After what was a brilliant long weekend of motor-racing, I thought it a nice idea to do an overview of my experience down at Donington Park circuit. An opportunity for me to explain a bit more about the cars and the day overall, without having to battle for 3G coverage and posting quick, spur of the moment blogs in addition to showing off some photos I took of the cars!
So it was a very early start to the day, setting off from Chester at 7am to drive to Donington for the start of testing at 9am. I think that was the only issue with not having tickets already, the fact that no-one had any real idea of numbers so everyone needed to get there early just in-case. Thankfully for me, it wasn’t hugely busy, so I was able to get the pick of the best viewing spots of the track and in the stands.
I sat in the stand for a while, getting used to the sound of the cars as they flew past me on the start/finish line, while also trying to pick out some famous racing faces in the pit lane (sadly my eyes weren’t good enough to see any). While in the stand I was treated to some ‘commentary’ by some bloke somewhere in the commentary box, who told us about the fact that they were testing out ‘racing to music specifically made for Formula E’, which I’m sure would have been much better if there was some actual racing going on, but while cars were sparse on the track, it seemed a bit like pointless noise. As I say though, it may be quite different on a race day!
All was well though, if you moved away from the stands and walked to the top of the hill to the ‘Old Hairpin’, or indeed anywhere else around the track, it was either peace and quiet or the bizarre jet-engine noise from the cars, both as good as each-other.
In terms of track activity, there was quite a lot but I think with it being the first testing session the teams focused more on getting as much information from the cars as possible. This meant that some drivers (i.e. Katherine Legge, one of two female drivers in the series) primarily worked on starting to get a strategy together; including how well the marshals could pick them up from the gravel traps, which was rather amusing for onlookers but perhaps not for the guys who did the paint-job!
1:00pm saw the end of the morning session and the beginning of the Pit-Walk, when at least 1,500 people descended with their iPhone’s (some had annoyingly intrusive professional cameras too) to get a closer look at the cars and take as many pictures as their memory cards would allow. Myself included.
We had half an hour to make our way down the pit lane, looking inside each garage while the engineers continued to work on the cars. I thought this was great, given I’ve never been to a motor-racing event before, to be given such a freedom, you couldn’t dream of such a thing happening anywhere else, especially entirely free of charge! As you can see in the gallery, some of the cars have some really lovely livery, however I’d have to say my favourites were Amlin Aguri in the metallic electric blue and Virgin Racing with the silver and purple (I love purple), which looks brilliant on track.
Testing re-started at 2pm, where it seemed there were more red flags than ever as the drivers were allowed to pick up the pace a little, and push the cars more than they had done that morning. The sun came out for a bit, which gave me a chance to sunbathe (and subsequently, burn on my forehead and chest) before the practice start at 6pm.
I’ll admit there wasn’t a great deal to do at this point, aside from sitting on the grass and watching the cars go by. I was perfectly happy doing this, however I appreciate some people would prefer something faster and more action-packed.
By 6pm I think quite a few people had already made their way home, but I stayed, keen to witness the first public race-start, to see how different Formula E would be to everything else. The obvious difference was the silence as the cars sat on the grid, it was at this point that I understood the use of the ‘Formula E music’. Without it, you’d probably be able to hear a moth fart, which would ruin the building tension. The lights went out and the cars sprung into action and flew down the straight. I’ll admit, my heart was in my mouth a bit when they all clustered to get around the corner; it was probably too soon for the teams to have to deal with repairing a smashed up car! In spite of this, they all got around perfectly fine and went back into the pits to finish up for the night and prepare for the following days testing.
I left Donington feeling optimistic for the future of motor-racing; excited to see how the sport develops in a racing environment, in addition to improving the technology for electric-cars. I only hope all the other spectators got an equally positive feeling from the day.
Don’t forget, you can still register to visit here for 9th, 10th July and the 19th August, all free of charge!