On Sunday 24th June 2012 I joined an exclusive at Brands Hatch. I call these club members The Hardcore Racing Fans. Why did I join this club? Well because with the deluge of changeable weather mixing from atrocious down poor of rain to sweltering heat and as a certain Ayrton Senna once said ‘It was pure driving, it was real racing’ that I witnessed. Surely there is nothing else quite like hearing the roaring sound of an engine on a grid whether it is a Formula One car or a Formula Ford. I felt a tingle down my spine when the engines of each car simultaneously produced a sound that can only be appreciated when you are standing inches away from these amazing machines for the first race of the day: this is when I knew I had joined this elusive club.
The British F3 and GT championships at Brands Hatch may not have the same appeal as the dizzy heights of Formula One, World Touring Cars or even DTM, but one thing is for certain: as a fan you are there because of the love of racing. The love of smelling the diesel from the cars as they rev up the engines, which normally would be a disgusting smell but for some reason propels you into a state of near rapture when watching racing . . . the love of the cars’ sounds as they come into the first corner of the first lap; sounds you only experience when you are there in person. Not to mention the love of pure racing, overtakes, spins and crashes. The weather does not matter. What matters is that you are there, because you know you are going to be entertained and enthralled by it, whatever class of car.
The first race of the day was the British F3 international series. Standing in the spectators area by Brabham Straight, it was mind-blowing how close to the cars you can be, not to mention the anticipation of watching the motor cars start their engines and the lights turning from red to green. I had a voice in my head and I think, like many other pure-bred racing fans, the only voice in my head was that of Murray Walker. As the cars sped off into Paddock Hill bend, I had visions of what it must have been like to have watched the likes of Senna, Mansell and Piquet race around this small but beautiful circuit, and what the atmosphere must have been. To be sure, these were “only” F3 cars, but the sounds were quite incredible. I said to myself “as a fan I wish I had been born in the era that Formula One came to Brands Hatch.”
If the F3 race was good, the British GT topped it. Winners Alex Buncombe and Jann Mardenborough in the number 35 Nissan GTR GT3 won only by 0.022s from the 007 Aston Martin DBR59 of Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam and after two hours of speed, concentration and excitement. If winning by that small margin did not excite any racing fan who saw the race, I believe you cannot call yourself a true racing fan. The whole day made me realise that for one to be a fan of motorsport, it has to be in your blood – especially getting-up as early as you must, battling the traffic on the way to the circuit and then jockeying for just the right spot in the part of the circuit where you want spectate. However all of that counts for nothing when you are viewing the raw overtaking manoeuvres mastered by professional racing drivers that were on display at Brands Hatch. No DRS. No KERS. Just man and machine fighting for pride and a place in the history books of knowing that they were going to win on one of the most entertaining race tracks the world has produced, in front of some of the most dedicated fans of motor racing in the country.