The "Big Figure" (as seems to be my new moniker) approves of street circuits. Sure,
the racing can be processional, sometimes, but the opportunity for the fans to get up
close and personal to the action can't be beaten and whilst there may be less
overtaking, the racing is certainly interesting in many other ways.... Generally, the fans
recognise this also, and do turn out.
In fact, 30,000 or so fans reportedly came to Pau to witness events. That is a truly
magnificent turnout, given the weather over the previous days (lots of rain) and a Sunday
weather forecast for 20mm to 30mm more of precipitation!!! not promising.
But, as with the three street races on the calendar last year, the 68th Grand Prix de
Pau did not disappoint.
Sunday dawned bright-ish and so, presented with the unexpected bathing of sunshine
for race 1, I could not resist the opportunity to get out into the crowd and shoot the race
from their perspective. Why not? So, whilst Augusto Farfus was eking (?) out a mere 18
seconds victory in race 1, I was getting a sunburn on the hillside above the Station
hairpin. and as the Seats were, seemingly, getting slower by the lap during that race
(Hmmmmmmmmm...), I resisted the hot dog, beer and popcorn stalls, you will be
pleased to hear.
The rest of the time, I used the privileges that an "all access" pass can give you to try
and give a flavour of what racing around this short street circuit is like. For race 2, that
meant waiting for 30 minutes in a thunder and lightning storm stood next to a truck that
seemed to drip run-off water all down my legs but keeping the Nikons dry under its
While waiting for WTCC qualifying I had to keep ducking down behind the barriers every
minute or so at the Foch chicane whilst the Euro F3 series crash-fest was in full swing
(something like 17 cars out of 27 or so that started had to be craned off the circuit). The
Foch barriers (and my nerves) took a hell of a battering during that race, causing a delay
of 40 minutes afterwards, whilst the damage was being repaired; it's worth noting that
being that close to the action can actually be pretty scary. But kudos to whoever it was
that spun his F3 car 180 degrees on the entrance to the corner before skating across it
and burying his racer into the tyre wall. The crane driver thus hauled off another
steaming pile of junk and the baying crowd in the grandstand egged on those remaining
drivers to better the act. My heart beat a little slower as the winner cruised past waving
a celebratory hand in the air and Eduardo Freitas, the Race Director, arrived on the
scene to supervise the repairs.
The rest of the time was spent trying to capture the sheer variety of this venue. Houses,
trees, city walls, and sheers drops are all mere metres from the track, there were
bumps that would suit a rally special stage, palm trees and a vast background scenery.
However it was too dull, generally, to show the mountains in the background.
With so little time on tack during a WTCC weekend, you can only scratch the surface of
what can be done, but I gave it a shot, anyway. Hope you approve of the selection. Le
Mans is next, and I am looking forward to spending some time with the two people
whom I respect most in this business. (Who they, Ed?)
Yup, Sportcarpros has the big guns out next week. Can we cope!!!
David Lister, June 2008