Its been almost 10 years since I was last at Thruxton, that visit was for the British Touring Car Championship. Today I was back there again for the BTCC, but on a very different trip. Usually we’re at a race track early, wander the paddock and then off round the track to get some snaps whilst watching all the races.
This time we were there as guests of one of the teams, “GoMobileUK.com with tech-speed”, or more precisely a guest of our friend Nick who works for the company who sponsors the team. Nick is the man responsible for the look of the team from the race cars right down to the overalls (nice shiny whites for the first time this year!) They are an independent team running last seasons Chevrolet Cruze with John George and Paul O’Neill driving.
Instead of our usual walk about we were going to be staying around the paddock and the team garages to soak up the atmosphere and get an amazing look behind the scenes of a day with the team. First up the autograph session, the public are let loose in the pitlane for a bit to nab freebies and meet the drivers (and the lovely grid girls), we had a quick wander along.
With that out of the way and the first of the support races underway we went on a walk around the support paddock, home to cars from the Porsche, Ginetta and Clio Cup as well as Formula Renault. We also took in some celebrate spotting and the BTCC garages as well.
Then it was time for race one, we gathered in the garages as the team cars were pushed through to the pit apron, once the pit lane was open it was off to form up the grid
After 16 laps neither Paul or John had made much progress, the turbo cars on the gird running several mph faster through the traps and with Dunlop also sorting the usual puncture problems, places were hard to make up.
Back in the garages the cars were readied for the second race of the day and after a brief intro and natter to the drivers we set off to the other side of the track to have a quick look round. Nick found a Honda RC race game that he and his son proceeded to dominate and we watched some of the Clio races.
Meeting back in the paddock before the second BTCC race I was loaned a very special pass, one that gave access not only to the pitlane but also the grid, so shedding most of my camera gear I set off to the hallowed tarmac as the cars were lining up for the race.
The lovely Sunshine.co.uk gird girls, always smiling no matter how strong the wind ruffled their hair!
It was a case of keeping your eye out as cars sped through the gatherings of mechanics to take up grid places.
All too soon the klaxon sounded and it was time to clear the grid, it was one of the best motor racing experiences I’ve ever had and I can’t thank Nick and the team enough for the opportunity. Back in the garage we joined the rest of the team in front of the big screen to watch the action, with the live timing below and the cars flying past the other side of the wall it was so much more fun than sitting on the sofa. As the banter flowed the laps dropped off until both cars had again crept up the standings, sadly Paul was just one place shy of pole position for the last race after a gearbox fault robbed him of sixth.
The car was soon stripped down and the offending parts swapped over in a time that would make the average garage blush (the whole gear cluster was out of the car and on the bench within 10 minutes.
More support races thundered past as we nosed around the place while prep work for the third and final race took place.
IN the break between the last races we had a chat to Paul about the race and his gearbox woes and even bumped into his famous sister, Spicegirl Mel C.
As the last race of the day arrived it was my brothers turn to go grid walking with Nick. Then back to the garage where we had the very surreal experience of watching a BTCC race with Pauls family as well as Mel C and her parents!
With the last race ending as the others with not much improvement for the team it was time to head home. Stopping off to say goodbye to the drivers and pit crew as we went. With a shiny turbo or a track that doesn’t favour such a massive amount of torque and top speed, the purple Chevys could be much further up the gird. But it didn’t matter, the whole team was so friendly and positive of better results later in the season. It was a very different day at the races for me, but a very interesting one. An enormous thanks to Nick for arranging it for us and to the whole team for being so welcoming and open. Who knows, we may be back in 2012!
The rest of the photos (with very few of actual track action for once) can be found here.