After the historics at Donington, the next morning saw me up bright and early and leaving Leicester by way of the M69 to get to Thruxton for the BTCC meeting. It is about 140 miles but the route is mainly motorway or dual carriageway - M69, A46, M42, A34 - and on a quiet Sunday morning it was easy to get settled at a decent speed and let the miles roll by. One of the interesting points about travelling on a Sunday is to see groups of people obviously heading off to a venue you have just passed and so it was this day as the Kit Car show at Stoneleigh, near Warwick was obviously attracting kit cars from all around as I was still meeting some when I left the A34 to join the A303.
Approaching Thruxton on the A303 from the East on a major race day, spectators are signed to carry on past the circuit and to come off at the next junction and enter the circuit from the West via the entrance off the A338 . Last year I did what I was told and found myself at the end of a reasonably moving queue on the access road off the A338, but this year the traffic was queued back up onto the A303 and I settled down for a longish drive in. However as I approached the roundabout on the old A303 / A338 junction where the queue was turning up the A338. as I expected, the actual sign for public parking was back along the old A303 towards the main circuit entrance. Nearly all the traffic was still going up the A338 but I decided to follow the sign, along with a few others, and 10 minutes later we were parking our cars in the circuit, very close to the main gate.
So the question I have is - why did others not similarly follow the sign along the old A30, and how long did it take people to get from that sign to the car park via the A338?
Anyway, enough on that. I always like to walk around the paddock at race meetings as it is a good chance to find cars sitting out just begging to be photographed and last year I bought a paddock ticket for the BTCC meeting at Thruxton only to be disappointed when so many of the cars (practically all in fact) were in awnings and not able to be seen - so this year I spent my time walking right around the circuit as far it is possible to go to the entrance of Noble and there on a high bank I found a great place to take photos and see the cars coming through the complex and even going through the club chicane (from the side) away across the other side of the circuit.
So here is a picture of the complex taken from that viewing bank:
and here is a photo taking of track action in front of me:
The BTCC field was a stunning site with the cars immaculately turned out and in the races the action was pretty much all the way down the order, but I have to admit to being fairly uninspired by the supporting races which apart from a few exceptions were pretty much bereft of excitement. The Pro-Am dice at the back of the Porsche races was good, and the odd bit of Ginetta Junior action made those races lively, but too many of the others were follow-my-leader for the entire duration, except where a faster car had to start from lower down the field. Here are a couple of Porsches enjoying themselves - Kevin Fletcher (17) and Peter Kyle-Henney (22):
I drifted off during the Formula Ford race for a coffee and took a walk behind the viewing bank to get round to the start line area a bit quicker, but from what I did see the Fords are now as exciting as those previous one-make (yes I know FF is not one-make but it 99% is) slicks and wings thrillathons of Formula Renault, Formula Vauxhall, Formula Forward, F2000- the cars sound flat, they do not move around and there is never any overtaking - bring back multi-makes, skinny tyres and wing-free cars!! Rant over.
I left after the last re-start in the BTCC Race 3 because I reckoned getting out would be more of a problem than I had getting in and I had a dinner date to get to at my friends where I would be staying before going to Castle Combe the next day.
Thruxton is a great circuit because it is so fast and it has a couple of good overtaking opportunities at the complex and the chicane and one hopes that there is no knee-jerk reaction to the accidents in the BTCC races this year - the problem is not the layout of the circuit, it is the protection for the cars after they go off and it would seem entirely feasible to increase that protection on the outside of Church as there is plenty of room there.
That was my 5th visit to Thruxton, the first few were back in 1983, 1984 and 1987, when my sister-in-law and her family were stationed at Tidworth, and so it was easy to nip out and say I was just going to be a few hours when we were visiting - and I tried to make sure the visits were arranged for the right weekends - BTCC in 1983 and 1984 and a historics meeting in 1987. So last year was my first visit for 26 years and it was pretty much the same as it had been - I would like to go again when it is not a BTCC meeting, when the crowds are fewer and it is possible to get a good view at the chicane for example.
So to finish off here are a few photos from 1983 and 1987, I have none for my visit in 1984.
With apologies for the Kodak Instamatic photos again, here is the midfield of the Touring Cars with Alfasuds, Metros, Escort, Scirocco and Toyota going through the complex:
and then this is the entire FFord field with Van Diemens and a Lola leading the way.
And finally from 1983 a view of the Padock at the end of the day - this is Hamish Irvine's privateer Mazda but look at the set up in the background for Andy Rouse's Alfa GTV - looks like a converted bus is being used as his transporter - wonder where it is these days?
By 1987 I had a better camera and here a few from the historic meeting:
Firstly we have a Ginetta G16 being driven by Roger Fowler, and this make and model is winning these days in the hands of James and Graeme Dodd in Guards GT Trophy races.
Next is Marcos founder, Jem Marsh in one of his original cars
And then 2 McLarens in the hands of John Foulston - firstly a Can-Am M8 which my notes say is an M8B, though it has the later M8D bodywork
and finally a glorious M19 in evocative Yardley colours.