Ordinarily the prospect of camping doesn’t really appeal to me, especially camping in the UK in the Autumn! However, camping is exactly what I found myself doing last weekend but it was for a good reason – to attend my first endurance race, Britcar 24 at Silverstone. I’m not going to review the details of the racing itself here but want to try and give an idea of what the Britcar 24 event is like and why it is well worth a visit.
Having trekked down the M1 on Friday night after work, my friend and I arrived at a dark and damp Silverstone at about 10pm. This was the first time either of us had been to Silverstone so we were pleased to find the camp site well signposted and were quickly being checked in and shown to our pitch. The pitch itself was ‘compact’ and it was a bit of squeeze fitting a car and two man tent on but we managed! Inevitably it rained while we were pitching the tent meaning it got wet, we got wet and thanks to a schoolboy error of leaving the boot open, lots of other stuff got wet too! The worst was yet to come with the camping, it got slightly (extremely) cold and the extent of the temperature drop was only apparent when we got up on Saturday to find the car frozen solid! Lesson learned about taking more cold weather kit!
We woke on Saturday to a cold but beautiful day and set off to get some coffee and go for a wander around Silverstone. Access around the track was excellent and we were able to scout out some good viewing points for later that day. After a good look around the track and a browse of some of the lovely Porsches at the experience centre we made our way across to the pits and paddock area. Access to the cars was outstanding, we were free to look into the garages and it was great to watch all the preparation ready for the race. Before the race kicked off there was a chance to get out on track for a pit walk and see all of the cars up close which was the perfect opportunity to get some photos.
Before the main event started mid-afternoon we were treated to some fantastic on-track action from MX5s and F3 cars through to Porsches. At 3:30pm, the racing got under way, it was quite a surreal experience watching the cars start lapping Silverstone and realising that they would be pushing hard for the next 24 hours. All sorts of cars were competing in the race from a Mosler through to a 1 series BMW and everything in between! There was little ‘fighting’ for position during the race but the entertainment came from watching the consistency of the laps and the accuracy of the driving over such a sustained period. We quickly picked some favourite cars including the Leon that sounded like a jet engine, the Ginetta G40 that popped and crackled its way around the lap while holding off much faster machinery, the Honda Jazz which cornered like no slab sided mini MPV should and the eerily silent 1 series BMW which quietly went about its business lap after lap!
The human element of the race was also fascinating, the teams worked throughout the night to service and repair the cars and should be commended for their commitment and stamina. The highlight of the weekend was watching the cars racing at night, we sat in the cold grandstands for hours watching the lights cutting through the Autumn darkness while having a few drinks. On our way back to the camp site we were treated to the most spectacular sight of the weekend, watching the cars screaming down Hangar Straight into Stowe Corner braking so hard that their discs were glowing red hot and to top it off plenty of the cars were spitting flames as they went through the corner. Undoubtedly one of my favourite racing sights this year! By the time we woke on Sunday the weather was closing in and the later stages of the race saw heavy and sustained rain which confined us to the covered grandstands but we still saw some spins and shunts and had a great view of the finish, with a BMW M3 eventually taking the win. The biggest disappointment though was the Leon and the Jazz being disqualified for excessive noise, a big shame!
All in all, despite coming away with an awful cold it was a fantastic weekend and I would urge anyone interested in motorsport to give it a try. The access to the cars and the teams during the race was outstanding, walking around Silverstone in the dead of night watching cars pushing hard for hours on end is highly captivating and it’s simply a wonderful event to watch and has certainly got me tempted to go to Le Mans and watch some more endurance racing! My main piece of advice to anyone thinking of going, buy some decent camping gear, it can get bloody cold!