Travel 2006 – Brands Hatch, London

Saturday 1st/Sunday 2nd, July 2006 – Brands Hatch, London

Well, we had a really relaxing weekend at the DTM meeting at Brands Hatch. Charlie Kimball, being the lovable guy that he is, had very kindly got us some passes from his team (Signature Plus), as had our friend Mark Hillier who was running Julia Kuhn in the Euroseries F3, and was also working for Audi on Vanina Ickx’s car (we didn’t see much of Mark – he was a high speed blur in the distance, changing shirts so often it was a wonder he ended up wearing the right ones… Anyway, knowing there were passes at that end of the trip we dragged ourselves cross-country on Friday to go and stay with Angela and Gordon, who live about 15 minutes away from the circuit. It shouldn’t have been a cross country journey, but the roads seemed to be full of idiots, most of whom were spending Friday running into each other. The upshot of that was we went by a very convoluted route from Towcester to South East London and didn’t get there till about 9.30 that evening. Given the absurdity of the timetable on Saturday and Sunday, it was an early-ish night after a cold supper for us…

Saturday we needed to be at the circuit by 9.30 am, so we left at 9.00, meeting Bob and Andrea at the circuit in good time. Charlie came to meet us at the gate, and we managed to round up Mark’s Dad and Sister inside. As the passes from Mark were a) labelled with our names, and b) allowed us onto the grid for the F3s, we hung onto those. A swing through the F3 paddock revealed that we weren’t the only people spending our weekend off at an F3 race. There were several members of Carlin Motorsport and Raikkonen Robertson Racing swanning around, and Fortec Motorsport and Hitech Racing were both actually competing in the rival series. Basically, anyone who is anyone in F3 was there, pretty much. It wasn’t long before they started rounding up the cars in the assembly area, ready to let them through into the centre and the pit lane, so we hung around there taking lots of photos, and then made our way across to the grid, just because we could. Things overheard that amused me included one end of an exchange between Esteban Guerreri and one the Manor Motorsport boys. Having had all his times disallowed from qualifying, he was starting from the back of the grid. Manor boy, walking towards him from the front end of the grid, was heard to ask “Can you see the lights, Esteban?” I don’t know what sort of answer he got, but I’ll bet it wasn’t too polite. Anyway, we legged it back to the outside just after the five minute board was hung out, and had it not been for one of the orientals pitching into the gravel trap on the warm up lap, it’s unlikely we would have made it to Paddock Hill Bend in time for the start. What followed was one of the most processional races I’ve ever seen… What possessed the organisers to opt for the Indy circuit, and 57 laps of it at that, I have no idea, but the result was a very dull race indeed. There were the odd bits of entertainment, one of those being watching Guerreri try and hack his way back up the order, the other being Sebastian Vettel, the Euroseries’ 12-year old girl (to look at anyway – every series has one – it may be compulsory) attempting to glue himself to Paul di Resta’s gearbox im search of a way to get into the lead. And that was pretty much it. Charlie made up a couple of places at the start, but the car was horrible, and was understeering all over the place, so he couldn’t really do anything. He cheered up enough to invite us all to stop and have lunch, which was excellent. Note to self; if befriending a driver, try and persuade him to drive for a French team… Anyway, by then it was around 14.00, so we headed back to Eltham, stopping to buy Pimms on the way. A lazy afternoon in the garden, drinking said Pimms, was followed by a fairly busy evening.

Marc Hynes, 1999 British F3 Champion, and all-round good guy, has recently started a new business venture. He and his brother, along with a friend, have opened a bar and restaurant near Waterloo Station, something of a trendy area for bars and restaurants these days. Jack’s has been open five weeks now, so we figured we’d get ourselves there and see what it was like. Marc reserved us a table, and we arrived around 8pm. The actual bar is built into a huge railway arch, and the entire front is glassed in, the glass sliding across to open out onto the pavement. There were tables on the pavement, as well as inside, given the heatwave, but we were at the back in a semi-private room. The food was excellent (although the service got a bit disorganised – we never did see the French fries, though they also didn’t appear on the bill), the confit of duck being served on some interestingly pickled vegetables with Japanese pickled ginger that really too the fatty edge off the meat, and we drank a lovely refreshing rose wine for most of our stay. Apparently the chef was previously at the Oxo Tower, so it’s not surprising that he knows what he’s doing. I’m reliably informed that both the sausage and mash and the calves’ liver were also very good, and three courses and wine came out at around £30 each. By the time we left a handful of the Carlin boys and girls – including Olly Jarvis – had arrived, and they tried to drag us into a drinking contest, but we had more sense and went home instead! Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Don’t need to do it again…

Sunday we set off even earlier, which was just as well. The traffic into Brands was more than slightly horrible, and we ended up having to trek cross-country, down lots of tiny Kentish lanes, some of them only wide enough for a single car in one direction. We eventually got there around 9.30, the trip having taken an hour. This time we didn’t go on the grid, having decided it was too hot to rush back to get to somewhere where we could see. It didn’t seem worth the effort. Instead, we went to the start/finish line suites, having been invited up by Mike Conway’s father. It was lovely and cool up there, and we watched yet another less than scintillating F3 race, before retreating back to the paddock for lunch at Signature. Then we headed for the hills, getting out before the DTM’s finished. There were an awful lot of people there and we didn’t want to get caught up in traffic getting home. As it was, we were home by around 16.30, so we collapsed in the garden for a while, watched the Grand Prix and went to bed early.

 

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