Story by Vickie Miller photo by Thomas Lake of TL Photographic Works
According to the Silverstone UK website, â€œExperience is everything!â€ I could not agree more. When I arrived in London on April 9th and went directly to the Silverstone circuit, I knew I would have a unique experience.
Before I dig into the weekend too much, here are a few things you need to know: (1) Itâ€™s a circuit not a track which I was very politely reminded several times; (2) Turns have real names not turn one, turn two; (3) Everything is â€œlovelyâ€; (4) The weather changes more times than the queen changes her mind, and; (5) While the money exchange rate heavily favors the British pound, the breakfast egg exchange rate is definitely in the USAâ€™s favor!
Silverstone Circuit is located northwest of London near the little village of Northamptionshire which is beautiful, lush, green country side with sheep farms along the road to the main entrance. With the big attendance weekends being the MotoGP and Formula One races, I was very impressed with a FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) weekend attendance of over 45,000.
Silverstone is built on the site of a World War II Royal Air Force bomber station, RAF Silverstone, which opened in 1943. The airfieldâ€™s three runways, in classic WWII triangle format, lie within the outline of the present track (from Wikipedia). Some of the named turns are Stowe, Becketts, Chapel, Maggotts, and Club. I recommend a good study of the circuit map before you arrive because the race announcers use the turn names only.
As many of you know, I have been to all types of race courses (oval, street, road, and even a couple of NHRA) and two things impressed me about Silverstone which I had not anticipated. First, everyone was friendly- from the staff at the gate, to the food vendors, to the track security, to track credential workers. Itâ€™s easy and free to be friendly and I do not understand why more tracks do not encourage this. I realize the public can be intolerable, but put on a smile, collect your weekend work paycheck, and be mad on your own time on Monday.
Second, there are MANY openings in the fence where the public can take excellent photographs of cars on track. I have seen some tracks which have one or two strategically placed fence cut outs for the fan (without photograph credentials), but it would take you more time to sheer a sheep than find another fence opening as you make your way around the track.
While Silverstone is lovely, itâ€™s not without at least one fault which is common with other tracks. There is a paved road for vehicles to travel from the main gate to the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) or WEC paddock area and infield parking. However, for fans to walk from one area to another there is no paved path.
When tracks pour the blacktop for the vehicle traffic, why not add an extra 5 feet for a walking path? When the grass is wet or muddy, people (I have done it) walk on the road which leaves the cars to dodge in and out or honk to get people to move. I cannot imagine the foot traffic for a Formula One or Moto GP event weekend.
The facility is top notch with the impressive Wing paddock building offering with free Wi-Fi. Who does that? On Friday, I did a little track store shopping, where everything was 50% off and I met Jo, who worked in the North Terrace of the Wing building and she is lovely. After no luck checking the ELMS paddock shop to find a navy windbreaker, it was suggested I go to the other shop in the Wing paddock. Jo asked me if she could help and I told her my desire to purchase an XL navy Silverstone windbreaker. Jo did not have the desired windbreaker in her shop, but gave me her name and told me to come back on Sunday when she would be working again at the Wing location. When I met up with Jo on Sunday, she had been busy. I think she talked to every track shop worker and she even contacted the warehouse. No XL was to be found, but Jo provided me with a contact name and email, and when I returned home and purchased any item online, I would be given free shipping to my home. Who does that?
While I had planned my visit to Silverstone Circuit before the Krohn Racing announcement, I was very excited to see my favorite driver; Oswaldo â€œOzzâ€ Negri Jr would be joining Krohn as the third driver for the ELMS in the 4 Hours of Silverstone event. Krohn Racing entry was a Ligier JS P2 JUDD in the LMP2 class. Ozz has raced many times in his early career at Silverstone and it was lovely to watch him race there in person.
Friday started with a morning first practice session for ELMS where only Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson had time in the car. As with many teams, Krohn used this practice to make adjustments, completing only 17 laps and ending the session in 10th position. Ozz tested in the 30 minute longer afternoon session where combined the team completed 33 laps, improved to 8th, which lead to Tracy qualifying the car into the starting position of 11th.
Ozz started the race and being in 11th starting spot, he wisely waited few laps for the aggressive leaders to bang around a bit. He then raced quickly up the chart to a high of 3rd place before turning over the car to Tracy. Nic completed the race and the team finished in 4th place. There are few television screens around the track, so I am anxious to watch the race again online at home.
Except for a few showers Sunday morning, the weather was cold and windy with periods of Florida-like sun! Along with the WEC and ELMS, the FIA F3 Championship series held amazing races with my favorite Carlin Racing, and George Russell. While George faced his shares of struggles finishing 8th in Race 1, he came back for a win in Race 2, and finished 5th in Race 3. Keep an eye on this young fellow and he remains 3rd in the overall driver point standings.
Oh, yea, there was a WEC race too. With many websites to get the facts and figures on the race, I will mention a little thing called a gearbox. For years I have been attending races, where the car was retired from competition due to a gearbox issue. On lap 44, the # 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car with the team of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, and Brendon Hartley was officially retired due to that pesky gearbox.
Even a first time visitor to the paddock would notice the â€œextraâ€ Porsche hauler full of every spare part known to gear head, so I wondered why Porsche canâ€™t go into their hauler of tricks and pull out another gearbox? I was sitting with several of my racing friends pondering this and we decided we didnâ€™t realize all the electronics involved with gearbox replacement. I donâ€™t understand a lot about the mechanics of racing or BOP but I have a strong desire to learn about Mr. Gearbox.
While at Silverstone I had the lovely experience of chatting with Filipe Miguel Delgadinho Albuquerque, born in Coimbra (Portugal). At Silverstone, Filipe raced in the 4 hours of ELMS with team Jota Sport in the #38 Gilbson Nissan LMP2 car. The car qualified 2nd behind the strong Greaves Motorsport team and four hours later the result would be the same with Greaves Motorsport winning and Jota Sport taking the 2nd step on the podium.
I could have talked with Filipe for hours, but here is just a bit of our conversation. I hope you enjoy.
Q: If you hadnâ€™t been successful in karting, what career path would you have chosen?
A. Where Filipe was raised, if a child was interested in sports, the parents and society were more inclined to support the child being a â€œfootballerâ€ (soccer). Trainers and practice sessions for the children were much more accessible and cheaper for soccer. Filipe knew he could be a race car driver and his parents supported and encouraged this decision. If he had not been successful in racing, he would have pursued a job related to racing such as engineer.
Q: Since you enjoy tennis, what tennis star would you want to play a match with and win?
A. Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic
Q: What if your favorite movie?
A. Filipe prefers action movies (show of hands who is surprised!) His favorite movie is â€œ300â€ because it doesnâ€™t matter if you have money or no money, you must have perseverance and you can overcome. Another favorite movie is the French version; â€œIntouchablesâ€ which demonstrates to us all that the idea of â€œlower classâ€ does not mean people should not be considered equal.
Q: Of all your podiums, which one is your most rewarding and why?
A: Two podiums are extra special to Filipe. In a Formula Renault race, he started P2 and ending up winning but the track was extremely tricky, it was not an easy race and he only managed to win by making no mistakes. The second was theÂ Daytona 24 win where he got in the car with hours to go and all he could think about was â€œtaking risks, the win and nothing else.â€ Filipe said to himself, â€œDammit I can win this race!â€ and he went after it and the rest is history.
Q: If you could go to any track to view a race as a fan, what track would you watch?
A. Circuit de Spa Francorchamps for the competition.
Q: Any plans to race in USA in 2015?
A. Not currently, but racing at Laguna Seca would be a dream as he wants to learn more about this American track.
Q: What is the one thing about you not published on website or Facebook, that no one know but you are willing to share?
A: Filipe provided two answers for this. 99.9% of the time he is right handed (writing, tennis, etc.) but when it comes to eating he is left handed. As Filipe stated â€œany food that goes into my mouth must come from the left hand.â€ So the fork and spoon are in his left hand only. Also, due to early in his career misfortunes, he never races with a blue visor.
For more information on Filipe Albuquerque, please check out his website
Twitter: @AlbuquerqueFil Instagram: filipealbuquerque_
I want to extend a big racing family thank you to Serena Panzeri and Kim Ellis, whom my trip would not have been possible. With the United Kingdom choosing to drive on the opposite side of the road than USA, Serena was our â€œdriverâ€ and navigated the highways of London and country roads around Milton Keynes with the ease of a WEC pro driver!
I always enjoy meeting race fans and Silverstone was a big event for the question, â€œAre you Vickie Miller?â€ How lovely to meet so many race fans from the UK area. Thank you all for saying hello. You all made my trip so much more enjoyable.
I returned home only to be surprised by a request to be on the Sports Car Unleashed show and here is the link to my interview! http://scunleashed.com/?p=7989
Please be sure to follow my adventures on Twitter: @viclovesracing
Thank you all for reading and I welcome your comments. I have no affiliation with IMSA, TUDOR, FIA WEC, ELMS, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is â€œjust the way I see itâ€. Got a response? Follow and tweet me @viclovesracing