The Britcar 24 Hours
gave away 150,000 tickets to its event at Donington Park last weekend
– and 50,000 turned up.
Renault event’ standards in Europe, that was a poor turnout:
by UK motorsport standards, it was a fabulous turnout. Meanwhile,
50 miles south, the maiden Britcar 24 Hours was being held –
in front of a dismal crowd.
James Tucker was simultaneously infuriated at the lack of promotion
and thrilled at the event itself. The phrase “not a promoted
event” kept cropping up throughout the three days, implying
that there was no desire on the part of the circuit to attract spectators.
What a crying shame that was – especially because it was such
a very good 24 hour race, and the public could hear the
excellent commentary, thanks to the relative ‘quietness’
of the cars.
The 55 entries
that turned up were voicing their support for the Britcar 24 Hours,
and the reliability of the 53/55 was truly remarkable. The top three
finishers barely had a problem between them, while the Cirtek Porsche
in fourth suffered two separate, but relatively minor, problems.
Arguably, the reliability of the top runners was better than at
But there were
stories galore last weekend, the like of which you don’t find
at Le Mans. Our favourite was the driver of the Mercedes 500 SEC,
who pitted under the Safety Car because he was cold. The team threw
in a coat (or was it a tartan picnic rug?) and sent him on his way.
The same car
managed to set its fastest lap of the race under the Safety Car!
How could that happen then? Presumably it was being hurried along
by the pack behind…
And it was 14
hours before the big Mercedes needed a tyre change…. “If
you’d like to sit in our customer lounge and enjoy a coffee,
we’ll let you know when your car is ready, sir.”
That was the
spirit of the Britcar 24 Hours: racers enjoying themselves. It may
have been comparable to “your first day at the Jim Russell
Driving School” (M. Franchitti), but there were relatively
few incidents. The likes of Kelvin Burt, Franchitti, Tim Harvey,
Adam Jones, Nigel Greensall, Steven Kane, Shaun Balfe and Martin
Short were going like the clappers almost the whole time they were
at the wheel, but typically they (almost all) had a safety margin
in hand. This was classic endurance racing, not the ‘knock
‘em off’ type that features in one so-called endurance
championship these days. If there was contact, it was because someone
inadvertently got in the way – but what better way to get
racing experience than to race over 24 hours?
of course did its best to foul up the event, but failed. Even the
mother and father of all thunderstorms on Friday evening only added
to the aura of the maiden Britcar 24. Drivers actually parked on
the track during the night qualifying session because a) they didn’t
know where they were and b) the tarmac and the grass looked exactly
the same! The Safety Car crashed and took out its lights, so Adam
Sharpe shepherded it home, in his Falcon.
We had the prospect
of a mid-race engine change in the Noble (which didn’t happen),
the invitation from one BMW team for a member of the public to lend
them his road car engine (no one took up that offer, but cue Sam
Hignett to say “the grunter’s ****ed”), two (or
was it three?) diff. changes in the Guy Smith / David Leslie / Harry
Handkammer / Anthony Reid BMW, the diff. of one of the Falcons going
back to Andy Dawson’s workshop for a mid-race rebuild, a marshal
struck by lightning (he shrugged it off and was on duty on Saturday
and Sunday) and a jacuzzi in the paddock.
what we could do to be different,” explained Pete Morris,
“and someone came up with the idea of a jacuzzi.” Apparently,
it was the most invigorating experience, and just what a tired driver
needed before or after a stint. Thoughts turn to the Hawaiian Tropic
girls in a jacuzzi at Le Mans next June……
So crap weather,
a poor crowd – and Sam Hignett, as expected, didn’t
manage to stay awake for 24 hours. Drivers are wussies, as predicted.
event at the same time as a big Renault freebie at Donington Park
was dire misfortune on the part of James Tucker. There has been
relatively little discussion of the Britcar event during the past
few days, but all those who were there knew that they had been involved
in a genuine endurance race. Well done everyone who made it happen.
Stick out your chests with a sense of pride.
for 2006 is to get the public through the gate. Can it be done?
And if the weather is poor again, can I borrow the travel rug, Herr
enjoyed covering this event – and at times it was an absolute
hoot to write about. Thanks to all of you who made it so memorable.
Malcolm Cracknell (who didn't fall asleep, even for a moment)