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Silverstone Swampland And A Close Finish

SO happy to be home, out of the rain, wearing warm, dry clothes.

But what a fantastic, yet boggy, four days at the British Grand Prix. I arrived on Thursday with my Fiancée in what I expected to be a very wet weekend, in warm sunshine and blue skies. This turned out to be a short lived relief to the constant downpours over the past few weeks, as a beautiful Thursday afternoon and evening turned into constant rain throughout Friday and Saturday.

The poor weather had already saturated the ground where we pitched out tent and a nice puddle greeted us just outside our door every time we stepped out. We had a nice meet-up with friends down at the White Horse pub in Silverstone village on Thursday evening, purchasing the second round for £15 or so. Eeek. I still hoped the weather forecast would be wrong, as it had been so many times in recent occasions and that we’d have a warm and dry weekend. How wrong I would be!

After an awful night on Thursday in the tent, where the saturated ground made us freezing cold lying on top of the groundsheet and a thin layer of sleeping bag, we woke up to a downpour. Coats would most definitely be needed.

I made a mistake early on the Friday morning by not taking an Umbrella and it was only an hour or so into the day when I realised that was a bad error. Clothes were already soaked, rucksack damp and we were generally chilled to the core. Covered grandstands offered some relief from the rain, but the cold wind blowing through them made you feel even colder.

Hayley and I while the sun was still shining.

Hayley and I while the sun was still shining.

Meanwhile, traffic backed up all along the A43 as people queued for hours and hours attempting to get into the circuit, eagerly awaiting Free Practice. All the hard standing car parks were full and so the remaining ones were all grass. Bog. Access was awful but Silverstone could never have prepared for a months worth of rain in just a couple of days. Fans waited in line for nine hours or so, ultimately missing all the action and eventually being turned away.

Free Practice was a complete washout, not many people ran. The second session wasn’t too much better either, but it was a nice opportunity for some wet weather F1 photography – my first since Monza in 2008. Ferrari’s pace looked promising from what we could see but nobody really knew what would happen in Qualifying.

Drama unfolded in Litchlake campsite when we returned. Hayley noticed black, acrid smoke coming from somewhere close to us. We went to investigate, presuming someone had stupidly lit a humongous bonfire. It wasn’t a bonfire, but a car on fire. Fully on fire.

People were pushed back as the cars windows, lights and tyres all blew out. The ‘security’ had obviously been picked from the dumbest school in Newcastle, suggesting the “car’s gonna blow” and “we need you 150 metres away” as I exclaimed in a loud voice “how big an explosion do you think it’s going to be? It’s not Hiroshima, it’s a Peugeot 106 which is already burnt out”. The fire started to take a van which was parked closely to it, having already warped a number of tents nearby. Two fire extinguishers did enough to contain it before the a fire engine and firemen on Quad Bikes arrived to put it out. It was a nice drama and thoroughly warming after a day getting frost nip inside the circuit.

We decided it best to sleep in the car on Friday night and it turned out to be an inspired decision as we woke up after much more sleep the following morning. The car was steamed up from all the dampness but we were at least warm and ready for another day in the rain.

Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen.

Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen.

I dug the umbrella out of the boot and we set out earlier than on Friday. The ground was now even wetter and all the well trodden paths were now deep gorges of mud and water. The shopping area on the campsite was nearly ankle deep in slippy mud which was un-avoidable no matter where you stepped.

Thankfully the circuit was relatively ok, with tarmac and hard standing ground. Huge lakes of puddles remained and any grassy areas were destroyed from thousands of footsteps but all in all, you could get about without being caked in mud. Qualifying was utterly brilliant. Super dramatic. We sighed when we thought Alonso was out but screamed when he took ninth! Pole position was just the icing on the cake and we left with two very big grins.

Rain came and made the already soaked ground even wetter on Saturday evening and Sunday morning but it wasn’t too long before the sun came out and dried us out as we sat in our un-covered grandstand at Club. The national anthem was cut short after about ten seconds, which was odd and Vitaly Petrov’s engine blew up in-front of us, which was even stranger. Everyone cheered the drivers going to the grid, aside from one of the day-glo McLaren fans in his rocket red (bright orange) t-shirt behind us, who decided it a good idea to boo the pole sitter. Hayley gave him a nice scowl and then he shut up.

Alonso on his way to P2.

Alonso on his way to P2.

Still, what does he know? He thought Raikkonen was Grosjean, he thought Vettel was fifth on the grid and his friend went off for a hot dog and very nearly missed the start of the race. And to top it all off, he suddenly became a Webber fan at the end of the race when his McLaren team were sitting in a lowly eighth and tenth.

The race didn’t end the way we wanted, with Webber passing Alonso with just a handful of laps left. The soft tyres on Alonso’s car were no match for the harder compound on the Red Bull in the final stint. Still, a brilliant race.

Horrendously boggy ground.

Horrendously boggy ground.

It wasn’t more than 20 minutes after the race when rain started to fall yet again. We returned to the tent, packed it up and put everything in the car. Bags were packed ready for the morning and we went down to the White Horse again. When we returned, it was still lovely and warm, not raining. Until within the space of a second, a huge tropical style downpour came over us. No umbrella with us. Again. We were only seven or eight minutes from the tent but it only took a couple until we were utterly saturated. Trousers, underwear, socks, coat, t-shirt, everything. Totally soaked. I hadn’t been that wet since the Lake District in 2010. Five inch deep streams of water ran down the gulleys at the side of the road and a curtain of rain caused everyone to drive at near walking pace just to see the road ahead of them. I sat on a carrier bag in the car for the next two hours while I dried out.

Monday saw hundreds of caravans being towed out by tractors as we waited to miss the rush hour traffic around Northampton. Luckily, I didn’t need a tractor to pull me out. Instead choosing the less beaten path out of the campsite which made it far easier.

So overall, a brilliant weekend. Despite the horrific weather. A great race, good company and a fantastic experience. As always.

Here’s a couple of videos of the burning car for anyone interested.





29 comments on “Silverstone Swampland And A Close Finish
  1. Samantha on said:

    What a weekend indeed! Both an amazing and bizarre one…
    We returned on the Friday to find our tent had been ripped out by security guards because the car on fire was right next to it – which was a bit of a shock to say the least. Our tent was ripped but at least we still had our belongings, which is more then the car owners had! Although it was a bit more drafty and we did get flooded, still…. grateful it wasnt worse!
    And the security guards were technically right when they told everyone to get away; they didnt realise it at the time but in the back of the van that the fire was blowing onto and damaging actually had a large amount of petrol inside the back that way for running the genirators that the owners had brought along…… thankfully the fire crews managed to get it under control before the fire got into the back of the van……..a lucky escape for quite a few tents, cars and people I think!

    But what a brilliant race, such a close finish too! I cant hide my happiness as Im a Red Bull fan but credit where credits due -Alonso drove really well and it really was a close one!
    Epic weekend :)

  2. Were you back while the fire was still going on? I have pics of a girl with her hands on her head in shock!! Amazing that I wrote about it nd one of the tents was yours. How did you come across my blog out of interest?

  3. Pet on said:

    Interesting read. Just out of curiosity, what do you mean by ‘the dumbest school in Newcastle’ comment?

    • All the ‘security’ were Geordie’s. How can I put it, they definitely weren’t at the front of the queue when brains were given out.

  4. Samantha on said:

    No, we arrived back about an hour after it happened so all the commotion was over by then- although the girls were still in shock (who’s to blame them though, they had just watched all their valuables burn up!) The fire distroyed one of their tents, but at least they still had one between them- and like I said, we were very lucky to just have our tent ripped rather then burnt!

    I was Google-ing the fire to see if anyone had and pictures of when the fire was happening and came across your blog that way :)

  5. Pretty amazing, I’ve got video of the car on fire if you’re interested to see it. What on Earth did you sleep in for the next few days?

  6. Samantha on said:

    Yeah that would be good to see!
    We slept in our tent, it wasn’t too damaged considering how close it was- when the security guard yanked it out the groundsheet was ripped away from the front of the tent so we got flooded a bit over the next few days, and it was a bit drafty at times, but otherwise it was still ok to stay in :)

  7. Ah I guess that was pretty lucky then as it was über close to those tents!

    I have this picture when some people returned to their tents…

    Just uploading the video of it now – sorry if you got a notification of new post with a random video attached, I was testing the YouTube embed to make sure it worked.

  8. Samantha on said:

    Yeah it was very close- the plastic sheet on the ground in your picture was actually from under our tent (to help keep the groundsheet a bit cleaner..) and you can see how close that is to the car…. So damn lucky we just got our tent ripped. Poor girls, they lost everything :-/

    No worries! I’m interested to see what the fire was actually like as we only saw the aftermath….

  9. Samantha on said:

    That’s a good video- thanks for uploading! Was anyone actualy in the van do you know? If they were hopefully they were taking the petrol out!

    I know its cheeky to ask but you don’t happen to have more photos/videos do you?

  10. There was definitely nobody in the van. The door popped open but you can see if you look closely that it opened off it’s own accord. The owners weren’t even there, let alone someone in it. I’m pretty certain that it was just the pressure or heat/warping? of the fire that blew it open. I do have one more video, let me upload for you.

  11. Samantha on said:

    Yeah, you can see where the fire has made the drivers side buckle in so it makes sence that the door opened.

    Really? All that could maybe have been avoided? I guess most people think you just point it at the flames and the magic happens…. That is a shame that all the damage could have been prevented…

  12. I’m not saying prevented, the fire had still started and the car was totally destroyed plus the van was going. By the time anyone got a fire extinguisher it was long gone – you’ll see them run in, in the second video. But as I said, the Fire Extinguishers would have had a much greater effect if they were used correctly. You can’t stop a fire unless you stop the source of it. To be fair, I don’t think many people would know aiming at the base was the way to do it though. As you say, most people would just aim in the general direction.

    The ‘security’ staff I’ve mentioned a couple of times were bloomin’ useless. The one in the first video (46s) who pushed the guy out of the way took one off a guy (later telling me that he rugby tackled him – bollocks!) who was about to run in and use it and then he just put it down. He wouldn’t do it himself, despite the crowd shouting at him. That was one fire extinguisher that wasn’t used. I think the crowd and the lack of training/intelligence a lot of the security staff had made it worse. With some crowd members shouting about someone being in the van – yet, nobody ran in to pull the supposed person out. Instead deciding to just scream at the crowd to be “150m back”. Their lack of training was pretty clear, suggesting the car was going to blow, despite that clearly not being the case. They panicked and were as out of control as the fire was frankly.

    Another funny story for you….this security guy (yes, the same one) was always on the gate to the shops on Litchlake (you probably saw him) checking wristbands. I asked him how it started. First he told me that his boss ripped a tent out of the ground, which must have been yours. BUT that he had pulled two people out of it. Complete lies, and of course, who would be in a tent with a huge fire 3 feet away without knowing? Then he said about rugby tackling the guy with the fire extinguisher to the ground to stop him when we had seen him simply take it off and and tell him to move away. He was totally full of bullshit but it gave me a good laugh I guess!

    I imagine your tent would have been pretty well gone soon after the fire started had it not been moved, but in reality there was no real need for it to be ripped apart.

    Do you know how it started? The same security guy told me that someone started a BBQ in the back of it and then ran off. Which I find incredibly hard to believe. Especially when he’d lied about so much else.

  13. Samantha on said:

    Ahh I see, I was under the impression that the fire extinguishers arrived shortly after the fire started rather then when it had taken hold already. I thought that security would have something on hand to deal with fires but apparently not…

    You are kidding! What a joke! I know which one youre talking about – A bit full of himself perhaps?
    A BBQ in the back?! Emmm, no.
    The fire started when one of the girls was charging her phone in the car in th fag lighter, now im unclear if it sparked and THEN she took it out or if it spareked WHEN she took it out… all the same she discovered it had started a small fire in the dashboard that she couldnt get to so she ran to see if anyone had a fire extinguisher, which we know when someone found one it didnt really arrive in time to help…..

    I cant beleive what that security guy was saying! What a load of rubbish!

  14. Absolute madness isn’t it! At least that clears the story up of how it started. I don’t understand where the person went though, as from what we could see there were just observers in a line watching it. I couldn’t see anyone at all that looked like the owner!

  15. Samantha on said:

    Was that other campers that went in to put out the fire? And the security guards didnt help?

    Cant help but wonder what protocol they had for situations like that……. I appreciate there wasnt much they could have done but Im not sure the approach they took was the best one……….

  16. Samantha on said:

    I cant see them in the video, but I would imagine that one of them was calling the fire brigade whilst the other was looking for help on the campsite, but thats purely a speculative guess.

    Did you say you had a photo of one of them with their hands on their head?

  17. No it was a complete joke. The first two who went in, I’m pretty sure were just other campers (one had a McLaren jumper on). Not sure about the third guy, he had all camo gear on. The security team did absolutely nothing aside from tell people to get back. Or rather, scream at people to get back – which frankly was absolutely pointless. None of them went in with extinguishers but instead just chose to panic and scream and wave their arms. When the guy took the extinguisher off another camper, I expected him to use it but he said and I quote “I’m not f**king going near it”.

    I looked on Twitter after it all and I think the Fire Brigade were called by someone on the road. Because of the traffic, they were at a standstill so the ones nearby could see it. A woman said she called them. So, not even the security people. The Firemen came in on Quad Bikes and the Engine itself along the path!

    I thought I actually had a picture of the girl with her hands on her hear, but I must have seen it and quickly tried to take one with my iPhone and missed it. The first picture I attached above was the one I meant – the girl in the grey coat.

    They had some kind of undercover guys come in soon after this, fire still going and before the firemen arrived. They had ear pieces but were in plain clothes. They got it more under control and weren’t panicking like the other idiots.

  18. Samantha on said:

    Thats terrible – what a shambles!

    From what I understand two fire engines were called but couldnt get through the traffic (which was at a standstill) so the fire bikes from the race track came across and arrived before the fire trucks which had been trying to get there for quite a while (this is what we were told by a couple of people so Im guessing its close to the truth….)

    Im glad more people came in to get it under control – it sounds like complete chaos….

  19. Chaos indeed. The guys on Quad Bikes arrived a couple of minutes before the single Fire Engine and then it was out with their hose in about 2 minutes.

  20. Samantha on said:

    We were told by an assistant (some lad on a tractor) and the security guard (the one who ripped our tent out, not Pinocchio…) that ‘Silverstone’ had been given a deadline to clear the roads by 7pm that night or they would be issued with a fine……….which I quite beleive – but I dont know if they were fined or not for the obstruction of the roads for emergancy vehicles…

    I think it would have been a tough deadline to meet considering they shut the campsites immediately which meant loads of people were coming to the gates and getting turned awar (with a refund of course). I think they perhaps realised the danger of having so many people crammed together.

    If the wind had blown that fire onto our tent it would have caught immediately, which would have meant the tent behing us and to our side would also have cought on fire and the ones next to them…. I think you get the picture…
    It was lucky for us all that the van didnt catch properly and the fire was put out before it spread….

  21. Hadn’t heard about the deadline and fines. I don’t really see what they could do, aside from get it cleared. To be fair, they couldn’t have planned for this extreme weather and the subsequently ridiculous traffic so it seems slightly ridiculous to fine anyone.

    In terms of refund, there are quite a few people on Twitter angry with Litchlake for not refunding their camping. Others say they offered 50% refund. Supposedly, the Police told Litchlake not to accept any more people and that’s the reason they’re stating for not refunding campers who were turned away. Also ridiculous. I realise it’s not their fault, they can’t control the weather but they should still be refunded.

    Agree about the fire spreading, you can hear my say the same thing in the video. If the van had gone, it would have spread down the whole line. I hadn’t actually seen your tent, nor saw it moved so that must have been removed fairly quickly. In some ways it was lucky but as mentioned above it could have been contained a lot better than it was in the first place. Fire extinguishers should have been on it within a couple of minutes maximum.

  22. Samantha on said:

    Youre kidding? They’re not giving refunds? Thats just taking the mick.

    Yeah, we were lucky, and I think so was everyone else – it could have been a lot worse for all involved.
    I feel sorry for the girls because she had only had the car a week and what we were told by the owners of the van was that the insurance company wasnt paying out as it was ‘an act of God’ …….. I could understand that if it was struck by lightening and then caught fire, but an electrical fault?

  23. Samantha on said:

    That’s shocking! Seriously, what a bad rep- those people couldn’t help any of it – the site closed! – and the camp isn’t paying out refunds?…. Nae right.

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