Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Fun Starts here

When I was trying to think of a way to celebrate my 60th birthday I decided that I would try and visit all 15 of the full time motor racing circuits on the British mainland – Anglesey, Brands Hatch, Cadwell Park, Castle Combe, Croft, Donington, Knockhill, Lydden Hill, Mallory Park, Oulton Park, Pembrey, Rockingham, Silverstone, Snetterton, Thruxton. This was also to celebrate over 50 years of spectating at motor sport events dating back to a holiday in the Isle of Man in 1963 which coincided with the Southern 100 races on the Billown circuit.

It is not just motor racing or motor cycle racing that have given me pleasure over the years however – hillclimbs, sprints, rallycross, autocross, autograss, rallies, short circuit oval racing, karting, on-street parades with a motoring theme,  scrambling, motoX have all entertained me and if this year is a success there are a number of hillclimbs and motor cycle circuits I have yet to visit and which may form the itinerary for future tours.

In total I have probably been to around 450 motorsport events of all types, which on reflection is not a great many per year – at only 9, but bringing up a young family is not always conducive to getting away very often though I was fortunate to have two sons who quickly came to appreciate as much as me the excitement to be had from watching cars go round and round. Indeed while I write they are on their way back from the WEC round at Silverstone, I having decided that, with the forecast wet weather and the ability to watch the race live on TV,  I would settle down in front of the box and keep warm and dry, particularly after freezing at the qualifying day yesterday. It must be my age!

I had thought of including the Irish circuits as well, but the extra cost was a factor in excluding them though they are on my wish list for future years, and I also decided not to include Goodwood which, apart from the Revival, has just had the one other meeting, this year’s Members Meeting.  The news of Mallory Park’s closure was a blow, but the better news that there would be a meeting there in July put it back in the itinerary, though it did mean that that was one weekend when I could not be anywhere else. Other circuits which were constraints on the tour were Lydden and Pembrey where events are limited, but eventually I came up with a skeleton structure which covered every circuit but did not exclude repeat visits at other events.

My home base for this tour is Bedford which is fortunate in being central to a good ring of circuits within easy reach of a day’s return trip – Thruxton, Silverstone, Rockingham, Mallory Park, Donington, Snetterton, Brands Hatch, Lydden Hill but I have had to a bit of planning for the further afield places to try and get two events in one weekend. As such there are a couple of weekends where I start off at Cadwell Park on Saturday, then go to Croft on Sunday, travel to Scotland to stay with friends and relatives and back down to Oulton Park an Anglesey the next weekend. Knockhill will be a special visit for the BTCC in August while Pembrey also means a weekend away. That leaves Castle Combe and that will be the last leg of my spring bank holiday triple header which I first did last year – Donington Park on Saturday, Thruxton on Sunday and Combe on Monday.

For a number of years I have championed Premier Inns and with early booking it is not too difficult to get a room for £29 and an early visit to the circuit for breakfast is usually good enough to set one up for the day.
There are only three of the circuits I have not visited before – Anglesey, Pembrey and Oulton Park. Of the rest it is Silverstone which has been most popular with me, probably because it is closest to my home, with 83 visits, followed by Brands Hatch with 29, Snetterton (14), Donington Park (14), Mallory Park (12), Knockhill (9), Castle Combe (7), Thruxton (4), Rockingham (3), Lydden Hill (2), Cadwel Park 91) and Croft (1). Also on the list , but sadly no longer operative, are Ingliston which I visited 60 times when I lived in Scotland, and Birmingham where I survived the first on-street race meeting monsoon! In addition I have visited Le Mans, Hockenheim and Spa.

To me club racing is the essence of motor racing in this country and I would far rather go to a good varied clubbie than a Grand Prix – in fact I have only been to 3 Grand Prix in my time – the British at Silverstone, the German and the Belgian but in all instances the trips have been the result of winning tickets / trips in a  competition. I love sports car racing and in addition to one trip to Le Mans – in 1988 for the Jaguar win, I have attended a major sports car round at Silverstone or Brands or Donington nearly every year for the past 30. 

So enough of an introduction. The aim of this blog is to share memories of great (and not so great) motor racing, to feed back on my anniversary tour and to share with you some of the pictures I have taken over the years – far fewer than I would have liked owing to the lack of a decent camera for quite a while. It may be boring and I will soon find out I am sure from any comments, but hopefully you will not begrudge some nostalgia  - I need something to do in my retirement!!