Thursday, October 27, 2005

T#1: A tale of two race meetings.

Originally posted AOL Hometown: InfinityReversed.
20 October, 2005, 22:56:46 BST

T#1: A tale of two race meetings.

Ok, so I admit, I don’t do this very often. Visit a race circuit I mean. But this is a year for new beginnings and all that, so forgive me if I need to get up to speed on a couple of things. I guess it’s also a bit problematic that it’s the end of the season for the majority of British motorsport, but I’ll be going loads more next year, and have caught a couple of final round events – which is what I’m getting around to telling you about.

Both the meetings took place at Silverstone, the local circuit for the Coventry University Automotive Journalism course given that it’s only about an hour away. But that’s their biggest similarity, as one was the British F3/GT Championship package on the 8th and 9th October, and the other was the Historic Sports Car Club (HSCC) Championship Finals on the 15th October. So that’s one whole weekend – though I was only there on the Sunday – devoted to current spec Formula 3 cars and GT racers, with their associated support comps, and a single Saturday’s worth of historics, featuring Jaguar XKs, 70s saloons, and similar vintage racing machinery.

First off I’d better point out that I enjoyed both events. You get great value for money given the price of the ticket, and a really full day’s worth of entertainment – especially if you turn up first thing like we did. Our £15 F3/GT spend got us 11 races including the hour long GT round, a warm-up and a qualifying, while handing over a tenner for the HSCC Finals saw nine sets of qualifying and nine races. Access to the paddock was no problem in either case, meaning not only that you can get up close to the machinery – and there were spectacular cars at both meetings, some, like the Trident Iceni bio-diesel super car, not even racing – but also that you can talk to the drivers and team personnel. This invited such incisive questions as, What is it?! and, Are those two Alfas that nearly took each other out part of the same team, then? To which we received nothing but polite and generally very enthusiastic replies. I suppose it may have helped that we introduced ourselves as automotive journalism students and were waving a microphone about but I kind of doubt it – it seemed that everyone was happy to speak to anyone, more than willing to disseminate their fervour.

That said, there are differences between the events that bear indication. I suppose it depends what you’re looking for when you attend one of these things – whether it’s the racing that counts, or the thrill of feeling like you’re at the pointy edge of progress. I don’t mean to be disparaging of the F3/GT event, but the headline races especially weren’t actually that exciting to watch – Charlie Kimball dominated the F3 race in his Carlin Motorsport car, while the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 360 GTC shared by Nathan Kinch and Andrew Kirkaldy completely destroyed the rest of the GT field. The interest here is in seeing rising stars: F3 drivers such as Kimball, and Bruno Senna (if you want to name drop), and GT racer Phil Keen, who ran a Mosler MT900R very impressively for Eclipse Motorsport until the end of his stint. Then there’s the technological attack on the circuit that the cars represent – the up-shift coming out of Woodcote corner onto the pit straight in Kinch and Kirkaldy’s Fezza, for example, was just brutal. The trouble is that they seem so much like tools, and, given the ambitions of many of the drivers, I suppose that’s what they are.

That’s the biggest contrast. Where the cars are weapons in current race series, in the historic stuff they’re more like motive sculpture – which is not to say they ain’t driven hard. I saw classic Minis with all four wheels off the ground, Jaguar XKs travelling at a velocity I would never have credited – especially the XK120s piloted by Graeme Dodd and John Chisholm – and more oil smoke from some of the competitors than can possibly have been good for them. Many of the cars are even driven to the circuit before racing (although at least two arrived on a period transporter that was work of art in its own right). The grids were huge, covering several classes, and extremely varied – Morgan Plus 8 verses Porsche 928 (in Gulf colours!) anyone? Though curiously the modern equivalent of that played out in the GT racing, too – and because the cars are older they move around rather a lot more. Admittedly this didn’t stop the chap in the Trans-Am from driving around with his arm resting on the window ledge, but he was a bit of an exception. This variety and age combination made for close racing throughout the field – prize battle honours going to father and son duo Charles and Julian Barter who fought over second place all through the 70s Road Sports race (junior’s TVR 3000M eventually relegating dad’s Datsun 240Z into third). I guess I just loved the cars and the racing – I enjoyed the historics better.

It’s worth pointing out that it was cheaper, too. And there was hardly anyone there (that’s a little unfair: quite a few people turned up, but the place was hardly burger-van friendly). Certainly fewer than the F3 and GT cars attracted. I find this somewhat confusing. Admittedly there is this kick you get from seeing the next generation of racing driver at close proximity (I’m thinking of Phil Keen here particularly; I reckon the guy’s got a bright future) but the historic cars were just more fun. It’s difficult to imagine what such series are going to be like in the future, as I can’t think of many modern cars that could be run in quite the same way – but perhaps I need to look into it more, perhaps I’m wrong.

Still, I’ll make the most of it all while I can. GTs, F3, historics, drifting, whatever – 2006 season here I come.



Blogger J Barter said...

Great article and I agree with you entirely! Perhaps I'll take you out in one of these old cars and show how difficult it is to drive with no down force and rear drum brkaes that melt after the first two laps! Regards, Julian Barter (TVR 3000M)

3:56 pm  
Blogger InfinityReversed said...

Julian - brilliant!

Thanks for your comment. If you're halfway serious, I'll bite your arm off to get a ride in that car!

All the best!

6:48 pm  
Blogger J Barter said...

No problem. Give me a shout.
PS Had a first at Snetterton last week!

9:31 pm  

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