Archive for September, 2010

So the third and final part of my day at Donington.

After the second BTCC race we trundled up to McLeans where there had been plenty of action earlier on in the day. The first race at our new location was the Ginetta G50s, which provided some action but not as much as was hoped. The good thing about watching the Ginettas from McLeans though is that they are prone to running wide on the exit; but it’s hard to say whether that’s down to the car or the driver.

Nevertheless a fair bit of dirt was kicked up by cars running over the curbs on the exit which provided some action as they dashed up the short straight to Coppice.

I'm not sure how this happened...

After the Ginettas came race two of the Porsche Carrera Cup. As mentioned in my first Donington post, the Porsches do not lend themselves to close racing. Therefore there was little in the way of excitement during this race Michael Caine, Tim Harvey and the rest pounded round for lap after lap without ever being close enough to create a real overtaking opportunity.

After this little procession though came the Ginetta Junior Championship race which was sure to provide some more action. Well it did provide some although again not as much overtaking into McLeans as I hoped for. Perhaps I was just being naive and optimistic!

Most of the action in this race came from championship contender Louise Richardson as she charged through from 16th on the grid to finish 4th overall.

Tom Ingram leads the field through McLeans

Louise Richardson dives up the inside of David Moore

And then takes Tom Howard a few laps later

A late incident elsewhere saw the safety car lead the field round for half a dozen laps before a two lap dash to the finish but the field was too spread for there to be any real drama where I was.

But onto the BTCC. As the cars made their way round from the pits and onto the grid I followed them round, not paying too much attention as it’s only the warm up lap to get them onto the grid. Not much was going to happen. Well as the Honda Integra of James Kaye went past I heard tyre squeal and was lucky enough to capture the end of this.

Yes he some how managed to spin on his installation lap whilst heading to the grid. After four years away from the BTCC, the rustiness was definitely still on show!

Onto the race and whilst it wasn’t the most dramatic of touring car races there was still some close racing going through McLeans and on up to Coppice. However sadly due to the  overcast conditions and the cold state of my hands I wasn’t able to get as many photos of a decent quality. These were my best efforts though.

Plato leads a gaggle of cars on lap 1 of the third BTCC race

Tom Onslow-Cole and Alex MacDowell

Steven Kane and Tom Chilton

Jason Plato and Mat Jackson

So there you have it. My day at the BTCC and a few of the pictures I took there. It was a long day with lots of standing around and getting a bit nippy but for £27 and nine races it was definitely worth it.

After losing interest in the BTCC during my teenage years, my interest in the sport has definitely returned and I am looking forward to the season finale at Brands Hatch.

If you’re looking for a sport which provides real value for money, then you can’t go wrong with the BTCC.

There are many more photos available on my Flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/davestubbings/).

We moved only a couple of hundred yards during the lunch break, to the over bridge on the climb up towards McLeans.

The first race after lunch was the Formula Ford Championship which again provided plenty of overtaking and drama, however a lot of the drama was out of sight for us. This race saw a familiar racing name and helmet take to the Donington circuit as Josh Hill, son of Damon and grandson of Graham lined up on the grid.

Josh Hill heads round on the warm up lap for the second Formula Ford race

It’s always been ambition of mine to see that famous blue helmet with the white ores take part in a race, however truth be told I’d have preferred it to be Damon as he was the driver in Formula 1 I followed when growing up. But I can’t be picky!

The race was fairly spread out by Formula Ford standards with Daniel Cammish dominating from start to finish. A close battle for second between Scott Malvern, Scott Pye and Hill saw the latter lose out when he went off at McLeans.

When you're racing as close as Malvern (22), Pye (1) and Hill (0), it can often end in tears

After Hill’s demise the safety car came out which briefly bunched everyone up before Cammish cruised off to take the win, however there was still some fairly close racing behind him.

After the Formula Ford boys were done it was time for the second BTCC race of the day. With the grid order decided by the way they finished race one, Honda’s Gordon Sheddon took pole ahead of Tom Chilton in the Ford Focus and Mat Jackson in the BMW. However it was Chilton’s team-mate, Tom Onslow-Cole who took full advantage of carrying no success ballast to take victory from eighth on the grid.

Again there was little action going into the Old Hairpin however there was some overtaking mainly by Jason Plato who stormed up from last to come home third and I was able to capture his move on Tom Chilton coming down through the Craner Curves.

Gordon Sheddon leads the field down the hill in race two.

And leads them up towards McLeans

Plato starts his move on Chilton...

...he gets up alongside the Ford as they approach the Old Hairpin...

...and the deed is done.

Now he sets off after Mat Jackson

That was most of the action of the second race with the exception of drivers running wide on the exit of the Old Hairpin. Plato was the only one of the top drivers to make that mistake, dropping two wheels onto the dirt beyond the curb on the exit, however several drivers further found down the field found the mud and grass to good to miss.

Shaun Hollamby in his VW Golf being one such driver

Andy Neate found himself under increased pressure from John George after this mistake

Apologies for this being nearly a week after the event, due to university and newspaper commitments this post had to put on the back burner for a while. But here it is at last.

Last Sunday I finally attended my first ever British Touring Car Championship race at Donington Park. The BTCC is a sport I always watched during the 1990s when the drivers were international stars, there were numerous manufacturers involved and the grid was sometimes 30 cars strong. In fact Donington Park hosted what many people regard as the finest BTCC race ever in 1998 when Nigel Mansell joined in the fun with his Ford Mondeo.

Since then the sport’s declined slightly with the departure of many manufacturers and most of the top drivers heading to the World Touring Car Championship it’s popularity has dampened slightly. Being shunted onto ITV4 maybe doesn’t help either.

Throughout this time my interest also disappeared and for a few years I lost touch with the sport. However after receiving last year’s season review (all 7 hours of it!) for my birthday and realising the great racing was still there, my interest returned. After watching a couple of earlier rounds on telly, I decided to head down to Donington Park with a friend for round 9 of this year’s championship.

Upon arrival we were greeted with loads of Ginettas and Porsches in the paddock awaiting their turns to race. By the time we’d arrived at the Old Hairpin the Porsches were lining up on the grid and as they charged through the Craner Curves off spun one of them, which I thankfully managed to capture.

Glen McMenamin spins into the gravel
Liam Griffin spins wildly off

That was about as exciting as it got in the Porsche races; with the cars so evenly matched overtaking is limited and both races saw Michael Caine (yes he races Porsches, not a lot of people know that) lead former BTCC star Tim Harvey home.

Michael Caine took both race wins

After the Porsches came the Ginetta Junior Championship, with ages varying from 14 to 17 (I wasn’t half jealous!). The great think about the Ginetta juniors is that with their inexperience and enthusiasm there is plenty of great racing and they didn’t disappoint with plenty of overtaking and off track excursions taking place down at the Old Hairpin.

After the Ginettas had been out attention turned to the first BTCC race of the day, which saw the Ford Focus’ lock out the front row yet again. I’m not going to bother with a report of the race or indeed the other BTCC races but just share some of the pictures from where I was.

Matt Neal heads into the Old Hairpin on lap 1 ahead of Jason Plato

Rob Collard, Matt Neal and Jason Plato shortly before the collision at the chicane

From where I was not much happened in race one, with most of the overtaking on the back straight and on the main straight which meant a fair few laps behind the safety car.

The narrator at Donington didn’t seem to get too excited about this and just casually told us that the championship leader was out without giving us any real idea of what actually went on on the far side of the track so it was a bit of a surprise when Tom Onslow-Cole’s Ford Focus came down the Carner Curves in fifth with hay bale in the front of it when last time he was battling Honda’s Gordon Sheddon for the lead!

The damage on Onslow-Cole and Neal is evident

That was it mainly for the first set of races. After this it was lunch time and time to walk a bit further up the track to find the next spot…which will follow in my next blog.

When Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso the German media immediately christened him ‘baby Schumi’, hailing him as the replacement for the great Michael Schumacher.

It’s been a rapid ascent for the 23-year-old following that win at Monza but his sudden leap from the back of midfield to the podium and the switch to title contenders Red Bull may have come too soon. Eleven poles and six victories for Red Bull prove that he has the speed to make him a successful F1 driver.

But despite fighting for two championships, does he have the temperament to claim the ultimate prize?

Despite lying third in this year’s championship, Vettel is 31 points behind leader Hamilton after a series of costly errors, which also dented last year’s title bid. Last weekend’s smash into the side of Jenson Button’s McLaren at Spa was the latest mistake of a driver who is perhaps a little too raw to win the championship and showed he still is unable to master overtaking.

Out of control: Vettel veers into Button's McLaren at Spa

Five of his seven wins have come from pole position with last year’s win in Abu Dhabi (when pole sitter Lewis Hamilton retired) and a start line jump on Mark Webber in Malaysia in April being the exceptions. Vettel, unlike his rivals, has never had to fight his way from anywhere further back than third on the grid to take the top step.

Adrian Newey has arguably designed F1’s fastest car in the last two seasons and this outright speed has constantly put Vettel at the front of the grid where he’s not required to overtake as much.

But despite claiming so many poles, he’s often been unable to win the following day’s race.

Vettel also has a terrible pole to win conversion in 2010. Out of his seven P1 grid starts, he’s only gone on to win one race, at Valencia in June. And after some of his mistakes during the past two seasons it is easy to see why the man from Heppenheim has been unable to win so many races.

A collision with Robert Kubica three laps from the end of  last year’s Australian Grand Prix cost both driver a podium finish and handed the race to Brawn’s Jenson Button. That was the first of a series of errors which have hindered his championship challenges. A few races later Vettel slid wide into the barriers at Ste Devote as he chased the Brawn’s around Monaco’s streets.

His attempted block on team-mate Mark Webber at the start of this year’s British Grand Prix ended in disaster, as the young German found himself at the back of the grid with a puncture. Despite climbing back up to seventh he had his overtaking skills criticised by compatriot Adrian Sutil.

“I defended my position well against Vettel until the final lap, but then he just seemed to drive into me and I lost the racing line and had to move over – otherwise I don’t think he would have got past me,” said the Force India man.

Vettel must work hard for more moments like this

Vettels most infamous moment came at Istanbul in May where his attempts to overtake Webber for the lead resulted in his retirement and the Australian falling behind both McLarens to finish third.

A few laps later Button and Hamilton showed Red Bull how racing between team mates should be done as they battled firmly but fairly for the lead. The blame for this collision was laid at the feet of the young German by many in Formula 1, except by Vettel and the Red Bull hierarchy.

“I was quicker. I dived down the inside. I had the corner,” he said..

But after he careered into the side of Button six days ago, Vettel had no excuses and has come in for more criticism  and calls to calm down.

“It seems Sebastian is just too impetuous; look at the incident with his own team-mate, look at incidents that put him out of the race,” said Mclaren’s Former Team Principal, Ron Dennis.

“It’s good to push, it’s good to be competitive, but there are so many historical lines in motorsport and the one that fits him more than anything is, ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’.

“If he doesn’t win this year’s World Championship and he’s considering the reasons why, I think he should first consider his own actions.”

This criticism of the young German suggests a consensus amongst those in F1 that he is not yet ready to win the world championship. The pressure of fighting for championships when still relatively inexperienced in Formula 1 seems to be taking its toll on Vettel as a series of mistakes hamper his championship chances for another year.

His latest mistake leaves him 28 points behind Webber with six races still to go. Although he is still within touching distance, if he fails to close the gap on his team mate he could soon find himself playing second fiddle, hardly a situation he wants.

If he fails to win this year’s title, the winter break should present him with an opportunity to calm down, reflect on his driving this year and look at the mistakes he’s made.

Then he may be able to put in a real title challenge.

Photo courtesy of iragazzidiredbull