DSC went on ‘Circuit Safari’ today at Fuji Speedway, prior to Free Practice 3 for the FIA WEC runners, and believe us when we say that it more than lived up to all expectations.
The idea of ‘Circuit Safari’ is very simple. The race organisers send coaches full of fans and media out on track in a controlled session, while the teams and drivers head out on track to put on a show.
It started in Super GT, and over the years has become increasingly popular. Today’s ‘Safari’ was not the first time it’s happened outside of Super GT, as the British GT Championship did it during the ‘Silverstone 500’ weekend this year with a routemaster bus (below). It was however, the first time that an FIA championship has trialed it.
So what was it like? In a word, special!
The two-lap tour of the circuit – in the misty and rain-soaked conditions – saw the drivers push increasingly hard, starting off a little timid, before getting braver with each pass.
Many drivers got inches from the coaches, pushing hard, in bunches, much to the enjoyment of those on hand. Clearwater’s Ferrari was a standout, driver Keita Sawa, who has experience of it in Japan, pulled alongside the coaches, and made sure that everyone got a good look up close of the 488 GTE’s presence on track.
It made for some astonishing pictures, and exceptional videos.
The noise was also incredible, in part because some of the coaches had opening windows. Every car’s engine note reverberated inside the packed carriages, the new Porsche 911 RSR in particular, sounded very loud and proud, as did the LMP2 Gibson engines crackling under braking, and accelerating through the corners.
Due to the rain prior to the session, the spray from the cars also added to the atmosphere, as the cars blasted through the mist, flew past, leaving a trail of rooster tails in their wake.
It must be said though, that the highlight was when the coaches weren’t moving. At the end of the first lap, the coaches stopped part-way down the pit straight on the left-hand side, as the cars flew by at full speed. (DSC’s Editor Graham Goodwin explains that this was to allow the coaches carrying fans to have the fans on the left hand side of the bus to exchange places with those on the right, allowing everyone the opportunity to get to see the cars at as close quarters as possible)
It’s great to see the FIA WEC embrace something so fan-friendly, and do it properly, as there really isn’t anything else like ‘Circuit Safari’ in motorsport. And because of that, the WEC organisers should be applauded for going out of their way to give something back to the dedicated supporters trackside.
We really hope it catches on, so that fans around the world get a chance to take in such a unique first-hand experience.
There will be plenty more ‘Circuit Safari’ content on DSC later today…