2019 Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series
FIA European Drag Racing
For more racing click here.
The world’s top drag racing championship is the US domestic series.
There’s also an FIA European series, look to the bottom of this post for more.
For more racing click here.
Got to love the French. They invented Grand Prix racing, practically invented endurance racing at Le Mans, made cycling big with le Tour de France, organise and run the Dakar rally. The French just like anyone else will basically race anything.
Now they are racing drones… with lights on the back to make them look like Star Wars speeders or pod racers!
Event: NCS Challenge, NoComp Stadium, Argonay, near Annecy, France
Extra points for the Argonay/Airgonay pun!
A warm congratulations to Alex Zanardi on his three medals, two Gold and one Silver, achieved last week in the handcycling at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
It has been a very long journey since losing his legs at the 2001 American Memorial 500 at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany, just days after the attacks of September 11th. The man who according to NASA studies ought to have died with that amount of blood loss, through the skills of the CART medical team headed by Drs. Terry Trammel and Steve Olvey and also the German hospital staff, was able to make a remarkable recovery. Indeed just three months later Alex was at an Italian awards show where he stood again in public for the first time. Three months!
The largely American and Canadian CART paddock was already downhearted and didn’t really want to be in Europe, his accident only served to excacerbate the feelings. Somehow, because they are racing people and that’s what racing people seem able to do, they pulled through and ran the Rockingham race the next week (despite all the track problems there).
Via a short comeback to finish that race in Germany two years later, and a fairly successful career in touring cars with BMW (including WTCC race wins and an Italian national championship), he turned his hands to handcycling. He decided handcycle technology wasn’t good enough so, much like his prosthetic legs, he set about designing and modifying his own. He won the New York Marathon among many others. The goal: To win at the London 2012 Paralympics.
And now he has achieved it. Gold in the time trial. Gold in the 64km road race. Silver as a member of the team relay.
Last Friday I was lucky enough to have a ticket to watch Alex compete in the road race, and all of the great competitors in all six races held that day. This followed an evening at the stadium on that day, Thursday, the night GBR won many medals in the track and field competition which pumped up the 80,000-strong sellout crowd (as if they needed pumping up). By Friday evening it was tough to know which experience made the bigger impression. Brands Hatch held far less than 10% of the crowd the previous night yet the atmosphere during the Zanardi race was as good, the mix of motorsport fans, people who had discovered him thanks to Channel 4 kindly highlighting him so frequently (remember the UK general public who are not die-hard motorsport fans had little idea who he was), and also the supporters of the other athletes who were battling for the podium: Swiss, Austrian, Belgian, Irish, and yes, Italian.
To be so close to Alex not only as he raced but also after Lou and I had managed to put ourselves where the victory podium was set up, to be no more than 10 metres from the man as his gold medal was draped around his neck and he sang his national anthem along with many in that crowd, it was a privelige to see a man achieve his dream.
What now? After the win he told interviewers he might feel a gap in his life now that he has achevied the goal of Paralympic Gold that he’d been working towards for so long. How to follow it? He jokingly said the next step is to add another wheel and an engine, but this is Alex Zanardi.. was it a joke? Jimmy Vasser and Chip Ganassi are allegedly working on car for the Indy 500. Another joke.. or serious? In a way I hope he does. In another way I hope he doesn’t because to my mind he has nothing left to prove.
(Apologies for slight fuzziness, the light was getting bad and I tried to correct it with software, if I hadn’t it would all be dark and you wouldn’t be able to see it!)
Finally, another fan at the event recorded a video of the day. It really does capture it perfectly – the video is just like being there. You might even get as sick of the Dolly Parton clips as we were – they played it every time the field came by the start line which was a lot with two races running at the same time! This guy does shout a bit much, though Alex doesn’t seem to mind.
For more photos of Zanardi and the other cyclists at Brands Hatch across the six races that day, as well those from my Thursday in London at the Paralympics, take a loko at my photoset on Picasa here. I also went up to London in July during the Olympics although not to many events, but if you want to see the city in the grips of Olympic spirit (and you should) then that set is here. I know I’ve been going about it on Twitter but I don’t care, it was such a great summer I want to share it with everyone who couldn’t be here!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
You may remember I attended the Goodwood Revival in September, a truly fantastic event I recommend to you even if you aren’t a fan of historic racing. But we can’t all spend £50 for a single one-day ticket at a racetrack (before travel and other expenses) when you think most UK events cost half that, at most. It just so happens the extras at the Revival justify the cost (the chance to bump into Stirling Moss doesn’t happen at every track these days), but still, the price is the reason I never attended until last year. And of course, not everyone has that weekend free.
What if you want to see a good day of racing – any racing – in a relaxed atmosphere at less than a third of the price? Whether you want to see historics or if you simply want a good day out at a racetrack, you could do worse than go to the Donington Historic in May. I attended the inaugural event last year.
A variety of sportscars, GT and touring cars from the 1950s to the 1970s, Formula 2 cars from the 1970s, Formula Junior, and the main reason I attended this event: Group C sportscars as seen at Le Mans in the 1980s!
I’d been to one historic meeting before this, Castle Combe in 2007 (the thumbnails look far worse than the actual photos), and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the old touring cars at that meeting. I’d also noticed the atmosphere was very laid back and relaxed, far more so than any other racing I’d ever attended. So I had some idea what to expect at Donington.
I arrived as the Pre-1966 touring car race was running, I was a bit annoyed about that because alongside Group C this was the race I really wanted to see – I’d seen these cars at Combe and they were great fun (I’d later see them again at Goodwood where they were put on the best race of the day). Blame the 3.5 hour journey time. I was glad I didn’t miss it all.
The Pre-1963 GT race sounded great but didn’t provide a lot of actual racing, just the Ferrari 330 GTO lapping everything (mind you it looked amazing and was worth seeing), but otherwise I didn’t see much going on. This could be because of my location on the front straight, I think I needed to be at the Craners or the Old Hairpin.
Sadly the Formula Junior race was red flagged due to an accident, but I think everyone was okay. Prior to the day these little cars weren’t on my radar at all and I nearly skipped them to walk around the track, but I stayed put for the restart. They actually sounded brilliant and provided some great racing – I’d happily see them race again any day! They spanned a bit of a time period as well, with the later rear-engined cars up front and a few older, slower front-engined cars at the back.
The F2 cars also sounded great and looked the part, and were fast too, at least compared to everything else out there until the Group C’s arrived. I sat myself at the outside of the exit of Redgate and enjoyed them flying past. They made me wonder what a modern F2 would be like – not the current one-make version or GP2, but a real open competition formula for chassis and engines. It would have to be tightly controlled I’m sure. A discussion for another time, perhaps.
Pre-1961 sportscars featured a great race up front between Bobby Verdon-Roe and Richard Attwood in a Ferrari and Aston Martin respectively, until the latter lost a lap for reasons I can’t remember. They swapped positions several times until then and left the rest far behind.
I mustn’t forget the Ford Escort rally cars running on the GP loop, great to see (and hear!). I was almost deafened by the Chevy. This area complete with Tony Mason on commentary. Proper job.
Finally of course, the Group C cars. Jaguars, Nissans, even a silver Sauber-Mercedes. Fantastic. I’ve seen then at the Goodwood Festival of Speed sitting in the paddock and running up the hill at demonstration speed, at long last I get to see them at a track! The one thing missing was a Porsche but I didn’t mind, this was great.
It was great to see Donington Park back at strength again after the F1 debacle of the latter part of the last decade. Okay so the infield was still earthworks and wasn’t pretty, but these guys are doing well with what little resources they were left with. I have to say though, the gravel traps and grass areas were pristine and as good as I have ever seen either at this track or any other in the UK. The racetrack itself looked perfect. The chicane realignment looks good as well, a nice job was done there. The tattier-looking part in the middle and around the Coppice/McLeans area will follow, I don’t doubt it.
I intend to revisit Donington Park this year either for the Historic or for the ELMS, and I’m already looking forward to going back to one of my favourite circuits. If you’ve not been before, know this: if you’re the type of person who can’t stay in one place at a racetrack and likes to watch from different vantage points, you will LOVE Donington. Be in no doubt that it’s reopening is something we shouldn’t take for granted – make a point of going to an event this year.
The Historic didn’t have a huge attendance, it was respectable though. There was a good scattering of people on the main straight and around the first two corners but overall it wasn’t what I’d call busy, but those who were there were knowledgeable. I watched the FJunior race in the grandstand on the front straight near to an American and an Englishman who really knew their stuff about the category, I almost wished the engines would quieten so I could continue to eavesdrop.
If there aren’t more people at the 2012 event I would be very surprised. I think this event is set to become a classic in its own right.
The other thing to mention: the access! You could walk into the paddock and right to the back of the pit garages and nobody asked for ID or a pass. Wonderful stuff.
See my Picasa album for photos from the paddock and all around the track.
You can see more information at the official website.
This is by no means the only historic race meeting of the year, there is a burgeoning historics scene in the UK with some high profile events at Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Oulton Park as well as meetings at other venues such as Castle Combe.
At these other events you may not see the 50s and 60s Grand Prix cars as you would at Goodwood, and you might not always get Group C as you would at Donington, however you may get a dose of single seater racing as well as a good helping of GTs and sportscars from all sorts of eras, and my personal favourites, the 60s and 70s touring cars.
If you’re looking for a relaxed day out at a racetrack don’t rule out a day at a historics meeting, without the tensions of a modern event you might even enjoy it more than contemporary racing.
Personally, I’m thinking of attending the Silverstone Classic for the first time, and paying a visit to Donington for the European Le Mans Series. LM prototypes must look sensational on the Craners, and fast! (Even if only LMP2s). But.. that plan could change, I may well return to the Donington Historic.