All You Need to Know For The Silverstone Six Hours

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.

LMP1

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.

LMP2

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.

GT

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.

2011 Silverstone 6 Hours (photo: P.Wotton)

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.

Details

Race date: Sunday 26th August

Formula Renault 3.5 race: 9:40am – 10:30am (timed race)

WEC Pit walkabout: 10:30am – 11:00am

WEC Grid walk: 11.25am – 11:40am

WEC Race start time: Midday – 6pm (timed race)

Spotters Guide: Here

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.

My Plan

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.

Let me know if you’re going!

Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone

ILMC/LMS at Silverstone Wing
Sportscars Race Past Silverstone's New Pitlane (photo by P.Wotton)

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.

The New

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.

Continue reading “Attending the 2011 6 Hours of Silverstone”

Off to Silverstone

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.

A Visit to Silverstone

I spent Sunday at Silverstone during the FIA GT1 World Championship event. There were two reasons for going, firstly I wanted to see the big circuit layout changes for myself and secondly I needed my first post-winter fix of live racing.

I got there a little late after not realising just how far away the circuit is from my house, I’d underestimated by a full hour and I had got away late too – I must have arrived 90 minutes after the time I’d intended. This meant I missed the GT3 race and most of the GT4 race. Luckily I’d been directed to park at Abbey corner so I was just a short walk from the first part of the new section, where I watched the last ten minutes of the GT4.

Abbey

The first thing that struck me was the building site opposite. This is the location for the brand new pitlane. The only thing finished is the track itself, the new pitwall, and whatever existing facilities were not torn down. There is dust and dirt on the track surface, not helped by the wind which must be blowing plenty of it from the construction site in the infield. It had also been raining.

Revised Abbey corner
Revised Abbey corner. Former track runs where cones are, even older track in foreground. (c) P.Wotton

The new Abbey is a very fast corner! It is much tighter than I expected it to be yet the cars carry a lot of speed through there. I would expect F1 cars to reach 150mph+. The GT cars were travelling quickly too but were hampered by the low grip on the damp circuit. I’ve never watched a race on the old layout from here but it seems clear to me these changes improve this viewing spot considerably – far better to watch cars flying at speed than the heavy braking of old. Remember this will become the first corner in a year or two when the start line is moved down here – until then I don’t expect much passing at this point.

Here are a couple of shots I took of the new pit area as it looks right now – it is early days yet and they have rightly been focussing on completing the new section of track. You can see how tight Abbey looks, but because it opens out again they can carry a lot of speed.

Unfortunately there was nowhere to watch the exit of Abbey as there’s a little campsite / motorhome park in the way. I could probably have sneaked in actually, never mind. I hope they move the camping area and put a stand or a spectator bank here, it would be great to see the cars coming toward you at speed as you’d be able to see the cars move around and see the drivers working to control them, especially in the damp conditions we had.

Village/Loop/Aintree

Moving further up the new section, I entered the grandstand at the Village corner. I’m hoping this was a temporary stand as it wasn’t quite big enough, it seemed to be the busiest stand at the circuit as it was full for this race and people were being turned away. I must give a shout out to the steward in the left-hand side of the stand where I was, very friendly and he did everything he could to make sure every seat was filled before he apologetically and reluctantly turned anyone back, checking every time. He even seemed a little disappointed when I moved on halfway through the race, as if I thought it wasn’t good enough when in reality I only wanted to see a different angle. Much better than some of the jobsworths you can get doing that job – I have to say I’ve come to expect anyone in a flourescent coat at a race track to automatically hassle you or check your ticket and say you don’t have the right pass – this was quite the opposite, two thumbs up.

If and when they build a bigger stand it does need to be angled slightly clockwise, to give a better view of the run into the corner so you can see an overtake move being set up, rather than finishing. Those at the far right had a good view.

What I liked about this stand was the closeness to the track. I’m a little disappointed my only decent photo to illustrate this was of a Safety Car! I do have a short video, limitations with WordPress mean I can’t embed it here.

Village corner
The view at Village corner, up close to the cars. (c) P.Wotton

It looks to be a good place to watch a race if you like to see cars for longer periods of time. It puts them in front of you for longer and you can really see them working to slow down, then hard on the gas for the short section before hard braking and turning in before the other guy can get inside on the left. You can see the Loop does set cars up for an overtake through Aintree and along the following straight, and cars were side by side as they left our vision, but you don’t see how those moves are resolved until they come by again – a big screen may be needed here. There was also no circuit commentary at this point, though this is sometimes useless as it is drowned out by the engines I do find it helps for when the cars are at the other side of the track and when there is a Safety Car.

FIA GT
GT cars through The Loop and Aintree corners, from Village stand. (c) P.Wotton

GT and F3 cars seemed to be able to make it work, it was hard to tell not really being familiar with the paint schemes of anything other than the Vitaphone cars (I do like that car), that and the cold biting wind making my eyes water. To be honest I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the race order, I was really watching to see how the drivers worked the new section and whether there was much side-by-side action.

I think F1 drivers will be able to line up a pass into Village, they will have to be very optimistic if they expect to make it stick though. If they do get alongside they will have to watch out in The Loop because several times I saw cars go for the same piece of track, and the car on the inside (left) had to back out of it almost every time. What will probably work better is the way The Loop upsets the rythym of a driver if he gets it wrong so we should see lots of passing attempts into Brooklands corner.

I do think it’ll make a great MotoGP track, we could yet see the best MotoGP race of the year here.

Wellington Straight
I made my way over to the Maggotts grandstand, in doing so I had to cross the National straight which has now been renamed for the Wellington bombers that were once stationed here. This was the first race I’d witnessed the Corvette C6.R in person, and what a sound! The Ford GT was similar and surprisingly so was the Nissan. Great to hear all sorts of engines sounds in one race. Just a few pics I took on the walk:

I made it to the Maggotts/Becketts sequence, there is a grandstand on the left side of the track and if you stand at the top row or along the right-hand side you can look behind you at the new layout.

The grandstand on the outside of the circuit at Becketts has been dismantled but let me tell you, when the replacement is up it will be a prime viewing position. You’ll have fast cars in front of you and in the background you’ll see the new section where you may have cars passing and getting into trouble – plus it means you see the cars twice per lap, last year you’d have seen them 60 times during the F1 GP and this year you’ll see them 120 times, instantly helping to justify the high price of the tickets.

For those where I was stood on the infield side, you’ll have to be sure to get as far right in the stand as possible and be ready to crane your neck. While you do get neckache and with a crowd you may struggle, you do get a better idea of how battles are progressing when you see them twice. I followed a Maserati and a Nissan for a couple of laps and even in the half lap between Becketts and Village it was clear the Nissan was faster – I believe it overtook for 3rd.

Aston Martin DBR9
Aston Martin DBR9 at Aintree corner, viewed from back of Maggotts stand. (c) P.Wotton

Rest of the Day
I stayed in this position for the start of the British F3 race but this was as tedious as most F3 races are, at least it seemed it to me. I didn’t see much passing, there was an incident at The Loop where a car tried to pass on the inside but instead tagged the guy on the outside into a spin – I suspect this will happen a lot in open wheel cars here. James Calado and Oliver Webb fought it out for the win which eventually went Calado’s way.

While they were doing that I made my way to Copse and watched the end there, before wandering around the fully open (if somewhat deserted) paddock. The F3 teams were wheeling their kit back through and various GT teams were packing up, that was about it. I managed to buy a Vitaphone Maserati jumper – which was on discount – for even less after confusing the German shopkeepers and then realising I didn’t have enough money. I think they just wanted to get rid of me!

Final Thoughts on Silverstone
The changes are very good. We’ll mourn the loss of Bridge corner for the driving challenge, and we’ll celebrate the different challenge the new section brings. It is tight and the drivers will need to get their elbows out. Brooklands should now feature passing.

Okay so Silverstone looks scruffy at the moment. The place is half-finished. None of the grandstands on the main straight were open, some are old ones still being put back together, some are brand new ones that haven’t been finished yet – if it looked quiet between Copse and Luffield, that’s why. The stand at Village needs making bigger and others aren’t even there at all. These things will be fixed by June for the MotoGP race.

The track is surrounded by upturned mud. Most of this will surely have grass seed in it and will look great next year, if not sooner. The construction site will be an eyesore for the 2010 Moto and F1 GPs and then it’ll be gone.

Silverstone 2010 as a place is a work in progress and a venue in transition. It will get better – in some ways it already is better, it offers better viewing locations already.

Just one more thing. The food vans are overpriced and the one I visited – infield by the fairground at the crossroads – served cold food and lukewarm tea. All concessions had shut before the last race had finished. I wanted to watch the races and then get something for the road – I had a 3-hour drive ahead of me. This is not good enough. This was the first big event after a very public relaunch, you should be bending over backwards for people. Just keep them open until ten or fifteen minutes after the last chequered flag. Admittedly it was a very late programme and the race didn’t finish until 5.30pm, but that is not an excuse to close. Fix this.

You can view more of my photos of the day at my Picasa site. There are also a few more short videos on my YouTube account.