May was a funny old month: I spent two thirds of it in bed, recuperating from a surgical procedure (more of this later), and the combination of pain and recovering from anaesthesia has meant that I’ve been off work since the 29th April.
I thought I’d be happily catching up with email and blogging like a ninja from my bed after a week or so but in addition to the pain, I came down with a delightful case of porridge head – blogging seemed like a mountain to climb and a little light Instagram-ing and Tweeting was about the total of my capabilities.
So you can imagine my joy as I started to feel better, began to get out and about, and the fog in my head started to clear.
However, I’ve got a LOT of blog catching up to do, so forgive me for not posting in a chronological order as I get going again, editing pics, and getting stories up as and when. There’s so much I want to tell you all!
One of the most thrilling things I did towards the end of May was on the Sunday of the Bank Holiday break (the weekend before last). My father and I were invited as guests of Blancpain to the Silverstone leg of the Blancpain GT Series.
We started our day at the Lamborghini Blancpain VIP area, where Blancpain master watchmakers talked my father and I through the extraordinary haute horologerie workmanship behind the dial of a Blancpain timepiece in their pop-up workshop onsite, before we ingested lots of coffee and headed trackside to watch the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo race.
After lunch we were invited onto the grid to watch the prep for the big race of the day: the Endurance Series, where three drivers per car compete over two hours. It’s a huge test, not just of an individual’s driving skill, but of each teams’ engineering prowess. The marques that take part in the GT Series are:
Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Porsche, with teams from nations as diverse as Oman and New Zealand.
Walking into the pits is to be immersed immediately into a frenetic world, but it gets even busier out on the grid pre-race.
Seemingly endless wheel racks are pushed out from the pits onto the grid for each car, as the grid slowly fills with everything from a marching band and legions of promo girls, to hangers on (us!) clients, sponsors, press, TV crews, marshals, mechanics and more.
From the start this is the view.
In essence, these are production cars, but they are pimped (technical term) to an almost unbelievable degree.
As we were shepherded off the grid for the start, the pits seemed almost comically empty in contrast.
We then headed up to Silverstone’s Timing Centre, where all the technical support happens.
I’ve only ever been in before to pick up track and grid listings (below) when we’ve been driving on the circuit, so getting to go upstairs was a first.
These guys from Blancpain’s timing team record the exact lap times of each car electronically.
(If you follow me on Vine, you’ll have seen the little clip I made of the cars automatically triggering beeps in the timing centre as they each cross the line on their laps.)
Across the corridor is Silverstone’s heart: the blacked out race control centre, with screens monitoring every inch of the course in real time.
Downstairs on the way to the stands, we passed this: a salutary reminder that accidents do happen on race tracks:
We then headed to the stands to watch the Endurance from up on high, as all the marques jockeyed for position around the corners. It’s real heart in your mouth stuff, as a pileup always seems inevitable and yet they all escape unscathed as they zoom out of the bend and on to the next. I’ve driven this corner, and can testify that it’s difficult and terrifying enough when you are the only person on the circuit, let alone with a souped up Bentley, Porsche and a Lamborghini up your arse.
I cannot lie: motorsport events like this attract a predominantly male audience.
I find it astonishing as most women I know love to drive. Every time I go to a track day or motorsport event with a female friend on her first visit, they end up absolutely loving the entire experience.
One of the other fun things about hanging out at circuits is getting to perv over all the beautiful cars that are parked up. This, at first glance, almost unassuming car would set you back around one and a half million of your English pounds. It’s a Bugatti Veyron: the most powerful and fastest roadster on earth.
We then retired to the VIP lounge to watch the rest of the race on the big screens – as the Endurance race continues, the cars thin out on the track, so those multi car corners aren’t so frequent, and it’s actually easier to follow on the TV.
At race’s end everything is packed up into the juggernauts that line the circuit and and off they go to the next event.
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A huge thank you to Blancpain for hosting my father and me at Silverstone.