On Track – A Day of Firsts

As part of Sidepodcast’s ongoing On Track series in which members of the community describe their days exploring the race tracks of the world, I recently wrote of my experience at Thruxton circuit in 2001. I was fortunate enough to drive in road cars while sitting alongside race instructors and culminating in a run in a Formula Ford 1600 on Britain’s fastest road course circuit.

I’ve adapted my account from reports I’d written in the days following the run, which were originally posted to the F1NGers newsgroup. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed revisiting it. Sadly this has been my only time driving on a real track, I hope to return some day.

I’ve adapted my account from reports I’d written in the days following the run, which were originally posted to the F1NGers newsgroup.

2010 Belgian GP – Tuesday & Wednesday

Sincere apologies for the lack of promised blog posts. While I was away the wifi connection was seriously patchy, and we were all so busy throughout that there wasn’t much blogging time to be found. I then returned to work and had to catch up with boring post-holiday household activities, packing things away, washing and suchlike (not to mention sleep from the extensive walking and driving). The glamour of the Grand Prix!

Happily this is now done and I can now catch up on blog posts. With the state of my memory I’m going to forget something crucial but let’s see how things go.

Tuesday 24th

I was running around like a headless chicken in the morning, panicking that I’d packed enough of everything for the week away and that I hadn’t over-packed. Even though I’d never been I knew that with Spa being Spa you needed to bring enough that if your clothes in the day got drenched you could change into something else for the evening, and ideally you needed that for three days – but we couldn’t pack too much because of the space restrictions in the cars. I was also worried I’d forget something crucial, like the sat-nav or the camera. After fretting for a while I finally got going an hour late, thankfully I had a good run up to London, traffic was quite light with it being midweek in a school holiday so I made much better time than I expected and enough that I stopped for a coffee along the way.

The reasons for staying in London were two-fold. The main reason was to attend the Sidepodcast meetup in London, but it also had the nice side-effect of breaking up the long journey to Belgium. I was staying directly opposite a tube station, a half-hour ride from central London, nice and handy. I got to the pub at about 6pm.

It was a great night and surely the most-attended Sidepodcast event to date, there must have been 15-16 people at its height, probably approaching double the previous maximum. People seemed to be coming and going throughout, and we milled around and caught up with friends met before or got busy making new ones. Great chat with great people, and plenty of drinking! If you get the chance to go to any of the ‘Sidepodpubbing’ meetups in London (and hopefully elsewhere in future) you should do so, most of them are smaller affairs than this as it was a special pre-Spa one but don’t be put off because you’ll find some genuine friendly people at all of them.

Since we’re all regular SPC commenters who are mostly tech-savvy we’re also tweeters, so you could say it was an SPC ‘tweetup’ – the problem with this was the lack of any mobile or wifi signal at all at the venue. It wasn’t as ‘connected’ an event as it could have been. On the upside this meant we spent more time talking and less time looking at screens so it was a really nice social gathering, and it was really good to just hang out. I’d feared a lot of ‘dead time’ while people checked their technology and this was largely absent. It was also really good to meet some people I’d never met before, either because we’d not bumped into each other at other meetups or because they lived entire continents away.

You can see a photo here.

When the bar closed the meetup was officially over, though five of us weren’t ready to finish yet so we went on to a hotel bar for another few hours of drink and chat. I got the taxi back to my hotel at 3am and found the doors locked, I had to use my room card to enter through the car park! That’s how it should be of course, stay out so late nobody waits up. A brilliant night.

Wednesday 25th

The inevitable hangover. The pub meetup was originally supposed to be Wednesday night but was moved for a variety of reasons, one of them was so that there were no hangovers on the drive to Belgium on Thursday. It was a wise decision. I woke up late, struggled out of bed and on to the tube to Heathrow to meet a welcoming party for Gavin (a.k.a. RubberGoat) who was flying in after sadly having to miss the pub night.

Not having any plans for the rest of the day I latched on to a couple of others while a few chores and last-minute preps were done. In the early evening we found a really nice relaxed place to chat over a couple of pints, it was great to get caught up with Gavin again as it had been 18 months since we last (and first!) met despite knowing each other online for years. After food in a posh fish and chip shop our group of four headed back to Bassano’s for a final check of the next day’s plans.

This wasn’t to be a super-late night – the next day we were off to Belgium!

You can read the next instalment here.

Belgian Grand Prix – Audio

I had an utterly brilliant time in Belgium for the Grand Prix along with 10 fellow F1 fans loosely revolving around the Sidepodcast.com community. There will be plenty of blog write-ups across many sites from several of us over the coming days and I’ll do my best to point you to them. In the meantime, you should listen to this.

On Sunday night we came together and recorded our thoughts into a 26-minute podcast which is now available at Sidepodcast.

Between the group of us we covered:

– the rain

– the circuit

– the bumping into people

– the locals

..and much more besides.


It really is a good listen and I think – I hope – we managed to capture our excitement at having attended the race, and having battled through the elements and won.

Hope you like it.


Apologies for those waiting for the TMR Game post, I’ve been too tired to catch up with it and will write it Thursday night. If you need to get an entry in beforehand please use last week’s post.

An Aside With Joe #16

Today the latest ‘An Aside With Joe’ podcast was released and amazingly they are up to no.16 already. It doesn’t seem long since the first one.

These chats with journalist and author Joe Saward are always very revealing and in this edition you can find out about:

  • making Grands Prix green;
  • a Grand Prix for electric cars;
  • Silverstone’s deal;
  • an update on the Motorsport Business Forum, not the Monaco one like much of the F1 media but the Orlando event (and the reasons why he went there);
  • hydroplanes – yes, really;

I’ve said it before and it is ever true – after listening to Joe speak for just under an hour you come away feeling a lot wiser about motorsport and you look at it through different eyes – plus you can impress your friends with the knowledge. Of course, your friends don’t care about motorsport and they still think Button is called Jason, hah, what do they know, nothing.

Thanks to Sidepodcast and especially to Joe for making the time to produce these, and particularly this episode which was an unexpected addition.

I know it is Christmas but you should make time for this one, LISTEN HERE.