I have only ever been to one grand prix and admittedly it was great, but I didn’t come away from it with any great desire to attend again. For the many years that have followed I have been very happy watching the British grand prix from the comfort of my sofa. Saying that I am glad I went, it is an impressive assault of the senses as from some way off the ground begins to vibrate, the piercing scream of the engine becomes ever louder until what appears to be a guided missile whooshes past you at what appears to be impossible speed.
There are however serious drawbacks to attending a grand prix. Firstly, it is hugely expensive, this meant when we went we didn’t have grand stand seating and therefore several hours before the race we secured a spot on Hanger straight from which we did not move for fear of losing our view. Close to the action we may well have been, but all we could see was a coloured blur as the cars rushed past, not the magnificent site of a driver on the edge of adhesion through Maggots and Beckets. Secondly it is so loud that you cannot hear the circuit commentator which means you unfortunately have no idea of what is going on for the whole ninety minutes of the race. Although I presume things are probably different now, partly because of the new quieter engines (the fuss over which has been made is greatly out of proportion in my view) and secondly the advent of smart phones means we can all follow a live feed from the BBC or Guardian to find out what is going on.
That first experience however has not put me off going to see other motoring events. In the years that followed I have seen Indycars, sports cars, touring cars and thousands of karting races from my own days of competition. I can heartily recommend going to see an Indycar race on an oval, although oval racing has never really caught on this side of the Atlantic it is something every motor sport fan should see before they die, don’t judge it until you’ve seen it.
All these events, despite the fact that they are clearly not the Premier League that is Formula 1 to use a footballing analogy I enjoyed far more. Not only do you get to see far more of the racing and also behind the scenes but for a fraction of the cost. This weekend was a prime example when I went to see the BARC meeting at Silverstone. Nine different series were racing on the Saturday, when combined with qualifying and warm up that meant apart from a 45 minute lunch break there was continuous track action from nine o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock in the evening!
The continuous action however is only one of the reasons to attend. The fact that there are not the tens of thousands of fans that you see at the grand prix means that there is no allocated seating. If you want to watch the action at Vale you merely have to walk down to the grand stand and take a seat or at any other of the grand stands for that matter.
Even better however is that if you want to pretend to be Ross Brawn or Christian Horner well guess what the pits are completely open and you can sit on the pit wall dreaming about guiding your team to victory to your hearts content.
One of the things that you will also find is that drivers, mechanics and engineers are generally a pretty friendly lot, and despite the fact that they are in the middle of their race weekend many are more than happy to stop and chat about their cars and what they are doing.
The racing was also excellent, one of the Caterham races had everyone on the edge of their seat as it featured an eleven car fight for victory that was in doubt until the last corner, when was the last time you saw that in F1? The racing was generally pretty clean as well, even the touring cars, but then again I guess that’s what you get when you both own and race the car and are footing the repair bills yourself.
There was something for everyone’s taste, if you wanted to see Ferrari’s and Porsche’s there were the GTs, for those who like it a bit rougher there were touring cars, Caterhams for me provided the best wheel to wheel action and even Superkarts, even for me coming from a karting background these seemed particularly insane. For those of you who don’t know Superkarts have a top speed of over 150mph and require aerodynamic body kits to keep them on the ground, the consequences of any sort of a crash do not bear thinking about.
So my advice to you, is come July 6th, stay at home and watch the grand prix from the comfort of your own sofa, that way not only will you save yourself a fortune but you’ll actually understand what happened during the race (that is unless you have VIP pitlane passes in which case you should definitely go). Instead head to the races when one of the less well known series is racing, I guarantee not only will you see more of the racing but you will have a much better time as a result. If yesterday is anything to go by I can thoroughly recommend heading to Croft on 19th and 20th July to watch the Caterham Graduates.