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.

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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?

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Some interesting new iron (aluminium, carbon fibre …) at the FoS this year. Highlights below.

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The new Ford Mustang – finally available in right hand drive. Aggressive retro styling looks good – shame about the awful colour

 

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More “motor show” colours on the McLaren stand. Am I the only one who prefers the simple look of the MP4-12c nose to that on the new 650S nose? Must be as apparently there was so little continuing demand for the old car once the 650S was launched that they have now stopped making it.

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The Jaguar F Type Project 7 is an important car for Jaguar. Based on the slightly more extreme concept shown at last year’s FoS , the Project 7 is actually a production car – indeed the fastest production Jaguar ever. Its V8 is tuned up to 575 bhp – 25 more than the R Coupe. It also has bespoke aero, and trick suspension and diff with standard carbon ceramic brakes. The screen has a greater rake than the standard convertible and it has an D Type imitating faring behind the drivers role hoop. Inside it looks fairly standard and weather protection consists of a rather impractical clip on hood like the recent Boxster speedster. Its a striking car and they hope to sell 250, and only 60 in right hand drive. But what’s it for? Too comfortable and therefore heavy for a racer (and the rollover protection looks too scant) yet too uncomfortable for every day use. Is it therefore just for collectors and occasional track days?

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This stunning Jaguar SUV concept is far more likely to make JLR lots of money. Aimed at rivalling the Audi Q4, BMW X3 and especially the Porsche Macan it should perform well and in a different segment to current Land Rover products. I would certainly buy one. The bad news is that we are unlikely to see one for sale until 2018, with a hot version not to follow until 2019.

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VW ran their diminutive XL electric car up the hill. It looks like the future for urban transport but is very very small and very very expensive.

 

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The new Renault Twingo Sport looks like great fun. Based on the same platform as the new Smart 4-2 it has a rear mounted 1L turbocharged engine. Hot versions later this year should have 140 bhp making the car a mini 911!

There is always a fine selection of Le Mans sports cars at Goodwood ranging from those from the earliest days of racing to the very latest winning machines.

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Andy Wallace is reunited with his 1988 Le mans winning Jaguar XJR – 9

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This year’s Le man winning Audi e-Tron. Havings stumbled in the early rounds of this year’s World Sports Car championship they managed to win the race that really mattered. Sound familiar Peugeot?

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1970 Ferrari 512, just like in the film Le Mans..

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Mercedes high speed transporter carrying the fabulous Uhlenhaut Coupe (see previous posts from Stuttgart)

 

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This year’s Le Mans Toyota hybrid

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Gorgeous Jaguar D Type Le Mans winners – 55, 56, 57. This Ecurie Ecosse car won in 1957 and provided the design inspiration for the Project 7 Jaguar

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Vast V12 Sunbeam racer from 1920 and even bigger 1911 Fiat

Due to restrictions on testing (!) there were no contemporary Formula One cars tackling the hill at Goodwood this year. That did not stop some of the teams bringing cars for static display or bringing cars from previous seasons for their drivers and test drivers to run up the hill. Even then runs were restricted to demonstration performances with plenty of doughnuts and burnouts and very little speed. We had to look to the historic guys for real pace.

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Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-26 he drove in 2012.

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Max Smith Hilliard in his 1972 Surtees TS9B. Seconds later he stuffed it into the bales at Molecombe corner. He was unhurt and at least he was trying!

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Legendary Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi driving the McLaren M23 with which he won McLaren’s first world title in 1974.

One of the best things about the Festival of speed is the close access to the drivers available for fans.

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British GP winner Johhny Herbert sharing a laugh at the Williams pit

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John Surtees was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with a class of cars and bikes associated with his career in action on the hill all weekend.

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An immaculately turned out Paddy Hopkirk reunited with his Monte winning Mini Cooper

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Twelve time World Motor Bike Trials champion Dougie Lampkin in action

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Felipe Massa reflecting on his good fortune to no longer be at Ferrari

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I had a good chat with Andy Wallace about Le Mans in 1988. The XJR made 250 mph down the pre chicane Mulsanne Straight. At night he could see so little as the lights were mounted so low that he had to pick out his braking points by calculating distances from land marks as they flashed by. To this day the XJR is the fastest car to have driven at Le mans. Andy has no desire to ever drive that fast again – he said it was something you could only do when young, fearless and lacking in imagination.

Ever since the success of the Senna film in 2010 there has been talk of more films, with racing at their heart, making it to the big screen. It’s fair to say that racing films have not really enjoyed much success beyond the piston head market. Whilst I can watch “Le Mans” and “Grand Prix” many times most critics were not impressed. There have been other racing movies since but none has made much impact – but that looks like it could soon change.

The 1976 F1 World Championship battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, McLaren and Ferrari, was one of the most epic racing seasons of all time. Hunt, the flamboyant English playboy, was a darling of the British public and Lauda, the precise Austrian World Champion, was the villain. Added to the patriotic drama was the amazing story of Lauda’s recovery mid way through the season after a terrible fiery crash. And set against all of this was Hunt’s tortuous private life, his insecurity, and his disintegrating marriage.

Bringing all this drama to the screen would not be easy but the producers have picked a great director in Ron Howard (Apollo 13 etc). Take a look at the trailers on YouTube. The film looks like it will be fantastic. I Thought I was going to have to wait till mid September to see the film with everyone else but last week the Goodwood Road Racing Club announced they had organised an exclusive preview showing of the film, with an introduction from one of the producers, in Soho on Monday evening. I can’t wait. Luckily I read David Benson’s excellent slim summary of the season (“Hunt v Lauda”) a few months ago so a lot of the story will be fresh in my mind. I recommend the book. It can be picked up for a couple of quid on eBay.

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January is always a pretty slow month for the motoring enthusiast. The season is over and the weather is usually so bad that even driving a modern car is no fun.  So with a lack of driving to keep me entertained I have been forced to get my thrill vicariously by plunging into some of the rather good motoring books I bought with my Christmas vouchers (thank you unimaginative relations!)…

Comic books feature rather strongly! But grown up(ish) comics I would like to think.  The Art of War is the pretentious titled F1 expose of former Williams Chief Exec Adam Parr.  Mr Parr was not, it appears, widely liked in F1 and that does to a degree shine through the pacey and nicely illustrated book he has produced.  It’s fair to say Bernie does not come out too well from Parr’s recounting of his years in F1.  On the other hand Max M, who wrote a forward to the book, is feted.  Whether you’d want to spend much time with any of them is open to debate. Still the book provides a fascinating insight into the politics of F1 and is a useful reminder of the fact that what is still a great sport is now also big business.

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One of the joys of holidaying in France and Belgium is being able to buy Michel Vaillant racing comic books. Jean Graton’s Gallic racing star has been winning races since the mid fifties when he first appeared in the Tintin comics.  Now you can buy all the books in several thick volumes. They aren’t cheap so I have just bought the first, which covers our hero’s exploits from 1957 to 1960 in such diverse events as the Monte Carlo Rally,  Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500.  The illustrations of the fifties sports racers are great and the plots entertaining and just about discernible with my schoolboy French.  It was “an age of gentlemen”, as demonstrated by the gallant Gaul in one story who not only stops to help rescue his American rival and friend from a horrific crash but also provides an on the spot life saving blood transfusion too!  All this and an introduction by Alain Prost. What more do you need? Vive La France!

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More recent comic delights are provided by Marvano whose Grand Prix Trilogy covers the exploits of the Silver Arrows before the last war. Given the awe in which they are now held it sometimes easy to forget that those magnificent Auto-Unions and Mercedes were financed by the Nazis for the greater glory of that benighted regime.  The story is told through the eyes of characters both real and fictional including Rosemeyer, Neubauer, Stuck, Porsche and that car loving non driver himself,  Hitler.  When I am in Stuttgart in March it will be interesting to see how much of a mention the Third Reich, a time when those shiny Silver Arrows used to run with a Swastika flag on their flanks, gets at the Porsche and Mercedes museums.  The illustrations are exceptional but the books are in French and I needed a dictionary to be able to understand some of the more subtle writing.  Still, excellent books for all those with an interest in pre war racing.

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Away from the comic books I acquired two good reference books.  Julian Hunt’s Motorsport Explorer is an excellent gazetteer of all motor sport sites in the British Isles.  Not just race circuits but hill climb venues, speed trial venues and even drag strips. The work that must have gone into this book is staggering.  Everything is covered from the ever-changing Silverstone to obscure hill climb courses used once in 1906!  Given moves to once again allow racing on closed public roads I am sure I am not the only one looking with interest at the locations of some of the old public road hill climbs and wondering..

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I have a bit of a nerd’s interest in old garage buildings so I was delighted to see Morrison and MinnisCarscapes that looks at the architecture and landscapes of cars in the UK.  Profusely illustrated it covers everything from car factories to petrol stations, roads, domestic garages and multi story car parks. It’s astonishing how much is left from the earliest days of motoring in the UK and this book will surely help preserve some of that heritage for the future.

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