Insanity Pod

I knew it was going to be loud.  I’d been told time and time again how loud it would be.  I watched the videos.  I brought my ear plugs.

I still couldn’t believe it when it happened.

Santa Pod

You *have* to see a top fuel dragster before you die.  They’re surreal.  The lights change.  Hades is unleashed.  And then, four seconds later, they’re a quarter of a mile away doing three hundred miles an hour and the crowd erupts in nervous laughter.

I still can’t quite believe it.  I’ve watched my video back twenty times.  One moment these two spindly little things are on the start line, the next they’ve pinged down the runway like a cat that’s trodden on a red-hot hedgehog.  It’s *impossible*.  Nothing can accelerate that fast.  Certainly nothing with a man in it, that’s being propelled by the *friction of the rear tyres* against the tarmac.  It just cannot be possible.  Let me watch it one more time.  It must be CGI.  I can’t have remembered it right.

And the *noise*.  Holy mother of volcano juice, the NOISE.  I’ve never heard anything like it.  I have ear plugs in and I’m 50 feet away, and STILL it’s physically painful.  Genuinely, I’m not exaggerating, it HURTS.  And it all happens so suddenly.  You know exactly when it’s going to happen because the lights have just changed, but still, EVERY TIME, it still scares the shit out of you because it’s so loud and so sudden.  And the sheer ferocity of the noise completely short-circuits your brain. During those tiny seconds, no other thought is capable of passing through your head.  It’s as if the noise pushes them out.  That’s not what’s happening, is it?

Santa Pod top fuel dragster

Anyway, it’s loud.  You get it.  But I guarantee it’ll still take you by surprise.  And they do THREE HUNDRED miles an hour.  In less time than it takes to say, “which one’s the parachute button again?”  Gobsmacking.

Viper at Santa Pod

Jet car at Santa Pod

Jet car!

B17 bomber flypast

B17 bomber flypast!


Give it a go if you get the chance, Santa Pod is not far from Silverstone and it’s pretty cheap (£25 to entry to the European Finals plus £7 if you want a grandstand seat).  You won’t want to go more than once a year because, after all, it’s just the same quarter-mile over and over again, but it’s definitely something you want to experience once.

Oh, and allow a *LOT* of time to leave.  When I got back to the car I sat in it for half an hour and could still see the same cars in front of me – they’d moved about 30 feet.  So I got out and had a wander around the paddock for an hour or so.  The drag strip had emptied by then (everybody was parked in the exit queue!) so I had a little mosey onto the hallowed tarmac.  It’s so sticky!  Imagine if you spilled honey on your kitchen floor and didn’t clean it up.  It’s like that, but more so.  Your foot makes a squitch noise whenever you haul it off the floor.  Car manufacturers should do their 0-60 timings down here.

Santa Pod drag strip

OldTimer GP

Done with our own track time, it’s the OldTimer GP at the Ring so we’re spectating.  And we learn the hard way that you should *always* take the umbrella when you go into the forest… so, so wet …

Formation lap at Wehrseifen

Peering through the trees at an E-Type at Pif-Paf

Porsche 914 coming out of a dampening Kallenhard

Cobra not entirely ideal in these conditions, you would think

Rainy steam at the top of Ex-Muehle

The white elephant roller coaster on the GP circuit

Cool classics in the paddock

BMW M1 for kids, apparently

If Colin Chapman made BMWs...

A cheeky spot of Veuve-Clicquot in Jaguar hospitality

Norman Dewis - legendary Jaguar engineer for 33 years - at the age of 94

Flaming BASF M1

Ben tries out a Maserati Shamal at the auction

My first ever auction and an ex-Walter Roehrl 911 sells for a million dollars!

There's a somewhat different attitude to drink-driving over here...


F1 2012 – prediction results

Way back in the mists of 2012 before the first race weekend, I was stupid enough to make some predictions on how the season might go… well, it’s time to find out quite how wrong I was… (original post here)


Prediction 1: Vettel will win the championship comfortably.

Result: Well he won it, but I don’t think anyone would say comfortably.


Prediction 2: Webber will win two races but will be beaten in the championship by both McLarens.

Result: Bingo!  Webber did indeed win two races (Monaco and Silverstone) and he was indeed beaten by both McLarens in the championship.


Prediction 3: Hamilton and Button will continue to be roughly equal, until Lewis starts banging another celebrity.

Result: He started banging the same celebrity.  Close enough.


Prediction 4: Ferrari will be rubbish at the start of the year, but Alonso will win 3 races by the end of the season.

Result: Absolutely bang on again – Alonso won at Malaysia, Valencia and Hockenheim.


Prediction 5: Massa won’t win a race and will finish the year lower than sixth.

Result: Spooky so far … Massa didn’t win a race and finished the championship in seventh!


Prediction 6: Mercedes will finally win a race.  I think it’ll be … Rosberg.

Result: OK, I’m getting suspicious now … Rosberg won for Mercedes in China…


Prediction 7: Lotus (last year’s Renault) won’t be quick enough and Raikkonen will get bored, though he will have sparks of brilliance and will qualify in the top 3 once.  Grosjean will cause several accidents and be replaced before the end of the year.

Result: Indeed, Raikkonen qualified only once in the top 3 – 3rd at Spa – though of course he did win in Abu Dhabi.  Grosjean did indeed cause several accidents (and was banned for it at Monza) but he’s been retained by the team for another year.  So about 75% right.


Prediction 8: Paul di Resta for Force India will score a top 5 finish.  Hulkenberg will have bad luck and will end the season well behind di Resta.

Result: Getting shaky now … Hulkenberg actually beat di Resta (11th to 14th), however di Resta did finish 4th in Singapore so half right.


Prediction 9: Sauber won’t make any appreciable progress and will be beaten by Force India and Lotus.  Perez will get poached for 2013.

Result: Sauber did get a few very strong finishes, so they did actually make progress – and they were beaten by Lotus but not Force India.  Perez did indeed get poached for 2013 (to McLaren).  Partly right.


Prediction 10: Bruno Senna will shine in the Williams and kick Maldonado’s arse but the team still won’t score more than 10 points all season.  Maldonado will be retained by the team because of the sponsorship he brings in.

Result: Very wrong – Senna’s been a bit pants and of course Maldonado somehow won in Barcelona which put him one place higher than Senna in the final tally.  Williams ended the season with 76 points.


Prediction 11: At Toro Rosso, Ricciardo will spank Vergne and will take a top 6 finish at one race.

ResultWrong again.  Although it feels like Ricciardo did better, Vergne in fact scored six more points.  And although Ricciardo qualified 6th in Bahrain, he never finished higher than 9th.


Prediction 12: Caterham (last year’s Lotus) will make Q2 on more than one occasion and will genuinely beat both Williams and Sauber several times throughout the year.

Result: Half-right again – Kovalainen made Q2 in Bahrain and Valencia but they didn’t genuinely beat Williams or Sauber.  Wishful thinking on my part, clearly.


Prediction 13: Marussia and HRT will tickle around at the back fighting each other for last place.  They will fall foul of the 107% rule a couple of times.

Result: Right – although they were never actually excluded from running.  Whenever they fell foul of the 107% rule they were allowed to race at the stewards’ discretion.


Prediction 14: Valencia will be booted off the calendar.

Result: Yep, that happened.


Prediction 15: Bernie will screw Sky and give the coverage back to the BBC (though that might be wild mindless optimism on my part).

Result: Mindless optimism it was, sadly.


Prediction 16: Eddie Jordan will confound everybody by becoming EVEN MORE annoying.  I’d love to predict that David Coulthard will tell him to shut the twatting fuck up with his hands firmly around the little fart’s neck, but unfortunately that’ll have to remain a beautiful dream.  However, Eddie will fall over on camera and blame somebody else.

Result: The jury’s still out on whether he’s even more annoying (I say yes) but he genuinely did trip during the qualifying for South Korea and blamed a drain cover – reckon that’s close enough :)


Well, that ended better than I thought to be honest – I’d only remembered the ones that hadn’t come true!  It started so well but then fell apart about half way through.  Well, it’s all a bit of fun isn’t it?

Roll on the 2013 season.

Abu Dhabi F1 – race day

Race day is upon us!  We get a bit of a lie-in today as pickup from the hotel isn’t until after 11.  Much needed after the early starts and jet lag.

We arrive literally just in time for the final V8 supercars race – I mean they were on the grid, it was that close.  Once the orange Vodafone car had polished off its clean sweep with its third win, we nipped out and met Arnie Webb from the Lotus 7 club for a beer and – once again, with everything clicking into place – arrived back at our seats just as the F1 drivers’ parade was hoving into view.  Everything’s just working on this trip, I can’t believe how lucky we are.

F1 drivers' parade

F1 drivers' parade

Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' parade

Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton.


Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg in the drivers' parade

Nico Hulkenberg wonders if he can get away with pushing Fernando Alonso off the rail with all these people watching.


And then, before we know it, it’s race time!  Lewis storms into the lead, Webber defends against Alonso and Grosjean comes together with Rosberg.  Further back, Pic and Kovalainen tangle, letting Timo Glock take the pair of them.  Bringing up the rear of an awful first lap for Force India (with Hulkenberg already in the wall), Paul di Resta loses a tyre:

On lap 2, Lewis goes wide but manages to hang onto the lead:

Lewis Hamilton goes wide at turn 8

Whilst further down the field, Sebastian Vettel clashes with Bruno Senna sending shards of fibreglass everywhere:

Sebastian Vettel and Bruno Senna clash at turn 8

Following, Nico Rosberg picks his way through the debris:

Nico Rosberg picks his way through debris on turn 8

Not wanting to bring out the safety car so soon, marshals take their lives into their hands by running onto a live track to pick up the pieces:

Out of our sight, Rosberg smashed heavily into the back of Narain Karthikeyan’s ailing HRT, taking off and flying over the top of him, bringing out the first safety car.  On the restart, Sebastian Vettel, who had indeed been penalised after qualifying and had started from the pit lane, steams past the HRT of Pedro de la Rosa, closely followed by the recovering Paul di Resta:


Then, oh no!  Lewis’s car drifts to a halt, a gearbox problem robbing him of a surely certain victory!  Tragic for McLaren, but great news for Lotus as Kimi Raikkonen inherits the lead!  He would keep his position through the second safety car period and onto the end of the race, to score his first win since his comeback, and Lotus’s first win (in name at least) since Ayrton Senna’s 1987 win at Detroit.

Here he is on his victory lap.  As he passes, his name scrolls across the Yas Hotel!

Kimi Raikkonen celebrating his first Lotus win

Ah, what a day!  I’m so chuffed to have done this  :)

Right, while everything’s being cleared away, let’s see if we can get a spot of dinner and sneak it into the main grandstand again to see what’s going on in the pit lane.

Interesting cultural difference: when offered a sandwich by a food-stall server, it completely throws them if you ask what is *in* the sandwich.  They genuinely didn’t understand the question.  “Well it’s a sandwich, what more do you need to know?” was the unspoken reply written on their faces.  Here is a whole nation that will never understand the joy of bacon, egg and mustard lovingly hugged by two slabs of wholemeal perfection.  I envy your logistical mastery but you have a lot to learn about the gustatory orgasm.

Though having said that, the vegetable wrap I ended up with was specTACular.  But never mind that – there’s noseying to be done…

Alain Prost in the Lotus garage

Ooo look, there’s Alain Prost in the winning Lotus garage.


Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and Simon Lazenby

Ooo, and isn’t that Damon Hill, with Johnny Herbert?  Yes it is, and that’s Simon Lazenby the Sky guy with them.


Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard

Ah, now we’re talking.  Here are the BBC lot – Jake Humphrey, Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard – recording the “red button” forum.

David Coulthard

and now DC does a piece to camera.  My camera :)

….aaaand now the polite security guy is ushering us away again, giving us just enough time to walk the length of the circuit for the final concert of the weekend.

Eminem at du Arena

I really can’t stand hip-hop, all that dastardly braggardly bigging-up and flicking your fingers like a twat.  You don’t look hard when you do that, you look like a frightened little boy trying to disguise the fact that you’ve just pissed your Spiderman pants.

But despite all that, I have to say Eminem was fantastic.  I don’t know how or why, he just was.  I came away on a floaty high that book-ended the trip beautifully.  And we casually walked onto a courtesy bus and went home.  Painlessly.  As we had done the entire trip.

And then we got back to Heathrow and had a half-hour queue for immigration.  Welcome home :D

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