Sunday, 19 January 2014

BTCC: The day I cursed The Stig...

Yes, you read that right.

I. Cursed. The. Stig.

Well, not the current one...

How does that saying go?

"Some say he was born with Nitrous for Blood! Some say that he is powered by his own internal Black Hole! All we know is..."

Let me explain.

Back in 2010, I introduced my partner Nik and her son Aaron to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. Now as you know, I haved watched the series religiously since 1988. Well it turns out Nik had seen it too during her younger years and was quite a fan too.

She still says fondly of how well I would've gotten on with her parents because of my love of Motorsport alone. Her mum Betty was a massive Williams/Nigel Mansell/Damon Hill Fan and her dad Jim loved Vauxhalls. Unfortunately he passed away in 1977, the same year I was born. However we share the same passionate loves of Williams, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Vauxhall.

To this day I regret I never met them, god rest both of their souls.

I was watching the 2010 BTCC encounter from Silverstone where the Gas powered Team Aon Fords of Tom Chilton & Tom Onslow-Cole battled the RML Chevrolets of Jason Plato & Alex MacDowall and the Team Dynamic Honda's of Matt Neal & Gordon Shedden on the fast National Circuit. I had missed part of the season due to moving from Rushden to Northampton, but was aware of the scandal of the Turbo assisted Gas powered Ford Focus...and the racing was close and exciting to watch.

Enough said...

Anyway, Silverstone provided an action packed encounter and naturally Kinchy was jumping up doing his Murray Walker bit, commentating at the TV and overriding both Ben Edwards and Tim Harvey in both action, pace and volume from the comfort of our sofa. After the ITV4 programme ended, an advert confirmed an event where once in a million years, the impossible was to happen:

BTCC Finals Day at Brands Hatch would be on my birthday: 10th October 2010.

Yup. 10/10/10.

I was 33. Just for reference

So I was in awe when I saw this and I recalled that the last time I went to a BTCC event was 1st May 1994 at Snetterton. I was excited at the fact Finals Day was on my birthday and then blurted out how awesome it would be to go.

Unbeknownst to me, Nik collaberated with my best friends Andy, Clive and Darryl to get me to this event as a birthday present. This was also my first birthday since meeting the wonderful Nik.

She is truly awesome.

Add to this that in the 2 week run up to Finals Day, Motorbase announced that they had signed Ben Collins to drive a 3rd S2000 BMW 320si in all three races at the finale along with regulars Mat Jackson & Steven Kane. Collins had previously revealed he was the 2nd professional driver after Perry McCarthy to be "The Stig" on BBC's Top Gear and released a book on his careers on the programme, The Army and his foray in Motorsport.

He was also signing copies of his book.

Remember that bit...

Anyway, each time I saw the advert for Brands Hatch declaring tickets were on sale on TV, Nik kept telling me she had tried to secure tickets but that they were sold out. My enthusiasm dropped in the following days, realising that my dream would not come true.

Until one day whilst shopping in Tesco's for a new camera, Nik broke into tears admitting that she had bought five tickets for the event and she couldnt bare to keep the secret from me anymore.

I was elated. A phonecall to Andy confirmed this as I was in utter disbelief and the buildup was unbearable. We hired an Audi A4 Estate to travel to Brands and to add to this, Nik surprised me by picking up Andy, Clive and Darryl the day before to stay over and have a blokes night on the night before. Clive kindly offered to babysit the dog on raceday whilst we were out along with Niks other son Dan.

So on Sunday, we travelled to Brands Hatch and parked up. Nik, Andy, Darryl, Aaron and when we arrived,  I felt like a kid.

Just being there was amazing.

We entrenched ourselves at Druids Hairpin for the day, knowing that Jason Plato could secure his 2nd BTCC Title on the day. We soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the racing. We walked up and down the pitlane for the drivers autograph session before the days racing where Aaron met Tiff Needell in the RML Chevrolet garage.

I should explain Aaron was a big Jason Plato and RML fan at this time, however this was before Aaron discovered Tony Gilham in 2011...

Between races two and three, Ben Collins held his autograph session and we were lucky enough to be in the queue, all with copies of the book. When my time came, I explained the book was bought for me as a present and what my family and friends had done for me to be there that day

Ben acknowledged that was a fantastic present and wished me a great birthday. As we shook hands I said to him...

"Have a great final race today, hope you get some points out there."

Without knowing it, right there and then, I had cursed The Stig for his final race of the day

Race three came along and Andrew Jordan passed polesitter Mat Jackson at the start. He would be pursued race long by Jackson's team mate Kane but the high point of the race came mid way through. Collins was racing in the midpack when he spun into the gravel at Hailwood Hill when selecting a wrong gear.

Therefore, My curse struck.

I had cursed The Stig.

Jordan went on to win the race ahead of Kane after the safety car released the field. On each lap I was shouting and commentating as I had on each previous BTCC race during the day.

The BMW was being lifted out of the gravel as we left the track and the general talking point on the way home was about the price of burgers, the racing, walking up Hailwood Hill and of how my well wishing to Ben Collins had changed his fortunes of the day in the final race.

In short, Best. Birthday. Ever.

So, while it may seem a silly story to some, thats how I cursed Ben Collins and thats how we began our love affair with the BTCC, not just following it on TV but going to see it live as well.

I hope you've enjoyed this tale and I will keep you all updated with further Touring Car news as normal.



Monday, 13 January 2014

BTCC Update... 13 January 2014...

Well over the past 4 days, the motorsport world has been flocking to the Autosport International at the Birmingham NEC. This has become the starting event each for announcements of drivets, teams and motorsport programmes at every level.

And the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship regulars did not disappoint.

So lets see a quick rundown of what was announced at the show ahead of the 2014 BTCC season...

1. Rob Austin confirmed a 2 year sponsorship with Exocet for his team. Austin confirmed that Sherman would be in Exocet colours whilst the 2nd Audi would have some Exocet sponsorship. No 2nd driver was confirmed yet.

2. Simon Belcher unveiled the Handy Motorsport run NGTC Toyota Avensis he will be driving this season. The car carries Karcher sponsorship with the colours of Black, White and Green.

3. Dan Welch confirmed that Olllie Jackson would join him at Welch Motorsport this year, piloting the 2nd Proton Persona that is being built. This will be the first season the team has run two NGTC cars.

3. Robb Holland confirmed that he will enter the 2014 BTCC season driving for Rotek Racing in an NGTC version of the new Audi S3. This will be the first full season from the american driver who is hoping Audi will take more of an interest in the series in future.

4. Dave Newshams AmD NGTC Ford Focus was on show as was the NGTC Honda Civic Tourer at the show. Andy Jordans Title Winning Civic and last years NGTC MG6 were also on display.

5. Sam Tordoff confirmed he would be at MG/Triple Eight for a second year, joining Jason Plato and Marc Hynes. Tordoff has also confirmed that he is a member of the KX Academy again this year.

6. Its been confirmed that the Super Touring Car Cup will be on the TOCA support package at the BTCC Oulton Park round later on in the season. The Cup will hold two races over the weekend with the Sunday race being broadcast live during the BTCC programme broadcast on ITV4 HD.

7. Series Boss Alan Gow has confirmed that the BTCC has entered into a partnership with Haymarket Publishing. This means that well known titles such as Autosport, Autocar and Pistonheads will appear on the cars this season.

Now also during the show were the following revelations...

Warren Scott confirmed that he tried to get Colin Turkington to sign for him this season, but to no avail...

Gordon Shedden confirmed that several ex champions were interested in a return to the BTCC this year...

Just to clear that up, to find a BTCC Champion who isnt Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal, Jason Plato or Colin Turkington, you need to look back to 2008 when Fabrizio Giovanardi won his 2nd BTCC title.

If go back further than that to find current drivers who have been BTCC Champions but don't have regular drives, you stumble across 1998 Champion Rickard Rydell and 1997 & 2000 Champion Alain Menu...

Its also been mentioned that Motorbase is chasing to sign at least one of these champions after a large restructuring of the team.

So a few points to consider in the buildup to the season. This week we are also due to hear the plans from Tony Gilham and Team HARD. for the 2014 BTCC season.

In the meantime, keep warm and dry during this winter time!!