Despite this being a working day for the majority, the paddock was so full – a custom at BMCRC events – that quite a few riders were based on the adjacent meadow. It’s always enlightening to eavesdrop on the banter, too: “Hello mate, how’s it going? See you out there in a bit. Hope you have a good day.” There is a fusion of rivalry and unity that’s standard on two wheels but somewhat scarcer on four.
The day got off to a hesitant start, not helped when a breakdown in trackside radio communications caused a delay, and sidecar qualifying had to be red-flagged because a hailstorm struck while crews were circulating on slicks. When a few intrepid souls ventured back out with more appropriate footwear, wheelspin could be heard from the far side of the track.
There is a 5pm Friday curfew at Oulton and, in the end, there wasn’t time to accommodate the final four of 12 scheduled races. It mattered not. The sight of powerbikes pulling wheelies through Druids, riders adopting different balancing techniques to maintain control, is one of the most uplifting (quite literally) in UK motor sport.
It had been worth the trip.
NG Road Racing – Donington Park, May 15
I paid my first visit to Donington Park in July 1980, for a non-championship German Group 5 international, so it’s fairly bewildering that more than 40 years should pass before finally I got to watch bikes at the venue.
Science is powerless to explain such idiocy.
As with the BMCRC (see above), NG has a happy knack of attracting capacity entries – and in motorcycle race paddocks that translates as an ocean of vans. There is little pretence here; a few modest campers, perhaps, but for many a Ford Transit will double up as race transporter and sleeping quarters. Any spare cash seems to be reserved for the bike rather than pointless frippery that won’t make it go any faster.
Conditions were on the slippery side of tricky – NG reported that the Redgate marshals dealt with 29 separate incidents during the day’s course – but the collective commitment remained absolute. Joe Sheldon-Shaw (Suzuki GSXR 1000) won the Powerbike and Open races, while returnee Dan Harris (Suzuki) scored a Mini Twins victory – results that both would repeat the following day.
The sight of sidecars teetering through the chicane was richly entertaining, passengers wrestling to keep their side of the outfit off the East Midlands approach radar, and the quicker riders’ passage through the Craner Curves was both seamless and majestic. I shall endeavour to return for more before 2062.
British GT Championship – Brands Hatch, May 22-23
The British Touring Car Championship has the profile, the TV footprint and a justifiably strong reputation for close racing, but in isolation its cars don’t have the presence of a contemporary GT3. Truth be told, not much does.
The opening fixture of the season didn’t feature a great deal of close racing – the WPI Lamborghini Hurácan of Michael Igoe and Phil Keen won fairly easily – yet it was still a spectacle. The sound on its own is ever a tonic, likewise the return of that ancient species the motor racing spectator. It’s a trifle puzzling that only 4000 were allowed to enter a venue the size of Brands Hatch, when Wembley welcomed more than 20,000 to the previous weekend’s FA Cup Final, but logic and governance seem rarely to be bedfellows.
The supporting cast included three BRDC F3 races (the last with a fully reversed grid and commensurately chaotic start), the GT Academy (a new Ginetta series to accompany the other 37 or so) and the clumsily named Porsche Visit Cayman Islands Sprint Challenge GB, which is ripe with technical efficiency but not terribly engaging to watch. For a one-make series to work properly, it is surely important that the cars frolic in the manner of a Ford Escort Mexico or a Renault 5TS?
Masters Historic Festival – Brands Hatch, May 29-30
The sight of modern GTs rampaging through ancient Kentish woodland had been invigorating one week beforehand – and the chance to watch Chevron B8s and Lola T70s doing likewise proved to be no less so.
There are some fine venues on the annual Masters Historic schedule, but few things complement older cars quite as well as the extended version of Brands Hatch.