This was a day which had promised much and had initially offered more than a little frustration. I had been due to travel down to Silverstone with a friend in the Elise, taking part in a paddock display which also allowed for a lap of the Grand Prix Circuit during the lunch break. Sadly the Elise was malfunctioning and as it was 6am, I didn’t spot the fairly basic fault in the induction system (a 5 minute fix at worst). So we ended up in Paul’s VW van, bisecting the country in less noisy surroundings and at significantly lower expense than expected. It did hurt seeing/hearing all the other supercars (whether the Elise qualifies as “super” remains moot…) take to the track, but that’s life with a handbuilt sportscar, I suppose.
However, it wasn’t intended to be a day of self-indulgence, this was about the British national racing scene showcasing its wares on Silverstone’s Bridge layout – eschewing the new GP circuit. The headline races were for the national F3 and GT Championships, which both hung in the balance. This was complemented by the usual rough and tumble of VW, Formula Ford, Ginetta and MX5 support races.
The Ma5da MX5 Championship is a real success story of recent years and the durable racers often seem bonded together, such is their fondness for side-by-side action. Blessed without masses of grip, but evidently a very progressive, balanced chassis, it is great to see real racing – and most of it respectful. Time has passed and, as with the VW races, I have entirely forgotten the race result but thoroughly enjoyed both of the day’s encounters. The VWs didn’t disappoint either and Woodcote remains a great place to watch this varied grid as the FWD chassis tipped their inside rear wheel high in the air. A neat contrast with the mid-engined GT cars from later in the day, which were lifting an inside front exiting Club corner. Ten on ten to Dziurzynski brother (absent from the race entry on this occassion) in his Corrado who seemed to be adopting a nice four-wheel drift into Woodcote with no little elegance. Great fun as always!
The Ginetta Challenge race occurred at a rather inconvenient time, being as we were at the entry to Stowe bend and some distance from an unobstructed view of the track. As a result, we sat back to enjoy the new G40 tackling the massed ranks of the old G20. Ginetta old hand Dominic Pettit did a good job in the G40, but the G20 still looks to be the quicker machine for the time being. One must applaud the ambition of the little equipe from Leeds who routinely churn out excellent little sports GT racers.
Formula Ford rarely produces a bad encounter and Silverstone stayed true to this ethos with a typically combatant race. The main story of the season being the championship battle between the Scotts Pye and Malvern. Malvern came to Silverstone with a 37 point championship lead, but the momentum belonged to Pye. Malvern defied the formbook and his 12 race winless streak to take the day’s first encounter, with Josh Hill the second. Josh was also looking good in the traffic at Brands Hatch in the DTM supporting races in September. Whether he is F1 material remains to be seen, but he certainly has his father’s spirit in battle.
The big news in F3 in 2010 was the utter domination of the championship by Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne. Aboard a Red Bull-sponsored Carlin Dallara, he opened his account with a victory at Oulton Park back in April and didn’t stop winning thereafter. By August, he was in a position to become the first Gallic British F3 champion. In consumate fashion, he did just that. While his form has been mesmeric, one must wonder whether he has faced the depth of opposition which some other recent champions have had to contend with. Jaime Alguersari had Oliver Turvey to contend with, for example. Even so, his excellent F3 form has continued during a couple of late-season appearances in WSR so he looks like a tip for the future and well done to him – he did everything which might have been expected, and then some, taking more victories in a single season than any of his forerunners.
If F3 was a Vergne rout, then the British GT Championship really exceeded all expectations. Running a single 2 hour race instead of the usual shorter double-header format, this was one to savour. The largest and strongest field of the season made for an awesome spectacle as a rolling start kicked off 2 hours of fine sportscar racing, which came to a head with about 20 minutes to go. Several drivers made one-off appearances in this race and we were treated to the two Trackspeed Porsches, the Jones twins’ Ascari, the Lester/Simonsen 430 and Darren Turner’s DBRS9 all closing on one another towards the finish. With talent of the calibre of Richard Westbrook, Allan Simonsen and Darren Turner, this was a battle royale all the way to the flag. These guys really showed their class over the might of Silverstone’s fast corners and the current crop of GT3 cars is a stella one. With Mosler, Ford GT and sundry G4 entries additionally, this was a feast for eyes and ears. Eventual champion David Ashburn took the win with Glynn Geddie, but only by a matter of seconds from Simonsen, after the matching Porsche of his rear-gunner, Westbrook, faltered as he approached the line. It was a genuine grandstand finish and a superb advert for the championship which is rebuilding itself after a disappointing 2009. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2011 when United Autosports look likely to bring in their Audi R8 LMSs full time, as well as the new AMG SLS of the Jones brothers. Sounds like fireworks…