Mini Minis everywhere!!!!

When asked about my favourite cars, I always say that I have 3: The McLaren F1, The Aston Martin Vanquish S and The Classic Mini.

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I don’t know when I fell in love with the Classic Mini. I can’t remember the first time I saw one, nor how I reacted to it. To my mind, they have always just been there. Maybe the fact that my parents had a Mini when I was a baby left a subliminal imprint in my head. As soon as I spot one, I squeal with happiness, day totally made. I love the way they look, I love the way they sound, I love the history. So when my best friend told me about the Oulton Park Mini Festival, it was a must to attend.

The first Oulton Park Mini Festival was in 2014 and I remember it well. We had seats on the Old Hall grandstand, perfectly placed to watch the cars storming down from Druids to Old Hall Corner, before screaming up towards the start/finish line. So many classic Minis racing that day. Mini Miglia, the Sevens, it was amazing.

Seeing Brian Johnson (yes, he of AC/DC fame, and a total petrolhead) race his Mini around Oulton Park was great. Watching Darren Turner (Aston Martin Racing) throwing a Mini around the track at least 20 seconds faster than anybody else was a joy to behold.

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Darren Turner racing the #76 Swiftune Mini

So I was sold, I loved that first Mini Festival. We decided this festival was going to part of our racing calendar.

This year was the 5th time we went and, as usual I was really looking forward to it. Just being at a racetrack makes me happy and watching Minis zip round makes me even happier.

We went to park the car and there were already some pretty cool Minis parked, so we had a little browse before going into the restaurant for some breakfast.

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That is when we found out that there would be no Classic Mini racing. At all. It broke my heart a little. As stated before, I love watching those brave little cars racing round and you would think that at a Mini Festival, there would be some. To be fair, we always book our tickets well in advance, and at the time it is not always known what will be happening on track on the day, but if I had known that there would be no classic Minis racing, I would not have gone to this festival. This has nothing to do with Oulton Park and the organizers of course, they can only work with what is offered.

But being at Oulton Park is always a good day out, so I decided I would visit the Trader’s Market to check out the Mini merchandise. The market comprised of 6 stalls, 2 of which were selling car parts; the other 4 did sell some things with Minis on them but no stands especially for Minis or having a large array of Mini merchandise. My disappointment grew.

Of course we watched some racing on track. Oulton Park is an amazing track with great views and wherever you sit, you can always see a large part of the track. We watched the qualifying for the 7 Race Series (Caterhams) and the Heritage Formula Ford Series. We also watched the qualifying for the MINI CHALLENGE – Cooper S, Cooper Pro/Am and JCW. The latter series are for the new MINI. These cars can produce some awesome racing, but they are so not Minis. They are too big to be a Mini, and I really cannot love them. So watching them race is pretty cool, but it was not why I was there.

The weather wasn’t really helping either, so we decided to call it a day quite early on in the afternoon. Before we left, we looked at all the Minis which were parked out in the display area. Many of them so so loved and well maintained.

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This will definitely not be my last Mini Festival, I will certainly go to another one next year, get my ‘Mini fix’. I know that Snetterton and Brands Hatch also host a festival, so maybe next year I will do some homework before booking tickets and ensure that I will be seeing some Original Minis on track.


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?

Mini Festival, Oulton Park, 19 August 2017

This year’s Mini Festival of Oulton Park was a strange one. I don’t want to link it to the weather (even though it is – a little), but it never did settle down. We’ve had rain, wind and sunshine in any combination. A lot of umbrellas did not survive the day.
It was very good to see how many people braved the weather, though, as even at the end of the day it was still quite busy.

During the very first race of the day a four car crash happened which took quite some time to clear up. One of the new Minis (or Binis as they are also known) went off track just after Knickerbrook, went partly onto the grass and lost it. It had been raining before, but the track had dried enough. However, the grass was still quite wet, which is very likely what caused the loss of control of the car. The car bounced against the tyre wall, right back onto the track where it was collected by a few oncoming cars. The result was a mess which also required the assistance of two ambulances.
Unfortunately I did not hear anything while there or could find anything online about how the two drivers who were taken away in said ambulances are doing now. I’ll go with ‘no news is good news’ and hope for the best.
The additional result of this was that all the races afterwards were affected. Most were shortened.

Great teamwork from everyone at the track to deal with the aftermath of a crash during the first race.
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I have to say I was very impressed with the teamwork of everyone involved.
The marshals immediately made their way to the area and started directing the oncoming race cars to ensure the recovery trucks and medical car could get through. The course maintenance team arrived on the scene and just started fixing the barrier, no prompt required. And afterwards, as you can see above, everyone worked together to get the cars on the trucks and out of the way.
It is very common to hear the commentators thank the marshals during race day, but this really drove the point home.

The day remained strange throughout with many races ending with a red flag or interrupted by a safety car period.

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It’s easy to mark the day as a loss, no fun or even a waste of time. But that wouldn’t be true.
The racing I have seen was, as always, brilliant. Whether the cars were classic or new Minis, the racing was usually close. Each driver out there seemed motivated to make the most of it. Of course that at times results in going off track or worse, but that’s part of the entertainment (as long as no one gets hurt).

In addition the club parking has expanded. The club area is quite large, but there was also a parking area for Minis whose owners are not a member of a club. At the end of the day all of the Minis were allowed to go onto the track for the parade. That was a large number of cars!

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Overall I have to say the day was quite well organised. The way things were amended and picked up after the first crash of the day was quite impressive. Apart from the weather being the main cause of further issues, we had races to watch all day long.
The off track activities seem to be expanding as well. It’s not my cup of tea, but if it is yours, it could be a good additional reason to go next year.

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…

Mini Festival 2016 at Oulton Park

In its third year the Mini Festival has already become a constant feature in my household. There are two very simple reasons for this:
1. it’s great fun and the day is filled with Minis;
2. the quality of the event is constant.
My best friend and I both prefer the classic Minis over the much bigger variety of BMW persuasion (known as ‘maxi Minis’ or ‘Binis’), so we were a bit sad to see the pre-1966 Mini race organised during the 2014 edition scrapped both last year and this year. Thankfully there are plenty of classic Minis left (Mini Se7en and Mini Miglia races). And, it has to be said, the drivers of the newer Minis do put on one hell of a show!

The Mini Challenge – Cooper S, Cooper, Open is about to start.
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The action on track started at 08:30 with qualifying sessions for all the races that day, so if you get there early there is already plenty to see. This year it seems there was even more off-track action (YoungDrive! sessions, drift shows and music), just in case you don’t feel like watching Minis all day long. However, that is not my thing, so I stayed trackside most of the time.

This year there was a supporting race: VAG Trophy. That translates to a lot of Volkswagens and one Seat racing for 20 minutes twice a day. I have seen this group race before at Donington Park and thoroughly enjoyed it. This time they didn’t disappoint either. Even though I’m not a fan of Golfs, Polos and Sciroccos, they look very good on track.
A few cars passed my viewing point with inexplicable and identical (!) damage to the left front. From the commentary I could not make out what had happened, but it’s certainly surprising to see three cars with similar damage and no cars with any sign of damage that may have caused it. Perhaps they all hit the same spot on track and the commentators didn’t deem it worthy to mention?

Three cars came by looking something like this – cause apparently unknown.
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One race (Mini Challenge – Cooper S, Cooper, Open 180) was abandoned after a crash right after the start. Initially the grid was set up again, but the recovery of the cars involved took so long it was decided to not restart the race.
Both races for newer Minis were quite close anyway. One car ended up pretending to be a lawnmower and drove around with quite some grass in its grill. Others had clearly been fighting a little too tightly; dents and missing parts were not an uncommon sight.
During one race in the afternoon we saw two Minis try to take the same corner at the same time. Thankfully they both managed to stay on track, but I can imagine there were words…

As always our main objective was to see the classic Minis race. With four races in total we certainly got what we asked for!
Racing was incredibly diverse. We saw very close racing, as always, but also a 28 second lead by Shayne Deegan in the Mini Miglia race in the afternoon. There was smoke (looked like an engine blew), there were crashes, off track moments, slipping and sliding, drifting and even bits falling of cars.

Racing was incredibly close all day long.
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Throughout the day the weather never made up its mind. We had rain, sun, wind and clouds and it was alternating all day. I don’t know if this contributed to the eventful day. I say eventful because there were quite a few safety car moments, as mentioned we had an abandoned race and of course there were ‘moments’ due to cars being out on slicks while it was raining. It must not have been easy for the drivers and I have to say kudos to them for sticking it out and continuing. I was certainly happy to brave the weather and not leave until the very end. It was well worth it…again.
Can’t wait for next year!

British GT, Oulton Park, 28 & 30 May 2016

British GT landed at Oulton Park during the very sunny bank holiday in May. I have already written a post about the Aston Martin GT Challenge which took place on Saturday. Monday saw the main event: two races for British GT.

British GT action during practice 1 on Saturday
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Saturday saw practice for British GT and quite a few supporting races.
It also saw a horrible crash during the BRDC British F3 race, which ended the race early (red flag). I was later told it had made the news, as some of my colleagues who do not like motorsports asked me about it. Thankfully the driver was checked and found absolutely fine. He was happily racing on the Monday.

Ameya Vaidyanathan crashed on Saturday, but escaped without as much as a bruise.
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This weekend was the first time I had a seat on the Knickerbrook grand stand. I get the idea most crashes happen in that corner, because I have seen quite a few cars go off. I have mentioned it before: I’d rather see close racing than a crash. Thankfully no one was hurt and there was plenty of close racing.

The supporting races are great fun to watch. The variety of series and cars makes it all a wonderful spectacle. I should also mention that the commentators at Oulton Park seemed to be having quite a good time. I won’t repeat what one of them said about Rollo Tomasi, but it certainly made a lot of people laugh.

Some cars lost bits around the track (not always due to a crash or collision). This McLaren 570S GT4 was no exception; its nose is held together with large quantaties of tape.
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Seeing nine Aston Martins in one series (British GT) is a real treat and I enjoyed every second of it. One of them unfortunately never finished the race.
Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston did not get the win they were hoping for, but definitely not for lack of trying!
There were plenty of overtakes (or at least attempts to overtake) to enjoy and, of course, the cars themselves are a joy to watch. Lamborghinis and McLarens always look good out on track, the Aston Martins are bonus for a fan like me and the lone Bentley (which did very well, I might add) is an absolute joy to see and hear.

British GT is top entertainment and I will be going to the next race at Silverstone next week. Expect more photos and another post…or two.

Aston Martin GT Challenge, Oulton Park

My fascination for anything Aston Martin is by now well documented. Not so well documented is the fact I have been a member of AMOC (Aston Martin Owners Club) for a few years. You don’t have to own an Aston Martin to join the club and the members are extremely welcoming to anyone. All you need is the passion and I have it in abundance.
AMOC also organises races. The only AMOC race I had been to was in June 2008 during the weekend long celebrations of DB4’s 50th anniversary.
Seeing another AMOC race was therefore long overdue.

The start of the Aston Martin GT Challenge/Intermarque race.
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Due to the large number of Aston Martins on the British GT grid this year (nine!) I had already decided to go to a few races of that series. Having AMOC provide one of the support races a few times was a bonus I couldn’t resist.
Oulton Park is a track I am already familiar with and I like it a lot.
This weekend is a little bit strange, because the action is on Saturday and Monday, which leaves me today (the Sunday) to process the events of yesterday.

As always the day started with a stroll through the paddock. Very soon I had found the Aston Martins which would take part in the Aston Martin GT Challenge. This is an intermarque race, so out of 18 cars only 5 are Astons. It has to be said that this race is in fact two races: a GT Challenge and an Intermarque Championship.
The Intermarque Championship has been running since the early 1970s, so it is by now quite well established.

A favourite of mine when growing up: the Triumph TR7 V8.
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I have watched both qualifying and the race and thoroughly enjoyed the on track action. There were some close battles which almost make your heart stop; especially when it involves a classic car.
One of my all time favourite Aston Martins is the DB4. This race saw a beautiful Aston Martin DB4 Lightweight (1959) take on much newer cars and sometimes it was a little too close for comfort. Thankfully it came out unharmed.

The 1959 Aston Martin DB4 LightWeight driven by Martin Melling.
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In a few weeks time this circus moves to Silverstone. I have tickets for that weekend as well. I reckon that will be yet another very enjoyable race to watch!