Thursday, 11 September 2014

Number 10 - Knockhill

Apologies for the delay but immediately after my visit to Scotland for the BTCC meeting at Knockhill life turned busy and then I was off to the US for a week but better late than never.

Knockhill has often been described as a wind and rain battered circuit clinging to the side of a hillside in rural Scotland and very often it is but this year the weather was glorious and I cannot remember being so warm at Knockhill in  my 10 previous visits over 40 years - 8 of these were in 1975 and 1976 when I was still living in Scotland and so I feel guilty about having been back so rarely and maybe the weather has been better in the last 38 years!!

The circuit opened for business in 1974 and the first car race was held in 1975. Now many people know that Alistair Lyall won the first race at the newly re-opened Donington Park but who knows who won the first car race at Knockhill - after the circuit had been opened by Chris Amon. The first race was for Production Saloons and it was won by Eddie Labinjoh in an Alfa Romeo 2000GTV. The race was divided into 2 classes by price - up to and over £1700!!

One of the first retirements of the meeting came in Race 2 for Formula Fords when George Franchitti (famous father) failed to finish in his Hawke DL12.

Afraid I have no photos of this meeting or of any of those 1970s meetings - I was busy marshalling at the time and in fact only got my first camera in the middle of 1976. I also missed much of the last race of the first meeting as I had to dash off for my first date with the girl who later became, and still is, my wife - and she shared a few marshalling duties at the circuit in those early years - put her off it for life!!

Before that race meeting in 1975 a Rallycross event was held on the 5th January which quickly became farcical. The circuit was similar to today's and it turned right off the tarmac at the bottom of Duffus Dip. Unfortunately it had been a really wet period and the water had all collected in this corner which rapidly became a mudhole out of which every car (even the Minis) had to be pushed. Eventually the event was abandoned and I am not even sure if any times were issued.

But less of the nostalgia.....

I arrived bright and early just after 8 and it was already apparent that this was going to be a popular event. After a short queue I found myself parked on a damp grassy slope realising that I might not be able to get out until the car in front had moved!! That would have to wait as I wandered down to the track to enjoy the first race at the unsocial hour of 0900. At Knockhill there are parts where you can get really close to the track with little protection and it seems like a relic from the past - the approach to the hairpin is one of those and it was here that I took my first photos of the day of the Ginetta G55 Supercup cars with the early morning sun bouncing off them.

This is David Pittard

and here is Dan Norris-Jones

This picture taken from the other side of the hairpin gives some ides of the proximity of the track to the spectators

Once again, as at my earlier visit to Thruxton I was disappointed in the quantity of the cars in the supporting events but at least at Knockhill the tight and short nature of the circuit means that the racing tends to be closer, even if only between 2 or 3 cars.

The Porsche race that followed saw a number of 2 car duels being fought around the track and, like the rest of the races, the cars are pretty spectacular as they bounce over and out of the chicane. Here are Rob Smith and Paul Rees.

By this time the crowd was building in numbers and I continued walking around the track to find a suitable viewing spot for the touring cars and got one between Scotsman and the Chicane where you could see the cars coming over Duffus Dip and into and through the chicane with a little glimpse up to Clark Curve as well.

Thirty-one touring cars on a tight circuit like Knockhill just had to be spectacular and they were. As they burst into view at the top of Duffus Dip they are all over the road and then they have to deal with the compression at the bottom followed quickly by the sharp right at Scotsman which is really only one car wide but is often taken two abreast with inevitable consequences as Colin Turkington found out.


Warren Scott also suffered some damage there!

The BMWs were the class of the field all weekend and it was only circumstances such as the above that prevented them winning all three races. The highlight for me was Mick Collard winning the last race having started the first on the every back on the grid - about 400 metres from the start line!

The best of the rest of the races was probably the Ginetta Junior race which was held on Sunday afternoon - a long train of Ginettas fought over the minor positions though some found that the track was just not wide enough even for their relatively small cars.

Off - track there was an eclectic selection of cars to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the circuit.

For example a Hawke DL2B Formula Ford of the type in which Tom Walkinshaw began his career

A David Leslie Honda Accord

Another car associated with David Leslie - an Ecosse C2

The GT spec Imp / Stiletto driven by Duncan Fisher (compare to those in my Mallory park report)

And the Ginetta G4 currently driven by Harry Simpson in Scottish Classics - Harry another ex- Imp / Davrian Saloon / GT racer

There was also a small room displaying a number of Jim Clark's trophies from the Duns Room Collection in the Borders this year also being the 50th anniversary of him winning the British Saloon Car Championship in a Lotus Cortina, 2 examples of which were demonstrated at lunch time along with some other cars associated with Clark - a DKW, a Goggomobil, a Lotus Elite and the 1966 US GP winning Lotus 43 - BRM H16.

A long day in the Knockhill sun and yes I did manage to reverse my car up the grassy slope - it had dried out a bit since the morning and I was able to get away before the mad rush of the main crowd.

A generally good day's racing in the sunny weather but I left with my excitement about one make motor racing still well under control. Next visit is to Cadwell Park for some varied BRSCC action and the following day to Croft for the BARC meeting headed by Formula Renault - never my favourite formula - let's hope it can provide some excitement!!

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