Time was when a trip out to Becketts at Silverstone to watch the cars in free practice would have been followed by my arrival back in the press room with a pretty accurate 'guesstimate' of the top positions on the time sheets. Not any more, at least in the brave new world of the LMP1 class.
New rules for the premier class of the World Endurance Championship this season mean a new approach to getting around a lap. That much was evident when I ventured out to what these days we generically call Becketts - but is actually a sequence comprising Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel - for opening practice at the Silverstone WEC opener last Friday.
There aren't too many better places around the world to enjoy the sheer thrill of watching racing cars going bloody fast, nor many that allow - or rather allowed, in the case of LMP1 - you to make judgements by eye about who's quick and who's not.
I got my fix of racing cars going very, very fast almost straight away on my arrival when the two Audis piled through the initial left-right and then jumped on the brakes for the following left (since 1991 I've never been entirely sure where Maggotts ends and Becketts begins). Then, one of the Porsches came past - on an out-lap, or so I thought.
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Gary Watkins has, for reasons best known to himself, devoted all his working life to covering sportscar racing. This season is his 25th as a motorsport journalist, during which time he has reported on major long-distance events on four continents and approaching 60 24-hour races. He reckons a degree in political philosophy makes him well qualified for covering the sometimes Machiavellian world of international sportscars.
Gary, who also writes for RACER, Autoweek, Motor Sport, Autocourse and others, lives in Surbiton but spends more time on the road than at home for most of the year.