silverstone


Gregor Grant, the founding editor of Autosport Magazine, owned an MG YB saloon which was his personal transport as well as the office hack. He bought it new from the MG factory and kept it for two years. In that time it was used as a press car for numerous UK and continental events including the Mille Miglia and the Monte Carlo Rally.  Gregor and his close friend (and sometime MG Works driver) George Phillips also used the car competitively, including in the Scottish Rally in 1953 and the Production Touring Car race at Silverstone in the same year.   They also competed in the 1954 Monte Carlo Rally. Whilst they completed the rally they were sadly disqualified for missing the last time check. 

I bought Gregor’s old car, UMG 662, last year with the intention of running it on the Monte Carlo Historic Rally. Sadly I found out that that rally now only caters for newer cars. However, in December I discovered that the Automobile Club De Monaco were running a special one off Classic Monte Carlo rally celebrating 80 years since the first British  winner. They were keen for Gregor’s old car to take part so I set about frantically getting the car ready. 

The car is now set up and is ready to be trailered off to John of Groats for the start on Wddnesday. The route is through the Highlands to Paisley where we will join the cars doing the historic rally. From there we go to Dumfries, stop overnight before heading to Hull the next day via Croft race circuit. We then take the overnight ferry to Zeebrugge and meet up with the historic cars again in Rheims on Friday. From there it is 36 hours non stop through France, over the Alps Maritime to Monaco.  

A full post will follow but in the meantime, if you would like to follow our progress to Monte please follow me on Twitter @mctrhanson or search #MG2Monte. 

   
 

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!

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.

The British Grand Prix was another thrilling race in what has turned out to be a classic season. Although it might lack the glamour of Monaco or the first rate facilities of Abu Dhabi and the other new circuits, Silverstone more than makes up for such deficiencies with the passion of the 120,000 fans who make the pilgrimage to Northamptonshire every year. All the British drivers, including Max Chilton labouring at the back of the pack, received loud applause every time they went past the packed grandstands. And foreign drivers received sporting applause when their conduct merited it. In the end the fans got what they wanted, a British victory. Although the mechanical failure which robbed Rosberg finish handed the race to Hamilton, I think the fans would have preferred to have seen him take the lead following an overtaking manoeuvre. Instead, for thrilling overtaking and racing the fans had to look to Alonso and Vettel who battled it out wheel to wheel for many laps. Bottas also drove magnificently, finishing second having started 16th. Ultimately though it is Hamilton who will be happiest with today’s result as it now leaves him just four points behind Rosberg in the race for the championship.

Below, Hamilton crosses the line and takes the chequered flag for only his second British Grand Prix victory.

20140706-210747-76067090.jpg

Below, the top three on the podium face the ecstatic British fans. Bottas received his second place trophy from the legendary John Surtees who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with Ferrari. Incidentally, as noted below (“Dinner with Emerson Fittipaldi”), the famous British Grand Prix Gold cup was at Silverstone to be presented to the winner. However all Lewis got was a horrible plasticky trophy based on sponsor Santander’s logo. He had the good taste to show his disgust and ask “Where is the gold cup? ” Where indeed?

20140706-211404-76444197.jpg

Gripping start. Poor by Vettel, great for the McLarens and Lewis. Raikkonen loses it and collects Massa. Both unhurt but out of the race. Real shame for Massa who was starting his 200th GP. Poor start for the Lotus’ too. Race will start again soon under safety car. Below Lewis on formation lap.

20140706-133750-49070294.jpg

Below, Sutil’s Sauber followed by the Williams’ of Massa and Bottas.

20140706-133841-49121289.jpg

Drivers parade!

20140706-115023-42623898.jpg

After a gripping qualifying session in the rain yesterday the sun is shining at Silverstone for the 50th British Grand Prix held at this famous old Northamptonshire circuit. To celebrate that anniversary some of the stars from the past were out demonstrating some lovely old cars.

Below, Damon Hill driving his father Graham’s Lotus 49.

20140706-113640-41800627.jpg

Below, Adrian Newey driving the UTP March followed by Emerson Fittipaldi in his McLaren M23. Behind him is the McLaren of James Hunt.

20140706-113944-41984282.jpg

Last week I and some other RAC members had the rare privilege of having dinner with two time Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi. Although now in his 60s he looked incredibly fit although he has long since lost his former trademark muttonchops. It proved to be a great evening as Emerson turned out to be a thoroughly charming and patient man. Down-to-earth, he took time to answer all our questions even though he had probably heard them all many many times before. He entertained us with incredible stories about his career, both in Formula One and in IndyCar. It’s astonishing to think that he started racing in the same year that Jack Brabham retired and only finished racing in 1997 when he was well into his late 40s. Over a varied career he not only won the world championship twice but also the Indianapolis 500, also twice. He also won the British Grand Prix twice and will be driving his Silverstone winning McLaren M23 tomorrow before the British Grand Prix.

What was particular striking about Emerson was that he clearly has a real interest in the history of motor racing. For the dinner the Club could not, unfortunately, decorate the table with the British Grand Prix trophy as it had already been sent to Silverstone. Instead the beautiful Tourist Trophy took pride of place. Emerson took a real interest in the trophy, looking carefully at the names of the illustrious drivers who had won it in the past. I think he regretted the fact that his name was not on it! However he explained he never really took to sportscar racing and never did Le Mans as a close friend of his father whom he had looked up to as a child was killed there in the fifties.

Of course, like many other British men my age, the thing I particulary remember about Emerson Fittipaldi is the Corgi toy Lotus 72 JPS. I think every boy at school had one at the time of Emerson’s first world championship in 1972. I took my own along to the dinner and Emerson very kindly agreed to sign the box. It will be treasured even more now!

20140705-155146-57106545.jpg

Emerson Fittipaldi with the Tourist Trophy

A couple of weeks ago I went to Silverstone for the annual MG Car Club meeting. In between the races, a couple of demonstration laps by a rather special MG 3 caught peoples’ attention. The MG 3 has been out for about a year now and is selling relatively well given the current low profile of the company. It’s won plaudits from the critics for its fine handling and bargain price ( fully loaded its about £10,000). However, for the enthusiastic driver it has lacked one crucial ingredient-poke. In China the car is now available with a turbocharger but that option is not available as yet in the UK. The car paraded at Silverstone was a one-off race car. It’d been assembled by a skunk group at MG in Longbridge with money from the marketing team in China. They clearly wanted something sporty to show the press back home. The boys at Longbridge certainly did a fine job. The car was prepared and driven at Silverstone by MG’s engineering workshop manager. I had a good chat with him. He hoped that interest in the car might lead MG to prepare similar cars for a race series (like the old MGF Trophy) and also kits for owners to modify their own cars. Sounds appealing to me!

20140705-152638-55598476.jpg

MG3 Racing – stripped out interior with full cage and racing seats. Yes those are slicks. Not sure about that spoiler though apparently vital for added downforce.

20140705-152638-55598093.jpg

Standard 1.5 engine with trick innards and head and huge turbo charger. It apparently puts out a healthy 220 bhp!

 

20140705-152638-55598914.jpg

The car rides on shocks especially sourced from Penske in the US. The forged wheels are off the shelf but the brakes which look like old MGF Trophy items are in fact entirely bespoke.

20140705-152639-55599447.jpg

The car looks great fun – hopefully we will see a production version.

I took the Beast to Silverstone in June for the MGCC main international event. I was competing in the sprint on the Stowe Circuit and had high hopes of improving my performance after my appalling time at Crystal Palace. The Stowe Circuit has some good straights and I thought that would help me to at least better the times I had set there a few years previously in my little MGF. The result was massively disappointing. Although there were some good straights the Circuit also has a lot of slowish corners that I struggled to get right. My best time was some 4 seconds slower than my time in the MGF. It should have been 3 or 4 seconds faster especially as this time round there was one less chicane!

20130722-221627.jpg

The following weekend I was racing at the Gurston Down Hillclimb near Salisbury. Gurston is a fantastic hill and one of my favourite events of the year. It’s quite fast with a challenging series of corners in the middle and some steep gradients. The paddock is in a farm yard and the whole event is run with fantastic precision. You can even get a great breakfast at the startline cafe which has a great view of the hill. My expectations were very low but much to my surprise I did relatively well. Whilst still a couple of seconds behind the times I had set in my MGF the gap was not so large and I managed to at least be quicker than the other MGFs and TFs. I was still a couple of seconds slower than a time set by previous owner Nadine but I know how quick she is so I was not too disappointed! Next event should be a return to Goodwood in August where I should hopefully improve on the times I set at Easter.

20130722-222515.jpg

Next Page »