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TrackChaser update

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  • Vanden Eynde Roland
    Hello colleagues, As I will accompany Aline in December to her native Guadeloupe, she told me she d like to go to Maidstone to choose the right clothing for
    Message 1 of 331 , Oct 18, 2011
      Hello colleagues,

      As I will accompany Aline in December to her native Guadeloupe, she told
      me she'd like to go to Maidstone to choose the right clothing for this
      trip. That came in handy, as last weekend had long been penciled in as
      the one during which I was going to score the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit
      on the occasion of the 40th running of the Formula Ford Festival.

      Before I was a trackchaser, this was a must go meeting. The first FFF I
      attended was in 1981 and I saw them year after year till 2002. As
      Formula Ford became less popular and I couldn't score the Indy Circuit
      under the then road course counting rules, I hadn't visited it since.
      Nowadays, Formula Ford is becoming a bit more popular again in the UK,
      the Netherlands and Australia, so it looked like the right time to go
      back to the Festival.

      We had some lovely weather for our trip on Saturday and I did find the
      clothing items needed for our forthcoming Caribbean trip. Sunday morning
      dawned with a lot of mist, but during our breakfast, it lifted and we
      had another nice day for the races.

      Whereas in its heyday, more than 200 drivers in Kent engined cars
      entered and only one driver emerged as the Festival winner, now there
      are three finals for three different kinds of engines: Kent, Zetec and
      Duratec ones. Moreover, the programme catered for Ford Fiesta's and
      Sports 2000 races. It wasn't the same atmosphere with those rather
      skinny fields and less close racing than 25 years ago, but it's still a
      nice meeting to assess future talent. I did witness many a world famous
      driver shine or make a fool of him or herself (like Danica Patrick did
      in 2002). Even though the meeting catered for a lot less nationalities
      than in the past, it's still the spot where Jeremy Shaw (a former
      Autosport journalist) gives young American road racing talent the chance
      to sample some European racing. The major (Duratec) final was not very
      entertaining. Scott Malvern has utterly dominated Formula Ford in the UK
      and the European championship this year and at the FFF he won every race
      he participated in (heat, quarter final, semi final and final). Still,
      it was great to finally get the kidney like Indy Circuit on my list at
      my 28th visit to this configuration.

      Unfortunately, when I watched the early Monday morning news, I learned
      about the fatal accident of Dan Wheldon, one of those drivers that went
      on to make their mark on international motorsport after having shone at
      the FFF. I always had ill feelings about the IndyCar idea of spicing up
      the season finale by a large cash prize for guest drivers. I have never
      been a fan of such initiatives, so much loved by sensation seekers. Call
      me an old fashioned purist, but I think ideas like the Las Vegas one are
      a recipe for disaster. It's the more galling it struck a nice fellow
      like Dan Wheldon. There must be a jinx with Aline and me staying at the
      Premier Inn at Maidstone, for on our previous visit I learned about the
      fatal accident of Belgian cyclist Wouter Weyland at the Giro d'Italia.

      Next week, I'll not stay at the Maidstone Premier Inn, but I'm planning
      to try to get my 200th Dutch track in the books.


      Number of races in 2011: 78
      Of which on new tracks: 69
      Number of countries in which trackchased: 18
      Of which new countries: 4

      Roland

      -----------------------------------------
      Visit our website! http://www.nbb.be

      "DISCLAIMER: The content of this e-mail message should not be
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    • Vanden Eynde Roland
      Hello colleagues, Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I ve
      Message 331 of 331 , Nov 12, 2013
        Hello colleagues,

        Long before I found out trackchasing ever existed, I had a habit of going to some late season races on southern French road courses. I've long since exhausted those new track opportunities, but still there are a few French road courses I have to visit. Last weekend I added a rather remarkable one to my portfolio.

        Why drive an entire day if a high speed train brings you there in half that time? Since I discovered the multitude of possibilities of the French high speed trains, I like to take advantage of their services whenever suitable. Unlike my two previous train travels, this time, I couldn't get round Paris, but still that wasn't such a problem. I boarded a train to Paris Nord just past 11.15 a.m. and 75 minutes later it got me to Paris. In the north station of Paris, I had 85 minutes to get to Paris Bercy station by underground. It only took me 25 minutes to do so and I had ample time to take my numbered seat on the train to Clermont-Ferrand. Another 90 minutes later I got there. I had booked a hotel (Hotel des Commerçants) only yards from the railway station. The weather was a little cold, but sunny and after a long walk I had enough of an appetite to go for an early steak dinner at a Hippopotamus. These are chain restaurants a bit reminiscent of Applebee's.

        On Saturday morning I got back to the railway station to fetch my hire car at Sixt. They gave an excellent rate and handed me a Renault Twingo with only 75 miles on the clock. Unlike in Montréal, I didn't add thousands of miles to it, as my target for the day was less than 35 miles from the town centre. The French tyre manufacturer Michelin has its roots in Clermont-Ferrand and the centrepiece of those roots is its research centre at Ladoux (Auvergne region). This complex, officially called "Centre de recherche Michelin de Ladoux", is a beauty. It's in lush green surroundings. Inside a 5 mile high speed trioval, it harbours several testing grounds for dry weather tyre testing, wet weather tyre testing, braking, etc. The dry weather testing is done on a 2770 metres long flat track with numerous corners. It is on this track that twice a year countable races are held. Last Saturday, two Porsche clubs (one local and one Swiss) held a sprint and endurance meeting. This being a tyre test track, it has neither pit lane nor specific paddock area. I had to park my hire car on a piece of concrete where trailers and cars of team members were parked. Another part of that concrete area was turned into an improvised pit lane. In the morning, they held three 20 minute sprint races for various Porsche classes, while after a two hour lunch break (although there was only a local hot dog stand to get food from), allcomers got on the track for a two hour endurance race. The twisty nature of the track made for good racing, but the track surface was rather slick and there were spins galore. But as this track was surrounded by large grassy runoff areas, no cars were severely damaged. Not being a great fan of Porsches (I like Ferraris and Maseratis better), I left halfway the endurance race and had a nice drive in the hills surrounding Clermont-Ferrand. The entire landscape consists of extinct volcanoes and it's really gorgeous. I got back into town at dusk, handed the car back in and after another nice dinner, I had a good night sleep.

        Sunday morning, I got on the train back to Paris. Just like on Friday, the journey went by smoothly. So much for my contribution to tracks in November, as the rest of the month will not involve any new trackchasing for me.

        Roland

        -----------------------------------------
        Visit our website! http://www.nbb.be

        "DISCLAIMER: The content of this e-mail message should not be
        construed as binding on the part of the National Bank of Belgium
        (NBB) unless otherwise and previously stated. The opinions
        expressed in this message are solely those of the author and do not
        necessarily reflect NBB viewpoints, particularly when the content
        of this message, or part thereof, is private by nature or does not
        fall within the professional scope of its author."
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