AMOC Racing, Oulton Park, 12 May 2018

The Aston Martin Owners Club 2018 racing season kicked off at Oulton Park in grand style.
It was incredibly busy, probably due to the fact this meeting was held during a VW weekend. However, all these Volkswagen fans certainly seemed to enjoy what was going on on track! Throughout the day I saw many people settled in front of their VW vans or somewhere on the grass near the track watching the races.
An additional bonus for the Aston Martin fans was that there was quite a bit more off track entertainment, market stalls and food/drink stalls. And of course the atmosphere was even better than usual.


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This time I was lucky to have a media pass, which meant I could go into the ‘danger zone’ between the armco and the mesh fence. If, as a spectator, you do not already appreciate the work the marshals do, you certainly will if you ever make it to their area. They were very helpful and explained the rules to me, but I did also see them glance in my direction every now and then. I can imagine they don’t really need the additional work of baby sitting media people, but they are there to ensure everything goes smoothly and safely.
One downside to being allowed pretty much anywhere is that I went where I couldn’t hear the commentators. So, unfortunately, I had to miss information on who was in what position or what happened to a car that I couldn’t see coming around again, for example.

This time there was no pre-war race, which I thought was a pity. However, a new race – two, in fact – was the Welsh Sports & Saloon Car Championship. The grid is quite a mix of cars, but it’s great fun to watch.


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My favourite car, the Aston Martin DB4 Lightweight, was once again present. That car always puts a smile on my face, simply because it is stunning.
The other DB4 was also a very welcome sight, but I think my favourite surprise was the 1952 DB2 which raced in both the Equipe Pre ’63 and the Jack Fairman Cup (inc. the JEC XK & Hawthorn Challenges). As you can see by the name, they do tend to put a few races together. This results in rather large grids which of course creates more interesting racing. I mean, how many cars can fit through the first corner at the same time? Even when the cars start stretching their wheels and the grid spreads out there isn’t a very long time that you don’t have anything to watch on track. In fact, with the visibility at Oulton Park being quite good, you can probably always find a car to watch.


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During lunch there was a track parade. It was a little bit disappointing to see they only got two laps and I do hope this was not due to the fact there were not as many cars in the parade as I have seen at other race meetings. Thankfully some of the drivers understand the attending petrolheads really well and held back every now and then, only to speed up and let the engine roar. If any of those drivers reads this: thank you. It was awesome.

In 2018 AMOC has five races planned. I’ve been attending only a few years now, but enjoy this so much I hope to be at every race this year. If you still haven’t been to one and you happen to love Astons, I suggest you go. Friendly atmosphere, great racing, great variety of cars on track, in the paddock and the parking areas and – most importantly – it is all about Aston Martin. What’s not to love?

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Driving, but not in a real car

On 2 February I drove an Aston Martin GT3 race car on the VLN set up on the Nürburgring.
The catch is that I never left the UK.

I went to Base Performance Simulators in Banbury to see for myself what driving in a simulator is like. And it’s a lot harder than you may expect.
When I called I simply requested an Aston Martin (what else?) on the Nordschleife. The reason for this is that, as you may know, I have done one lap of the Nordschleife in the Ringtaxi. At the time I felt I wouldn’t want to drive there myself, but – as it happens when time passes – I have change my mind and now would like to try. However, the Nordschleife is a notorious track and I am not confident enough to take it on at this moment in time. So when the opportunity arose to try a simulator session at Base Performance I took it with both hands.

When I got there I was introduced to my instructor/coach, Dave, who explained how the simulator worked. He also told me the simulator had been set up as a GT3 Aston as these are easier to drive than the GT4. I was thankful for that pretty soon!

It’s interesting to be told your feet are too small. I usually don’t have any issues with my size 6 feet, but apparently I would have a bit of an issue braking because my feet didn’t fully cover the pedal. Dave turned out to be 100% correct: I had to put more of an effort in than people with bigger feet and eventually resorted to moving my foot so I pressed on the brake pedal a bit higher. That certainly made it easier.

The first surprise came when the session started: having three screens made me seriously dizzy. Dave had to switch the two side screens off to make it even bearable. This meant that I lost my peripheral vision, which is not ideal when going through corners. It took me approximately one lap (which is rather large!) before I managed to deal with the vision. I have to admit it never did go normal, there was always a bit of an effect, but it didn’t hamper me…thankfully.

My second surprise was how heavy the steering wheel was. Even though the Aston has power steering the tyres would be big and have no profile (slicks, as these are called). I hadn’t taken that into account, of course. At then end of the session my arms were quite tired.

I am not particularly short (1.70m), but the position within the car is quite low. As a result I couldn’t see the track at all when going uphill. Very interesting, as you will not know what’s coming next…unless you know the track very well, and I don’t.
I also kept on crashing in the same corner. The reason being that I approached it while driving on the right side of the track and this was a righ hand turn. As a result I turned in too fast and too sharp and skidded nicely to my left into the armco. Oops!
Even though I couldn’t see the track until very shortly before this corner, I don’t want to use that as an excuse. After a few laps I knew it was coming and I made the same mistake every single time. I believe I managed to just stay clear of the armco, but was still on the grass. I need more practice.

All in all, it was a great experience and I am considering repeating it. One or two motion sickness pills should help with the nausea, so I can use all three screens. And I intend to do my homework and study the track before any future attempts.
I managed 4 laps and went from 12:29 to 10:40. My aim is not to drive one lap as fast as possible, but to get an idea on how to drive that track safely. Chances are therefore quite high that I will try another session so I can eventually move on to learning to drive there in a real car. Watch this space!

Track experience #5 – The best yet!

1 March 2016
Aston Martin unveiled the DB11 at the Geneva International Motor Show.
It was around lunch time and I was – quite illegally – watching it unfold at work on my mobile. For a very long time indeed the DB4 had been my favourite Aston Martin; my favourite car even, but now? I haven’t forgotten the DB4, but the DB11 stole my heart.

5 March 2016
My best friend and I went to Geneva to see the new Aston for ourselves. We ended up spending about 45 minutes at the stand across several visits that day. We marvelled at the engine which was on display (it’s big!), the car’s cut out model, showing the technology in the bodywork, and of course the DB11s on display.


The DB11 on the Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. stand at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2016.
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13 January 2018
It’s almost 2 years after the car was unveiled in Geneva and I’ve seen my fair share of DB11s – on the road, but also at the factory in Gaydon.
On this day, though, it is time to drive it!

My best friend and I drove 4 laps (approximately 6 miles) each in the car. This is the V12 version, so not the recently released V8 car. Of course there is nothing wrong with a V8, but I was very curious about the 5.2 litre V12 that AML built for the DB11. Apparently it can go from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. I think that makes it the fastest car I’ve driven so far.
I was not disappointed.

I already knew that when you’re inside the car it doesn’t feel very large at all, even though it is by no means a small car. Being an Aston Martin it’s obviously also not a particularly light car, despite the fact that the DB11 was created as light as possible. When you drive it however it feels like it weighs nothing. The moment you take your foot off the brake it starts rolling quite gently, but when you put your foot down it runs off with you. What a drive!


The Aston Martin DB11 at Prestwold.
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The Prestwold track is approximately 1.3 miles long, so the straight is not very long. Just before the straight there is a safe zone where you are allowed to go only between 40 and 50 mph. Thankfully the DB11 speeds up quite quickly, but the straight is not long enough to make it to 100 mph before the braking point – almost though.
Since I know the track quite well now I am certainly improving which allows me to enjoy the drive more. The shift paddles are not a novelty for me, so that is no longer a distraction either.

The DB9 I drove a while ago is of course a few years older than the DB11, but since they are both Aston Martins I feel it’s fairly safe to compare them. Like the DB9, the DB11 doesn’t dive down when you brake hard. Braking is very level and comfortable.
The DB11 did feel a lot faster, but also lighter than the DB9. If the interior didn’t very clearly look like Aston Martin you could be mistaken and feel it’s a much smaller car. Only when I had to park it did I realise this car has a very long nose. But even at slow speeds it handles really well and as light as a feather.

Overall the handling is very smooth, so you have to waste no brain capacity on driving. It is simply natural. It makes the drive the best I’ve had so far and I got out of the car with pain in my heart.
I’m guessing I will repeat this track experience. It was just too good not to.

The onboard video didn’t turn out perfect, so I have it in three parts. You can watch it here:
Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3

Last AMOC racing meeting of 2017

Perhaps it sounds a bit dramatic: ‘last’ AMOC racing meeting of 2017, but unfortunately it is true. I wish it wasn’t, because – as always – it was a wonderful event.
I’ve been to quite a few AMOC race meetings now (last year and this year) and I am never disappointed. Some races happen every time, but they also manage to come up with different combinations or add a different race. In this case, for example, the last race of the day was a 3 hour relay.
And, as before, there is much more on track than Aston Martins. So much to see!


This Aston Martin V8 Vantage has a very unusual colour, which came out even better when it was on track racing in the sunshine.
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It’s always a good idea to get to the track early for events like this.
Chances are it won’t be too busy, so if you’re early you have plenty of time and space to walk around the paddock and get a good look around.

Some of the race cars will be in their boxes, with others in tents or in the open air somewhere else in the paddock. Either way: race cars galore!
The cars entered in the AMOC Intermarque Championship, Aston Martin GT Challenge and Pre-War Team Challenge are by now well-known to me. Especially in the case of the pre-war cars I specifically seek them out. These are, as the name of the race suggests, all pre-1940s and without exception stunning. For this day there were 16 cars on the grid, because the pre-war race was combined with the St John Horsfall Memorial Trophy. The majority of cars were Aston Martins and Bentleys, but the others (Invicta, Talbot, Alta and Austin) are equally wonderful to watch.


The Pre-War Team Challenge & The St John Horsfall Memorial Trophy is like stepping back in time.
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Of course the attending AMOC members brought their cars and these were on display throughout the day. They also went on track during the track parade, which is always a wonderful sight. Many, many Aston Martins of all types and ages go around the track for a few laps. In most cars you can see smiling people (no one is in the car alone) and around the track the smiles are returned, especially when the engines are being revved, generating gorgeous sounds.
The track parade is during lunch time, so if you decide not to get a meal you can walk around the paddock again. However this time you can go into the boxes to see the race cars up close, or walk to the pit wall and view the parade from there. The atmosphere is relaxed throughout and the owners really don’t mind if you take photos of their cars during the break. I personally love going into garage after garage and see the cars up close. I tend to find my favourites first and then have a look at as many additional (for me sometimes new) cars.

The first race was before lunch, so after lunch I had to quickly make my way back to the grand stand to watch the remaining races.
This time the afternoon races were a bit eventful. During the Pre-War Team Challenge two cars were fighting a bit too hard for the same part of the track, resulting in a crash. It didn’t seem to serious. The drivers were out of the cars quite quickly and the cars were retrieved later. However it does make you think about the question: should a classic race car be in a museum or should it be raced?
On the one hand I believe they should be raced. It’s what they were built for. But when you see two come together the first thought is ‘they should put them in a museum’. It’s a question that will be answered differently by everyone and, if you’re like me, the answer may change depending on the situation.


The cars are lining up for the start of the track parade.
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Speaking of crashes, the AMOC Intermarque Championship/GT Challenge didn’t even finish one lap. On the first lap several cars came together, causing some serious damage on some who could not continue in the race, and this caused the red flag to come out. Even though these cars are considerably younger than the pre-war cars, it is still very painful to see a beautiful Aston Martin with damage on almost all sides. I saw one of the cars that could not take part in the restarted race afterwards in the paddock and I can confess it almost brought tears to my eyes.
It was also an eye opener, as I could see underneath the car’s bonnet and it seemed the engine was unaffected due to additional bars added to the engine bay.
Also not unimportant: all drivers are fine. Some even managed to patch up the car and still compete.

This particular race was absolutely spectacular. Two Ferraris were battling for the lead, weaving their way through a very large grid. This battle continued until the chequered flag. One of the cars spun and lost the lead quite late in the race, near where I was watching. These people may not be professional race car drivers, but they do know how to race! Traffic was very effectively used to keep the opponent behind and next traffic was the cause of the second placed car catching up. The applause by all the people on the grand stand was very well deserved.


These two Ferraris were battling until the very end of the race.
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This season has truly gone out with a bang and I am a little bit sad to see the end of it. Thankfully there will be more racing next year and I will certainly be there to watch it!

AMOC Racing, Brands Hatch, 12 August 2017

At 8:30 the day already promised to be a good one. The clouds were losing their greyness. Soon after the sun was smiling upon Brands Hatch.
The open practice session provided an easy start to this action packed day. After that the rest of the morning was dedicated to qualifying sessions.
I spent the morning exploring the track, trying to find various viewpoints for my photos. Brands Hatch is one of the most accessible tracks in that respect. There are many places you can access and usually you can see about 75% of the track. For spectators without cameras it is even better as the mesh surrounding the track is less of an obstacle.

The track parade during the lunch break was simply magnificent. There were so many cars on the track the first ones were right behind the last ones. Compared to last year there were more newer models, but I certainly spotted a few less common cars.


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The first race of the day was the Pre-War Challenge. It’s one of my favourite races. With one Talbot and several Bentleys and Aston Martins – all built in the 1920s and 1930s – it was nothing short of epic. They used the handicap format for this race: the slowest car started first and the rest were released at different times. These times were calculated with the aim of having all seven cars battling it out at the end. That didn’t quite work out, but it was a spectacle nonetheless.

Next up was the AMOC Intermarque Championship. Very early on there was drama when the #44 and #144 Porsches came into contact. The whole grid was very close together so for the cars nearby this was a near miss. The Porsches ended up in the gravel with damage that looked quite severe. They had to be recovered, so for some laps the rest of the field had to follow the safety car. Both Porsche drivers had by then walked off together, both unharmed.

The single Aston Martin in this race (the #007 V8 Vantage) had been next to the #44 when the Porsche lost control. It seemingly got away unscathed, but did retire from the race later on. I do not know why.
This left the race to the remaining BMWs, Porsches and Ferraris. The race was won by #170 BMW Evo M3 which was clearly going very fast and finished with a 40 second lead.


The #007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage in iconic Gulf livery.
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The AMOC ’50s Sports Cars race was no less spectacular. The yellow Turner Sports (#27) gave the #18 Cooper Monaco good chase, but could eventually not keep up. In turn he found himself under threat from the #26 Cooper T39 Bobtail. The Turner had to come in for an unscheduled stop, but later rejoined the race. The entire race was a wonderful battle until the end in a field with gorgeous cars. The #18 won the race.

More drama happened in the Aston Martin GT Challenge. The #007 Vantage GT4 (known as James) had one car less in front of him due to the #71 Ferrari not making the start. The Ferrari had trouble during the green flag lap and only managed to join the race after a few slow laps and two visits to the pit lane. James had lost quite a few positions at the start and was pushing hard to regain these. However, mere moments before the pit stop window closed it ended up in the gravel, which ended his race.

The #169 Ginetta seemingly had a bit of a misunderstanding with the #71 Ferrari which caused the Ginetta to momentarily try a career as a lawnmower – unsuccessfully. After an unscheduled stop it rejoined the race.
The #199 Lotus Evora was happily going around the track, apparently oblivious to the all the drama and eventually lapped the entire field. It drove off into the distance to victory. Aston Martin team mates #12 and #24 fought over second position as true sibling rivalry, but the #12 car kept his brother at bay and won the second spot trophy.


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The last race of the day was the Innes Ireland Cup. Unfortunately I only caught bits of this race as I was on my way to leave the track, but it was certainly good enough to stop here and there to appreciate the track action. There were only a few cars in this race, all lovely examples. The #85 Lotus Elan was the fastest and therefore the winner.
This fifth race concluded yet another brilliant day organised by the Aston Martin Owners Club.
I’ve been to quite a few race meetings now and I will continue to go, because the racing is superb, the cars on track are gorgeous, awesome or both and the atmosphere is always relaxed and welcoming. Bring on Silverstone in September!

AMOC Racing, Snetterton, 8 July 2017

The sun was blazing over Snetterton yesterday, the sky a beautiful blue and white blanket over the track filled with a large variety of cars, old and new.
Since I have now attended a number of AMOC race meetings, I being to recognise some of the cars out there. It just makes it all a bit more familiar. The turnout this time was absolutely amazing. This was possibly the largest number of Aston Martins (racing and attending) I have seen, apart from the Spring Concours, of course.

A (presumably nearby) dealership brought in a ‘few’ Aston Martins for everyone to enjoy. Very cleverly, they also provided a marquee where you could ask about any of the cars for sale and a financial plan, if you require one. It was tempting…


This is the Aston Martin I really want, the DB11. I will keep on dreaming…
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The day was filled to the brim with track activity. Practice first thing in the morning, qualifying sessions immediately after, race 1 before lunch. The other 5 races were in the afternoon. It simply never stopped. Just how we like it, right?
The AMOC Intermarque Championship and GT Challenge were of course the main races, but the other races were certainly just as entertaining and enjoyable.

I have to admit that my favourite non-Aston race was the MRL Historic Touring Car Challenge. I have been car crazy since a very young age (approximately 4) and to see a few Ford Capris out on track absolutely made my day. The MKII Capri was my first car love and I still turn around in the car (only when I’m a passenger of course!) when I see one out and about. In addition there were some Rovers out there too. I remember a neighbour had a big Rover when I was about 8 and I loved it. Add a Mustang and an old Alfa Romeo and you have my attention. It was a wonderfully diverse grid with some astonishingly beautiful and well kept machines.


Another favourite is the 1954 Austin-Healy 100M, driven by Paul Kennelly. He races this car in the AMOC ’50s Sports Cars and it’s always a delight to watch. What a beauty!
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When you go to an AMOC race meeting you’d better skip lunch. Because lunch time is parade time!
I was lucky enough to be part of a parade as a passenger in a beautiful DB7 at Brands Hatch last year. There were about 70 cars on track that time. It seems there were more at Snetterton yesterday, but I honestly didn’t count them. They only got three laps, so I spent all my time enjoying the view and trying to photograph as many as I could.

I did just say that the Capris made my day, but the Capri is no longer my absolute favourite. Aston Martin has the largest part of my car loving heart.
One of the reasons I keep on attending AMOC race meetings is because of the DB4 Lightweight. I cannot express how much I love that car. For a long, long time the DB4 (series 1, I should add) was my favourite Aston Martin and this particular one is just that bit more beautiful.


A firm favourite: the DB4 Lightweight.
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Apart from all the wonderful cars, Aston Martins or otherwise, the races themselves are great fun to watch. I have said this before: it does not matter what level people are racing on, they take their racing seriously. It just makes it great for the spectators as well.
You can see a car lock under braking and the next time they come through the same corner they almost lose the car, just as if they did not already have a moment the lap before. These cars are all being pushed as hard as their drivers can push them.

There’s one more car I want to mention. I am not a big fan of the V8 Astons. Don’t dislike them, but their looks are just not my favourite. And then this one appeared:


The 1972 Aston Martin AMV8 driven by Simon Watts and Roberto Giordanelli.
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Now, is that car not absolutely stunning? I had never seen one of these as a race car before and I think it carries the racing look very well!

And this is another reason AMOC race meetings are the thing for me. In short: AMOC members bring their cars, the racing is amazing and some of the race cars are stunning. What more could you possibly want?

British GT, Oulton Park, 17 April 2017

After three days at Silverstone I decided another day trackside wouldn’t hurt and I travelled to Oulton Park for British GT’s race day.
British GT has some very nice supporting races, my favourite being the Ginettas. Call it luck if you will, it was raining. Somehow these cars just seem to enjoy a wet track. The action doesn’t stop at all. They’re all racing as if their lives depend on it (the drivers, of course, not the cars).


The Ginetta G40 of Jose Antonio Ledesma during the Ginetta GT5 Challenge
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Another support race is BRDC British F3 Championship which is also always good to see. With fewer cars on the track it seems a bit less tight, but the racing is equally passionate.

I always enjoy seeing the Volkswagens race. This year they were joined by two Audi TTs which makes a nice change too.
Quite frankly, there is so much going on on track it would take too long to write about every race in the action filled day. So let’s move on to British GT. After all, that was the reason I went.


There is some incredibly close racing in British GT.
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Last year Jonny Adam became the first driver to win back-to-back championships in British GT. At the start of the 2017 season he had WEC duties for Aston Martin Racing at Silverstone, which meant he missed the qualifying session for British GT. As a result of that TF Sport had to start from the back of the grid in their class – the 11th position overall. Sounds like the ingredients of something very exciting to me…
Together with teammate Derek Johnston Jonny managed to grab a podium spot in both races on Monday. Some start of the season!

This year will very much be about Jonny. As said, he’s racing in WEC and British GT, but he is also joining Oman Racing again in Blancpain GT Endurance Cup. I follow all three series, so I will be seeing quite a lot of Mr Adam, I reckon.


The Academy Motorsport Aston Martin lost its bonnet very early on in the race, but they – seemingly quite happily – carried on without it.
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To be honest, there are other Aston Martins in British GT, so I have more than just one reason to go. One of the main attractions I find the sheer variety of cars. The Bentleys are always a joy to watch and even more so to hear. I might not be a fan of Mercedes, but on track they look pretty awesome. The McLarens always look good and you can’t go wrong with Lamborghinis in race attire.
Oh, let’s not forget that British GT also has its fair share of Ginettas.

All these different cars with their different specifications in two different classes make for a spectacular and unpredictable race. Even without the Aston Martins I would probably follow this series anyway. Additional incentive not required…