Storm Ciara damages race circuit’s famous ‘Scary Tree’

Storm Ciara Snetterton scary tree

A post on the Snetterton circuit’s website is titled ‘Motorsport in mourning’ after Storm Ciara damaged the famous trackside ‘Scary Tree’.

The Scary Tree was christened as such by motorsport fans and racing drivers, as it looked like a giant person with arms in the air. Some also referred to it as the ‘Victory Tree’, given the arms could be outstretched in celebration. 

Storm Ciara Snetterton scary tree

The reaction to the damage has been widespread, with characters from across motorsport expressing their sadness. The BRDC British Formula 3 Championship called it ‘tremendously sad news for a popular landmark’ on Twitter. W Series racer Alice Powell simply remarked ‘NOOOOOO’.

The tree was suffering somewhat before Storm Ciara blew through on February 9, liberating it of its arms. The circuit’s press release referenced ‘years of poor health’, saying ‘the tree’s once-mighty arms were already beginning to suffer a little before the winds of Storm Ciara brought them crashing down’.

Storm Ciara Snetterton scary tree

Snetterton’s closing statement reads: ‘We approached the tree for comment, but it refused to say anything’.

In all seriousness, it’s never nice for a landmark, to lose a defining feature. In any racing shots, if the Scary Tree could be seen in the background, you knew it was ‘Snetty’. Is it up there with the tragedy of the Notre Dame cathedral? Probably not. But it’s a loss nonetheless. 

W Series 2019 Season Finale Guide

W Series 2019 season finale: ALL the details and how to watch in the UK

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideThe season finale for the all-female W Series single-seater championship takes place this weekend, and is happening here in the UK.

Brands Hatch will host the battle which will see the inaugural W Series champion decided, with a British driver the favourite. 

We have a full guide to everything you need to know about the W Series, what you can expect this weekend, and how to watch it all.

So just what is W Series?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideW Series is the first all-female single-seater motorsport competition in the world. It has been created to promote the best women drivers in motorsport, with the ultimate aim of delivering the first female Formula 1 World Champion. 

Led by Chief Executive Catherine Bond Muir, the W Series also includes ex-Formula 1 driver David Coulthard and legendary design engineer Adrian Newey as board members. 

A substantial $1.5 million prize fund is on offer, whilst the championship itself is free to enter. 

Does motorsport really need an all-female championship in 2019?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideThe organisers of the W Series believe an all-female competition is needed to help fast-track the best women drivers to Formula 1, and that a gender-specific championship is the most effective way to do so. 

Whatever your opinion, what cannot be denied is that female drivers are underrepresented in top-level motorsport. For example, only five women have entered Formula 1 races, since the championship began in 1950. The last female to actually start a Grand Prix was Lella Lombardi – in 1976!

Although other series such as IndyCar and NASCAR have seen more recent, and regular, female entrants there is still a rather clear gender imbalance in motorsport. 

The hope is also that a high-profile competition like the W Series will encourage girls to consider careers in engineering and science subjects linked to racing. 

How were the 2019 W Series drivers chosen?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideMore than 100 drivers applied to enter the 2019 W Series, with these whittled down to 18 by a comprehensive selection process. Unlike other forms of motorsport, personal financial backing has been taken out of the equation. 

54 contenders were invited to an extensive series of on- and-off-track challenges to gain a place. This included tests of driving skills, fitness appraisals, and even psychometric evaluations. 

The overall series winner will collect $500,000, with all other competitors taking home smaller cash prizes to help further their careers. 

What format does the W Series finale take?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideW Series race weekends see the championship supporting certain rounds of the DTM touring car championship. 

Drivers undertake two practice sessions, followed by a qualifying session. Free practice this weekend takes place on Saturday, with sessions at 10:00 and 16:15 BST.

Qualifying happens on Sunday morning at 10:30 BST, followed by the race itself at 15:10 BST.

Like in Formula 1, the top ten finishers each score championship points, with the winner collecting 25 points. 

What cars do they use in W Series?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideAll drivers use equal-spec Tatuus Formula 3 T-318 single-seater racers, featuring a turbocharged 1.8-litre engine and six-speed sequential gearbox.

Slick tyres are used, with cars also featuring adjustable aerodynamic wings and spoilers. Just like in Formula 1, a HALO safety device is fitted over the open cockpit.

Drivers change cars and mechanics for each race weekend, hoping to avoid one driver getting an unfair advantage. 

Who are the British drivers in the 2019 W Series?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideAlthough 13 nationalities are represented in the 2019 W Series, British drivers account for five of the coveted 18 seats. 

Jamie Chadwick was the first female driver to win a British GT Championship, along with the first woman to win a British Formula 3 race.

Esmee Hawkey has raced Porsches in the UK GT Cup, and also competes in the Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain. 

Alice Powell was the first female driver to win a Formula Renault race, and also won the 2014 Asian Formula Renault Championship. 

Undertaking stunt driving duties for the Fast and Furious Live stadium show is just one career highlight for Jessica Hawkins, along with racing in the Mini Challenge UK. 

Yorkshire-based Sarah Moore has already competed in 132 races, and won the 2009 Ginetta Junior Championship – becoming the first woman to do so. 

Who could win the W Series championship this weekend?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideThe title fight comes down to just two contenders. Britain’s Jamie Chadwick currently leads the championship with 98 points, having won two of the five point-scoring races. 

Dutch driver Beitske Visser holds second place in the title hunt, and is 13 points behind Chadwick. 

Providing Chadwick finishes above Visser, the Brit driver will be champion. However, numerous other permutations come into play if the Dutch driver takes the lead, meaning it should be a nail-biting finale!

How can I watch the W Series at Brands Hatch this weekend?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideBrands Hatch is still selling admission tickets for this weekend, which also includes the chance to watch the DTM touring car races. 

Full weekend tickets start from £45 for adults, with teenagers (aged 13-15) paying £27. All children under the age of 13 get free entry. 

For those just wanting to watch the race on Sunday, adult entry costs £30, with teenagers paying £18.

How can I watch the W Series on TV this weekend?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideSecuring free-to-air TV coverage has been key to the W Series, and UK fans can watch Sunday’s race LIVE on Channel 4. Coverage starts at 14:45 BST, with all the buildup the race at 15:10 BST. 

Lee McKenzie acts as lead anchor for Channel 4, with Ted Kravitz undertaking his familiar pit lane reporting.  Commentary is provided by Claire Cottingham, whilst David Coulthard and Allan McNish have acted as co-commentators. 

Numerous other TV broadcasters cover the W Series, whilst live streaming is also offered for areas without broadcast deals.

Will there be a 2020 W Series?

W Series 2019 Season Finale GuideYes indeed. The championship organisers have already confirmed a second season will take place in 2020. All drivers who finish in the top 12 for the 2019 season will be invited back, whilst those below 12th place can enter the selection programme again.

Most significant is that 2020 W Series competitors will be eligible to score FIA Super Licence points. Obtaining a Super Licence is part of the requirements for drivers to race in Formula One. 

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Could motorsport be BANNED in the EU?


The Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) is warning that the wording of an amended European Union directive could result in the banning motorsport inside the EU.

The amendment relates to the Motor Insurance Directive. It determines that all operation of a motorised vehicle has to be covered by a blanket level of unlimited third party liability insurance cover.

The amendment follows a judgement in 2014, where a gentleman named Mr Vnuk in Slovenia went to court regarding an incident when a reversing tractor and trailer knocked him off a ladder.

Given the tractor moving the trailer was being used as a machine rather than a mode of transport that was on the road at the time, it was up for debate as to whether Mr Vnuk could claim on the policy connected to the Tractor. This case raised the question of a base-level EU-wide third party cover. The resultant directive is thus now known as ‘Vnuk’. 

The directive states all cars and indeed all motorised moving machinery should have ‘third party liability insurance policy, valid for all parts of the EU on the basis of a single premium’ and ‘obligatory minimum amounts of cover which such insurance policies must provide’.

Translated, that means whatever you’re driving, wherever you’re driving in the EU, there is a minimum level of cover for that vehicle – even if it’s off the road.

The intention of this seems noble enough. It means you can drive across borders in your car without any questions about your cover. Accident claims should be as cut and dry across European countries as they are within a single country and if there’s an incident off the road, a la Mr Vnuk’s, the cover remains.

So what’s the issue?

The Motorsport Industry Association isn’t suggesting that this directive is directly targeting motorsport. The issue is the difference in the nature of motorsport insurance compared to conventional road user policies.

In short, the MIA warns that there simply aren’t currently any motorsport insurance policies that would comply with how the new regulations are worded… which could result in no cover and, as a result… no racing allowed.

The MIA aims to stop that from happening. How? By campaigning for amendments, and for motorsport businesses to coalesce to put pressure on the EU commission. MEPs and representatives of EU governments are due to vote on the amended directive in December.

The MIA is thus urging all motorsport stakeholders to make noise before that deadline in December. The aim is to push through some level of exemption or a change in wording. Talk of such a change in wording has been ongoing since ‘Vnuk’ came to light over three years ago. 

“This is a genuine, serious threat to all EU motorsport,” said Chris Aylett, MIA’s CEO.

“No one involved in motorsport – companies, employers and organisations can afford to ignore this. A strong clear message, demanding the text be amended, must be sent NOW to MEPs and European governments.

“If the new EU MID is unchanged, the unintended consequence of this legislation would [be the] end of a sport enjoyed by millions, close down tens of thousands of motorsport-related businesses and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, across the EU.

“This sounds unbelievable but unfortunately, it will happen if we fail to act now!”

Read more:

The best motoring events of 2017

The best motoring events of 2017

The best motoring events of 2017

January: a time for planning. And car fans will be pleased to hear there is no shortage of motoring events on the agenda for 2017. Why not grab a brew, your shiny new calendar and join us for a look at what we have to look forward to this year?

Ace Cafe German Night (6 February)

If you’re a car enthusiast and have never been to an event at London’s Ace Cafe, make it your resolution to change that in 2017. The historic transport cafe, located on London’s North Circular, plays host to regular themed evenings. The German Night is a must for Mercedes and BMW enthusiasts.

London Classic Car Show, Excel (23 – 26 February)

If classic cars are more your thing, you don’t have to wait long until the London Classic Car Show, held at the Excel in February. The central Grand Avenue will feature more than 50 classic cars in action every day, while a special display will celebrate 70 years of Ferrari road cars.

Race Retro, Stoneleigh (24 – 26 February)

Those who like to see classic race cars being used as their maker intended should head to Warwickshire for Race Retro. Highlights include an auction of historic cars, interviews with legendary racing drivers and, of course, a live rally stage.

Retro Classics, Stuttgart, Germany (2 – 5 March)

Retro Classics, Stuttgart, Germany (2 - 5 March)

Looking for an excuse to travel further afield? Stuttgart hosts Retro Classics, one of the biggest classic motor shows in the world. There’s something for everyone, say organisers, from exotic Maseratis to motorbikes, and even a timeline of European local buses from 1950 to 1955.

Geneva Motor Show (9 – 19 March)

The Geneva Motor Show is one of the biggest events on our calendar – we attend every year to bring you the latest concept and production cars on display in Switzerland’s second biggest city. But you don’t need to be a journalist to attend the Geneva Motor Show, it opens its doors to the public from 9 March, allowing you to get up close with the latest reveals. It makes for a fantastic road trip.

Ultimate Dubs (12 March)

From Geneva to… Telford. Ultimate Dubs is the UK’s largest indoor VW Group event, catering for modified Volkswagens, Audis, SEATs and Skodas. If slammed VW Golfs and Audi TTs with more attitude than a bored teenager are your thing, Ultimate Dubs is the ultimate place to be in March.

BTCC season launch, Donington (16 March)

Where else can you see names such as Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato hammering souped-up road cars on tracks around the UK? The 2017 British Touring Car Championship kicks off at Donington in March.

Goodwood Members’ Meeting, Goodwood (18 – 19 March)

Goodwood Members’ Meeting, Goodwood (18 - 19 March)

The exclusive Goodwood Members’ Meeting is a weekend of motor racing, enjoyed only by members or a small number of lucky ticket holders. By keeping attendance down, spectators can enjoy motorsport with limited crowds. Alternatively, watch it unfold online.

Brooklands Mini Day (19 March)

Brooklands is a historic venue and always worth a visit – but its special Mini Day in March is unmissable for fans of Britain’s favourite pocket-sized car. Drivers of modern MINIs are welcome too.

Great Escape Cars & Coffee, Redditch (26 March)

The best classic car events can involve little more than getting a gathering of enthusiasts (and their motors), giving them coffee and letting them chat cars. Hire firm Great Escape Cars lets enthusiasts do just that – and donates £1 to charity for every classic that turns up.

Practical Classics Restoration and Classic Car Show, NEC, Birmingham (31 March – 2 April)

The Practical Classics Restoration and Classic Car Show is a relatively new addition to the calendar, but 19,000 enthusiasts headed to the NEC for the show in 2016. This year, it promises more than 800 cars on display – from restored classics to neglected barn finds. Adult tickets start at £16 in advance.

The Fast Show, Santa Pod (2 April)

The Fast Show, Santa Pod (2 April)

If your idea of a car show is a village green full of MGBs and, at a push, a beer tent, The Fast Show at Santa Pod probably isn’t for you. It involves an open ‘run what ya brung’ drag strip sessions, a nightclub in the evening and even dancing girls.

Techno Classica, Essen, Germany (5 – 9 April)

The five-day-long Techno Classica show at Essen, Germany, is a must for British classic car fans who’ve outgrown our own shows. It attracts nearly 200,000 visitors from around the world.

Top Marques, Monaco (20 – 23 April)

The Fast Show this is not. Top Marques is held at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, and allows visitors to get up close to the world’s hottest supercars. Demonstrations take place on the iconic F1 racetrack and, if you’re a serious supercar buyer, you might even be able to take some test drives.

Drive It Day (23 April)

Drive It Day is a nationwide thing, introduced by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) to encourage classic car owners to drive their cars. It’s held in spring every year – giving enthusiasts the perfect opportunity to get their cars on the road after winter. Events are held all over the country, including at Beaulieu, Brooklands and Gaydon.

Auto Italia – Italian Car Day, Brooklands (29 April)

Auto Italia – Italian Car Day, Brooklands (29 April)

Back to Brooklands, these time for Auto Italia’s fabulous Italian Car Day. Visitors in Italian cars – whether it’s a Fiat or Ferrari – get to park in a special area, while fans can enjoy track demonstrations.

Japfest, Silverstone (30 April)

Meanwhile, over at Silverstone, Japanese car nuts can enjoy the enormous Japfest event. Watch drifting demos, take part in club line-ups and even get out on track. There’s even a show and shine for those who like to keep their motors in mint condition.

Truckfest, Peterborough (30 April – 1 May)

And now for something a bit different. For one weekend, the East of England showground becomes the country’s biggest truck park – with more than 2,000 lorries heading along the A1 to take part. You don’t have to be a trucker to attend, with adult visitor tickets starting at £17.50.

National Kit Car Motor Show, Stoneleigh (30 April – 1 May)

If you like your cars to be of the DIY variety, the National Kit Car Show at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire is a must. From have-a-go opportunities to live music and hundreds of trade stands, there’s plenty for the casual fan as well as the serious kit car enthusiast.

London Motor Show (5 – 7 May)

London Motor Show (5 - 7 May)

After a number of years without a motor show in the UK, the London Motor Show returned last year. And it’s back for 2017 – hosted at Battersea Park, with celebrity guests including Jodie Kidd and former Stig Ben Collins likely to put in appearances.

Mille Miglia (18 – 21 May)

The original Mille Miglia race took place between 1927 and 1957, but has been brought back since 1977. The thousand-mile event crosses Italy and is only open to cars made before 1957 that participated in the original race. While most of us aren’t lucky enough to own such a car, it’s worth a trip to see the spectacle of such exotic motors being put through the challenge.

London to Brighton Mini Run (20 – 21 May)

Who doesn’t like a Mini? The London to Brighton Mini Run takes place every year, with 2,100 Minis old and new taking part in the event. At Madeira Drive in Brighton, there’s a line-up of all the entrants, plus a live action arena featuring autotest demos and stunt bike displays.

Worthersee, Austria (24 – 27 May)

If you’re a VW enthusiast and want to travel a little further afield, the Worthersee Volkswagen festival attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year. There’s a manufacturer-backed element – usually a few pimped cars and the occasional special reveal alongside Lake Worthersee – but the whole town is taken over by retro and modified Vee-dubs.

Nurburgring 24-hour, Germany (25 – 28 May)

Nurburgring 24-hour, Germany (25 - 28 May)

Why not combine a trip to Worthersee with a visit to the infamous Nurburgring for its annual 24-hour race? More than 200 cars take part in the event on the 15.5 mile Nordschleife circuit, making it a mesmerising spectacle.

Isle of Man TT (27 May – 9 June)

The Isle of Man TT is a must-visit event for bike fans. It’s been taking place every year since 1907, with star racers such as Guy Martin taking to public roads to test their limits. It’s a thrilling event and well worth the cost of a ferry.

Coventry MotoFest (3 – 4 June)

You can imagine the conversation that led to the inaugural Coventry Motofest taking place in 2014. A group of petrolheads got together and decided it’d be fun, for one weekend a year, to take over the city of Coventry with motoring-related activities. Could they show off the city’s motoring heritage, display classic cars in the centre and even hold demonstrations on the ring road? Turns out, yes they could. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Classic Ford Show, Santa Pod (4 June)

Classic Fords, run what ya brung and DJ Pied Piper… wait, what? Yes, the Classic Ford Show at Santa Pod in June really has it all. Well, if you like old Fords, drag racing and tasteless garage music. Adult tickets cost £18 in advance.

Cholmondeley Power and Speed, Cheshire (9 – 11 June)

Cholmondeley Power and Speed, Cheshire (9 - 11 June)

Dubbed the Goodwood Festival of Speed of the north, Cholmondeley Power and Speed (formerly known as the Pageant of Power) is a three-day motorsport extravaganza. A record 40,000 visitors attended last year.

24 Hours of Le Mans, France (17 – 18 June)

Even if you’re not a big motorsport fan, no one can fail to get caught up in the atmosphere at Le Mans during its annual 24-hour race. Enjoy a ride on the ferris wheel, watch cars hit 200mph on the Mulsanne Straight in the early hours of the morning and find out exactly what a ‘beer mountain’ is. Book campsites well in advance as they do fill up.

MG Live, Silverstone (17 – 18 June)

Think of MG enthusiasts and you might picture a small gathering of classic MGBs at a village car show, but MG Live is a much bigger event than you’d expect. Held at Silverstone, the two-day motoring festival celebrates all that’s great about MG: from historic racing to displays of the latest models.

Bromley Pageant of Motoring (18 June)

With more than 3,000 classic cars in attendance, the annual Bromley Pageant of Motoring claims to be the world’s largest one-day classic car show. Entry is £12.50 in advance, and cars are grouped into special one-make parking areas.

Goodwood Festival of Speed, Goodwood (22 – 25 June)

Goodwood Festival of Speed, Goodwood (22 - 25 June)

In 1993, Lord March hosted a hillclimb in the grounds of Goodwood House in Sussex and created the Festival of Speed. Back then, 25,000 spectators attended – today attendance is capped at 150,000. It’s a brilliant opportunity to see historic race cars driving up the infamous hill climb and the recent addition of the Moving Motor Show even allows visitors to get behind the wheel.

The Supercar Event, Dunsfold (24 – 25 June)

How would you like to take a passenger ride in a supercar on Top Gear’s test track and to raise money for charity at the same time? That’s precisely what The Supercar Event at Dunsfold offers, with owners giving up their time and petrol for nothing. Book ahead for £30 to be guaranteed a ride.

PSCUK’s Peugeot Festival, Prescott Hillclimb (2 July)

The Peugeot Sport Club’s Peugeot Festival, formerly known as Pugfest, has been held at the historic Prescott Hillclimb since 2002. Whether you’re a fan of the legendary 205 GTI or slammed 306s are more your bag, the Peugeot Festival is a must visit for Pug fans. Tickets start at £12 for non-members, and visitors can drive their car up the hill for just £7.

The BMC and Leyland Show, Gaydon (2 July)

The chances of seeing an Austin Allegro or Leyland Sherpa on the roads today are slim, but if your boat is floated by these unloved classics, the BMC and Leyland show is the place to be. It’s held at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon and is open to all British Motor Corporation, British Leyland and Rover Group vehicles.

Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Silverstone (14 – 16 July)

Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Silverstone (14 - 16 July)

Like Le Mans, you don’t need to be a huge motorsport fan to be caught up in the atmosphere of the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Tickets for the main event on Sunday are officially sold out, but you might find some if you shop around.

Classics on the Common, Harpenden (26 July)

It’s the biggest week-day classic car show, with more than 1,000 classics heading to the Hertfordshire town of Harpenden for its annual Classics on the Common event. Starting around lunchtime and running throughout the afternoon and into the evening, the event combines a great atmosphere with an eclectic mix of old and new cars.

Silverstone Classic, Silverstone (28 – 30 July)

Disappointed to have missed out on the Grand Prix? Or just prefer older cars? Don’t miss Silverstone Classic, held on the last weekend of July. It’s more than just classic motor racing: there’s live music, classic car line-ups and even a special retro run on the roads around Silverstone.

CarFest North (28 – 30 July)

CarFest was the mad idea of Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans. He may not have succeeded at Top Gear, but his charity event has been a runaway success since its launch in 2012. Millions of pounds have been raised for Children in Need, with tens of thousands of fans heading to CarFest North’s venue at Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire each year.

CarFest South (25 – 27 August)

CarFest South (25 - 27 August)

For those of us in the south, there’s a second CarFest event held at Laverstoke Park Farm near Basingstoke, Hampshire. Highlights include live action on the hillclimb, as well as live music and even cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs.

Salon Privé, Blenheim Palace (31 August – 2 September)

Salon Privé describes itself as “the UK’s most exclusive automotive garden party”. If rare and exotic Ferraris are your thing, it’s the place to be. Tickets for the supercar show on the Saturday cost £125 plus fees.

Beaulieu International Autojumble (2 – 3 September)

If a giant car boot sale full of automotive paraphernalia is your idea of a good day out, head to Beaulieu for its world-famous autojumble. More than 2,000 stalls will be selling every car-related item you could possibly imagine, and there’ll even be around 200 vehicles offered for sale by private sellers.

Goodwood Revival (8 – 10 September)

Step back in time at the Goodwood Revival. Visitors are encouraged to dress in period clothing (in fact, you’ll stand out if you don’t), while historic race cars recreate the golden era of 50s and 60s motorsport. There’s even a period Tesco store on site.

Frankfurt Motor Show (14 – 24 September)

Frankfurt Motor Show (14 - 24 September)

The Frankfurt and Paris motor shows alternate every year, with 2017 being the turn of Frankfurt to host the world’s car manufacturers in September. If you want to know just how much money German car manufacturers have, head to Frankfurt. Volkswagen Group, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all attempt to outdo each other with the size of their show stands.

Manchester Classic Car Show (16 – 17 September)

The Manchester Classic Car Show lives somewhat in the shadow of its Brummy cousin, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re a classic car nut. From a wide array of classic car clubs to a concours event and even a live rally stage, there’s plenty to keep the family entertained.

Land Rover Owner International Show, Peterborough (16 – 17 September)

Once a year, Peterborough plays host to the Land Rover Owner International Show. Whether you drive a tricked-up Disco or a rare Series One, there’s plenty see for every Land Rover enthusiast. Visitors will even be able to take part in a little light off-roading at the nearby Tixover Grange.

Rally GB, Wales (26 – 29 October)

The penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes place in Wales – and you can get your rallying fix later in the year. While special stages such as Cholmondeley Castle are a good starting point, we suggest being more adventurous and travelling deep into Wales to get closer to the action without the crowds.

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (5 November)

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (5 November)

The annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is an annual celebration of the 1896 Locomotives on Highways Act, which increased the national speed limit to 14mph. Apart from a break for WW2, it’s been held every year since 1927, with more than 400 cars taking part. Our tip? Head into London early to watch the historic cars passing famous landmarks.

NEC Classic Motor Show, Birmingham (10 – 12 November)

The NEC Classic Motor Show is always a brilliant way to end the year. The show takes over five halls and features classic car clubs, exhibitors selling everything from rare parts to old magazines, and even an auction. Book in advance to save money on tickets.

Autosport International 2017

Race, rally and road: the stars of Autosport International 2017

Autosport International 2017The world-famous Autosport International show is held early in January at Birmingham’s NEC. For the motorsport community, it effectively marks the start of work on a new season’s racing or rallying, with many a team choosing to launch its new car at the show.

This year, as part of the Performance Car Show that runs in parallel, there was an added spectacle – a gathering of no fewer than 11 race-spec Ford Sierra RS500s, marking 30 years since this touring car monster roared onto the scene. Motorsport at its finest…

Ford Sierra RS500

Autosport International 2017

The Sierra RS500 was an evolution special – a tuned-up version of the standard Sierra RS Cosworth that incorporated changes such as a bigger turbo and aero kit to enhance its racing abilities. With huge success: racing versions went on to win 40 races back-to-back.

The RS500 is, today, a real collectible, with pristine road-going versions now commanding over £50,000. And the original racing versions on show at Autosport International? For their owners, virtually priceless – particularly as some of the cars’ original drivers visited the show to be reunited with their old racers.

Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes-AMG F1 car

Autosport International 2017

He came, he saw, he conquered, he retired. 2016 F1 champ Nico Rosberg won’t be driving this car in 2017… Could his replacement be at the NEC this weekend, checking it out?

Jaguar Formula E racer

Autosport International 2017

The future of single-seater motorsport is at Autosport International, too. This zero-emissions Jaguar racer is competing in this year’s Formula E championship for electric cars, as part of the British giant’s plans to fast-track future road-going EV technology.

Nigel Mansell’s Williams F1 car

Autosport International 2017

The famous Williams F1 team is 40 years old in 2017. Autosport International marks the start of a year-long series of events, and a fully-interactive stand featuring classics from the team’s past is a highlight of the show. Here’s one of Nigel Mansell’s old Williams, complete with ‘Red 5’ on the nosecone.

Ford Fiesta WRC

Autosport International 2017

WRC rallying has been overhauled for 2017, and the season promises to be the most exciting and dramatic in years. The cars are faster, and they finally look like rallying thrillers once again. This is Ford’s 2017 Fiesta, run by the British M-Sport team. Looks awesome, no?

Rallying Land Rover Freelander

Autosport International 2017

You don’t need a new car to go rallying, though. Indeed, you don’t need a simple car: why not take your old SUV rallying instead? Certainly, there’s a burgeoning series for Land Rover Freelanders, which proves even the most unlikely of machines can be turned into motorsport crowd-pleasers.

Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R BTCC car

Autosport International 2017

BTCC champs Team Dynamics revealed its new 2017 Honda Civic Type R racer at Autosport International. Last year’s car was orange: this year, it seems black is the new orange…

MG ZR racer

Autosport International 2017

And, once again, you don’t need a six-figure budget to go tin-top saloon car racing. As the sign says, you could do a season in this MG hot hatch for around £6,000. By motorsport standards, that’s very cheap indeed.


Autosport International 2017

YouTube star Shmee150 was showing two of his cars at Autosport International – and the Aston Martin Vantage GT8 is a car he’s only just taken delivery of. Even alongside a McLaren 675LT, it was wowing people. Lucky guy…

Abarth 124 Rally

Autosport International 2017

Hot Fiat tuning division Abarth revealed its 124 Rally motorsport special at Autosport International 2017. Producing up to 300hp, it has a six-speed sequential gearbox, a full roll cage and umpteen other modifications to make it eligible for race series all over the world. It looks superb.

Audi UR Quattro

Autosport International 2017

If the 124 Rally looks great, this classic Audi Quattro looks sensational – still. More than three decades on, the car that turned WRC rallying on its head continues to fascinate. It’s the excitement of cars like this that WRC 2017 is hoping to reignite.

Avatar Roadster

Autosport International 2017

Specialist sports car maker Marlin revealed the production-ready version of the car it first showed here last year: the Avatar Roadster. The Ford Focus ST-powered machine produces 250hp for the promise of stunning performance, and there’s talk of a Focus RS-powered version producing a staggering 350hp. Like the look of this new, track-ready British sports car?

Bentley GT3 racer

Autosport International 2017

Bentley is winning in GT3 racing with the big Continental GT3-R. British GT racing grids may be cowering a little at the sight of it in 2017 – it’s a monster, but a very quick one at that.

Liberty Walk Ferrari 458 Italia

Autosport International 2017

If your low-slung Ferrari supercar isn’t quite low enough for you – or indeed, head-turning enough – you’re in luck. Liberty Walk will graft on this unique bodykit and basically lower the entire body almost onto the ground. If a Liberty Walk 458 is good enough for Justin Bieber, then who are we to argue?

Slammed BMW M3

Autosport International 2017

And if you thought the Ferrari was extreme, check out this low-riding BMW E30 M3. The front wheel rim is virtually touching the bodywork, it’s that low! Luckily, the Airlift kit means you can raise it up again so you can actually drive it on the road…

Racing Smart Fortwo

Autosport International 2017

Proving you can race absolutely anything, here’s a track-ready Smart Fortwo. There’s even a championship for the micro-sized city car racers.

Ford Focus RS v Raleigh Burner

Autosport International 2017

We’re not quite sure of the link here, but we like it all the same. Who else had a Raleigh Burner in the 1980s?

Ferrari Dino

Autosport International 2017

It wasn’t just racers and supercars, either. The Coys Autosport International auction is another annual staple, and the entry list this year is as amazing as always. This achingly beautiful Ferrari Dino 246 GT is about as perfect as can be – as you’d expect, given a £250,000-£280,000 guide price.

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

As the motorsport season draws to a close, manufacturers will be thinking about how best to capitalise on their success to sell more cars. Some, however, will be looking to go further, building special editions to show just how good they, or their drivers, are on track.

2015 Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic Petronas Edition

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

With three F1 titles in three years, Mercedes-Benz has a lot to shout about when it comes to motorsport. This was its effort in 2015: an AMG A45 hot hatch, with an F1-inspired silver and turquoise colour scheme. Note the bright green wheel rims. Not one for shy, retiring types.

2014 Mercedes-AMG SL 63 World Championship Collector’s Edition

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Possibly sensing the tension that was to come, in 2014 Mercedes let Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg design their own SL 63 roadsters. Hamilton opted for matte black and gold, while Rosberg favoured luxurious white. Only sold in pairs to specially selected customers, the price for a matching set was more than £500,000.

2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling MossMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Proving that special editions don’t always have to celebrate F1 championship wins, in 2009 Mercedes got extreme with the SLR in honour of Sir Stirling Moss’s Mille Miglia record. Ditching the roof and windscreen created a speedster capable of a – very windy – 217mph. You had to already be an SLR customer to be considered, with just 75 examples produced at £660,000 each.

2014 Caterham Seven Kamui EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

He might not have won races or titles, but Kamui Kobayashi proved to be popular during his time in F1 with Caterham. Helpfully, Japan is a big market for the Caterham Seven, so selling a run of ten Kamui editions should have been fairly easy. There’s only one seat, an anodised green key and a dashboard with Kamui’s name inscribed into it. Power isn’t quite F1-like, though – with just 123hp from a 1.6-litre Ford engine.

2001 Fiat Seicento Sporting Schumacher EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

How do you celebrate Ferrari’s first F1 World Drivers’ Championship in more than 20 years? By sticking the name of your successful driver on the boot of a 54hp city car, of course. While Michael Schumacher may have gone on to become Ferrari’s favourite son, things started out with just 1.1 litres and a top speed of 93mph.

2005 Fiat Stilo Schumacher GP VersionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Things got slightly better for Schumacher in 2005 when, after clinching his fifth title in row the year before, he was rewarded with this. The special ‘GP’ Stilo was produced for the UK, and featured tuning by Prodrive, which added 18-inch alloy wheels, uprated suspension and a stainless steel exhaust system. Power was unchanged, with the 2.4-litre 5-cylinder engine making 170hp – an output slightly more respectable than the Seicento.

2017 Ferrari 488 GTB ‘The Schumacher’Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

As part of Ferrari’s 70th anniversary in 2017, the Italian brand is planning a range of 70 special editions celebrating key models and liveries. Naturally, Michael Schumacher features on Ferrari’s list, and this time his name will grace a range of performance cars befitting his name. This livery is inspired by the F2003-GA F1 car, which Schumacher took to championship victory in 2003.

1993 Renault Clio WilliamsMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

In the early 1990s, Williams-Renault was a dominant force in Formula 1, with Constructors’ titles in 1992, ’93 and ’94. The first-generation Clio was also enjoying success as the 1991 European Car of the Year. Combining the two, and adding a 150hp 2.0-litre engine and gold Speedline wheels, produced an iconic hot hatch. The original 390 cars sold in the UK now attract a cult following.

2005 Renault Megane Renaultsport 225 F1 Team

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

As a contender for the longest name on our list, Renault’s celebration of both 2005 Drivers’ and Constructors’ F1 Championships is a contender. Ultra Blue paintwork, matched with very bold decals and black alloy wheels, made the 225 F1 Team visually impressive. Under the bonnet lurked the same 2.0-litre turbo engine from the regular RS Megane.

2006 Renault Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

In order to celebrate back-to-back title successes, Renault made the name for the 2006 special edition Megane even longer. Along with crazier graphics and a wider choice of colours, Renaultsport also added 5hp and a limited-slip differential. The latter made it popular with those fond of track days – and arguing on internet forums about which Megane is best.

2013 Renault Sport Megane Red Bull Racing RB8Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Ah, how fondly Renault must look back on 2013. As the supplier of the V8 engine in Red Bull Racing’s hugely successful F1 cars, Renault could lay claim to having played a part in four continuous Constructors’ and Drivers’ F1 titles. Enter the Megane RB8, with Twilight Blue paint, Recaro seats and Red Bull logos everywhere. Just don’t mention what happened in 2014, when new F1 engine regulations were introduced…

2013 Infiniti FX50 Sebastian Vettel EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Much like Renault, Sebastian Vettel was riding the crest of a wave in 2013. He was racking up wins on track with consummate ease, thanks to his Red Bull Racing F1 car. For 2013, RBR’s title sponsor was Infiniti – somewhat confusing when Renault was the engine supplier. Matte white paintwork, an F1-inspired bodykit and a 420hp 5.0-litre V8 made for a tenuous motorsport link when applied to luxury SUV. A retail price of more than £100,000 in the UK meant you really had to be a Vettel fan to want one.

2015 McLaren P1 Alain Prost EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Alain Prost courts controversy amongst F1 fans, due to his infamous rivalry with Ayrton Senna. Created for the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the McLaren P1 Prost Edition featured a unique red, white and blue livery, based on the Frenchman’s helmet design. Prost won three F1 titles with the Woking-based team, garnering the attention of the McLaren Special Operations outfit.

1989 BMW E30 M3 Cecotto and Ravaglia EditionsMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Proving that special editions don’t always have to be F1-themed, BMW went to town with the success of the E30 M3 in touring car racing. Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto took many of those victories, so was honoured with a limited edition version of the M3 road car. The UK market received an even rarer version, named after Italian driver Roberto Ravaglia, who had claimed four championships with the M3.

1991 BMW E34 M5 Cecotto and Winkelhock EditionsMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Johnny Cecotto proved to be a lucrative marketing device for BMW as, in 1991, his name was also added to a special version of the E34 M5. Cecotto picked his own colour combinations and interior trim for a limited-run super saloon. Joachim Winkelhock, winner of the 1990 and ’91 Nürburgring 24 Hours for BMW, also got to specify his dream lightweight M5, with reduced sound deadening and Recaro seats.

2016 BMW M4 DTM Champion EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Proving that BMW is still keen to use motorsport to sell cars, Marco Wittman’s victory in the 2016 DTM series gave the firm a chance to bust out the stickers again. Although you might not have heard of Wittman, this DTM special is a actually a thinly disguised version of the sold-out M4 GTS. With 500hp and a giant rear wing, you probably won’t care about explaining who your car is meant to be honouring.

2013 Audi A5 DTM Champion Edition

Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

The DTM series has a track record for inspiring celebratory limited editions. Back in 2013, Audi used Mike Rockenfeller’s championship win to produce 300 special examples of the A5. Sadly, there was no thumping race-car-derived V8 underneath the bonnet, but a 2.0-litre diesel instead. It didn’t come to the UK, but we’re not too sad about that…

2007 Citroen C2 by LoebMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

When a height-adjustable driver’s seat counts as a feature in a press release, expectations are correspondingly low. Yet, that was a key feature for Citroen’s special edition of the C2 supermini in hour of Sebastien Loeb’s four WRC titles from 2003 to 2006. A choice of red or black paintwork, and the option of a SensoDrive robotised manual gearbox were as good as it got for the C2 by Loeb.

2007 Citroen C4 by LoebMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

While Loeb would use a Citroen C4 in his (successful) assault on the 2007 World Rally Championship, the road car was not a flame-spitting replica. Nope, there’s no 4WD or big turbo engine to be found here. A 180hp 2.0-litre 16v petrol was the quickest engine on offer, but then we’re pretty sure Loeb’s work machine didn’t come with a leather-trimmed armrest or cruise control as standard. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Before Sebastien Loeb there was Tommi Makinen, a Finn who dominated rallying with four WRC championships for Mitsubishi between 1996 and 1999. Thankfully, the Lancer Evo was a genuine rally replica, so the addition of a bespoke bodykit, uprated turbocharger and lowered suspension only made it even quicker and cooler.

1995 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000 Series McRaeMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Subaru produced many special motorsport editions of the first-generation Impreza, but the Series McRae cars from 1995 are particularly special. In honour of the late Colin McRae’s impressive rallying ability, 200 cars received Rally Blue paint with gold 16-inch Speedline alloy wheels. Recaro seats and an individually numbered plaque completed the transformation.

2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI WR1Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Norwegian Petter Solberg took the 2003 WRC title fight down to the wire, and emerged victorious over that pesky Sebastien Loeb by one point. To say well done, Subaru produced 1,000 examples of the WRX STI in a special Ice Blue colour scheme. With power increased to 320hp, plus lowered suspension springs provided by Prodrive, the WR1 had bark to match its visual bite.

2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STI RB320Motorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Richard Burns is the only Englishman to be a World Rally Champion, and he did it with Subaru in 2001. Tragically, he died from a brain tumour in 2005 at the age of only 32. To commemorate his championship victory and WRC legacy, Subaru built the RB320, which was available only in Obsidian Black. The first car produced was auctioned, with proceeds going to the Richard Burns Foundation.

2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Dale Earnhardt Signature EditionMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Dale Earnhardt was a giant of NASCAR racing, taking seven Winston Cup titles and earning the nickname of ‘The Intimidator’ for his aggressive driving style. This made his death, in a final-lap accident during the 2001 Daytona 500, even more shocking to the NASCAR community. In his memory, 3,333 Monte Carlo SS models, featuring a colour scheme based on his iconic NASCAR racer, were built. Today they prove to be desirable collectors’ items for stock car fans.

1994 Ducati 916 Senna and 2014 Ducati 1199 Panigale S SennaMotorsport special editions: win on Sunday, sell on Monday

Ayrton Senna is revered as being one of the most talented drivers to grace the F1 stage. His tragic death in 1994 created a shockwave through the sport and beyond. Senna had signed off on a special edition Ducati 916 shortly before his untimely death, with production completed in his honour. Twenty years later, Ducati recreated a Senna version of the 1199 superbike, with proceeds from the sale of the 161 examples being donated to the Senna Foundation.

Silverstone classic racers

Jaguar Land Rover is not going to buy Silverstone

Silverstone classic racersJaguar Land Rover (JLR) has announced it has ended negotiations to buy the Silverstone circuit from the British Racing Driver’s Club (BRDC).

The two organisations have been in discussions since spring 2016 about a deal that would see JLR either buy or lease the racetrack, which is home to the British Grand Prix.

But they have now ended, reports Reuters, quoting a spokesperson from Jaguar Land Rover.

2016 Silverstone Classic: in pictures

Jaguar Land Rover to sue Chinese copycat ‘Evoque’ manufacturer

JLR rejects driverless cars label

“Jaguar Land Rover has ended discussions with the British Racing Drivers’ Club for the foreseeable future and is not proceeding with any plans to either lease or purchase Silverstone at this time.”

JLR was said to have been planning to develop a heritage centre at Silverstone, to house some of its extensive classic car collection. Dynamic driving events would also have been an option, similar to those run by Porsche at its own Silverstone experience centre.

Insiders previously suggested it was this Porsche facility that was one of the sticking points in agreeing any deal. The German sports car maker’s contract apparently states no other manufacturer could use the circuit for more than 45 days a year.

The collapse in the JLR deal will be a blow for the BRDC. Silverstone is in need of further investment and the track’s losses are believed to be mounting.

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

We race in the MINI Challenge: live blog

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racerThe MINI Challenge is one of Britain’s most popular one-make series, that has grown and grown in recent years. There are more than 60 cars in the championship – and the weekend, we’re racing one of them.

The series has four classes, and we’ve jumped straight into the top-line MINI JCW class. A 255hp 2.0-litre turbo racer with sequential gearbox, slick tyres, a wealth of telemetry and umpteen other tech delights.

It can genuinely claim to be a mini BTCC touring car.

Find out how we get on over the weekend… latest updates come first!


1010h – weather update/2
You can watch MINI Challenge racing on Channel 4. Its presenter, Andy Jaye, is worried…

1000h – weather update
It dawned misty. It’s still a pea-souper. And, as the clocks have gone back, it gets dark at 1630h. Which will make today… interesting.

Weather update: still misty. No racing yet, alas! @miniuk

A photo posted by richard aucock (@richardaucock) on

0945h – team-mates

0915h – food check

But what do @miniuk Challenge race drivers and their teams eat, you ask? Answer…

A photo posted by richard aucock (@richardaucock) on

0900h – car check

Early morning alignment check. @miniuk

A photo posted by richard aucock (@richardaucock) on

0830h – weather check

Saturday race 1

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

I headed into race 1 with no confidence after having it ruined by qualifying. One step forward, etc. For hours, I’d been anxious, unsettled, annoyed, embarrassed, the full kaleidoscope of emotions. I’d come here to find out just what it was like to be a racing driver. I was certainly finding that out.

Half an hour before the race, the team pushed the cars down into the assembly area the the bottom of the pitlane. It was sunny and, as I walked behind, I remembered I’d forgotten my sunglasses. So I’d have to face all the stares at the amateur in the guest car without the security of my shade shield. Bizarrely, I was also wondering what I’d forgotten. Helmet, gloves, balaclava… what else do you need to go racing?

Ah, a radio. Which team manager Oli had. All MINI Challenge drivers are wired into race control so they can tell them off from the control tower. Belted, helmeted and settled into the car for the start, I hoped the one and only time I heard them would be for the radio check.

Race time. First, assemble on the grid. Then do a green flag lap to desperately get some heat into the brakes and tyres (I weaved furiously as I didn’t want a repeat of qualifying), then find your spot on the grid. I was row 13. Please, be lucky.

The red light flashed on in the distance (I could just see it past the massive aero wing of the car in front), so I followed Oli’s instructions: 4,000rpm and, when it goes green, feed in the clutch smartly but not with a bang, short-shift to second with the clutch, be relatively sensitive on the throttle, then you’re good to go. I got away OK. They bustled a bit in front, but I wasn’t last, and I made it through the first corner with just a dab of drama – nothing like the full-on sideways stuff of the car in front.

Behind me, thanks to a somewhat controversial protest in qualifying, was BTCC driver Jeff Smith. Blimey. He had a 10-second penalty and was clearly a man on the mission. He was soon with our gaggle of three cars, and I wasn’t going to get into his way going into the fiddly quick stuff. The crowd, and the marshall with the blue flag, had come to see him, not me, so I dived out his way. I was now at the back. This could only go one way.

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

But, sitting in my Audi earlier, having a quiet 20 minutes’ think, this is exactly what I’d aimed for. Qualifying was such a setback, I needed a confidence boost. Finishing the race with not a single moment with the car, with consistent lap times and a feel for it, was exactly what I wanted to do. So I bedded down.

By the end, I was delighted. I didn’t pass the cars in front, but I was catching them. I was running similar lap times and, as the results later showed, I wasn’t the slowest guy on the grid. I was up to pace; I had the pace to run on the MINI JCW grid, of sorts. And again, I knew where I could go quicker. I just didn’t want to get too cocky that time out because confidence matters so much. And there were still two races to go the next day.

In the pits, sweaty helmet off, race engineer (and multi-talented entrepreneur) John was there waiting for me. “Well done.” That meant a lot. Others took the glory but I was pleased myself, for different reasons. I’d learnt a bit more about what it’s like to be a racing driver and, while it’s still impossibly hard, it seemed a bit less insurmountable than this time yesterday.

One of the best bits was when team-mate James Turkington came up, cheery as ever, to find out how I’d got on. He’d had a good race but was keener to hear about me. The pleased smile said it all. I was back where I was at the start of the day. Hopefully tomorrow I could make progress again…

Saturday qualifying

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

Qualifying was horrible. All the good feeling I had from testing, gone in an instant. What was so incredibly frustrating was the fact I knew all this. Kinda knew what I was doing wrong. Yet still over-drove and did it all. Blame the pressure. Because I wasn’t expecting it, it overwhelmed me and put me back to square one.

Prominent in my mind was the fact qualifying is only 20 minutes. No problem if you’re a Lewis Hamilton, but a bit of an issue if you’re a bloke off the street. I put in my fastest lap deep into the session yesterday, once I had confidence withe car. To do this from the off was another matter entirely.

And so came the first spin, when I tried to reenact the heroics I felt yesterday through Hamilton. One 360. Later on, I tried to go flat into the Bombhole. Cue another 360. It wasn’t going well: that was 20% of my laps gone. I instead stepped back, confidence shattered. The aim was simply to post a lap time, whatever it was. I almost did it clean too, with just the one hot lock-up into the final corner.

Trouble was, behind me, unbeknown to me in my panic, was my team-mate for the weekend, Charlie Butler-Henderson. Reigning champ and in the hunt for the championship himself. Into the first corner, he was right on me, which was a panic-riddled stress (by this stage, I didn’t actually know it was him). I stayed on my line and fluffed letting him past into the second corner. He understandably wasn’t happy. Neither was I.

I ended up two seconds slower than yesterday. Any progression I’d made, eradicated. This wasn’t part of the gameplan. I should be two seconds up, not two seconds behind. I’d gone into the session knowing where to make up the time, and ending up losing it all hand over fist. I can’t describe how brassed off with myself I was.

Motor racing is cruel. It leaves you standing against the barrier, alone, at the end of qualifying, trying not to hide from everyone, as you screwed up so you shouldn’t rush off and go underground. Take the helmet off, let everyone see you, suck it up. It was the most gruesome half an hour I can remember, with a million thoughts rushing through my head and a frustrated sense of powerlessness at what I considered idiocy. It was all on track and going so well before I got in the car. What happened?

Feel for the drivers who screw up. You don’t know what they’re thinking, but believe me, it’s horrible.

Prologue – Friday testing

Motoring Research races a MINI Challenge racer

The MINI Challenge JCW car is a mini BTCC car. Yeah, right, you might think. Believe me, though, it is. The slick tyres, the turbo engines, the low centre of gravity, the sequential gearboxes: if you want to know what a touring car is like to drive, drive a MINI Challenge JCW car.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to one of my team-mates for the weekend, Rob Smith. He’s fresh from testing a BTCC Chevrolet, with one eye on a season in 2017 (yes, he’s that good). Verdict? It took him five laps to get up to speed in the BTCC car, after racing MINIs so hard all year. So much is similar, the sensations are familiar. The biggest thing he had to get his head around were the monster brakes BTCC cars run.

Me, I don’t quite have Rob’s experience. I turned up at 8am on Friday morning at a bright and blissful Snetterton without a clue what to expect. My remit was, as a bloke who had a race licence by dint of the fact he’d done three race weekends in 12 years, and nothing since 2013, ask himself how hard can it be anyway. Like you, I shout at the TV and mutter under my breath when watching motor racing. OK then, smartarse, someone gave me the chance to ask myself, let’s see how you get on.

From road to race in one weekend. And this is why the first session of practice was so horrific.

For starters, I didn’t know the car. That’s what testing’s for, you may say. Yup, but I didn’t know the track, either. Something else that was kinda important was me not knowing how to be a racing driver. Jeez, I’m the guy who gets 30mpg from Bentley Bentaygas. What I was about to do was quite a few stages removed from mooching down the M1, no matter how hazily I remember that Britcar race from eons ago in a Mazda MX-5.

So I went out and it was like learning to drive all over again. You know when you feel quite astoundingly clumsy, clueless and out of your depth? That. I went into it, naively, in road car mode, and within a couple of laps, felt like I was sat in the Mastermind chair being asked about a specialist subject about which I had not a clue.

The first impressions were electrifying. This is a stripped-out 255hp turbo MINI. It’s blindingly fast. With no heat in the front tyres, too fast for the grip available. The gearbox needs a positive action. The rear end is angry and all too ready to kick you if it senses you don’t know what you’re doing. Steering, immediate and wired. Oh, and it’s loud, and the gearbox whines, and the diff whines, and it’s hot, and every sense is assaulted. Bang! It was like being chucked out of an aircraft holding a parachute with no instructions on how to use it.

I clumsily drove around, Tried to stay out everyone’s way. Went off. Went off again. Had moments I’d be delighted with in a car, with the full-on dab-of-oppo action, but which gnarled me no end here because I was making no damnned progress. Simply flustering with what line to take, what gear to be in, when to choose my moment to jump out of the way of the hand behind me.

It defined deep end stuff. Think you can drive? Think you can tell Matt Neal a thing or two, because you’re quite tidy across the Evo Triangle? You won’t know what’s hit you. I was you in that first session and trust me, it’s horrible. You feel like the amateur you are and simply want to skulk off, ashamed, at anything you’ve ever said about any racing driver ever. They were all doing magic on the circuit while I was getting in their way being a liability.

But here’s the interesting bit. For the first time, I had data. I was driving terribly but at the end of the session, I could find out just how terribly I was driving and compare it with a professional who wasn’t terrible. How intriguing…

Josh drilled down immediately what was going on. I didn’t have enough confidence. Brakes were all over the place, throttle was tentative in the extreme, gears were guesswork, the lot. 20 minutes later, I had a set of instructions. Brake later, and harder. Be more positive on the accelerator. Try these gears. Have fun.

I did all that, and after second practice, ended up five seconds a lap faster that I was previously. Blimey.

And so it continued. I started becoming a lot happier in the car. I was more consistent. I was still seconds off the pace of the quick guys, but it was edging down to getting up with some of the others – more importantly, I knew where I was losing time. Just, frustratingly, didn’t yet have the confidence in the car to make it up.

If I were a racing driver, this would come a lot quicker. But I’m not. So it would have to be an analytical step-by-step process, one where I try to understand it all, rather than just dive in and try to scrabble some speed out of nowhere. Which is why I left the circuit for my night in a Travelodge relatively happy with my first-ever day’s testing as a racing driver.

BMW at Le Mans in 1999

BMW is going back to Le Mans

BMW at Le Mans in 1999BMW has announced it is returning to the FIA World Sportscar Championship in 2018 with a new GTE racer to take on Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin and Porsche.

The news means BMW will return to the Le Mans 24 Hours race for the first time in several years and is something the firm is “particularly looking forward to”.

BMW will be hoping to repeat its success in 1999, its first and only win as a constructor – despite entering the race regularly since the 1930s. Its legendary M1 racers from the early 1980s were particular highlights, while the 1970s 3.0 CSL and 3.5 CSL are cult racing cars today.

The 2018 car won’t be a full-on LMP1 racer to take on the title-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid and previous all-conquering Audi R18 e-trons, though: instead, it will compete in the booming GTE class which this year has welcomed the attention-grabbing (and Le Mans 24 Hours-winning) Ford GT racer.

Racing experts are already speculating a racing version of the next-generation BMW M5 or M6 is the likely new car that will mark BMW’s return to FIA WEC GT racing; the firm currently races the BMW M6 GT2 in the United States.

“The way the WEC has developed so well makes us confident that the re is a big future for GT racing,” said BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt.

BMW confirms new motorsport strategy

The Le Mans announcement came as BMW revealed its new motorsport strategy, which will see the brand compete in:

  • DTM German touring cars
  • FIA World Endurance Championship
  • U.S. IMSA SporsCar Championship
  • FIA Formula E
  • GT3 and GT4 sportscars
  • Dakar Rally (with MINI)

The Formula E announcement is particularly significant – BMW is to team up with Michel Andretti’s Formula E team, “in order to familiarise itself with processes in this innovative series, and to check the possibility of a works involvement in the future”.

This adds further kudos to the fledgling all-electric single-seater racing series, which has recently been buoyed by the official launch of Jaguar’s new official works Formula E racer.

There is, however, no news of any involvement in Formula 1. BMW withdrew from F1 seven years ago and shows little desire to go back there. Instead, it is focusing on a broad, diversified motorsport strategy that includes BMW M, BMW and MINI, all branded under a new BMW Group Motorsport division.

Jaguar I-Type

The racing cat is back: Jaguar I-Type Formula E racer launched

Jaguar I-TypeJaguar has revealed its first-ever Formula E single-seater racing car – and it’s calling it the I-Type.

The new EV racer was launched next to the huge Jaguar Land Rover R&D centre at Gaydon, whose 9,000 engineers Jaguar promises are going to be heavily involved in the development and tech transfer of the new Formula E racing car.

Jaguar hopes to fast-track breakthroughs for future electric road cars by pushing the tech to its limits on the racetrack first – just like the firm’s founder Sir William Lyons used to do.

Japanese tech giant Panasonic is to be involved here too, announced Jaguar Racing: indeed, as title partner for the race team, it means the official title for Jaguar’s racing return operation is Panasonic Jaguar Racing.

The two already have branding for their racing development programme: Race To Innovate, which will “use the championship as a platform to develop the next generation of electric powered racing cars”.

Panasonic executive officer Mike Nagayasu attended the Jaguar I-Type launch and said this was a strategic partnership between the two firms: “We will provide the support and resources to achieve top results in Formula E.”

The firm has watched the first two seasons of Formula E with interest, he added, and now “wants to build on Panasonic’s legacy in motorsport”. The company was previously the title sponsor of the now-defunct Toyota Formula 1 team and is also closely involved in NASCAR racing.

But first, there’s the small matter of a racing series debut to make – and Jaguar doesn’t have long: the 2016/17 Formula E season starts early next month in Hong Kong!

Hence the big launch and reveal of the car’s name today; Jaguar’s also been testing the I-Type 1 at Donington in preparation for the first race on 9 October.

Jaguar I-Type

The driver line-up is Northern Irishman Adam Carroll and New Zealander Mitch Evans, with China’s Ho-Pin Tung as reserve driver.

Hopes for the start of the season are being kept in check and the team is under no illusions, said team manager James Barclay. “Expectations are in check but I can assure you we will be racing hard from the start of the season.”

How long before Jaguar wins again in a global FIA motorsport series, then?

Watch: Jaguar I-Type Formula E racer launched