Knockhill revving up for the season

SURROUNDED by eye-catching classic cars from a bygone era, Knockhill bosses lifted the wraps off what they believe is the most action-packed calendar of events ever to hit the Fife racing track.

And circuit owner Derek Butcher is in no doubt Knockhill has re-established its position as one of the leading circuits in the UK.

"Two years ago we appeared to drop a division in some people’s eyes because we didn’t carry our annual round of the British Touring Car Championship, a meeting which had been on our calendar since the early Nineties," Butcher explained.

"Last year, after there was a change in leadership at the head of BTCC and Alan Gow took over the running of what is the world’s best saloon car championship, the series came back to Knockhill and we just bowled everyone over.

"This year, with the even fuller calendar we have put together - which also sees the return of the British Formula 3 and GT Championships to Knockhill in May - we have to build on that success, maintain our momentum and continue to deliver the best motorsport to Scottish motor racing fans."

In addition to the F3/GT weekend, which takes place on May 21-22, the other star motorsport attractions include the British Superbikes on June 25-26 and British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) on August 27-28.

But, with the demise of the Scottish Motor Show at the SECC in Glasgow, Knockhill will host its second Motorfair at the circuit on May 7-8 as it strives to establish itself as the venue for the ‘modern-day, interactive motor show.’ "The modern car-buying public no longer wants to turn up at a motor show merely to look at static displays of new cars," explained Sasha Pearl, who is organising the event, expected to attract 20,000 visitors, for Knockhill. "So we have introduced other, more active ingredients."

While Knockhill continues to develop and grow its non- motorsport base, it’s the race cars, producing the tell-tale smell of petrol and burning rubber, which remain the core attraction.

The traditional season-opening get-together took place at Motormania in Tillicoultry and the venue marked the official unveiling of the new Ferrari 360 GTCs which Broxburn-based Stewart Roden Motorsport will use to tackle the British GT Championship, the European-based Le Mans Endurance Series and June’s Le Mans 24-Hour classic.

"We are a 100 per cent Scottish team, based in Scotland and funded entirely by Scottish money," team owner Stewart Roden said. "We are desperate to see a Scots team return to the French classic, and return home having won the historical race."

The team, which has the full official support of Ferrari and Michelotto, will again include two of Scotland’s leading young racers, Andrew Kirkaldy from St Andrews and Aberdeen’s Nathan Kinch. A third, as yet un-named, driver will join the Scots duo for the Le Mans 24-Hour challenge.

Former Edinburgh taxi driver Graham Brunton, whose GB Racing team will continue to prepare race cars for three drivers - including past champion Alan Kirkaldy - in the Scottish Formula Ford Championship, has swapped his cab for a Ferrari 355.

The opening round takes off on April 10 and Brunton explained: "We’re doing passenger rides in the car at the circuit now and such has been the demand that we’re on the verge of buying another F355.

"It’s certainly a lot faster than my old black cab."

This weekend though, seven days before the opening motorcycle race at the circuit, Knockhill newlyweds Gordon and Jillian Shedden will share a Ford Focus in a two-hour endurance race at Silverstone.

Jillian, a director of the circuit, is the daughter of Knockhill owner Derek Butcher and she will partner former BTCC racer and husband Gordon in this weekend’s race.

"I’m not quite sure how it’s going to go, but I have a fear there may be a bit of falling out if I post a faster lap time than Gordon," she smiled.

"We last raced against each other in 1999 in the Fiestas and I only beat him once. But God did he throw a strop.

"There’s around 150 cars taking part and there’s 20-odd in our class, so we’re going to have to drive well to be in there with a chance. I just hope neither of us makes a big mistake."

Otherwise, who knows, they might end up heading for the divorce courts.