UMG Monte 16 13 Dumfries

After leaving Paisley we had a short night time run to Dumfries where we made our first overnight stop. The Historique guys had no such luxury heading straight down the motorway to a distant Dover. A good selection of the Classique cars can been seen in this shot getting ready to leave Dumfries.Behind my Swedish co driver Per Jonsson (in his fetching yellow coat) is the Dutch Derby Bentley 3.5 litre of Robert van Rheenan. Behind him is the rapid little Austin A35 of Fiona and Richard Lamotte. On the right Ian Glass and Nick Ward fettle “The Tortoise”, Ian’s Ford Popular.

UMG Monte 16 14 Croft Dad

From Dumfries the route took us over the border into Cumbria and then over the Pennines to Croft Motor Circuit near Darlington. There I had a pleasant surprise, my father having driven down from Northumberland to see how we were getting on.

UMG Monte Carlo Rally 2016 - Croft Circuit 5

Here we are leaving the pits for a few laps of the circuit

UMG Monte 16 Croft 2 on track

I believe this was the first time that UMG 662 had been on a motor circuit since it raced at Silverstone in the 1953 Daily Express Production Touring Car race (3rd in class!).

UMG Monte Carlo Rally 2016 - Croft Circuit 2

Coming down the pit straight with a Standard in pursuit.

UMG 662 Silverstone 1953

The last time UMG 662 was on track – The Daily Express Production Touring Car Race, Silverstone 1953

UMG Monte 16 16 M25 Dartford

Some unwelcome news at Croft was that the ferry we were due to take overnight from Hull to Zeebrugge had been cancelled. Alternative arrangements were put in place but entailed a long slog down the A1 to Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel. Unfortunately we arrived on the M25 at rush hour with traffic over the Dartford Crossing held up by high winds. We ended up sitting in traffic for over an hour. Much to our relief UMG 662 did not over heat.

UMG Monte 16 17 Chunnel

Since leaving Croft we had not seen any of the other rally cars. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find ourselves behind the splendid Ford Zodiac of Terry Mower and Nick Green for the short Chunnel journey to France where we arrived after midnight.

UMG 662 Monte Carlo Rally 1954

In a way it was good to just cross the Channel near Dover rather than take the ferry from Hull. It was more in keeping with what the UK crews did in the past. Here is UMG 662 being checked aboard the ferry at Dover on its way to France on the Monte in 1954

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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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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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

 

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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.

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

The lead up to the Grand Prix is always fun. Arriving early in the morning, watching the GP2 and Porsche Super Cup races and then the drivers’ parade.

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After that there is time for a quick burger and a stretch in the sun. Some fans take their support beyond baseball caps and shirts with logos. Have a close look at the hair cuts of these two blokes. Kimi and Lewis would be pleased!

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The Red Arrows always put on a terrific display. No big British summer event would be complete without them!

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Sadly I was too far away from the track to be able to take good photos with my iPhone but here are some rather poor efforts.

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Sadly Silverstone was the last GP I will be able to attend this season – can’t wait till next year!

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The British Grand Prix was certainly dramatic! Pirelli managed to conjour up a thrilling spectacle for the capacity crowd on a beautiful English summer’s day. Watching from the fast slalom that is Becketts I missed seeing most of the multiple blow outs myself, though I did see Massa’s excursion off track after his rear left burst.

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Lewis’ burst tyre was particularly harsh after his fine qualifying performance and clearly robbed him of victory in front of his home fans. Helped by the safety car he drove magnificently back to fourth from last. His comments after the race were revealing. He said that the “illegal” tyre test with Mercedes had been undertaken to try and address the tyre failure problems that had occurred earlier in the season but that nothing was done after the tests. His anger that drivers’ lives were being put at risk was clear.

Certainly tyres exploding at 190 mph are very dangerous for the driver, other racers, spectators and marshals who have to run on track to recover bits of rubber. That no one was killed or injured last weekend owes a lot to the skill of the drivers (only Massa lost control) and luck. In particular both Alonso and Raikkonen were lucky to avoid contact with tyre debris.

After the race some were quick to blame the “sharp” curbs at Silverstone. This was manifestly nonsense given the curbs were the same as last year. It was only days later that Pirelli admitted there was an issue with the tyres but again this was only after they appeared to suggest that fault lay with the teams using incorrect tyre pressures and camber. Whatever the cause it became clear something needed to be done urgently to avoid the (albeit slim) prospect of a boycott of this weekend’s German GP. Bernie Ecclestone wasted no time in banging heads together and hopefully we will not see any more failures this weekend.

The repeated blow outs and safety car periods led to a dramatic finale with Webber and Hamilton carving through the field to finish second and fourth. It’s a shame Mark could not win his last British GP but he certainly pushed Rosberg hard. His metronomic victory for Mercedes was ominous for Red Bull – nearly as ominous as Vettel’s gearbox failure retirement when he looked to have the race in the bag (the cheers of delight from the British fans when he pulled over left you in no doubt where their sympathies lay). A steady drive from Alonso meant he closed the gap on Vettel and though Raikkonen will have been disappointed to have lost a number of places in the last few laps the fact he has now finished more consecutive GP’s than Schumacher in his pomp is certainly some achievement. It was another race to forget for McLaren and Williams.

I head off to Silverstone at dawn tomorrow for the British Grand Prix. There is always a great atmosphere at Silverstone where despite eye watering prices over 130,000 spectators regularly watch the race. It should be exciting tomorrow. Qualifying was thrilling, with Mercedes getting the better of Red Bull again. Hamilton seems to have finally got the measure of his car and stormed to pole with the only sub 1 minute 30 second time, nearly half a second quicker than team mate Roseberg. Vettel was the quickest of the Red Bulls but Paul D Resta gave British fans something else to cheer about with a fantastic P5. Will he finally get the podium place he so deserves? Ricciardo also did very well at P6 – perhaps motivated by the soon to be vacant Webber seat at Red Bull? Conversely the Lotus struggled to P8 and 9 and the Ferraris did even worse, Alonso managing only P 10 and Masa P12. But the news was far worse still for McLaren and Williams with both teams failing to make it out of Q2. Hamilton’s much derided decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes now looks increasingly sensible. Williams’ sad slide to oblivion is beginning to look irreversible.

Whilst I’ll be in my Lotus shirt tomorrow I’ll be cheering on Hamilton and Di Resta and wishing the best to the other Brits. A victory for Hamilton in a Mercedes would be a fairy tail mirroring Moss’s first British GP win for Mercedes in 1954. But whilst Mercedes seem to have the pace for qualifying Red Bull seem stronger in the races. Can Mercedes hold Red Bull off this time?