Thursday, 23 September 2010

Looking forward to the Britcar 24 hours

I was delighted when Brian Jones asked me to be part of the commentary team for the Silverstone 24 hour Britcar race. Partly because it is always nice to be asked to do something (far better than having to ask to do it), partly because it will take my mind off the fact that I am not at Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans, and partly because I have never been to a 24 hour race at Silverstone, nor even to a Britcar race.

So, a weekend to look forward to, then. The timetable for the event is very busy indeed, with five support races taking place on Friday, October 1st, and a further eight races on the Saturday, before the 24 hour race itself starts at 4:30 in the afternoon. Considering that qualifying for all these events, not to mention day and night qualifying (and a warm-up) for the Britcar entrants all has to be squeezed in as well, the BRSCC is going to have a busy few days.

In comparison, I will have it fairly easy (I hope). Brian has asked me only to be involved in the Britcar race, which actually suits me fine, given my lack of familiarity with UK club race categories these days. And even then, I have been told to “arrange my own breaks” during the race itself.

So what is there actually to look forward to? More than 60 entrants in four classes, featuring everything from a fearsome Ferrari 430 to a humble Honda Civic. Not forgetting of course that this is merely one round of a nine-race season, which visits most of the leading UK circuits. And although I have to admit almost complete ignorance, having not been to a Britcar race before, the impression I get is that the series is built on the premise that the competitors’ needs are paramount, that entrants are to be encouraged, and that the competition thus arising will make for a spectacle that will attract spectators. A sort of “if you build it, they will come” philosophy.

Indeed, the very existence of the 24 hour race at Silverstone is very much down to James Tucker and his way of doing things. I have encountered James only twice – at the Nurburgring and at Le Mans 24 hour races – and I admire him for what he has contributed to what is after all a busy motor racing calendar. Britcar seems to me, an outsider, to have bridged the gap between the competitive track day driver and the committed club racer in a very inclusive way.

As for who will win, well, I am just not qualified to say. Personal allegiances would make the Rollcentre Mosler a favourite, and of course Martin Short is a former winner of the event. But it would seem foolish to exclude any of the Moslers, nor the (championship-leading) MJC Ferrari from a list of likely contenders. With a busy track, a wide disparity in driver abilities and car performance, keeping out of trouble and delivering consistent lap times will be key.

Hopefully, between Brian Jones, Matt James, Marcus Simmonds, Ben Evans and me, we’ll be able to stay on top of it, and it will be a good race.

Meanwhile, over the 'pond' in Atlanta, Georgia, Audi and Peugeot will be going head-to-head again in the second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, in the ten hour, or 1,000 mile Petit Le Mans race. On the basis of what happened at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago (see my earlier post, below) Peugeot starts as favourite. But I fancy that the R15 will be more suited to the circuit, and the team will be keen to ensure that Audi reliability has been restored after the differential failure that forced Allan McNish to retire at Silverstone. The weather forecast is currently good, so it should be a straight fight. But with ALMS championships up for grabs, there will be plenty of things to watch out for, if your focus is not on the Britcar at Silverstone.

A very good way to round off my season.

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