Tuesday, 2 October 2012

In the footsteps of 'Motorsport Norm'

I was invited to Snetterton at the weekend, by Peter Snowdon of the Aston Martin Owners’ Club, who asked me to commentate at the club’s final race meeting of the year.

I have written on this blog before about my fondness for Snetterton and it was great to be in Norfolk again – the weather was lovely, and I renewed plenty of old acquaintances.

It was ten years since I had last been at Snetterton, when I had commentated at a BTCC night race, and much has inevitably changed. Most significant of course is the new "Snetterton 300" circuit, which may not have come in for much praise from many of the competitors, but the changes at least make the track a decent length, and provide some great viewing for spectators.

A casualty of the changes has been the old commentary box, which has now been replaced by a well-appointed box above race control, on the inside rather than on the outside of the track. I was delighted, as I stepped into the commentary box on Saturday morning, to discover that the new box is called the "Norman Greenway Commentary Room". I would love to know who's idea this was, as it was a wonderful reminder to me of the man into whose shoes I felt myself stepping as I became the resident commentator at Snett during the late 1980's and into the 90's.

Norman was a great character, a great enthusiast and although he commentated all over the country, was always associated with Snetterton. He took the job seriously, but his sense of fun came bursting through his commentary, in a way which, when necessary, put what we do into a perfect perspective.

In a sense, the Aston Martin Owners' Club puts things into perspective too. The racing is quite clearly organised for the benefit of the participants and as a consequence is not really directed towards the (paying) spectator. For all that though, it was an entertaining day out. There was a fine race for fifties sports cars, featuring a great battle between a Mk 1 Lola and a Lotus 11, chased home by a Maserati 300S, a Porsche 356 and several XK120 Jaguars. A handicap race for pre-war cars provided typical confusion as the handicapper's penalties unwound themselves and the race reached its conclusion. A surprise highlight was the Elite GTS race, in which two Triumph TR4's got the better of the single TVR Grantura. One just had to be impressed with the standard of preparation in these races. Bearing in mind this was not a race which drew the crowds in like the Goodwood Revival or the Silverstone Classic - this was just enthusiasts practising their art.

The headline race of the day was the three hour AMR GT4 Challenge of Great Britain. The rules required three pit stops, each of two minutes duration. Except, that is, if you were Stuart Hall, in which case you had to make each pit stop of 2m 40s duration. Organiser Jamie Wall was aware of the controversy of this, as he was that a safety car period could throw his calculations completely out. In the end, despite a meagre 10-car entry, two of them contrived to fall over each other while lapping, and sure enough, the intervention came.

Unfortunately for Stuart, it worked against him, and he ended up losing by just 37 seconds to the car of Olivier Bouche and Pierre Mantello.

In conclusion then, a great day out - thanks to all those at Snetterton, and especially to the Aston Martin Owners' Club for organising it and inviting me along. Hopefully we can do it again sometime!

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