Sunday, May 4th - Paul and Rachael picked us up to go to Brands Hatch for the Indy car races. Our friend Ross is my age (22) and is an aspiring race car driver, but in the meantime he's doing well for himself making deals worth millions of dollars between teams and sponsors . He was going to get us free tickets for the weekend including pitlane passes, but it fell through. He designed the paintwork for two of the Newman/Haas Champ cars in the races that weekend.
When I first met Max he was working for a games company and writing and editing for an online Formula One publication called Atlas F1. (Side story: in 98' when I first told my parents that I was talking to a man in London and we were planning to meet, my father did a "google search" on Max's name to check on this guy chatting up his daughter, which resulted in dozens of articles about Formula 1 racing. My dad was a bit surprised and confused and later asked me, "Naomi, is Max a race car driver?" we had a good laugh over that.) My interest in autosport used to rate 0, but over the years I've gone to several races with Max and others (3 at Brands Hatch, 1 in Donnington) and much to my chagrin I've actually developed an interest.
We arrived for qualifying and sat in the sun all day, me half watching the cars and half reading newspapers (The Guardian/Observer and The Sunday Times, the only papers I like to read anymore). Even during qualifying there were a few crashes. One included Lewis Hamilton, who drives Formula Renault UK, is 18-years-old and since age 13 has been slated to be the first black Formula One driver. Many have observed that this has gone to his head and he's become an extremely aggressive driver and pompous. During the first qualifying run he was ruining other peoples' laps so that he could get a better run by opening a big gap on track for himself. Later he had his come-uppance when one driver ran wide on the entrance to Clearways, didn't get stuck in the gravel and tried to recover to the pitlane. As he crossed the track Hamilton appeared to totally ignore the waved yellow flags and ran into the other driver. Once he did that he threw his steering wheel out of the car (then remembered to put it back), stormed over to the other car and started shouting at the other driver.
Hamilton loses his temper.
That evening we checked into our hotel near the track and had drinks and dinner at a restaurant nearby with one of the worst waitresses we've ever encountered. At the table next to us sat who Max thinks was Gordon Kirby, a well known American motorsports journalist. With him sat another American man and when they ordered fish and chips the teenaged waitress said at the top of her voice, "We don't have fish and chips!" even though it was clearly on the menu. They ordered something else and Kirby asked for a glass of milk, to which she glared at him as though he'd just asked her to go out and milk the cow herself. She wasn't much better with us and when she brought us our bill she exclaimed, "No offence, but I am so glad you're leaving. I've been working since 4pm today!" At that moment it was 10pm, so that day she worked for a grand total of 6 hours and for the 2 hours we were there it was practically empty.
The next morning I woke up with mild sunstroke which wasn't being helped by the jazz band playing outside our hotel window at 6am. We watched the races all day: Touring Car Championship, Porsche Carerra Cup, Formula Renault, Formula Ford, and Champ Car Trophy.
Classic American cars on parade.
Champ cars used to be a predominately American series, but in past years it's become mostly made up of Mexicans, Canadians, French, Brazilians, etc. and even one Malaysian. The only real signs of its American roots are the stereotypical American-accented sports announcer and their travelling "Reverend Bob" who, to my discomfort and embarrassment, led a prayer before the race. (Holding a Christian prayer during an international event with people of all religions is such an American thing to do.)
Champ car drivers on parade.
The champ cars at the starting line.
This was the first time Champ cars raced at Brands Hatch and considering they get up to speeds of 180 mph for 160 laps, some crashes were expected (everyone had to wear earplugs they were so loud). I decided to cheer for Paul Tracy because I was told he was from Vancouver, B.C. (a Canadian friend informed me the other day that he's actually from Toronto - oops!). There were two Americans racing as well, but they were from California and Canada is closer to my heart (also used to be geographically closer). Tracy has done very well the past few years and he was in the lead during this race, but on the 117th lap his car began to smoke and on the next lap his engine caught fire. I think I jinxed him. As a result Sebastien Bourdais, the French 23-year-old, won and did happy donuts on the track. His car was one of the ones that Ross designed the paintwork for.
Bourdais and Tracy in the lead.
Sebastien Bourdais does donuts and waves to the crowd.
My favorite cars to watch have always been the Touring cars, which are road cars fine tuned and modified for racing. For the past 4 years I've always cheered for James Thompson, the handsome 29-year-old (yes, it was a shallow choice, but in the last few years he's actually turned out to be an excellent driver). There were a few nasty crashes during the race and James Thompson came out 5th in race one and 2nd in race two.
This poor little orange Peugeot could barely keep up.
Inbetween the races there were air shows and parachutists.
Overall it was an enjoyable weekend, although on Monday I was suffering from even worse sunstroke. The weather was hotter than forecasted and all of my summer clothes are still in storage in America, so I wasn't dressed well for the heat. Even though I drank as much water as I could and put on as much sunblock as possible, I still burned a bit and became overheated. I was mostly bedridden and tried to drink lots of water on Tuesday, but I learned the hard way that when you have sunstroke you have to drink a little water at a time, or else it comes back up again. I feel much better now.
I took several close-up photos of the cars with my Lomo, I'm curious to see how they turned out.
how i envy you. watching formula one in the uk must be quite an experience.
a guy i went to high school on vancouver island with, his brother was a very well liked indycar driver from vancover, greg moore. you could say that is a local hero. one day i was watching the new on tv, and during the sports segment they announced that he was killed during a race. they showed a clip of his blue racecar flying into a wall at 200 miles per hour. they got him out of the car, airlifted him to a hospital, but later he died because the head trauma was too severe.
i'll always have that videoclip burned into my head. i can't even imagine how my friend james felt when he watched that. watching your own brother's death on tv like that...
sorry for telling such a depressing story. everytime i see CART or Formula One races i can't help thinking about him.
glad you had a great time. the photos are lovely, as usual. those formation parachutists are very cool
I remember Max telling me about Greg Moore's crash (I believe he saw it live on tv)when it happened. He said it was one of the worst things he's seen. I can't imagine either how his brother must have felt, how tragic. Gordon Kirby, the journalist we sat next to at the restaurant, actually wrote a book about Greg Moore titled Greg Moore: A Legacy of Spirit.
I've witnessed a few nasty crashes in person, but all injuries were minor. A few years ago I saw a car flip over the barrier and everyone held their breath in worry for the young driver inside - thankfully he wasn't hurt. (The worst car crash I've ever seen was my own!)
Thanks.. it was fun for the most part, but we figure this was probably one of our last races. We may go to another in a few years, but I think we're all raced out for the time being. I'll keep tabs on Thompson's progress, though. ;) Although I hear he's either dating or married to a Page 3 girl now. heh.
when did you get into a car accident? was this back in washington?
this page 3 girls thing. i keep hearing about but but never quite figured out what is it about. care to enlighten me?
have you two got tickets to the finisterre film showing?
i'm just full of questions today
It was in 97' and I was with my then boyfriend from Victoria, B.C. He had just relocated to Redmond, WA for work and I was visiting him. He wasn't very familiar with the Seattle area so we decided to take a trip into the city so I could show him around, but we didn't get any further than an onramp leading to the 520 bridge. The car (his practically brand new Honda Prelude) suddenly went out of control, nearly flipped over the overpass, and then rolled upside down and skidded for 50ft. At the time I knew I was fine, but his face was covered with blood, fortunately that only turned out to be a minor head wound. I had a burn where the seatbelt caught me and some glass in my stomach and mouth from the windshield, but I was otherwise fine. The car was totaled.
Page 3 is from The Sun, a trashy UK newspaper. It's the page where the birds get their tits out, basically.
Yes, we have 2 tickets for the 18th! :)
ouch, sounds nasty. at least neither of you were seriously hurt...
lol..."birds" you are talking like one of them already
if you do get some time, do write about the finisterre film. i watched most of it, if not all, during their show in SF last november because they used it as the videotrack to their set. i wonder what it'll be like to sit down and watch it as a "film" film.
btw, did you even get a hold of a copy of "finisterre"?
hah I'm the exact same way. When it comes to snail mail something in me just has to make it take even longer than it already does. Going to the post office, even when it was just across the street from me, always seems like a huge ass chore.
It's more of a pain here as well. I mailed a package to my grandparents last week and it took over 30 minutes.. it also wasn't helped by the fact that the package ended up costing £20 to ship, nearly the same value of the gifts inside. They're only getting really, really light gifts from now on.
heh, last week i sent a box of random chocolates and japanese candies to a friend in Sweden. when the postal clerk told me "$20" for postage, I nearly died.
at least those japanese candies were expensive...
well, I should be getting some Swedish chocolates in return anytime soon. weeeee!!!!
yes it is! I'm looking forward to working full time so I'll have more cash to send people little presents with. I really enjoy sending people things they couldn't normally buy in their area.
I'd send mussels, but I don't think they ship well. ;)
I got into fast cars by accident too - a night in on my own, some magic mushrooms, and a play on TV that I really wanted to watch. Somehow I couldn't help myself flipping channels to the Formula One... and I ended up watching that instead Vrrrrrmmm! Those in-car cameras, something else!
That was in 1996, and I've been increasingly hooked ever since. Shames me sometimes, but it gives me something to do every other Sunday. I was actually really tempted to go to the Indy Car thing when I read the Guardian interview with Paul Newman - then I saw that the race was the next day, and realised it was not to be. The only motorsports event I've ever been to was the 2001 World Superbikes, also at Brand's Hatch. Not very inspiring, as we were crowded up by a bend at one end of the track, and only got to see the bikes for a short stretch of each lap, and I had no idea who any of them were anyway.
The in car cameras are my favorite! I wish they show them for longer.
My parents didn't believe me the first time I told them I went to a Touring Car race.. "what!? you watching cars??"
We're not sure how many more trips we'll do to see the Touring Cars in the future, but if we go again you're more than welcome to come with.