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Episode 31

A complete novice? Or a seasoned pro? What racing experience does the writer of the #RacingGrind blogs actually possess?

My Racing History

A complete novice? Or a seasoned pro? What racing experience does the writer of the #RacingGrind blogs actually possess?

This week’s instalment isn’t going to be particularly long, but I think it’s important to provide a bit of backstory behind my motivation to both write this blog and actually to go racing. Therefore, this article is just going to spell out my previous history in motorsport.

Excluding a couple of one-off visits to the karting track for friends’ birthday parties etc as a kid, my racing journey actually starts really quite late. I was in Year 10 at school – and so around 15 – when I was looking through the list of potential ‘skills’ I could learn as part of my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award, and it was at this point when I spotted go-karting. I pitched the idea to my parents, fully expecting them to tell me to find something less expensive, yet they actually agreed.

Therefore, for a period of three months, I had to visit my local karting circuit every week. Yeah, it really was a chore! In this time, I went from being the slowest in every session to being right up there with the quickest.

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Once the ‘forced’ participation ended, I had well and truly caught the bug, and so I would often go karting regularly (although not quite weekly), and I entered one or two competitions, but nothing serious. More specifically, I competed in two editions of the national competition that has now become the British Indoor Karting Championship, and I was also part of my school’s team that made it to the Regional finals of the British School’s Karting Championship. These were very much one-off events though, as neither myself nor my parents were willing to fork out on a ‘proper’ karting campaign.

The first – and so far, only – formal motorsport competition I have taken part in occurred during the 2018-19 academic year, which was the year I spent at university. When exploring the list of sports clubs that Loughborough University offered, I noticed a Kart club. Naturally, I enquired, and signed up to their non-championship taster event, which was a 30-minute qualifying, 60-minute race for teams of three drivers. I managed to find a couple of people living in the same hall of residence that were also taking part – one of which had narrowly lost out on winning the intra-university championship the previous year – and we entered as a team.

Race day came around, and we decided that I would take the last 5 minutes of qualifying, before the first 25 minutes in the race. So, I hop in, not expecting to improve on the time my more experienced teammate had set just before me, yet I managed to qualify our kart fourth of thirty with my final lap. Taking the grid start then, I hugely overcook my braking point at the first big braking zone, and finish the corner stationary and facing the wrong way. Not an ideal start, but I make up some of the lost ground, and end my stint in ninth. Somehow, we managed to complete the last-to-first challenge, and take the lead in the last few minutes and win the race.

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The main take away from that event, though, was my promising pace. Whilst I was nowhere near the pace of the top top guys – with some being former British Karting Champions, one being a former World Karting Champion, and one driver racing in the 2020 British F3 – I showed good promise and had the fastest lap in our team. Therefore, the natural progression was to compete in the full, six-round intra-university championship.

Fast forward about six months, and I ended the season with second place in the (non-BUKC-driver’s) championship, having been tied for the lead before having an abysmal final round at a treacherously wet Whilton Mill. A trio of consecutive fourth-placed overall finishes had put me in good stead, with my rate of improvement meaning I was on the pace of the very best drivers after just three rounds. That one year taught me a lot about my racing, and actually showed me just how good I can be as a racing driver, as I had never visited any of the circuits used in that championship before, yet I was still fighting at the front of the pack in the races.

After a further 12 months of just enjoying some semi-regular karting, and now four months of not sitting in one, my racing story meets us at the present day. I feel that this mix of racing experience mixed with a complete lack of knowledge of the wider motorsport world will really provide you readers with an interesting viewpoint, as it really shows that, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not a seasoned professional, and so any success my #RacingGrind may bring me should be realistically attainable even for people who have never raced themselves.

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At least, this sense of attainability is what I wish to portray in my experiences, and why, looking back in a few years, the progression should have the potential to be matched or even exceeded by someone who feels inspired by my journey.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 30

This time last year was my first live experience of the Formula One circus. One year on, how was I fortunate enough to go, and how to I remember the experience?

My First Formula One Experience:

One Year On

This time last year was my first live experience of the Formula One circus. One year on, how was I fortunate enough to go, and how to I remember the experience?

This time last year I came into a bit of luck, and was able to attend the British Grand Prix for the full weekend. Fast forward 12 months, and in a week we’re about to have the first of a pair of Formula One races at the same venue, yet not a single spectator will be allowed. Because of the stark contrast, I thought I’d recount my experience from a year ago, of my first time attending a live Formula One race.

To set the scene, it should probably be noted that I was not intending to attend the event, and only obtained the tickets on the Thursday of the race week. It all started on the Tuesday of the weekend, when the McLaren F1 Team ran a competition on their Instagram account. They posed the question of “Why should we give you a pair of tickets to this weekend’s Grand Prix?” Naturally, I submitted a response of “I’ve never been to an F1 race before,” as there was no harm in trying, and watching a Grand Prix from the stands was certainly something I had wanted to do at some point in my life.

I didn’t give the competition a second thought, however, until I was at work the next day, and I received a direct message from McLaren. They had picked me to send the pair of tickets to! Naturally, I was ecstatic, and immediately asked my father if he wished to accompany me, to which he replied with a resounding yes.

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Moving on to the Thursday, and our package arrived in the post. Not only had we received a pair of tickets, but they were full weekend tickets for the exclusive McLaren Grandstand at the Maggotts, Becketts & Chapel complex. Included with our prize were McLaren drawstring bags, papaya caps and t-shirts (although they were a little large, coming in at XXL), and a couple of other small goodies. Knowing we’d be staying for the full three days, however, meant we needed somewhere to stay.

Having booked a slot at one of the local campsites, a shopping trip for supplies – including a tent – followed, and having packed my little Renault Clio with anything we could think of needing, we headed up to Northamptonshire on the Friday morning.

To spare you all the details, from here on in I think I’ll just concentrate on what really stayed with me from the experience. Firstly, I really don’t like camping. Now don’t get me wrong, the campsite was close enough to the track that we could hear the screaming exhausts of whatever was running, and we were ironically yet purely coincidentally situated right next to a big party of McLaren employees, who were all extremely friendly and actually prepared a full Hog Roast on the Saturday, yet the notion of sleeping outside under just a bit of tarpaulin (or whatever tents are made of) doesn’t quite sit right with me. A much cosier alternative, however, was to sleep in the relative quiet and warmth of my car! All I had to do was recline the passenger seat as far as it went, and it was nearly perfect.

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In terms of actual on-track action, though, and there were a couple of F1-specific things I noticed, and a couple of general race weekend things I liked. To start with, the McLaren Grandstand seats were incredible. If you haven’t had the pleasure of sitting in front of Becketts yourself, then let me tell you that I don’t think any other seats enable you to see as much of the circuit as they do. Your line of sight starts at the exit of turn 1, encapsulating the whole of the new village section and down the Wellington Straight, before picking up the action once more at Maggotts, and following the cars all the way to the entrance of Stowe. By my reckoning, that’s pretty much half the circuit, all from one seat.

In terms of the F1 cars themselves, I was really surprised at the volume of noise generated as they ride over the kerbs. To be honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting before I heard the vibrations, but the sound must be filtered out for TV audiences, because it was really intense in person. The other thing that surprised me was the audible differences in engine note, particularly with the Honda. On TV the cars all largely sound the same, yet the tones of the exhausts are much clearer first hand. The Honda, for example, made a remarkable raspy sound when off the throttle, almost as if the car was misfiring, which isn’t portrayed on the other side of a screen, whereas the other engines were all much smoother.

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When it came to the general event entertainment, I was also really impressed by the sheer number of things to do whilst there wasn’t any on-track action. Of course, there were clusters of merchandise stores and food vans dotted around the perimeter roads, but there was also a fan zone with a multitude of activities, which we barely even explored. And after the racing had ended? There were live concerts on both Friday and Saturday night, headlined by Craig David.

The Grand Prix weekend was also the first time I had actively watched the Grand Prix support races. The Porsche Supercup cars struck me as too powerful and not grippy enough, as the drivers – including multiple Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy – seemed to be constantly wrestling with their chassis to keep it in the right direction. Whilst they didn’t seem massively quick, they certainly did portray a sense of drama.

The FIA Formula 3 cars, though, were very much underwhelming. The cars all seemed very safe, whilst simultaneously being excruciatingly loud, and as a result didn’t give the viewer much excitement as most of the time not much was happening. Stepping up to the Formula 2 cars, though, was a big improvement. The engine note certainly helped, but the main aspect was that you could once again see the drivers fighting their cars. Many ran wide onto the grass at the exit of Becketts for starters, whilst the drama-filled sprint race which saw British-Korean Jack Aitken hunt down and overtake Deletraz for the win was awesome to watch from the stands.

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The F1 race itself saw drama with Vettel and Verstappen colliding, whilst the tussle between the leading Mercs was superlative, with the pair running side by side for a large portion of one lap in particular, but the weekend was topped off by the opportunity to walk the track once the race was over. We strolled the wrong way around, starting at the old pits and ending at the new, whilst also sneaking through a gate in the fencing in order to sneak up to the paddock entrance and grab some snaps of a few famous faces.

All in all, an extremely memorable experience to which I am still especially grateful to McLaren for gifting me the opportunity. My first experience of Formula One in person was epic, and it’s certainly on my wish list to return soon, although I don’t think I’d be able to settle for something like the General Admission tickets, as there’d be no way they’d live up to this experience.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Race Watch 10

The third race of the Formula One season sees the first change of venue. With the new circuit challenges, which teams will be happier after Hungary than Austria?

Formula One:

Hungarian Grand Prix

The third race of the Formula One season sees the first change of venue. With the new circuit challenges, which teams will be happier after Hungary than Austria?

Welcome to Race Watch, a supplementary feature running alongside my blog designed for me to project any opinions that may have arisen from the motorsport events I viewed over the previous weekend.

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After the season-opening double header at Austria, the F1 circus was, for the first time this season, back on the road. With a distance of just 265 miles, the road trip from Spielberg to Budapest is certainly not the most arduous for a Formula One paddock, and the teams would have been glad to be able to ease back into their duties, relatively speaking.

A change of venue therefore meant a change of track layout, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges for the cars. As a result, we are now much more able to judge the overall performance of each team, as opposed to data from purely one layout, which would have undoubtedly favoured some cars over others. So, considering the most interesting part of the Hungarian Grand Prix occurred before the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, let’s instead look at which teams would have been happy with their pace this weekend, and which ones won’t be.

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Starting with the front of the grid, and it’s safe to say that the 2020 Mercedes is very much in a class of its own. The Hungaroring has historically suited Red Bull due to the circuit characteristics favouring a good chassis and high levels of downforce more so than pure engine power, and yet in qualifying the nearest opponent to the German marque was using its own machinery from last year.

Granted, as we come on to Red Bull themselves, they did have a bit of a shocker on Saturday. It seems increasingly likely that the Bull has a bit of a design flaw with its turn in, as changing the steering lock looks to be causing instability in the rear, hence their habit of spins. Whilst they’re streets clear of the rest of the field in terms of car performance, the distinct gap to the Silver (Black) Arrows puts them in a bit of a limbo situation.

Two teams that would have been happy with their pace showings this weekend will be Racing Point and Ferrari. Personally, my driver of the day was Lance Stroll, as he won the ‘best of the rest’ race at a canter. In race trim, he didn’t put a foot wrong, and quite rightly deserved his fifth place. For Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel’s sixth after a 5-6 in qualifying would probably be considered a pleasing weekend overall, especially in relation to last weekend. Charles Leclerc was a little unlucky with a poor tyre strategy hanging him out to dry a little, but he showed good fight whilst battling with Sainz in particular.

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For McLaren, just the two points from the weekend will be a stark return to reality after an outstanding first two races of the season. A double-Q3 showing once again ratified the underlying pace of the car, however the pitstop melee left the two drivers further down the field on a circuit with few overtaking spots. As mentioned previously, Sainz’s move on Leclerc for (what was at the time) the final points position showed astounding driving skill from the pair, whilst the soon-to-be-trademarked Last Lap Lando struck again, albeit his move on Ocon’s Renault was for an effectively meaningless thirteenth place.

Renault themselves had a fairly unremarkable race. Ricciardo quietly accumulated another points finish, whilst Ocon hasn’t quite yet found the pace of his teammate. A similar story is emerging from the Alpha Tauri team, as Pierre Gasly has comfortably held the performance advantage over Daniil Kvyat, although reliability issues have hindered the Frenchman from gaining the points to back that statement up.

Finally, to the rear of the grid. Seemingly, Haas pulled a strategy masterstroke by pulling their cars into the pits after the formation lap, with the team running both cars in the top five at one point. Naturally they were going to slip down the field, but Magnussen’s ninth on the road was encouraging. The post-race penalty dropped him down the tenth, but it’s still a point for the Dane. Alfa Romeo were understated this weekend. A poor qualifying left both drivers at the back of the grid, and a fairly non-eventful race occurred from there.

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Williams, however, had a stunner of a Saturday. Both cars into Q2, and Russell outqualifying a Red Bull is a fantastic achievement for the Grove outfit. On the flip side, the Williams race pace is not quite so encouraging. Both cars gradually slipped down the field, and Latifi ended up five laps down at the end having gained a puncture from an unsafe pit stop release, and a spin due to getting onto the grass on the entry to the turn 5 hairpin.

With a well-earned week off before everyone heads to Silverstone, the teams will be able to mull over their starts to the season. Who do you think will be best pleased after the first three races, and who do you expect to bring upgrade packages to Silverstone in two weeks? Let me know in the comments below.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 29

Being able to watch live motorsport once again has reminded me just how much I love it. But that got me thinking. What made me fall in love with it in the first place?

Why I Love Motorsport:

Rallycross

Being able to watch live motorsport once again has reminded me just how much I love it. But that got me thinking. What made me fall in love with it in the first place?

The recent return of motorsport to our TV screens has once again reminded me exactly why I’m writing this blog. I love motorsport. Being able to immerse myself in a sport I’m passionate about, be it through reading the gossip and journalism from the preceding days, donning my bright orange cap for the duration of the weekend, watching and listening to the television coverage, and finally sharing my own thoughts and opinions via the #RaceWatch series, it got me thinking: what exactly is it that I love about this sport?

Now, in itself, this question is complex. After all, ‘motorsport’ is an extremely broad spectrum that encompasses all sorts of vehicles and disciplines. Therefore, lets focus on the specific competitions that I closely follow, starting with rallycross.

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Rallycross, for those who don’t know, is pretty much a mix of circuit racing with stage rally racing. It’s quite complex to explain exactly what goes on, but I’ll give it my best shot, using the premier FIA World Rallycross series as an example. The cars are pretty ridiculous, with 600bhp from just a 2-litre engine, four-wheel drive, and are capable of sprinting from 0-60mph in around two seconds, all whilst wrapped in the chassis of your run-of-the-mill hatchback.

These fire-spitting, anti-lagging machines race on short, challenging circuits made from a combination of tarmac and dirt/gravel, with lap times at most venues around 50 seconds. Races are short but sweet, with four qualifying sessions consisting of 4-lap, 5-car heats, all vying for the fastest aggregate times, followed by 6-lap semi-finals and finals. Alongside this, rallycross houses extra variables such as the drag race to the first corner and the slower, longer joker lap that each driver is required to take once per race.

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With that in mind, what exactly is it about this spectacle that makes me so enthused? Primarily, it comes down to the closeness of the racing. Rallycross cars are fundamentally overpowered, and have very little aerodynamics. When combined, this means the cars are able to run extremely close to each other for pretty much the whole race and, as such, any little driver error is punished. What’s more, with such little aero effect coming from the bodywork, the drivers don’t especially care too much for the outermost panels. The old mantra of ‘rubbing is racing’ is very much applicable here.

The variable track surface also exaggerates the sense of drama from these machines. With rough gravel and dirt on offer, alongside big jumps to handle, cars have to be set up with quite soft suspension, resulting in very apparent pitching and diving from the chassis under heavy acceleration and braking. Combine this with the low grip and high power creating big, dusty powerslides round the bends, and you’re met with an incredible display of car control from the drivers.

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Another aspect of the FIA World Rallycross that initially drew me in related to the calibre of teams and drivers in the series. Whilst many of the big names have since pulled out, I was stumbling across a series with factory outfits from VW, Peugeot and Audi, with big names such as Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Mattias Ekstrom all within a few inches of each other on track. In short, this was a series full of big teams, hosting some of the best drivers, and creating some of the closest, most enthralling racing there was. It got me hooked within minutes.

Currently, despite a manufacturer exodus at the end of 2018, the series still creates incredible entertainment. Experienced rallycross drivers such as Andreas Bakkerud, Timmy Hansen and Liam Doran are to be reunited with double World Champion Johan Kristoffersson in 2020, returning with his VW Polo R after his brief spell in the World Touring Car Championship. Last year’s Drivers Championship was the closest of any FIA Championship in the world in 2019, with Sweden’s Timmy Hansen finishing just a single point ahead of Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud after an extremely controversial final in which the two drivers collided whilst fighting for the lead.

In short, the closest championship of the year came from a series involving 600bhp, four-wheel drive hatchbacks drifting, bumping and jumping over mixed-surface circuits. When put that way, rallycross sounds like an absolute riot. And it doesn’t disappoint!

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Race Watch 9

Two races in two weeks! Aren’t we spoilt! Nothing will be able to match the chaos of last week’s events, though, right? After all, this is Styria, not Austria!

Formula One:

Styrian Grand Prix

Two races in two weeks! Aren’t we spoilt! Nothing will be able to match the chaos of last week’s events, though, right? After all, this is Styria, not Austria!

SO, WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED AND WHAT DID I THINK OF IT?
MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THESE TOPICS?
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW AND LET’S GET A DISCUSSION GOING!

Welcome to Race Watch, a supplementary feature running alongside my blog designed for me to project any opinions that may have arisen from the motorsport events I viewed over the previous weekend.

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It seems as though Grands Prix (Prixs, Prixes, Pris?) in Austria conform to the old adage of London buses, doesn’t it? You wait for months for one to come along, and then you’re greeted with two back to back! Right, now that cliché’s in the open (someone had to make it, I’m taking one for the team), did the second Formula One race of the season give us any more of a representative idea of this years’ pecking order than last week? What were the main talking points from this weekend, and what did I personally make of them? More importantly, what were your thoughts? Do you agree with me, or do you think something different? Let me know in the comments below!

Now, unlike last week, I’m going to kick off this edition of Race Watch with qualifying. After all, what an experience that was, with the grid well and truly mixed up. Despite being widely regarded as running the third fastest car, the Racing Point drivers clearly hadn’t gotten round to copying the 2019 Mercedes’ wet setup yet. A disappointing qualifying for the soon-to-be Aston Martin team yielded starting positions of just 13th and 17th, with Sergio Perez very nearly being outqualified by both Williams cars!

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That being said, George Russell very much proved the underlying pace and talent he possesses, with a remarkable session that culminated with a 12th place grid slot for Sunday. Williams claim that the car had the potential to make it into Q3, but I’m sure that they were just fine having to ‘make do’ with a first Q2 outing since 2018. Unfortunately, his trip into the gravel early on in the race whilst fighting with Kevin Magnussen dropped him back down to the rear of the field, meaning we were unable to see just how long he could’ve stuck with the pack.

The final topic from Qualifying I wish to touch on is the sheer dominance of Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap. Now admittedly the 1.2 second gap to Verstappen wasn’t wholly accurate as the dutchman was due to match Lewis’ provisional pole time before he decided to Tokyo Drift the final corner, but even if the Red Bull had finished that lap, Hamilton showed he had another four tenths in the bag. One twitter user jokingly claimed that the lap was so special the Briton might be Jesus and, to be honest, that connection he had with the water did seem unworldly…

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Now then, onto the race proper. Sunday’s action was very much an ‘average’ Formula One race, rather than the absolute thriller of last weekend – although none of us really expected that to be topped so soon, right? Not to say this race was boring, however. Not at all.

To kick off proceedings we had on Ferrari flying over the yellow curb at turn 3 on the first lap, right into the rear wing of the other. A second race-ending collision between the pair in four races (because Brazil last year was somehow just 4 races ago!) certainly won’t help the downbeat morale of the red team, although Charles Leclerc’s immediate apology did at least negate any potential teammate squabbles in the paddock. There’s not really much personal opinion to add here, Vettel had nowhere to go and so you can’t attribute any blame towards him for the collision.

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Other than the Russell excursion into the gravel, there wasn’t much more on-track action to be had until the closing stages of the race, really. The running order switched about a bit as the Racing Point’s found their strong underlying pace from Friday, whilst a poor pitstop for Sainz dropped him out of contention for the ‘best of the rest’ win. Once Bottas and Verstappen locked horns for a lap and a half over second place, however, all hell broke loose.

Sergio Perez, having steadily progressed from near enough the back of the grid, had caught Alex Albon, and proceeded to attempt a Hamilton-esque manoeuvre to punt pass the Thai driver through turn 4. Alas, the Mexican didn’t have enough overlap to succeed, and only managed to break his own front wing. With the incident occurring on the penultimate lap, however, and with such a big gap to the group behind, the team left him out to safely secure fifth place.

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Meanwhile, Lance Stroll attempted the divebomb of the decade (considering we’re only two races in) on Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, forcing the Aussie off the track whilst barely keeping himself within the white lines. This enabled Lando Norris, who had spent the last 10 or so laps creeping up on the pair, to pounce. Seizing the opportunity to power past Ricciardo, Stroll’s weaving meant Norris had to delay his attack on the Canadian until the final tour. His DRS-assisted pass on Stroll coming into turn 4 meant the McLaren driver had moved from eighth to sixth in effectively one lap, but he wasn’t done yet.

Perez’s limping vehicle was lapping considerably slower than the chasing McLaren-Racing Point-Renault group, so much so that they caught him in the final two turns. Norris got past the moving chicane just before the final corner in order to secure fifth, whilst Perez, Stroll and Danny Ric had a three-wide drag race to the line.

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With just a tenth and a half separating the trio after 71 laps, this provided a fitting culmination to a hugely successful two weeks of racing at the Red Bull Ring, with zero positive COVID-19 results from over 10,000 tests across the two weeks. The next test for F1 now, though, is whether that can be replicated whilst also moving the entire circus to a different country in just a few days.

The last thing I want to write about, is my personal driver of the day. Now this is a left-field choice, however I’ve chosen to give it to the operator of the three trophy boxes. Rumour has it they were operated by remote-control car, and so the driver had a thankless task to complete such a high-pressure role with so little practice, and thoroughly deserves recognition.

With that being said, it’s off to Hungary for next week. A track that, historically at least, doesn’t produce the most enticing racing, but something is still better than nothing, and I’ll still be writing all about it.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 28

Two very different drivetrain configurations requiring two very different driving styles, but which one should you choose to race with?

Choosing Your Racing Car:

Front-Wheel Drive vs Rear-Wheel Drive

Two very different drivetrain configurations requiring two very different driving styles, but which one should you choose to race with?

Front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive? That is very much the question. Which drivetrain configuration should you choose for your racing car? Now, I’m certainly not going to be making arguments for which is best, as that is a whole can of worms that I don’t want to approach, let alone open. No, I’m just going to be sat here, on the fence, presenting arguments for why you may choose to go racing with one rather than the other.

Now, the crux of the choice comes down to where you want to go racing, as if your goal is to race in a series that uses predominantly front-wheel drive machines – such as the British Touring Car Championship – it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend your preceding years learning how to master the driving style needed for rear-wheel drive vehicles. After all, they operate in vastly different manners, and it’s virtually impossible to jump out of one, into the other, and still be on the pace.

So, which should you choose to compete with? I’ll be answering this question in the following paragraphs.

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Rear-Wheel Drive

First up, it’s the ‘traditional’ racing configuration. Now, learning your racing craft in rear-wheel drive machinery makes a lot of sense, as I would say the vast majority of professional motorsports utilise rear-wheel drive cars.

For example, Formula 1, F2, F3 & F4 (or any single seater, for that matter), IMSA and LMP- prototypes are rear-driven (although some hybrid systems drive the front wheels, and let’s just ignore that LMP1 Nissan for a moment), as well as DTM/SuperGT and GT3/GT4/GT5 cars. All of these cars are powered by their rear wheels, so if your end goal is to turn professional, I would suggest hopping in to such a car.

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Now, if your goal is to race in single seaters, the general consensus is to start your racing journey in karts, before graduating to Formula 4, Formula Renault or something similar. However, if you want to experience the thrill of single-seaters in a slightly more budget-friendly manner, F1000 and Formula Ford 1600 are your best bets.

Sports car racing, o the other hand, is much more accepting – not least because ‘Gentleman Drivers’ are allowed to compete all the way up to Le Mans. There are many professional sportscar series to compete in, too, such as the GT World Challenge series (formerly Blancpain GT). GT World Challenge allows GT3 and GT4 entrants, and have series worldwide, although the highest profile series in GTWC Europe. If you like shipping your sportscar all around the world, there is the Intercontinental GT series, that hosts events on circuits such as Australia’s Mount Panorama and South Africa’s Kyalami. On a more local scale, there is the British GT Championship, too.

Due to the larger pool of elite sportscar racing, there’s also more avenues of entry. Ginetta’s and Caterham’s are both great cars to learn your skills in, with the in-house Ginetta motorsport ladder culminating in a one-make GT4 series, putting you on-par (vehicle performance wise) with some of those competing in the big leagues.

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Front-Wheel Drive

Now onto the configuration for those who despise front tyres, front-wheel drive. Now, in terms of grassroots motorsport, front-wheel drive series are aplenty, with racing series derived from little hatchbacks popping up left, right and centre. For example, the EnduroKA series, the Citroen C1 Racing Club, and the BRSCC Fiesta Championship are all massively popular, and for good reason. Small, low powered hatchbacks are cheap to buy, have cheap parts, and rarely go fast enough to cause any serious damage to anyone or anything in a crash.

If you’re wishing to move into a more competitive environment, the MINI Challenge represents an extremely challenging championship at all levels, with grids full of fierce, talented drivers. In fact, the standards are so high, some British Touring Car Championship drivers have competed at one point or another, such as Rob Collard and Matt Neal.

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Now, speaking of the BTCC, can you guess which series in the UK is the most high-profile to use front-driven cars? You guessed it. Of the nine constructors competing in the 2020 BTCC, seven of them run front-wheel drive cars, with just BMW and Infiniti breaking the mould. On a more global scale, the WTCR championship also makes use of the compact, front wheel drive machinery. However, on the whole, opportunities at the top level in this car configuration are significantly less forthcoming.

So, to take away, if you’re aiming to progress up the motorsport ladder in your racing career, your best choice is to become one with a rear-driven vehicle. If you’re out for some cheap, fun, not-too-serious track time, find a front-wheel drive hatchback. My personal choice? I’m looking to drive a rear-wheel drive car, but that’s purely down to personal preference, and that’s the most important aspect. If you’re having fun whilst driving, you’ve made the right choice.

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Race Watch 8

F1 is back, and so is the drama. Here’s my ‘alternative’ view on all the big talking points from the Austrian GP

Formula One

Austrian Grand Prix

F1 is back, and so is the drama. Here’s my ‘alternative’ view on all the big talking points from the Austrian GP

SO, WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED AND WHAT DID I THINK OF IT?
MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THESE TOPICS?
LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW AND LET’S GET A DISCUSSION GOING!

Welcome to Race Watch, a supplementary feature running alongside my blog designed for me to project any opinions that may have arisen from the motorsport events I viewed over the previous weekend.

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Considering the sheer number of changes that were necessary in order to bring the spectacle of Formula One to life in the current world we live in, and despite a chaotic race that will certainly be remembered for a long time, very little actually changed when it came to on-track performance. Considering this is being published many hours after the race has finished, this won’t be a traditional ‘review’ of what happened during the Austrian Grand Prix. No, instead this is about my own observational analysis of what happened. This is the return of my #RaceWatch series…

So, after an 8 month lay-off, the F1 season finally kicked off in Austral-, sorry, no, it was Austria. Despite such a long break, however, many of Formula One’s idiosyncrasies remained. In fact, it almost felt as if someone was playing bingo with F1’s running jokes. Not entirely sure what I’m talking about? Here’s the bingo card:

Race Watch 8: Formula One Austrian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo breaking down:

Since his run to third in the Driver’s Championship in 2016, the sheer number of retirements that the ever-smiling Aussie has had is remarkable. Six non-finishes in 2017, eight in 2018 and a further four (five if you count the Japanese DQ) last year ranks as the most unclassified finishes by any driver on the grid over the last three years, and this weekend was no different. Overheating issues on this occasion meant a premature end after 17 laps for Ricciardo, who must be wishing away the days before he gets to jump into next year’s McLaren.

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Race Watch 8: Formula One Austrian Grand Prix

Romain Grosjean crashing on his own:

Fresh from his midweek comments claiming Lewis Hamilton’s reported $40m wages are ‘unacceptable’ and calling for a wage cap, the Swiss-born Frenchman once again subjected himself to an unforced error, after seemingly driving into the gravel after the exit of turn 4, sending his Haas into a pirouette. A driver who has proven in the past to be extremely quick, having 10 podium finishes to his name, it seems that as each season progresses more and more mistakes creep into his driving. Speaking of which…

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Race Watch 8: Formula One Austrian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel spins:

A four-time world champion, the third most successful Ferrari driver of all time (in terms of race wins), and yet a man without a contract for 2021. Based on this weekend, you’d have a hard time explaining why Ferrari have made the wrong choice. Outpaced by both his teammate and the man replacing him all weekend, failed to make Q3 for the first time in his Ferrari career (when no external circumstances have been at play), and another unforced error that resulted in a spin. Unfortunately, it’s all going wrong for the German. At least he finished in the points, mind.

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Race Watch 8: Formula One Austrian Grand Prix

Haas having a shocker:

In all fairness, this weekend wasn’t totally horrendous for Guenther Steiner’s team. They weren’t both knocked out in Q1, after Grosjean managed to qualify 15th, and the drivers didn’t take each other out. Unfortunately, that’s about where the positives end. Comfortably the eighth fastest team, and a double DNF due to AWOL brakes meant another sub-par weekend for the American outfit.

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Race Watch 8: Formula One Austrian Grand Prix

Hamilton refusing to let Albon past:

Admittedly, whilst I personally am ecstatic about Norris’ podium, which came as a direct result of Hamilton’s penalty for spinning Albon into the turn 4 gravel, the penalty does seem a little harsh on the reigning World Champion. After all, looking back at the incident, Hamilton had full lock on his wheel and neither was he pressing the fast pedal, meaning that he physically couldn’t turn any more than he did. That being said, you can’t blame the Red Bull driver for the incident either. Alex was in front of Lewis, and was right on the edge of the circuit. In all honesty, this was pretty much the definition of a racing incident. Considering how much his pace seemed to have improved this weekend, Albon will certainly get his maiden podium soon. That wait will just have to continue for at least another week, though.

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Right then, what other talking points were there? Too many for me to go into depth, so to round up, here’s my ‘Single Sentence Summaries:’

Ferrari Engines: Not an ideal scenario when all three Ferrari-powered teams are more than half a second slower than their qualifying times at the same track last year.

Williams (I’m splitting this one into three parts): Big steps forward from last year are promising.

George Russell: Nearly making Q2 was very impressive, would almost certainly have scored his first points had he not broken down.

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Rookie Of The Year: Nicholas Latifi in the box seat for this award, with the qualifying deficit to his teammate suggesting he’s already showing equal pace to Robert Kubica, and an eleventh place finish.

Pink Mercs: Considering all of the pre-season hype, being outqualified by McLaren and just a sixth place out of eleven finishers is a poor weekend for Racing Point.

Lando Norris: After qualifying fourth on genuine pace and finishing with a maiden podium, the youngest driver on the grid could very easily finish the season as best of the rest in the Championship, assuming he’s able to perform consistently. Easily the best weekend he’s had in his albeit short F1 career to date.

Well, after that race I’m actually a little worried the Formula One season may have peaked too soon. There’s only one way to find out, though. The Austrian Grand Prix Pt 2 is the same time next week, and my stupid remarks will follow!

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Episode 27

Sure, circuit racing is the most common, most popular form of motorsport, but what’s out there if you want to do something different?

What If You Don’t Want To Drive In Circles?

Sure, circuit racing is the most common, most popular form of motorsport, but what’s out there if you want to do something different?

In the first six months of this blog, I’ve pretty much exclusively spoken about circuit racing. However, circuit racing is just one of many different classes of motorsport, and whilst I certainly have the intention of competing on track alongside my competitors, some of you reading this blog may not share the same interest.

With that in mind, how do other categories of motorsport compare in availability and price? Is traditional circuit racing really the best way for me to go, or should I be striving to race in rallycross, hill climb or rally? Let’s find out.

First up, it’s the class of motorsport I’d certainly choose as my personal second choice: it’s Rallycross.

27. What If You Don't Want to Drive in Circles?
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From my research, it seems that the entry point into rallycross is the Swift Rallycross Championship. Using cars based on 2006-2010 Suzuki Swift Sports, the cars use standard engines (albeit with spec ECUs), standard gearboxes and standard brakes, meaning the cars are cost effective to prepare and run, whilst also using controlled tyres, limited to six per round. The Swift championship also boasts the largest grids on the British Rallycross scene, meaning healthy levels of competition.

In terms of pricing, membership cost is £100 for the season, whilst entry costs £380-£450 for each event. Considering there were originally nine planned rounds in 2020, meaning the total season costs would have been £3,520. Pretty cheap, I would say. On the flip side, however, stand the travel costs. The main problem with rallycross stems from the fact there aren’t many facilities for it. Therefore, the venues for the 2020 British Rallycross are Lydden Hill in Kent, Pembrey in South Wales, Mondello Park in County Kildare, Ireland and Knockhill in Fife, Scotland. Not exactly on each other’s doorsteps, are they?

With the exception of the travelling costs, then, I’d say the Swift Rallycross Championship makes for a good introduction to the Rallycross discipline, especially considering the race organisers offer an arrive-and-drive package if you want a taster, or just can’t justify owning your own car.

27. What If You Don't Want to Drive in Circles?
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Next up, Hill Climb. Immediately, hill climb seems to be the most inclusive form of motorsport I’ve researched so far. For starters, hill climb events occur up and down the country, and the class structure of competitions means you can enter in pretty much any vehicle you wish, even the one you turn up in. Many hill climb events are one-offs, too, meaning you could enter as many or as few events as you please, and the only costs would be the initial entry fee into your hill climb club, and each subsequent event.

Based on this, I’d very much class hill climb as a much more relaxed form of motorsport. For sure, it could get extremely competitive, for example in the headline British Hill Climb Championship, but the grassroots elements seem much less formal.

Finally, let’s have a look at entry level Rallying competitions. For clarity, I’m going to be referring to Stage Rallying, rather than Road Rallies. More specifically still, the BTRDA Rally Championship.

27. What If You Don't Want to Drive in Circles?
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The 2020 BTRDA Rally Series was due to include seven events, mostly around the Lake District and North Wales, whilst also featuring other areas in the North of England. Within the BTRDA are many sub-championships involving a myriad of classes, meaning a vast spectrum of machinery can enter. Whilst I haven’t been able to find specific event entry costs due to the cancellation of all 2020 rallies, the pricing for membership works out at £80 for drivers and £50 for co-drivers, which I personally see as quite reasonable.

Due to the abundance of classes, there’s also ample opportunity for silverware, which is always aids motivation, especially when you’re just starting out in motorsport. Therefore, whilst geographically I don’t live in the best location to join this series myself, I’m sure it’s a great opportunity for someone who lives further north than I do.

There we go then, proof that circuit racing isn’t the only option for motorsport and, depending on where you live, there’s even some pretty strong arguments to say that it may not even be the best option for motorsport either. Certainly, I may have to look into running a one-off Swift Rallycross event at Lydden Hill if the situation allows, because it’s a class of motorsport I’ve always enjoyed watching, and something I would undoubtedly enjoy, even if I am terrible!

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Episode 26

What do racing drivers really do, after all they must do something other than just driving all day, right?

Racing Drivers – More Than Just Driving

What do racing drivers really do, after all they must do something other than just driving all day, right?

The majority of people, when asked about the job role of a racing driver, will assume all that a racer has to do is fling a car around the circuit as quickly as possible, collect their paycheque, and leave.  Well, we all know what happens when you assume…

Contrary to said belief, the modern racing driver needs to be able to perform in many different aspects to be a true asset to both their team and sponsors. From technical feedback, to media relations, to interactions with the crowd, to a positive, engaging social media outlook, there are many, many subsidiary aspects to a racing driver’s job. But what exactly makes a good driver personality? Let’s have a look at what, other than outright speed, is desirable in a modern-day driver.

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First and foremost, any team will be looking for someone that has the ability to improve the car. After all, a slow car is a slow car, and won’t challenge for victories even if its pilot is the quickest in the field. If, however, a race team has the option of a second driver that, whilst only 90% as quick, has the technical ability to improve the car during testing and effectively set the car up on race day, that’s who the seat is going to. From a team perspective, drivers are disposable, so whilst a quick driver may be a good short-term solution, an improvement in the car will see a longer-lasting change of fortunes.

Next up, you’ve got to bring the funds in, so you’ve got to be a perfect match for your sponsors. Now, there’s quite a few different ways you can appease those who assist your racing career, from slapping their stickers on your motor through to full-on brand ambassadorial roles, but the absolute key is to be excited by their product. So far, in my own quest to go racing in 2021, I’ve been approaching companies where I myself have been a consistent customer, as I feel like I can empathise with the brand, and therefore market it well.

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All too often we see people of influence posing for a picture with random tat they’ve never seen before, and it’s simple for the public to see straight through. Therefore, it’s vital to be able to prove to sponsors you can genuinely help them out. This doesn’t just have to be a sticker on the car and a social media shoutout too, it could be things like public speaking on their behalf, or anything you can think of really!

So, once you’re in the sponsors’ good books, it’s time to win over the media. Depending on the status of your race series, this will mean one of two things. If you’re in a small, grassroots championship, an ability to weave your achievements into the press will give you an unrivalled affinity within the paddock, whereas if you’re partaking in a more widespread series where the press is actively following you, it’s imperative you’re staying on it’s good side.

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Whilst in some industries the term “any publicity is good publicity” most certainly applies, motor racing is not one of them. Just ask Daniel Abt, for example. He thought it would be a good idea to “publicise” the skills of a professional e-sports driver when Abt himself should have been driving, yet those exact actions cost him his job. Admittedly the consequences may have been exaggerated because Audi and the rest of the VW Group are trying to get away from the whole “cheat” association, but still.

At the beating heart of motor racing sit these automakers, and if you do something to infuriate them, you will be thrown out the door at a moments’ notice. There are thousands of racing drivers, meaning you’re very much disposable. If you get on the bad side of the media, you’ll have a tough time trying to land a new ride.

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Finally, there’s your own, personal social media. Having a strong social media following can help prove to both teams and sponsors that you’re very much a well-liked personality. The way you build your following matters to a much lesser extent, as whether you do it through an entertaining personality or by making the most of your appearance won’t affect too much, as either way it proves to potential employers you can build a loyal, engaged fan base, which is a valuable trait to have.

Of course, there’s a common aspect to most of the points I’ve listed above, and that’s being a nice, likeable person. Generally, in life, if you’re nice to people, it pays off in the long run, and when it comes to motor racing the rewards might just be that bit better still.

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Episode 25

On my quest to find affordable yet competitive racing, I’m evaluating a variety of championships to see which would be best for me. This week, we look at Ginetta

Ginetta G40 GRDC – The Perfect Entry To Motorsport?

On my quest to find affordable yet competitive racing, I’m evaluating a variety of championships to see which would be best for me. This week, we look at Ginetta

A while back now, I wrote an article about what I’m looking for when it comes to the race series I choose to enter in 2021 (you can read it here to refresh your mind). Now, I rounded off that article by stating I’d be reviewing certain race series throughout the year, in order to see which one best fit my criteria. Yet, nearly five months later, the only series I have studied so far is the Club100 karting series, and technically that doesn’t even count! Therefore, it’s time to look at Ginetta G40’s.

The GInetta G40 GRDC championship is an all-inclusive package which offers you the option to buy a G40 race car and a fully-supported 4-weekend, 12-race championship, for a single lump cost of £36,000 +VAT – so £42,000. Now, if you go back and read the original criteria, I said the absolute maximum budget of mine would be around the £45k mark, so on first thought this looks like a good start for the G40, but then if I factor in all the supplementary costs such as tyres and fuel, transportation et al, I would guess that the total cost would be closer to £50,000. Therefore, it’s a tentative no for now…

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The other primary criterium was the profile of the series. Now, on this one, Ginetta have smashed it out of the park. Firstly, all rounds of the GRDC take place as support races for the British GT championship, meaning good crowds (with the exception of this year). This also means televised coverage of the series, thus exposing my blog to a large new audience. Big tick in this department.

Another aspect that Ginetta really excel in relates to their handling of sponsors. Considering that, as hosts of the series and therefore not directly linked to any of the driver’s sponsors, they really do go out of their way to accommodate them. For example, each driver receives an allocation of hospitality passes over the season to distribute to family, friends or sponsors, and that’s just the start.

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The Ginetta Media Day allows any of the Ginetta racers to offer passenger laps to any guests they choose, alternatively they can aid drivers in setting up their own corporate track day, allowing guests to drive the cars also! Finally, the Ginetta factory can even be booked by drivers for events or meetings.

Back to the racing itself, and another huge positive is that, because it’s a Ginetta-organised series, all of the cars are equal, ensuring a level playing field. Now, if you’re already knowledgeable about the Ginetta motorsport ladder, you may be wondering why I’m focusing on the G40 GRDC rather than the G40 Cup class. After all, they run pretty much the same machinery on the same tracks at the same time, so what’s the difference?

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Well, the GRDC is specifically aimed at novice drivers, meaning everyone starts with the same level of experience, whereas the Cup class is open to anyone, regardless of whether you’ve been racing for 12 months or 12 years. This means that, in the GRDC, drivers will be much more likely to challenge for podiums right from the off. That, in essence, is much more appealing to me.

Finally, the car itself. The G40 is a fully-enclosed vehicle which, despite being designed and built purely for the track, is road legal. The 840kg shell is propelled by the rear wheels, which are linked to a 135bhp, 1.8-litre motor. Now, those numbers are not mind-blowing in the slightest but, especially considering the engines are derived from Ford, they’ll be pretty much indestructible despite being constantly rung out. The body also provides 7 square metres of billboard space, meaning ample area for both sponsor and #RacingGrind branding. All in all, then, I would say that the Ginetta G40 GRDC championship is a genuine option for me to compete in next year. With twelve races, an all-inclusive cost, and full support for both myself and sponsors, it really is a near-perfect package. The only problem would be that price…

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