I am not an avid motorsports fan in so far as following the various championships / seasons / formulae etc, but like most blokes I will happily watch anything going fast around a circuit if it happens to be on TV. I prefer rallying and touring cars, but I'll watch the bikes and F1 if it's on and I'm in.
My Dad took me to a couple of motorcycle meets at Donington when I was a kid (with Barry Sheen involved - it was that long ago) and also to the mind blowing dragster racing at Santa Pod. Back then, watching the F1 Grand Prix on TV was a completely different experience to now. It was exciting, with lots of incident and less predicability. Sadly, it was also a damned site more dangerous and serious injuries and fatalities were pretty much part of every season. F1 now is sanitised and safe, but also a bit dull.
Following a comment from one of the blokes at work, I thought I'd take Josh and Alex over to Donington yesterday afternoon to have a look around the collection there. It holds loads of examples of F1 cars from the ages, right from the 'Silver Arrows' of the 30s through the Maseratis, Vanwalls and Ferraris of the 50's/60s through Lotus, Brabhams and Tyrells of the 70s and the evolution of the Williams and McLarens from the 70's to today. Also plenty of other F1 cars, a few old bikes and even a handful of old military vehicles and old sedans.
Back when I was a kid, when I got the obligatory Scalextric set the cars were a pair of UOP Shadow F1 racing cars. I was therefore immediately immersed in nostaligia before we'd got into the proper collection by this in the foyer ..
From thereon, the huge collection was just superb to see. Looking at the sheer lack of safety features on the older cars makes you realise how vulnerable and exposed the drivers were - not to mention how bloody mental they must have been. This Ferrari is a good example.
The vulnerability of the drivers is brought home by seeing wreckage of David Purley's car which crashed into a wall with his throttle stuck full on during a 1977 pre-qualifying practice session - the car went from 108mph to 0mph in 26 inches of travel. Remarkably he survived, albeit with major injuries, and was at the time the 'record holder' for the highest G force endured and survived.
A few years earlier, Purley had heroically tried to save Roger Williamson from the burning wreck of his car at the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix whilst the race marshall's pretty much stood by. Williamson had crashed with a blown tyre flipping the car over and trapping him. Purley stopped and tried to turn the car over as a fire developed and engulfed the car, but to no avail. Williamson died in the wreck on the track.
The bulk of the collection are F1 cars driven by the likes of Moss, Senna, Prost, Mansell, Coulthard, Hakkinen, Hill and there's even a recent Mercedes McLaren used by Hamilton a couple of years ago.
I've uploaded a few photos from the collection to Flickr - have a look here. It was well worth the visit for a few rainy afternoon hours to have a good look around.