Posts Tagged ‘btcc’

Last weekend saw me finally delve into the world of V8 Supercars; a series which up until now I’ve known has existed but never paid too much attention too.

However last weekend saw the series arrive in Surfers Paradise, Queensland, for the Armor All Gold Coast 600. Now for those of you who don’t know anything about the race, let me explain.

The Gold Coast 600 is split into two races over the weekend, both 300km (102 laps) long. Each team must hire a driver with an ‘international reputation’ for the weekend to complete at least one third of the distance in both races.

For this year’s event most of the drivers hired came from the IndyCar or World Touring Car Championship series with a few former F1 drivers popping up too.

Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Salo, Alain Menu, Alex Tagliani, Helio Castroneves, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gianni Morbidelli, Sebastien Bourdais, Yvan Muller were all there along with Britain’s Andy Priaulx and Dario Franchitti.

Quite a line up.

Intrigued by this event I looked to find coverage of the race back in England but alas was unable to until I found the full race coverage on YouTube. And what a spectacle.

Although there are only two manufacturers, Ford and Holden, the racing was so close with every position being fought over for lap after lap.

The start of Saturday’s race really shows how dramatic a V8 Supercar opening lap can be as the international drivers vied for position on the tight, coastal circuit.

But what I was impressed with after this incident, and in the Sunday race, was the close but fair racing. In Britain we love the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) for its no holds barred racing where drivers rub door handles, tap and nudge their way through.

All very exciting, and I for one am a massive fan of that. But ‘down under’ contact seems to be at a premium, especially on a track like Surfers Paradise where one touch could send a competitor into the wall.

There are still the occasional incidents involving some drivers but that’s only natural, especially on a street circuit. Just ask David Brabham.

But for me the real stand out of the Gold Coast 600 were the last 30 laps or so of race two, which saw reigning champion Jamie Whincup fight off 21-year-old New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen to take the win.

Although Whincup ultimately held on, the performance of the Kiwi impressed me so much. He may not have won a race in the V8 Supercar series yet, but currently lies sixth in the drivers’ standings. His performance over the weekend, fighting from 13th to third in race one and hounding the reigning champion in race two shows a real talent and great promise.

Van Gisbergen, right, is turning into a real star

After competing in karts and motocross up to 2004, he came third in the 2004/5 Formula First Championship New Zealand, an open-wheel series similar to Formula Ford. The following year he won the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship before finishing runner up in the 2006/7 Toyota Racing Series.

Since then he’s been a regular in the V8 Supercars. Although he is still looking for his first win his rise has been rapid and he’s now knocking on the door to take to the top step of the podium for the first time.

If you want an idea of how good this kid is, the last few laps of the Gold Coast 600 sum him up better than anything I can write.

It’s only a matter of time and I for one will be following the V8 Supercars and him particularly, with a keen eye.

Image from Flickr: crgphotography

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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.