opinions. Some been quite personal but many claiming I know nothing about what I am saying. Somewhat Ironic in many cases.

So you can imagine my delight in a saviour in an unexpected form. There were so many things I wanted to say about Jason Plato and his attitude, behaviour, driving and his somewhat scathing and hugely hypocritical comments live on TV. One man saved me the trouble of writing down my views, as he had already done so. This man? The Boss of Motorbase Performance Dave Bartrum. A BTCC race winning team and also a British GT winning team too. So this Man cannot be accused of not knowing what he is talking about.

Dave had written a blog about the weekend at Knockhill which included a large section about Jason Plato which went like this:

“The only sour note of the weekend was Jason Plato’s reaction to the incident with Aron. I realise he will see it his way and we will see it ours, that’s natural. I was disappointed in the penalty which TOCA gave us because we’ve been on the receiving end of nearly identical incidents with Aron & Rob Austin in round 1, TOCA verdict – Racing incident, Liam & Lea Wood at Croft, TOCA verdict – Racing incident. Someone does it to Plato, TOCA verdict – 3 points & a £500 fine. Is it because its Plato? Maybe, who knows? With that in mind when we heard that 888 & Plato had appealed we were surprised, turns out Jason wanted more! He even suggested that Aron had a job to do on him! What can you say to this? Paranoid maybe?

Aron Smith’s contact with Plato was no worse than that Plato has dished out himslef.

Jason is supposed to represent British Motorsport, in two roles even beyond his role in the BTCC with MG & 888. He is the face of the KX young driver programme mentoring young aspiring drivers & has a major role at the BRDC as a Director. Yet despite all of this he remains the most outspoken, shouting his mouth of to anyone who will listen about how badly everyone else drives! Sorry, am I missing something? Is this the same Jason Plato who rammed Matt Neal off in a fit of rage/revenge at Snetterton, the same Jason Plato who rammed Gordon Shedden of at the last corner of Donington after pushing him along the back straight whilst Gordon tried to brake, and the same Jason Plato who simply disposed of Dave Newsham disgracefully at the first race of the season? And that’s just this year. He has been one incident away from a 3 month ban for a little while due to his own indiscretions on track in the last 12 months. Pot and kettle spring to mind!

He suggested Aron doesn’t deserve a race licence. Quite frankly, he is the man who needs banning from the championship. Why TOCA didn’t give him points for his revenge mission at Snetterton on Matt Neal is anybodies guess! Probably because he has so many points already. MG & his sponsors should think twice before renewing his contract if he continues to behave like this. He makes damning statements that other teams and drivers are merely ‘playing at this’ and we’re just ‘pretenders’ unlike the paid professional drivers. At most, if this was the case there would be a 3 car grid, this is modern day Motorsport. I amongst other would love to have the budgets of yesteryear and be able to pick two fully paid drivers like Andy Neate & Jason Plato as 888 have been able to this year!

Pot & Kettle. Plato has been guilty on a number of occasions this year of putting people in the gravel.

How he keeps a job with the BRDC is beyond me. He is a Director in the most influential club in British Motorsport, he is in a role which people need to respect him and look upon his as someone who sets an example of how a race driver conducts himself both on and off the circuit. In my opinion he does neither! It’s a joke that they have someone with such low regard for fellow competitors and young drivers in such a position. It’s hypocritical. There is a new young driver programme which he is fronting. He then accuses Aron of being ‘a pretender’ because he pays for his drive. Will that be the same for all the drivers under his management who are paying for their drive? I doubt it, I’m sure he will change his mind then! Quite frankly no driver having been mentored by him would be welcome in a race car of mine.

All of that said I do respect his driving ability, he is clearly very talented. He also puts on a great show for the public, who seemingly love a bad boy. Maybe we’re just another part of his show this week. I just think if he kept his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself the world would be better for it. I can only assume, and half understand that Aron is on the receiving end of his passion from the reality that Jason’s Championship received a massive dent at the weekend due to him making a mistake of his own by drifting over into Aron, giving Aron very few options. Jason made the uncharacteristic error in which he lost out, something he doesn’t do very often. I think most drivers would have driven exactly how Aron did, and the others probably would have ended up in the gravel themselves!”

Not only do Motorbase have a three car BTCC team, but also two Porsche’s in the British GT. So Dave knows a thing or two about Motorsport.

This is worryingly almost exactly what I wanted to say on the matter and many will know I have been saying similar for a long time, but only this time, hopefully, I won’t get abuse from certain people so thanks Dave.

Now even the most hardcore Jason Plato fans must take on board some of these comments and surely see Dave has a very good point. I am however, not criticising people for wanting to be a fan of Mr Plato though. I have said it before and say it yet again. The guy has great driving ability there is no argument there. But is he really a role model to those who do support him? Especially the younger generation. Is the do as I say not as I do attitude setting a good example? Is the constant moaning and criticising of the rules and others inspirational for others? Lots of Plato fans say he is a hero and legend. But is this really the way a hero should conduct himself?

Is Plato’s ‘Revenge’ Attack on Matt Neal the actions of a hero?

Two words I have just used are thrown about far too much in describing sports stars and mostly unnecessarily. Hero and Legend. I’m going to stick my neck out on the line here and risk further abuse by saying Plato is neither of these. Good yes. But not hero or legend. Why? I’ll tell you why.

A Hero or Legend is not just someone who reaches the very top of their discipline, but someone who inspires others. Someone who sets a good example to others, overcomes adversity, conducts themselves well and shows a good, positive attitude and strives to achieve. But most of all, someone others can look up to. A role model who people want to emulate. After the Summer of Olympic and Paralympic games, it is clear there are many that put the MG BTCC racing driver in the shade.

Zanardi: A geniune Hero

For motorsport fans though, If you want a real Hero, Legend and Inspiration, look no further than Alessandro ‘Alex’ Zanardi. The Italian ex Formula one driver suffered a horrific crash in 2001 in the Champ car series and subsequently lost his legs. Whilst many of us, faced with this for the rest of our lives would wallow in self pity and hate the life that you now face. Alex didn’t. He continued do race for a few years after his legs were amputated, but he had his heart set on one goal. The Paralympics.

Without moaning, complaining or criticising, Alex set out to achieve this goal. Training hard in the face of adversity, all this hard work came to fruition last week. The road cycling took place at Brands Hatch, somewhat poignant in this incredible story and Alex Zanardi was there to represent Italy in the hand cycling with his unique three wheeled bicycle which was no doubt designed with the help of some of his friends within formula one. The British crowd were there in their thousands to cheer and support the participants with many motorsport fans there to support Zanardi.

All the hard work and determination came to fruition for the Italian which saw him take two Gold medals and a Silver. The delight within the motorsport fraternity was clear to see. This man’s incredible journey in the face of adversity had come good and he had reached the very peak. This man is a genuine Hero. A true Legend. And an Inspiration to all.

Dave Bartrum’s full blog can be read here.


The Best £25 I’ve Ever Spent

A couple of weeks ago I returned home from a pretty crappy day at work. It was my 30th Birthday and I was feeling pretty depressed about it. Whilst sitting at my computer I decided to check the London 2012 website to see if I could get any Paralympic tickets. I was pretty keen to try and see something after the incredible Olymipic Games Team GB just had and if anything the Paralypians are achieving something far greater.

The Olympic Stadium is quite magnificent.

After an hour or so on the website I had secured myself two tickets. One for the mornings Athletics session on Saturday the 1st in the Olympic Stadium and one for the Men’s Wheelchair Basketball that evening at the North Greenwich Arena. A total cost of £25 for the two tickets. I was pretty pleased with this and was really looking forward to seeing both and cheering on the Paralympic GB team.

The day came and I had arrived at the Olympic park just before the gates opened. It was advised to get there about two and a half hours before the event you were going to see due to the security checks and allow for delays. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long and the queues weren’t big at 7.30 in the morning. It didn’t take long to get through the security and I was soon in the park. It was pretty impressive. The Stadium looked fantastic, people were smiling, happy and excitited in anticipation. Including myself.

The Athletics wasn’t due to start until 10am so I had some time to kill. I wandered around a bit and went and looked around the megastore. At 9 o’clock I headed to the Stadium. I wasn’t sure how good my seat would be and what the view would be like as it had only cost me a tenner. I was pleasantly surprised. The View was good. I wasn’t right at the back and I was about two thirds of the way round the final bend. I could see everything which was just as well as there was shot put, discus, club throw and long jump to watch as well a range of Track events.

I was impressed with the view from my seat.

It was soon time for the action to start and the stadium had slowly been filling but was now full and the atmosphere was electric. I didn’t take my Camera with me but had taken a pocket compact camera to travel light and just get a few snaps. I wanted to take in the event rather than keep trying to get good photos. With all the field events taking place and the track events starting time seemed to pass pretty fast and I was really enjoying it. The crowd really got behind the athletes and like me, must have been pretty impressed with what these people could do and what they were achieving.

One of the main events of the Morning was the Men’s 200m T42 final. This feature Great Britain’s Richard Whitehead, a double leg amputee. He received a great reception from the crowd before the start and was tipped to do well. The gun went and the race was off, these guys were quick considering the severity of their disabilities. At the end of the first 100m Whitehead was at the back, as the crowd roared him on. What I witnessed over the last 100m was just incredible. All of a sudden Whitehead seemed to switch on the afterburners. He passed everyone and crossed the line in first place setting a new world record in the process. The Stadium erupted! He’d done it. A Gold for Great Britain. I’m sure it was impressive seeing Usain Bolt win his 100m & 200m gold medals, but you know what, that is nothing when you consider Richard Whitehead has no legs!

Richard Whitehead, Lane 5, starts his run to Olympic glory.

Other highlights during the session were three bronze medals for Great Britain. Gemma Prescott in the Women’s Club Throw, Robin Womack in the Shot Put and Claire Williams in the Discus. All receiving rapturous applause from the crowd. As the session drew to the and end there was still the Men’s 1500m T46 heats. The first of which was to provide a truly magical moment that summed up the whole spirit of the games.

As the first heat got under way it was clear there was one runner who wasn’t going to be challenging for a win. In fact Houssein Omar Hassan from Djibouti was lapped by the field before he had even completed 400m.  He was to be lapped again before the rest of the field had finished, but he carried on. This determination didn’t go unnoticed. Every time Hassan came past, the crown stood up and gave him a standing ovation along with cheers and shouts of encouragement. It was heart warming to  see the support he was getting and no doubt spurring him on. Seven and a half minutes after the winner had crossed the line, Hassan made the finish and the Stadium erupted and the noise was deafening. Cheering and applauding the fighter who stuck at it to complete the race. It really was a magical moment.

Robin Womack won Bronze in the Shotput.

As the session closed, I headed off to get something to eat and look around the park a bit. I had some time to kill before heading to the North Greenwich area for the Basketball. Wandering around the park I came across two of the men’s sitting volleyball team from Rwanda. People had approached them asking for Autographs, me included. They seemed pretty overcome and confused as to why people were asking for Autographs and photos but were happy to oblige. Like all the Athletes in the Paralympics, there were amazing people and it was nice to see them being treated like the sports stars they should be. I went and took up a place in front of the big screen to watch some action from the Veledrome and see Sarah Storey claim another gold in the 500m time trial. Everyone was happy and friendly, even the volunteers and stewards.

I arrived at the North Greenwich arena soon after 5pm and the doors opened at 5.30pm. Getting there early meant I managed to get a good seat to view the impending action. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive basketball fan but I had seen some of the wheelchair basketball on the TV and was Impressed. However I was unprepared for what was ahead.

I crowed filled in gradually filling the area as the teams warmed up. I was impressed to see them casually throwing the ball through the hoop with ease. It’s pretty hard to do standing up, but these guys were sitting down! The first game was Great Britain versus Columbia. Naturally the GB team received great support from the expectant crowd.

Great Britain were in impressive form beating Colombia.

As the game started I was just in awe. The way the players moved around the court at speed, changing direction, blocking and finding space was just incredible. Some of the blocking was quite aggressive and often players would tip over in their wheel chairs, but the majority were able to flip themselves back upright and carry on. Those who couldn’t often got help from not only their own team, but also the opposition showing great sportsmanship. But when it came to scoring, what can I say? It was just incredible. Players found space in crowded areas and often scored with what looked like consummate ease. Even three pointers were going in more often than not. This was truly amazing and GB put on a great show beating Colombia 81 points to 41.

The second game was Canada v Poland and was a bit closer than the first game. It was hugely exciting and I was hooked. I loved every minute of it whilst in full appreciation of what these incredible athletes could and were doing. Canada were victorious 83 to 65. Sadly the time flew by and I was disappointed the day was over. As I headed home I had time to reflect on what I had experienced.

The Wheelchair Basketball had left me hooked and in awe of these incredible people.

I like many others had become a bit pessimistic about the whole Olympics in the run up to the event, but again like many had got hooked after Team GB’s achievements a few weeks ago. I was desperate to go and see the Paralympics and was thrilled to have been able to experience it. These Athletes achievements are more incredible than those a few weeks earlier overcoming various disadvantages to compete at a high level. All really happy to be there, without complaints or moans and smiling throughout. Professional sports stars who get paid thousands of pounds a week could learn a lot from these incredible people. But it wasn’t just the Athletes that made the games great. All of the Volunteers and organisers had done an amazing job. All of them were happy and friendly, helpful and talkative. Even those with the megaphones had a great sense of humour and entertained the crowds. The whole organisation was fantastic. I never came across and problems and it helped make the whole experience even better. It was a day I will never forget and proud to have been there to witness some of the great sporting moments I did.

It really was the best £25 I had ever spent.


A Fantastic WEC-End

After three weekends in a row at Snetterton, my next three race weekends were going to be at Silverstone. Although rather than three back to back it will be three in five weekends. The first of these weekends was to be the World Endurance Championship. As an Endurance racing fan it was going to be a great weekend and would go some way to making up for the fact I didn’t go to Le Mans this year.

I had never photographed Le Mans Prototype cars before, not as accredited media anyway and there were a lot of rules to adhere to. A photographers briefing was held on the Saturday morning and all photographers had to attend in order to be allowed a photographers bib. This wasn’t a bad thing as it provides as a reminder as just how dangerous being trackside can be. Also, to be allowed in the pit lane you needed fireproofs overalls, a helmet and a special Pit Lane bib. These bibs were limited and thankfully a managed to reserve one for the Saturday Practice session and the middle two hours of the six hour race.

Cars were preparing to head out for Saturday Practice when I arrived in the Pit Lane.

The practice session was to be the first session I would be shooting, so I donned the overalls I had borrowed got my gear sorted and headed down to the pit lane. Rocking the bicycle helmet look, I stepped out of the garages into the pit lane as the cars, teams and drivers were preparing to head out.  Mechanics rushed about, drivers were getting strapped in and engines roared into life. For a second or two I had almost forgotten why I was there as I soaked up the atmosphere. The cars were beautiful, the noise was music to a petrol heads hears and the surroundings were great. Ok, so I wasn’t at the Circuit de la Sarthe, but it was good enough.

During the session I busied myself taking photos, walking up and down the pit lane, looking for which teams were preparing for a stop so I knew which cars were coming in and I knew where to head for to get photos. The time flew by and the session drew to a close. The Audi Garage had drew a lot of attention and as the Number 2 car had been pushed back into the garage, the Number 1 car had come in. The team used this time to practice driver changes. I used this time to get photos of the Le Mans winning car and drivers in the form of Benoit Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer as they leapt in and out of the magnificent R18 e-tron Quattro whilst mechanics glided around removing tyres and replacing them effortlessly as Leena Gade, the number 1 cars race engineer, manned the stop watch. After half a dozen or so pit stop practices the car was wheeled away and the rain started to fall. I took this a cue to head back to the media room to see what I had managed to capture.

German Efficiency: The Audi Pit Stops were perfect.

James could tell by the grin on my face as I got back to my laptop that I had been enjoying myself and I was. I couldn’t wait to head out trackside for the qualifying session later that afternoon. Thankfully by then the rain had stopped and the track was drying. I headed out to the Village Loop to capture the two short qualifying sessions. One for the LMGTE classes and one for the LMP classes. With the GT classes qualified the LMP cars headed out. On their first flying lap it was instantly obvious just how fast they were. They stuck like glue to the track through Abbey and Farm Curve looking aggressive yet graceful. As the session ended I couldn’t wait for the race on Sunday.

The LMP cars were incredibly quick through Abbey and Farm Curve.

The cars were spectacular

The day wasn’t over yet though. With no more sessions to photograph, whilst in the media room, an invite for all media to join the Strakka team for Pimms and Scones in their garage and 6pm was handed out. Also, soon after, another invite came. This time from JRM for drinks, food and the opportunity to chat to the team and drivers in their hospitality unit. Not one to pass up the offer of free food and drink, I, along with some other media friends headed down to the Strakka garage to take up their kind offer. They were very welcoming and were more than keen for us to drink plenty of Pimms. The JRM team were also very welcoming as were their drivers, Karun Chandhok, David Brabham & Peter Dumbreck. Happy to chat and answer questions it was a great experience and a fine end to the day.

Sunday started early with a 20 minute warm up session. It gave me an opportunity to get a few more shots before the main race. It also meant I experienced the superb photographers shuttle service. A few minibuses were laid on for photographers to get around the circuit and whilst onboard I was given the phone number of the driver and told to call when I needed a lift somewhere and he would get someone to come and pick me up. After the warm up session I used the number and sure enough, within 2 minutes a minibus arrived to pick me up and take me back to the media centre.

Etienne Stott and his Gold Medal

The morning soon passed and the cars and teams began to form up on the grid. It was time to head out, beginning with some time on the grid. Whilst taking some photos of the cars and teams during their preparations, I came across Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, The British Canoe Slalom Olympic Gold Medallists. Tim was posing for photos with some girls and seemed to be enjoying the attention. I began to wish I had a Team GB tracksuit, but I had caught Etienne’s eye and I asked if I could take a photo. He was more than happy to oblige and posed with his gold medal. He was very pleasant and I was somewhat in awe of what who I had just met. The weekend was getting better and better.

As the grid cleared I headed out trackside. I took up my position at the loop to shoot the start whilst listening to the commentary from Radio Le Mans. John Hindhaugh was doing a great job of building the start up and you could feel the tension in the crowd build. The safety car peeled off and the six hours of Silverstone was underway.

I spent some time shooting the race around Village and the Loop section of the track before jumping on a minibus to get around to Luffield. Time was passing quickly but I was trying to get in as many different areas as possible. As the end of the second hour drew near it was time to get back to collect my pit lane bib for my two hour time slot. A quick call later and I was soon getting back into the overalls and putting on my helmet. The Pit lane was pretty busy and I needed to keep my wits about me. I couldn’t get in the way of any of the teams and risk ruining their slick pit stops so I had to be alert, especially as the Hybrid cars were eerily quiet whilst coming in and exiting the pits.

The Toyota Hybrid was eerily quiet in the pit lane.

Before I knew it, my time in the pit lane was up so I handed back my bib, got changed and headed back out to trackside. There was something quite comforting about listening to John Hindhaugh’s dulcet Geordie tones and the rest of the Radio Le Mans team as I shot these incredible machines. The weather had stayed dry and by now was quite warm. Despite some difficult times of late, I was feeling quite content. I was beginning to wish it was a 24hr race not just 6 hours.

I had got round to the final corner to capture the Chequered Flag which I did, but not exactly how I had hoped. I guess it’s up to the drivers themselves where they place the car on the track not the photographers envisaging the shot they want. Thankfully I was in the right place to cross the track and get to the end of the pit lane for the podium.  I took up a spot on the tyre barrier next to two young boys waving flags and cheering for their dad, who just happened to be Alan McNish. The area was packed with teams, crew, VIP’s and photographers as the trophies were handed out and champagne was sprayed.

The podium celebrations bought a brilliant weekend to a close.

The end of the weekend had made its appearance and as I was packing up my gear I had a chance to let it all sink in. It had been a superb race and an incredible weekend which I had thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes my life isn’t too bad.

For race reports and news from the weekend, check out The Checkered Flag website. Images from the weekend can be seen on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page, and prints of the photos can be purchased from the Motorsport Galleries page on my website http://www.chrisgurtonphotography.com


Inspirational

This Sunday saw the closing ceremony of the 2012 London 2012 Olympics. I stayed up to watch despite needing to be up early the next morning. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. It was truly fantastic and the Athletes who treated us to some amazing moments over the previous 16 days looked to be having a great time and rightly so. The Olympics had been a huge success.

London had transformed Iconic landmarks into sporting venues during the Olympics. (Image:London 2012)

Now turn the clocks back a year or so when the Olympic tickets went on sale, I was really excited. I wanted to get a ticket for something. I wanted to see the greatest sporting event in the world. I wanted to be a part of history. I selected a number of events I wanted to see. Hoping I would be chosen for at least something. I wasn’t. Stories came through about people who got loads of tickets, MP’s and the such being given tickets yet I couldn’t get a single ticket for anything. I only live about 50 miles from the Olympic Stadium. Was one ticket too much to ask for? I was gutted. I was angry about the whole ticketing process and I had lost all interest and excitement in the Olympics.

Even when the Torch relay began I was still fed up with it all. It was all we had been hearing about for months and I still hadn’t managed to get a ticket for anything. Although it was nice to see worthy people running with the flame, people who had done a lot for charity and their community, I did get cross that minor celebrities got the chance to run with it to for no apparent reason. Remember Will.I.Am running with it in Taunton? Why? What had he done to deserve that opportunity? He didn’t even have any connection with the place and couldn’t even spell it!

But one image changed the way I thought.

Day 39 of the Torch Relay and the flame was in Doncaster. The crowds had packed the streets to see one person carry the flame. Not a celebrity, in fact a relative unknown. 27 year old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson. Ben was the most severely wounded soldier to survive in Afghanistan and had lost both his legs. With the help of his family it took him neatly 30 minutes to cover the 300 meters whilst the thousands of onlookers cheered and spurred him on calling his name. It was heart warming stuff and made even the most cynical person such as myself feel rather emotional.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson provided one of the most memorable Torch Relay moments. (Image:London 2012)

Maybe this whole farce and waste of government money was a little less of a joke after all.

The days counted down and before long the opening ceremony was upon us. I decided to give the Olympics a chance. Still frustrated at my lack of ticket I watched the opening ceremony with some cynicism. That didn’t last. Before long I was captivated by what was happening. The ceremony was spectacular. It had turned my mood and thoughts completely. I was now really looking forward to the games to begin.

The coverage provided by the BBC was superb. Hours and hours of TV showing every event. Extra channels put on and live internet streaming. Even the commentary on Radio 5, 5 live sports extra and Olympics extra that I was listening to at work was brilliant. The days passed and incredibly the medals for Team GB were racking up. Iconic and heart warming images and stories from the games being beamed around the world. Social media was buzzing and it seemed not just me but a whole nation was captivated. Cheering on the team in every event from Swimming and Rowing to Judo and Volleyball. Crying at images of Victoria Pendleton final goodbye and Chris Hoy’s amazing sixth gold medal.

Team GB domiated the Cycling events winning 7 out of a possible 10 gold medals in the Velodrome (Image:London 2012)

It seemed as the Olympics went on and the incredible medal tally rose, so did the spirit the nation. Everyone was being treated to coverage of sports they had never seen before and introduced to new exciting events. How many people were captivated by the Dressage? How many people were cheering womens boxing? And how many want to give Handball a go? I had soon forgotten about the anger I had felt about not getting a ticket and was backing Great Britain and feeling not just proud of the athletes who have trained so hard to achieve the sporting greatness we were witnessing, but feeling proud to be British and of a nation that was really putting on the greatest show on earth. Despite all the negativity that surrounded the games in the run up, Britain really pulled it out of the bag. I was in awe of it all even with a little sadness that I couldn’t have been at witnessed this great event in person and soaked up the atmosphere.

Thanks to the Olympics Handball has generated huge interest. (Image:London 2012)

As the games end, we are given montages of the memorable moments. The highs and the lows, the tears and the joy, the euphoria and the heartbreak. You can’t help be moved by some of the images but most of all, you can’t help but be inspired by what you have witnessed.  The games may be over but the work needs to continue. Sports clubs around the country need to take advantage of the nations desire to get involved in sport. Encourage people to take part, provide opportunities to all those wanting to get a taste of it, and most of all the government need to help out. Even if you don’t think you are able to participate in any of the sports, just helping out and volunteering at a local sports club will make a huge difference to many. The British Team exceeded all expectations over the last two weeks, who’s to say with more people wanting to get involved in sport, they can’t achieve even more in four years time? Let’s hope the much hyped Olympic Legacy is here to stay and not just a flash in the pan.

Some Olympic arena’s will open to the public to enable them to take part in sports such as Canoeing at Lee Valley (Image:London 2012)

As for me? I have been inspired too. The success of the Cycling team has left me wanting to get out on my bike more often. I used to go out cycling a lot, but recently I’ve had less and less time. I need to make time though and get back out there. I know it is highly unlikely I will ever make Olympic standard and by the time Rio starts, I think 33 years old would be pushing it a bit, but one thing is for certain, I would love to be able to photograph the next Olympics and maybe I could capture some images like the once we have seen recently that have helped inspire a nation.

Thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic games has been a fantastic event that has made the world take notice and for turning me from a grumpy cynic to a proud Brit. From the Volunteers and the organisers to the Athletes themselves, Thank you all. I’ve cheered, I’ve yelled, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve shed a tear or two and I’ve loved every minute of it. I never thought I would be saying that a few months ago. Britain really is Great after all. Bring on the Paralympics!

The Olympic Games has bought a nation closer together. (Image:London 2012)


Jumping Ponies & Prancing Horses

Its been a busy few weeks for me and my blog has been neglected somewhat of late and the distraction of the Olympics hasn’t helped so I thought it would be time for a bit of a catch up before I head to Snetterton this weekend for the British Touring Car Championship.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking photos for the local Pony Club Junior and Intermediate camps. Not quite the fast paced adrenaline fuelled action I see trackside but it is still good fun. The weather was good for both weeks, and I’m always treated well there by the organisers. Despite the hard work it is always worth it and I do enjoy covering the Camps. I don’t get to photograph equestrian events as much as I used to and I do miss it at times so it’s always nice to go back to where my sports photography all began.

It was nice to go back to a bit of Equestrian Photography

The weekend just passed It was back to the track and the first weekend of three in a row at Snetterton. The British GT & F3 Championships headed to the Norfolk circuit and I was there to photograph my favourite UK championship. Initial weather forecasts were promising, but those who have been to Snetterton will know how unpredictable the weather can be there. The place seems to have its own micro climate and the best option is to pack for all conditions.

This was definitely the case as despite the dry relatively sunny conditions all morning, black clouds gathered during second practice for the GT’s and when a red flag was put out for an off from Ollie Milroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, the heavens took this cue to open. Thankfully I could see this and the thunder and lightning coming and as soon as the red flag made an appearance I made a bee line for the safety of the media centre. Within minutes the down pour had flooded the circuit and the pit lane. The GT cars were not going to head out in those conditions and the session finished. Subsequent race and qualifying sessions were to be delayed until after the rain stopped so areas of standing water on the track could be pumped away.

Black clouds gathered during second practice on Saturday. The McLaren was to go on to take race one victory.

The rain delay meant the GT qualifying, due last on the timetable had to be dropped. Grid positions for both 1 hour races were to be decided by the 2 practice session times. This played into the hands of the Trackspeed Porsches as it was pole in race one for the 31 car and pole in race two for the 33 car.

Sunday was to be a new day but the unpredictable weather returned. Heavy rain returned and disrupted the rescheduled timetable meaning the second Ginetta Challenge race of the day had to be dropped to avoid breaking the curfew. It also meant the F3 cars had to take on the elements but Both GT races avoided the wet and had two dry races. The new McLaren MP4-12C of United Autosports Charles Bateman and Matt Bell took a debut win for the car in the championships meaning it was a remarkable seven different winners from the seven races so far in the season. It looked to be a possible eight different winners from eight races in race two as after the pit stops the Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey led comfortable but a fuel pressure problem meant they dropped back to second place leaving team mates Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy to take their second win of the season.  For full race reports, visit the Checkered Flag website here.

The third F3 race of the day was battled out in wet conditions

Lamborghini: A welcome adition to the GT field

With just two points separating the top five drivers in the championship, it is all up for grabs over the remaining two rounds at Silverstone and Donington Park and it looks set to go right down to the wire. Despite Lotus not making an appearance in GT4 at their home circuit and the Jones Brothers Mercedes also absent an addition to the field was the Rhino’s Leipert  Motorsport Lamborghini LP600 of Hari Prozcyk and Marco Attard. It was a welcome addition and even with the absentee’s 12 different manufacturers were represented on the grid with the possibility of this increasing to 14 for the next round. As you can see that is a pretty impressive field and one of the reasons British GT is so great.

So next for me is the British Touring Car Championship back in Norfolk after their long summer break. I haven’t photographed the Touring cars for some time due to calendar clashes and it seems like a long time since I last shot them at Donington. I really hope the weather stays dry and I’m sure the thousands of fans who I know will be heading there will be hoping the same.

Photos from the F3 and GT Races and sessions can be seen on my Facebook page.