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It must have been the third week of the summer school holidays in most places around the UK. My wife was still working and wasn’t due her vacation for a few more days, so I had to keep the kids entertained until we could all do something together.
As is always the case this time of the year, the subject of "what to do and where to go" was all over the national and local news.
But I am confused?
Two adults, two children, 9-10 hours of watching top class motor racing at one of Europe’s best racing courses (and I really do mean one of the top circuits in Europe!). Total cost? £24 (£20 if you had booked your tickets online).
But the most confusing part, was that the place was virtually empty, and I mean really empty. There were more family members of the drivers than actual visitors. I would even go as far as saying there were probably more circuit marshals than their were spectators.
Admittedly, the weather forecast for the day wasn’t too good, but it wasn’t that bad either. Yet again, perhaps people know just how crap the weather forecasts are in the UK because actually, the weather was horrendous. It was cold, windy and the rain came down like stair rods which played havoc with my back, but made for better racing rather than having just the one or two cars speeding off into the distance (as happens in F1).
We got to see drivers driving which sounds quite daft until you think about it.
There was also the small matter of the Olympics starting today, but I can’t believe for one minute that people would have preferred to have watch that on television in preference to a day out.
So where was this all happening?
At Brands Hatch.
I grew up and lived in the Medway towns for 20 years (until I left and joined the Navy in 1987). It wasn’t until today that I found out that we lived less than 35mins away from Brands Hatch. (When we did go to watch motor racing, we used to visit Lydden near Dover/Canterbury and occasionally Iwade near the Isle of Sheppey).
A few weeks back I had decided to take a slightly different route to my parents, choosing to go via the "fairly new" Medway Tunnel, (which incidentally also happens to go close to the area of Kingsnorth Power Station that has been in the news of late due to a bunch of tree huggers). It also takes you quite close to the M20 and I was surprised to see signs for Brands Hatch.
Thinking of what to do with the kids whilst my wife was working her last set of nights before her holiday period,I remembered the signs for Brands Hatch. On the off-chance, I had a quick look online and Brands Hatch had a day of racing scheduled for 9th August 2008 which consisted of:
I knew that my eldest 14 year old son wouldn’t be so keen and thought something else would be arranged for him (which is another post). I had an inkling that my middle 12 year old son and 9 year old daughter might enjoy it so phoned my parents and arrange to come up. All 3 of them are petrol heads in the making, except the eldest tends to watch Top Gear for the comedy rather than the wheels. That will change in the next few years as he moves closer to his licence. Now I hadn’t heard of VdeV before, but I had heard of the other two, and I wasn’t disappointed when I found out the schedule either. VdeV was a 3 hour endurance race in the afternoon, with 2 practice sessions and one qualifying round during the morning. The GT Cup and Pinto 2000 both had practices in the morning with the GT Cup having the first of two races just before a 40minute lunch break.
The VdeV had 13 entrants of which 12 actually managed to race (due to a mechanical failure he said, but I’m sure it was he was just afraid of the monsoon like driving rain). A few cars even had problems with water in the electrics during the race such was the weight of the rain coming down. The 3 hour race required a driver change to be taken at some point and with the cars burning almost a litre of fuel a minute, there were probably 2-3 pit stops taken by the leaders. Those ‘damper’ cars or those that found the occasional gravel trap might have visited the pits a few more times. But the eventual winner of the 3hour endurance race was the same team that qualified first (Car number 2. I say that, because I forgot to actually get a program so I cant tell you any of the names of the teams or drivers and since I don’t have access to the net during writing this post, I will have to come back and edit it later).
The GT Cup had around 30 entrants with the two morning sessions both occurring in bright sunshine on a dry hot circuit with plenty of grip, whereas the main race took part in torrential rain. You would have expected some contact in the first corner, but to their credit, not one driver tried to win the race within the first 30seconds/1000 yards. In fact, I don’t recall a single incident whereby cars crashed out as a result of a collision throughout any of the races, and yet in this race alone, there was plenty of bumper to bumper racing. I haven’t watched such exciting racing in years.
It had to be good to keep a 12 year old boy and 9 year old girl glued to the racing despite the dreadful weather conditions. I was extremely proud when another couple there complimented me on the behavior of my two children. There was not one whine or moan throughout the old day which shows just fast they are growing up (and reminds me of just how old I’m getting). My dad was also with us and to be honest, I don’t think I was as well behaved as my two kids were.
But finally, back to my main point. I just could not believe how empty the track was. Entry fee’s for two adults and two children for a racing program that started at 8am and finished at 6pm was £24. That’s right! £6 per person for 10 hours of entertainment. The longest break was for 30mins for lunch so cars were on track for pretty much most of the day.
I cannot honestly remember such a great day out, let alone value-for-money, and I’m not even a ‘total petrol head’. Yes it got cold, and yes it piddled it down like there was no tomorrow a few times, but that just made the racing even more thrilling (and again, hats off to the drivers, not once did anyone try and win the race at the first corner or in the first lap. I don’t know if it was because a fair few of the cars were driver owned and they just can’t afford to pay for the damage, but the skill level was pretty amazing which only added to the excitement).
The last time I went to a motor race, was at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (from which I lived about 30-35minutes away from). On that day there was over 250,000 to watch NASCAR and trust me the weather on that day was a billion times worse than at Brands Hatch, but that is a completely new story which I’ll save for the next rainy day.
But on the off chance you are reading this and you can’t think of anything to do one weekend, have a look for a race track near you and check out what they have going on.
It was a grand day out that I thoroughly
enjoyed thanks to my kids and my dad and something I intend to repeat more often in future.