Updated: Jun 19, 2019
The stiff breeze at Donington Park is making the cold day even colder. This historic former F1 track is best known for Ayrton Senna’s triumphant charge through the field in 1993. But today, there are no F1 cars to be seen or heard. At half past 9:30am, a triumphant roar of noise rises up from the pitlane a quarter mile away and cars head toward the track. FIA GT1 qualifying is underway.
The GT1 championship is a struggling racing series. On the one hand, you have a collection of very cool cars, very talented drivers, very noisy engines and the biggest manufacturers in car racing supporting them. But money is dwindling, crowds are small, and some of the manufactures didn’t even finish the 2012 season (Porsche and Aston Martin). However, the issues at hand were overshadowed by the drama of the series’ championship finale. The last of the two races for the weekend were going to come down to a nail biting finish for the championship title. It was anyone’s race to win or lose.
But the anticipation of an exciting championship was spoiled by two very serious crashes. The first on corner 1 of lap 1 which red flagged the race for more than half an hour. The second happened near the end of the race with 12 minutes to run, which saw one of the title contenders end up backward in a concrete wall, and it’s driver heading for the hospital. They ended the race early and that was the end of that. Confusion was rampant in the paddock as the race podium ceremony went forward without anyone knowing who had won the championship. The race winner was clear, but the championship points hung in the balance of the stewards room where a penalty could give the championship to one of two contending teams. But celebrations were fairly muted because a driver was in the hospital and no one really knew anything.
In the end, the #38 Mercedes, which caused the late race collision, but was excluded from the race and lost all points it had earned over the weekend, but would somehow mathematically wind up keeping the championship title.
Despite the issues that cast a shadow over the race, I really enjoyed covering the series. the pitlane is a cool, calm, spacious and collected environment. A stark contrast from the crowded, bitter, angry and ugly place that the NASCAR and Indycar pitlanes have become. Step anywhere near a team’s pit box and you almost always get yelled at. Not so in GT1. The drivers were friendly. The cars were enjoyable to shoot, the racing was pretty good.