British GT, Silverstone, 10 and 11 June 2017

British GT at Silverstone is something a little bit special, because it is known as ‘Silverstone 500’. It’s a three hour race.
I think British GT is a great series anyway, but having a race this long on the agenda is a bonus. In addition the support races are quite good too!
The only thing you can never be sure of is the weather. And this year Silverstone decided on sunny with clouds and a lot of wind. So much wind that the commentators mentioned it as it affected the cars out on track.

The Aston Martin of the defending champions was having issues, which was reflected in their result.
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As usual I attended the whole weekend which allowed me to enjoy as much of the supporting races as possible. I had never witnessed a Caterham race before. It was a lot more exciting than I expected. To be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting. However, seeing 4 cars fighting for the first spot at the very end of the race is more than you would expect from anything other than Blancpain. It was great to see and I ensured I caught another Caterham race the next day.

My favourite cars with faces – the Ginettas – were also having the time of their lives. The Ginettas did not only have their own series and races, they are also part of British GT itself.
Ginetta race cars are available for various classes, so in some cases they race with what one would consider the ‘big boys’ and definitely hold their own!
They may look cute…these are serious race cars and the races are quite something to watch!

Cars with faces…you can’t go wrong.
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For some reason they (whoever ‘they’ are) decided to do something weird this weekend. The result? A 1965 Routemaster (yes, that’s a double-decker bus) joined the British GT cars on track. Judging by the video from on board the bus it really was going about as fast as it could. Compared to the race cars it was seemingly standing still.
Regardless of reason, it was quite the sight and I do like the Routemasters. There’s always time for a laugh…

British GT itself had five Aston Martins on the grid. What a treat! Next to that there’s of course the Bentley Continentals and I never say no to a few McLarens or Lamborghinis out there.
The Aston Martin of Jonny Adam and Derek Johnston had power steering issues (as in: they lost it) and this was clearly reflected in the result. Derek Johnston started the race and spun on the first lap due to this issue. Defending the championship is not as easy as some people may think, especially with bad luck like this.

The 1965 Routemaster out on track.
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The race was exciting from start to finish, which did not come as a surprise to me. British GT is quite unpredictable. Especially in a longer race like this one anything can and will happen.
The Team Parker Racing Bentley took the first spot after a stellar drive, but it would be unfair to say that even the last car to cross the finish line didn’t try as hard as they could. This is hard racing, just three hours long.

Of course I should also mention that it was Supercar Sunday. I have to say that the organisers and I do not agree on the definition of supercar, but there were definitely some mighty fine cars on display. Lamborghinis and McLarens were rubbing proverbial shoulders with Maseratis, Aston Martins and Audis (of the R8 variety). Quite a few of these took to the track during the lunch break, providing some very nice sights for the public. Supercars or not…I was not complaining.

Blancpain GT Series Endurance, Silverstone, 13/14 May 2017

The Blancpain Endurance race at Silverstone is one of the hightlighs of the year. The grid is massive and the cars diverse. The racing is unpredictable (as is the weather), so excitement is as good as guaranteed.
This time around we decided to also get grid walk tickets.

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Support races

Blancpain always has a number of support races which are highly enjoyable. My favourite however is still Lamborghini Super Trofeo. Almost any type of race is great to watch, but there is something special about a large number of Huracans on a track.
I can only assume the cars’ specs will be fairly similar, but even if that’s not the case, racing is always quite close, causing some very exciting moments. There’s a lot of good action to watch. And of course the cars look amazing on track…as if they were built for it.

Pit walks

There were two pit walks during the weekend.
On Saturday there was no autograph session. It was therefore rather quiet, but it did give better access to the cars.

The #8 Bentley – VERY up close and personal – during the Saturday pit walk.
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The second pit walk was on the Sunday which included the autograph session.
I always enjoy the pit walks, with or without autograph session. It’s a good time to get a bit closer to the cars and, if there is an autograph session, have a chat with the drivers. Most really seem to enjoy the interaction (read: banter). I always make a point of seeing my favourite team/driver(s) to wish them well for the race.

Grid walk

This was the first time we got grid walk tickets, just to see what that is like.
As expected it is nothing like the pit walks. During a pit walk the garages are open, sometimes the drivers will be there and it’s quite relaxed overall.
A grid walk means you are walking among the cars ready to start a race. There’s team members working on the cars, drivers are preparing to get into the cars and it is very busy!

The one and only Aston Martin on the grid during the grid walk.
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Of course you can get really close to the cars on the grid walk, but at the same time it feels a bit rushed. You have to wait at the side of the track for all the cars to arrive and only have a few minutes to walk the actual grid.
It understandable the public have to be out of the way when the cars drive up and you also don’t want to be in the way of the people working on the cars or preparing to drive. But simply due to the number of people I didn’t find it as amazing as I was told it would be.

I would say it’s an interesting experience and I wouldn’t advise against it, but it’s not really for me.

The main race

Blancpain never disappoints.
I think the races are unpredictable due to the large grid and the variety of cars. In the races I have seen so far you usually cannot predict who will win. Silverstone was no different.
It seems inevitable the safety car will come out, but usually not so often it impacts the viewers’ enjoyment.

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I cannot put into words how exciting it is to see that enormous grid come around the corner, preparing for the rolling start. When those lights turn green all hell breaks loose (including the thunderous noise that goes with it!).
For three hours I find myself at the edge of my seat, trying to keep up with the changes in position.

I’ve seen a few Blancpain races now, both at the track and on television, and I am certain I will be seeing quite a few more.

6 Hours of Silverstone 2017

You’d think that after last year’s snow I’d be able to prepare for pretty much anything Silverstone can throw at me. You’d be wrong.
It is surprising how cold it gets when it’s grey and windy for three days in a row. But of course that doesn’t stop a motorsport fan from being trackside most of the day every day of that three day weekend.

The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche.
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With it being Easter weekend I expected a busier weekend than before. As it turned out there were 2,000 people less over the weekend, which could be due to Audi not being there this season.
It also felt less busy, probably because more grandstands had been opened. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see the action on track from various locations. I believe I went to almost every stand that was open throughout the weekend.

As always it’s a joy to be able to access both the WEC and the ELMS paddock whenever you want. The teams are approachable, so you can have a chat with your favourite drivers if you want. That’s an opportunity I never miss.

The Sunday pit walk was planned very early this time and the autograph session was moved to a later time and to the paddock. As a result the pit walk was extremely quiet. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it gives you the time and space to check out the cars in the garages. The autograph session was a bit messy, depending on which team you visited, but not as busy as I expected. There was still plenty of time to have a quick chat with the drivers and wish them luck for the upcoming race.

I also did the ELMS pit walk on Saturday. This also doesn’t attract that many people. So again, plenty of time and space to check out the cars and talk to some of the drivers.

Vaillante Rebellion’s #31 car which would end up in second position in class.
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Throughout the weekend the position lights on the LMP2 cars did not work, which meant we couldn’t really keep up with who was in what position in that class. That didn’t take away from the enjoyment of seeing them go. Apparently the new chassis in the LMP2 class meant that the cars were 6 seconds faster on average than last year. That’s a big difference!
As in LMP1 there has been some movement with teams leaving and, thankfully, LMP2 also sees some new teams this season.

Even though GTE Pro and Am are my favourite classes, I do enjoy the LMP classes as well. There’s always plenty to watch during a 6 hour race and this time was no difference.
It was interesting to see it took quite some time before the safety car was needed. Usually there seems to be more drama earlier on. But no safety car means more racing, so no complaints from me.

WEC provides some very close racing indeed!
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Unfortunately this was not a good race for Aston Martin Racing. The #95 had taken pole during qualifying, but both GTE Pro Astons ended up outside the podium positions. It seems they simply lacked the overall pace, even though it was never explained why this was the case. There have been speculations that the lower number of tyres allowed have an impact, but this has not been confirmed or denied.
This year sees the introduction of ‘automatic BoP’ (Balance of Performance). It will be very interesting to see what the consequences of that are for following races.

AMOC Racing, Silverstone, 1 October 2016

A few years ago, when I was still a member of AMOC (Aston Martin Owners Club), I was aware they organised races. Because I didn’t have a car, I never got to attend any of these race meetings. This year I’ve been to four of them. The last one of this year was at Silverstone and it was quite something.

In 2016 Silverstone has been ‘behaving’. I’ve been several times and we’ve seen snow, rain, wind, sun (too much of it) and more rain. On 1 October it was predominantly rain. It made the racing all the more exciting to watch. I can only imagine what that must be like from a driver’s perspective when you’re trying to keep your classic race car on the track.
Despite the weather the entire day was very enjoyable.

Tom Black’s Aston Martin GT4 during the Aston Martin GT Challenge.
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As was to be expected, it was not very busy. Only one grandstand was open (BRDC Grandstand) and it was not 100% filled. It is however a wonderful place to view a race from due to how much of the track you can see. Luffield corner is a spot where a lot happens normally anyway and this day was no exception.
Several classics did drift off the track, but thankfully most managed to save the car before it went into the gravel and rejoin the race. Often this resulted in applause from the grandstand.

The variety of cars on track is astounding. Of course there are Aston Martins, but this time there were a lot of MGs. The Intermarque Championship/GT Challenge saw the return of the Porsches and BMWs. The 50s Sports Cars race had several absolutely gorgeous Austins and Jaguars. For me the icing on the cake were the pre-war Astons: an Aston Martin Le Mans (1933), Aston Martin 15/98 2 seater (1937), Aston Martin New International (1932) and Aston Martin Ulster (1934). In that race there was one more pre-war car: a Bentley MK VI of 1948 which was unbelievably fast. The sound was a delight…I think I know where the current Bentley team gets their slogan (Bring The Thunder) from.

The Bentley MK VI (1948) driven by Michael Haig took victory in t he Pre-War race. We’d seen this car in the paddock, but on track it is a magnificent beast.
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During the lunch break some of the AMOC members took their Aston Martins to the track for a parade. I was lucky enough to be able (and allowed!) to go to the pit wall and watch them go by (camera in hand, of course).
Some of the boxes were open, so I wandered in here and there to snap a few photos of the cars. It was an amazing opportunity to see some of these classics up close.

The participants in the MG Acers/pre-War race are waiting in the rain for their race to start.
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It was once again a fun filled day with beautiful cars and a very relaxed atmosphere.
I have enjoyed the four race meetings I’ve been to so much I intend to go to as many as I can next year. So keep your eyes peeled for more beautiful Aston Martins of various ages in 2017.

British GT, Silverstone, 11 & 12 June 2016

Twelve Aston Martins. Twelve.

How could I resist? I had to see nine race at Oulton Park, so Silverstone was a must see. Or so I thought. It didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped.

The Saturday saw not only the 12 Astons which took part in the British GT Championship, but also the Astons racing in the four races organised by AMOC. It was definitely a fun filled day and I ended up looking forward to the Sunday and the main event even more than in the weeks leading up to this weekend.

The #8 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Motorbase Performance.
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The British GT competitors were joined by the GT4 European Series cars, resulting in a 51 car grid. Always good fun to see so many cars on track. Silverstone is of course not exactly a small track, but it can still get messy with such a large number of vehicles.
A bit of bad weather could vastly improve (?) the ‘fun’.

In April we had snow at Silverstone during the WEC weekend. I thought that would be as bad as I would ever see the weather get. I was wrong.
A bit of rain is no problem. But a bit of rain constantly gets nasty after a while. And wet it was that Sunday.

As usual I was there early, not wanting to miss any of the action.

Having seen Ginettas race at several occasions I have to admit I am a little bit in love with them. These ‘cars with faces’ are feisty little racers. They seem pretty fast and their drivers are all very serious about their racing. But you can’t help but give these guys a bit of a personality and you end up genuinly feeling for them if they happen to crash.
All joking aside, Ginetta racing is just plain cool.

With several races throughout the weekend and taking part in British GT the Ginettas had a lot of track time.
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I remember really enjoying the Milltek Sport Volkswagen Racing Cup last year at Donington Park. Another race I was definitely looking forward to. But by the time that race was on I had moved back on the grand stand to about half way up because of the rain. And I was still getting wetter and colder by the minute. It was only just after 11 in the morning…

The end result was that the British GT race started under the safety car in terrible conditions and I wasn’t there to witness it. I had dragged my cold carcass home and ended up watching the race on tv.
I’m not sure what to think of the race. Is there a point in even starting the race in conditions like that? What is the added value of a safety car start? Should the race have gone on considering how many cars ended up next to the circuit due to the water?

Not everyone seemed to mind the rain.
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I haven’t made up my mind about the questions above. I realise that a race must go on because it’s on television. But I’m not sure that is right either. With all the discussions going on about driver safety, surely this must be on the radar too? Or are all levels of motorsport in the firm grasp of those who care only about money?

Let’s just say that I truly admire the drivers who went out there and gave it their all. There was certainly some epic driving going on in the rain. Despite all my doubts I can always enjoy the skill being shown during any race. Next time I’ll bring my rain gear.

Aston Martin GT Challenge (and more), Silverstone

A few weeks ago I saw beautiful cars race around the Oulton Park circuit for the AMOC Intermarque and the Aston Martin GT Challenge. It was good.
Little did I know that Silverstone would be even better.
I should have guessed, of course. I would imagine that everyone who races anything would love to do so at Silverstone.
From a spectator’s point of view that is nothing short of fantastic, because you get to see so many wonderful cars, old and new. The British GT weekend at Silverstone saw four races organised by AMOC: AMOC Intermarque, Aston Martin GT Challenge, Innes Ireland Cup and AMOC 50s Sports Cars.

A beautiful 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint which took part in the Innes Ireland Cup.
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The weather on Saturday was glorious (not so on the Sunday!), so nothing stood in the way of our enjoyment of seeing classic cars going around the iconic track at a speed you sometimes wouldn’t expect these cars to be able to go.
To be honest, the spectacle was so good I didn’t actually pay any attention to who was winning. Even though the winner of AMOC 50s Sports Cars race was very easily identified. The #4 Ginetta G4 finished with a gap of 2 minutes and 40 seconds ahead of the rest of the field! As the commentator said: “That is the gap, not a lap time”.

Always one of my favourties: the Aston Martin DB4 (1959).
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Of course the Intermarque and GT Challenge saw more modern cars race each other. There were Porsches, Ferraris and Aston Martins, the latter old and new.
The Aston Martin DB4 was for a very long time my favourite Aston Martin (damn you, DB11!). The lone DB4 Lightweight I saw at Oulton Park was now joined by two more and a (dare I say ‘regular’?) DB4 (see photo above). However, I would certainly not say no to a GT4 or N24. That sound!

A 1957 Jaguar XK150 – a style I very much like.
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Needless to say, due to the diversity on track throughout the day and the sheer number of beauties AMOC had managed to get together, I ended up staying at the track all day. I know quite a lot of people only attend the Sunday (race day) during any race weekend. I hope they come to realise what they are missing.
I will definitely try to attend more AMOC race events, because they are simply too good to miss.

Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, Silverstone (2016)

Having favourite drivers can bring about good fortune. I may owe some gratitude to Bruno Senna for driving in Blancpain. Even though he wasn’t at Silverstone last year (he had to drive in Formula E instead that weekend) I did go to the race and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only does it have brilliant close racing, it had (note: past tense) several Aston Martins and I was introduced to the joy of the mighty Bentley Continental GT. Needless to say this year Blancpain was very firmly on the wishlist.
The first race of the season was at Monza, Italy. The whole race was a rollercoaster, but the battle for the lead was nothing short of epic. For about 30 minutes the numbers one and two were battling and eventually finished with no room to spare. This certainly got me in the mood for the weekend at Silverstone. But let’s start at the beginning, because there is always more going on than the main event.

It is rapidly becoming customary to walk through the paddock at whatever track I am at. But this time I was looking for something. Word had gotten out that the Aston Martin Vulcan would make an appearance. On Saturday it wasn’t too busy which allowed me time to have a good look at the two Vulcans present. One of them was scheduled to do some demonstration laps on both days. This car is a beautiful beast, no matter what colour it is, but I found this red one particularly striking.

Aston Martin Vulcan
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I have to admit I am not a fan of Lamborghini. This is not an English understatement, so I don’t dislike them a lot either. However, on the track they are truly amazing to watch. They are powerful cars and it shows. It’s a beautiful and somewhat intimidating sight to see a number of them come around a corner and then speed up. The sound isn’t bad either…

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The main race on Sunday was as exciting as I expected, but very strange at the same time. Anyone who has seen it (at the track or on tv) will probably remember the Safety Car. I was at the track and I have since watched the entire race on tv and I still haven’t been able to figure out what exactly happened.
After about 2.5 hours of racing the Safety Car came out due to a car being stranded in the grass very close to the track. That is, in itself, fair enough. You do want the marshalls to be able to do their work in safety.

The grid shortly before the start of the Blancpain race on Sunday.
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The Safety Car let a lot of cars through in an attempt to pick up the race leader. The first thing I noticed was that the Ferrari that was originally picked up by the Safety Car and then told to pass it was going extremely slow. On watching the tv coverage it was confirmed the Ferrari was actually going slower than the Safety Car. It was supposed to speed up and meet the back of the train of cars following the Safety Car. It never did.

Then Race Control announced the Safety Car would come in, but it didn’t. Then again it would come in, and, despite the lights going off on the Safety Car, it once again did not. This did cause confusion as the race cars all started speeding up, but had to slow down again to once again follow the Safety Car. Thankfully there were no incidents at that time.
According to the tv commentators two cars were told to unlap themselves. One of those was the slow going Ferrari, which never did claim its lap back. Very strange indeed.
The car that did take up that offer would eventually win the Pro-Am class.

The very striking ARC Bratislava Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
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I am aware of the rule to let lapped cars unlap themselves in various series, but I can’t say I agree with it. In a lot of cases the cars have been lapped because they are simply that much slower than the cars out front. So the faster cars may have to pass them all over again, begging the question: what’s the point? Another reason I am against this rule is that it in some cases (like in this race) leaves the Safety Car out for a longer period of time. The clue is in the name: Safety Car. It is there to ensure the track is once again safe to be raced on after an incident. Track safe? Safety Car in!

Some will probably argue on I only say that because the one car that did unlap itself ended up winning in its class which happens to be the same class the only Aston Martin is in. That would not be true, because the overtake on both the Aston Martin and the front running Audi was absolutely superb. When it comes to skill the win is very much deserved.
That move happened on the very last lap, race time was up. You can’t get more ‘last minute’ than that.
It was beautiful and I did worry the Aston Martin would end up out of the top three. Thankfully Jonny Adam managed to follow through and took second place. That was also a very beautiful move and a well-deserved result.

A second place in class for Oman Racing Team’s Aston Martin.
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With so many cars out on track in three different classes excitement is practically guaranteed. The rest of this season will be followed with great interest in my house. And next to the Aston Martin we will be rooting for the Bentleys, because they do sound fantastic and it’s hard to believe something that big and bulky can go that fast. A bit like the Astons, I guess…