I was at Silverstone in April for the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship weekend. I took along a new zoom lens to its first motorsport event, and by Sunday I think I was getting the hang of it!
I’ve attended the 6 Hours (and predecessor 1000km) for the last few years, this year it was moved from Autumn to Spring with the expected change in conditions. Saturday’s ELMS was run in torrential rain. Thankfully Sunday was much brighter and was mostly free of rain, but again the thermometers flattered to deceive, and while it was warmer than the day before it still felt much colder than readings indicated. In previous years I did it as a day trip but with the addition of ELMS I decided to stay in Northampton to see both races, and also to attend Sunday’s pit walk.
Saturday – See my post about Saturday’s European Le Mans Series race here.
Sunday April 14th – FIA World Endurance Championship
The first order of business was to get to the pitwalk. This was easier said than done. The free shuttle buses were few and far between and it took a good 30 or 40 minutes to walk from the Abbey/ex-Bridge area to the new Wing paddock complex, as there is no crossing point nearby. All this walking meant I missed the day’s Formula 3 race which happened at the same time, though I did bump into theseguys. Was it worth the effort? Definitely.
I was at Silverstone in April for the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship weekend. I took along a new zoom lens to its first motorsport event, although Saturday was a bit of a washout.
Saturday April 13th – European Le Mans
Saturday was very cold and only got colder, until the rain arrived at which point it got even colder but also very, very wet causing racing to be abandoned for the day. I spent the ELMS and WEC qualifying sessions on the grass bank between Maggotts and Village, before ensconcing myself in the Woodcote stand for the 3-hour ELMS race, trying to stay warm. Thermometers may have read 9 or 10C but with windchill it felt like 5C at best, 1 or 2C by the end.
Formula 3 Europe:
I only saw one Euro F3 race but it was good, lots of passing albeit not much of it near me. Harry Tinknell (blue car) is local to me so I was rooting for him, he was leading for a while but fell back to 3rd I think it was at the end.
The ELMS race was good as well. I’d call it a traditional race, not the sort you see very often any more. Everyone had slicks for the start but as the formation lap got under way it started raining! Half the field pitted straight away but mysteriously half of them did not, and it cost them dearly as the Safety Car came out. Big gaps then appeared in the field as the conditions worsened but it wasn’t boring – quite the opposite, over two hours a lot of cars went sliding and spinning off, or had drivers uncomfortable with the conditions, so the order was changing quite a lot despite the gaps.
Eventually the rain got so bad everyone was running around in 2nd-gear to avoid aquaplaning, the Safety Car was called out but even after 20 minutes a lot of the field still hadn’t caught up with it, they were being so cautious! After a good 30 or 40 minutes under SC the red flags came out to end the race half an hour early. At the time, freezing in the stands too stubborn to move while the track was live but so cold I wished it ended, I thought it was a good idea. But looking back I almost wish the SC hadn’t have come out let alone the reds flown, everyone was going slowly for the conditions and it would’ve been interesting to see who made the best of it.
I was sat in the stands with Carole @revs_rule, and after the race was stopped we made a beeline to my car and to Silverstone village for a hot meal and cup of tea in the White Horse pub, which were very nice indeed.
Are you going to Silverstone this weekend for the 6 Hours of Silverstone? I wrote a little guide ahead of last year’s race and I thought I’d do the same again this year.
It should be an interesting change in dynamic with the race having moved to April from a mid-season August, it has now become the opening round of the series. It’ll be our first chance to see the competitiveness of the teams and drivers particularly those that did not make the trip to Sebring in March. The weather and temperature will be other factors to consider, though in fairness they may not be too different to the years the race took place in September.
Racing This Weekend
FIA WEC, ELMS, and FIA European F3.
What Are They?
The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is a world series for the cars and stars of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 2013 is the second year of the revived championship. Four classes of car compete on the track at the same time, two sets of ‘prototypes’ and two sets of GTs. This weekend features a six hour race on Sunday.
The European Le Mans Series is a regional series also linked to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It also has four classes, two of which are identical to those in the WEC and two are ‘entry level’ in nature. This weekend they’ll race for three hours on Saturday afternoon.
FIA European Formula 3 is a single-seater category for aspiring drivers, if F1 is the top tier of single-seater racing then F3 is the 3rd-tier. In reality the talent from F3 graduates into all types of racing including WEC and the like. They will have two races on Saturday and another one first thing on Sunday.
What To Bring
Tickets! You could get a 3-day weekend ticket for £35 in advance and they should still only be £40 on the gate, obviously single-day tickets would be lower!
Appropriate clothing! It is April – expect a mixture of sun and showers. It also a cold Spring so bring a thick jumper and a coat. It’ll be hard to choose between a heavy coat for warmth or an anorak to stay dry so put both in the car and decide when you get there! Bear in mind Silverstone can feel cold on a warm day so if the day is cool already, be ready. Bring a hat too. And sun cream! Seriously!
Shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Although Silverstone spent a lot of money on path improvements around the start/finish straight, and that area really does look impressive now, they don’t extend around the whole track and in any case you might not want to go where the paths go. With all the rain we’ve had the ground will be muddy.
A radio! When the cars are running you will struggle to hear the PA system around much of the track so you will need a radio tuned to 87.7FM Radio Le Mans, and a supply of batteries.
You might also want a camera, with a supply of batteries.
Andy Blackmore’s Spotter Guides. You might want to print these: FIA WEC – ELMS Wait as late as you can as they’re being updated.
Bring food or plenty of money to buy some. I usually buy my lunch on site. Silverstone’s food sellers have markedly improved in quality over the years, unfortunately they can now make a hefty dent in your wallet. At least it isn’t as pricey as Goodwood! Don’t bank on getting anything on your way back to your car though, they’re all packing up by then.
On the plus side, parking is free and very simple. Go along Dadford Road all the way down, past the main entrance until you get to the 2nd roundabout and turn left there signposted Public Parking. You’ll discover you are near the end of the Wing, by Club corner. Follow the people wearing orange or yellow and they’ll have you at a nice spot barely five minutes walk from the gate, which is about a half minute’s walk from the track. Obviously if you have to queue to buy a ticket it’ll be longer, but if you’ve brought your ticket with you, you can be out of your car and trackside within 10 minutes if you want to be. I usually follow my ritual of getting a cup of tea first, maybe a bacon roll!
If you don’t feel like walking the track there are free buses circulating the perimeter road, also visiting the pitlane, so you can still make that journey to Becketts or the Hangar Straight if you want to.
A lot of the grandstands will be open for no extra fee. Not all of them are open all weekend, Sunday is the day with most availability.
WEC teams will be based at the Wing paddock. ELMS and F3 teams will be based at the National paddock (the old pits).
Want To Watch The F1 Race Too?
Greedy so and so, but, me too! And there’s good news – if you can get to Silverstone early enough, the Paddock Diner in the National paddock will be open from 7.30am Sunday and they will be showing the Chinese GP on their TV screens. That race starts at 8am and should run until about 9.30. Racing starts at Silverstone at 9.15am on Sunday with F3, by then you should have a sense of whether it is worth staying for the end of the F1.
Info from the most excellent FIA WEC Twitter feed which you should definitely follow.
10.00am – 10.45am – WEC Pit Walk & Autograph Session
11.10am – 11.40am – WEC Grid Walk
12.00pm – 6.00pm – WEC Race
When you leave I recommend allowing time to watch the podium ceremonies. Each of the four classes gets their own podium ceremony. Not only is it good to show your appreciation to the drivers it is a great way to let the car park empty before you hit the road. All traffic merges together into a single road and that means everything backs up, it takes a long time to get out, so instead of stressing in your car you might as well stick around for 20 minutes to congratulate all of the class winners.
I’ll be tweeting from @toomuchracing throughout the weekend for as long as signal and battery allow, unless it is too cold to use it! And do remember to follow @FIAWEC as well.
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.
Will you be attending the Silverstone Six Hours this Sunday? If you’re still considering it here are some things to look out for, a brief field run-down and some pointers for what to bring with you. If you’ve been to any race track before some of these will be obvious, if you are used to F1 or BTCC some things are different.
What is this race?
Everyone knows the Le Mans 24 Hours, right? Many of those cars and drivers compete in a year-long series. This race is the Silverstone 6 Hours and is a points-paying round of the series.
Why you should go
Silverstone throw open most of the grandstands for no extra fee. You get to wander between them whenever you like and nobody will stop you! Only a couple of stands are reserved for sponsors or are closed. Most are open to all!
You get four races on the track at once, for six hours!
If you get there early enough Sunday, or are there Saturday, you get to see Formula Renault 3.5 as well.
Up front you have the height of technology with almost-F1-pace rapid prototypes silently gliding by. In the middle is a closer race for less-advanced prototypes.
At the other end of the scale you have big noisy Corvettes and Astons and Ferraris and Porsches fighting tooth and nail for their class wins just as much as the others.
There are so many drivers and nuances among teams that I can’t hope to cover them all here. For more detail I recommend reading DailySportscar.com – some of their WEC coverage is supported by Nissan so you don’t need a subscription.
The 3-car overall fight isn’t just Audi vs Toyota, since Audi have entered two types of technology:
1 x R18 e-tron quattro (hybrid diesel) for Le Mans winners Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler.
1 x R18 ultra (non-hybrid diesel) for the ‘legends’ of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen racing as a duo following Dindo Capello’s retirement. (Lucas di Grassi will join McNish and Kristensen at the Interlagos round).
Toyota entered one (hybrid petrol) car for Alex Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre. They were quick at Le Mans but both their cars retired there. No questions of their speed but can they finish the race?
Privateers – Behind these there are 4 privateer LMP1 cars battling for a podium should the top 3 falter. We’ll see two Lotus-livered Rebellion Lolas versus two Hondas (HPDs) from two different teams, Strakka and JRM. Karun Chandhok, David Brabham, Danny Watts, Jonny Kane, Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani… the line-ups in these cars is pretty good. Sadly OAK and Pescarolo withdrew their LMP1 cars for competitive and sponsorship reasons respectively.
In the second tier you have 15 cars in the most unpredicable class in the field. Although Starworks with Stephane Sarrazin among their line-up start as favourites you cannot pick a winner and you certainly can’t pick a top 3! Nissan power most of the field but you’ll find competition from Judd, Honda and Lotus. Likewise most cars are split between Lola and Zytek. This all means the field is very tight.
Bertrand Baguette is with OAK, Nic Minassian has a guest drive at JOTA, F1-tester Brendon Hartley is back with Murphy Prototypes along with Warren Hughes, Tonio Liuzzi puts in a surprise appearance at Lotus (yes two more Lotus liveries here in this team run by Colin Kolles), and the Brundle father/son partnership from the ELMS has entered to back up Greaves’ WEC points-scoring car.
The GTE Pro class (GT cars for Professional drivers) is sparse this season with just five cars but the quality is there – there isn’t a bad car, team or driver in the bunch. Fisichella, Bruni, Bertolini and Beretta make up the two-car AF Corse Ferrari charge, and JMW are bringing their yellow example too for Cocker and Walker. They’re up against the fast Aston of Mucke, Turner and Fernandez and the potent Porsche pairing of Lietz and Lieb in the blue Felbermayr car.
At the back you’ll find GTE Am (GT cars for Amateurs/Gentleman drivers plus one Pro if you like). In fairness some of these cars are quick and mix it up with the GTE Pros. Things seem to work in pairs in GTE Am: we’ll see two Ferraris, two Corvettes, two Porsches and two Aston Martins. The Pro drivers are all good so this’ll likely come down to who has the best gentleman drivers. So far that seems to be the Larbre Corvettes.
You will need..
– An advance ticket (deadline Thursday). This isn’t strictly necessary but if you book in advance they are £30 for Sunday versus £35 on the day.
– An FM radio. I’ve made the mistake at this event before. Make sure you bring either a radio or a phone which can access the Tune In Radio app at a former aerodrome miles from anywhere. You will need to be able to hear John Hindhaugh and the Radio Le Mans crew tell you what is going on because you sure as hell can’t hear the circuit tannoy in the stands unless you position yourself right next to a speaker, and being a long multi-class race you’ll easily lose track of positions if you try following by sight alone (unless you lap-chart..). On Tune In Radio you will need Radio Le Mans and/or Radio Silverstone. I don’t know the exact FM frequency but it should be somewhere near 97 MHz.
– Suncream and an anorak. It’s August so if the sun’s out it’ll be warm, but long-range forecasts shows rain.. I won’t be using an umbrella as they’re too cumbersome and annoying for everyone else. If it is raining I’ll wear a hat. Hopefully we’ll be in t-shirts and shorts!
– Money. The food concessions at Silverstone are expensive. I’ve moaned about this in this space before! At least there are better and healthier options than there were 10 years ago I suppose.
– Walking shoes. You can stay in the same place if you like, I prefer to walk around. Many of the grandstands are thrown open for you to wander between at your heart’s content.
– Patience in traffic. Getting in is relatively painless with waits of no more than half an hour. Getting out can be testing which is why I usually sit around to watch the podium ceremonies. Let everyone else get stressed. I don’t try to leave early, I didn’t spend all this time and money getting here to miss who wins.
Race date: Sunday 26th August
Formula Renault 3.5 race: 9:40am – 10:30am (timed race)
Not at the track? You can watch on MotorsTV in the UK/France/other places, and on various websites including fiawec.com. In previous races the website (eventually, a little while after the race started) gave you various different audio options including Radio Le Mans.
I have no idea how you watch this race in North America, I think it might be on the website Speed2 or ESPN3 or something? Pretty sure they geoblock fiawec.com to channel people to one of those sites but try it. If that fails you could try audi.tv.
I have a 3.5-hour drive from home and am notoriously bad at getting up. I plan to leave home between 7 and 7.30am which ought to get me there for say 11am. I’ll miss the pit walkabout but I don’t know if a general ticket gets me into that anyway.
I plan to watch the start from the front straight so I can hear engines fire up and see cars leave the grid, and may stay there until the first round of LMP stops at about 40-45 minutes. After that I will head around anti-clockwise (always track walk against the flow of traffic), stopping at Club, Stowe and the Hangar Straight before probably heading to the bit of viewing area between Maggots and the Village Loop so I can see cars both sides of me!
The outside of Becketts doesn’t really do it for me, too far away. I may not bother with the old start/finish area, it looks pitiful nowadays with all the grandstands gone, and I don’t want to be wandering the FR3.5 garages while the main race is in progress. (No offence, FR3.5 guys). Perhaps I’ll go to Luffield via the infield route. I’d like to watch the last hour or so from Club or start/finish. Will I stay for the podium? Unsure. I’ve done so for the last two years but this time I’d like to get on the road to try to see the IndyCar race at Sonoma. But that depends on the traffic getting out.
Sportscar racing is something of a niche branch of motorsport, you don’t really find many casual fans except at Le Mans itself. It is a difficult form of racing to follow at times. Multiple classes, long races sometimes won or lost over laps not seconds.
I firmly believe it is worth the effort.
This apparent inaccessibility has been improved in recent years by the battle between Audi and Peugeot which has captivated many, especially since they’ve mixed well-known sportscar racers with drivers who made their name in Formula 1 and elsewhere.
Plus they built some really cool cars. That always helps.
I got there late (no surprises) and parked up as the cars were on the grid. The best part of the new pit straight is that it is right next to the main car parks so it is very easy to be in the midst of the action straight away.. as long as there aren’t queues at the ticket desk and attendants who don’t recognise their own discount vouchers. Grr. Still, at least the queues meant there was a fairly good crowd, bigger than previous years, so you can’t complain too loudly.
This was the first time I’d seen the new pit buildings in action. I was at the Renault event just a few weeks ago and this area of the track was deserted and unused with all the action at the old pitlane. This time it was a living, breathing pitlane and the atmopshere was transformed. It looked soulless the other week but seeing it in action it just clicked, it works.
I am going to the Autosport Silverstone 1000km today, the final round of the Le Mans Series and the first qualifier for what I suppose you could call the ‘trial’ Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, which this year is a series of 3 races comprising Silverstone, Petit Le Mans and a race at Zhuhai in China. The ILMC will be expanding substantially next season and could become the de facto ‘world championship’ in all but name for Le Mans-style racing, something that has been missing for many years.
The reason I am going is because it sees the first battle between Audi and Peugeot since Le Mans, it’ll surely be epic. I’m also going because I’ve never been to a race like it before and also because I need to see more live racing.
I’m not doing this to make a point. Unlike many other fans of sportscar racing I am not one of these snooty types who hold their nose up at Formula 1, there seem to be plenty in that community who take great pleasure in making their distaste of F1 known to all and sundry and making snidey sarcastic comments as if everyone agrees with them. In the 1990s it was cool for F1 fans to act this way about all other forms of racing. Thankfully I’ve noticed over the last couple of years this attitude has largely disappeared. It is a shame to see it rearing it’s ugly head amongst sportscar fans, a group I consider to be among the most ardent of motorsport fans and so a group I expect to have an appreciation of all forms of racing (even if they don’t like some of it). Unfortunately it seems some among RLM are guilty of this and I’m going to be very annoyed if I have to listen to that kind of diatribe all day on the tannoy or the radio (if I can find a radio).
I’m actually quite annoyed to be missing the Italian Grand Prix particularly with the grid the way it is and I’ve been agonising over whether I’m making the right choice. For the last two years I’ve bottled out in favour of watching Monza, this year after coming back from Spa I’ve got the trackside buzz back again and I want to get one more fix in before the winter arrives, so off I go.
It’ll be interesting to see how easy the race is to follow, I’ve heard multi-class racing is very difficult to follow in person. It should last about five and a half hours so I’m hoping to see the cars from many vantage points. I want to see the start from somewhere cool, either Becketts or Stowe, whichever I have time to get to. After that I’ll be wandering around the circuit trying out different stands, perhaps finding my way into the paddock at some point.
If you see me, I’ll probably be wearing a blue raincoat and a Goodwood hat, a bit like in this photo. In the unlikely event it is as warm and sunny as Saturday has been I guess you’ll have to just look for the hat.
I’ll be tweeting as much as I can during the day but I’m conscious of how much of my stupidly small data plan I’ll be using up, particularly after the continental trip. Since it is a little more than 3 hours from home each way you won’t see a wrap-up post until late evening or Monday, and I’ll probably save the full details until I’ve posted my Belgium wrap-ups.
Enjoy the GP and if you’re able to follow the LMS on Eurosport, RLM and live timing, enjoy that too.