Istanbul
Trying to wrap up the Istanbul ‘1000 Km’ (or more accurately the trip itself) will involve considerable personal opinion – so this appears in the ‘Comment’ section of the site.

So focusing on the locality, let’s begin with the comment that it’s hard to get your head round this city being in the ‘Third World’, when its government has spent so many tens of millions creating a track for the F1 brigade.

As in November 2005, we three wimps from dsc (Cracknell, Lord, Potts) persuaded David Stephens to drive the hire car again: frankly, we were too frightened last time, and knowledge gained then ensured that we definitely wouldn’t go near a steering wheel this time. We weren’t alone. But nothing worries ‘Captain Black’ – and he was thrilled to have the use of a ‘Welsh sportscar’ – yup, a Renault Megane (Megan, geddit?).

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Day by day, we made a note of some of the almost unbelievable goings on, on the roads of the capital city. In no particular order we observed:

  • A schoolboy, in school uniform, selling cigarettes at a toll booth
  • Cyclists going the wrong way, against the flow of traffic
  • ‘Undertaking’ (is it legal in Turkey or not?) is a regular feature – often at 30 or 40 kph greater than the typical speed of the traffic flow - or more
  • One VW Golf driver passed us on the inside, threw his vehicle into a gap in front, then veered further left, into the overtaking lane. It was perfectly executed, which was a good job really, because if he’d got it wrong, we’d have been involved in his big accident
  • On the main access road to the track, one junction seemed to permit large lorries to pull straight across the traffic. Were we supposed to give way? The Captain did, fortunately
  • What about the driver who checked for a puncture – by leaning out of the driver’s door of his car, while travelling along the motorway!
  • Approaching a toll booth, to cross the bridge over the Bosphorus, there was the humbling sight of a beggar, one leg amputated below the knee, leaning against the Armco barrier to the left of the overtaking lane. OK, the traffic was moving very slowly, but….

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  • David Stephens pitched in with a real ‘Alonso 130R move’ – around the outside of a bus, on a tight motorway slip road…
  • Fortunately that wasn’t on the slip road which one driver was tackling in reverse.. if you’ve missed your exit, well, just back up!
  • Or..... there was the Transit van that pulled out of the access road from a work-in-progress housing estate on the run up to the circuit, and drove the wrong way down the hard shoulder back to the last exit!
  • And then there were the locals who just walk across the motorway. Guido Quirmbach reckoned he’d seen the same old man, crossing the same four lane road, at the same time, on consecutive days – and he was using a walking stick to assist his perambulations! He was probably nearly 80 – but the odds weren’t on him reaching that age…
  • The fumes would probably finish him off anyway. An annual test of each vehicle? Seems unlikely, based on the complete piles of **** we saw on the roads.
  • Beeping your car’s horn seems to be just a game – but why the hell do they have to start at six in the morning? The call to prayer at 5am was a reliable wake-up call too – unless, like us, you were so knackered you just slept though it.

No, we don’t want to go back. No, we won’t be going back. It's a most unattractive city - apart from some scenic views (last photograph). The clown who suggested Istanbul for the fifth race will be covering it on his own…. Laurence Pearce loves the place though! One car, one journo – and LP wins.

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We’d been tipped off on race morning that there was a fuel shortage – but bearing in mind the above, that didn’t come as a great surprise. We had a crowd shortage, we had an entry shortage (a deficit of ten), so why not a fuel shortage?

But why not make the announcement before the race, which would at least have given the teams a chance to plan a revised strategy, so that all their drivers drove?

Anderstorp? We’d better not get into that one. It’s a nightmare situation, trying to find an available track of a suitable standard, this far into the year. Especially when the season has got underway at such an unpopular track as Istanbul.

To be honest, we did laugh a lot during nearly 96 hours in Turkey – but it was either that or cry…… Welcome to Istanbul, there’s the queue to buy your visa, and when you’ve done that, there’s the queue for passport control, so that he can check that you’ve bought your visa. Thanks very much. An hour later, we finally escaped that dump of an airport, although the rest of it was vastly more appealing than ‘Arrivals’.

No, we don’t want to go back – although the race did have plenty of appeal, at least for the first two hours. But a distant event so soon after Paul Ricard was always going to be very tough on the teams with the new cars – and so it proved.

The Chamberlain-Synergy Lola was the only new prototype to make it home.

There were plenty of highlights – Michael Vergers’ performance, Shorty’s Radical, results for the Lister and the yellow Lola, Ed Morris’s performance, the Pilbeam, the new Ferraris, the Panoz podium – and we’ll look at one or two of those in more detail soon. The track itself is a very good one, the warmth shown by the staff there was much appreciated, but alas, the track is in the wrong place – it’s even in the wrong place in relation to the (western) airport. And the locals have consistently displayed a level of interest in proportion to the promotion of the event.

But Spa next month, with its (probably) Istanbul-like weather, will be more like the real world than was half a week in Istanbul. In one back street we actually saw a building gutted by fire – which looked as though it could fall into the street at any time. Life – animals, people, anything – doesn’t seem to be valued in quite the same way as it does in the west, and to be frank, it was a real culture shock.

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A Burger King burger at Istanbul airport on Monday has never tasted so good, and stepping onto the BA Airbus was an immense relief. No, we’re not going back, if a third visit is on the Le Mans Series agenda. It’s all very well laughing at the antics on the roads, but it was too dangerous for we mere mortals.

Now, what’s happening in New York today?
Malcolm Cracknell

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