BTCC Media Day
For the past few years I have some sort of ritual pre season build up. It used to just involve going the Autosport show but it also includes going to the Rockingham circuit to see the launch of the BTCC officially.
The Media day as its known is where most of the off-season rumours are confirmed I say most because some things are still unanswered. The official entry list is confirmed and whilst the series is always open to late comers the numbers arenâ€™t bad. 21 cars confirmed for the start of the season with a few â€œTBAâ€â€™ from teams that still keeps these rumours going. Whilst the number is good the names are missing are worrying, No signs of Mat Jackson Tom Onslow-Cole or Jason Plato left high and dry after SEATâ€™s withdrawal. Autosport is today running a story saying that Plato is possibly joining the Tempus Sport Chevrolet Lacetti team. They only have two entries on the list one for Harry Vaulkhard and a TBA which is supposed to be going to a younger driver I have not heard of if im honest. Yet Autosport says that Tempus want to run 3 cars and have Plato as a driver. Rumors rumors rumorsâ€¦
Iâ€™m getting ahead of myself though. The Media day is opened up to the public at 1pm for the test session onwards. We (me and my dad) arrive at 11am. The security guy on the gate as you arrive at the circuit stops us, â€œMedia dayâ€ we say as he asks us what were here for, we both respond â€œmedia dayâ€ And he tells us to go straight on take a left at the end and go to the welcome center. Oops I think he thinks we are media. Well Iâ€™m wearing my Formula1blog shirt so I can blag it right?
As it turned out I didnâ€™t need to worry, even though the circuit wasnâ€™t open to the public for another 2 hours after that checkpoint there was no one to stop us anyway. One thing I instantly noticed to my disapproval was that the entry to the grandstand at the stop was fenced off. This was annoying see the circuit is like no other that I have been to. Completed in 2001 it has a view like no other, the main grandstand gives you a great view of the whole circuit as the layout is designed so you watch the action unfold before your eyes and not miss a single corner. I have fond memories of last year sitting there watching the whole race as it rained heavily with lightening and thunder approaching us as the drivers did battle against each other in those conditions that would make some F1 drivers demand the safety car ( for the record Matt Neal won making the experience all the sweeter for me.) but today its blocked. Blocked completely. Barriers across the stairwells stopping me from getting to the top of this thing and capturing an awesome picture or two of the great skyline view of the track. Not happy.
Now im in a bit of a grumpy mood because of this but the mood is lightened immediately as the cars come out of the pits, well a few at a time they blast out then line up behind the 2 people carriers that have several photographers hanging out the back getting the shots of the cars coming at you. Was interesting to watch really as all the cars swapped between the Vauxhalls BMWâ€™s etc. I notice at the moment there is no one else here ether the rest of the BTCC fans are working (as it is mid week after all) they respect the fact your suppose to turn up at 1pm not 11am or they are still in bed. I then spot Dave Pinkney walking behind me a smile at him he smiles back. He must know were fans to be standing here just watching this. Better is to come 5 minuets later however when a guy in an expensive looking suite (he looks down at my F1b shirt how dare he) speaks to us. â€œOh greatâ€ I think he is about to tell us we are here to early and have to come back at 1. But no instead he asks us â€œWhere is the tunnel to the paddock?â€ I instantly reply â€œstraight down there, (pointing in the right direction) â€œby the large sign that says paddock tunnel this wayâ€ he thanks us and walks off, I turn to see my dad smirking, â€œwhat?â€ My dad replies â€œstating the obvious thereâ€, â€œTrueâ€ I say feeling a little embarrassed now â€œBut what am I suppose to say? Go straight down there and look for the sign saying giant whale and hamster beach parties this way, please bring jelly?â€ my mind really is oddâ€¦
After that we see the cars all go out and you can tell, feel the drivers want to put pedal to the medal properly, they all have to blast around the oval section to then line up on the grid for the group photo shoots but you can tell as they are let off the leash for those 2 or 3 corners as they go 3-4 wide jus for fun the drivers are instantly eyeing each other up. Its also odd to see touring cars doing an oval as when they race here as when they test late it will be half the oval and on to the road course or a â€œrovalâ€ as its now termed.
The photoâ€™s continue and after the â€œmoving shotsâ€ we get the group photos of all the cars in different orders with the drivers with the cars the Vauxhall, Ford and Honda which is now part of the new â€œmakesâ€ championshipâ€ This is for the teams that build the car from scratch not buy one in. So the three teams in that are Vauxhall Team Dynamics and Team Aon. My money is on Vauxhall.
During this time 100â€™s of school kids pour into the track. What the? Really when did school, trips include a trip to the BTCC media day or any motor circuit? This just proves my schools sucked more than ever and I instantly dislike all these screaming kids. I also get wound up even more when any posters are for kids only. Grrrr. Have they not seen the back wall in Frantic F1? I need more posters! I hope that these kids donâ€™t get in the way at the back of the pit garagesâ€¦
I decide to walk around for a bit after trying to get anywhere and failing as the mass of school kids now everywhere at the back garages I decide to set my camera up at turn 1 ready for when the testing starts. The cars come out and I quickly realize that im out of shape for getting picks as cars rip past at 120-140 mph and I get great shotsâ€¦ of back ends of cars. Ok need to reset here and step back get a better angle and slowly I get back in the swing of getting the pics and get some results there. Im waiting for Different cars to come round I donâ€™t see much of the Seatâ€™s of Jones and Eaves it turns out they had car troubles as did the Ford Focus of Tom Chilton that didnâ€™t do much running. Matt Neal pounds around the track and the Civics of Shedden on Pinkney get laps in though Pinkney hasnâ€™t had the all new black livery on his car yet and is running in the old team Halfords colors of orange. Plain orange that is as Halfords have gone the sponsor name is gone if not the colour. But the trouble is you canâ€™t get a feel at this corner for how the drivers are on it like say at Donington so after getting some shots I move on to different corners. Sad thing is that apart form the great grandstand view your limited at what corners you can get to so there is only a few places to get picsâ€¦
After a while I decide to battle my way to the top of the pit garages (unique for uk tracks as you can stand on top of the pit garages) I get some shots from there and then I see Andrew Jordan doing a practice start out of the pits as his dad Mike looks on. For me it felt a bit sad. See Mike was in the BTCC for the past 2 years and also holds the record for oldest guy to win a BTCC race! Last year he was joined by his son Andrew in the Team Eurotech squad that Mike owned it was the first father-son team in the sport. The original plan this year was the Mike had bought one of the works Vauxhalls to replace the older btc spec Integra Type râ€™s the team were racing. Mike was stepping down from driving whilst Andrew would race the Vauxhall sadly a sponsor dispute over livery space meant the team ended up with a budget short fall but Vauxhall were impressed by Andrewâ€™s testing pace he got the drive at the works squad. But team Eurotech was no more in the BTCC and now Mike fully in VXR gear watches his son blast around the track.
After this I feel a bit sad. The fact being there is no Eurotech no Mat Jackson No Jason Plato No SEAT works team No Tom Onslow Cole all things that made 2008 a great year makes me think did we miss a golden year in BTCC is a downward spiral beginning? The fact being there is only one manufacture in BTCC right now is not something that bothers me (I will save thoughts on that for another time.) We have independent teams such as Team Dynamics, WSR and Motorbase to name a few. The BTCC is still strong and an opening entry list of 21 drivers is 1 more than F1 and not the end of it as a lot of drivers and teams tend to join as the season goes on. Even Volvo is rumored to be looking at a mid season couple of rounds so we shall see.
Right now in a world where itâ€™s all doom and gloom the series right now looks strong. As the cars pound around this track clocking up the miles and learn everything they can about the cars the BTCC is here and it has the fans to support it. We might be missing some top names but the names we have right now are still top. This will be a top season with thrills and spills. And I canâ€™t wait for it.