We arrived at the campsite around 3:30 on the Thursday and set up camp. Once this was done we headed off for a walk, we found the perimeter road around the track. We passed the entrance to the track and wandered all the way around the track to Vale which is about 2/3s of the way before finding a gate stopping as getting further… great. We therefore just sauntered back to the campsite for a BBQ
On Friday morning Paddy and I both work early and so headed to the track, they opened the gates late so we didn’t get in until 6:45 (meant to be 6) and went for a walk the whole way around the track perimeter, it was friggin cool to be there. After our walk I spilled lots of tea on myself taking it from the track to the campsite for part of breakfast. Beth came with us to the track again at about 9am and we set ourselves up at Becketts for first practice. The view was good but the cars were quite a long way away, if you got nearer to the track you saw the cars for less time, so we made do.
After first practice we headed off down Hangar Straight to try and find somewhere else to watch from. It was then we came across the raised banking at Stowe corner and so we watched the other open wheel cars from there for the morning to get an idea of it. It turns out that from here you can see most of the track from Becketts, down Hangar Straight, through Stowe, Vale and Abbey and finally into Bridge. Therefore it gave us the best view of the cars over a lap and we decided this would be our base of operations for the rest of the weekend.
On Friday night we went back to the campsite and had Chilli Con Carne which may have melted the camping stove a little bit… We then went to the site bar for some cider to talk over what we had seen that day. The red bulls looked strong, the Brawns less so good. On the way back we came across a crowd at the onsite hotel. It turns out a lot of the drivers stay there and we got to see Fisichella, Kubica, Kovaleinen, Trulli and Martin Whitmarsh getting back that evening. We also managed to get autographs from the last two. WOO!
On Saturday morning we managed to stay in bed a little bit longer and got to the track around 8pm, we headed straight to Stowe and watched the final F1 practice before qualifying. Beth joined us towards the end of this session. My ears thankfully acclimatised to the noise on Friday morning and so it did not really matter that I lost one of my earplugs during Friday night (our neighbours in a caravan had a tent right next to ours from which they were drinking and singing late into the night… bastards). For qualifying I got my netbook out and it was a great help because we could keep track of what was going on in the noise. Everyone seems to be going fast when they come past you and you can’t hear the track commentary so it was essential really. Vettel did a good job to get pole, he made it look easy and I am sure it was in that car but he is a great driver of the future.
After qualifying with the fan favourites well down the grid Beth left to get some peace and quiet leaving Paddy and I to watch two very good races from GP2 and Formula BMW. There was overtaking and action and both races were exciting. When we got back in the evening we headed for the beer tent for some burgers etc and were treated to the Red Bull matadors who wowed the campsite with their close flying manouevers. After food we went for a little wander before heading back to the campsite, setting our alarms and going to bed.
On a race Sunday the track opens at 5am, Paddy and I got up at 4am, got dressed and joined an already forming queue of people. When we got in at about 5:05 we walked quickly to Stowe which is no mean feat and about 25mins away from our entrance. When we got there we found only room for our three chairs at the front of the raised banking as the rest of it was already full. 5:35 and already a good hundred people on our bank crikey I thought we would be the only mad ones.
By 9am when the Formula BMWs came out again the spectator areas were heaving. The hour leading up to the race was also very exciting with lots of helicopters arriving in the centre of the track and Red Arrows and all sorts of other wonderful things like driver parades and a demo lap from Jackie Stewart in the car he won the race with thirty years ago. The race itself was a bit of a Vettel whitewash but behind him there were battles through the field with the best involving three of the best drivers fighting for 14th place with Alonso and Kubica providing the best battle of the weekend. Other good battles developed as Massa and Rosberg caught Barrichello in the middle stint, they couldn’t pass but they sure pushed him hard. The atmosphere was epic and actually watching a race live is something else. Seeing the cars on Friday and Saturday was nice but seeing them do what they were made for and seeing the drivers working hard throughout the field was impressive. I loved it and would go to every race if I could… oh well.
After the race we were able to go into the centre of the track for the annual Grand Prix party where they get guests on the stage to talk about the racing and formula one in general. This time it was all dominated by the talk of Donnington getting the race next year and of the possible FOTA breakaway series which lets be honest would be much better than one which Bernie and Max have control over. We saw a good mix of drivers and team owners and pundits and they kept the crowd entertained for a couple of hours while the less faithful emptied the car parks. There was also some good music played as well from Eddie Jordan and a Rolling Stones tribute band who weren’t bad.
When we got bored of the tribute band we headed for the track and were pleased to find it was open to wander around. After lots of wandering about, some bad overpriced food and lots of photos we headed back to the campsite and collapsed after what had been a busy day.
Things I now know in hindsight….
- Get a seat at Stowe, it is a great place to watch from. Next time I would likely buy a grandstand seat solely because I then have a guarenteed seat and don’t have to wake up stupidly early…
- Cool bags don’t stay cool if left in a hot car
- Caravans are bloody annoying
- Formula One is great fun to watch
- Event food generally (I do not include race track donuts here) is overexpensive and tastes horrible, so always bring your own food most days. We spent about £80 on food in three days…
- Netbooks are invaluable on qualifying and race days for keeping up with whats going on
- Whittlebury is the only campsite you could ever need for race weekend being a ten minute walk from the track and having drivers on site
All photos can be viewed here
If you want high-res copies email me.