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Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Is going to a BTCC day/weekend worth it?

I know this probably seems like a stupid question but hear me out, there are pros and cons to going and staying at home. In my personal opinion, I do enjoy both and I think most people do as well so let’s break it down.

Being trackside allows you to be right in the midst of the action and excitement with the atmosphere. From going ‘oooh’ with everyone else when drivers collide to cheering and clapping when races have finished. There is nothing like that feeling of being there and experiencing it all live and roaming around the paddock and behind the garages seeing what goes on.

Weather: If you are last minute in planning then weather is probably going to be a big factor as you are unlikely to wake up on a Sunday morning, look at heavy rain and think, let’s go sit next to a track for 6 hours! Rain does spice up the races and make them much more interesting to see how drivers manage the tricky and changing conditions. The cold is something I think you acclimatise yourself to if you are a regular to race circuits. You know the chances are it is going to be cold, windy, rain or all three at some point and you will have prepared yourself for every situation. If there’s one piece of advice to give to newbies going trackside for first time, BE PREPARED.

Comfort: Okay so there is a clear winner here, you would rather sit on your sofa all day than a deck chair but it’s all part of the experience and a great bit of exercise! If you wear a fit bit just watch the steps go up and double your daily target! But comfy trainers are a massive help if you plan on going as they stop your feet from hurting, keep them warm and stop feet getting dirty.
Food: Clear winner here, food at home is free and you can cook during breaks or even get someone to cook you food! (or be naughty and have take away). However, it is nice watching a race next to the track eating chips or a naughty treat. Treats are a must track side, almost feels like you’ve earnt it because you’ve got up early and you have walked a lot. I do enjoy a waffle or churros from time to time.

Other things to note are obviously you get a chance to meet drivers whether that’s walking through the paddock or going to the autograph sessions. However, drivers are quite responsive on social media so it is a great place to send a good luck or well done message. A. lso, when you are trackside sometimes you may not be near a screen so you aren’t always aware of what’s going on but most tracks have an app you can download with the timetable and live timings, as well as the BTCC website. Being at home you do see more coverage on races and everything that goes on whereas sometimes at the track you can be quite confused, I know I have been.
Sometimes I wish I lived not far from all the tracks so I could go to every BTCC weekend but after being trackside for Brands Hatch and Donington it was quite nice watching Thruxton from my own home.

Let me know if you have a preference on watching from home or at the circuit!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Jake Hill: Back on the BTCC track

Jake Hill made is return to BTCC this season after missing the second half of last year. One round in and the man from Kent has already proved to us why he belongs in this level of motorsport.

Hill had his first taste of a BTCC car back in 2013 making his debut at Croft after racing in Ginetta GT Super cup in 2011 and 2012 respectively: however, 2016 was the first time Hill was entering BTCC for his full season.  Since then he has participated in 86 races, scored 204 points and 2 podiums. You may not think 2 podiums is much to get excited about but there is more to Hill’s story than numbers.

Hill took his maiden podium position at Brands Hatch Indy circuit in 2018 when he was racing for Team Hard. The track was wet but drying and Jake and the team had a decision to make, that decision scored Hill his first podium position when he finished 2nd behind Power Maxed Racing’s Senna Proctor.

Despite the excellent start to the season, Hill announced in July 2018 before Snetterton that he had parted ways with Team Hard. Hill was hopeful he would return. It left many gutted fans (myself included). Fortunately, after working hard Hill is back in BTCC for 2019 racing for Trade Price Cars Racing in their Audi S3 Saloon car with ex F1 driver Mark Blundell for company.
Jake and his dad Simon are two of the most lovely, dedicated and hard working men I have had the pleasure of meeting and knowing. I was there when Hill was on for his first podium at Silverstone back in 2017 and then had a mechanical failure, and I was also there when Hill scored his first podium. There have been some big highs but also some heart-breaking lows.

Hill made his comeback well known at Brands this year by making the right choice and opting for slicks in the wet and tricky conditions, much like the year before. Hill started 15th and worked his way up to 2nd having some very good battles on his way through, especially with Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat. Hill nearly followed it up in race 2 but only managed 4th on the grid, but still an excellent result. Race 3 was when the bad luck hit as contact with Ash Sutton led to mechanical failure and retirement. Despite that there is so many positives to focus on going forward. Hill is quick and he deserves good results and I’m sure not only himself but the team, his friends, family and fans will be doing all they can to get the best results possible every race weekend and pick each other up when it doesn’t go the way they desire.

Hill is back where he rightfully deserves to be and from what I can see, he has come back, stronger physically and mentally and is ready for anything. Personally, I was so excited to see Hill back because he is fast and he is genuine. I really wish the best for himself and the team. I cannot say enough good things about Jake and his dad Simon. I have supported Jake since I met him in 2017 and himself and Simon have always been the most friendly and welcoming people. You can see their passion, dedication and hard work a mile off. That is the kind of driver I want to support on this rollercoaster of emotions we love and call motorsport.

Best wishes for the season Jake and Trace Price Cars Racing!

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Charlie/Mini Moff

If you heard the name Charlie you would think of everyone you know called Charlie but if you heard someone talk about Mini Moff you would know exactly who they were on about; and that’s 6 year old Charlie. Charlie is Aiden Moffat’s mascot, he is a regular face around the BTCC paddock, joining Aiden at the autograph sessions and watching qualifying and races in the garage or hospitality. Charlie first attended his local circuit Brands Hatch when he was only a year old. But by then he had already picked Aiden as his favourite after watching him on TV at Brands Hatch in 2013.

I was lucky enough to meet Charlie at media day last week (thanks to his lovely mum Jane) and he just radiates happiness and excitement. He is just so happy to be there and he has so many people looking out for him as I saw Clio Cup driver, Jade Edwards come up to him and she picked him up and messed about with him. It was so nice to see him so happy around everyone. I asked Charlie if he ever expected to go to all these different races and be Aiden’s mascot and he said no, he just liked Aiden. I don’t think anyone expected it to work out the way it has but you can tell not only himself but his family are grateful for it as well. His mum Jane also helps out with hospitality (she sold me a shirt last season) and made everyone lunch on media day.

Charlie told me he wants to be a touring car driver, when asked who he wanted his team mate to be, guess who he said? Yes, Aiden Moffat! He said Aiden would help him and give him all the advice he needs to win. Charlie is only 6 but he has goals and that is never a bad thing! He is already karting and will compete in a few open meetings this year. He is being coached by British GT4 Champion Jack Mitchell (not a bad choice ay?) So, when Charlie is 7 he will hopefully be ready to join cadet karts and work his way to join Aiden in BTCC!

Until then, Charlie is just going to continue to hang out with Aiden every race weekend and support his favourite driver.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Why go watch BTCC at Brands Hatch?

When I first attended Brands Hatch I was never sure what to expect, other than for it to be busy. It has its good points and some areas where there is room for improvement. However, I would 100% recommend it as one to go to.

It is not too hard to find, clearly signposted and there is always someone around to guide you to the right place. Immediately as you walk through the gate you can see part of the track and one of many stands. As you follow the road/path around, you pass all these stands full of merchandise from all categories. One stand which one of my friend loves is one with screws and locks and all sorts of bits and bobs, once we get there we leave him and come back half an hour later to collect him! Once you find your way out of that stand you get to the funfair section. It has a few rides and obviously bumper cars so we can imitate some drivers driving skills (or lack of). For the younger children, there is a digger they can play on, slightly envious I am too big to have a go! There really is something for everyone.

If you survive the bumper cars and look behind you, you can find most BTCC teams awnings and hospitality units. You can walk along and sometimes catch a glimpse of a driver or two! However, some teams like Team HARD for example, set up their hospitality in the support series’ paddock. Which actually has many benefits as I find they are one of the friendliest teams, you can go up to them and have a chat with anyone that’s associated with the team, they are always willing to say hello and spend some time where they can, that’s including drivers and the busy man himself Tony Gilham! But in all fairness, most if not all teams are friendly and approachable. So, if you see anyone you want to talk to or ask a question don’t be shy. Also, the awnings is the place where you can buy a team’s merchandise or a couple of stands will sell them too.

The track has many good viewing points. If you want to guarantee yourself a good seat and it’s not raining you can pay that little bit extra for a grandstand seat. However, I would suggest if you’re just going for one day to walk around and watch from as many different view-points as possible. Even if it means getting your new trainers all muddy! I am speaking from experience, the other views are worth it (and you get a funny story about nearly falling into mud). If I go for the weekend I tend to walk around as much as possible on the Saturday and see what I can but then relax a bit more on the Sunday and stick to one good spot. Normally because my legs ache from the previous day and because there is always so much exciting racing going on I don’t want to miss a single thing!

I personally think it is a very good track if you don’t mind hills but watching a BTCC or a F4 or any of the other cars go down the hill then up towards droids after the first corner is something I love. The anticipation of waiting to see who completes a move, who thinks they’re in the bumper cars and who is going to go that bit wide and kick the dust up. However, saying that, droids is also a very good action zone. They have made it easy for those visiting the circuit to get good views and those excellent pictures too!

I do really enjoy Brands, it is a well chosen circuit to have the first and last rounds of BTCC, although the only criticism is that you cannot access the paddock without a pass due to the entrance being through a tunnel. But that is more for safety as all the support categories drive through that tunnel so they do need to restrict that! So, if you want to meet the drivers its best to get to the track early Sunday and get in the queue for the pit walk (which I have done and I must admit had a lot of fun doing) and hanging around the awnings between races and drivers always make an appearance in hospitality to greet their VIP’s.

I try and go Brands Hatch for BTCC as much as I can, I went for the season opener and finale last year and both were highly entertaining and fun (despite the cold). I am hoping to expand it this year as looking at their calendar Brands Hatch is hosting a lot of great racing in 2019. I cannot wait for my visit next week for media day and then at the start of April for round 1 of BTCC and the season officially getting underway!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

GP3's Tatiana Calderon: 'That's how everything started'

Tatiana Calderon is a 24 year old Colombian female race who has defied stereotypes to become a well-known and respected name in the single seater categories.  I point out the fact she is female is because in the past few years women in motorsport has just exploded on social media and within the sport itself. Calderon became the first female driver to race for Arden in their 19 year history when she joined the team in 2016 to race in GP3. Prior to this, Calderon contested in the British Formula 3 season in 2013 with Double R Racing and finished third at the Nurburgring, becoming the first and only woman (so far) to stand on the podium in that series.

I had the pleasure of asking Calderon all sorts of questions, to her working with the Sauber F1 team, her inspirations and her racing career.

Sian Williams: Tell us about your experiences racing in GP3 and European F3. What are the main differences and what have you learnt from them?

Tatiana Calderon: ‘I think they’re both great series’; both completely different. A F3 car has a lot of downforce and less power and when I raced in the series they had Hankook tyres which don’t have a noticeable peak performance. You also have less track time and two qualifying sessions. GP3 is more powerful and not so much downforce, so they carry less speed through the corners. Pirelli tyres have a very clear peak performance so there is no second chance, you have to do it in one lap. It is demanding and with one qualifying and one practice session you have to adapt very quickly. You also race in front of an F1 crowd and I would say it brings extra pressure on everyone’

SW: How did it feel to score points for the first time in GP3?

TC: ‘It was amazing, I had been so close before so it was a relief.’

SW: What got you into karting and racing when you were younger?

TC: ‘My sister asked me to join her to the rental go karts we had near our house and we loved the feeling of adrenaline. We went a lot of times straight after school until the guys from the rental track let us try and real racing kart and we worked really hard to convince our parents. That’s how everything started.’

SW: Do you see yourself working for Sauber long-term?

TC: ‘Yes, I would love to continue in the team. They have a lot of history in F1 and have brought up world champions so they know how to work with young drivers. The atmosphere is great and I get along really well with the people and it is incredible how much I learnt from them last year.’

SW: Do you think you have ever been treated different because you are a woman who races?

TC: ‘I would like to say no but they definitely treat you different. The people you work with sometimes don’t believe you are capable and you have to prove yourself. They do not always listen to your feedback because they think you don’t know enough. At the race track it is also different as guys don’t want to be beaten by a girl, so I also believe it is harder for us to overtake. But I kind of like this challenge and slowly times are changing. We need to change the perception and that women can drive. We need to prove them wrong so they can change their perceptions.’

SW: How hard do you have to work to keep fit mentally and prepare yourself for the racing season?

TC: ‘You have to work really hard. As a woman, you have 30% less muscle mass than men and for example GP3 has no power steering, the steering wheel is really heavy. Some say even more than the F2 so training is key in performance. Mentally as well it is a demanding sport so I also dedicate a lot of time to it. You have to do so many things at 300km/h that you have to keep sharp.’

SW: Who is your biggest inspiration and what keeps you motivated?

TC: ‘I started racing watching Montoya winning so for sure he has been an inspiration to me. Also when I moved to Europe and found out Susie Wolff had become Williams test driver it empowered me to keep fighting for what I have always wanted.’

SW: What advice would you give young girls who want to race and have people telling them they cant because they are female?

TC: ‘I would say to then that dreams don’t have limits, no matter what people say. If you truly want something, just go for it.’

SW: What is one saying you live by?’

TC: ‘Impossible is nothing’

Just from these questions alone you can see Calderon is not only inspired by people before herself, but also an inspiration to younger generations. She is making her mark in motorsport and I think she is proving people wrong. If you want to witness what Calderon can do then you are in luck, she has recently confirmed she will be continuing in GP3 racing for Jenzer Motorsport.

Big thank you to Tatiana Calderon for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck for the season this year.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Your workplace should NOT define you

This is not my normal content, I am aware of that but I feel this is a topic I want to address. Especially when I believe my story can help people before it spirals how it did with me. That topic is how your workplace can affect you but should not define who you are.

I started a job in January at a hotel. I previously worked for another hotel six months prior but wasn’t happy and found a job at a hotel closer to home. It started off so well. I was getting along with everyone and I was learning so much. The guests were the highlight of the job. We had a few groups that stayed for weeks so you got to know them really well. However, there are rules, especially with this company. You are not allowed to socialise with guests outside of work, you cannot have them on facebook or their number or anything like that. But you do get close to people and get to know them. I had a guest on snapchat, we would barely chat though, work found out and I think I should have been fired but at that point so much was going on with a few of us that the slate got wiped clean.

I had a run ins with a couple of people I worked with. It’s funny because both of them did the same thing which was try to be in charge and try to be above me when we did the exact same job for the exact same money. However, with the first person I ignored it and I was walked all over and the second time I did the opposite, I was firm and would say something to the management. However, having that done twice to me made me very apprehensive whenever someone new started. It knocked my confidence so much as to who I was as a person. Also, it was a small hotel and everyone gossiped which I admit I was sometimes apart of. But you couldn’t really trust anyone there and when you spend 4/5 days a week with people, different people each shift, you want to be able to trust them. In the end I had two people I fully trusted and everyone else I just tolerated and worked with. I would joke with them and tell them general things but I wouldn’t go out my way to be overly friendly with them. After a while that did have an affect on me too. I don’t have a lot of people I talk to regularly and the ones I do I rarely get to see because of distance so since I started shutting myself off from people at work I began to feel isolated.

Work always seemed to follow me home. Whether it was gossip or a situation I had found myself in with a guest that day. When you know you do all you can at work and you still get people yelling at you or issues you can’t solve, you feel bad. I always think about other people and put myself in their shoes so I always tried to be the happiest, friendliest, professional version of myself. I just felt the hotel got worse and it made me not want to go because everything I did was in vain. It was so rare you would get praise as well so I’d have all these issues or whatever and it kept building.
The hotel was short staffed as well so everyone worked super hard and if someone was ill it would be a mission to cover. I once did over a 15 hour shift and I got maximum 35 minute break and that wasn’t at the same time or with food involved. The issue never seemed to get solved and I was not the only one doing extra hours. Two other people worked their bums off more than me and they did more than me for the same money. If a shift needed covering it would more than likely be one of us three because other people were stubborn and wouldn’t want to do it. It was not fair. Near the end of my time there I was phoning around trying to get cover and I rung and messaged someone and both got ignored but when the assistant manager tried off her mobile she got an answer. It infuriated me that someone could ignore a phone call and a desperate message from a colleague but answer assistant manager who wasn’t even at work. It was just not right and I was fed up.

Along with all of this it was shift work and it was never the same and it’s impossible to have a routine. I know for some people that is fine but for me it meant I wasn’t able to look after myself properly. 75% of nights are so busy you never get a chance to sit down and eat something and you’d never have your break. So sometimes I would go days and barely eat something and other days when all I want to do is eat. I ended up getting IBS and it is embarrassing and that was a big sign for me that something needs to change. Sleep really took a hit as well, you might have a week of working until at 11:15 at night and then two days later having to be at work for 6:45am and I need sleep.
Everything just got to me physically and mentally. I was not happy and I was just making myself unwell.

 I looked for jobs for a good two to three months before I got my current job. It felt like forever because I stopped wanting to go into work and I felt like shit everytime I went. I knew I had to stay until I had a new job but it was taking so long I felt so trapped and alone. I thought I was going to be stuck there forever and there was no way out. I was so down every day and I had some of the worst thoughts I have ever had. I was the worst version of myself I ever have been and I hate that person and the things I thought. It got to the point where I had a breakdown and I was unable to work that day because I could not string a sentence together without crying. I had reached breaking point and it was either I had help or something I don’t want to think about.

A couple of days later I spoke to my doctor and he signed me off from work for two weeks. I had a job interview the week before that and I was waiting to hear back. I had worked at this place previously and I felt it had gone well but I was not going to pin my hopes on that one job because if I didn’t get that, all self-belief would have gone out the window. I started to panic thinking ‘what if I don’t get this job? I cannot go back to that place’ I had no faith or hopes, I was about ready to give up and my luck changed. I got that job and it means I am now able to look after myself and have a routine for eating and sleeping because it is set times.

It was a weight off my shoulders when I was signed off sick but getting a new job that was going to have such a positive impact on me, I never felt so relieved in my life. My life was going to change in so many ways but more importantly I was going to be able to work on my mental health.
That hotel and the people there are behind me now, except for one or two, one of them is one of my best friends in the whole world. She was there with me throughout it as well as four other people. Two who I have been BTCC with and the other two I have met on twitter through motorsport. I am so lucky and grateful I had them with me through it and I let them in. I hope one day I can repay them with that same support and care.

That hotel changed me, it destroyed me as a person and I had to break free. It made me into a completely new person and a workplace should never ever do that. Your work should not break you. The point I want to make is to realise the signs before you have a breakdown and to not sacrifice your health in any way, shape or form. You should be able to go to work and if you can, leave it there. I know with some jobs it’s not always possible. But please,

 If you are not happy and feel yourself changing, get out of there. Before it is too late. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Robot Wars and F1!?

Call me crazy but I had an idea today. I was catching up on Sunday nights robot wars and one team had smaller robots as well and that put an idea into my head. What if all F1 teams came up with robots and then they all battled to be the best? 

Get a small team of four, a driver, an engineer, a mechanic, just four people from a team and their aim is to build what they think is the best robot. To watch the design process and thought behind what weapon they want, shape and size. They would have so much to think about. They would probably have a strategy for the battles too! Whether they want to hunt or be hunted and we would be able to see their raw reactions as it happens.

It would follow the Robot Wars set up and start off with two big battles taking people out from each round. Be finding the best of the best and how quick they can actually repair the robot. Although a one-off massive battle with all teams would be quite fun as well, last man standing.

I think if this ever happened (i'd want an invite) but it could just be a fun end of season thing everyone does. One way it could include fans is to make it a charity event type situation. Sell tickets for fans to come and see it live. Run competitions, winners get to control the robots in a fan battle. Could sell merchandise for their robots or the teams. It would be a really fun interactive day and raise money for a charity. Just do it all for a good cause that everyone can come together for because we are one big family.

I think it would test all the teams. Robot Wars is a long standing TV programme, its target audience is the young and old. I remember watching it as a kid and playing it on Playstation! It targets everyone and the prices don't need to be expensive as this has appeal and would be a sell-out. Just have one basic price and make everywhere accessible. It would be a show but it doesn't need the price tag. F1 needs to widen its audience and something like this for everyone that is reasonably priced would be insane. 

I know this is just a theoretical idea but I just thought I'd' share it with you! So let me know what you think and what your idea would be.