Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Number 6 - Snetterton

Early start on the Saturday morning for the trip to Snetterton for the HSCC meeting featuring the Autosport 3 hours. I do not usually go to both days of a two day meeting but with the 3 hours on the Saturday and the single seater races on the Sunday it was difficult to decide which day to choose and so I found myself a bed and breakfast place on the Internet for the Saturday night and set off for what would be a packed weekend of racing with the majority of the HSCC classes featuring.

When I first went to Snetterton from Chelmsford I was able to avoid the dreaded A11 and also Thetford, which was at that time not bypassed, and used a cross country route that included some lovely quiet East Anglian roads. When I moved to Bedford and the prospect of using the A11 loomed I continued to avoid the direct route which was getting busier and more congested as they, piece by piece, built the dual carriageway. Now the new road is almost complete and it remains to be seen whether I will continue to use my 'pretty' route or if I will exchange it for the blast up the A11. I remember the days when Norfolk County Council used to boast that they were the only county in the country without a dual carriageway!!

And speaking of that first visit, here is a picture taken in 1989 of the view back towards Coram showing the layout at the time - this I think was after a very sharp Russell Bend had been removed from the track and replaced by this gentle curve - I must admit to getting very confused about  what has happened in that area over the years - what fascinates me about this picture is the distinct kink in the white line marking the edge of the track, on the right as you see it in the picture (on the left as you drive it) - can anyone explain its purpose?

You will see also cars parked quite close up to the track on the inside of Coram and just to the left edge of the picture the old grandstand at the Bombhole.

The next picture was taken in August 1992 and shows the  the alignment of Russell at that time with a field of Monopostos racing through. From the state of the ground on the right of the picture I would say that the new section was fairly new at this time.

Now of course the bend is called Murrays and has a faster entry - as can be seen from the photo below.

Snetterton of course is owned and operated by MSV, and as with Brands Hatch (and I presume Cadwell Park and Oulton Park which I shall visit later in the year) it has been transformed since MSV took over - everything is tidy and well looked after and investment has been made which was lacking before - one small indicator of the care which they take over the condition of the place, and which I hope is reflected by the spectators, is the sheer quantity of litter bins around the track - all smartly painted red and regularly emptied during the day if required. It may seem a small point but it all adds up to the place looking good.

I had never attended a race meeting on the new 300 circuit and I will say that I am a bit ambivalent about it still. Maybe the historics were not the best classes to see there because, as with the Silverstone GP, the cars do take a long time to come around and I think for the slower cars the spectators would get a better value from using the 200 circuit which is similar to the old Snetterton and would cut  30-40 seconds off the lap time. I do not know what others think but to me the best way to keep casual spectators interested is to have the cars coming past as often as possible.

It did not help that some of the fields at Snetterton were in single figures and I will admit that I resorted to reading a book during some of the races while waiting for the cars to some around again.

As the fields were small I wondered why some of the classes had not been combined for the races - for example the Historic and 1970s Road Sports which had practised together, as had the FF2000 and Classic F3. I suppose the question to be asked is why were the fields so small - it is not as if the cars are not out there as they have appeared at other rounds - but what made people decide to miss out on Snetterton - is it too far away - will the new A11 help to increase its attractiveness??

Of course the old adage says that it takes just 2 cars to make a motor race and certainly the dice between the Lotus Europas of Oliver Ford and Jim Dean and the TVR of Peter Shaw (OK that is 3 cars!!) in the Roadsports enlivened up the race in spite of the small entry but the races of the day were the Formula Fords where a 5 car battle for the lead in the first race was great but even that was overshadowed by the 3 car dice in the second race with victory being taken by just one-thousandth of a second. Pity that that was the last race of a long weekend and so was missed by quite a few but the prospect of it occurring was enough to keep me there through a couple of dreadfully boring Classic F3 and Classic Racing Car races.

However, one word for the drivers - do we need to have so many RED Formula Fords - I am sure the commentators would be grateful for some more variation in colour!!

The actual racing is of course only one part of the enjoyment to be gained from going to a motor race meeting - the actual cars themselves are the stars - and I am probably out of kilter with the rest of the world here but I have never been interested in hero worship of a driver - I will go and see motor racing no matter who is driving - even if all the drivers are amateurs they will all be doing their best and racing flat out. The question was asked in Autosport about the low attendance at the Silverstone Blancpain Endurance round and the answer suggested was the lack of big name drivers, but whoever was driving there was driving faster than I could ever go and they were still providing an exciting race. I think the main reason for the small attendance was probably that it was Bank Holiday weekend and there were conflicting attractions both motor racing and non motor racing.

So for me it is the cars that are the stars and once again I caught up with a few which I had not seen before or had not had a chance to study close up. My favourites from the weekend are shown below in no particular order. Next trip on the agenda was to Lydden Hill and more on that next time.

A rare Tui BH2 Formula Super Vee

Mike Painter's gorgeous Brabham BT16

The one off F3 Belgica of Dick van Amsterdam

My namesake in his Merlyn Mk9

The McLaren M1B of Marcus Mussa

The Merlyn Mk 6 of Bob Brooks and his daughters

A very rare saloon racer - Richard Conway's Volvo

Anybody recognise this as a Gilbern GT?

Jeremy Bouckley's North Star FJ

and finally an immaculate Brabham BT35 of Andrew Thorpe

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