Tag Archives: 2012

Photos: 2012 FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone

I’ve attended the 6 Hours of Silverstone (and previously the 1000km) annually since 2009, last year was no exception. I’d meant to put up a few photos of the day and although I uploaded the album it seems I never linked to it here, so I hope you enjoy this little taster.

Silverstone is very open and windswept so it can be tricky to get good shots but I think I did a reasonable job. This year I should get some good ones as I’ll be bringing another lens.

Last year the race was held in late August, the best time it has ever been held. Previously it has been a chilly, windswept September. This year it has moved to a chilly, windswept April – just next weekend on April 14th. This was done to help the costs of the teams and to make the race more important in the run-up to the big one at Le Mans. Speaking purely as a trackside spectator it was far better in August.

I’ll be there next weekend to see the WEC on Sunday and the ELMS and F3 on Saturday – a weekend ticket booked in advance costs a mere £35 and that gives you access to multiple grandstands so it is an absolute bargain. That’s for a combined 9 hours of sportscar racing plus three F3 races! If you’re unsure whether to come, and you should come for the WEC at least, have a look at these photos to see if it appeals to you.

I may write a little something during the week, just some tips for those attending.

Click here to jump straight to the full Picasa album.

The grid:

 

Olympic Gold-winning canoeist green flaggers:

Side by side.. wait.. wait.. Go!

Audi vs Toyota:

 

Prototypes and GTs both racing at the same time:

Ferrari vs Porsche (vs Aston vs Corvette)

 

You can get a nice bit of exercise as you wander the track perimeter:

And back for the Chequered Flag;

And the podium!

All photos are clickable for a higher resolution. There are a lot more where that came from in the full album: 119 photos in all!

I hope you come along to this year’s race next weekend.

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Feature: IndyCar 2012 – On The Road to Recovery?

It is the middle of September and one series has already wrapped up their 2012 season: the IZOD IndyCar Series.

The apparent need to avoid the NFL, and the NASCAR Chase, meant IndyCar finished racing two full months before F1 and NASCAR – admittedly those series may go longer than they really need to. I tend to think mid/late-October is a good time to stop for the winter break. Just feels right.

With the first IndyCar race of 2013 not due until March we are left with a six month off-season!

A Fresh Start

This was always going to be a tricky year.

The introduction of the new chassis and engine package was fraught with difficulties throughout 2011’s development period and the pre-season of 2012. There was not only a new engine formula but also the return of open competition between manufacturers. Add in a new Race Director, then mix up the schedule by removing favourites with low-attendances and replacing them with gambles.

Do all this while trying to satisfy the most divided and demanding of fans, team owners and media anywhere in the sport. Motorsport fans the world over complain endlessly about the smallest things but they’ve got nothing on the hardcore IndyCar ‘fans’ in the US.  Nowhere else will you find such a bunch of complainers and whiners. The team owners aren’t much different. They were always going to be tough to please.

And Pleased They Were!

Happily it turned out to be a classic year. Most fears were unfounded. The many problems which did emerge over the year were, on the whole, tackled well. The racing was excellent, the cars stood up to the test of the variety of tracks, and they withstood some pretty nasty impacts far better than the old car did.

The early trait of the car to lift into the air mid-spin (noticeably more at the higher speeds of an oval) were ironed out as the year progressed until it didn’t seem to happen at all at Fontana. Compare Indy and Fontana and the rear-to-the-wall spins are very different.

The race director proved to be a revelation, as ALMS fans had expected. Beaux Barfield rearranged the existing rulebook rather than rewrite it completely, though there were many rewrites. The main differences were a change in philosophy and interpretation. Decisions from Race Control were now explained post-race to anyone who would ask, they were even broadcast during the race.
Even if you disagree with the reasoning it is there for us to see it. This is a HUGE change on past years. It cannot be overstated how good a change this is. Transparency is key and now we have it.

The crazy ‘draw an imaginary line on the track’ rule has been thrown out. Racers can race again – within good reason. This has worked really well all year. The drivers have responded to being treated as adults by driving more maturely and with respect. It’s been really, really enjoyable to watch.

Great Competition

The racing all season long was phenomenal. Dallara produced some great aerodynamics packages which meant the cars were very racey on all three classes of course (road, street, oval). It opened up new passing lanes at tracks where the old Dallara couldn’t race at all, Barber Motorsports Park being a notable example – the race was transformed from a snoozefest to being one of the best of the year.

If there wasn’t a lot of passing there was drama in other ways – pit strategy, driver errors, mechanical failures. Unlike past years you never felt like you were marking time, wasting time. Something was always about to happen and you couldn’t switch off in case you missed it. In terms of racing, the new car and engine combo was a hit.

Engine competition was a welcome return. It created winners and losers, just as it should. We saw the return of unreliability (in engines and chassis and software), a classic part of racing which had been engineered out of the last formula. Okay so this engine may be lacking a little in outright power – hopefully that’ll change as development progresses both in technology and in regulations. Remember this is only Year 1.

It was great to have Chevy back in the series and they were on full attack, producing a better unit than incumbent supplier Honda. There wasn’t much in it by the mid-season. You have to think Chevy having more of the ‘powerhouse’ teams helped them enormously, both title protaganists at Fontana used Chevy, and hindered the Ganassi team who were Honda’s only big team.

The only question mark is the engine penalties for failures in testing. Failures in a race weekend I understand, those have been commonplace in racing for a while now. To penalise a team for a failure in a test isn’t on – where’s the incentive to test? This could be solved by saying a team can’t use a race engine on a test day or vice versa, remove the link.

The Lotus Position

As I said, it also created losers and the biggest of those was Lotus. Such is life in open competition. I don’t see it as a downer. Sometimes somebody gets beaten by a big margin. That’s racing. Someone’s got to lose. You can either fight with it and hope they get better next year, and there’s real value and interest in seeing the former underdog bounce back, or you can jump ship to something better. As it turned out by Indy most full-season teams had switched to Chevy or Honda, leaving HVM Racing and the Indy-only Fan Force United with Lotus. All credit to HVM and Simona de Silvestro for sticking out the full year without publically complaining about it.

With Danny Bahar being ousted from Lotus and the company changing focus, they will not return for 2013. Perhaps the engines will be redeveloped by their makers, Judd, into LMP sportscar units. Got to feel for Judd who were completely screwed by Lotus, having to start the programme six months behind the others and not being given the resources to go out testing like the others did. They were up against it from the very beginning.

Schedule

It was a reasonable schedule. There weren’t enough races but we must remember two planned events were dropped. Las Vegas was canned for understandable safety reasons in the wake of the accident last year. A Chinese street race was dropped after financing fell through, not really a surprise. It is a shame replacements weren’t found especially after Bernard was quoted as having a backup plan for China. It turned out either he didn’t or the backup fell through too.

Barber, Long Beach, Indy, Texas (for different reasons to usual), Milwaukee, Iowa, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, Baltimore, Fontana. All good races. Great to see.

St Pete wasn’t covered well by TV, and in any case it was the first race with the new car AND the first race back after Dan Wheldon’s accident, and it was held in his adopted home town. Lots of reasons for everyone to take it easy that weekend.

Sonoma was a near-procession but at least they’d tried something to fix it this year with the circuit layout. I’m not sure what else they can try without a fundamental circuit redesign. It clearly isn’t the car. And Belle Isle came back after a break of many years, the race was surprisingly okay but the track surface was not – it caused a red flag and a reduction in laps.

Much better was the return of Fontana, not only that it was a 500-mile race and the season finale! Inspired decisions. The race length gave it drama and allowed storylines to develop naturally, and teams and drivers had to set up their cars for differing conditions and then bring them home. The only complaint from a UK point of view was the 1.50am start time and the 5am finish!

Diversity

The split of ovals to non-ovals plagues IndyCar discussions and has done for many years, decades even. This year was no different and for once I fall into the ‘more ovals’ camp. Five wasn’t enough. Mind you there were fewer road courses than ovals, just the four this year.

The dominant discipline was street races, six of them. I like some street races but I don’t like them taking over the series. My preference is and has always been natural terrain road courses and oval races at the right venues, with 2 or 3 street races. I understand that’s where the people are though, and that’s the way of racing today. Take the racing to the people because people don’t want to go to the racing at traditional venues. If it were my choice I’d move the Sao Paulo race to Interlagos.

TV

The coverage was better this year. The much-maligned ABC/ESPN improved. Sadly the channel which has the better coverage, NBC Sports, is not being rewarded with good viewing figures which are apparently falling. The only saving grace is IndyCar is now apparently highest-rated sport on the channel. The rebrand from Versus was supposed to bring extra cross-promotion and more viewers – what happened?

Here in the UK the races are on Sky Sports. They’re good at sticking with IndyCar if races run long. During the numourous US ad breaks they’re able to stay with the track – by law they can’t take the same number of breaks as the US but at least they don’t cut back to their studio.

That said, the Sky pre-race is far, far, far too dry. Three blokes in a studio, a few interviews/videos, at least one of the two guests with a monotone voice (much like my own – not saying I’d do better!). It’s all very downbeat. It works well during the US ad breaks when we need discussion to fill the air, but as a pre-race it really doesn’t work at all.

I don’t know why races aren’t run live or at least in replay on Sky Sports F1. It seems a perfect fit to build more of an audience for IndyCar, which Sky must surely want? Perhaps there are contractual reasons, perhaps we’ll see more of it next year.

The Future

After years of neglect and mismanagement, the 2008 ‘unification’ gave IndyCar a chance to regrow. It has taken longer than expected but they’ve finally put in place the building blocks to allow that to happen.

I have no doubt the racing in 2013 will be just as good, even when the ‘big teams’ figure out the tricks and pull away again which they will do. The trick now is to sell this racing to the American public, because their TV ratings will determine the future of the series. If they can be built up elsewhere in the world at the same time, including in the UK, then so much the better!

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Enjoying A Summer Break

I owe this blog an explanation. As many racing series took (or are still taking) a long summer break, I took the opportunity to do the same thing. Having saved up my work’s holiday allocation for the summer and taking several days off during the warm sunny weather, I could really get used to it!

You can get a bit of burnout just from watching and reading about racing from February to July, let alone blogging about it which I do all too sparsely anyway, lacking anything of note to say. I’ve been more interested in off-the-cuff Tweeting. Mind you, sometimes it is nice to switch Twitter off, put on some music and open the wine and do some writing. I’ve missed that a little.

I had a lovely holiday in the North of Spain (Galicia) especially once it stopped raining. Once home I enjoyed watching the Olympics and going up to Cardiff (women’s football) and then London (3 times!) to enjoy the atmosphere despite not having any tickets for events in London. I did make it to Hyde Park for the men’s triathlon, there were too many people to see through but wow what a crowd.

And what an event the Olympics have been. From that incredible Opening Ceremony, through to the amazing atmosphere of the Games themselves helped in no small part by those amazing volunteers or ‘GamesMakers’, to the party of the ever-so-slightly underwhelming Closing Ceremony. It felt like another holiday, one for the whole country. I don’t know if the rest of the world felt it. I hope so. The entire feeling in the country changed and people who hate sport were found glued to their TV screens.

Will it last? Possibly not, the realities of life have already set in and the post-Games hangover was felt most keenly, but at least we have learned that we can be proud and patriotic without being far-right-wing knuckleheads, without hankering for The Empire, and that we actually can put on the biggest of events without it all going wrong in a cloud of over-spending, incompetence, and ineptitude (security contractors notwithstanding).

Best thing of all: it proved all the doubters wrong. That’s always fun. No gridlock, no tube/train/bus transport meltdowns, a great atmosphere, a friendly London – who’d have imagined!?

I had intended to write about the Games all through the summer on my personal blog, that didn’t happen as I was so wrapped up in the events I couldn’t take my eyes off them! I still plan to write up my thoughts there so check my Twitter feeds for updates, or perhaps if it interests you maybe you could subscribe to that blog. Otherwise I’ll be blogging about racing here again soon.

Is the summer over? Almost. The latter half of August is here so the party is almost over but, in the finest traditions of Columbo, there’s just one more thing.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to Alex Zanardi’s Paralympic handcycle road race. If you weren’t able to get a ticket – and they may still be on sale so do check for the H4 Handcycle Road Race or Time Trial – it turns out you don’t actually need a ticket to attend. The ticket grants access to Brands Hatch Circuit premises but the actual road race course leaves the grounds and uses public roads seemingly open to all spectators. Just get there early. And if you do have a ticket for Brands itself, let me know, we could meet up.

Anyway, aside from my upcoming two-day Paralympic sojourn (I also have ExCel Arena and Stadium tickets for the day before the road race), the break is over and I’m back in business. I plan to write regularly for both this and my personal blog over the next fortnight and beyond.

I’ll also be attending the Silverstone 6 Hours on Sunday and I’ll write a piece tomorrow to tell you why I think you should come along. Are you going?

I hope you’re having a good summer (or winter if you’re upside down), and if you went to any of the Olympic events or are planning to attend the Paralympics do share!

The other things I wanted to share with you were this ad that went up over London toward the end of the Olympics, and this fantastic promo from Channel 4.

The Paralympics are often marginalised. I don’t think that’ll happen this year.

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Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012 – Photo Diary

After the lengthy delays getting in on Saturday, the first thing I did was go to the sculpture outside the House to see if I could catch anyone still there for the planned meetup. This year’s focus was Lotus and the sculpture was another variation of the now-traditional ‘hanging nearly-priceless racing cars at crazy angles’.

Disclaimer – I must’ve used the wrong setting on my camera because the colour seems to have washed out.

This Year’s Sculpture in Honour of Lotus

It just so happened the sculpture was roped off to put some cars around it, so the mass of people which usually gathers at 1pm to enjoy lunch on the lawn was disrupted, as was our gathering. I did find them fairly easily though. Of course just then Stirling Moss appeared and I rushed off straight away to try and get a photo!

It was difficult but I got a couple of shots albeit obscured by heads, but it was good to see him even though at times he had to be supported by his wife as he walked. He got in a car though! John Surtees and Lord March were also nearby. I stood to watch the cars depart, preferring to enjoy them rather than try and take a photo among the throng, then returned to the group for a chat. It was quickly decided to have some lunch at the new RAC stage the other side of the F1 paddock.

The RAC Stage is a great idea. In past years the area above the main paddock was largely empty with just a few team trucks parked up. After last year (or 2010?) creating a second exit to the Drivers’ Club which emerged in the vicinity, this year they moved the media centre up there and put an interview stage alongside it, complete with raised seating creating a little arena or square.

This was far, far better than having to traipse all the way across to the courtyard near the Supercars if you wanted to hear an interview! I really do hope this arrangement is retained for future years. When we arrived the main screen was playing live video and commentary from the hill. After a little while someone appeared and was introduced as BSB rider Tommy Hill.

Tommy Hill and Louise Goodman

Drivers can leave the private area via the side exit, work the autograph line (which was much longer than last year’s), then pop over to the adjacent stage and media centre. It is a much more fan-friendly way of doing it. The old entrance/exit still exists complete with autograph line, so you if you plan to collar a driver you have to think where they’re likely to be!

It was just Tommy Hill’s luck that his namesake Damon appeared through the wall, followed just a few minutes later by Sebastian Vettel. Cue the crowds, cue me and a couple of others rushing over! Of course with so many people around it was difficult to get a clear photo, I do have a clearer one of Damon but I prefer the fan interaction of this one.

Damon Hill

Sebastian Vettel

It’s great being able to get near to the heroes of racing, especially those from F1 who are usually roped off in the paddock with no access allowed to us plebs. Sadly this does also mean they get mobbed at Goodwood! To their great credit both Hill and Vettel spent a long time working this line of autograph and photo hunters.

When these guys disappeared I felt I’d hung around long enough, it was nice to have a de-stress after the traffic problems but now I was keen to explore the paddock for an hour before the F1 cars appeared on track.

While the current F1 stars get roped off garage areas, everwhere else is a little more accessible. Derek Bell and Andre Lotterer were hanging around the paddock – Bell seemed to be there quite a lot!

 

I always love the mix of historic cars and modern classics. This is just a small selection.

A nice feature was the small collection of F1 six-wheelers, from the famous Tyrrell to the less famous Williams and March.

 

We headed trackside – or tried to. The place was absolutely packed out as the RAF Tornado display was taking place, as it was to be immediately followed by the batch on the hill featuring the modern F1 cars (usually cars from a season or two ago – current enough to be representative).

A word here for the Tornado pilots who crashed in Scotland this week. I believe the pilots from the Goodwood display were also based at RAF Lossiemouth. Thoughts remain with them and their families.

With the main viewing area beyond the paddock full of people we went further up, to the clearing on the inside of the exit of Molecombe corner. A good place to see vehicles up close (you’d struggle to get closer), however the entry was obscured so cars and bikes appeared almost from nowhere, and sadly the protective bales blocked the view a bit. F1 cars are so low they were half hidden. Still, it was good to see them.

Brendan Hartley, Mercedes GP

Gordon Shedden, John Surtees, burnouts!

I’ve never understood why F1 cars run in the same batch as the legends of motorbike racing. Bikes have their place at the Festival and it is great to see them, but they should surely run in their own segment while the modern F1 cars run with some more classic F1 cars. You’re trying to cater to two types of fan here – F1 fans aren’t always into bikes, and bike fans aren’t always into F1. Right now the bikers lose out because the F1 fans clog up the hill, and the F1 fans are sitting around waiting for ages for their cars to appear.

One of my favourite things to do is get back to the paddock in time for the F1 cars to reappear. It is very busy but if you time it right you can get a good spot. This year we didn’t quite get it right as we were shuffled around left to right, and we all got split up. They headed to McLaren to find Jenson Button, I went to the opposite end to see Vettel (since Button is more likely to come back next year). I also thought Heidfeld would be at that end, forgetting he was in a McLaren not a Lotus/Renault.

Sebastian Vettel

Brendan Hartley, Marc Gene, fans flocking to Vettel

After that it was a visit to the bottom end of the site for a look at the Cathedral Paddock featuring more old racers and the Supercars which were forming up ready for a run up the hill.

We stopped at the link road to watch some old cars go out. Suddenly from the other direction a 1960s Brabham approaches. I looked at the driver. It was Jackie Stewart! In a Brabham! Now I was impressed. Naturally we had to head to the paddock to find him!

Along the way we stopped briefly to see Lord March being interviewed by Tim Harvey, but with JYS around we didn’t we didn’t stay – and it was perfect timing as just as we reached the access path for the paddock, striding out purposefully comes Jackie Stewart himself! At this point I’d love to say the four of us were all smart and witty and chatty and got his autograph and a series of photos. What all four of us actually did was stop and stare because it was Jackie Stewart. Four starstruck fans. He gave us the briefest of looks then strode away to a waiting vehicle. Moment lost. Camera fumbled. Here’s a photo of the man’s back, you’ll just have to trust me. Andy Wallace followed him out, Karun Chandhok too but I missed him.

We’d hoped to spy some more famous people in the Supercar Run. As it was I only saw Rupert Grint (from Harry Potter) lining up for a McLaren ride, and Oliver Webb (British driver in Indy Lights). Lacking more famous people I realised it would be good to see these cars moving, so we headed to the exit lane to watch there. As happened earlier the previous batch of cars (that we saw leave here a bit ago) drove back in whilst the supercars were leaving.

We were treated to 1910s-1970s race cars passing yet-to-be-released 21st Century automotive luxury. Only at Goodwood!

Past and Future

These were the last cars of the day. After a quick stop at the exit of the Drivers’ Club to try and see people it was time to go, another day at Goodwood Festival of Speed was over, and for me that was it for another year.

After the trials and tribulations of the morning (read more here) I was glad to have an enjoyable afternoon. It didn’t completely cure me of the blues but it went some way towards it, and I was pleased to get so much done in the shortened space of time, and to do so with good company.

Will I be back next year? I’d like to think so – but perhaps not on the busiest day of the weekend. I think Saturdays are off-limits now. I will happily try the Friday or Sunday again until such time as they also become oversubscribed.

You can see my full album of photos here.

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Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012 – A Festival of Stopped

I attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Saturday, sadly before I can talk about the sights and sounds of a good afternoon I have to first go into the reasons why it was just an afternoon, and why it was only ‘good’ and not the usual ‘amazing’. The morning was an unmitigated disaster and it needs to be addressed.

Logjam

Never have I been stuck in a traffic jam as long-lasting as this one, at Goodwood or anywhere else. This was on a par with all those stories you used to hear from the British GP. Okay so there was that time on the M25, but I got off that pretty quickly..

I left the house at about 8.45am. Not especially early but not too late since Chichester is 1hr 45min from here, and the Festival is open until 7pm anyway. I had planned to get away between 8 and 8.15 but I’d stayed up way too late.. no matter, I’d be in the gate by 11am anyway and I’d still get a solid 8 hours on site. Right? Er, wrong.

Having attended every year since 2009 as well as two earlier events I knew the routine: Arrive at Chichester somewhere between 10.15 and 10.45am, sit in traffic for half an hour before parking up and hustling the long walk to the gate overtaking dawdlers ambling along. This is what I’d prepared for.

What I had not prepared for was a wait of two and a half hours before reaching the car park. An extra two hours above the norm. The event was a sellout that day – okay fine, I could’ve put up with maybe an hour for that. I just can’t understand why it took so much longer.

I realised at best I was covering a mile every ten minutes, sometimes it took much longer. I’m stubborn enough that for £55 I’m damned well going to try to get there but I was close to giving up – after all the race cars do two runs per day on the hill and I had already missed the entire first run. It was disappointing but not surprising to learn of others who did decide to turn back.

I have no idea if there were other problems on the local roads, perhaps there were accidents and road closures for which you couldn’t blame the Festival. However I only saw one minor closure and no accidents or blockages. It leads me to strongly believe it was down to the event management.

Perhaps there was a problem with the main car park, when I eventually got there  it was closed, so it was either full or something had happened there. I had to spend an extra 10-15 minutes being directed along some lanes to another car park – the saving grace being that the walk to the House was much shorter from this place – maybe if I drive again I’ll take some back roads and go to this car park!

Really though, the lesson is that their traffic management can’t be trusted, get one of the frequent trains to Chichester and make use of the free shuttle bus. Thankfully this is an option at this event, unlike Silverstone for the British GP which I have always avoided partly due to the widely reported horrendous traffic levels. Perhaps the other lesson is to go on the quiet Friday until that becomes as popular.

Calming Down

I eventually got in and met up with friends, saw some great cars and drivers – all the good stuff the Festival has to offer. Tomorrow I’ll follow up with a a post about the afternoon in which I’ll include some photos. It was a bit of a rush to get around the paddocks and still find time to see some cars on the hill. And as I said, it was a sellout – sadly there were so many people you could hardly find a space trackside and you had to elbow your way around to see the static cars.

The traffic and the volume of people spoiled the day for me. I ended up missing the entire first run of cars (including F1) which is stupid if you’re only going for one day. Then when we went trackside the only available place was a quiet little clearing where the bales obscured most of the cars.

Goodwood: please restrict the numbers and sort out your traffic management.

I consoled myself with a tiny little sausage in a soft bread roll which fell apart when you tried to eat it, which cost £5.70. Apparently the words ‘Goodwood’ and ‘Organic’ give you the right to charge an extra £1 each.

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Photos: Nigel Mansell’s Museum

Way back in March I was very lucky enough to be invited to Woodbury Park near Exeter for some lunch, a round of golf (with mixed results as you can read here) – and to take a look at Nigel Mansell’s collection of memorabilia and cars in the museum which still, for now, resides at the leisure park and hotel complex he used to own. Indeed the Woodbury branding still contains his helmet colours and the golf flags are chequered!

The size of the collection is larger than the size of the musuem despite it filling three rooms and an entrance lobby.

One room barred any photography, the most impressive room –  the trophy room. An amazing collection of silverware both from his Formula 1 and CART/Indycar days, obviously everyone knows how successful he was in F1 and I knew he was successful in Indycar but I had no idea just how much until I saw a whole wall of trophies from the US! It includes his Indy 500 rings.
Mansell had it written into his first F1 contract that he must be given the original trophy for any wins – often the team will keep the original and might permit the driver to have a replica made. Perhaps he wasn’t expected to win so the team agreed.. and then he did win, and he kept the stipulation whenever he changed teams.

Viewing of the museum is by appointment only.

You can see more of my photos in my Picasa album. You can visit the Woodbury Park website here however they seem to have removed any mention of Mansell or his museum.

EDIT – It seems the collection is moving near to Mansell’s home in Jersey by the end of this year, listen to this interview with the BBC.

 

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