Category Archives: Motorsport

Tales from the Vault

It has been years since I have been to see the recording of a TV show and so when I was offered the chance to be in the audience of Tales from the Vault, a new F1 programme from Sky I was keen.

The offer came from a friend who I had previously only ever spoken to on social media having come together through our love of WilliamsF1 – sometimes it had felt more like a small support group as we got each other through the difficult days of finishing well down the field! It is also somewhat ironic that most people perhaps fear that someone they meet online might turnout to be a 40ish year old man. In my case I would have been worried if he wasn’t!

Carl and I met at Syon Lane station and walked to the Sky TV studios where we would spend the day. The one thing that I had forgotten was just how tedious a recording could be as there was a lot of waiting around while things were setup and retakes were done. This would have been fine had we been sat down but, thanks to Top Gear, the audience was stood up so it was a shock to the legs for anyone that was normally an office worker. It was also a very small audience of about 40 people which was a surprise.

The proceedings would have started promptly had Horner not been delayed – some unkindly suggesting that his Renault must have broken down on the way!

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The format of the programmes is that Steve Ryder interviews a few studio guests on an F1 related topic interspersed with archive footage. The shows that were recorded while I was there were “team-mates” where the guests were Nigel Mansell and Red Bull’s Christian Horner and “underdogs” with Damon Hill, John Watson and Williams’ Pat Symonds. So a really high quality set of people to discuss the topics on hand. To add a bit of interaction the audience were able to submit questions beforehand and then Ted Kravitz would find said individual and get them to ask their question for their moment of glory.

My question wasn’t selected (possibly because it wasn’t about the individuals being discussed or possibly because it included the word “fucking” in it! You can read an expurgated version of the story here, search for “bury the hatchet”), however, Carl’s question was selected and was first up (gulp!) and because I was stood next to him my mug will also be on TV (unless it is edited).

After the first episode was recorded Mansell and Horner dashed away as quickly as they possibly could but Watson, Ryder, Hill, Symonds and Kravitz all hung around chatting to the audience and having their pictures taken, which I thought was good of them and made for a really good day.

However, the thing that really made it for me was when I cheekily suggested to Symonds that there was a large amount of white space on the sidepods that could do with being filled with a sponsor. He replied with a crafty grin that we should watch this space and so now I am excited!

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Tribute to the Great Jim Bamber

There was a time a few years ago that every January I would religiously head off to the Birmingham NEC to got to the Autosports International show. There amongst the stands displaying the latest motorsport widgets was the Autosport magazine stand in which a tiny corner would be devoted to their cartoonist Jim Bamber. The magazine carried one of his cartoons every week and always captured the latest hot motorsport topic in his distinctive style and with great humour.

It was at Autosports one year that Jim and I were chatting and to this day I cannot remember what triggered this question but Jim said to me “Was it you that emailed me about doing my website?” to which I replied “No, but I can do it for you if you want!”. And so began Jim’s website and a long friendship.

The site went live in February 1998 and was called “The ones that got away” the  idea being that it would showcase the cartoons that weren’t suitable for the mainstream publications Jim drew for but eventually everything went up there.

Each week Jim would email me a copy of his latest cartoon which I would massage into the sizes required by the site before uploading. Over time I developed the site so that Jim could add captions and some thoughts for each image that was uploaded. We also got into some early ecommerce by selling copies of the popular annual Pits compendium.

Jim knew my love of Williams well and took great pleasure in sharing with me his latest cartoon documenting the teams ongoing woes. The following summed up the start of one season for Williams and shows how keenly observed his humour was.

However, like many others he could be frustrated with F1 and I suspected that his real passion was for rallying but, of course, the cartoons of F1 dominated as that’s what the majority wanted to see.

After quite a few years Jim had his figures out and the site began to conflict with the marketing effort on that so it we spent less time on it. However, we kept in touch and met on a number of occasions. We also emailed regularly talking about F1, Williams and our respective businesses. He also sent me some quite racy pictures at times too and not motor racy either – he had a real boyish sense of humour.

tumblr_m1v03theSp1rsjqe4o1_500The last time we met was shortly after he had been diagnosed with cancer and despite the obvious difficulties stemming from that he remained on good form and was keen for a TV project that he had been involved with to take off. Jim continued to work until late last year and I think that Autosport is the poorer for the lack of his cartoons brining us back down to earth with a smile.

Jim, you will be greatly missed.

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Inholmes

Yesterday was the National Gardens’ Scheme annual open day when gardens all over the country are opened up with the proceeds going to charity. We had chosen to go to Inhomes, just outside of Newbury as it was close and, more importantly (to me) is the home of Sir Frank Williams founder of the Williams formula one team.

This weekend was also the Canadian Grand Prix and Sir Frank had wisely chosen to go there rather than sit at home and be gawped at by people traipsing round his garden! And quite a few did.

Of course the garden wasn’t really Franks passion (that’s F1 for him) but that of his late wife who spent years creating the beautiful garden set in 10 acres of grounds. Surrounding the house are a number of distinct gardens, including a lovely walled garden.

If you were a casual observer you wouldn’t know who the owner was and the only clue was the inscription on a bench (seen above) in one of the gardens dedicated to the late Aytron Senna.

It was a really beautiful and tranquil place to be and quite a difference to the F1 paddocks usually frequented by its owner.

FOTA Fan Forum at WilliamsF1

Last night I got an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. The chance to attend the FOTA fan forum at the WilliamsF1 HQ in Grove, Oxfordshire and for those that can’t be bothered to read to the end it was a fantastic evening.

For the uninitiated FOTA is the Formula One Teams’ Association and represents the interests of most of the current grand prix teams. It used to represent all of them until Ferrari and Red Bull left, presumably as it was more in their interests to be out than in but that’s another story.

 

The forum was held at the WilliamsF1 Conference Centre, somewhere I have been a number of times before but it is always great to go back to, and the idea is to bring the people closer to those that are running and in the sport. Taking place in various location each year it gives fans an opportunity to ask questions from various F1 individuals and get some real debate going. Last night we were treated to a line up of current team principals and F1 legends.

On arrival we were encouraged to join a snaking line at the end of which was current WilliamsF1 hero Pastor Maldonado who was patiently signing autographs and having his photograph taken. You can see the resulting awkward encounter above! I refrained from saying anything controversial like “pull your finger out matey, you have cost us 25 points already this season” but I would image that Frank was already said something similar!

Then it was into the Ayrton Senna room for the main event. There was a short introduction by Sir Frank Williams who was on good form. As an aside I was amused to note that despite Williams having been wheelchair bound since 1986 they hadn’t installed a ramp up to the stage when the conference centre was built ten years ago. This meant that to reach there he had to be lifted up, chair and all, by two minders! Williams spoke with great affection for Maldonado and said what a great racer he is.

There was then a short interview of Maldonado by host Lee McKenzie where his coming together with Lewis Hamilton was discussed. Rather than going over what happened there he chose to focus on the next race at Silverstone.

The forum section of the event was split into two with the first half being three current team principals and the second half three “legends”.

Representing the team principals were Bob Fearnley of Sahara Force India, Martin Whitmarsh of McLaren and Ross Brawn from Mercedes. The questions were interesting and informative and are covered in much better detail elsewhere on the web so I won’t go back over that but what I found interesting was the interplay between the three of them. Clearly they have all been together on the F1 circuit for quite some time and they genuinely seemed to get on with one another.

There was one question that was primarily about the smaller teams acting as nurseries for drivers waiting to be picked up by the bigger teams. For example, it has long been considered that Paul di Resta was placed at Force India to gain experience before being picked up by Mercedes. Whitmarsh was quick to pick up on this and quipped to Brawn “so Ross, which one of your drivers are you going to drop!” To his credit Brawn took this head on and simply stated that “Nico is on a reasonably long term contract and we will decide what to do with Michael in the summer” which I thought was brutally honest.

Finally it was the turn of the legends: Williams own Patrick Head and former drivers Derek Warwick and John Watson and all were on sparkling form. It was interesting to compare the F1 of today with when these three were active. One questioner asked about the pressure on current drivers with all the requirements for media and sponsor duties. To this Watson had an interesting take stating that had that been the case when James Hunt was driving he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to lay quite some many “young ladies”!

There were more poignant moments such as when the subject of how drivers cope with having to go out and drive after a tragedy with Warwick giving a moving and honest account of the hours after the accident of his then team mate Martin Donnelly and the death of Gilles Villeneuve. He also stated how it is difficult for family members to understand how it was necessary to compartmentalise such things in order to be able to continue.

And then it was over and all that was left was the WilliamsF1 gift shop! They did a roaring trade in gear ratios, of which they seemed to have an endless supply. It transpired that none of these had ever been on the car at all, if they had the price would no doubt have been greater than the £5 being asked. We were told that they were simply massed produced and now surplus to requirements. I stuck to a team hat.

All in all it was a fantastic evening and I thank FOTA for organising and getting such stellar line-up.

For those that are interested there are a number of photos from the event here. Note how much interest the water provides to Whitmarsh and Head who clearly seem to be checking it’s vintage!

 

 

An Open Letter of Apology to Lewis Hamilton

Dear Mr Hamilton,

I am writing to you to apologise for the words I shouted at you during your incident with the WilliamsF1 driver Pastor Maldonado late in yesterday’s European Grand Prix. I believe that I may have called you a “f**king stupid w***er” in the belief that your driving had caused the incident that put you out of the race and Maldonado down to tenth thereby robbing my beloved WilliamsF1 of some much needed points.

After a period of reflection and contemplation and on taking a closer look at the video footage I am now of the opinion that actually, while perhaps not blameless, you did not deserve a number of the more fruity comments that I levelled at you. Certainly had Maldonado waited just a little longer then he would have been able to pass you easily as your tyres were shot.

So please take this as an apology (although I do reserve the right to shout at you in future should I deem it necessary).

Yours sincerely

Neil Thompson

PS. I also need to apologise to the vase on the hearth that took the full brunt of a shoe that was thrown in its direction.

WilliamsF1 First Win in Eight Years!

Those that know me even moderately well will know that I am a huge WilliamsF1 fan and have been since my teens when the team was new and had yet to win their first world championship. And I have stuck with them through the fallow years, which have seemed interminable. But now we have a win – the first in eight year. Boy that has been a long time coming!

The team have taken some stick in recent years from many quarters, including myself, for a variety of reasons. Many criticised for taking on pay drivers but that seemed to be a natural reaction to a lack of sponsorship and a need to keep the business afloat. My gripe was that the team stuck with the same people who had been responsible for the downward trend for what I thought was far too long.

Then, last year, there was a wholesale clear out and a load of fresh faces were brought in and what a change they have brought about! And the ‘pay driver’? Well he coolly and calmly drive the race of his life yesterday to take his maiden grand prix victory and Williams’ first for eight years.

The team deserved to enjoy and savour the win but shortly after the team had their photo taken celebrating the win a fire broke out gutting the garage and putting several team members in hospital. A sad end to what had been a fantastic weekend.

I look forward to a resurgent Williams over the rest of the season.

Photo Credit: NA.dir

GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED 2009

Williams at 40I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last Friday and it has to be one of the greatest motorsport events anywhere. It is the only event that I know of that allows fans such unprecedented access to the cars. As you can see from the pictures you can get within touching distance of the cars. There are no barriers and no security guards keeping you back. While these cars are old they are also expensive so it is good of the owners to not worry about what must be their pride and joys.

This year the event celebrated 40 years of Frank Williams in motorsport and gave me an opportunity to see some of his cars that I have only ever seen in pictures or model form before. They were all beautifully presented and clearly had some time and money spent on them to get them into such condition. I am always amazed that so many have survived over the years.

I took plenty of pictures and as you can get so close you really get to see the cars in great detail. Click on the picture below to see them.

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Click here for pictures from the 2009 Festival of Speed

WILLIAMS @ GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED

Williams @ Festival of Speed 2010Yesterday I made my annual pilgrimage to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the weather was just perfect for it. I usually go on the Friday but this year I managed to blag a couple of free tickets for the Thursday “Moving Motor Show” which is an a great new take on the car shows of old.

My favourite bit of Goodwood is the close access you get to the cars in the paddock. No where else can you see such an amazing array of cars and be within touching distance. Being a huge Williams fan I always search out the nearest FWxx.

Check out the pictures below for some of the cars that were on display yesterday. I will post some more over the coming days of the less important ones!

Williams @ Festival of Speed 2010 Williams @ Festival of Speed 2010

Williams @ Festival of Speed 2010 Williams @ Festival of Speed 2010

MOSLEY COULD RUN FOR RE-ELECTION

Autosport is reporting today that Max Mosley is thinking of running again to be President of the sports governing body as: “When a lot of people say ‘you should stay’, it would be sort of churlish not to.” Well if it’s any help I am saying ‘you should go’ and perhaps he should consider that it is far easier to say to someone’s face “stay” than to say “push off”.

So “push off” Max.