Friday, 27 June 2008


I lost my motorsport virginity recently at the, evitable, home of motor sport: Silverstone.

I was in pure ecstasy. I need to warrant a grace of gratitude to Stuart Owen, his elder brother Mark and Robin Hicks who joined me to my foremost experience to the outskirts of Northamptonshire to see Formula 1 testing for the upcoming British Grand Prix. (There you go your names are in it)

I must divulge it was not jaw dropping extravagant but a more resolute feel of the extinct of history (Like Anfield and Highbury, where history speaks far more volume than the place itself) surrounding this epic racetrack. However, I felt a sense of mythical impulses and was in a position where heroes have conquered (and failed), drivers who hang up there jump suit and move on to pastures new, many great men have graced our lives and inspired them.

I felt the spirit of many sporting heroes I have admired from memory or from stories in books and from my father experiences; it is a place where a Briton can be remembered for eternity with a solitary race. Many motor-racing ghosts have been put to rest as their experiences at Silverstone hit the crowd with such enthusiasm and amazement. Full of thrills and excitement, this race is definitely one of the highlights on the British sporting calendar, if not the worlds.

Many famous winners grasped my lips and were in my thoughts. They lived and breathed for arenas like this. Taking many plaudits as they win one of the best races the sport has to offer.

Peter Collins, the first British winner at Silverstone (1958).

Five time winner Alain Prost (1983, 85, 89, 90, 93)

Three time winners – Jim Clark (1963, 65, 67), Nigel Mansell (1987, 91, 92) and Schumacher (1998, 2002, 2004).

David Coulthard (1999, 2000) winning it back to back was a very special moment.

Ayrton Senna was limited to a solidarity 1988 win.

Damien Hill (1994), Johnny Herbert (1995), John Watson (1981), and James Hunt (1977) have all won it once each to give Britons a huge gleam of delight.

The history of the place is unquestionable and it is worth so much to our dedicated sport fans.

However, facilities seemed a touch (a lot) out of date, as grand stands are temporary fixtures, with slow moulding rust surrounding them, most do not acquire a roof, as modern sports places this place is certainly lacking.

Wembley, Twickenham, Lords, have all had breathe taking upgrades and one is needed at Silverstone.

Bernie Ecclestone, in past years, resented Silverstone and in 2003 swift upgrades were made in the VIP and Pit areas. A dispute rose between Silverstone’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, and F1 authorities over the funding for track improvements. In October 2004, Silverstone, initially, was, left off the preliminary race schedule for 2005.

It is a few million pounds short of being absolutely astonishing.

The circuit itself is incredible and so much could be expressed.

The first ever Grand Prix took place at Silverstone on the 13th of May 1950 and was won by Nino Farina in his Alfa Romeo in a time of 2:13’236, with a fastest lap of 1’50.600. Over 70 laps, this is incredible.

Having been awarded the ‘honorary’ title of the European Grand Prix it was attended by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and was billed as the ‘Royal Silverstone’.

The circuit was originally an airstrip, and during World War 2, it was used as a bomber-training centre. To this day, there have been many explosive crashes and fatal incidents since to live on the legacy.

In 1967, Bob Anderson slithered off the track in exceptionally wet conditions and crashed, he died later in hospital. He was the first to lose his life at the track.

Michael Schumacher broke both of his legs in 1999, when his hydraulics failed when approaching Stowe for the first time.

The corners are really testing but Silverstone is known to be one of the fastest tracks of the F1 calendar.

As you start, you have the daunting turn of corner 1- Copse, then into Maggots-Beckett-Chapel before heading into the famous Hangers straight. Then it is a swift right turn at Stowe, going along Vale and into Club. Shooting down the straight, Abbey into Bridge will always be challenging. Then the drivers head into the most open part of the track with a speed dash coming up the hill into two left hand corners - Priory and Brooklands then into the fatal right hand turn Luffield Corner. Coming out of there Woodcote awaits you in a high-speed dash into the Pit Straight before doing it all over again. I learnt that all in one day, I might be able to do this blindfolded in my Peugeot 106, well perhaps not. Me, like many out there, would love to give it a go at 10 miles per hour. (Simply because that is what I could handle)

The test day showed Heikki Kovalainen as the quickest producing a time off 1’20.015, the best of the week. Michael Schumacher, naturally, holds the record here with 1’18.738 in 2004.

Jenson Button was trying to put in extra effort, as his recent performances were dire. He did something ridiculous like 103 laps today and only finished 8th out of 10. His Honda is by far the loudest out there, ‘dream earth’ is there slogan but it will more annoyed neighbours, which will be there first obstacle in their support to ‘save the world’. Be more like ‘dream on’.

Other drivers, which were testing, were Robert Kubica, Mark Webber, Giancarlo Fisichella, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Nelsinho Pique Jr, and Jarno Trulli. Many looked decent as Kubica in his BMW looked very fast in sections and gave me a huge fright while walking through a metal tunnel on the way to bridge. He bombed through and the vibrations and sounds is nothing I could describe. It hurt and I am still hearing the sounds now.

Man, I am hooked.

Just testing and six red flag were produced, amazing. It is just a glimpse to what Formula 1 can be like in person.

On television, you do not get the intensity, the thrill, the life-threatening saga; the sounds are phenomenal, so unnaturally loud. Goosebumps shot down me whenever Kovalainen pass. His speed and charisma was an elation to watch, Massa was lacking severe pace as he set the fastest time the day before.

Man controlling machine, Man created machine and it has developed religiously over decades. It looked remorsefully inadequate to the previous cars in early formula One. Nevertheless, as the modern age continues these cars and their characteristics will have to change and what fine machines they are. Up close, they were sex, pure sex. I really do not know how to describe it.

Thanks to Stuart’s and Mark’s Father, Graeme, we were able to have a, some sort of, Driver’s Club Membership guest pass which enables us to have a look around the pits and the paddock.

Mechanics were there in there thousands, teams having travel buses, food buffet services all destined to each individual team. This is definitely the sport of the rich and there will always be sponsors a plenty. The followers of this sport would have noticed the amount of effort each person has to put into each car and there performer and with no doubt they know how to look after their fans with unlimited hospitality experiences available to everyone.

McLaren was even letting ‘Joe Somebody’ to change a tyre for their spare formula one car. Unreal.

Disappointingly, the pit girls were not up to their high standards but that did not stop creeping old forty-something year old men drooling over them and wasting an insignificant moment in time getting their picture taken with two rather average looking girls.

What a day though. Kimi Raikkenon and the newfound sensation Lewis Hamilton will be performing the next day and unfortunately, I will be missing out. However, I will return. Full of knowledge, grace and an in-depth understanding of the sport.

A sport I had huge affection for, has just gave me a lift. This is love. Love stays around for, hopefully, a lifetime.


Shaun Murphy said...

sounds like you had a blast matey. Interesting you say it needs an upgrade, wouldnt that take away from the soul and atmosphere?

Oh, and:

"Nevertheless, as the modern age continues these cars and their characteristics will have to change and what fine machines they are. Up close, they were sex, pure sex."


Anonymous said...

nicely written.

right about the girls.

i was mentioned!! how thrilling