Lotus


Going into The British Grand Prix there were many arguing that Formula One had lost its edge. Declining television audiences and a much reduced turn out in Austria seemed to point to fans increased disenchantment. The British Grand Prix served to dispel some of those fears. A record 340,000 spectators attended the weekend with 160,000 ensuring a full house on race day itself. A particularly startling fact was that there were more people at Silverstone for Friday practice than there were spectators for the Austrian Grand Prix itself.

Drivers Parade

The race itself turned out to be a thriller and produced the result Lewis Hamilton’s is adoring fans had hoped for. It had everything: strategy, surprises, overtaking, thrills and spills. On such that it was hard to argue that Formula One needed any revisions.

 

Lewis and Nico on the parade lap

Silverstone put on a fantastic show. Yes tickets were expensive but the full house showed that they had perhaps got the pricing right. The view from the general admission areas can be good if you can find yourself a decent place early enough. I always get a weekend ticket and on race day sit in the Club Corner grandstand which provides a great view of the last two corners and the finish line – not to mention the podium at the end of the Wing building. For qualification I like to sit in the general admission areas at Becketts to really see the cars move about at high-speed.

Lewis takes the chequered flag

The bad old days of Silverstone, the muddy carparks,  the chaos and the huge traffic queues, seem to be a thing of the past. And (say it softly) Bernie must take a lot of the credit for the transformation. If he had not threatened to remove the race from the calendar I suspect little would have been done to improve the fans race going experience.

 

Lewis hoists the famous gold RAC trophy up in the air. No rubbish plastic trophy this year!

 

The race weekend also had more than just the F1 race. The support races were exciting, we were treated to the sight of Stirling Moss demonstrating his 1955 British GP winning Mercedes, and the air displays by the Red Arrows and a thunderous Eurofighter Typhoon were thrilling.

Crofty cross examines Lewis

 

I stayed at the circuit for the after show party and was glad I did. Not only did I get to see part of the Spice Girls perform (guilty pleasure) but the Q&A sessions between Crofty and the drivers were eye opening. Away from their PR people it was amazing how open the drivers were able to be. Lewis’s  delight in winning his home Grand Prix for a third time was evident. But it was Nico who stood out. Honest and down to earth, good humoured and gracious, he came across very differently from the demonic Nico portrayed by the press. He certainly won the fans over.

So all in all a fantastic Grand Prix. I have already booked my tickets for next year!

Advertisements

One of the benefits of booking your Silverstone GP tickets nearly a year in advance is the free opportunity to attend a pit walk on the Thursday before the Grand Prix. Yesterday the crowds were out in force but despite an initial queue nearly half a mile long, things progressed smoothly and everyone had a good chance to have alook in the team garages.


Grosjean’s Lotus looked neat – imagine what it looks like tonight, half full of gravel!


Jenson’s McLaren Honda was in pieces, semi shielded from the public by a convenient trolley and some body pods. You could almost smell the despair..


By contrast Vettel’s Ferrari looked splendidly complete and ready for action.


Similar clean efficiency at Williams. They should be strong this weekend.


Bit more work on Massa’s car though!


The chaps at Red Bull were preparing Ricciardo’s car to a thumping house music beat. The other teams worked in silence. Deathly silence over at McLaren..


Meanwhile Nico Rosberg’s crew practiced tyre changes to the delight of the crowd.


Hulkenberg’s Force India was undergoing a rebuild


Former British GP winner Johnny Herbert was able to share some race tips with young Will Stevens of Manor.


Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado was being interviewed by Spanish TV


Will Stevens sporting weight saving haircut

   

New AMG GT safety cars. Nice looking but lets hope we don’t see much of them all weekend.

This year the Autosport Show at the NEC in Birmingham clashed with the new London Classic Car Show.  Apparently some very favourable trade prices lured to London many of those from the classic car industry who had previously attended the Autosport Show.  Certainly the Autosport Show this year seemed very much more focused on modern cars. In addition the historic racing fraternity were noticeable by their absence. Maybe they intend to focus their efforts on the Retrosport Show next month?

Despite such absences the Autosport Show was still a great day out, particularly as I was lucky enough to be able to attend on one of the less busy trade days. Highlights are below.

2015/01/img_7900.jpg

Noble showed two of their striking M600 super cars. Great pace and handling but the M600’s £200k price tag makes it more expensive than its more prestigious rivals.

2015/01/img_7899.jpg

Gorgeous paint scheme shows off the carbon fibre bodywork of an M600 at its best.

2015/01/img_7902.jpg

Works BTCC MG Metro Turbo from 1984. Great cars and real giant killers, I nearly bought one 7 years ago. I didn’t as at the time there was nothing you could do with one. Now there are several race series in which they can participate and I expect they have more than tripled in value.

2015/01/img_7901.jpg

The new Lamborghini Huracan is less flamboyant than Lambos of old but still has aggressive super car looks.

2015/01/img_7903.jpg

There was a section for track and road icons at the ‘Show which included one of the earliest Ferrari supercars, created to sell to collectors rather than for motorsport, the F40.

2015/01/img_7904.jpg

When introduced in 1987 the F40’s 471hp and 0 – 60 time of c 4seconds were stunning. As was its price tag – equivalent to c£700k now. Of course a £50k Lotus Exige is now faster to 60 and with 510hp my £65k Jaguar XKR is more powerful. Compensation for a current F40 owner is the fact that if they chose to sell their car now they could pocket well over £2m – despite the F40 being relatively common with over 1300 being built.

2015/01/img_7906.jpg

One of the highlights of the show is always the reveals and announcements made by racing teams. This year was no exception. Last year’s BTCC driver’s championship winning team, West Surrey Racing, announced a new lead driver in Andy Priaulx. Priaulx is a former British Hillclimb Champion, three time World Touring Car Champion and one time European Touring Car Champion. His best showing in two seasons in the BTCC was 5th so he will have something to prove.

2015/01/img_7908.jpg

Priaulx and WSR owner / manager Dick Bennetts revealed the new 2015 BMW 125 they will use next season, resplendent in the livery of the team’s new sponsor, IHG Rewards Club. Whilst a privateer team WSR receive much support from BMW.

2015/01/img_7909.jpg

Ariel revealed their new Nomad off road vehicle. Capable of 0 -60 in only 3.4 seconds and weighing only 670KG it promises to be a riot. On sale this coming summer it is expected to cost in the region of £30k.

2015/01/img_7911.jpg

A notable feature of the show is the annual display of the previous year’s F1 cars. Here is a close up of the nose of Lotus’ last car. Most teams have the same ugly “prong” nose, only Lotus have “prongs” of different length. Presumably there are sound engineering reasons for the asymmetry – not that it did them much good last season..

2015/01/img_7916.jpg

As a boy I loved the Ford Escort RS2000 – the car of choice for Bodie and Doyle in TV crime fighting series “The Professionals”. This immaculate example reminds us that the RS2000 was not just a pretty face but was, like its famous predecessors, a great rally tool as well.

2015/01/img_7919.jpg

A new feature this year was the opportunity to take passenger rides in a Ginetta G40 around a tight indoor course.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his second World Championship following his convincing win at Abu Dhabi earlier today. Whilst its a shame Rosberg dropped out of contention with mechanical difficulties, it was a relief that the Championship went to the driver with the most wins and that it was not decided by the ridiculous double points system in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain's first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Hammertime! Well done Lewis, Britain’s first two time World Champion since Jackie Stewart

Other innovations were more successful. The new hybrid engines are absolutely fascinating and have proved more reliable than anyone would have predicted. I personally do not mind the different noise – I think it sounds like the future.

Despite Mercedes Benz’s crushing dominance it was still a thrilling season. The resurrection of Williams was great to see for all British fans as was the humbling of Vettel at the hands of his Australian team mate. Ricciardo has had a fantastic season, his third in the drivers championship being well deserved. His lack of pretention and easy going nature have already endeared him to the fans. We can expect great things of him next season.  In addition, thanks to the aerodynamic skills of Adrian Newey, Red Bull managed to stay in touch with the Mercedes powered teams, notwithstanding their Renault engines. A remarkable achievement for the team. How will they cope with less of his time next year?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Ricciardo had a great season- a future World Champion?

Massa has also had a good season. He must be delighted Ferrari let him go. Ferrari’s season has been terrible – an embarrassment to the team who reap the most financial reward from the current system of team financing.  The departure of Montezemolo after so many years is the end of an era.  Rumours abound that Ross Brawn may go back to Ferrari. Might that and Vettel’s arrival be enough to help them out of the hole they are currently in?  McLaren, the second oldest team on the grid, have also had a season to forget.  Ron Dennis has a new Honda engine next season – will it be good enough? Engine aside they have not been competitive with the other Mercedes customer teams, Williams and Force India, both of whom have outperformed the Woking outfit.  Bar a miraculous Honda engine, Alonso is likely to face a tough test on his return to the team.

The administration of the Caterham and Marussia teams was a sad symptom of the increasing cost of F1. The new hybrid engines and the inequity of the current Concorde Agreement between F1’s commercial rights owner and some of the teams led directly to the reduced grid seen in the last few races of the season. Things do not look good for Sauber, Force India of Lotus either. Lotus’ season has been particularly terrible and it seems nothing much can save them apart from a return of Flavio Briatore or some other deep pocket.

After many years of no serious injuries in F1 we were rocked by Jules Bianchi’s terrible accident at Suzuka. Hopefully he and Michael Schumacher, injured in a freak skiing accident earlier in the year, will make a full recovery.

jules

Brooklands, the birthplace of British motor racing, is home to a fascinating museum and the very impressive Mercedes-Benz World. Every October the Museum with Autoitalia Magazine organise a motorsport day at the Museum and on the test track at Mercedes-Benz World. All sorts of competition cars are invited to the event and this year I took along my MG SV.

IMG_7717.JPG

Queuing up for some hot laps on the MBW test track. The broken concrete circuit is part of the original Campbell road circuit. Note the variety of other competition cars. Not sure the standard F Type and Testerosa count!

IMG_7719.JPG

In the paddock the variety continues. Note the top fuel dragster. When the engine is running the pit crew need to wear gas masks.

IMG_7721.JPG

This fearsome Fiat 500 Abarth looks like it is on steroids. It has a 1.8L 220 bhp engine!

IMG_7720.JPG

A very smart MG M Type Midget Le Mans. A similar car won the 500 Mile Race at Brooklands driven by Lord March’s grandfather, Freddy.

IMG_7725.JPG

Alfa Romeos 8C and 4C

IMG_7728.JPG

TT Legend Joey Dunlop’s Ford Transit complete with smart looking BSA

IMG_7722.JPG

Two more Fiat 500 Abarths, one luke warm and the other hot!

IMG_7724.JPG

MG SV in front of the iconic Brooklands Club House

IMG_7730.JPG

JPS Team Lotus transporter. The stock car isn’t quite a Lotus 72.

IMG_7731.JPG

A team Lotus JPS Motorhome, former home to Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson.

IMG_7726.JPG

A miraculous survivor of a time when Fiats rusted to oblivion in 5 years! This 128 is immaculate. My Grandad had a green one which I remember with fondness. In production from 1969 to 1985 it was European Car of the Year in 1970 and its front engine front wheel drive design became the standard for most other manufacturers.

Ever since I went to the first Goodwood Revival meeting in 1998, those three days in September have been the highlight of my motoring year. Goodwood is a fantastic race circuit, fast and demanding of drivers but at the same time beautiful and accessible to the public. When the weather is good there is really nothing to match the place. Lord March does, of course, put on a good party. Racing heroes of the past and the top historic racers of today love to drive at Goodwood as much as the public loves to see them. And if you are a billionaire owner of a Ferrari 250 GTO then nothing underscores your wealth more than allowing your precious car to be raced at it’s limit around such an unforgiving track.

Much though I love the revival I do increasingly begin to question whether I enjoy it as much as I used to. This year there was a record attendance of over 160,000 people and boy, at times did it feel it. Maybe it would not have been so bad if all of those attending had been motoring enthusiasts but many were there on corporate hospitality jollies and clearly had little interest or knowledge of motor racing. When John Surtees was taking part in his laps of honour I overheard, all too frequently, people asking who he was.

Maybe I’m getting grouchy now, but am I the only one beginning to find having to dress in period attire boring? Certainly the whole dressing up thing has become a major industry and whilst it might interest otherwise bored spouses, is it really necessary for the enjoyment of the racing? I understand that there is a desire to create a period feel but in that case why all the adverts for contemporary and anonymous private banks and hedge funds? And why are motor manufacturers allowed to push their new models in the “period” Earls Court Motor Show?

The racing this year was as good as ever but quite often it was the same cars that race every year in the same races with the same drivers. Perhaps Goodwood’s embarrassment of riches gives rise to a certain ambivalence but I no longer get excited by the multi-million pound grid for the RAC TT celebration. As for the St Mary’s Trophy touring car race, the less said the better. A Race where a Ford A40 can lap faster than a Jaguar Mk 1 is certainly entertaining but it is not historic racing.

The highpoints of my weekend? One was watching Giedo Van de Garde sliding his AC Cobra around Lavant Corner on his way to winning the RAC TT celebration with his codriver David Hart. I have often heard elderly spectators say that young Formula One drivers would be incapable of racing sports cars from the 50s and 60s as their forebears used to, because young drivers are so used to massive downforce and slick tires. Giedo proved conclusively that even one of the least high profile young Formula One drivers of today is more than capable of driving the wheels off anything given half a chance.

Another highlight was the fantastic Whitsun Trophy race on Saturday evening. Chris Goodwin, McLaren’s charming test driver, triumphed in his own McLaren Chevy M1B. The racing was very close and the average lap speed the fastest of the whole weekend. Seeing these CanAm monsters hurtle down the Lavant straight at over 160 miles an hour was astonishing as was the noise from their huge V8 engines.

An finally of course, the air displays. This year we had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see two Lancasters flying in formation. A very moving sight.

IMG_7630.JPG

Goodwood in September..Goodwood Trophy Race

IMG_7628.JPG

V16 BRM – I had not realised the engine was offset.

IMG_7626.JPG

Derek Bell pushes his Jaguar D Type towards the grid

IMG_7645.JPG

Jay Esterer’s sinister Chinook Chevy Mk2 from the Whitsun Trophy race

IMG_7646.JPG

Chris Goodwin’s Whitsun Trophy winning McLaren Chevy M1B

IMG_7655.JPG

Lots of fine cars in the Classics Car Park, one of the highlights of the event in fact. This very fine Armstrong Siddley Star Sapphire had come all the way from Switzerland.

IMG_7657.JPG

A very neat Singer Le Mans, a very underrated pre war sports car.

 

IMG_7653.JPG

A rare aerial visitor, a Gloster Gladiator fighter.

 

IMG_7635.JPG

A rare MG Arnholt Coupe. Built on a TD chassis in the US in the fifties, these cars are rarely seen in Europe. This one had come from Germany.

IMG_0148.PNG

Sir Jackie Stewart explains the finer points of his Championship winning Tyrell

IMG_0147.PNG

Two Lancasters – the roar of eight Rolls Royce Merlin engines. The sound of freedom.

The Shere Hillclimb in Surrey is a relatively new event, first running last year. The 900 yard course is a public road temporarily shut for the day. As such, and despite the road closure, normal road traffic rules apply. The event is therefore not timed and all runs are mere “demonstrations “.

The event is organised by a number of local car clubs and raises money for the local school and other charities. In this regard it is similar to the now well-established Kop Hillclimb in Buckinghamshire. That event now attracts nearly 15,000 spectators and over 1000 potential entrants for only 100 places. I have driven the Kop Hillclimb in the past and whilst it was fun, the lack of a competitive element to it detracted from my enjoyment and I have felt no strong desire to go back.

As the Shere Hillclimb is close to where I live I put aside my concerns and decided to enter with my MG YB. Like the Kop Hillclimb the Shere Hillclimb was oversubscribed and I was lucky to get a place, primarily due to the 1950’s race history of my YB.

It was a good day but the hill was somewhat ruined by a number of very sharp chicanes which prevented my old car from attaining a decent speed. In addition there were so many entrants that I only had three runs up the hill and there was a lot of waiting around. I won’t be doing it again, at least not whilst is non-competitive.

IMG_7614.JPG

MG YB in the paddock next to fire spitting Cobra!

The government is in the process of changing the law to allow competitive motorsport events on public roads (as has been allowed for many years on the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and in France) so maybe next year the event will be competitive or at least have a competitive class.

IMG_7617.JPG

Ferrari 246 Dino, Lotus Elise and Lexus LFA – diverse machinery

IMG_7616.JPG

Lotus 2- 11 with very smart JPS livery. Signed by Hazel Chapman too!

IMG_7607.JPG

Frazer Nash tackles the hill (same restored one that was at Hampton Court the day before).

 

IMG_7620.JPG

Chain gang – business end of the Frazer Nash Norris Special. Fancy sitting on that lot?

IMG_7619.JPG

Group of AC cars through the ages. AC were a local Surrey make based mainly at Thames Ditton.

IMG_7622.JPG

Another view of the Norris Special Frazer Nash. Raced at Brooklands pre war it was most successful post war when used in hillclimbs. It holds the VSCC record at Shelsley, Prescott, Harewood, Loton and Wiscombe Park.

Next Page »