Sunday 11th April
“Fast aren’t they?” A voice immediately behind me slurred.
I turned to find what can only be described as a country gentleman, in his mid-thirties, looking like the warped offspring of John Major and Tim Nice-But-Dim, hip flask in hand and smelling of cigarettes and whiskey.
I’m standing on the banking under the grandstand on the outside of Becketts at the Silverstone Circuit.
“They are, they’re racing cars, cars driven by men at the top of their game” I said as I took a step back. I could see this very inebriated race fan was trying to process what I had just said to him, all the while keeping his feet firmly rooted to the spot. His eyes rolled after a few seconds and he let out a laugh. “You know your stuff sir, this is my first time”, he tried in vain to focus on my face and held up his flask, pausing for a moment before offering it to me.
I took another step back and asked John if this was his first time at a motor race, Silverstone or a World Endurance Championship race.
“Oh no no no, this isn’t my first rodeo dear boy”, strange that he should address me in this way, I’m clearly 15 years older than him, “I’m a huge F1 fan, have been for as long as I can remember, no no, some of my chums thought it would be nice to get out of the big smoke and come and find out what all the fuss was about!”
“Fuss?” I replied.
“Yes you know, this whole sportscar thing”. John stepped towards me as he fumbled in his jacket pocket for something, “where’s my bastard lighter, hold this will you”, he hands me his pewter hip flask and proceeds to pat himself down.
Eventually he pulls a crumpled pack of Marlboro cigarettes and an onyx Ronson lighter from the back pocket of his neatly ironed jeans and offers one to me. I politely decline and watch as he tries in vain to light one of his bent cigarettes, “It’s a bit breezy” he says as he gives up and throws the unlit fag to the floor and grinds it under the sole of his boating shoes.
I hand his flask back to him and turn back to watch the action on track. The number 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid, driven by Mark Webber comes into view, followed by a pair of Audis. The white prototype peels into the first left at Maggots and twitches as it makes the rapid change of direction and takes a late apex heading into the first part of Becketts. The Audis however look firmly planted, appearing to pick up speed through the rest of the sequence of curves as they drive through Chapel with no sign of a lift. As the cars head onto the Hangar straight, the Porsche engages everything and pulls away from its German cousins.
I turn back to John, who has now been joined by a rather attractive blond. She flashes me a smile and tells me that she thinks these cars look a lot better than the F1 cars she had seen the last time she was here.
“Really, in what way” I ask. John is now being propped up by the elegant woman, he seems a little less flustered.
“Well they look more like racing cars, for some reason they look like they’re really racing each other”, John sits down on the grass and begins to attempt to light another cigarette.
“And I like the way that they have to dodge all of those Astons and Ferraris, it’s really exciting.” She zips up her fleece and hides her mouth behind her collar, her pony tailed head tipped slightly forward, and walks over to where I’m standing. “I’m sorry about Steve, he had a late night”, I told her not to worry and asked if she had been to an endurance race before. She shook her head and told me that her family had only ever been to F1 races and about how she had been dragged along as a kid.
It turned out that “Steve” was in-fact her brother-in-law that was visiting from UAE, where he worked as (unsurprisingly) a broker of some sort. It was a friend of her husband that had suggested they came to Silverstone for this, the first round of the World Endurance Championship. Steve had obviously needed to catch up his alcohol consumption, despite knowing that he would be spending a day at the races.
We stood there for an hour watching the fantastic battle between Porsche and Audi, before I said my goodbyes and jumped into one of the passing media shuttle buses. Carly sat next to the now sleeping Steve and pulled out her iPhone, gave me a wave and proceeded to call for backup.
Webber had to retire his Porsche a few hours later with a gearbox problem, the number 7 Audi driven by Fassler, Lotterer and Ben Treluyer went on to win the 6 hour race, with the number 18 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Dumas, Jani and Lieb in second place. The current world champions Toyota took the third step of the podium in the number 1 car of Davidson, Buemi and Nakajima.
The next round of the World Endurance Championship takes place at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. I’ll be doing my best to soak up the atmosphere and reporting from the beer soaked side of the fence.
Until next time, adieu.