The hunt for laughter at Silverstone.
I didn’t manage to get to the WEC test (Prologue), it was a bitter blow. Confirmation that my accreditation was approved had been late arriving. There was no time to confirm the sketchy plans that I had put in place, just in case. So, I began to look forward to the first race of the season at Silverstone. With a voice recorder, notepads and pencils, I once again squeezed my large frame into a tiny car and hit the road.
On my way to the track, my thoughts turned to what it was that I would be trying to focus on over the weekend. Of course, I would be telling my readers about who did what, to who and at which point in the race a Porsche caught fire, or a Toyota crashed. But I wanted to find something else to “dig into”, over the course of the meeting. Now, I don’t want to upset my fellow motorsport writers, they do an excellent job, and I like to read their copy. But, it’s all the same. The same words, churned out in the same way, race after race after race. I know fans want to read about lap times and pit stop strategy, I get that. But there seems to be something missing. Maybe it’s my background; the fact that I was once a punk rock, bad boy BMX rider and skateboarder. Maybe it’s because I prefer an element of chaos in a sport that makes me feel this way.
Personality is vital. It shouldn’t be caged, and it needs to be written about.
I have no doubt that given a chance to be let off the leash a little, most drivers would relish the opportunity to be less corporate, and a bit more human. There are a few glimmers of hope in F1 at least, but even those guys are limited severely about what they can and cannot say, and when they step out of line the organisers and the team managers shit themselves. Valentino Rossi et al. have the right approach. They are as corporate as they need to be, but then don’t allow themselves to be gagged when they have an opinion. Casey Stoner was a victim of the Honda power brokers, he got so fed up with the dull side of the sport, that he quit and went fishing instead. He was at the top of his game.
Young hot shot Maverick Vinales, Rossi’s new teammate at Yamaha is another young man that won’t let himself get caught up in the drudgery of the sport. He, like Rossi, wants to win, but he wants to have fun and enjoy doing it. The thing is, we can see it a lot more. Sure there are smiles here and there, and on the whole, WEC is far more accessible than F1, but generally speaking, there is no spark.
Of the fans that I talk to at the track, they tell me they want to see characters racing; they want to see the teams working hard and playing hard. They don’t want to see garages full of men and women, wearing the whitest of shirts, the finest Armani jeans and the rarest of wristwatches, all slim and tanned and oblivious to the world outside the pit box. They want to see emotions, crazy hair cuts and, most of all, people laughing and having fun. There needs to be a connection. I suspect most of those garages would come alive if they didn’t have to conform to some sort professional appearance standards. They should be like the bike racers and the drift car drivers, wear ripped jeans and their baseball caps on backwards. Wear skate shoes and pink sunglasses, have a smile on their faces and show the world who they really are.
I will always have a deep admiration for the drivers and their teams at this level of the sport. They put their lives at risk every time they come to a race track, and for that, I salute them. But I would like to see rivalries that can be spoken about for the whole season. We need a James Hunt or two.
Over the coming months, I will investigate this topic further. I am certain that there are some real goofballs working in the paddock of the world championship. In all walks of life, there are characters that leave an indelible impression on your soul. I want to find them here, in the World Endurance Championship and introduce them to you, dear readers.
As for the race, well there were 27 cars on the grid, only four of which were in LMP1. The # 7 Toyota was ahead at the start, with Nico Lapierre the fastest of the LMP2 machines. The rain came down, teams went to intermediate tyres. The Ford GT had door problems, the #92 Porsche 911 RSR caught fire as it broke down, the #7 Toyota had a huge shunt, but still managed to drive back to the pits before retiring. Buemi took first place in the #8 Toyota, ahead of the Porsche of Hartley, Bernhard and Bamber. The second of the Porsche LMP1 cars, driven by Lotterer, Tandy and Jani finished in third.
In LMP2, it was the Jota-run #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA-Gibson of Jarvis, Laurent and Tung that took the win. The #13 ORECA of Prost, Senna and Canal came in second ahead of the TDS Racing ORECA, driven by Perrodo, Vaxiviere and Collard.
Ticknell and Priaulx managed to take the win in the GTE Pro category, the pair literally driving the doors off the #67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi finished some 15 seconds behind the Ford, with the only surviving Porsche 911 of Frederic Makowiecki and Richard Lietz, a further 10 seconds back.
In GTE Am, Griffin, Sewa and Sun took victory in the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 488. Lana, Lamy & Lauda, in the #98 Aston Martin came across the line in second, with the #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche of Ried, Cairoli & Dienst in 3rd.
The next race is at Spa-Francorchamps.