A selection of shots from today’s Tour of Epynt. By God it was cold, but the guys ‘n’ girls put on a great show, as ever.
Aston Martin Le Mans Festival 2012
The team I work with was given the opportunity to run the support race for the 2012 Le Mans 24hr. As we’re currently involved in running the Aston Martin GT4 Challenge, this was a nice fit. The aim was a grid of 30 Aston Martin GT cars, and that’s exactly what we got.
The planning for the race started in mid 2011, but a great deal of the details couldn’t be ironed out until spring 2012. With such a colossal amount to organise, dealing with the ACO had its own challenges, the language barrier and the 24hr race both conspired to slow things down during our preparation. The ACO were actually very helpful, you have to work ‘their way’ but they gave us all the assistance we needed, particularly beneficial given that only one of the team had actually ever been to Le Mans before.
The entries came from all over the globe, bringing with them Aston Martin GT cars of every flavour. The fabulous variety ranged from historic Le Mans winning GT1 cars to a box fresh Vantage GT3, via a gaggle of GT4s.
Our paddock was on the left hand side of the Ford Chicane, close to the fun fair, well pretty much in the fun fair, which made keeping drunken fans out of the team trucks a bit of a task. Comprised of a combination of tarmac, gravel trap and boggy grass, parking up the teams in our paddock threatened to be an absolute nightmare, particularly as it was pouring the rain when the majority of the teams arrived. A bit of frantic paddock plan re-calculations and some serious trundle wheel action resolved any issues as they occurred and the 17 teams got themselves set up without too many disagreements.
There was real festival atmosphere amongst the teams with plenty of multi-lingual banter, but also a great deal of cooperation. With the paddock bracketed by the fun fair and one of the campsites, we attracted quite a lot of attention. Great fun, particularly when the teams were having to, shall we say ‘problem solve’. After running their DBRS9 in practice, Vantage Racing discovered an issue with the car’s gearbox. The ‘box wasn’t matching the revs on the downshifts, creating, at best, instability under braking and at worse potentially putting the gearbox itself at risk. They needed to test some down changes, but the only road available was the one through the campsite…
We got the ok to do a couple of ‘low speed’ runs past the tents and motor homes, but that was all. Stuart Hall jumped in the car and set about testing the issue, the only problem was that the clutch was cold and they aren’t the easiest things get off the line. Queue a boot full of revs, a cacophony of V12 thunder and a massive pair of black lines off the rear tyres. A bright yellow & blue DBRS9 fishtailing past a group of very sunburnt, very drunk Scottish lads resulted in huge cheers from the now growing crowd. It was a brilliant moment, right up to the point where the paddock marshal told us in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be doing that again. We definitely didn’t need to speak French to get the gist of what he meant.
The race itself took place in very wet conditions, pretty scary for seasoned la Sarthe veterans, let alone a bunch of gentleman drivers who hadn’t been there before. The standard of driving was actually very high, with no one doing anything really silly. The main aim was to put on a show for the crowd and let some hugely evocative machinery strut its stuff.
James Appleby duffing up some of the bigger cars in “character building” conditions:
Our small team had never done anything so big before and there was an immense feeling of satisfaction once the chequered flag came out. Lots of happy drivers, teams and fans, which was wonderful to experience. The support race slot isn’t available for two years now (Ferrari & Porsche have got it in ’13 & ’14), but based on how it went this year, 2015 could be mega.
A Worthy Cause
Today I had the chance to watch Prodrive instructor Simon Clark improve the world a little bit, all by the power of drifting. Si’s idea was to do a sponsored drift for Red Nose Day. We had some spare track time at work, so arranged for Si to use the skid circle. When wetted the surface replicates sheet ice, so is perfect for getting your drift on.
Si arrived with a red Nissan 200SX drift car which was borrowed from a mate, featuring dented panels, no interior and welded diff’, naturally. Si set off for some practice while we sorted the camera gear, the Cossie style dump valve was a treat on an overcast Wednesday morning, I can tell you.
At roughly 9.30am, Si started his stopwatch and his attempt, but an attempt at what? Well it turns out that there’s a World Record for the longest continuous drift which currently stands at 2 hours 11 minutes, obviously this was the target to aim for. With no Guinness officials in attendance, no records could be broken today, but it would be a great dry run for a possible attempt later in the year. Si got in to a good rhythm so we left him to it, it was far too cold to be stood in the middle of a windswept test track on such a grey day anyway.
We returned later to find him still booting it sideways, with plenty of lock on, a great effort, given that he was still drifting two and a half hours since he began.
I don’t know if us turning up to cheer him on put him off though, as soon after we arrived, he spun it – ending the single continuous drift and the record attempt. 2 hours 29 minutes 52 seconds was the final time, (unofficially beating the record by over 18 minutes). After some cursing at us (sorry Si) he checked the clock and looked dead chuffed, he’d done what he set out to do. Slightly sore and needing the loo, he followed us back to the office. The final mileage covered was 43 miles, all sideways, all in a single drift, and all on only a quarter of a tank. If we hadn’t put him off, who knows how long he could have gone on for with 3/4 of a tank left??
If you think this feat is worthy of a few quid, please donate here . It’s for a great cause and Si did a brilliant job behind the wheel today.
The spectacle that motorsport creates is one of its main draws. Fast paced, brightly coloured, flame spitting action ignites the passions of the devout and the casual alike. Human beings like to be excited, thrilled and a little bit frightened, it make us feel alive. The visual element only goes so far, for me, sound is even more important. You’ll hear the action long before you see it, sound carries boundless distances in the right conditions. The thrill of hearing this sound approach either in a forest stage or a race track is an addictive one. Below I’ve compiled a little collection of clips that illustrate how I get my aural kicks. I could have added more, but my eardrums are beginning to blister. Enjoy…
Ferrari F50 GT -
This is one of my favourite Ferrari videos. V12s have a wonderful rich baritone note to them in most road car applications but when tuned for racing or vehicle homologation, an ear piercing wail can be extracted. It’s all about the downshifts at 1:04.
Honda Integra Type R -
While I love my drifting events, I’m not quite as au fait with all the ins and outs of JDM culture as my brother (
). The two-stage bark of a Honda VTEC unit has always appealed to me. Yes they lack torque, but that’s just an excuse from people who can’t keep it in right gear. This video alleges 10,000 rpm, I don’t know if this is true or not, but frankly it doesn’t matter, you get to play at being a touring car driver on the way to the shops. It is therefore, epic.
Honda RC 166
By the 1960s, the Japanese had established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the world of motorcycling. The Honda RC166 dominated the 250cc Grand Prix racing class, wining all ten rounds in 1966. Revving to around 18,000 rpm and generating 60bhp, the bike sang through six spine-tingling megaphone style exhausts. Surviving examples are rare and replicas hugely expensive to produce due to the level of engineering involved, it is truly one of the all time greats.
Austin Metro 6R4
The Metro 6R4 was introduced just before Group B rallying was stopped. It’s beefy, 3.0 L V6 generates a deafening wall of sound, the kind of sound that carries for miles (anyone who’s seen John Stone over Epynt in his 6R4 will testify to that). It’s got huge character and it can still embarrass newer machinery on tarmac with the right guy behind the wheel, say someone like, Kris Meeke…
BMW E30 M3
The BMW E30 M3, as I’m sure you know is a much revered and fondly remember machine. It took the world by storm in the 1980s with huge success in both Rallying and Touring Car racing. I love the hollow, metallic bark that these produce. While BMW are known for their six cylinder engines, but I think this four just screams pedigree and is always a joy to experience.
Ducati Desmosedici GP6
High revving bike engines are par for the course, however, Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP bike is one of those machines that comes along every so often and seems to turn everything up to eleven. One of the most aggressive sounding engines that I’ve ever heard and a spiritual successor to Honda’s RC166
The rotary engine is a bit of a flawed gem, huge power, low weight but fragile and thirsty. It never the less sounds incredible, revving as if the engine has no inertia at all. I had the privilege to hear a rotary Group C Mazda at Silverstone a few years ago, sat in the grandstand on Pit Straight, each down shift in to the Abbey chicane was clearly audible, even over all the other Group C cars. A unique and very special car.
Porsche 997 GT3RS
I’m a sucker for 911s, yes the shear number of ‘different’ 911 variants is now getting ridiculous but I can’t help but love them. The GT3 is the one I lust after most, probably due to the fact that it’s as close to a roadgoing GT car as you’d probably ever want. No turbos to spoil the exhaust note, just a pure flat six growl that turns the M1 in to the Mulsanne Straight. You can keep your Veyrons, this would be my first choice if a long lost Prussian aunt ever left me her fortune.
At the end of November, racing game fans faced a difficult choice. Both the latest instalments of the NFS and Gran Turismo games were released within a few days of eachother. Normally this would be a no brainer, NFS games have been a bit crap in recent years right? Yes, but not so with this one. Ignoring Hot Pursuit for a moment, I was tempted by GT5, I really was but after sinking hundreds of hours in to Forza 3, I honestly didn’t fancy another deep experience like that. I wanted something that was pure driving escapism.
HP looks an absolute treat. It might not run at a silky smooth 60fps but when you’re barrelling along at 250mph, you’re far more concerned with on coming traffic than absolute graphical fidelity. Wet tarmac is particularly well realised and when it’s lit up by lightning flashes, it evokes real atmosphere. The car models look gorgeous, there aren’t 100s of cars in this, a select 60 or so (plus police versions) but they’ve chosen well.
This is an arcade racer through and through, so the handling isn’t what you’d call ‘authentic’. The guys behind the game, Criterion made the excellent Burnout games, so if you’ve ever played one of them, you know what to expect. 200mph+ straights in to hairpins can be negotiated with a small lift and a touch of handbrake, with the speed never dropping below 120mph. It’s silly, of course it is, but it’s also challenging and satisfying, there’s enough subtlety in the controls for you to be able to alter the angle and direction of you drift with the throttle, key to maintaining the highest speed possible.
The crux of Burnout, sorry, Hot Pursuit is an underlying risk/reward system. Driving towards oncoming traffic and having near misses with other happless motorists builds up a nitrous system, use this to boost engine performance when required. However, the fact you have to drive more dangerously to get this boost can make for some very tense moments when you want to eke it out for as long as possible but you know that there’s going to be a camper van in your path at some point, that you’re going to have to avoid.
The game is split in two, Cops and Racers (you get to be both). Both have events such as time trials, but the main events are always the Hot Pursuit races. These are 4 Cops v 4 Racers, the cops have to wreck all the racers to win, the racers have to escape to win. This is achieved by ramming each other off the road or using the power ups that are available. These weapons range from spike strips and turbo boosts to calling in road blocks and helicopters. You only get so many of these per race, which makes using them a tactical decision, do you keep a turbo boost in reserve for near the end of the race or use it early to grab a lead at the start? It’s these decisions that makes the gameplay so compelling
The engine sounds are authentic and throaty. Each race is preceded by a short clip, as the race loads of the cars blasting through the countryside, being hounded by the cops, it sounds frankly awesome. The music is varied and comes from licensed bands and DJs, but I turned it off quite quickly, I’d rather pure engine sounds, but that’s a personal preference, not a comment on the quality of the tracks.
Even with a brilliant Online multiplayer and ‘Autolog’ results posting system, this isn’t going to last like a Forza or Gran Turismo. It’s fantastic fun but, as with all arcade racers is pretty shallow. That said, you can pick this up, only 3 weeks after release for £24 online, so you can’t really argue with that.
I whole hartedly recommend it.
Got to admire the DIY effort involved, or, maybe not…
It just reminds me of this (which is infinitely more desirable too):
Last weekend I made the trip over to Wales for the final round of the 2010 WRC. Having lived in Wales, it’s always great fun going back (the roads are frankly incredible). This trip had an added significance however. With the driver’s title already wrapped up by a certain Mr Loeb, the championship fight wasn’t the draw. Instead, the pull was the fact that this would be the last time that we see the 2.0L World Rally Car in the hands of the quickest men in the sport, for this era is now at an end.
I’m a big fan of what is to come, so I won’t lament over the ‘slowing down of the sport’. The 1600 Turbos that are on the way look the part, sound the part and still go like something off a shovel. We needn’t fear for our sport losing it’s spectacle. That said, this was the last chance that we would have the chance to see works World Rally Cars. The plan was to do all three days, to get the most bang for our buck. Tickets were bought, cheap hotels were booked, the fuel tank was brimmed. We were going.
The stages we chose were Sweet Lamb on Friday, Fourways & Halfway on Saturday and Resolven on Sunday.
Sweet Lamb is a natural amphitheatre were you can see the cars tackle jumps, hairpins and two water splashes, the cars being visible for well over a minute. The only teeny snag was the horizontal rain that battered us on the second running of the stage. It was certainly exciting, my iPhone overloading in my pocket made my coat feel like it had anti-lag. This didn’t dampen our spirits though, the cars were spectacular over both runnings, with Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala putting on the most flamboyant displays. Loeb was in ominous form but Petter was hounding him all the way.
Saturday took us back to Epynt. Regular readers will know my opinion of the Epynt military range, so the chance to see two stages there on the Saturday was a no-brainer. ‘Fourways’ was the first stage, a tarmac route, but with the stage directly after, ‘Halfway’ being gravel, the cars were up on gravel springs with gravel tyres. This created a huge amount of pitch and roll under braking and acceleration, fantastic to watch. It reminded me of the Grp A era in the early 90s when suspension technology wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is today, the suspension looked like it could barley cope with the demands. The cars looked far more at home on Halfway, the full gravel setup now far more appropriate. The speed that a top level car can carry over a loose surface is breathtaking to behold.
Resolven on the Sunday morning was an early one, first car was at 7.38am. The road to the stage was absolutely brilliant. Uphill, switchback hairpins, in amongst the trees, it was a great way to get fired up before the stage started. We spectated next to a long downhill straight, the cars were absolutely flying past. The corner at the end of the straight was a tight 90 right, comparing the braking points was fascinating. Even compared to the other top guys, Loeb was so much later on the brakes than anyone else. He has so much belief in the car, it’s a joy to behold. There’s a reason he’s a 7 time champion.
I think it’s fitting that Loeb won it, even though Petter pushed him on all the way. Sebastian has dominated this period of the sport so convincingly, him taking the final win was predictable, but it felt right.
I was thoroughly impressed with the running of the event. I’ve only ever marshalled on it before, so I didn’t really know what to expect as a paying customer. I’d heard tales of tiny spectator pens ruining it for some fans in years past. Either this has been addressed in recent years by the organisers or the complaints at the time were simply blown out of proportion. I found the spectator areas to be huge and well marshalled. No heavy handed bossiness, just professionalism across all three days.
Looks like next year will have to be a must see as well. I can’t wait to see what the new breed of cars can do in the hands of the factory drivers.
To finish I’d just like to add my voice to those lamenting the fact that Dave and Neil Cole won’t be covering the WRC next year. I think this is a real shame, the coverage has evolved and Neil has really grown in to the role of host. They really got the balance right this year, ditching the ‘celebrity guest’ element was a very welcome move. I’ve hugely enjoyed the coverage in 2010 and I for one am quite sad that Mr Cole won’t be venturing in to this new age of rallying with us.
A most honourable activity.
As it’s Suzuka this weekend, I thought I’d indulge my literary side and think up some topical,
F1 themed Haikus. For those of us not aware (I had to Google it), a Haiku is a Japanese verse,
formed from 3 lines. Each line has a set number of syllables, in the following order 1st line 5, 2nd line
7, third line 5. Traditionally, they are used to ‘set a scene’ but can also be used for humerous
Below is a compilation of some of my own and the best of those that I’ve seen others do over the
last couple of days. They come from a varity of places, Twitter, Facebook and Internet Forums. Some of
them are absolutely fantastic. Enjoy.
Cars go round the track
They are all quite fast aren’t they?
Time for Sunday Roast.
hot places to be
are the cars in the grand prix
bound to get sweaty
poor sad safety car
always in front, never first
he cries petrol tears
zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom
zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom
zoom, zoom, chequered flag
out lap use mirrors
you block alonso badly
grid drop your reward
pitlane is busy
lollypop man brave hero
prime or option tyre
Rivals fighting hard
will it end in tears for one ?
Bernies laughing hard
it’s a five horse race
title fight not yet over
except for massa
the season draws in
the sacred F1 tarmac
who will win this time?
So now to Japan
Crazy Koby for the win?
Yeah, probably not
No Jake this weekend
Lee steps up to fill his shoes
We still have Ledgard
Flying down the straights and bends.
Cars sometimes fall off.
Rain could make this fun
Japanese grid girls: do want!
Mclaren to win!
home race for sakon
no longer stopped by poison
he’ll arrive back row
wheel on a wet kerb
petrov off spectacular
track has magical corners
and a ferris wheel
2010 F1 events:
Webber, head long rush
Into the first corner, oh
What a fucking tit !
he is the number one guy
fans roll eyes to sky.
And this is CRUCIAL
The battle has now been joined
Thus speaketh Legard
No need for those penalties
Choc ice Kimi Fest
Slow moving Lotus
Mark Webber far too hasty
Upside down Red Bull
made with CFD
the Virgin is elegant
it’s not that fast though
shark nose no sponsors
heidfeld’s hair luxurious
can nick finish well?
neat blue and white car
rubens fancies points finish
beware of hulk smash
red bull fast again
with mighty wings and aero
good newey design
like Schumi down the timesheets
he has understeer
Many thanks to @racing_waiting, Emily Phillips, Emily Evans and Rllmukforum users Myoozikk,
sidewaysbob, dayte, eighthours, p1nseeker, Arc’Tan’Gent, Iron Chicken for all their
Can you think of any?
Imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Yesterday the proposed layout for the new Austin F1 track was revealed. When the promoters stated a few months back that they were seeking inspiration in existing circuits, it turns out that they weren’t joking. The track seems to be a collection of corners from a ‘Greatest Hits’ album of the world’s racetracks. The diagram below highlights the sections in question. The Maggots/Becketts section could also be likened to Suzuka’s first sector and the Hockenheim and Istanbul sections are also unmistakable.
Mr Tilke has had some hits and misses in recent years, creating some hugely entertaing and challenging tracks one year (Istanbul) then turgid, precession generators (Bahrain) the next. I know the current aero regs are partly to blame, but his output has been a mixed bag. With the Austin track he seems, to my mind anyway, have struck gold as a ‘curator’ rather than a ‘creator’. What a fantastic jigsaw puzzle, taking your pick of the world’s great corners and piecing them together to form a new and unique circuit. This layout is augmented by some dramatic elevation changes, with sector 1 looking particularly spectacular thanks to a climb up to turn one with the track falling away afterwards.
It’s fun to think what other corners might have been discarded as options. Obviously the track needs to flow and remain coherent, so something like Spa’s Au Rouge leading in to Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew sounds awesome but probably wouldn’t work in practice. It’s an intriguing way to go about designing a circuit, but not one that you would want repeated too often. Stringing together these great corners does not guarantee lots of overtaking, potentially quite the opposite, but there’s enough variation for both quick, barnstorming corners and slower, overtaking places.
Overall, I’m very glad that F1 is returning to the US, it’s about time and the fact that the track looks so interesting means that 2012 could well be a year to look forward too.