La Vie En Bleu

La Vie En Bleu hillclimb at Prescott (Lewis Craik/Lewis Craik Photography)

 

Last month Jen and I met my parents at Prescott Hillclimb in Gloucestershire for the “La Vie En Bleu” French themed hillclimb event. As Prescott is owned by the Bugatti Owners Club, I was expecting a mixture of Bugattis and French hot hatches, but there was a good mix of cars, from Morgan 3 wheelers to Aston Martins. Of course there were plenty of Renault 5s too!

However my favourite cars of the day were the Lorraine Dietrich and the Darracq pictured above. The Darracq particularly caught my attention as it had a 25l engine and no body work, not even a floor – the flywheel was spinning inches from the drivers foot. I later discovered that this particular car held the land speed record in 1905! It also set the second fastest time in class and sounded awesome. I’m glad that this 110 year old car is still being driven as intended and not locked away in a museum somewhere.

Autosport International 2014

Autosport Show Pistonheads Sunday ServiceAutosport International at the NEC in Birmingham is traditionally the first event on the British motorsport calendar, a chance to get up close to the upcoming seasons cars and generally break up the boring off season. For 2014 there was the added bonus of a Pistonheads Sunday Service event before the doors to the show opened, and free indoor parking!

As always, the standard of cars at the Sunday Service was high, with everything from my MR2 to a Porsche GT2. Some people had even braved the freezing temperatures to arrive in Caterham 7s. However, my star of the PHSS was the yellow Nissan 350Z GT4 special edition, shown in the picture above – now a serious contender for my next car.

After a bacon and egg roll at the cafe the NEC had opened just for the Pistonheads event, it was time to go through to the show. The layout was pretty much the same as it has been since the ’90s when I went as a child, but the Performance Car Show part of it seems to have got bigger, with a lot of manufacturer presence. Tucked away in the corner between the Performance Car Show and the motorsport stands was an iterating display of cars and bikes raced by John Surtees. The F1 cars of the late ’60s are to me the most exciting despite their simplicity – I would have loved to see them racing in their day. Nearby the 2013 field of F1 cars were on display, I found it interesting to look at the details of the Red Bull F1 car, especially the rear, somehow it all looked a lot neater than the other cars, neat must equal quick (although I still prefer the earlier cars).

I felt that the Live Action Arena had too much talking and not enough live action, but once again I was impressed by the Autograss racers, as I didn’t already have a new years resolution I have made it my resolution to go to some of their meetings this year and picked up their calendar.

I had an interesting chat with an engineer from Caterham about the digital dash screens they are developing for their cars, this is of particular interest to me as infotainment screens in cars is my day day job and Caterham are one of the last companies I would expect to be developing screens. The car which grabbed my attention the most was the Zenos E10, a small track day car, built by a company based over the road from Lotus. The attention to detail on the E10 was really impressive, the car seems to have been designed by petrol heads, for petrol heads without too much interference from marketing or money men – a refreshing change and I wish them good luck.

Rally of the Midlands 2012: Escort mk1

Merevale Hall stage of Rally of the Midlands 2012 (Lewis Craik/Lewis Craik Photography)

Finally, on the third year of meaning to go, I managed to keep the weekend free and made it to the Rally of the Midlands. Having grown up in the McRae/Burns era rallying is probably my favourite form of motorsport, so it’s a bit rubbish that I haven’t been to many rallies. I’d decided to go to the Merevale Hall stage, as the only other Saturday stage open to the public was at Mallory Park and I’ve shot there before, upon arriving at the stage the first thing that struck me, as someone who has spent a lot of time at race circuits, was the lack of barriers, although there were some in the main spectator areas, most of the time the only thing between spectators and cars was common sense! The stage was run twice, once in each direction, my favourite angle was from the afternoon run, where a hay bale chicane had been placed infront of the main door to the hall, the gravelly surface allowed the cars break traction and the cars were running towards me, perfect!

Cholmondeley Pageant of Power: Works Mini

Ex works Mini Cooper at Cholmondley Pageant of Power (Lewis Craik/Lewis Craik Photography)

For Father’s Day I took my Dad to the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power in Cheshire which is a similar event to the Festival of Speed, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. In amongst the modern supercars and aero engined racecars from the 1930s (42 litre V24 engines!!!) my favourite car of the event was this little Mini Cooper which was driven by Paddy Hopkirk in the mid 1960s. Unlike a lot of the other historic vehicles there which looked like they had come straight out of a museum, with spotless engine bays, this Mini looked like it had been driven hard, the engine bay was suitable oily and the block painted in the original British Leyland green.

Other highlights were Bentley demonstrating the smoothness of their engine, by balancing coins on the rocker cover and the drive there and back with my Dad, we were in his Porsche Boxster with the roof down, managed to avoid motorways for both journeys and stopped for an Olympic Breakfast at the Little Chef on the way there, all ingredients for a good road trip!

Wide Angle Pan – From the archives

I was discussing panning motorsport shots with a colleague, which reminded me of this photo which I took at Snetterton a few years ago, before they changed the layout. The Esses is one of the few corners on UK tracks where you are allowed to be positioned quite close to the apex, close enough to be using a wide angle lens anyway. I’d previously shown an image taken slightly tighter, on the blog post for the Ma5da Racing meeting at Snetterton, but I’ve always liked this one more. It breaks a few rules for instance the car has got more space behind than in front, but rules are merely guidelines and I think it works.

The full Ma5da Racing Snetterton 2010 gallery is available in my archive.

British Formula 3 – From the archives

Jazeman Jaafar (Malaysia) driving for Carlin in Britsh Forumla 3 at Silverstone 14th August 2010 (Lewis Craik)

I was looking through my email the other day and found that I’d sent this image to someone – I didn’t even remember taking it! As soon as I saw it I knew why I’d emailed it, the brightly coloured cars with the gloomy light (it looks like it was raining) and the, rare for Silverstone, clean background.

I was covering Ma5da Racing, which was one of the supporting  series at the British Formula 3/British GT meeting at Silverstone in August 2010, so other than this and the Ma5da Racing images (available in my archive) I hadn’t processed any extra shots. The driver is Jazeman Jaafar (Malaysia) driving for Carlin.

I’m still here…

Wow! The summer has flown by in a blur of Ma5da race cars and the large luxury saloons that I work on during the week! I promise I will try to write a Ma5da Racing season update blog soon, but in the mean time I’ll post a teaser for the next round at Rockingham Speedway on the bank holiday weekend:

In other news I have bought myself a Canon S90, so hopefully I will be able to post a few more images from the various trips that I have planned over the next few months.

Ma5da Racing: Snetterton

The qualifying sessions for the second round of the Ma5da Racing 2010 season (and first round of the 2010 MX5 Cup), which had been delayed from the previous day were held under grey, but dry, Norfolk skies, on what had been touted as the warmest day of the year so far. The two sessions for the Ma5da Racing Championship went first and passed without any major incident, at least from where I was standing at The Esses. This corner gave me the chance to get out my wide angle lens, which I rarely get to use for motorsports, but usually gives some great images.

I stayed at The Esses for the MX5 Cup practice session which was my first chance to see multiple mk3 MX5 race cars on the track at the same time, again the session went without too much trouble, until Kevin Dengate had a moment on the second of the esses and left a lot of dirt on the track. Paul Sheard eneded the session fastest, so took the MX5 pole for both races.

On my way back from The Esses, the heavens opened, luckily I was able to duck into the Rob Boston Racing awning to avoid the worst of te downpour, but for the drivers in the first Ma5da Race of the day the damage had been done, the track was very wet and with all of the drivers having qualified in the dry the first corner was somewhat chaotic. Rob Boston managed to get a good start and left all the chaos behind him allowing him to pull out a big lead (4s) which he kept until the chequered flag.

Next up was the MX5 Cup race, the first race for the mk3 MX-5 race cars, the track had dried off a bit for this race, although the skies were still grey. The mk3 part of the race was won by Paul Sheard, again by about 4s. As there were only 5 mk3 cars the numbers were made up with a few mk1s, and it was good to see Nick Gilfillan winning the mk1 part of the race.

I stayed Russell Chicane for the next of the Ma5da Racing Championship races, which was a close battle between Tom Roche and newcomer Phil House (although he was in one of the Rob Boston Racing cars), Phil did lead most of the race, but Tom managed to overtake near the end of the race. Seeing as I’ve posted images of Tom Roche leading races, here’s my favourite shot from the race, with Phil leading.

By the time the second MX-5 Cup race came round the sun had come out (Yay!!!), I headed back to The Esses for the race as that was where all the action had been for the previous race. The race went much the same as the first, with Paul Sheard leading, although Kevin Middleton was a lot closer this time around.

Paul won the race, however Nick Gilfillan wasn’t quite so lucky, after having pulled out a fairly decent lead, he had a big moment right in front of me at The Esses and gifted the lead to Mark Pierpoint.

As per the first meeting at Brands Hatch the race of the day, featuring both Tom Roche and Rob Boston had been saved for the last race of the day and the race did not disappoint. Not only were Rob and Tom swapping places ate the front, the battle for 3rd was also very closely contested between Jonathan Greensmith, Phil House and Chris Dawkins (finishing in that order) and there was close racing all the way down the field.

Ma5da Racing – Brands Hatch

Ma5da Racing got their 2010 season off to a great start, with 62 cars and 6 exciting races on a sunny Brands Hatch Indy circuit. The new race day format spliting the drivers into 4 groups, with each race consiting of 2 different groups, there was plety of action and overtaking.

Race 1 featured Tom Roche and Jonathan Greensmith’s groups, so we were treated to a classic Roche vs Greensmith battle, as we have seen so often over the 2 years that Ma5da Racing has existed, Tom won this time, but as ever it was a good close race. Further down the field there was plenty of close racing, with a lot of new cars and new drivers.

Race 2 I moved round from Druids to Paddock Hill bend and it was only Scott Leach that ended up in the gravel (as usual ending up infront of where I was standing on the previous lap) at the top of the field Rob Boston lead the race, after starting 2nd next to his team mate Dave Connor, and built up a massive, by Ma5da standards, lead of 9s. Charles Plumley was in second place, with new driver Matt Davies (albeit in Steve Greensmith’s old car) had a great debut in 3rd place.

For the afternoon I moved round to Clearways, luckily unlike the launch day the sun stayed out and the track stayed dry for an afternoon of close racing.

Race 3 was the Blendini Motorsport show, with the green liveried cars of Tom Roche and Charles Plumley leading from start to finish, although Chris Dawkins and Dave Connor were never far behind, but locked in their own battle.

Race 4, the last of Saturday’s races, looked like it was going to be a re run of the last race of the 2009 season, with Rob Boston up against Jonathan Greensmith at the front of the field, however, by the time the cars had got round to me, Rob had slipped down the field, but had made it back to second, albeit with a large gap, by the time the safety car came out for an incident at Paddock Hill bend. After the safety car came in Rob was able to overtake Jonathan and stay in front for the rest of the race.

Further down the field there was a great 4 way battle for third place with Chris Woodger, Ben Robinson, Mark Pierpoint and Martin Stevinson (finishing in that order). This race Scott Leach made up for putting it in the gravel a lap too late for me, by running over the gravel trap right in front of me, also this time he was able to continue with the race.

Race 5 came after two races which had been red flagged on the first lap (the second one also got red flagged on the restart), so there were a lot of people waiting anxiously for the Ma5das to get round the first lap, all in one piece, they managed Paddock Hill Bend and Druids without any problem, but David Neville span off on the exit of Graham Hill Bend/the Cooper Straight, hitting the armco fairly heavily, causing the safety car and then the red flag to be used. Then all track activity had to stop, for the Kent Air Ambulance to pick up a casualty (not related to any of the on track action). With the amount of delays, it was decided to shorten the afternoons 15 minute races to 10 minutes.

From the restart it was Jonathan Greensmith who led the pack away and won the race, although Charles Plumley was challenging hard for most the race, even taking the lead from Greensmith up the inside at Clearways, only for Greensmith to win the position back and then Plumley to lose a few more positions with a mistake at Paddock Hill Bend. This promoted Adam Gore, on his first race weekend, to the second step of the podium and the driver of the day award.

Race 6 was the one I’d been looking forward to, Tom Roche and Rob Boston each had two wins each from the Saturday and would be going head to head. The first lap passed without too much incident, only Ben Robinson ending up in the gravel trap at Druids, second time round Gary Hufford and Andy Coombs ended up nose to nose right infront of me, but managed to escape and rejoin the pack, which was now behind the safety car, after Martin Tolley and Kevin Taylor collected eachother at Paddock Hill Bend.

When the marshalls had cleared up, there was only time for a few laps of the shortened race, which provided an excellent dash to the line, both times Tom and Rob came past me they were side by side, which continued to the finishing line as they were only separated by 1/1000th of a second, with the yellow and black car of Rob Boston just infront.

A full gallery of images from the weekends racing can be found on my website.