Tag Archives: hospitality

VLN Championship

Introducing the VLN

Imagine the all the intensity, raw power, edginess, drama, unpredictability, beauty and quirks of the Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24), in a more condensed format. Imagine the 25km Nurburgring Nordschleife with a crowd big enough to create an atmosphere, but small enough to make the circuit’s wide variety of spectating opportunities easily accessible. Imagine fan access unparalleled in high-level sports car racing, with free grid walks, and garage access before and during the races and countless vantage points for fans, at no cost beyond the price of admission. Well, it’s not fantasy, what you’re imagining is the VLN championship, which runs throughout the European motorsport season.

The VLN championship, or Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring if we’re getting technical, does not feature the Nürburgring 24 Hours as part of its calendar, but much of the same teams and drivers compete in both. The drivers have to, to obtain a permit to race in the 24-hours in June, and the teams use the rounds as preparation for the big dance each year.

VLN RacingOver the years the Nürburgring 24 Hours has gained much exposure. It is far more of an international event than it ever has been. It maintains its ‘German’ feel, but has never been more accessible and marketable to the wider motorsport community. It doesn’t feel as much of a hidden gem as it did at the turn of the century. This is in part because the VLN championship, which runs on the full Nordschleife and runs with grids close to 200 cars, has become more professional and important. In recent years the Nürburgring circuit owners have gone to great lengths to ensure that racing on such a vast, unforgiving circuit is as safe as it can be for competitors and spectators alike, and required the competitors to step up their level of professionalism. This has made the racing better, and attracted the attention of the major manufacturers that now do battle with their customer GT3 programmes to win the N24 overall.

But heading to the ‘Ring for a VLN race gives you the best of both worlds. You still get a fleet of world-class teams and drivers racing up front in GT3 machinery, and a mixture of entry-level and mid-tier race cars following on behind. Crucially though, as a fan, it’s as accessible as it ever has been. You can still head onto the track for a grid walk pre-race, access the paddock easily and navigate the forestry surrounding the Nordschleife without the need to utilise the shuttle-bus system that the N24 now relies on. Instead, there’s space and time to drive your own car to the various car parks near the key corners such as Pflazgarten, Hohe Acht and Hatzenbach and come and go as you please.

VLN RacingSpectating at the full ‘Green Hell’ is an old-school experience, which must be savoured, treasured and preserved. Travelling the world, visiting circuits old and new for a living, as this writer does, you become somewhat of a connoisseur of motorsport venues. You can travel to Abu Dhabi for the modern, pristine feel that the Yas Marina circuit has to offer, Bathurst to marvel at Australia’s most celebrated racing amphitheatres, or Sebring to get a snapshot of rural America and its motorsport culture, but no circuit, even rival venues in Germany, matches the Nürburgring if you’re a fan of circuits that are as beautiful as they are steeped in history.

VLN races are either four or six hours long. There is plenty of time to take in the seemingly endless pre-race grid walk, dash to the Mercedes Tribune to watch the cars pile into Turn 1 at the start of the race, before heading out into the forest for an adventure. There’s something special about navigating the Eiffel Forests to find spectator banks and trails during a race. Those who have attended World Rally Championship events will be in their element, taking out a map, driving to a corner, and exploring the surrounding areas to find man-made grandstands, and climbing grass verges to get a glimpse of some of the more stunning backdrops that the ‘Ring has to offer. Why not start at Pflatzgarten and walk the trail that leads past Brünnchen, Eschback, Wipperman, Hohe Acht and all the way to a clearing where you’ll find the world-famous Caracciola Karussell. By taking in that sequence of corners you’ll see the drivers test their mettle in low, medium and high speed corners. It’s narrow, bumpy, with very little run off. The skillset required to win at the ‘Ring becomes far clearer.

VLN NurburgringIf you’re new to the circuit as a fan, a trip to a VLN race isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds, and will prepare you well for a trip to the N24, where the crowds are far bigger and local knowledge is key to getting the most out of the experience. Once you’ve reached the famous horse-shoe, turn around, and return to your car, before heading to Adenau, where with Travel Destinations, you’ll be staying. It’s a friendly town, littered with petrol-heads and homages to motorsport culture. There the walk from Ex-Muhle to Kallenhard is another fan-favourite trail. It’s hilly, but work the trek, is the cars navigate the sharp turns and sudden drops. And that’s just two sections, for there are plenty more fan-friendly areas to touch on in future trips.

Outside of the race itself, there are many more opportunities to explore in region surrounding the circuit. It’s somewhat of a goldmine, full of restaurants, bars, landmarks and museums to visit. So prepare yourself. The Nürburgring is like no other circuit; you don’t just turn up, watch the track action and leave. There’s always something nearby that will either prompt you to stay after dark or return again soon.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

If you would like to experience the best of the VLN then we have something special for you. Take a look at our exclusive special offer for the finale of the 2019 VLN season. Experience hospitality and tours around the garage with our friendly driver David Pittard, currently racing for the Rowe Team. If you want to experience more he can even take you on hot laps around the Nordschleife. Visit our website or call 01707 329988 for details.

Bathurst 12 Hours

Visiting the Bathurst 12 Hours

Visiting the Bathurst 12 Hours

On a clear day flying into Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport you might just be lucky enough to get a good, long, panoramic look at one of the world’s most iconic city-scapes; a visual treat after the rigors of round the world travel. Make no mistake, whether you are flying from the UK, or from North America, the leg to Sydney is a long flight – but strap yourself in, watch as many movies as you like, and get some rest because trust me, Australia is worth the effort. If you are flying all this way then you will, surely, have made plans beyond a mere motor race – but, as we’ll see, the Bathurst 12 Hours is anything but a ‘mere’ motor race!

Bathurst 12 HoursFrom Sydney it is around a three and a half hour drive to Bathurst; the longest established inland settlement in Australia. To get there the drive takes you on one of two different routes; over and around the beautiful Blue Mountains. Take the Great Western Highway out of town, and try to navigate your route to take in a crossing of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Take your time, and view a couple of the more touristy sights – they’re worth it. The Three Sisters is a stone cold world class sight – a rocky outcrop overlooking the majestic Blue Mountains – astonishing scenery. Then on the way back to Sydney, by the way, take the other road by turning left at Lithgow. It may be a more circuitous route, but it is on a driving road that you’ll not forget!

Bathurst 12 HoursAn hour further on from Lithgow, and across the Bathurst Plains, past road signs urging caution for carelessly crossing kangaroos and wombats (no really!) and you’ll see – up on the left hand side in the distance, one of the most famous sights in motorsport, the painted sign that confirms that you are getting closer to Mount Panorama. Nothing honestly prepares you for the reality of driving (it’s a public road), or even walking (it’s a heck of a climb!) to the top of the Mount Panorama Circuit. It’s oh so familiar to followers of the iconic Bathurst 100 as well as the more recent 12 Hour GT race, but while every inch is familiar, it’s somehow steeper, narrower, the concrete walls bigger and closer than TV can possibly depict.

Bathurst 12 HoursThis circuit is a monster, rewarding perfection, punishing anything even marginally less. Happily the grid is stacked with names for whom perfection (and perfection at blinding speed) is an area on their record with an A* marking! And when the track, and it’s challengers and their chosen weapons, combine, be prepared for a spectacle that few other events can match. There are faster tracks, and faster cars – but the combination here, with the GT3 cars that are faster than literally anything else permitted to race here, negotiating slower cup cars and specials, it is spectacular.

Trackside viewing is astonishing too, with so many spectator banks and vantage points. Listen to the advice from the locals and stay away from the long grass at the top of the mountain though! Stay to the well-trodden paths, and find the best viewing spots and you will remember this place always.

Bathurst 12 HoursAdd in the remarkably open paddock, chock full of GT3s superstars and V8 Supercars megastars. Add a support programme that delights, from Aussie Combined Sedans (think Trans-Am meets V8 Supercars and Time Attack), through historic GTs and others and fans that bring the party right along with them and you’ll have a racing weekend that blends the best of Europe and the USA with something very different, and very special. And while you’re here find the time to take in the circuit museum – there is no better collection of V8 Supercars anywhere, and get a pie and a pint in the historic downtown at Jack Duggan’s – another Bathurst institution.

Bathurst 12 HoursTravel Destinations make things easy for you. They have comfortable hotel accommodation or simple apartments reserved in downtown Bathurst. You can walk to the circuit if you want to, but lets face it most people will still take their car. Adding to the comfort is the hospitality at the track. Yes you will want to go to the top of the mountain and view from different places around this great track, but it is likely to be hot, maybe very hot and having somewhere to rest and re-hydrate is so important. The 12 hours Club is an air-conditioned marquee located on the very top of the garages and pit lane. From here you can eat, drink and be merry, whilst never missing a moment of the on-track action. It is an ideal venue for enjoying the Bathurst 12 Hours long-weekend.

Take the plunge, contact Travel Destinations, make the trip & you won’t regret it. The Bathurst 12 Hours is, without doubt, the world’s newest, truly classic, endurance race.

Written by Graham Goodwin
Photography by Dailysportscar

Spa Classic

Spa Classic 2017: Another unmissable event

The Spa Classic 2017; You know you are arriving somewhere special when you are greeted at the gate by the sound of Group C endurance racers blasting through Eau Rouge, whilst Italian sports cars from the 1960s warm up in the paddock. Immediately your senses are teased by the sounds, smells and sights of historic motor racing at its best.

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Sixties Endurance

The Spa Classic has grown in just 7 years to become an unmissable part of the motorsport calendar. Spa Classic 2017, saw more than 20,000 spectators make the journey to the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit to witness some spectacular racing. They were rewarded by no less than 9 different grids competing around the stunning twists and turns of this historic track.

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Trofeo Nastro Rosso at the Spa Classic 2017

As you would expect from a circuit of Spa’s reputation, Friday was wet. The rooster tails behind the cars were big and proud. The drivers were really tested in challenging conditions. There is perhaps nothing more impressive than a skilled driver, fighting for control of a powerful sports car on a wet track. It was perhaps fortunate that Friday was only a day of practice and some preliminary qualifying sessions for all of the assembled grids. Other than the difficult driving conditions on the route down through Belgium, the damp weather wasn’t an issue for Travel Destinations customers that arrived early. Our reserved infield car parking allowed our customers to park their classic and sports cars in the F1 paddock, and our hospitality suite was open from midday, serving teas, coffees and biscuits ready for the weekend.

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Saturday morning arrivals at the Travel Destinations car park

Saturday dawned fresh and dry. A perfect day for racing. The early morning mist soon cleared revealing the beautiful circuit in all its glory. The circuit oozes history, so to have historic cars racing at Spa again is the perfect match.

Spectators & their cars were filing through the gates before 9am when the track action started again. To warm the growing crowd up, first on track were the GT1 sports cars. An impressive assembly of Ferraris (360s, F355, F40, 550, F430) Porsches (964 & 996) and Vipers (Chrysler and Dodge). These were swiftly followed by the first grid of Classic Endurance Racing cars featuring GT cars from 1966 – 1974, and prototypes from 1966 – 1971. And so, the morning progressed through Formula Vee, Group C and the beautiful Italian sports car of the Trofeo Nasto Rosso grid.

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GT1 Sports grid on track

With more than 350 customers including about 130 classic & sports cars travelling with Travel Destinations, the reserved F1 paddock car park, soon began filling up. A fantastic variety of vehicles, including MGs, Jaguars, Porsches, TVRs, Triumphs, Aston Martins and other exotica, all parked up making an impressive display. The Travel Destinations car park faced on to the Bonhams auction, and it was debateable who had the most expensive collection on the day.

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Travel Destinations’ infield customer car park

The Travel Destinations hospitality suite was a popular destination all weekend. Available only to Travel Destinations customers, the suite overlooks Eau Rouge & offered private viewing, seating, light refreshments and large TVs showing live timing & scoring during each race. The suite became a real social centre at the track, a meeting point for everyone and an information point including programmes, brochures and other event information.

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Travel Destinations’ customer hospitality suite

Saturday saw the largest numbers of Travel Destinations customer cars on track. One of the unique features of the Spa Classic is the ability to take your own classic or sports car on to the circuit for some non-competitive track time. These aren’t parade laps, and after the first lap behind a safety car, you can almost do what you want, but you do have to follow the circuits rules and obey the marshals’ flags. Some Travel Destinations customers took to the track on Friday afternoon, but the majority waited until Saturday and Sunday to test their skills on the circuit. These laps are always hotly anticipated by the participants and the big grins when they return to the paddock are all you really need to know.

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Travel Destinations customers enjoying the Spa Classic

As the sun dropped behind the trees and night began to fall, the racing continued. In fact, races for both the Sixties Endurance racers, and the Heritage Touring cars continued in the dark up until midnight. Historic racing at night creates a wonderful atmosphere. Headlights & brake lights illuminating the track around the La Source hairpin and the bus-stop chicane have to be seen with your own eyes to be appreciated fully. A beautiful sight.

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Heritage Touring Cup racing at night

If Saturday’s weather improved on Friday’s, then Sunday’s was better again. It is not often that sunscreen is passed around by people in the paddock, but it was on Sunday. Those at the track for 9am were treated to more sounds for the GT1 Sports club followed by an hour-long race by the 2nd grid from Classic Endurance Racing. By lunchtime the Italian sports cars (estimated value of about £1 million each) had returned to the track as well as the wonderfully raucous Group C cars.

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Group C Racing at the Spa Classic 2017

Over a picnic lunch or dinner in the Maison de L’Eau Rouge more socializing took place, whilst further club circuit laps and VIPs were taken around the circuit. The afternoon brought a further chance to catch up with the single seater racers of Formula Vee and recently formed Euro F2 class. This grid comprises of Formula 2 cars that made their reputation in the late 1960s and in to the 1970s. At this time F2 was the only feeder series to F1 and that made it a very competitive class featuring some of the best drivers in the world. To see these cars returned to their former glory at Spa-Francorchamps was a real delight.

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Formula Vee outside the Travel Destinations hospitality suite

As the Spa Classic 2017 event came to a close on Sunday evening many spectators were still milling around the various paddocks reluctant to return to their comfortable hotel and feel they had missed anything. The Spa Classic is that kind of event. There is something of interest in every paddock and car park, so that even during the races you are never quite sure where your attention should be.
The 2017 edition of the Spa Classic was a great success, attracting a record audience at the circuit over the weekend, despite the damp start.

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Euro F2 at the Spa Classic 2017

The Spa Classic will return in 2018 and you can be assured that Travel Destinations will once again be the official ticket agent offering the best travel, hotels, parking and hospitality available for the event. Prices for Spa Classic 2018 will be available soon, but you can register with us now to be the first to receive more details.

Written by Richard Webb
Photography by Kevin Osborne & Peter Auto

Spa Classic

Spa Classic 2016

Spa Classic 2016

A week after the FIA WEC 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps it was the turn of the golden oldies of the world of endurance racing to take to the legendary Belgian circuit for the 6th Spa Classic. If the weather was a bit cooler than the weekend before, the action on the track was equally competitive and the spectacle was equally enthralling.

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The spectators formed a guard of honour around the lines of historic cars about to go out onto the track, and everyone was able to take advantage of the relaxed nature of the Spa Classic to get up close to the drivers and their machinery.

The weekend provided people with the opportunity to relive some of the greatest events in the history of the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours in the touring car era, as well as the Spa 1000 km with prototypes and GTs covering the period 1952 (Aston Martin DB2) to 1993 (Peugeot 905). In all, four decades on this circuit marked by victories of emblematic models like the Ferrari 250 LM (1965), Ford GT40 (1968) and the Porsche 962 (1986), all of which were represented on the track this weekend. A total of some 216 racing cars divided up into six grids (Classic Endurance Racing 1 & 2, Group C Racing, the Heritage Touring Cup, Trofeo Nastro Rosso & Sixties’ Endurance) put on a nine-race action-packed show out on the track from Friday onwards, including one that felt absolutely magic on Saturday evening as night fell.

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Spectators, who were able to tear themselves away from the racing that continued nonstop out on the beautiful Belgian circuit, for a few minutes were able to experience musical and motoring entertainment both in and out of the paddocks, whilst children could have their first taste of driving pedal-powered karts round their own circuit, and then take on their parents at the controls of radio-controlled cars. Other forms of entertainment included jazz music and a unique DJ housed in VW van as well as many boutiques (scale models, clothes, bookshops, etc.).

One of the great assets of an event like the Spa Classic is the access all areas philosophy that allows spectators to wonder through the garages and paddocks, as well as access all of the grandstands and visit the Brasserie on top of the F1 building. The more adventurous also enjoyed a walk along the footpath that offers spectacular views around the whole circuit.

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Inside and outside the track car clubs gathered to add to the weekend display. Four different BMW clubs that had chosen Spa Classic to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the make, many owners of historic cars came to the Ardennes to enjoy the party and represented makes as diverse as Corvette, Datsun, Honda, MG, Porsche, Triumph and TVR. Enough to retrace the history of the motor car through 700 models ranging from the legendary Citroën Traction Avant to the incredible Lamborghini Miuras, Ferrari F40s and F50s.

Spa Classic

Guests booked with Travel Destinations enjoyed the Spa Classic more than most. Not only did they park their cars in pride of place, stretching the full length of the top level F1 paddock, but they also had access to the Travel Destinations hospitality lodge overlooking Eau Rouge, where they could enjoy their own pit stop with tea, coffee and biscuits without missing any of the action. Those with dreams of being racers themselves were also able to take their cars out on track to enjoy the twists and turns of Spa-Francorchamps first hand.

The Spa Classic event will be returning in May 2017 & Travel Destinations will once again be there in the middle of the action, enjoying this great event. If you are interested in joining us at the Spa Classic in 2017, please register your interest with us now, to be among the first to receive our special offers.Spa Classic