Just returned back from a very wet weekend at Silverstone and despite being soaked, I was extremely happy to see some fantastic racing action at the track and afterwards a live music show.
I stayed at my friend’s house on Saturday night, but getting there from London was tricky. I left my house quite late in the afternoon and took the ‘tube to Victoria. Brought my rail ticket (which was quite pricey despite being a single…) and when I looked at the boards, I couldn’t see my train… I thought there was a direct route from Victoria station, but no. Every train went to a complete different direction and I had to change on route, to get to my destination… That would take too long I thought so I asked the train conductor if there was a direct train leaving from London. He pointed me to Charing Cross, so I pop back on the tube, arrived at the station and got on board the right train.
The journey took a while and I sent my mate a text message letting him know I was running late. By the time I arrived, it started to rain… He picked me up in his car and we immediate went back to his place to get away from the bad weather.
Spent the night at his house and he told me to expect a long day tomorrow. And we needed to get up quite early to get there (Around 5am)… This was tricky for me, as I usually go to bed really (and I mean REALLY) late on Saturday night – around 2am if I’m feeling tired… So getting up at the crack of dawn – on a Sunday – would be difficult for a lazy person like myself! But strangely, I did get up on time (Perhaps I was feeling exciting to going to Silverstone for the first time?) and after eating breakfast, we made our way to Northamptonshire and towards the Home of British Motor Racing.
Alas, I feel asleep in the car as my mate was driving up the motorway… It was a two and a half-hour drive, but it didn’t felt like it as I was drifting away in my sleep…
I awoke to find Silverstone lashing down with heavy rain! “Great…” I thought as we stepped out of the car heading for the entrance. Luckily I had my coat and ‘monkey’ umbrella to give me shelter from the foul weather.
As we made our way around the track, the racing cars were just out on track preparing for the race. I could see the ‘spray’ and the noise was just sensational. Not as loud as a Formula One car of course, but still ear-splitting loud…
We went across a bridge on the start/finish straight, as this allows you straight into the pits and paddock area. Usually you will find security guards patrolling here so that no one can enter the paddock without the right pass. But there wasn’t any.
We were now in the paddock at Silverstone and this is where the racing cars are prepared and if you are lucky, can spot the drivers themselves. We decided to hang around here looking for familiar motor racing faces to sign our race programme or ticket. In the space of one hour, I met several legendary racing drivers like Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi, René Arnoux, Patrick Tambay, Stefan Johansson, Christian Danner, Andrea De Cesaris, Jan Lammers and Hans-Joachim Stuck! Impressive, non? Got my race ticket signed by these racing stars and at the end of the day, I was left with a priceless and special ticket pass (see above).
After that, we made our way to different parts of the track to get the best vantage point. Silverstone certainly looks very different when watching on TV… You can’t beat the experience of being there.
We were later joined by others and we decided to watch the main Grand Prix Masters race at Club corner (at the far end of the track). Perfect for taking photographs as the fence wasn’t that high up spoiling the view.
The race itself was entertain. Saw many overtake moves in the hour-long race, and we even saw Nigel Mansell spinning twice at Club! In fact, Nigel Mansell experienced a mechanical problem with his ‘red 5’ car meaning that he was unable to race against the others… It later transpired that the differential had broken on his way to the grid, causing an uneven distribution of power between the rear wheels and making the car impossible to drive…
Such a shame to see Mansell out before the race but at least he put on a good show by spinning three times on one lap!
The race was won by Eddie Cheever, who drove a near-flawless drive in tricky wet conditions.
The 48-year-old American took the lead on the third lap, passing Stefan Johansson the long way around at Club Corner (which was spectacular), and quickly built a sizeable lead.
But by lap eight he was fending off the advances of Eric van de Poele, who had scythed his way through the field from the back of the grid after sitting out Saturday’s qualifying session.
The pair waged an entertaining duel throughout the remainder of the race, van de Poele initially looking faster but making several mistakes in his attempts to find a way past.
On lap 12 the Belgian swept around the outside of Cheever in a bold move at Bridge, only to be repassed soon afterwards when his rear tyres started to overheat on the drying track.
Van de Poele tried to counter-attack but, after two more 360s(!) at Woodcote and Vale, had to settle for a worthy runner-up spot.
Poles Position driver, Christian Danner recovered well from a first-lap spin at Luffield to claim the final podium place.
After the Grand Prix Masters race, we made our way to a different viewing spot. We watched the F3000 race at Corpse (the first corner) and at the entry to the Becketts complex (the fast S-bend). The sight, sound and the speed of the cars were breathtaking.
At the end of all the track action, we went back to paddock to see if there were any other stars whom we can get our stuff signed. And we did with spectacular results! Murray Walker was there. Nigel Mansell again! Susie Stoddart (DTM woman driver) and Andy Rouse (legendary touring car driver).
As the day drew to an end, we were treated to a free and lively concert performed by Katie Melua. Her voice was amazing as she sang her songs from her hit album ‘Piece By Piece’.
So a wonderful day out at Silverstone. Meeting the star drivers and enjoying the live music from Katie were the highlight. Okay, the weather was horrible but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.