One Month, Four Seasons

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Current page

197

Current page

198

From the frozen wastes of a British spring to a potentially hot new era for touring cars

The British famously have a habit of banging on about the weather – but of late there has been good cause…

Barcelona

The landscape felt wholly alien – and not just because it was about 15 degrees warmer than the UK. I’ve been to the venue more than 25 times since my first visit, in 1992, and customarily it has been stuffed with trucks and motorhomes, parked with millimetric precision beyond the public’s reach, but this was the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya laid bare. No Formula 1 apparatus, just a bunch of club-level bike racers on one side, here to test for the afternoon while teams from the World Touring Car Cup were a few metres distant, preparing their pit garages ahead of the following morning’s pre-season test.

WTCC promoter François Ribeiro prides himself on the championship’s family ambience: there’s a great sense of camaraderie at race meetings – and that was even more apparent here, a couple of weeks before the opening races in Marrakesh (which took place on April 7-8). 

The WTCC is a touch different this year, of course. The acronym’s final ‘C’ stands for Cup rather than Championship, a subtle distinction made because there is no official prize at stake for manufacturers. Works entries are prohibited, although Alfa Romeo, Audi, Cupra (Seat), Honda, Hyundai, Peugeot and VW appear to have spared little effort making sure teams have appropriate hardware.

Built to TCR regulations (introduced in 2014 and since adopted by much of the planet), the cars look the part – and the calibre of the entry bodes well, with promising youngsters such as Aurélien Panis and Yann Ehrlacher pitched against proven winners (Gordon Shedden, Rob Huff, Norbert Michelisz, Esteban Guerrieri, Tiago Monteiro, Thed Björk) and what might affectionately be described as The Antiques Roadshow (Gabriele Tarquini, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gianni Morbidelli, Yvan Muller – combined age 205). Tarquini went on to win two of the opening three races, Vernay the other.

And if you thought Muller had retired, you’re correct. “I was perfectly happy with my decision,” he says, “but as I’m building up my own team I thought I might as well put my experience to good use. But this is not a comeback, as such…”

Monteiro’s appearance was well received. He hadn’t raced since a testing accident last September – when brake failure at the end of Barcelona’s main straight pitched him into the wall and out of WTCC title contention. He flew in from Miami (where he has been receiving treatment for nerve damage that blurred his vision), attended the official launch party and then returned almost immediately to the States to continue his rehabilitation and get himself back on track as soon as possible.

Last year there were typically about 17 cars on a WTCC grid – and this year there will be 25, with a provision for one wildcard entry in a field that is for now limited to 26. The global schedule includes 10 three-race weekends, two in China (Ningbo and Wuhan, rather than Shanghai or Beijing) but none in traditional racing heartlands such as France, Italy or the UK. “We’d love to race in Pau,” Ribeiro says, “but I get the impression that the organisers aren’t terribly interested. And it’s hard to generate a crowd in Italy unless you have Ferrari or Valentino Rossi, so…”

Should anyone in Britain wish to catch the new-look WTCC, the closest venues are rounds three and four at the Nordschleife (May 10-12, supporting the Nürburgring 24 Hours) and Zandvoort (May 20-21).

No hardship, in either instance.

Brands Hatch

I’ve rarely known a racing season take quite so long to get properly into its stride. A BMRMC motorcycle clubbie at Brands Hatch (March 11) was welcome, but suffered delays after a significant fuel spillage at Clark Curve. When racing resumed, there was still a lake of water and detergent across that part of the circuit: everybody simply adapted and got on with their day’s sport – as bikers are wont to do.

The Goodwood Members’ Meeting followed – the first time since Easter 1975 (Oulton Park, predictably) that I’d seen a cocktail of F5000 cars and snow. The GMM has swiftly become my preferred Goodwood event – less frantic than the Revival, but blessed with the same elegant mechanical body language. ’Twas a pity (though understandable) that the conditions deterred some from taking part, yet this was still a fine spectacle – if slightly surreal. It’s not often that you see David Coulthard thundering through a blizzard in a Mercedes 300SL, nor a grid of post-war F1/F2 cars lining up with the white-capped South Downs as a backdrop.

One week on, the campaign finally seemed to gather competitive momentum. I hadn’t particularly planned to return to Brands Hatch – in the Australian GP’s televised slipstream it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but one of the best I’ve made in recent times. I’d just watched a highly technical contest during which Mercedes’s pocket calculator ran out of batteries, now here was a bunch of committed racers who could make the cost of an F1 front wing sustain their hobby for a decade or more.

People complain that there have long been too many one-make championships – largely because it’s true – but there is still something uplifting about watching those that are well supported in full flow. This was traditional club racing at its bygone best, hordes of Mazda MX-5s and BMW Compacts hunting in packs, the accent very much on racing rather than worrying about whether wheels were suitably shiny or every panel was straight.

One MX-5 race commenced with a two-car lead battle, yet finished with about seven of them trying to occupy more or less the same bit of Kent. And a special mention to Philip Adcock, who put his BMW Compact on its roof at Paddock within a minute of the morning’s opening practice session, but was on the grid – minus any window glass – for both races.

Glorious simplicity, yet also simply glorious.

Oulton Park

Few racing weekends can have embraced so many contrasts – and it began when I checked into my hotel. The good news? I’d lucked into a large room with a balcony. The bad? The view comprised the local Vauxhall dealership and a drive-through burger restaurant. A glamorous pastime, sometimes, motor racing.

The opening rounds of the British GT and BRDC F3 Championships blended the uplifting with the torrential. On the Saturday (which I’d missed), Billy Monger had returned to single-seater racing for the first time since losing his lower legs in a violent accident at Donington Park, almost a year beforehand, and finished third. He also set fastest lap during race two on Monday morning, by which time the place was awash. Inspiration is much too weak a word.

And then there was Flick Haigh’s GT performance. The 2009 Caterham Classic Graduate champion put Optimum Motorsport’s Aston Martin Vantage on pole, built up a comfortable initial advantage following a safety car start – and stayed ahead until handing over to co-driver Jonny Adam. Lamborghini duo Jason Minshaw/Phil Keen closed the gap and looked set to challenge, but a clash with a GT4 Ginetta left them with a broken wheel and Haigh duly became the first female racer to share an outright victory in one of the world’s most competitive GT domains.

Other notable results included a maiden F3 victory for Manuel ‘cousin of Pastor’ Maldonado, the Venezuelan resisting fierce pressure from Tristan Charpentier and Jamie Chadwick in the reverse-grid race two. “He’s pretty quick,” a member of the Fortec team told me, “but he does go off quite a lot.”

Might sound familiar…

By the time the second GT race was due to begin, conditions had deteriorated to a long way south of appalling and, after a short stint behind the safety car, the red flag was shown prior to the balance of the meeting’s abandonment on safety grounds. Three days later, stewards concluded that a result should be declared – and full points awarded – on the basis of three neutralised laps. There might be something in the regulations that permits this, but that just means the regs are wrong. 

After the race social media was aflutter with questions about entitlement to refunds, but MSVR managed to run all but four of the weekend’s scheduled 17 races, couldn’t be blamed for the weather and in truth had little option but to bring proceedings to a halt.

Oulton has one permanent lake but had acquired several temporary tributaries by the time racing was curtailed.

Related articles

Related products